Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Thanksgiving Favorites

We are all getting into that crunch time where getting ready for Thanksgiving is a priority and at the same time, Christmas shopping and decorating are looming.  My daughter and son in law are coming to visit at the end of the week, so there will be a lot of fun times keeping me busy and that is why my lists will come in handy in the next few days.  I’ll be checking off what I can before they arrive and using down time by the pool to do a little on line shopping.  Since I need to ship all my gifts, being organized is critical.

If you are looking for some delicious Thanksgiving recipes, these three dishes are tried and true and loved by my family.  I believe that Thanksgiving is meant for traditional, family recipes and I am happy to share these with all of  you.  There are so many years worth of memories in these recipes, especially my mother’s stuffing, because sadly, she is no longer able to make it herself.

For two simple and beautiful touches to your table, this no sew burlap runner and a sweet place setting using a strip of burlap and a sprig of rosemary, make a big impact, without a lot of effort.

Let the preparations begin!

No Sew Burlap Table Runner
Cranberry Apple and Ginger Chutney
My Mothers Stuffing
Cranberry Almond Spinach Salad
So Simple So Sweet Place Setting

Friday, November 15, 2019

Aldi Wine Advent Calendar (The Story)

Last week, I did something so unlike me.  I’m not a trendy shopper and waiting in line to spend my money seems kind of crazy to me.  But, ever since last year, when I saw bloggers and Instagram friends enjoying their single serving bottles of wine each night during advent, I was determined to not be left out of the fun this holiday season.

For some reason, the Aldi Wine Advent Calendar is the one people go crazy for, even though other places like Costco have their own version now.  From word of mouth, I knew I needed to get to the store early and wait in line, because they sell out quickly.  I didn’t know what to expect, so I got there at 8:00 for a 9:00 store opening.  Conveniently, Starbucks in right next door, so I grabbed my coffee and pulled up to find only two people in line at Aldi.

More shoppers began to arrive and I got in line with about ten people in front of me. Of course, since I live in Florida, standing outside is no problem.  I was very impressed with how organized it was.  An employee gave us a flyer (maximum two per person) while in line and 15 minutes before opening the wine calendar shoppers (about 40 at that point) could enter early, trade our flyers for boxes and quickly check out.  I was on my way back home before 9:00.

I was able to purchase one for me and one for my daughter, Megan, who lives in Pittsburgh.  Her local Aldi does not sell wine (Pennsylvania law) and  she is driving here for Thanksgiving, so no shipping required.  We will be opening and drinking our wine together, long distance.

There are several different varieties of wine (red, white, rose and blends) and each bottle is pulled
separately from a numbered opening, so each one is a surprise.

I can’t wait until December 1st!

Friday, November 8, 2019

Book Club - Where the Crawdads Sing

The book club in my neighborhood met last night with a record twenty four women. There was wine and the discussion was interesting, lively and thought provoking.  The book we discussed, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens was one of the best books I have read in a very long time.  It is beautifully written; part love story, part murder mystery and part scientific journal.  The North Carolina marsh, where the novel takes place, becomes a character in itself; as important as air to the main character, Kya.  The writing is lyrical and it’s one of those novels that stays with you long after you finish.

I have a love, hate relationship with best sellers.  It takes me a long time to want to read a book that everyone is raving about, because many times these books take on a predictably and formula. I call it the Gone Girl effect.  This book is not like that.  I promise you that you have not read a novel similar to this.  From the characters, to the setting, to the plot, there is something unique in how it is written and how it makes you feel.

Read this book, go see the movie when it comes out in the future and lose yourself in the story of “The Marsh Girl”.

Have a wonderful weekend.


Monday, November 4, 2019

Italian Food and Italian Cars

One of the things we enjoy the most about living in Florida is the spur of the moment opportunity to do something fun.  You can hop in the car and head to the beach, a great restaurant and on any given weekend; your choice of a festival or two.

Saturday, we decided that we would head to St. Armand’s Circle in Sarasota for lunch at our favorite Italian restaurant.  When we approached the circle over the Ringling Bridge, we noticed that there seemed to be a lot more traffic than normal for this time of year.  I usually check to see if a festival is going on wherever we are headed, but didn’t think to this time.  When my husband saw that there was a car show happening, he was thrilled and when we discovered it was Ferraris on The Circle, he was even happier.

So, as planned, we had wonderful Italian food (Eggplant Parmesan and sangria for me) at an outside table and then happily strolled around the beautiful Italian cars, picking our favorite color (red of course) and getting serious sticker shock at the prices.  But, it’s fun to dream, right?

Happy Monday!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Witches’ Brew Cocktail

Happy Halloween!

As is my tradition, I love to make a fun Halloween or fall themed cocktail to enjoy while the trick or treaters visit.  Many of these types of cocktails use cider, which is hard to find in Florida, so this one intrigued me with both its simplicity and the readily available ingredients.  It can also be made non alcoholic for the kiddos by using sparkling water instead of wine.

In a clear glass, add 1 cup orange soda and 3/4 cup white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc).  Add 1 scoop vanilla ice cream.  The carbonation in the soda will cause the addition of the ice cream to foam like a witches’ brew.

Simple, but delicious and perfectly themed for Halloween night.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Busy Days

Our sleepy, quiet summer is over and the Florida season of snow birds returning and visitors planning trips has begun.  It’s a fun time of the year, but there will be busy days ahead.  We are still waiting for the weather to cool off a bit, but my pool should be done shortly and there will be lots of swimming and sunning in my immediate future, so warmer temperatures are just fine for a bit longer.

My social, as well as volunteer calendar is filling up my weeks, but if I didn’t like it like that, I wouldn’t let it happen. That’s the beauty of retirement.

Just this past week, I went to happy hour on the beach (wine and sushi) one night and had some returning snowbirds (all neighbors) over for cosmos another night.  In between, I worked with my volunteer landscaping group one morning and also tried to keep on top of some HOA involvement I have signed up for.

Finally, I did something many of you fellow bloggers have done, but I have not.  I met one of my readers who was visiting Venice in hopes of building a home here.  Kathleen is from the Chicago area and noticed we had a lot in common with our Midwestern roots.  In a coincidence, she is looking at using the same builder.  I feel like more of this could happen in the future, since Florida is a travel destination for many.

Happy Monday!

Friday, October 18, 2019

Fall Reading List

It’s still fall, right?  Once again a little behind on things, but these book posts are my favorite to write and I think you like them too, so we will just pretend that it’s not approaching the end of October.

Currently, I am reading all of the Vera Stanhope mysteries by Ann Cleeves, also the author of the Shetland series.  I read the first one some time ago and didn’t really like it or the main character.  But, I decided to give the series another try and my mind was changed.  Should I give the television series a try as well and is Vera portrayed as written?

I’m also going to finally read Where The Crawdads Sing for my book club and am looking forward to seeing if it lives up to the hype.  I’ve heard it’s either the best book ever or unreadable, so I’ll report back.

My fall list has both new to me authors and some old favorites.  There is a legal thriller which is a genre that was popular for awhile, but you don’t come across as often these days.  The Nevada Barr and JoJo Moyes novels both seem to be a departure from their usual style and setting, so I hope they do not disappoint.  The Kristin Hannah novel is an older one, but I recently read a glowing review and realized I had not previously read it.

Happy Reading!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Downton Abbey and Poldark

I’m a little behind, but I finally went to see the Downton Abbey movie and caught up with the final season of Poldark as well.  Both British historical dramas and both dear to my heart and I was not disappointed with either one.

The Downton Abbey movie was two hours of sweeping English countryside views, familiar characters and just enough drama to turn a television show into a movie.  The main plot point is a royal visit to Downton by the King and Queen, but there is a lot more that happens around this event. Though set two years after the series ended, almost everyone is back and storylines effortlessly continue with a few new surprises, both happy and sad.  It is written by the series creator and it is obvious he knows the characters very well.  If you are a Downton Abbey fan, you will love it.

Poldark started on PBS Masterpiece a few weeks ago, but Sunday morning I watched the first two episodes of Season 5 and can’t wait for the rest.  The espionage sub plot is really interesting and Ross is the perfect reluctant spy.  Ross and Demelza are happy at the moment, but I fear (because it’s Poldark) that storms are coming.  There is a sweet new romance blossoming for Geoffrey Charles and some new dastardly characters up to no good with the help of George Warleggan.  This is a series I will be sad to see end.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Life Lately

The past few weeks have been a roller coaster, with a sudden trip to Michigan, my Dad’s passing and the preparation for his memorial service.  It’s a weird spot this week, where life goes on, yet everything is different.

I have tried to balance normal life such as yoga on the beach with a beautiful view of the sun shining through the clouds, spending time with friends, golf with a returning snow bird friend, book group and my volunteer work, with taking time to reflect on my Dad’s life.  My sister and brother send me old photos from time to time and it helps to remember him healthy and in his prime.

In other news, it’s fall in a lot of places, but not here in Florida yet.  It made me really happy to be able to stop by one of my favorite cider mills when I was in Michigan and enjoy fresh, cold cider and a warm doughnut, sitting next to the stream on a sunny fall day.

And, finally, our pool construction is in the final stages.  The tile and pavers were completed last week, the pump and heater went in this week and the pool cage should go up in the next few days.  It’s finally starting to look like a pool and dare I say, we might be swimming by Halloween!

Happy Thursday!

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Saying Goodbye

This photo says everything about my Dad.  The last few years of his life were not easy, but he did everything with strength and grace as the caregiver for my Mom who is in late stage Alzheimer’s.  When my daughter told him about her upcoming marriage, he said all he wanted was to dance with her at the wedding. And he did.

He fought to be there and be an example for his family.  He lived his marriage vows.  We will miss him greatly.


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Sausage, Spinach and Tomato Breakfast Casserole

If you read my last post, you already know that I had company to cook for recently and it worked out perfectly that before we went on our Tiki Bar Hop by boat, we had plenty of time to have a relaxing morning at home with a homemade brunch.  I wanted to make it easy and prepare an egg casserole that could be made in advance the night before, so my morning would be a little easier.  My daughters are fans of spinach in everything, so when I saw this recipe with spinach and tomatoes, it sounded perfect.  The recipe does not call for it, but I used zesty sausage, for a bit of a kick.

This dish went together quickly, even late at night when one can be tired from the long day and it looked beautiful when it came out of the oven. It got rave reviews from my family and I was told in no uncertain terms that I must make it again.  I served it with a pretty bowl of fruit, the giant bagels I buy at an Amish market (yes there are Amish in Florida - who knew?) and Bloody Mary’s, made just like I prefer with a bit of spice and a lot of celery salt.

We left the house full, happy and ready for a birthday adventure on the water. Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Surprise Birthday Weekend

After what my husband planned for my 60th in June, I knew I needed to plan something equally as special for his.  He is a low key kind of guy when in comes to birthdays, but you have to celebrate life’s big occasions and I knew all he would really want was to have our family together here in Florida - so that’s what I did.

He had no idea our daughters, son in law and Melissa’s boyfriend were flying in and his reaction was priceless when they rang the doorbell and he answered.  It took a lot of planning and secrets to pull it off, but we did it and it was so worth it.

Friday afternoon was spent at Siesta Key beach, then pitchers of margaritas at The Hub in Siesta Key Village, home to shower and then dinner at Sharky's in Venice.  There was live music and it’s always the perfect, relaxing spot to take visitors from the north on their first night in Florida.

Saturday morning started bright and early with a trip to the Farmer’s Market with Megan for fresh gulf shrimp and then home to serve brunch and Bloody Mary’s before the main event of the day.  I booked a Tiki Bar Hop on a boat and it was so much fun.  We cruised the Intercoastal Waterway from Venice to Sarasota, stopping at three bars ( Pop’s, Evie’s and Marina Jack’s ) along the way.  It was a beautiful, sunny day, but comfortable on the water and we even had a visit from a pod of dolphins, right next to the boat.  My husband loved it and it was so fun to just all be together on the water.

That night, after a day in the sun, we were happy to stay home and watch our Spartans win big in football.  I had put together a big spread of football watching food and we celebrated the birthday boy with a chocolate ice cream cake and key lime pie.

The next morning we were up early for golf and my husband was thrilled to be on the golf course again with his daughters.  After our round, we headed to a favorite spot on the water for lunch and one more round of pina coladas, then a few hours at the pool before it was time to head to the airport.

It was a weekend to remember and I’m not sure I will ever attempt to surprise my husband like that again, but I’m very glad this one made him so happy.

Happy Birthday (today) to my hubby!

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Cake

Of course it’s not very fall like in Florida yet and really never will be, but a Midwest girl can dream, right? There are no cozy sweaters or boots to be seen in my wardrobe, but one thing I can do to bring in a little fall, is cook with fall ingredients.  So many of my favorite recipes include either apples or pumpkin and while I like to save the pumpkin flavors for later in the fall, now is the perfect time to enjoy all that apple goodness. (If you type apple into my search bar, you will find all the apple recipes)

I always have a bowl of apples on my kitchen counter for a healthy snack, so whipping up something delicious was easy.  Since I’m a diabetic, dessert is not my friend, so I usually satisfy my sweet tooth with something sweet rather than savory for breakfast.  This Apple Cinnamon Breakfast  Cake is the perfect little portion to have for breakfast and really, it is almost like a breakfast bar, but better.  It’s dense and filled with apple pieces and cinnamon flavor.  You could add a crumble topping or cream cheese frosting, but to cut the sugar, I lightly drizzled the top with a bit of powdered sugar, mixed with low-fat milk.  Raisins or nuts would also be good additions.

Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Cake

1/2 stick butter,  melted
1 cup sugar (can use Splenda equivalent)
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon 
2 cups apple, peeled and chopped

For glaze:  2 tablespoons powdered sugar, whisked with a splash or 2 of low-fat milk 

Spray 8x8 pan with cooking spray and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Stir together wet ingredients in order given.  Stir together dry ingredients.  Slowly stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.  Stir in chopped apple.  Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.  When cool, drizzle glaze on the top.  Enjoy!

Cake for breakfast is my new favorite.  Happy September!

Friday, August 30, 2019

Books About Books

If you have been reading my blog for awhile, it is well established that I consider myself to be a bookworm.  I love any and all books, love to read and always have a book that I am starting, in the middle of reading or finishing and looking for the next one.  My love of reading started at a young age when I spent as much time at the library as possible.  I grew up in a small town and through reading, my little life became bigger and filled with possibilities.

There are three books that I have read lately that spoke to my love of reading.  They all take place in libraries or bookshops (or both) and are filled with literary references.  Through books and the comfort of being surrounded by books, the characters make discoveries, solve problems and find their way in the world.

These characters are quirky, endearing and brave.  They each step out of their quiet, settled life and confront an imperfect past, filled with secrets.

 Three books about books that will make any book lover happy.

Friday, August 23, 2019

My Favorite Salad Recipes

One of my favorite things to take when invited for dinner is a yummy salad.  I love getting out a big, pretty bowl and filling it with fresh ingredients.  It makes such a beautiful and colorful presentation, can be made ahead of time (as long as you add the dressing right before eating) and unlike baking, there is very little that can go wrong.

We are invited to a neighbor’s house for dinner on Saturday and when I was asked to bring a salad, I began to go through some old blog posts to see what I had made in the past.  I wanted to step it up a bit from my usual Caesar Salad or my go to salad with butter lettuce, green onions, strawberries, mandarin oranges, Chinese noodles and poppyseed dressing (make it - it’s yummy).

There are three that I am deciding on and have made several times before.  All are a little bit different than a standard lettuce salad and usually receive rave reviews.  I don’t know what the main dish will be, but any of the three would be good with fish, chicken or steak.  Follow me on Instagram and I’ll post a story on what one I make.  Have a wonderful weekend!

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Michigan ➡️ Florida
family, books, gardening, palm trees, the beach, golf, up north, msu football, detroit tigers, walking with my dog, trying new recipes, musicals, BBC, martinis, yoga, lilly

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