Favorites of the Week

Sometimes I have things to share that are short and don’t really need a full blog post. My niece Jessie does a Saturday wrap-up post that I always enjoy, so I decided to try it myself. I hope you like my random thoughts. 🙂

Favorite photos

I joined a photography challenge called the 365 Project and have been posting photos daily. The point is to actually take photos every day and get some feedback to improve your photography. I have to admit that I’m not always perfect about posting that day’s photo. Sometimes I get nothing and resort to “filler” shots from previous days, but it’s my project and I can make my own rules. Right? Here’s a couple of my favorites from the last few weeks.

I have taken many photos of this little girl (with her parents’ permission, of course), and she’s always wary of the crazy camera lady. I thought this shot captured her wariness perfectly.

Click into photo to link to my 365 Project.

Click into photo to link to my 365 Project.

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The Great Bra Adventure — Or the Great Divide Between the Sexes

I’ve had this story swimming around in my brain for a couple of months since our return from France, so when Mama Kat‘s “Bra” prompt was posted, I jumped at it. For the men among my readers — you have NO IDEA how difficult it can be to do something as simple as buying a foundation garment.

The great bra adventure — we ladies have all done it.

Capturing our girls and depositing them into the most flattering and hopefully sexy undergarment we can afford. Finding the right bra is right up there with trying on swimsuits, but since I no longer care about swimsuits, the great bra adventure was my most traumatic experience in recent times.

I remember the exact minute when I had finally dieted my way to a 36C — a lovely size where I could find cute and sexy little pieces of lace and elastic in which to deposit my girls. Unfortunately, the way I got to be a 36 C was to “eat” nothing but coffee for most of my day. Not such a good idea in the long run of life, and not one that lasted very long.

Many years and many pounds later, I’m a 44 DD. I’m living up to what my father called my “sturdy German girl” heritage. I can’t believe I’m actually putting this down for all to see, but I’m going there — right now.

It was time to bite the bullet.

I needed some new bras for our upcoming vacation; I decided that I could not leave my worn bras with frayed elastic out to dry in hotel rooms. I got all excited about going to a local lingerie store called Betty Schwartz — she’s a legend in the Chicagoland area. I “may have” thought I was going to encounter the ladies and the stock featured in Double Divas, but I was dead wrong. I walked into the store for a fitting, was surrounded by ordinary white, beige, and black lingerie and a MAN! No beautiful lacy underwire bras, no corsets, no garter belts, and no Molly and Cynthia. Remember when Ven on Project Runway was so dismissive of the plus-size woman he had to dress? I was not going to put my girls out on display for a salesman, even if he works in a lingerie shop. Thank goodness he called for reinforcements and a woman came out of the back room to fit me.

The story started badly and ended even worse.

There was only one bra in the store that fit me, and not a single black bra for me to even try on. I bought the bra, and ordered another one to be delivered to my house in time for the vacation. I wore it the next day, and found that the underwires in the center poke out when I sit down, thus creating a third “girl.” Could it get any worse? Well, maybe.

I went to every plus-size store in town and several department stores, all the while knowing that some security person was laughing hysterically while watching me try on ten bras at each of these dressing rooms with no luck. Finally, at Torrid I bought an underwire bra that practically could stand up and tap dance on its own. It definitely did good things for the look of my girls, but I would need to buy all new clothes in order to accommodate the padding plus underwire, and I’m pretty sure I might attract some undesirable attention. After wearing it at home, it became clear that I would need a smaller size in this bra. After actually thinking that I had a winner, I had to go back to Torrid to return the sucker.

Now we’re at day four in the great bra adventure and I’m leaving for vacation really soon.

Rethinking my choices, I decided to go to Penney’s and resort to the old lady’s comfort bra, the Playtex 18 Hour 4088. It has a band around my ribcage that doesn’t cut off my circulation. Check. It has thicker straps so that my shoulders don’t get any deeper grooves than they already have. Check. And it doesn’t have underwires that poke me under the arms or stick out like a third breast. Check. And they had three of them in pretty beige and white lace. I was sold.

But wait. I wear black all the time and I needed black bras for this trip and STILL didn’t have a new one. So now, to add insult to injury, I had to go online to order two more in black and hope that they would arrive in time for my vacation. I found them at amazon.com and had them in time for the trip, saved once again by internet shopping.

The ladies I traveled with for this vacation were discussing among themselves what they would pack and what their husbands would need. What a relief it would be to pack like a man — underwear, socks, chinos, button-down shirts, and a couple of pairs of shoes. No concerns about whether one’s underwear is black or white or whether the leopard print bra will show through. No concerns about whether to bring a skirt or not, and if you do, what shoes will you wear with it? They don’t have the packing dilemma that women have when preparing to go on vacation. And I’ll bet that it’s a rare man who has to bare his “appendage” in a public dressing room to see if it fits in his boxers. I’m just sayin’ . . .

Fast forward to our homecoming from France. The bras worked well, even the one with the pokey underwire, and all was well in bra-land — until I remembered that I had paid IN ADVANCE for the underwire bra that I ordered from Betty Schwartz. Not only did it not arrive in time for the trip, it never arrived at all. I couldn’t find the receipt in my stack of papers that accumulated from the trip, but decided to call anyway, and the same guy answered. He told me that they don’t store their special orders by customer name, they store them by the manufacturer of the bra. I didn’t know the manufacturer (since I was on my cell phone), so he couldn’t look to see if the BRA I PAID FOR was even in the shop.

The next day I got a call from a lovely young woman telling me that the black bra I had ordered was in the other location of Betty Schwartz and she asked me if I wanted to come in and try it on. Now we are about six weeks out from my original visit and she’s not talking about the bra I PAID FOR! I told her the whole sad story and she found my original bra — it was in the wrong location and they had never called me or sent it out. Finally, I found someone who provided customer service and she sent the second pokey bra out in the mail. It arrived and I thought I was finally done with Betty Schwartz.

Then they called me again… wondering if I wanted to come in to try on that damn black bra.

I was polite. I really was.

Thanks to Mama Kat for allowing me to get this story off my literal and figurative chest. I’m guessing that my “bra” story is going to be only one of many. It was cathartic, but now everyone is going to know my bra size. Oh, well — my girls can’t hide in real life, so there’s no point in worrying about hiding them online.

I guess the old adage holds true, even in the virtual world. If you’ve got ’em, flaunt ’em!

Be sure to stop by Mama Kat’s Writers Workshop and make some new friends!

Tablescape Thursday: Spring into France

One thing I’ve learned since I’ve started stalking following tablescaping blogs is that when I see a wonderful piece at a good price, I should grab it.

That was the case with this beautiful 60″ x 120″ Indian cotton tablecloth from April Cornell that I got at Home Goods for $24.99. The blue and green paisley with yellow accents was just the shot of spring I needed in my dining room — it’s unclear here in Chicagoland whether it’s winter or spring, so I voted for spring! The tablecloth has mitered corners with a sewn-in border and is stunning. Although it’s actually a traditional Indian paisley, to me it says country French and that was where I went with it.

I got to work gathering up pieces from around the house that would complement the colors of the bold tablecloth but not necessarily compete with it. I started with these very bold placemats. Nope. Too much.

I went back to my trusty pewter chargers from last week (sending a quick thank you to my mother-in-law’s memory) and layered my mom’s sweet china (Claridge from Four Crown China) with the World Market Indian cotton napkin. I like how the clear salad plate shows off the beautiful blue and grey stripes of the napkin.

Since every party at my house always starts with appetizers as people gather, I envisioned the dinner beginning with Basil – Lemon Sorbet as a palate cleanser. It would look beautiful in my inherited sorbet glasses. My mother-in-law loved these swirl dishes; does anyone know what the pattern is?

I grabbed the antique etched glass goblets and simple water glasses for beverages. The combination of complex and simple helps to balance the table.

For my centerpiece, I started with a crystal cake plate and put a large hurricane on it with the bright blue candle. Again, too much and too tall. Then I turned the cake plate upside down and put another of my glass plates as a candle bobeche. Perfect proportions.

As the pieces started to come together, I knew I didn’t even have to get fresh flowers for this table. The silk flowers and vines that I already had were perfect for the setting. The “white” flower ring from Partylite turned out to actually have a complementary yellow cast, and the ivy sets off the beauty of the Chinese and Delft teapots.

Finally, I knew that I had to have some pops of yellow to complement the yellow in the tablecloth, so I pulled out a few pieces of French Quimper pottery from my (mother-in-law’s) collection. They are not usable for eating as they are old and likely have lead in their glazes, but putting four small plates on stands completed the centerpiece.

After I arranged the fake ivy, I realized there was room for another set of candlesticks at each end, so on the table went more Quimper with votives set on top. (You’ve probably figured out by now that I hate getting wax on my tablecloths and almost always use bobeches and votives.)

If my table could talk, it would say, “Passez une bonne journée!”


I’m linked up today to Susan at Between Naps on the Porch. Be sure to stop by and see some other inspirational tablescapes!

 

On the Menu Monday: A Visit to Vienna

I was watching Rachael Ray the other day and she did a show about food in Vienna. I’ve been dreaming about going back to Vienna, as evidenced here and here. If I can’t travel to Vienna right now, at least I can recreate this for our empty nest at home, thought I.

When Music Man and I visited Vienna, I kind of fell in love with schnitzel, but it’s a lot of food and not so good for my diet. People usually make it by pounding the meat flat, coating it in breading and then frying it.

Refusing to let schnitzel be the boss of me, I started with the problem of most online recipes. They are designed for a family or a party, not just for the two of us in our empty nest. Voila! I decided to go with just two perfect palm-sized pork chops.

Rather than pounding them flat I kept the thicker size so that I wouldn’t have so much breading and less oil actually hitting the surface of the chop. I coated them with flour, egg, and panko bread crumbs just as Rachael did.

I ended up serving a meal that was not only relatively healthy, it was also delicious and satisfied that pesky schnitzel craving. Be sure to try this — it’s VERY easy!

Pork Schnitzel

Rating: 41

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 2 servings

Serving Size: 1 pork chop

Pork Schnitzel

This recipe can be made with chicken, veal, or pork.

Ingredients

  • 2 pieces lean pork chops
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp. sweet paprika
  • A handful flat-leaf parsley, leaves chopped
  • 1 tbsp. lemon zest

Instructions

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Place a baking sheet in oven to keep cooked cutlets crisp.

Trim the pork chops of any visible fat.

Arrange a station for breading: flour, beaten eggs, bread crumbs mixed with paprika, parsley and the zest of a lemon.

Heat just enough oil to coat the bottom of a large nonstick skillet over medium to medium-high heat.

Bread each chop in flour, then egg, then bread crumb mixture and cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side, and transfer to oven. Keep the cooked chops hot in the warm oven until ready to serve.

Serve with lemon wedges.

http://gotmyreservations.com/2013/01/28/on-the-menu-monday-a-visit-to-vienna-2/

For Rachael Ray’s original recipe, click here.

Of course, I couldn’t just serve the schnitzel, so then I went looking for a side dish, and boy, was I lucky to find this one.

Krautfleckerl -- cabbage-pasta bake

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Serving Size: 1 cup

Krautfleckerl -- cabbage-pasta bake

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. egg noodles
  • 1 white cabbage head
  • 2 Tbsp. olive or vegetable oil
  • 2 onions (chopped)
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • Salt, caraway seeds, ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Instructions

Wash the cabbage and remove the stalk. Cut into quarters, then cut the quarters into smaller pieces. Add salt to taste. Cut the pieces roughly into squares, bruise by hand and let stand for about 15 minutes.

Caramelize the sugar in the oil, and add the cabbage, onions and the caraway seeds. Cover, and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring regularly, until light brown in color. Season with pepper.

Boil some water and cook the noodles until soft, drain and combine with the cabbage. Add the balsamic vinegar and toss.Let stand for a few minutes. Before serving, season to taste with pepper and salt.

Notes

This recipe calls for fleckerl, a small square, flat noodle. I was not able to buy this at my grocery, so I used the thickest egg noodles I could find.

My husband hates caraway, so I made a spice mixture of cumin, dill, and fennel and ground them in my mortar. I don't think I would ever go back to the original caraway, as the sweet spice mixture was divine and went beautifully with the balsamic vinegar.

This recipe makes about six servings, and we have been enjoying the leftovers. It warms up beautifully in the microwave -- if you have any left over!

http://gotmyreservations.com/2013/01/28/on-the-menu-monday-a-visit-to-vienna-2/

For the original cabbage and pasta recipe, click here.

Combined with some edamame salad straight from the deli counter, we had a healthy and satisfying meal that reminded us of our wonderful trip to Vienna, Austria.

StoneGable
 I’m linking up with On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable. Be sure to stop by for some inspiration for your table this week!

Tablescape Thursday: Celebrating Storks and Babies

We were privileged to be a part of beautiful baby Lindsay’s baptism and celebratory party. Lindsay’s flowers and her adorable photo served as the inspiration for today’s baby shower tablescape. I tucked Lindsay’s photo from her baptism invitation into a cranberry glass box.

Of course, Lindsay’s party needed to be centered around PINK so I created a floral centerpiece in my favorite hobnailed cranberry glass bowl. Everything looks good in this vase.

When planning this centerpiece, I grabbed the wood carving that my father created for my children of a stork delivering a baby.

When my mother and father visited the Netherlands, my father became intrigued with the rooftops and chimneys in the lovely cities.

Pewter chargers laid on a cream lace tablecloth and cream and pink floral placements set the stage for the place settings.

Every hostess should own at least twenty plain white plates to use as a base for table settings. Mine are Pfaltzgraff Filigree and can go from the most formal table to an outside party on the patio.

On top of the white service plate, I layered a rimmed soup bowl (Claridge from Four Crown China); this was my mom’s china and these bowls work well for salad or soup.

We received eighteen Cristal d’Arques wine and water glasses for our wedding thirty years ago. We assumed some would break along the way — we still have all thirty-six glasses! Our swirly champagne glasses would certainly be filled with pink champagne for this event.

To add a little pink flair, each place setting is topped by a cranberry juice glass with a sparkly daisy.

Setting this table was special for me, as it features both my family heirlooms and the darling grandchild of my heart. Every time I see my dad’s stork carving, I want to visit the Netherlands and find out what inspired him. He’s not here with us any longer to tell me, so I’ll have to see it for myself.

I’m linking up today to Between Naps on the Porch. Stop by Susan’s blog to see some fabulous tablescapes to inspire you!

 

 

 

Our World Tuesday: Salzburg’s Mirabell Palace and Gardens

Travel plus movies. Fun and funner.

As soon as we planned our trip to Austria, I knew I wanted to take the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg. Yes, I was the subject of ridicule among my friends, and Music Man barely tolerated the idea. But how could I go to Austria without seeing where Julie Andrews made cinematic history?

Today’s photo tour takes us to the Mirabell Palace and Gardens where some of the Do Re Mi sequences were filmed.

Remember these steps? I was there, too.

Remember when the children run around the garden and mimic the attitudes of the dwarves? You can do that too!

The Dwarf Garden has a bunch of interesting creatures made of white marble and they date back to the time of Archbishop Franz Anton Harrach in the early 1700s. I think I took photos of every darn dwarf — I knew I would use them someday and here we are.

We also went to Schloss Hellbrunn where the gazebo in which Liesl and Rolf sing “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” has been moved to protect it from trespassers. The interior shots were actually done on a set in Hollywood, but you can get your picture taken from the outside, as I did on a rainy day.

I enjoy seeing the movie locations when I am touring; it makes the fake world of movies seem a little bit more real. If you’re going to Salzburg, don’t let anyone talk you out of the Sound of Music tour. You’ll love it!

I’m linked up today with Our World Tuesday. Please stop by to see the travel stories of other bloggers and share the comment love!

 

Tablescape Thursday: A Nice Italian Red

The phrase “setting the table” has different meanings for different people.

When my kids were little, it was their job to set the table. Needless to say, it wasn’t this formal for everyday. It still isn’t in our house for our empty nest meals.

For me, setting the table means to create a tablescape with my collection of tableware.

I love having my table set with a pretty seasonal display, so that if I have unexpected visitors, the dining room always looks nice. I also enjoy setting a pretty table when we have dinner guests. I’ve always told my friends that setting my table is a pleasurable hobby for me, and I’m just as comfortable in their houses with paper plates. No pressure, folks.

Setting a pretty table is just part of me, and I’m not ashamed of my little secret.

Especially now that I know there’s a whole subculture of people who like to set their tables for fun and then put the photos on their blogs. I’m linking up with Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday; please be sure to click in and enjoy all the beautiful inspiration to be found among the bloggers’ links! I’ve spent way too much happy time looking at tablescapes from bloggers’ archives, especially the amazingly talented Alycia Nichols (this one is going to make Music Man VERY nervous).

This tablescape started with this Pinterest photo from 2011.

Image via Pinterest; original source unknown

Once I figured out where to find fake lemons and limes (the dollar store), I couldn’t resist making the display, even though it was after Christmas. Next time I’ll try layering the pieces, but this worked (except for the red glitter all over the kitchen).

What’s not to like?

So, today’s my inaugural entry into the tablescape world. I wasn’t quite ready to give up the last of my Christmas decorations, and I’m showing my last hurrah before I bow to the Christmas decoration police. And since I see Italy in my table setting, my linens, and my colors, this tablescape had to have an Italian theme.

We probably all could do with a nice Italian red in our lives.

 Buon Viaggio!

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Photography Travel Theme: Multiples

This week’s travel theme at Where’s My Backpack? is multiples. When I first decided to link up with Ailsa, I was at a loss as to what to actually feature among my photos. But, as with any conceptual theme (and a lust for travel), inspiration will take you beyond where you thought you could go.

Here’s a few local shots for your traveling enjoyment. After all, Chicago is a travel destination for some people — just not me. 🙂

Let’s start with multiple tree branches taken on New Year’s Day at Dawes Park in Evanston, Illinois. Dawes Park is just south of Northwestern University along Lake Michigan and is a local treasure. I loved the way the afternoon sun hit the branches of the trees and the amazing blue of the sky on a very cold day.

Following along the path in Dawes Park, we discovered the rocks piled up to form a breakwater. The sun on the snow with the contrast of the rock was breathtaking.

On a lighter note, my travels took me to my nail salon yesterday, and I couldn’t resist taking this photo of another kind of multiples. I gave the photo a little “boost” of color, and there you have it. A smile for your day…

  Happy weekend and happy photography!

Be sure to stop by Ailsa’s blog at Where’s My Backpack? and check out some photographs by other posters!

 

Poinsettia Tablescape Vignette

I just can’t resist being part of these tablescapers.

I’m not even close to being done with my decorating, and we’re going to our son’s house for Christmas, but I’m excited about having all of my decorations out of the basement where they can see the light of day. Today’s going to be a big decorating day and I’m as happy as a pig in you-know-what.

Photobucket
I’m linking up today with Table Top Tuesday at A Stroll Thru Life. Since Marty advertises that it’s okay to showcase a vignette, I’m going to show you what I have done so far. It’s not much, but I’ve got three free days this week to finish everything up, and in my book, baby steps are important.

I needed to replace the centerpiece on my coffee table so I picked up a couple of cheap poinsettias from the grocery store. I knew that I had containers to put them in at home. Two years ago, I found wooden handled storage boxes at the dollar store and I usually put ball jars full of office supplies in them, but I knew the mix of textures with the black wood was perfect for this tabletopper. First I put Tupperware dishes in the bottom of the box to protect it. Then I put the poinsettias in opposing corners and filled in with some antique red and gold ornaments that were a gift from a friend a few years back. I even kept the foil on the poinsettias because I knew it would pick up some shine from the candle. I tucked a pillar candle stand from Partylite in the other corner to raise up the cylindrical vase and put a short pillar candle in it. Voila! A centerpiece.

 

And just in case you were privately thinking it, I’ve moved the foil around so the label doesn’t show, but this was the best photo I got so I decided to use it anyway. 🙂

Happy decorating, and I definitely will have more to share soon!

Advent Calendar Renovation

I’m taking a break from the recipe count today to link up with a whole new set of friends.

I recently discovered a blogging community that sets their tables for fun. Oh, my. Where have these ladies been all my life? Today I’m linking up with Metamorphosis Monday at Between Naps on the Porch; I just can’t resist.

One of the things that I wanted to do in retirement was to get out all my Christmas stuff and reorganize it. I also wanted to move it from its storage spot in the basement crawlspace to the garage where I could access it on my timetable rather than waiting for Music Man to drag it out for me. I used to think that I had more stuff than most people, but recently several different friends posted photos on Facebook of their stacks of Christmas storage boxes. One friend said she brought 22 boxes from her storage unit, which took several trips in her car. I don’t feel so bad now. Apparently I’m not a Christmas hoarder, even if my basement says otherwise.

When I got out our Advent calendar this year, I took a quick photo with my phone of it hanging in my bathroom on the first day of December. In recent years, this seems to be the most convenient and obvious place for it, as I am reminded every morning to change the ornament on it. At my advanced age, I need every reminder I can get.

My sister-in-law made Advent calendars for   family members many years ago — maybe as many as 30 years and I treasure her generous spirit and the family tradition honored by the calendar. I’ve been getting out that Advent calendar every year and doing the countdown with my kids, but I always wanted to change one little thing about it. It was designed to use very thin gold cording to hold the ornaments on the nails, but over the years they got tangled and it wasn’t easy to pop those little puppies off and on the nails.

So—- I decided to do a little project that I’ve been contemplating for “several” years, and by “several” I probably mean ten years.

I  felt that the calendar would work better with rings to replace the cords so that the ornaments dangle cleanly and are easy to take on and off. I’ve purchased those rings at least three times over the past few years, but never did the repairs. THIS YEAR, my first year of retirement, it was time to actually do this instead of talking about it.

Yet, things can never be easy, can they?

When I went to find my duffel bag full of jewelry findings and tools, it was nowhere to be seen. I had decided to use a split ring and needed my special split-ring pliers, so I ended up buying another tool. I think that’s probably my third set of those particular pliers, but who’s counting? Then while I was standing in line, I saw these beautiful red rings that would set off the red trim on the calendar. Just had to have them, so into the bag they went.

When I got home, I found that the little holes in the ornaments were too small for the red rings. I begged Music Man to pull out the drill for me and he also found a small piece of wood that I could drill against. I made each hole a little bigger, threaded the red ring through it, and then realized I didn’t need the split-ring pliers at all since I was putting the whole thing together with simple needle-nose pliers.

Am I boring you yet?

If you’re not a crafter, these stupid little details can’t be very interesting, but for those of us who are crafters, it’s important to know in advance what one needs to do the job. Obviously, I didn’t think this through very well.

The project turned out well, and although it can’t quite be termed a metamorphosis — the theme of today’s linky party — I did finish a planned project. Now I think I need to decorate it some more — maybe a thin inner border of beads or something. I’ll have to see what’s on sale at the store. 🙂

Yet the story remains a continuing saga of stupid actions.

Somehow, I lost the chuck for the drill. The one that is designed to fit perfectly into the handle. We’ve looked everywhere and cannot find it. I can sense Music Man’s annoyance under his helpful searching for the tool, but it’s just nowhere to be found.

Perhaps it’s in my missing jewelry duffel bag and I’m being punished by my Elf on the Shelf. 

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