A Taste of France

This past year, my stepdaughters Nicole and Alyssa were part of a French foreign exchange program. In April, we hosted two lovely girls from France for two weeks, and in June, our girls traveled to France where they stayed with the families of the same girls. They also had four wonderful days in Paris. Needless to say, they had an amazing time experiencing the culture (who wouldn’t?), and they particularly loved the French cuisine.

IMG_2781 (1)

Une salade avec une tarte à l’oignon 

(Salad and onion tart)


Une crêpe avec les oeufs, les champignons, et du fromage

(egg, mushroom, and cheese crêpe)

One of their favorite French dishes was crêpes. They ate them often (especially Alyssa), and brought the basic crêpe recipe home with them. Together, the girls made a yummy French meal for us similar to what they experienced with their French families……and the best part was that they cleaned it all up too, and there was a lot to clean. Mon Dieu!!

Here is a basic crêpe batter:

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 cup milk or half & half

2 eggs

1/2 tsp. salt

*** If you prefer a gluten free crêpe, Trader Joe’s carries a great gluten free all purpose flour that works well too.

Mix the liquid and dry ingredients separately, then whisk them together in one bowl, breaking up any lumps.  Warm a pan, then add a pat of butter to melt. Ladle or pour batter into the pan and allow it to spread thin. It will look like a large pancake. When it’s golden brown, gently flip.  The first crêpe will probably be your trial so you can adjust the heat accordingly. Since crêpes should be paper thin, you may need to add 1 to 2 Tablespoons of milk to the batter to thin it out a bit more.  Fill and gently wrap. Serve with a side salad or fresh fruit salad, and voilà.



Crêpes are a wonderfully versatile food – they can be savory or sweet. You can fill them with just about anything you have on hand.  If you want more of a dessert crêpe, simply add 1 to 2 Tablespoons of sugar to the batter.  Our crêpes were stuffed with fresh scrambled eggs, mushrooms, and onions. Our dessert crêpes were filled with Nutella and fresh strawberries.  A little whipped cream would have been a perfect touch, but alas, we didn’t have any at the time.


Une crêpe pour le dessert

(a dessert crêpe)

We are definitely going to add crêpes to our repertoire of back to school meals. If you’re short on time, you can make the batter in advance and refrigerate it overnight.


For some great crêpe recipes, check out this link.


Bon Appetit!



Art in the Park

Recently, May and June attended the annual Walk in the Park Art Fair, in suburban downtown Arlington Heights, IL.  This fair is a wonderful opportunity for local artists to display and sell  their original works of art including paintings, photography, pottery, jewelry, sculpture, and clothing accessories. It was a very sultry Sunday the day of the show, however the heat didn’t stop people from enjoying the interesting booths, whether just window shopping, or on the hunt for a specific piece.  We have both attended this art show in prior years and the setting is beautiful and it is big enough to have a bit of variety, but not too big where you get overwhelmed by the number of vendors.


June was looking for an interesting piece of jewelry.  Remember, she has what feels like a million weddings to attend this year, one this upcoming weekend.  And the dress code for the wedding had changed a bit so she needed a piece of jewelry to wear with a different dress.  She was successful.


They also had a demonstration of throwing pottery by a local business, Thrown Elements.  This is on our list of fun things to do.  We’ll either paint some ceramics, or maybe even try our hand at getting muddy and creating our own pottery.


There was some lovely artwork that we also enjoyed.  May has this water color hanging in her home.


We thought these were cute Halloween decorations for pumpkins.

Pumpkin Holders

And we found this sea monster hiding in the bushes.

Sea Monster

All in all it was a lovely morning to enjoy some art.   If you have art shows in your community,  it is a wonderful way to enjoy someone else’s creativity and maybe find your own inspiration.  Have a good weekend.  –May and June


Road Trips

Road trips always sound idyllic.  There are songs and books written about lovely road trips.  The open road, the beautiful scenery, the quaint restaurants and the characters you meet along the way.  You always plan your road trip is going to be like this:

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(Me taking my brother for a little “drive”)

But sometimes your road trip goes like this:



(National Lampoon’s Vacation)

I have taken a lot of road trips.  Growing up we always traveled by car.  My grandparents lived 10 hours away from us in a little town in Southern Missouri, leaving us no good alternative other than to travel  by car.  So twice a year, at Thanksgiving and one other time of the year, my parents would load up the van with their three kids and the dog and travel down to my grandparents.  We took the trip often enough that we knew where  the best rest stops were, and where to stop for food and for gas.

Most of our vacations were also road trips.  We drove to Colorado and Yellowstone.  One summer we drove from Chicago to San Francisco.

The part about  a road trip is that you have to look at getting there as part of the fun.  As kids we definitely had our share of touching, poking and aggravating each other.  I’m sure my parents did not want to hear our squabbles over the back seat territory, smelly feet and stinky breath.  They also got tired of hearing us ask if we were there yet and that we were bored.  But we also found ways to entertain ourselves.  This was in the days before in-car entertainment centers and iPads so we played the license plate game, travel bingo and my youngest brother’s favorite, travel Yahtzee.  We would sing along with performers like Barry Manilow, John Denver and Kenny Rogers played on the eight track player.  No road trip was complete without a box of Cheez-Its and other snacks packed in a bag that Mom controlled.  We had fun as a family just talking and spending time together.  And we learned how big the country was, how crops grew, and saw that we were very blessed and privileged to grow up where we did.

I still often go on road trips.  My husband’s family lives in Buffalo, New York, which is about a 10 hour drive for us (I seem to keep ending up with family that is 10 hours away).  We could fly but air travel has become a hassle and does not save us as much time as you would think, so we often drive.  We do not have any squirmy children to entertain (yet), but we still  try to entertain ourselves.  We do spend time talking and listening to the radio, and when the trip starts to get really long, I play DJ with our downloaded music so that we can have a little in the car dance party (as much as you can sitting down).  But even then, we start to get a little bored, and unfortunately I cannot read in the car since it makes me motion sick.  On our last trip to Buffalo we started listening to the podcast, Serial.

Serial is a podcast from the creators of This American Life, and is hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial tells one story – a true story – over the course of an entire season. Each season, we’ll follow a plot and characters wherever they take us. And we won’t know what happens at the end until we get there, not long before you get there with us. Each week we bring you the next chapter in the story, so it’s important to listen to the episodes in order, starting with Episode 1. 

We often watch old episodes of Law & Order, so the description of this sounded interesting and there had been quite a bit of buzz about it.  I downloaded it on my phone before we left since we would not have access to Wi-Fi on the road.  Each episode was broken up into 45 minute to an hour segments.  We could easily take a break when we needed to rest our ears or the passenger needed a nap, but it made our trip go so fast because we had a compelling story to follow.  It also gave us something to talk about on the long ride (there is nothing interesting on the Ohio turnpike that can spark a conversation).  My husband and I had some interesting conversations about the theories presented in the episodes and tried very hard to “solve the crime.”  I think we only have one episode of Serial left, but we have at least 18 more hours in the car this weekend to fill up.  Season 2 of Serial, with a different story, is supposed to start later this year (hopefully before our two other road trips to Buffalo in October).  Do you have any good ideas for podcasts or audio books for road trips? And have you listened to Serial (I would love to hear your theories)?



A Little Vintage Styling

Throughout time, women have loved their handbags, and I’m no exception. I cannot walk through Nordstrom without taking a quick peek at the latest arrivals, and always beautiful classics…..you just never know.  I do the same thing in the shoe department, but today we’ll stick with purses.  My mom and I have always loved everything vintage, especially Victorian accessories.  We use them in our decorating, but also love bringing a touch of something old to our personal style. Years ago, while in a local antique store, I came across a lovely red beaded Victorian bag, the perfect accessory to a little black cocktail dress.


That handbag was followed by more of the same era, as well as bags up through the fifties.  I loved that they were not mass produced, but rather beautifully constructed, each one unique, beautiful, and truly a work of art. So I decided to display them as such.



I found a basic black frame in the clearance aisle at Michaels, which I hung on the wall in my powder room.  I then arranged my favorite vintage bags inside the frame.  Vintage collections can include necklaces, bracelets, pocket watches, eyeglasses,  etc…. The frame grounds the collection and makes it feel like a work of art.  You can have fun with the frames too.  There are loads of vintage frames out there that you can use as is, or you can give them a personal touch with a coat of paint.


We all have that drawer, or box in the closet filled with grandma’s collections of jewelry and odds and ends.  Instead of keeping these treasures hidden away, why not give them new life by giving them a special place in your home? ~May

For more on displaying vintage pieces, check out this link.


August Book Club

It’s time for our monthly book reviews.  This month we are going to review Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen.  Once again, while our opinions about each book were somewhat similar, we did have some differing thoughts.

Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Girl On the Train Cover

From Amazon:  

A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.

May’s Review:  I heard a lot about this book, and was on a rather long waiting list at the library.  I loved how this story began.  The main character, Rachel, viewed the world and her former neighborhood  everyday from the window of a train, peeking into and creating stories of the people she viewed in their homes.  I discovered early on that Rachel’s character was definitely flawed, desperate, and somewhat humorous.  There are many twists and turns in this novel and I have to admit, I found the ending rather weak and somewhat predictable.  It didn’t live up to my expectations.

June’s Review:  This book has so much hype surrounding it and it seems that everyone is reading it or has read it.  Honestly, I didn’t think that it was worth all of the hype.  I liked and hated the narrator, Rachel.  Because she is unreliable it is hard to tell what to believe and what not to believe.  However, the end made me so mad that I wanted to throw the book through the window.  The ending seemed forced and contrived.  Keep breakables away from you when you start reading the conclusion of the book.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven Cover 3From Amazon:

Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end.

Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.

May’s Review:  I have read several books of this genre, and thought this was a well done story about the resilience of people in a post-apocalyptic world.  Although this novel was rather dark, I liked how the story’s characters were everyday people trying to adapt to their new environment.  The book goes back and forth in time, which gave me a glimpse into the lives of the characters, before their lives are forever changed.  I did find the traveling symphony of Shakespeare to be somewhat lacking in interest, however and usually skimmed through those chapters rather quickly.  Overall, I liked the writing and would recommend this book.

June’s Review:  The genre of this book is not something I typically gravitate towards.  I generally do not like doomsday or dystopian stories but I loved this book.  The writing is beautiful.  I was fascinated about how much the physical part of the world can change in a relatively short period of time if humans are not around to maintain it.  I loved the stories and how they ultimately fit together.  It is an interesting story of how humans adapt if their world drastically changes but yet still struggle to maintain parts of that world that they thought especially beautiful or worthy.  I read this book at least a year ago, and this story still haunts me.  A must read that combines both tragedy and beauty.

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

At the Water's Edge Cover

From Amazon:

In this thrilling new novel from the author of Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen again demonstrates her talent for creating spellbinding period pieces. At the Water’s Edge is a gripping and poignant love story about a privileged young woman’s awakening as she experiences the devastation of World War II in a tiny village in the Scottish Highlands.

After disgracing themselves at a high society New Year’s Eve party in Philadelphia in 1944, Madeline Hyde and her husband, Ellis, are cut off financially by his father, a former army colonel who is already ashamed of his son’s inability to serve in the war. When Ellis and his best friend, Hank, decide that the only way to regain the Colonel’s favor is to succeed where the Colonel very publicly failed—by hunting down the famous Loch Ness monster—Maddie reluctantly follows them across the Atlantic, leaving her sheltered world behind.

The trio find themselves in a remote village in the Scottish Highlands, where the locals have nothing but contempt for the privileged interlopers. Maddie is left on her own at the isolated inn, where food is rationed, fuel is scarce, and a knock from the postman can bring tragic news. Yet she finds herself falling in love with the stark beauty and subtle magic of the Scottish countryside. Gradually she comes to know the villagers, and the friendships she forms with two young women open her up to a larger world than she knew existed. Maddie begins to see that nothing is as it first appears: the values she holds dear prove unsustainable, and monsters lurk where they are least expected.

As she embraces a fuller sense of who she might be, Maddie becomes aware not only of the dark forces around her, but of life’s beauty and surprising possibilities.

May’s Review: As a huge fan of Water for Elephants, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Sara Gruen’s newest novel.  I enjoyed how this book combined historical fiction, with a little bit of fantasy and loved that the majority of the story was set in the beautiful country of Scotland. Maddie’s character, who is very spoiled and superficial, goes through a wonderful transformation throughout  the course of the novel.  She pulled me in right from the start, and I absolutely loved her at the end of the book.  A must read.

June’s Review:  A story that combines World War II and the Loch Ness monster, how can you go wrong?  I really liked this book.  It was fascinating how some young people of privilege lived during this era, although it can be said that some of that still goes on today.  The parts about the Loch Ness monster were interesting because I have always thought of it as a myth but it seems that in this era (or at least these characters) really thought it to be true.  A compelling story that pulls you in and invests you in the life of the main character, Maddie.  I found myself rooting for her as she matured and found happiness.

Let us know if you have read or read any of our picks and your thoughts.  -May and June

Trying to Get Organized

I will admit that I am not the most organized person in the world.  My stuff tends to be in a state of organized chaos. I am not one of those people that is always losing things, but I do spend a lot of time looking for a specific item. However, there is something about the change of seasons to Fall that makes me want to clean up and get organized.  I think Fall does this to me because I know how much time I am going to spend in my house in a few months.

I decided to start with a small project this weekend, organizing some of my jewelry.  I have a lot of jewelry.  Now before anyone decides to rob my house let me preface it by saying almost all of it is costume jewelry or in fancy terms (and as it is called in the Sundance catalog) “Artisan Jewelry.”

I find that with my jewelry if I can’t see it, I don’t wear it (I’m too tired in the morning to have much of a memory for my stuff).  So I keep a lot of my jewelry out on my dresser, but it is a mess.  To get this mess under control I have a couple of projects in mind, but this one is a super easy way to organize earrings.  I will admit that I am sure I stole this idea from Real Simple magazine.

IMG_0775This is my usual mess of earrings.  Hard to find the matching pair.

IMG_0773This is after I clean for the cleaning ladies so they can dust.  I am bringing out all of the skeletons in my closet here.

I purchased a ceramic egg holder from Cost Plus World Market.


 Plain ceramic egg holder.

Truthfully, I wanted a different color but they only had white.  Afterwords I was glad I ended up with white because it makes it easier to see the colors in my earrings.  I sorted out my earrings into the different compartments.  I did put more than one pair in a egg holder, but no more than three.


 Finished project.

 And now my favorite pairs are organized so that I can easily find them.  This organization project took me probably 10 minutes.  Now if only my closet could be organized so quickly.  -June



Dog Days of Summer

For most of us, we’ve entered that kind of transition or shift from summer to autumn. Six months ago, we experienced a similar transition from winter to spring. Suddenly, my garden, which was spectacular just a few weeks ago, looks tired and overgrown. My once thick and green tomato plants, while still bearing fruit, are turning yellow and wilting. The birds have quieted down, and the bird houses are now empty with remnants of their carefully constructed nests peeking out of the entrance. I’ve noticed the squirrels rummaging in pots for bulbs, and yesterday I saw my first V formation of geese.  However the heat and humidity remind me that it’s not quite time to start thinking about pumpkins, taffy apples, and the sound of leaves crunching beneath my feet on morning walks.

Officially, the dog days of summer are the days between July 3 and August 11. However, for  many of us, the sultry temps of summer can last well into September. Interestingly, the dog days of summer have little to do with our furry companions, but rather refer to the dog star Sirius, which astronomers have recorded as a bright star that rises and sets with the sun, shining only during daylight hours. This occurs during the hottest part of the summer in July and the beginning of August. In Greek mythology, Sirius is the name of the dog of Orion, which gives the star its connection to man’s best friend.


                                  Sawyer enjoying the dog days

Although I love the warm temperatures and long days of summer and hate to say goodbye, I remind myself that there is beauty in every season, and I allow myself to be carried by the gentle hands of time. So many of us are consumed with the structure and demands (school, work, the stress of the impending holiday season) of fall that we tend to overlook the extraordinary beauty of the fall season right outside our windows.

I hope you all enjoy these last weeks of summer.


Happy Hour Friday- Sangria

Hi everyone!  It’s time for Happy Hour Friday again and we would like to share another summer favorite with you. Today’s cocktail is Sangria. Originally from Spain and Portugal, ‘Sangria has become a popular cocktail, particularly during the summer months.  It’s a drink that’s mixed with a wonderful blend of seasonal fruits which also makes it a very versatile cocktail, and while traditionally made using red wine it can also be made using white wine.

This Sangria recipe has turned into a favorite.  A little warning is that it is a sneaky drink and before you know it you are feeling its effects.  The recipe is from the Pioneer Woman but have fun playing with different combinations of wine and liquors and fruits.  You really cannot go wrong.

Sangria Recipe

1.5 liters of red wine such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot or pinot noir, chilled.  (Cabernet and merlot leads to bit heavier drink)

1.5 liters of dry white wine such as chardonnay, sauuvignon blanc or pinot grigio, chilled

1 cup of orange or citrus flavored rum

1 cup of orange or citrus flavored vodka

A mixture of fruit of choice (we like citrus fruits such as lemons, limes and oranges, also grapes, apples or pineapple)

1 cup white sugar dissolved in 1 cup of warm water


 Ingredients.  Since there were only 3 of us I only did one bottle of each wine and 1/2 cup of the other liquors.

Place the fruit in a large vat. Pour in the red wine, white wine, citrus rum and citrus vodka. Next, to add a subtle sweetness, dissolve the sugar in 1 cup water and add it to the mix. Stir well, then cover and refrigerate for several hours, giving the fruit and liquids time to meld. Serve in glasses over ice, and have tongs nearby so guests can help themselves to the fruit. (Recipe from Food Network see link http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/sangria-recipe.html

IMG_0671Fruit mixture

We love to pair the Sangria with a wonderful goat cheese marinara appetizer reminiscent of Spanish tapas.  The recipe is quick and easy and oh so good.


Goat Cheese Appetizer

8 oz. goat cheese

2 cups marinara (If I have fresh tomatoes I make my own, otherwise a chunky style in a jar works great)

1/3 cup fresh basil, cut into ribbons

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In the shallow baking dish, press goat cheese up to the edges.  Spoon in the two cups of marinara, bringing it to the edges then bake for approximately 20 minutes, until bubbly. Remove from oven and sprinkle with basil.  Add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately with a sliced baguette for dipping.

Ingredients for Goat Cheese AppetizerIngredients for Goat Cheese Appetizer

Goat Cheese Appetizer

The finished product

Sangria feast

Our Happy Hour Feast!


What we looked like after drinking our Sangria (not really we are just really bad at taking selfies!!)

Have a great weekend!!!!  It’s going to be hot in Chicago this weekend so a little chill refreshment is going to be in order.  –May and June

Summer Flower Bouquets

I love summer flowers, especially the free-flowing wildness of perennials. Coneflowers, hydrangeas, phlox and black-eyed susans are all blooming in my yard right now.

I like to bring that same look into my house with loose floral arrangements full of perennials this time of year.  I dream of having a flower cutting garden in my backyard with rows and rows of flowers where I can go cut them to bring them inside.  My grandma had this type of garden and there is something so wonderful about having a garden grown purely for beauty, rather than for practicality.

I have not yet started that garden in my yard (probably due to my comment above about being a lazy gardener) so I like to treat myself occasionally to fresh flowers at the grocery store.  It is such a simple treat and really not that expensive.  This past week I was thrilled when I saw my grocery store had bouquets of  what they called “Farmers Market” flowers.  They had some arrangements already made up in Mason jars, but were also just selling unarranged bouquets.  Because I have a million Mason jars at home (my mom moved a few years ago and she had accumulated Mason jars from canning) I bought the unarranged bouquet and decided to make my own arrangements.

You can buy Mason jars anywhere now.  I have seen them at Target, the grocery store and JoAnn’s.  The wide mouth ones work best for flower arranging.  Also, you should buy the metal rings to go over the top to give the jar more of a finished look.

I am not an expert flower arranger so I simply trimmed the ends and pulled off some of the extraneous leaves.  You definitely do not want the leaves in the water because it makes the water slimey and after a few days incredibly smelly.

Out of the bouquet I bought at the store I got two arrangements, a big one and a smaller one.  On the arrangements at the store they had put raffia ribbon around the metal ring to give it a little extra polish.  I did not have any raffia ribbon but I did have some other miscellaneous ribbons and string (I have a lot of craft supplies just because).

For the big jar, I had a piece of yarn with pom poms on the ends that I had saved, that had held together a packet of dishtowels I bought at Anthropologie.  I wrapped it around the top of the jar a couple of times and then loosely tied it.



For the smaller jar I used some baker’s twine.  I cut six strands to a length of roughly 24 inches (if I don’t know how much length I am going to need I try and cut it too long because I can always trim).  I wrapped the strands around the top of the jar and then knotted it.  I trimmed the ends to roughly the same length and then let them hang.


And out of that one bouquet at the grocery store I made two arrangements that I can enjoy in my house.  When I plant my cutting garden I hope to have arrangements all summer for me to enjoy and to share with my friends.



I hope you are finding ways to bring summer into your house.  -June


Tree Pose (Vrksasana)

For the last twenty plus years, I have had the pleasure of viewing a silver maple tree out my kitchen window.  I live in the midwest and have seen the splendor of this tree in every season. I’ve watched it grow from an adolescent, to the tall strong beauty that stands in my yard today. I love seeing its graceful branches gently moving and bending in the breeze, its roots planted firm in the earth.  I am always reminded of this beautiful tree when teaching or practicing tree pose (Vrksasana) in yoga


My silver oak

I have been a yoga instructor for 16 years, and a student of yoga for 20.  Tree pose is one of the first balance postures we learn in yoga, and one of the most powerful and sometimes challenging postures.  I personally love the strength I feel while standing tall in this posture. Physically, tree pose stretches the inner thighs, groin, and shoulders.  It strengthens the calves, thighs, core, and feet. Mental focus is essential in tree pose, and while it relaxes the central nervous system, it brings balance to the body, opening oneself to mind/body awareness.  Tree pose encourages oneness and I feel the true nature of this posture is a subtle balance in the mind, body, and spirit.  When you practice visualize the strength of your roots traveling from your body, down through your feet, and into the ground.  You may sway as trees do in the wind, but if you remain focused and connected to your breath, you will find yourself anchored to the ground through your strong system of roots. I love that tree pose allows you the freedom to shift and move to find your stability with the knowledge that your strong foundation is supporting you and keeping you secure.  As you breathe and stand tall in tree, you find and are content with your own progress in this posture, finding acceptance in your true self.


Nicole demonstrating tree pose

For more information on Tree Pose, check out this link.  http://www.yogabasics.com/asana/tree/