Thursday, July 31, 2014

Outlander Series Coming Soon

 

 

 

I can barely contain my excitement that the Outlander series on Starz, starts next Saturday, August 9th. My love for this series of books started many years ago when I read the first book, Outlander when I was on vacation in Florida and has only become stronger, as each of the eight books have been published. To see these characters brought to life will be amazing. And from the previews I have seen, they have done a wonderful job telling a unique story that involves time travel and much historical accuracy.

 

 

It is always interesting to see characters you only once imagined, brought to life and it can be a tricky business to get things right. Imagine Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler as anyone other than Vivian Leigh and Clark Gable and you will understand what I mean. The millions who read these books, all have a picture of Jamie Fraser and Claire Beauchamp in their mind, me included. And for me, these two unknown actors look exactly like I imagined them to be.

 

To me, this is Jamie, come to life, with strong, handsome features and of course, that red hair. He is tall, broad shouldered and since the actor is a Scot, the brogue is perfect.

 

 

Claire looks like I always pictured her, with curly hair and a beautifully English complexion. She is delicate looking, but that is a facade, since she is strong, resourceful and very intelligent.

Soon, this wonderful romance will be brought to life and all the characters as well as Castle Leoch, Lallybroch and the beautiful Scottish countryside will be seen right on our television screens. To make things even more exciting, one of my friends is organizing some viewing parties for those of us in my book club who love the Outlander books, as I do. It will be interesting to discuss the show's treatment of the book with others who are Outlander fans.

I can't wait :-)

Happy Thursday!

 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Vanilla Cherry Chocolate Cookies

 

 

 

July seems to be cherry month for me, since this is the second recipe I have used with fresh, local Michigan cherries. With the cooler than normal temperatures we have been having, there are no worries about heating the house with the oven and cool weather always puts me in the mood to bake something.

After making and enjoying this Cherry Coffee Cake last week, yesterday I decided to try these Vanilla Cherry Chocolate Cookies. They seemed the perfect treat for an afternoon snack, served with a glass of tea or lemonade and the flavors of chocolate and cherries together, are one of my favorites. Instead of using chocolate chips, I decided to chop up a good quality chocolate bar and the chunks of chocolate, paired with the sweet cherries, make these cookies special. I think they are the perfect summertime cookie.

 

Vanilla Cherry Chocolate Cookies


1 1/2 cups flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 stick butter; softened to room temperature

1/2 cup sugar ( I used Spenda for baking)

1/4 cup light brown sugar ( I used Splenda)

1 T vanilla

1 egg

4 ounces chocolate chips ( I used a chocolate bar cut into chunks)

1/2 cup chopped sweet cherries ( I used local Michigan cherries)


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking powder an salt; set aside.

Using a mixer, beat together butter and sugars at medium speed, until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix well. Add vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate and cherries by hand.

Scoop the dough using a cookie scoop onto a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Bake until the edges are brown, about 12 minutes. This recipe makes 2 dozen cookies. Enjoy!


Happy Tuesday!

 

{Linking with these friends}


A Stroll Thru Life

My 1929 Charmer

Savvy Southern Style

The Charm of Home

Have A Daily Cup of Mrs. Olson

Serenity Now

Between Naps on the Porch

The Dedicated House

Cozy Little House

Craftberry Bush

Live Laugh Rowe

A Delightsome Life

Cedar Hill Ranch

Skip To My Lou

Rooted in Thyme

Jennifer Rizzo

DIY by Design

Common Ground

Coastal Charm

Stonegable

Rattlebridge Farm


Mom's Test Kitchen


Made From Pinterest

Coffee With Us Three

Gooseberry Patch

Mostly Homeade Mom

 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Lately

 

 

Lately, since I got back from a family vacation, life has been calm and quiet, just the way I like it to be.

 

 

Around the house and garden I have been keeping busy every day, just watering, weeding and creating bouquets from the flowers blooming now. I also made a little change to my kitchen window sill and added a couple green ball jars and a ceramic vegetable. A simple change, but I love how the summer sun shines through the color of these jars.

 

 

Lately in the garden, for the first time in years, the deer have left alone the daylilly buds and I have such pretty blooms to enjoy. When you are a gardener, there is a constant battle with nature, including the bugs and animals that like to destroy the flowers you take so much time nurturing. So far this season, the deer have stayed away, but the bunnies are winning in other places.

 

 

Lately, my new favorite tea is the Comforting Tea from Aveda. Since I go to an Aveda salon, I always ask for their tea when I am offered. This last time I decided to purchase some to enjoy at home and I love it. I discovered that this is a licorice mint herbal blend and have been having a cup late at night, since there is no caffeine to worry about.

 

 

Yesterday was an exceptionally relaxing day. My daughter, Melissa came home to go to a concert, so we spent some time together having a girl's day - lunch and a pink pedicure. It is always fun to spend time with her. She is full of plans for a trip to Cape Cod with her Pom team and her upcoming 21st birthday. I still can't believe she will be turning 21 soon!

 

 

Lately, I have started watching Friday Night Lights on Netflix and while I wasn't too enamored at first, I am slowly beginning to see what people love about the show. I am almost finished with season one and while football is central to the storyline, it seems to be less centered on the games and more on the relationships, as the season has progressed. And, I love the relationship between Tim and Tami Taylor.

Finally, The Bachelorette finale is tonight and while it hadn't been my favorite season, it's been fun to watch. Andi makes her pick tonight and the live, After The Final Rose show is always the most interesting of the season. I had hoped to have my Bachelorette watching friends over for a viewing party, but it was not a good night for most, so I will be texting Megan in Pittsburgh, as we watch this silly show together, but long distance.

Happy Monday!

 

Friday, July 25, 2014

An Afternoon Walk

 

 

 

It was the kind of afternoon that you just have to take advantage of every summer. The kind of weather that doesn't come around often in July, but was that perfect blend of blue skies, puffy white clouds and mild temperatures. The perfect day for venturing out from my usual path and taking a walk by the river.

 

 

This path by the river runs very close and changes scenery as you follow along. There is grass along the edges in spots and then beautiful flowers will begin to appear.

 

 

The further you venture along the path, away from the crowds, the more wild looking the river becomes. Would you believe this is all found just minutes from a bustling downtown?

 

 

My puppy, the best walking buddy around, was brave enough this time, to walk right to the edge of the shore and take a sip of the crystal, clear water.

Walking is therapeutic for me; both physically and mentally. I walk every day, rain or shine and am lucky to have beautiful trails in my neighborhood that do give me variety. But, sometimes, jumping in the car and exploring new sights on a beautiful summer afternoon can be just what the doctor ordered :-)

Have a wonderful weekend!

 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Just the Girls

 

 

 

We have always set aside a morning or afternoon, while on vacation, to find a place to do a little shopping; just the girls on the trip. This year's vacation was no exception and we discovered a delightful little side street with some unique shops, in the town of Oscoda, nestled right on the shores of Lake Huron.

 

 

There were shops surrounded by blooming flowers, benches and chairs designed for taking a rest and just down the street, a gorgeous view of the lake.

 

 

The shops contained the kinds of things I like to purchase when I'm on vacation. There were local crafts and many items unique to the area. There were the cutest pillows stitched with gingham letters, naming all the lakes in the area; perfect for cottage decor. I came home with a scented candle and some homemade apple butter; both in pretty mason jars.

Discovering new things while on vacation is always fun and the fact that this lovely side street was an unexpected find, made it even more special.

Happy Wednesday!

 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Low Sugar Cherry Coffee Cake

 

 

Michigan cherries are in season and if you are lucky enough to be in the Traverse City area, baskets full can be found in abundance at every farm stand. You will also see cherry trees as far as the eye can see, since that area of northern Michigan produces 75% of the word's cherries.

 

 

To celebrate Michigan cherry season, I decided to make something using this beautiful and delicious fruit that would show off its vibrant color and taste. I found an old Martha Stewart Living recipe for Cherry Coffee Cake that I have adapted to suit my needs, by making a couple of changes. Instead of using tart cherries, I am using sweet Michigan cherries and as usual, to fit my diabetic standards, I have used Splenda white baking sugar, as well as Splenda brown sugar, for the crumb topping.

 

 

The sweet cherry taste was a perfect coffee cake flavor and this would be pretty enough to serve when entertaining. Fresh, local, in season fruit, makes any recipe better!

 

Low Sugar Cherry Coffee Cake


For the topping:

4 T butter, melted

3/4 cup flour

1/4 cup Splenda baking sugar

1/4 cup Splenda brown sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

For the cake:

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 stick butter, softened

3/4 cup Splenda baking sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 cup low fat milk

2 cups sweet cherries, pitted


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 9 inch round baking pan, dust with flour and tap out excess.

In a medium bowl, stir together topping ingredients; butter, flour, sugars, salt and cinnamon. Set topping aside.

In another medium bowl, using mixer, cream butter and sugar, until pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl. Working in alternating batches, add flour mixture and milk. Beat until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and smooth with spatula. Dot top with cherries and sprinkle with crumb topping.

Bake until golden and a tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool before cutting. Enjoy!


{Linking with these friends}


A Stroll Thru Life

My 1929 Charmer

Savvy Southern Style

The Charm of Home

Have A Daily Cup of Mrs. Olson

Serenity Now

Between Naps on the Porch

The Dedicated House

Cozy Little House

Craftberry Bush

Live Laugh Rowe

A Delightsome Life

Cedar Hill Ranch

Skip To My Lou

Rooted in Thyme

Jennifer Rizzo

DIY by Design

Common Ground

Coastal Charm

Stonegable

Rattlebridge Farm


Mom's Test Kitchen


Made From Pinterest

Coffee With Us Three

Gooseberry Patch

Mostly Homeade Mom


 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Two Lakes

 

 

 

In Michigan there are two kinds of lakes; inland lakes and of course, the Great Lakes. On my recent vacation with my extended family, I experienced a little of both.

 

 

It was a different vacation for me, a causality of an empty nest, with the added problem of a husband who had important meetings at work, he couldn't miss. So, it was just me, setting out on this trip to northern Michigan to join my parents, sister's family and brother's family at a cottage, near Lake Huron.

 

 

It was a quiet vacation and very relaxing. The weather was cool, rainy and alternated sun and clouds within minutes. Not exactly boating weather, but we took advantage of the time to read, shop, play cards and explore the many unique shoreline landscapes of Lake Huron. We cooked delicious meals at our cottage and I made breakfast for the whole group one morning that included strawberry shortcake waffles, with lots of whipped cream.

 

 

As is our tradition, we ended each day with a happy hour by the shore of the lake. On the last night, this lovely sunset gave us photo opportunities galore, as the clouds reflected on the lake. I missed my husband and daughters, but was thankful for the time spent with aging parents and nephews and nieces, all grown up. There were memories of other trips when the cottage was filled with small children and chaos and fun ensued daily. There are new memories to be made now; different, but just as special.

Happy Monday!

 

Friday, July 18, 2014

What I Read on Vacation

 

 

 

I just returned from a vacation where the weather was cool, rainy and better suited for inside activities, like reading. Luckily, I had downloaded the new JoJo Moyes novel, One Plus One. I am a big fan of all her novels, especially Me Before You, and had very much anticipated this one.

This new book tells the story of Jess, a single mother who struggles with making ends meet and protecting her two quirky children from the neighborhood bullies. She throws caution to the wind and embarks on a cross country journey filled with hilarity, a bit romance and ultimately disappointment and sadness. The story is quite moving and the characters are vulnerable, learning to rely on each other throughout the course of their trip.

I read this book over 3 days and was unable to stop reading, until I finished it one night. And, like any good book, was sad when I did finish it. If you are looking for a good summer book to read on vacation, or next to the pool, this is the perfect choice.

Have a wonderful weekend!

 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Two Years

 

 

source

 

This past Friday was the two year anniversary of Life in My Empty Nest, and I couldn't let it pass without some reflection on what blogging has meant to me. When I first hit that publish button, on that first post, two years ago, it was a scary feeling, putting my words, thoughts and feelings out in the world. I had planned on trying to write five times a week and I wondered if that would grow tedious over time.

Two years and 485 posts later, I can safely say that I have met that goal, with only a few days off here and there for vacations, holidays and every day busy life. The words have come easily and the variety of the posts I like to write, has kept things fresh for me and I hope for you too.

Perhaps my favorite thing about blogging is the feedback and connections built with those who read every day. It is a strange thing to feel a connection with those I have never met, but I do, especially with my fellow empty nesters. I do believe if you write from the heart, about what inspires you, you will find like minded readers who can become friends. It has been an interesting, fun and introspective two years.

Here's to many more - thank you so much for reading :-)

Happy Monday - planning a little summer fun this week!

 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Simple Summer Bouquets

 

 

 

One of my favorite things to do in the summer months is make simple bouquets and flower groupings either from flowers cut from my yard or sunflowers from the floral department at the grocery store. For me, it's about the simplicity of the arrangement. Use a pretty container like these green mason jars, group several together in a wicker basket and the beauty of the sunflower becomes the star.

 

 

Unlikely flowers and greenery can fill a container beautifully. I like to wander my yard and garden, snipping a flower here and there. My trick is to use greenery from my woods as filler, so I don't need as many flowers to make an impact. If you don't have access to any woods, branches from ordinary bushes can have really pretty leaves too. This arrangement uses some wild grass, daisies, zinnias and even some leggy petunias.

 

 

Even these sweet daisies make a big impact, when placed in a small crystal vase. These would look so pretty on a bathroom counter or on your bedside table. You don't need a lot of flowers when you look for the simplicity and sweetness in flower arranging.

Have a wonderful weekend!

 

{Linking with these friends}


A Stroll Thru Life

My 1929 Charmer

Savvy Southern Style

The Charm of Home

Have A Daily Cup of Mrs. Olson

Serenity Now

Between Naps on the Porch

The Dedicated House

Cozy Little House

Craftberry Bush

Live Laugh Rowe

A Delightsome Life

Cedar Hill Ranch

Skip To My Lou

Rooted in Thyme

Jennifer Rizzo

DIY by Design

Common Ground

Coastal Charm

Stonegable

Thrifty Decor Chick

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Lately

 

 

The days are slower in the summertime; the mornings made for getting an early start while the air is cool. Afternoons are meant for reading a good book, in the shade of a big tree. I have been taking advantage of the beautiful days that stretch out before me.

 

 
The book I have enjoyed the most lately, is Tracy Chevalier's newest, The Last Runaway. My book club read Girl with A Pearl Earring and The Virgin Blue and I enjoyed both. Chevalier is a great storyteller, especially when writing about women trapped in situations they struggle to break free from, but can't, because of the limitations on women, in that era. Her new novel, tells the story of a women from England, who travels to a Friends settlement in Ohio and makes the best of her situation by becoming involved in the Underground Railroad. She defies both her community and her new husband and learns to make a life for herself, based on her strong principles. I read this fairly quickly, wanting to know what happens in the end.
 
 

 

I was able to go to my favorite breakfast spot with Megan, before she headed back to Pittsburgh. It seems I had just gotten used to her being gone and for some reason this goodbye was even harder. We are going to visit her next month, but it just seems far away. She's very happy and that makes it easier, but I miss her.

 

 

My Alex and Ani bracelet collection is growing. I received the gold bracelet, from my daughters for my birthday and plan on wearing it with the silver one I already own. I like the look of mixing the two different finishes.

 

 

My daughter and I shared a slice of my favorite Lemon Raspberry cheesecake, from the Cheesecake factory, while watching The Bachelorette, Monday night. Cheesecake, wine, and talking about that silly show together, made for the perfect girl's night.

Happy Wednesday!

 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Proscuitto Wrapped Asparagus

 

 

 

Summer is about easy living. That is why any recipe for a simple appetizer, made with fresh Indgredients, is such wonderful thing to have as a go to menu option. These delicious Proscuitto Wrapped Asparagus are always a big hit and when I took them to a pool party on July 4th, they were gone quickly. They are great to take along to a party or picnic, because they travel well and can be served at room temperature.

Easy to prepare, the key indgredient is good quality proscuitto, that you allow to get just a little crisp, in a hot oven. Also, the fresh, ground pepper adds a peppery bite to the simple asparagus spears. At your next summer gathering, serve them on a pretty platter, accompanied by a crisp white wine and wait for the compliments you will receive.

 

Proscuitto Wrapped Asparagus


1 bunch of fresh asparagus

1 package good quality, thinly sliced proscuitto

Olive oil

Fresh ground pepper


Wash asparagus and cut off ends. Cut prosciutto slices in half. Wrap asparagus spear with proscuitto, in the middle of each spear. Place on a baking sheet in one layer. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle liberally with fresh ground pepper. Bake at 410 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes or until proscuitto begins to get slightly crisp. Enjoy!


Happy Tuesday!

 

Linking with these friends

Stonegable

Rattlebridge Farm

Mom's Test Kitchen


Made From Pinterest

Coffee With Us Three

Between Naps on the Porch

Savvy Southern Style

Jennifer Rizzo

Gooseberry Patch

 

Monday, July 7, 2014

4th of July Weekend in Photos

 

 

Beautiful weather, friends, family, pool, boating and baseball. The list is long of all that we did over the 4th of July holiday weekend, but every moment was special in its own way and combined to make for some fun and busy days and nights.

 

 

We spent the 4th of July at our friends lovely, sparkling blue pool. There were festive drinks, really good food, including grilled, braided salmon and barbeque ribs, and lots of laughter, while floating in the pool. As the night grew cool, we moved to the hot tub and I could be found there long into the night.

 

 

Saturday was a lake day, with family and we spent the time boating and just relaxing watching this beautiful view of the lake. Michigan lakes are perfection in the summer.

 

 

Sunday night we went to the Detroit Tigers game, as a birthday present to me. I love baseball, especially on a perfect summer night, so even though the Tigers lost, it was so much fun.

We had an amazing weekend.

Happy Monday!

 

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