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My Kitchen Table

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The Best of 2017

I know we already said, “good-by” to 2017, but before we let it go completely; I want to share some of the best of the best that I found in 2017:

Phone Apps–
Calm- a meditation site. You can use this app free or pay a modest fee for an upgrade. Whichever you choose, it is a wonderful site to use to take a deep breath and be calm.
Charity Miles- donates to whatever charity you choose, whenever you exercise. You can turn on the app, choose your exercise and put you phone in pouch or pocket. I donated one and a half miles just with a shopping day. Warning! They will nag you to keep exercising.
Wish- a shopping app that was introduced to me by my daughter. I call it “stocking stuffer central”. I got part of the gifts and almost all of the stocking stuffers for Christmas on the site. Allow plenty of time, sometimes delivery takes a while, depending on where it comes from.
Groupon- most of you are probably already familiar with the app, but I just discovered it in 2017. I immediately got an oil change at Jiffy Lube for $22.

Kitchen Gadgets–
Spiral Cutter- I got one of these for Christmas and I use it almost every day. Mine has five different blades, but there are simpler ones out there.
It is perfect for cutting vegetables for stir-fry or roasting.
Silicone egg molds- another gadget I use several times a week. Perfect for breakfast sandwiches. By the time it is time to turn the eggs over, it can already hold its shape. No more eggs spilling out of the sandwiches.

Here are some other great finds of the year. I discovered two new thrift shops that are close to home. My favorite is next door to one of my favorite coffee shops. Who could ask for more? It has very high end clothing for great prices. My best deals of 2017? A faux leather jacket with the tags still on for $5. It is quite stylish and I have seen it on at least two Hollywood types.The last time I was in, I got a sweater, a purse, and two books for $9. The second shop is an outlet for a consignment store. Everything in the store is $3.

When attending a wedding shower last fall, someone advised the bride to buy two twin size comforters for her bed. I immediately went out and did that very thing. I could not be happier with the results. Mr M is always hot and I am always cold. This way we can have the comforter on or off without disturbing each other.

We are gluten-free at our house, and I had almost given up baking because it is so complicated. Bob’s Red Mill Grains came out with One2One flour. The xantham gum is already mixed in and it can be substituted for regular flour in baking. I am back to baking once again.

I hope you picked up some ideas here. I also look forward to hearing about your great finds.

Until next time,
Helen

New Year’s Resolutions

Welcome! Grab a cup o’ (mine is coffee) and let’s chat.
Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Are you able to keep them? Do you get frustrated and swear you are never going to do it again?

My experience with New Year’s Resolutions has been mostly negative. Failing to carry out something I resolve to do leads to feelings of failure. This year my attitude is different; but before I get into that, here are some fun facts:

New Year’s resolution is mostly a western hemisphere tradition. That may explain why 80% of resolutions have something to do with body image.

Each year the Babylonians resolved (promised) their gods that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts.

The Romans began each year making promises to the god Janus (thus January).

In the middle ages Knights took a Peacock Vow at the end of the Christmas season to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.

Many Christians participate in watch night services on New Year’s Eve. A time of prayer, repentance and resolution.

In the Jewish New Year holidays of Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur, participants are to reflect on their wrongdoings, and to both seek and offer forgiveness.

Back to my change in attitude! I recently heard a new take on resolution. Take a look at this! Forget resolve, think RE-SOLUTION! A new approach for an old situation. I’m loving it.

Let me hear your thoughts.

Until next time,
Helen

Goodby 2017

Welcome! Let’s chat a while. I’m having tea; what will you have? I know it’s been a while, but I really do plan to be more faithful with this blog in the future. I’ve missed our little chats. Mostly I miss hearing from all of you!

Our holidays were good, although we always miss the family members who can’t come home. Even though I was only responsible for hosting and the sidedishes for Thanksgiving (Brian did a turkey and a ham), I discovered it was a bit much for me and I was exhausted. Time to pass the baton to the next generation. Then I have to deal with the guilt of, “why can’t I do this?” My 83 year old sister still does it.

With that lesson in mind, I only did Christmas Eve this year. We had so much fun! Mr M made chilli, which is all of the kids favorite. We had stockings, and presents, food, conversation, games. It was so much simpler and more enjoyable. On Christmas Day, we had our own little Christmas; just the two of us. It was a good time for contemplation, special prayers for special people and the kids all went off to the other side of the family. Everyone was happy.

As is my custom, I started my shopping for Christmas 2018 right after Christmas. I can’t resist a bargain; so when everything is 50 to 70% off, why would I wait and pay full price next year? Just some examples, I got tins for Christmas cookies for 89 cents each, lots of stocking stuffers, jar candles for $1.79, gift card holders for 30 cents each. And on and on. One of the most fun shopping days of the year.

I hope you had a wonderful holiday too. You know, all my “plan ahead” and “down-sizing” are about spending the actual holiday paying attention to what it is really all about.

Check out my Facebook page Helen’s World, it’s all about the second half of life and what I’m learning along the way in this journey.

Looking forward to hearing from YOU!

Until next time,

Helen

 

Soup’s On

Pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea and pull up a chair to the table.

Once again, there has been a gap in my posts. This time my excuse is vacation. We had a lovely time in Texas with relatives in October.We had a lovely trip in the warm fall weather, with the trees in the north turning to wonderful fall colors. In Texas the trees had not begun to turn, but in the early mornings the air was a bit nippy, so it won’t be long. Someone told me that the turning leaves move south at a rate of 9 miles a day. I wonder if that’s true.

We did manage to come home to cold and a little snow. I’m not ready for that yet. However, if you promise not to tell anyone, I will admit that I enjoy chilly fall days. Fall food is probably my favorite. It’s warm and cozy.

This week we had, what my family calls “Clean Out the Refrigerator Soup”. It seems to be a favorite. We don’t waste food at our house, and if there is meat or vegetables leftover from dinner, it becomes lunch later in the week. If there is not enough leftover to make another meal, it goes into the freezer. I keep quart size plastic containers that I fill with the leftovers. No one seems to care if there is more than one kind of meat in there or pasta as well as rice.

When I have about 2 quarts full, I have enough for soup. I usually get them out to thaw the night before. In the morning, I dump them in the crock pot along with a can or two of chicken broth (depending on the consistency of the leftovers and how thick or thin you like your soup). The secret to good soup is in the seasoning. We are fond of basil at our house, so I use it generously. You may prefer other herbs and spices. Experiment! Turn on the crock pot and forget it!

Towards the end of cooking time add a can of whatever tomato product you have on hand. I have even used pasta sauce. I like to stir this frequently but it’s probably not necessary. Serve the soup with a salad and bread or crackers, if you like, and you have a hearty meal.

We like other soups too (I make soup about once a week through the fall and winter). But this is a favorite. The kids love Mr M’s chillie which he makes two or three times a winter, and always on Christmas Eve. We also like Chowders of all kinds and my really simple Two Can Chicken Tortilla Soup. I’ll share that recipe at a later date.

In the meantime, here’s to a warm cozy fall!

Until next time,

Helen

 

Books, books, and No Time

I’ve always been fascinated by the summer reading lists that come out from time to time. Why does everyone assume there is more time to read in the summer? That has not been true for me since I reached adulthood. There are so many other things to do in the summer.

As you know, though, I do like to discuss books from time to time. My “to be read” list seems to be getting longer, not shorter! Someone recently posted several lists on Facebook, “Books you should read before you die”. I am an avid reader and always have one or more books in progress. On the list of 200 I had read 13. No hope! Mr M is currently working on the 1000 list. I have not even had the courage to look at it!

Summer is a really busy time here. The writing mostly goes on hold and I don’t have much reading time either. I did manage to read a book each month during the summer:

In June, I read “In Such Good Company” by Carol Burnett. I always loved her show! The book was fun.

In July, I read “Philomena”. I had not seen the movie, so when I came upon the book at a thrift store, I decided to give it a whirl. It was OK, but I’m wondering if the movie was better. I’ll put it on my movie list.

In August, I read the very best book of the whole summer; maybe the whole year! “A Bride Goes West” is the true story of a young bride of gentility who moved with her husband to Montana (from West Virginia). They lived on a cattle ranch in Indian country 100 miles west of Miles City.    The book was originally written in 1941 when Ms Frannie Alderson was still alive and in her 80s. Her life was fascinating and surely not one I would have done very well with!

Everything I read this summer was non-fiction, but I usually switch off between fiction and non. What did you read this summer? What do you like to read? Please share in the comments below. I’m always on the hunt for a good read, despite the fact that my “to be read” stack is about a mile high! For more discussion of reading and writing and all things second half of life, check out my Facebook page Helen’s World.

Until next time, Happy reading,

Helen

 

Celebrating the End of Summer!

It has been a while since I’ve written here. I love summer, but a lot of things get left behind until fall. One of the things that went by the wayside this summer was writing; not just this blog, but also the book which is supposed to be published sometime next year.

So this is what happened in the place of writing: Gardening! This year we made an attempt at a vegetable garden for the first time since health issues interfered about four years ago. We attempted a keyhole garden, but that didn’t work our for us so we went with pots. We had tried that with tomatoes last year and they did really well. Our luck has not been as good this year. We are already planning changes for next year. Once again we had flower gardens and pots of flowers. If you follow me on Facebook you have seen many of the offerings that came from those gardens this summer. I’m still working on a cactus garden. It is coming slowly but surely.

I don’t cook as much during the summer. I haven’t baked except cookies for a family gathering in early August. We eat a lot of salads in the summer, but now it is time to switch to soups and stews. Those are our standard Sunday night routine and hopefully with leftovers for the week. Today I did the first baking; PBJ cookies and banana muffins.

Let me tell you about those PBJ cookies. They happened on a whim and what a happy surprise. Make your standard peanut butter cookie recipe. Substitute your favorite jelly or jam for the white sugar (my recipe uses 1/2 white 1/2 brown). You can either mix it in at the same time a the brown sugar or swirl it in with a spoon at the end. Either way, they are yummy.

Tonight’s soup offering was seafood chowder. I’ll save the soups for a later time, but trust me, it was delish!

I met with Dr. Deb this week and we did a podcast for her Get Control of Your Life site. I will post a link when it is ready to download. Have you seen my page Helen’s World? I hope so. I hope there will be lots of good information for you there, including this blog. I also hope to keep you updated on what’s new on the writing front, as well as other adventures in my second half of life.

We have enjoyed dinners and lunches with friends and family on our patio, as well as our evening glass of wine. Lately there have been several evening when it is to chilly to sit out there. We are always sad when those nights arrive. Soon we will be sitting around the outdoor fireplace instead.

Tell me about your summer. I always love hearing from you.

Until next time,

Helen

 

 

My Coffee Cup Companion

Let me take you back a ways, and it will become clear, why this companion means so much to me. I was raised in a family of many rules, some spoken, and others implied. With the exception of an evening snack, which could be eaten in the living room, all eating and drinking at our house was done at the table. Correction my mother did have a cold drink at hand on ironing day in the summer.

When I was fourteen, I met my new friend De Anne. We had great times together and would often spend the night at one another’s home. I don’t have a clear memory of De Anne being at my house, but many, many of me being at hers.

De Anne’s world was dompletely different than mine. Her father was a fairly high ranking military officer; but her mother was the person with whom I was completely enamored. She was attractive, smart, and sophisticated. She had been to college! Few of my friends’ mothers had been. She played tennis, no adult I knew played tennis. She was completely devoted to her home and family.

The thing that impressed me most, was that she carried a cup of coffee with her as she went about her morning household tasks, and she seemed to enjoy them! It sat on the night stand while she made beds; it sat on the counter while she did dishes and straightened the kitchen. She would stop occasionally to take a sip.

I thank often of Mrs. D as I go about my morning tasks; taking warm, comforting sips of coffee from my cup as I go. She never knew the influence she had on me in so many ways, all of which are symbolized in that cup of coffee. Such  peaceful happy feelings.

Who are the women who have influenced your life?

Until next time,

Helen