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My Kitchen Table

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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

Call Home

I had a wonderful Mother’s Day. Add to that, a recent documentary that I saw, and I’m thinking of my own mother. In the documentary, a man, in Japan, had installed a telephone booth in a lovely garden, where he (or anyone) could call and talk to their departed loved ones. It reminded me of a piece that I wrote for Victoria Magazine. I will share it with you in this post:

“I miss my mother, and feel closest to her when I am in my gardens. Spring is an especially bitter-sweet time. When the first blooms appear, I would love to be able to run to the phone and tell her once more that the flowers are blooming and spring has arrived! The crocuses appear first-often through the snow. Such hearty little creatures, they can be snowed on again and again, and when the snow melts away, the little blooms reappear. There must be a life lesson in there somewhere. It’s hard to pick a favorite! I especially love the jaunty yellow faces of the daffodils. Bouquets of them grace my home, chasing the winter gloom away. They, too, keep blooming through the snow. What a riot of color, with the tulips of many hues, followed by the fragrant lilacs, the irises, and eventually the lilies. Spring is like Christmas, with a new gift opening up every day.”

I hope this brings back good thoughts of your mother!

Until next time,

Helen

I love a Bargain!

I love a bargain, doesn’t everyone? I’ve learned a few things,over the years, about bargain hunting. My most recent “Aha” moment was when I finally realized that before I buy anything, I need to shop my own house. This came from finding things in the basement or garage that I already had. Unfortunately I have found some of these things after I bought a new item.It’s not a bargain if I buy a duplicate!

Other things I’ve found in my basement or garage are things I can re-purpose.  I found a creeper someone had left in the garage; either to move heavy objects or work under cars. It became the base of my living room coffee table. I found a little set of shelves, painted an ugly orange, but repainted black with casters added, will become storage under the entryway console.

A few years ago, I worked in a dress shop. I really came to appreciate good brands of clothing. They look better and last longer. Unfortunately, they usually cost more than I am willing to spend. That’s when I discovered consignment and thrift stores. I mostly don’t shop the big thrift stores like Goodwill, there is more stuff to go through than I am willing to spend time on. I also find that the better quality items are in the smaller stores. That’s not to say there are not bargains to be had at Goodwill. I got a leather jacket (yes, the real thing) for $12  plus I got my senior discount.

The overstock stores (such as Ross and TJ Maxx) can be good for great brands too. For instance Ross often has Jones New York. I found a Jessica Howard pants suit ($80) there for $20. Tuesday Morning is the place I like best for buying linens and household items. Good brands at for much less than retail.

Beware of knockoffs! I recently bought clearance tops from a big box store (which shall remain nameless). They would have been a much better bargain if they had been of the same quality as those of the same brand that I bought at the Hanes Outlet. They are probably knockoffs. They are OK for wearing around the house, but I wonder what slave laborer made them. Sometimes a bargain is just not a bargain.

None of this is an endorsement of any particular store. These are just the places I’ve found bargains. Happy bargain hunting!

Until next time,

Helen

Musings From the First Days of Spring

As I step outside, the first fragrances of spring subtly fill the air. The sweet smell of cherry blossoms! They will be followed by other fragrances as the spring progresses; apple blossoms, lilacs, iris and phlox. The honey bees are enjoying the fragrance too as the blooms become their haven.

If I listen very carefully, I can hear the gentle buzzing of the bees. The birds are back too; singing to the sun. I watch as the first fat Robin of spring is staking her hunting ground for the worms that will be abundant with the first spring rains. The Nut hatches are back, scouting out a place to nest and begin to raise a family.

The gentle breeze is stirring the wind chimes, just enough for the occasional ringing to join with the other sounds of spring. Oh! the first butterfly is back!

On the official first day of spring I can fully enjoy the warm, sunny weather that allows me to open up the house and let in the fresh air. I enjoy changing the accessories in my house from the warm, deep tones I use in the fall and winter to make a cozy nest. In the spring I change to the bright, sunny colors of summer.

It is time, once again, when we can enjoy the outdoor fireplace. The first fire of spring is always special. As the temperature drops, there is nothing quite like snuggling into a blanket; watching the flames and listening to the night sounds. A beautiful red fox lopes across the yards, gracefully jumping fences; as if to remind us, this is his territory, not ours.

By the end of the first week of spring, the daffodils are blooming and there are clouds and rain. The bright yellow blooms, trying to chase the gloom away.. The cloudy days, though not particularly enjoyable, are essential to the days ahead when more blooms will appear. What’s the old saying? “April showers bring May flowers”?

Until next time,

Helen