Monday, January 30, 2012


We love tacos.  We have them for dinner at least every other week. What's not to like? You can pile on your favorite toppings and you get to eat with your hands. For years I used those little packets of powder to make tacos. When I started paying attention to labels and ingredients, I was horrified to learn what was in those packets. MSG. Ethoxyquin. Hydrogenated soybean oil. Yuck!  I tried the all-natural version from the local health foods store once or twice, but it didn't taste great and it was expensive. Then it occurred to me that this stuff can not be that hard to make. It's just spices, or at least it should be. I googled "taco seasoning" and found a slew of recipes.  I tried a few but none tasted like what I thought tacos should taste like (I really kinda liked that packet stuff.)  I started mixing a little of this and a little of that and finally came up with a recipe that I liked. It's very simple. It's flavorful without being too spicy. I buy my spices in bulk here, particularly the cumin and chili powder, and then mix up a big jar that will last us a few months.  I use it for tacos, I mix it with refried beans for a dip, I make taco-mac skillet dishes. We usually use ground beef (that we buy from a local, biodynamic farmer) but I imagine you could mix it with other meats and/or beans too.  Of course my boys can now eat 4 tacos apiece and still be hungry so we make two pounds of beef at at time. 

Taco seasoning (in bulk)
This is enough to make the equivalent of 8 packets. 
8 Tbsp chili powder*
4 Tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp crushed red pepper
2 tsp oregano
4 tsp paprika
3 Tbs dried onion
2-3 Tbsp salt (2 tbsp may be less salt than most people would like, but we don't use a lot of salt)
*A lot of chili powders have not-so-healthy ingredients added (more MSG, sugar, etc). Check the labels or blend your own. There are lots of good recipes on-line.  I buy the Frontier organic chili powder.

Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir, then place mixture in a jar to store. Be careful not to take a big whiff as you pour it into the jar (the voice of experience.)  I imagine this will last as long as the spices will last- a year or two.  It never stays around our house long enough to worry about it.

To use:  Add 1/4 cup of spice mix and 1 cup water to 1lb browned ground beef.  Add 1 Tbs of flour (or thickening agent of your choice, ie, cornstarch) to thicken.  This is optional, but will add a nicer consistency to your meat.  Cook on medium,stirring occasionally, until the water is gone.  Add to your favorite taco shells or tortillas and pile high with your favorite toppings. Lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, guacamole, cheese, avocados....Olé !

An aside (I love asides- little useless  bits of trivia that I find oh so interesting):  I recently saw a TED talk with Elizabeth Gilbert where she explained how the word Olé came to be.  She explains that Turkish dervish dancers used to dance themselves into a sacred ecstatic state. When people saw them they would recognize the transcendental state of the dancer and cry "Allah, Allah, Allah!"  Centuries later, when the Moors invaded Spain the tradition went with them.  Over time, "Allah" became "Olé!"

Friday, January 27, 2012

Poetic Fridays: The Courage to be Imperfect

A Friday ritual- a post of words- a poem, a story, a song- that has been tumbling around in my head this week. Words that have changed my life or words that have nourished me. Words that have offered comfort or brought joy. Little scribbly shapes that can change so much. No commentary.

If you have words that have been inspiring you this week, leave a  link to your blog or share them in the comments.

From the TED Talks- Brene Brown; The Power of Vulnerability.

There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it and that was the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they're worthy of love and belonging.  That's it.  The believe they're worthy...The one thing that keeps us out of connection is our fear that we are not worthy of connection.

What they have in common was a sense of courage.... the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language- it's from the Latin word "cor" meaning  heart- and the original definition was "to tell the story of who are with your whole heart."

And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first, and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can't practice compassion with other people if we can't treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection- and this is the hard part- as a result of authenticity. They were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were.
Here's the link to the whole talk:

The rosemary and chilis are from my garden.  The tulip is from Trader Joe's.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A first sweater

I have been knitting for a number of years now. I first learned in college during a January term but never really pursued it.  After my children were born I gave it another try. A local church was offering classes and it seemed a great way to get out of the house and meet some other moms.  I had always been sort of crafty and loved to work with my hands, so I thought it might be fun.  I liked it, but it wasn't an immediate addiction.  I made a little hat and a few knitted toys for my by-then toddling boy, but I was so busy with the demands of being a new mother that I didn't knit often.  There was always laundry and dishes and playgroups. And then a part-time job working for a local newspaper. And then came another baby. And a new, bigger house. And I had even less time. 

When my eldest started preschool I joined the handwork group at his school. Moms from the school gathered once a week in the dining room of a veteran mom and created little items to sell at the Spring Fair as a fundraiser.  At first this was a way to meet other moms and get out of the house for a while. I still hadn't made a lot of "mom" friends in our new neighborhood and this was an outing where I could take the baby along. We sewed little wool mice and embroidered fairy-flower dolls. And there was knitting. I picked up my needles again and started knitting. And it took. I realized how much I like knitting. I like the rhythm of  the needles. I like the feel of the wool. I like the magic of taking two sticks and a bit of string and making something. I like the meditative quality of the simple movements.  I kept knitting. I made hats and simple toys. I made felted purses and bags. I joined group knit-alongs for community members in need of prayer blankets and shawls.  I got adventurous and learned cables in order to make a scarf for my husband. I learned to turn the heel of a sock.  Last spring I tackled a fairly complicated lace project.  I'm not an expert, but I've gotten pretty good at this knitting thing.

But I've never made a sweater.  I find myself terrified of knitting a sweater.  In the conversation in my head, I told myself, "Sure, I could knit a sweater if I want to, I just don't want to right now- too busy with other projects"  But when I'm honest with myself, I realize I'm terrified of making a sweater. Silly, isn't it?  But there it is. And I asked myself "why?" Maybe because it's such a commitment.  It's not a few balls of yarn- it's at least 10-15 balls of yarn. It's not a weekend here or there. It's a lot of time.  But I've made afghans that have more yarn. I made a lace shawl that took most of the summer.  I realized it's my fear that it won't fit my body.  Not that it would be awful.  I have no fear of making a sweater so small  that only Dobby the house elf could wear it or so big it would fit Hagrid.  My fear is that it will only sort-of fit. That it will go over my head and onto my body; it won't drag on the floor, but that it would be lumpy and bumpy in all the wrong places. My body is lumpy and curvy enough without needing a lumpy and bumpy sweater to help it, thank you very much.  A grossly too wrongly-sized sweater would immediately be frogged (knitters term for ripping it out and using the yarn for something else- rip it, rip it= ribbit, ribbit- get it?) No, my fear is that I will make it and never wear it; occasionally taking it out of my closet and trying it on and wondering if there is something wrong with the sweater or something wrong with my body.  A sweater that sits on my closet shelf and whispers to me all my insecurities.  Maybe losing a few pounds might make the sweater look better. Maybe if I were taller, or had better genes the sweater would be gorgeous. It would look great on someone who is prettier, taller, younger... There are clothes in my closet just like this. They are beautiful and well made clothes and they almost fit.  I just know that one day they might fit. That the shoulders will miraculously stop slipping.  That the buttons across my chest will magically stop gaping open.  I imagine every woman has these clothes. (and I envy those women who are so secure that they throw them in the trash and silence the voices.)  I can't help but cringe at the idea that I will have put many, many hours of my hard work and love into a sweater that will then mock me and my bumps.

I've decided it's time to get over this fear. I've decided it's time to make a sweater. Time to look the fear in the eye and say "yep, you might not fit, but I'll never know unless I try."  Nothing too fitted- I'm not a masochist.  A simple, top-down V-neck cardigan- a great beginner sweater. I should be able to handle this.  And if it doesn't fit me, I will pass it along. I will not allow it to go into my closet if it doesn't look great on me.  I deserve to wear clothes that are both beautiful and well fitted. If it doesn't fit me, in the most flattering of ways, I will trust that all along I was knitting it for someone else.  And if it doesn't fit anyone I know, I will frog the thing and enjoy the yarn for a whole new project.

Diane Soucy's Top Down V-Neck Cardigan n
The yarn is a fun mix of sea-kelp and cotton.  The colors even remind me of seaweed.  Fibernatura SeaSong
The sweater has begun!  Don't worry, the red is just stitch markers.
 Keep reading for updates. I promise to post them. (Making this promise publicly will keep me honest.)
The Chip Bag in Laines du Nord
And just to keep a little sanity, to hedge my bets a bit, I've also started a little cable purse.  No worries about that fitting!

And maybe, just maybe, I'll start trashing those other clothes in my closet. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sometimes function beats form

We are lucky enough to live in a big, old Victorian house.  Old houses are beautiful but quirky.  We don't have a lot of rooms in our house, but the rooms we do have are enormous. Big rooms with no closets.  Rooms with multiple doors and windows, meaning very little wall space for furniture. We often have to get creative in determining the best use for our spaces.  We have one room that we call the craft room that has desk space for the boys, a desk (office-space) for me, a large craft/sewing table, shelves for all our crafting supplies, and a sofa bed for extra guests.  This room is a hodgepodge of furniture and functions. 

Repurposing old furniture has always made more sense to me than buying new, both for our pocketbook and the planet. I love furniture that was made by hand, not machine, and that is made of all wood and not some unknown combination of particle board, plastics and god-knows-what-toxic-fume-emitting-material. I like furniture that feels solid. The curves of older furniture always seem a better fit for our old dame of a house than the straight lines of Ikea-esque furniture. I store my fabric in an old chest of drawers that has been passed down in our family.  I use the old nursery armoire to store my yarn (well some of my yarn- it won't all fit.)  When I realized that the children need a proper workspace for their "creations" I visited a local thrift store and picked up a really solid oak dining room table.  I put their pencils and crayons in baskets and wooden boxes.  So "resourceful" of me! I felt ready for a d-i-y tv show!

The thrift store table with the beautiful legs.

The thing is, it never really worked. Oh, they loved the table and created all sorts of wonderful drawings and sparkly-gluey creations, but it was always chaotic.  The boys really needed something that had storage (see the note above about the house having almost no closets.)  Somewhere to stuff gently put away all the glue sticks and scissors and glitter when it was time to tidy. We tried bookshelves, but the baskets never seemed to make it back to the shelves.  They would eventually end up on the floor when the creative urge struck and the table space was needed for a super-large drawing. As much as I nagged reminded them to clean up the table it was always a mess.  I thought about threatening to take away all the craft supplies, but I didn't want to stifle their creativity.  So it fell to me to keep the room tidy.  And that is always such a good solution: "Mommy can do it."  Maybe not.

One of my goals this year is to really get that room organized. Paint it. A nice cheery, creative yellow. We've lived in the house 8 years and it still has the lavender trim and floral wallpaper border from the previous owner (do they still make wallpaper borders?) 

Note the floral border and the paint swatches on the wall.
Every time I would go to the big-box craft store I would see the "craft table organization systems" and think to myself, that might really work.  But I would find myself thinking, "we are more 'natural' and more 'earth-friendly' than that."  And I finally realized that I was using a "should." It was someone else's voice that was saying "you should repurpose and old table and be all matha-stewart-y."  I really wanted that not-so-well-made, must-self-assemble, off-gassing-fiber-board-construction, straight-lined furinture from China that might, just might help us elimiante some of our clutter. OK- maybe I really wanted a custom made, solid hardwood desk just like the made-in-china contrapraction but I don't have $10,000 to spend on a custom made craft/homework table for my kids.   Drawers are a good thing!  So we bought it. And assemebled it.  And it looks great. The boys are already filling it with their craft and school supplies.  Everything is actually put away.  Everything has a home now. Well, almost everything.  And yes, I still feel a little twinge of guilt that it's not hand-made from a local aritst, but it works. And it makes my life easier.  And that brings me joy!

Yes, we are keeping the old wood chairs.

 Keep watching for more updates on the room.  Next up, choosing a paint color. And in case you were wondering, that old oak table is going to my basement for laundry folding. 

The power screwdriver.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Poetic Fridays- Making Things, Making History

A Friday ritual- a post of words- a poem, a story, a song- that has been tumbling around in my head this week. Words that have changed my life or words that have nourished me. Words that have offered comfort or brought joy. Little scribbly shapes that can change so much. No commentary.

If you have words that have been inspiring you this week, leave a  link to your blog or share them in the comments.

A hodgepodge of hand-knitted items

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Being hearty

A very cold radiator.
I think of us as a pretty hearty family.  We are fairly healthy, with only the occasional colds. We eat homemade, nutritious, local, organic food. We bake bread and make soups from scratch. We go for hikes. We enjoy camping. The boys climb trees and roll around like puppies in the dirt. We do our own yarn work (well, except trimming the 175 year oaks- too tall!) We move our own furniture.  We paint our own walls. You get the picture.   
Old, non-working boiler with all the pipes.
Yesterday our boiler went out. Last night we snuggled into bed with good books and flannel pjs as the temperature dropped. This morning our house is 52 degrees. And we are cold.  Yes, we are hearty but this is no fun.  Our toes are cold even in our wool socks and shearling slippers.  Our noses are cold even while sipping hot tea. Fortunately, the boys are off to school and my darling husband is at work. I am the only one left to shiver while waiting for a repair man to determine if the part we need is even available.  Have I mentioned that our boiler is old and finicky and it is tough to find parts for it? It has been added on to over the years and has pieces and parts from every era.  The joys of living in an 120 year old Victorian.  To add a bit of irony to the situation, the house was built with 6 fireplaces but at the time it was very modern to burn coal instead of wood and these fireplaces were built only to burn coal.  They are too shallow and wide to safely burn wood. 

A vintage gas fireplace insert with candles. 

Beautiful, yet ice cold radiator
When I lose a modern appliance or the power goes out, I can't help but think of what it must have been like when this house was built in 1891, or even earlier.  We have read and re-read the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and I always think back to Farmer Boy.  It was -40 degrees and they had to get up and go outside and milk the cows and collect the eggs.  They often woke to a dusting of snow on their quilts or a layer of ice in their wash stand. It sounds really romantic, in an old-fashioned way until I wake up to a house with no functioning furnace. There is nothing romantic about waking in the night with a leg out of the bed that is numb from the cold.  There is nothing romantic about a frigid toilet seat.   I may not have heat, but I am thankful I have hot water from the tap. I am glad my refrigerator has eggs and milk and my stove turns on with a simple knob. I have warm woolens and I have a handknit wool shawl over my shoulders, but I'm glad for Thinsulate.

Victorian teapot with a nice steaming mug of tea and milk from my refrigerator.

So what does this say about us?  Could we survive the conditions our ancestors found normal?  Would we quickly adjust?  I like to think so. I think we would get along just fine, but I also think we would long for our modern conveniences. We would realize how much we took them for granted.  I might enjoy my charming old house and collecting Victorian teapots and furniture, and I might often wish for a simpler time with no televisions or blackberrys, but today I am grateful I live in a time that I can easily plug in a space heater to thaw my toes. Today I will give thanks for my water heater and my washing machine and my refrigerator, and all amazing devices that make my life easier.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Three Day Vacation

This weekend we were able to to sneak away to the seaside. The weather wasn't very "beachy" with an average temperature of about 28 degrees, but the sun was shining and the air was clear and crisp.  Walking along the beach makes my top ten list of "favorite things to do." My blood pressure goes down. My breathing is more even. The sound of the surf calms me in a way that not many other things can.  I feel at home near the ocean.  I managed a walk along the beach everyday, and even convinced the boys to join me a few times.

To me, it's impossible to walk along the ocean and worry about my problems. I look at the expanse of the ocean, I watch the seagulls skimming the water, I hear and feel the waves of water crash into the shore again and again.  I feel so inconsequential and yet so a part of it all. I see where none of the little things matter, yet I also see how every little movement and action makes the world exactly as it is meant to be.  How can I worry about how we are going to find the money for home repairs or whether or not I can build a fence to keep the deer our of my garden when I am looking straight at god?  For to me, when I look at the ocean I see god. Not a long-bearded-man-on-a-pearly-throne kind of god, but the beauty and peace that comes when everything flows with all the beauty that is possible. To me, god is the inner peace that we experience, however fleetingly, when we stop fighting and embrace life exactly how it is. Not how we want it to be, nor how we think it should be, but exactly as it is.  The gull must swoop down on the crab to find its nourishment, the water must erode the beach that I so enjoy.  This is their nature. This is what they do.  And it is as beautiful as the sunrise that paints the sky with oranges and pinks and purples.


That is what I feel when I am near the ocean.  A sense that all is right with the world. That I can embrace the joy that is in my life without worry.

A mysterious sea-pod washed ashore.

A window of peace into this hectic world of ours. A winter weekend of  long walks, reading, knitting, playing games, doing crossword puzzles, making fires, spending time with family. 

A new basket filled with yarn.  Joy!

 A family board game on a cold winter's day.  Joy!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Poetic Fridays- on your way to there

A Friday tradition- a post of words- a poem, a story, a song- that has been tumbling around in my head this week. Words that have changed my life or words that have nourished me. Words that have offered comfort or brought joy. Little scribbly shapes that can change so much. No commentary.

If you have words that have been inspiring you this week, leave a  link to your blog or share them in the comments.

"The reason you want everything single thing that you want, is because you think you will feel good when you get there.  But, if you don't really feel good on your way to there, you can't get there. You have to be satisfied with what-is while you are reaching for more."

Our little dusting of snow this week

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Candle dipping

Every Three King's Day, or thereabouts depending on school schedules, we gather with family and make beeswax candles.  It's amazing to see blocks of hard wax and bits of string become gorgeous creations.  The first year we tried this we started with simple dipped straight candles. Over the years, we have started adding colors, designs, and playing with interesting shapes. 

To make your own candles you will need:
Dipping a candle
-A large pot- one that you don't mind getting covered in wax, we have a dedicated one now. Thrift stores are a great place for these.
-A tall thin can- we found a tall metal juice can (Juicy Juice) that works great. You want a can that is tall enough for dipping (your candles can only be as tall as the can) yet narrow enough that you don't need enormous amounts of wax as you will be filling it to the top.
-Beeswax- this can be purchased in block form or little pellets. The pellets melt faster, but the blocks are typically less expensive. You can find beeswax at many large craft stores or on-line.
-Wick- you can purchase this at any craft store.  The thinner type is best for dipping
-Colored wax- We use Stockmar Decorating Wax.  A Child's Dream Come True is a great source for this. We also use bits of beeswax form my children's collection.
-Pre-tabbed wicks and small containers (optional, for making votive-type candles) 
-Newspaper or drop cloths to cover counters and floors. Even with these you will be scraping wax for days.

Basket of colored beeswax

A few hours before dipping, you will need to start to melt the wax.  If you have the wax in a big block you will want to break it into smaller pieces to fit in your can.  Place the block in a pillowcase or ziptop bag and hand a child a sledgehammer and let them go to town- outside and supervised is best!  (btw- this might be the highlight of the day for the more physically inclined of the group)  Add pieces of  the wax to the can, then place the can in the big pot.  Add water to the big pot (the can shouldn't float) and place the pot on the stove top, at medium heat.  As the wax begins to melt, add more pieces of wax until the smaller can is filled to the top.  You don't need the water to boil; just below a simmer seems to work well. When the wax is fully melted you can start dipping.  Cut a wick to the length of the desired candle, no longer than the can, plus about 1 inch.  Holding one end of the wick, slowly dip it into the hot beeswax.  Remove the wick slowly and let drip.  Allow the candle to cool before redipping. Continue to dip until the candle is the desired thickness.  You might want to trim the drips off the bottom of the candle with a sharp knife a few times during the dipping process if you want a flat bottomed candle. 

Candles for next year's advent spiral, still in process

-Add colored wax in different shapes and designs. It's nice to dip one final time after adding colors to help the colors adhere.
-Press beads into the candle while still warm.  One final dip with help the beads adhere.
-Coil the wick around a pencil to make a spiral. To do this, dip the wick 2-3 times, then coil around the pencil allowing the wick to fully cool before removing the wick from the pencil.  After the next dip, you will need to adjust the coil a bit to retain the shape.  Play around with different widths and lengths.
-We found wooden pieces that allow you to dip multiple wicks at once. They came in a large Stockmar candle making kit. You could also make your own fairy easily by cutting notches in a small piece of wood.

The start of a spiral candle
 You may pour the remaining wax  into containers to make votive type candles. Think espresso cups, ceramics that your children made in preschool, little metal boxes- as long as it can handle a little heat, you can use it.  Dip the pretabbed wicks in the wax, then press them into the bottom of the container. Gently pour the was into the container. Bobby pins or clothespins work well to keep the wick straight up an down.  If you have any leftover wax you may pour it into plastic deli containers to save for another year.

Pouring the wax

Votive type candles
 This year we also treated ourselves with a galette des rois, the French Three Kings' Cake.   ChocolateandZucchini has an amazing recipe that I followed  (using Triple Sec for the liqueur and Trader Joe's puff pastry.)  Mine didn't look quite as pretty but it tasted wonderful.  We will be making that one again.  My college-aged niece found the feve and proudly wore her crown. 

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

winter garland

I received a wonderful little surprise in the mail this week.  I have been participating in a waldorf-inspired nature table swap on Ravelry.  This lovely garland came to me from the Netherlands and is beautiful on my fireplace mantle. 

The stitching is exquisite and the letters are cut out of gorgeously dyed wool.  Thanks kikakaya! You can check out her beautiful creations at kriebevel  I will post my winter swap as soon as it is received. I don't want to ruin the surprise.

  If you are on Ravelry, check me out at withanecreates.  For those of you who may not know, Ravelry is an on-line social network for knitters.  Kind of like Facebook, but so much cooler,  for those of us who enjoy playing with yarn and sticks.   

Friday, January 6, 2012

Poetic Fridays- Wild Geese

A Friday tradition- a post of words- a poem, a story, a song- that has been tumbling around in my head this week. Words that have changed my life or words that have nourished me. Words that have offered comfort or brought joy. Little scribbly shapes that can change so much. No commentary.

If you have words that have been inspiring you this week, leave a  link to your blog or share them in the comments.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
-Mary Oliver

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A 35 degree drop

Yesterday morning it was cold. Really cold.  14 (F) degrees cold.  Yes, there are colder places. I grew up in the mid-west and I remember what -30 feels like. But you have to know that two days before yesterday the temperature was 49 degrees.  For those that aren't quick with math, that's a 35 degree drop, in two days.  That's a return-from-a-tropical-vacation kind of drop. Without a vacation.  Not a Jan 3 to Jan 5 drop. It was a shock to the system.  It hurt to breathe.  My toes were numb. I had to struggle with  my boys to bundle up since two days prior they were playing football in short sleeves.

So what's a person to do?  Besides putting on wool socks and wool hats and wool fingerless mittens. Make soup!  A nice thick, hearty soup. With lots of flavor.  The kind of soup that will warm you to your toes. I had this image of every stove top in the DC area with a pot of soup, bubbling and steaming. 

I made this soup early in the day.  I stopped right before adding the pasta. I went about my day, doing laundry, checking e-mails, knitting, picking up children from school, helping with homework, all the time smelling the melding curry and chicken and veggies. 

An almost finished secret to-be-gifted afghan.

It's a curried chicken and pumpkin soup.  The first time I read the recipe for this soup, I skimmed all the ingredients and my brain screamed "too much, there are too many flavors in this soup."  There is curry and pumpkin and corn and  noodles and it's creamy. I was sure I wouldn't like it.   But I was testing recipes for our preschool's cook book and I decided to give it a try.  It blew me away.  The flavors work perfectly.  It's thick and hearty and sweet and savory.  It's thick, almost a stew. The perfect thing to warm your body and soul.  This might just be my all-time favorite soup.

Here it is:

Curried Chicken and Pumpkin Soup

1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbs curry powder (I like it to be a heaping Tbs)
4-6 chicken thighs, thinly sliced*
2-3 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 15-ounces can pumpkin (of course you can use fresh too)
1 cup corn kernels (I usually use 1/2 bag of organic frozen corn)
4 cups of chicken stock
1 cup pasta (short, such as shells or macaroni- gluten free pasta works well in this recipe)
1/2 cup cream or whole milk
1 tsp salt (or to taste, depends on how salty your chicken stock is)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions, cook over low heat, until soft. Add the garlic, cook for one minute more.  Add the curry powder and cook for one minute, stirring continually. Add the chicken, carrots, celery, pumpkin, corn, and stock, and bring to a boil.  Simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes.  Add the pasta. Simmer, uncovered for about 20 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente.  Stir in the milk or cream.  Heat, but not bring to a boil.  Salt to taste.

Serve with a good crust bread and farm fresh butter.

*You can use boneless chicken, but I prefer to de-bone my own chicken and save the bones in the freezer for making chicken stock.  Also, throw the ends of the veggies in a zip-top bag in the freezer for making stock. I promise to post later on making your own chicken stock. 

-adapted from Welcome to Our Table: Seasonal Recipes from Acorn Hill, available at

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Try, try again

Last year I decided to start this blog.  A new year's resolution of sorts.  It started fine. I came up with a name. I registered the blog, I even made two posts.  Then I stopped.  I worried I needed to have a theme. Was this a crafty blog? a cooking blog? a child/family blog?  a spiritual journey blog?  It seemed to me that it should have a unifiying theme or no one would read it.  Goes to show how easy it is to eliminate "should" from the vocabulary. 

Like so many things in life, I'm starting over.  Well, at leasting starting from where I left off, which is the way it seems to work in life. We never really get to start from scratch; we always start from somewhere. It's called growth.  This time, I promise to write at least twice a week on any topic, no matter what (life is interesting enough to find two topics a week on which to write.) I promise to include photos. I prefer blogs with photos and I'm betting most people do too.  It doesn't matter if there is not a unifiying theme. It doesn't matter if no one ever reads it. I will write it for me. I also promise to put myself out there. Last year, I didn't tell anyone about this project. I faced my fear of failure, my fear of looking like an idiot, and I backed down. I walked away like a dog with her tail beween her legs and I blamed it on being "too busy." This year I'm facing those fears and I refuse to back down. No excuses. So go ahead and mock me- laugh behind my back at my silly topics and my poor writing abilities and my grammatical mistakes.  I will share this blog when the opportunity presents itself.   I will be proud of it because I created it. I tell my children to be proud that they tried- it's time I started following my own advice.  This project is not a should. There is no other voice telling me to do this. This is something I want to do. For me. Sometimes desire and goals require discipline and facing our fears.

And so it begins, again.

And now for a cup of chai tea and a salty caramel that Santa let in my stocking.