Lessons from Making Soup

Whether you believe that it takes 21 days to build a habit or not, my soup making has reached day 21. No! I have not made soup for 21 days, but I have made a homemade pot of it, for 3 weeks, and that IS 21 days.I tried to research the 21 days to a habit, and of course the research is overwhelming. Never mind the research.

The cool weather and rainy day seems like the perfect time to enjoy the delightful aromas that drift throughout the house when soup is simmering on the stove. But, this isn’t really about soup concoctions. It’s about “life concoctions.” I’m not a cook. That has been established. But, now that I’m temporarily enjoying the process of soup making, I’m learning I can substitute this for that–broth when it calls for water, more oregano when I don’t have thyme, chicken breast not ground beef, table salt when I forgot sea salt, and dried basil when I couldn’t find fresh. (Real chefs are probably cringing here!)

At any rate, as I’m mixing up today’s soup (to be served Tuesday night after my running workout), a thought, and I suppose it’s a well-worn one, came to mind.  Life is kind much like my attempts at cooking. The “recipe” rarely goes as planned. The “ingredients” were unexpected.  I may have “under or overcooked” it. And, in the end-it was just fine. Some times the “recipes” turn out better than others. Rarely do we have to discard the entire meal, we work with what we have.  We file those recipes that went well–these are keepers. We delete those we don’t care to try again.

I do believe I learn from every experience. I file it away in my memory, always thinking of what I might refine for next time, just like my recent soup making escapades.

Add a little of this and that. Remove some of that. Keep doing this.  And, always with kindly and gently!

Slainte!  Susan

P.S.  Today’s recipe Pasta Fagiloli. Click here for the recipe.  I didn’t have all the spices. I used extra of what I had, doubled the meat using ground turkey instead of ground beef. It’s already delicious. Imagine what a delightful dinner this will be in a couple days.

Last week’s soup was super too.  Hearty Vegetable soup. Click here for the recipe.  I added lots of chicken breast.

Finally, this really is NOT a cooking blog.  Though it’s fun to discover a new recipe every now and again all while I’m embracing the lessons I’m learning along the way!

Sunshine in a Cup of Tea

I’ve always enjoyed tea, but when I started going to college, everybody I encountered drank coffee by the gallon. I didn’t like coffee as an 18 year old, but decided I was missing out. So, at first, I forced myself to drink the stuff. After all, I wanted to be a part of the college scene. Later I came to enjoy it, and even later (and definitely now), I can’t live without it. My mornings look something like this: alarm rings, one eye pops open, one hand turns off the alarm, one already active mind thinks only of coffee, two feet hit the ground, and before I know it, the hot steamy cup of java is in hand.

Last summer in Ireland, I was reminded of how much I do love tea. I gave up coffee for our Irish holiday.  Tea with a full Irish breakfast, tea and scones mid-day, and tea after dinner (with dessert, of course).  It was fun to see how each place served it a little differently, some in a dainty cup, and always with cream and sugar. Yum!

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How quickly I became my “American Self” after the holiday sadly ended.  But with the cooler evenings, I’ve been again enjoying tea–this time in the evening curled up with a book and sometimes a purring cat. It’s so interesting how I now associate tea with my Irish holiday and how cozy it makes me feel. The cherished holiday memories come flooding back.

The Irish are known for their hospitality. We learned the Irish are very quick to offer a cup of tea or coffee as you enter their home. And further learned of a saying that when you visit someone, “one arm should be longer than the other.” Translated for my benefit: You never go to a person’s home empty handed. You should have a baked good, jar of jam, or some other delicious treat in hand ready to give.

When I think of living simply and gently, having a cup of tea in hand on the cool evenings has to rank right up there with one of highlights of my day.  The warm cup, the scent of whatever tea is brewing, and the holiday memories are the little rays of sunshine I need. How about you…is there any simple item, easily attained, that brings warm cozy feelings?

How about a cuppa?

Slainte! Susan

In other news…

When searching Irish and their love of tea, I learned they are in the top five list of tea drinkers per capita. It varied by website, but definitely in the top five, and not grouped in with the UK. Interested? See it here.

Last week’s sweet potato soup was excellent. Perfect on a fall night.  Missed the recipe?  See it here.

Tonight I’ve another pot of soup on the stove. Since it’s a new recipe, I can’t endorse it just yet.  Curious?  The vegetable soup recipe I’m using is here. Again, I’m planning ahead. It’s for Tuesday evening. We will appreciate it after a long day.

Later, I’ll mention the new series of books I’m hooked on…the setting: Ireland. So sweet and heartwarming. Perfect with tea! (The Irish County Doctor series)

Cook to be Organized

When I start the week feeling organized, I just feel better! I’m calmer and gentler on myself.  As always, during the weekend, I look ahead to the coming week and do my best to be prepared.

This week, I’ve committed to joining our marathon training team on Tuesday night for their workout. This is yet another commitment, a new one. As much as I want to be there for the team and to get in my own exercise, it’s one more addition to the calendar.

Another hurdle–I’ll be starving when I get home on Tuesday and won’t want to cook!

There’s a soup recipe, Sweet Potato and Chicken,  I discovered last year. Love it and have been waiting for cooler weather to make it! As much as I don’t enjoy being in the kitchen, with today’s cooler weather, I enjoyed the preparation.

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I appreciated the colors and texture of the vegetables.  Sipping on a wee bit of cabernet helped too. And, maybe more importantly, knowing that I have something warm and nutritious when I arrive home on Tuesday night makes my organization attempt successful.

Being organized is always a benefit. Organization means different things to all of us.  Starting the week with meals planned, groceries purchased, and odds and end chores completed makes me a better me.

I can’t say that I’m willing to spend every Sunday afternoon preparing upcoming meals. I can’t say that I’ll ever make friends with the kitchen.  I can say I feel positive about my cooking experience today and even better that I can enjoy Tuesday evening with my running friends without the dinner concern. It’s a win for today, and I’ll take it. One day at a time; sometimes that’s all I can do.

Slainte!  Susan

P.S. If you’d like the soup recipe, here you go! Click here.  Thank you Pinterest.

P.S.S. I will never reach the point of making my own chicken broth!

Lessons from School Photos

then and nowThere were three possible marks: Excellent, Satisfactory, and Unsatisfactory.  Every mark was an E, always, until 3rd grade when I had one “S” on my report card. Mrs. Muncy gave me an S in reading. Tears and devastation over this grade – from me. My mother nor my teachers ever had say a word. I was my most demanding critic. Still am…

Child development experts explain that our personalities are formed, for life, around the age of three.  We grow taller, hopefully smarter, and wiser, but our personalities don’t change much. In my own unscientific research of simply asking parents with grown children, I have validated this time and time again!

Working in the education world, we have the privilege of annual picture taking, right along with the students. Each year, free of charge, educators receive an enormous packet of our school pictures, in all sizes. The 8 x 10 is the dreaded one for me as every fine line and imperfection is plain to see!  As I contemplated this year’s free offering of yet another year’s photos, it occurred to me that little has changed from the little girl to the grown woman.  Okay, I’m 40 years older, my hair has changed color (thanks to an amazing hair stylist, Stefanie), I’m taller, hopefully more intelligent and wiser.  But, I’m still the same in so many ways. I often berate myself over not earning the E.  These days the E may not be a mark on a report card. It could be the mark I give myself for a situation at work, with a family member, an interaction with a stranger, or in other personal relationships.

The seven year old girl in the photo loved to read as does the forty-seven year old “girl” I am today. The young girl enlightened her stuffed animals by playing teacher, and the older girl now educates real people. The youngster valued education, the grown woman still does.The little one enjoyed playing the piano, and the wiser one still relishes music, both listening and making it. Then…my brother tormented me, I wanted straight hair, loved learning, adored my Whiskers the cat, savored sweets, was curious, and needed independence.   Now, the list still holds 100% true. I would also love to believe the girl was a terrific friend and want to believe I still am today.

Lessons from the photo comparison:

  1. I’ve not changed much over the years.
  2. Gray hair is inevitable-we all need a skilled hair professional.
  3. School photos could use a new look-a new pose, at least.
  4. Stay away from current 8 x 10s. Bigger isn’t always better.
  5. I need work on being kinder and gentler to myself. 
  6. Maybe Mrs. Muncy was teaching me a life long lesson.
  7. Not everything needs to be an E!

How about a “photo comparison” of your own? How much are you like your much younger self? Do you need to be kinder and gentler to you too?

Slainte! Susan

The Many Hats We Wear!

Running alone. It’s not my favorite activity. Running with friends is always better! As I set out this morning, on my solo Sunday morning run, I was deep in thought about the numerous roles I play in my world, professionally and personally. I’ll never know where these philosophical thoughts come from.

Have you ever stopped to think how many distinctly different roles you play in your life? If you haven’t done this lately, be forewarned, it’s daunting! This led to pondering which roles are rewarding, taxing, demanding, challenging, formidable, and require the most patience. Do the numerous hats I wear take turns in terms of the rewards, time, strength (mental and physical), and perseverance required? Or are some just rewarding while others are just tough?

As I begin my sixth year as a marathon coach, this role was competing for first place in my morning thoughts. One of the most rewarding hats I wear is guiding (merely assisting) people to cross a marathon finish line! In the six months I spend with these dedicated individuals, I witness so much growth, and I see strength emerge they never knew they had! It’s never me. I can’t run those miles for anybody. I can’t dig deep into my heart for strength or run on rubber-band legs for anybody. They do it, it’s ALL them!

Jen was part of our group last year, and not only did she accomplish a marathon through her own strength, she became a dear friend.

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And, some more people who I am privileged enough to call my friends.

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Some of my greatest rewards come from my role as coach turned friend.

On my morning solo run, as is quite common, I ended up running with a friend out on the path. We were poring over the rewards we enjoy from helping people cross a finish line. Running conversations can take dramatic turns and can be all over the place. We soon discussed traveling across our country and to other continents too.

I was talking about my new joy of traveling and of the many destinations I hope to visit.  My friend went onto say that helping others may perhaps be the most rewarding event in his life. For him, this beats any sunset over any sea in the world, any historical monument or vacation destination.  For a moment, I pondered this comment. For another moment, I felt so completely guilty for thinking of my own desires and for putting myself first.

Then I remembered. I’m one of the first people to tell others about the importance of taking care of yourself, your needs, and desires first. In this way, you are better able to be there for the others in your life and be at the top of your game for the many, many hats you wear! So many people depend on you-personally and professionally.

Your life needs balance. Your soul needs to sing. Your mind needs rest. When you take care of YOU, then you are better able to nurture those who rely on you and depend on your strength! You can coach others to their “finish line.”

No guilt for taking care of you!! Take care of you. You’ll be better for those who need you.

Slainte! Susan

Food Feelings that Don’t Translate

It was a weekend filled with family and camping. These weekends are the opportunity to forgo vacuuming, laundry, and grocery shopping. Yes, I’ll have to make up for it later, and that’s quite fine. I enjoyed time to get immersed in a new book, run and cycle on some friendly hills, nap, eat and relax.

I’ve had this on my mind for a little while — research words in other languages that don’t translate to an exact English word. With time on my side, I did some research which I’d like to share.  I wrote down several words with their meanings. Tonight as I communicate with you, it occurred to me the words I chose to jot down center around three themes:  food, relationships, and peacefulness.  This entry includes the food theme.

Food

Sobremesa (Spanish) – the moment when the food is gone but conversation still flows at the table. I love when this happens!

Shemomedjamo (Georgian) – when you’re really full, but the meal is so delicious you can’t stop eating. Been here, many times!

Physiggoomai (ancient Greek) – a person excited by garlic. Definitely me!

Pelinti (Ghana) – when you bite into food that’s too hot so you tilt your head trying to move it around in your mouth. Embarrassed to admit this occurs when I’m to impatient to wait for delicious food to cool a bit.

Abbiocco (Italian) – the drowsy feeling after a big meal. This happens and not only after our Thanksgiving meal!

This was super informal research with my friend Google. It was entertaining, and I definitely wasn’t bored. It’s interesting to think that with over a million words in the English language we can still have words that just don’t translate well.

How many of these food situations do you relate to?

Stay tuned for the relationship and peacefulness non-translatable words.

Slainte!  Susan

A Wavy Week

The week was wavy! I wonder what you do to calm the waters.

Plumbing issues in an old (loved) home are like having OJ after brushing your teeth. The week started with this unwelcome combination.  Then, work related events contributed to continuing waves.

A set of skilled plumbers (it took three men to finally get one who was slim enough to fit through the crawl space) sensed my plumbing panic when I learned the water had been gushing under the house for at least three days, and went right to work.  Fixed now!

Work incidents always smooth out, and I remind myself I don’t have to be a perfectionist or be so hard on myself.

Through this wavy week, I watched myself assuage my soul. It sort of felt like I was outside looking in, like a lab rat being observed by the white coated scientist.  I put my perspective in check. I reminded myself I don’t have to look far to see people who have suffered devastation with the wild fires. Our hearts go out to them. I ate a bag of Cheetos (just the individual serving sized bag… uuggh they were delicious!) and helped them down with a cold cider (this reminds me of my Irish vacation-always a mood booster). The most beneficial and soul satisfying events:  a longish run with dear friends, a bike ride in the park, scrolling through photos of scenic Scotland (dreaming of another vacation), and purchasing tickets for an upcoming show at our local performing arts theater.

I wished to report the most effective self-soothing methods didn’t cost a dime, and I was able to report this fact, until tonight. But, no regrets as an evening at the Gallo Center is always lovely! A high five that I kept the calories mostly in check, except cheesy puffs and a cider. It could have been worse. It wasn’t a perfect recipe for overcoming wave-filled days, although it could have been worse!

Another week is here, and I’m focused again on the positives. I’m refocused and ready! The Cheetos are gone!

What types of activities help you refocus after wavy days?

Bored? No Way!

Please remove this word from the dictionary!

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Over 1 million English words exist. An exact count is unfathomable. The Oxford English Dictionary makes dictionary updates four times per year. In June of 2015, five-hundred words were added or updated. And, some words are deleted because they just become obsolete.

Words come and go. As a lover of words and the English language, I look forward to the “word of the year” announcement.  Previous year’s words: podcast (’05), locavore (’07), unfriend (’09) and selfie (’13). Other additions you likely use are emoji, leggings, and upcycle. And, when words just don’t get used any longer, they are removed from future print dictionaries.  Brabble (a noisy quarrel) and growlery (a private room to growl in-perhaps a modern day “man cave”) will no longer be printed in some paper dictionaries.

My proposal is to remove “bored” from all dictionaries. In a world filled with topics to learn about, places to visit, new hobbies to learn or revisit, volunteer opportunities, curiosities to satisfy, books to devour, letters to write, research to  conduct, exercise to be done, and even chores that when completed will give you a huge sense of satisfaction–how can people be bored?

Make a list of what you’d like to know more about. Start researching; what are you waiting for? I’m old enough to remember life without the internet! The internet is free and fascinating information is out there, to be discovered by you. Great Courses offers numerous, reasonable topics of interest that you can learn about in your own home. Be inspired with TED talks. (Two of my favorites are here and here.)  You know those local places you’ve been meaning to visit?  Go there.  We have a few historic local places in my area, and I’m sure you do too! Our community college offers low cost, non-traditional short classes (one to four evenings)- think various types of cooking, jam or bread making, fly fishing, music, computers, and more.

To be absolutely clear, I am not suggesting for a second that you don’t rest your mind and body.  Rest and definitely sleep are some of the most important aspects of healthy living.  And, if your schedule is already packed to the brim, see the previous sentence. Not every minute of the day must be filled with an activity. I’ve read that a happy mind is a busy mind, and yet know that a happy mind is a rested mind too.

Just lately I’ve been hearing the “I’m bored” phrase more often than not. My mother’s line, “If you’re bored, it’s your fault.”

Okay, I’m not powerful enough to have this word officially removed from dictionaries, print or online, but can I encourage you to remove it from yours and others?

Slainte! Susan

In other news…

  • Drinking water from my Mason jars is refreshing. While I’m sure you join me as I yearn for cooler weather, this hot spell has called for extra hydration.  The glass jars get really cold in the fridge and stays cold for a while after removed.
  • I dusted my piano this morning.  And, I’m happy to report that I did play twice last week!
  • Four people at my workplace ordered adult coloring books! Today on Amazon, adult coloring books hold the number 4, 6, and 10 best seller spots.
  • My recent fascination is with all things Scotland!
  • I’m improving on my new bike.

88 Keys

I walk by it numerous times in a day. Dust it weekly-all 88 keys.  I sit down to play my piano…occasionally.

You know when those waves hit, there are numerous ways to refresh.  Exercise is one way to overcome a wave.  We know exercise produces endorphins, and endorphins produce positive feelings.  A brisk walk, run, or a jaunt on my new bike is a sure way to help me reframe my thoughts.

Playing my piano is another. Researchers know that playing a musical instrument can improve physical and emotional health. I read about a high powered business exec who spends a few minutes relaxing in her toddler’s playroom making music with a toy piano! I don’t know that any of you would do that, but hey! You never know. If you don’t want to bang on toy tambourines and kid-sized pianos, listening to music can lower your blood pressure and reduce stress hormones. Turn off your TV and select some relaxing music. 

I don’t recall how old I was when piano lessons started or how many years I went.  Nor, do I know how my folks fit Mrs. Blakey’s weekly fee into their already tight budget. Mrs. Blakely was my kind and elegant music teacher. What I most remember is that the color of pen she used corresponded with her outfit. Orange shirt, orange felt-tip pen. Purple dress, purple pen.  My recollections don’t include despising lessons, but I didn’t look forward to them either. As a pre-teen I would have considered the whole piano practicing a “wave” in my life. Talking on the phone with friends was a priority. (That along with call waiting was our “social media” for the day.)

Many years later, I am grateful that my folks “made me” endure those weekly lessons and “nagged” me to practice! I am happy to report that I still play today, even if only occasionally. Playing is always restorative. I am grateful for these things: 1. My folks “encouragement” of these lessons. 2. Another way to effectively reframe my attitude!

This entry is two-fold. 1. Did you have something you disliked as a child, but are grateful for as an adult?  2.  What works for you when you come up against a wave?

Knowing how to play the piano is a ray of sunshine, and no longer a wave for me!

Slainte! Susan

P.S. Confession: Sometimes I dust my piano more often than I play it.  Something to work on!

Sunshine on Two Wheels

My first one had sparkly tassels. It was baby blue. The seat was white. I may have a recollection of the training wheels being removed, but I’m not quite sure. Most of us surely have memories of our first bike. With that first bike came more rules-don’t ride near cars, don’t leave it in the front yard, don’t ride further than so and so’s house, and take care of it. “Susie, I’m not buying you another if it’s stolen.”  Gosh, I can still hear my mom and dad’s voice. Funny though, I don’t recall helmets being worn that many years ago.  With my bike came freedom a little kid never had. I could get places faster, and this was huge, independently!

Several years ago when I was searching for ways to be active regularly, I turned to running.  But, I’ve longed for a bike for a while. Living near a park with miles of paved and dirt trails, there has been no better time to try cycling.

A dear friend Jen and her husband Darrel are avid cyclists. On a Friday several weeks ago, I mentioned my cycling wish. That night Darrel found the perfect bike for me. I ordered it, and yesterday Jen and Darrel trekked to another city to help me pick it up and show me the immediate necessary accessories (and ones to consider later). Darrel did special tire functions (I couldn’t tell you exactly what, but he said they are important), adjusted the seat and my helmet, made sure I could get on and off safely, then brought me home with my new white and neon green bike (no sparkly tassels).  Today both of these lovely friends met me in the park for my first official ride.

There are still rules, and that’s ok. I’ll definitely be able to get places faster than walking or running. I’m excited to have yet another way to be active! Variety is the spice of life, and novelty is motivating.  I have more to learn about cycling, and practice will boost my confidence.  And, I’m again so graciously reminded about how special and powerful friendship is in our lives.

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Just wondering…is there any new healthy activity you’ve thought about trying? I’ll bet you have friends willing to help, or you’re sure to meet new ones when you start.

My new bike is like sunshine on two wheels!

Slainte! Susan

In other news…

As of right now, coloring books for adults hold three of the top ten best seller spots on Amazon. Click here to see for yourself.  (Best sellers are updated hourly, and I didn’t know that either.)