I was hungry for soup on a chilly day—and today is unseasonably chilly for May. My husband sat in the living room last evening with an afghan draped over his legs (er, and a cat and dog fighting for space there, too. Can you find the sad, pathetic looking coal-black Velvet, to the right?)
But one Saturday last winter when the hub was working and I was alone for lunch, I cooked up my very own invention, Snow Pea Soup, using the same kind of base I would use for a broccoli-cheddar soup, and it was yum. Not quite as good as actual broccoli soup (one of my all time favorites) but good enough if you want something different and have snow peas to use up, like I do. Most other snow pea soup recipes I found online went in an Asian direction but that wasn’t what I had in mind. Another used creamed or blended snow peas for more of a split pea and ham type soup. See what you think!
So if you like experimenting on small quantities for just yourself, or want a simple “girls lunch” for two, check this out.
Cheesy-Snow Pea Soup
3 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch garlic powder
1 ½ cups milk
3/4 cup sharp cheese, grated
3/4 cup chopped and cooked snow peas
In saucepan, melt butter. Blend in flour and salt. Gradually heat, stirring in milk. Stir frequently, and keep stirring as sauce thickens and becomes smooth. Add cheese, stirring, (it can scorch easily). Add cooked snow peas. Heat through and serve. Serves one or two.
You can always add more veggies for extra nutrition and flavor: bits of chopped onion (sautéed or just added in), chopped carrots, cauliflower, chopped potatoes (all of these cooked before you add them), more cheese, different cheeses, as desired.
What’s a favorite soup for you? Do you like soup year-round or mainly in the winter? Improvements to suggest for this? I’m all ears. Or perhaps I should say tummy!
Speaking of this online store, there are FANTASTIC DISCOUNTS going on right now, some ending May 31, some ending later, but as much as 70% off! You can get Simply in Season for $6.99 until May 24, 2015 (two more days). Inventory is coming up, so we’re cleaning shelves. (Yup, I get to help do inventory.) Of course, a beautiful photo-filled edition of Simply in Season is coming out next week, so, be warned. And THAT one is on pre-publication discount for just $18.74 until May 25.
My sister Pert and Dr. Kathy own Waterway Animal Hospital in Little River, South Carolina, near Myrtle Beach. On our recent visit to Sunset Beach, we were delighted to get the backroom tour of the hospital.
I’m sure Waterway Animal Hospital is not alone in being a wonderful veterinary hospital full of staff who all love animals. Some are able to work magic. Pert told of one dog brought in, a Rottweiler, whose owners cautioned he would need three technicians to hold him down during a nail trim. One of their technicians said she preferred to try him alone, as less restrained is always better. Whatever she whispered to that powerful animal, or whatever sense or signal she gave off in her interaction with the dog, worked. He did not fight her and the trim was accomplished singlehandedly, much to the amazement of the owners.
I was also spellbound by a staff member carrying a little pooch around with her as she worked: going through paperwork, checking the computer, conferring with another staff member, all the while holding a cute little dog.
I thought maybe the dog was just another staff pet who sometimes accompany staff to the hospital, like Thelma and Louise, the new puppy pugs Pert and Kathy own. During the day, these young pugs happily stay in their pen in Pert’s office, and she takes them out to the hospital courtyard for fresh air, potty breaks, and tug-of-stick. I would hardly call their amicable game “war.”
Pert frequently offers the tiny treats stored in her pockets to Thelma and Louise to reward good behavior. That’s some of the magic.
So I asked about the assistant with the pooch in her arms. “Oh no, that dog is awaiting a spay, and got a little nervous and barky. People who work in vet hospitals have to be multi-taskers” Pert explained. How very sweet and accommodating. If you ever wonder what goes on beyond the examination room at your vet’s hospital, you can hope the staff are this loving and multi-skilled!
Next we came to a window where we could see into the surgical suite, and Dr. Kathy was in the middle of spaying a huge dog. The dog was under anesthesia and she had her hands in the incision, but I really didn’t want to look too close. There’s a reason I never became a medical person.
It was more pleasant to watch the groomer, and then we puppy-sat Thelma and Louise in the courtyard; my mother was ready to sit down and rest awhile anyway.
Thelma has the teal collar (“I thought I could remember Thelma, and ‘T’ for teal,” explained my sister). Siblings, Louise was the runt of the litter and Pert and Kathy just couldn’t take Thelma without also adopting Louise.
Pert also takes us in a special private room which has a beautiful wallpaper garden scene on one huge wall. The lighting is dimmer, there’s a low table, with comfortable seating and a box of tissues, like a funeral home. A consult room? Wait, this is a grieving room, the special and private place for families of animals being put to sleep. A vet can do the injection right in the room with the family present, or in another room as they prefer. Dr. Kathy also makes house calls as needed when an elderly and infirm dog or cat needs to be put down at home. Not anyone’s favorite room, but a comfort to know privacy is available at this heart wrenching time.
In all, an attractive space with some beautiful, deeply dedicated animal lovers taking care of yours. And I’m sure that the workers in the vet offices we use are just as dedicated and caring, even if the space is not quite this lovely.
If you’re visiting in the Myrtle Beach area with your dog or other pet, looking for a place to retire (with your animals) or on a golf getaway and have an animal with a health crisis, definitely worth checking out!
And no, no one paid me to do this “review,” unless years of receiving sisterly love and going the second mile to help us out in various ways is pay.
I think of Pert on the farm where we grew up, and how, if you couldn’t find her anywhere, she could always be counted on to be out playing with the kitties in the barn, training for a far-in-the-future second career (after teaching for many years). Pert is a pet and people person: a perfect place for her!
Your stories about the best pet you ever had as a child? Or as an adult? Or a special vet?
My friend Susan Estep shared the story (and drawing) of her faithful companion in the Valley Living magazine I edit, here.
I must also give a shout out to a “large animal” vet I’ve never met but heard about through a small Vermont farmer, John Churchman, a friend of my husband’s when he was a kid in Bridgewater, Va. and whose farming enterprises I’ve been following on Facebook. The vet is Alison Dawson Cornwall and John often sings her praises for how she’s helped John care for their new baby lambs who likely wouldn’t have survived if it hadn’t been for her middle of the night farm calls. If you like animals, sheep, and especially darling lambs, you need to know about the beautiful children’s book (and website and spin off products) John and his wife Jennifer are launching following the antics of Sweet Pea (sheep) and the “Knitting Club” and their “sheepover” party. It is just fun, fun, fun. Check out the Sweet Pea & Friends Book Series Facebook page and soon to be website. It also helps that John is an excellent photographer doing business at Brickhouse Studios.
I recently had an epic kitchen fail that included a totally ruined cake and a broken heirloom bottle. I tossed it all out because I didn’t want a bleeding stomach on top of all that. Here’s the story.
One night at house church we celebrated a member’s birthday with a simple cake. Our fellowship leader asked a great question. What was your favorite or most memorable birthday, as a child or an adult?
All of us are above 60 so we found that most of us had only one or two birthdays we remembered from our childhood. Birthday parties were not nearly as frequent as children celebrate them today when big, blow-out birthday parties are often thrown for each child, every year.*
I shared that I could only remember one actual birthday party when I was allowed to invite friends. The normal birthday in our family included 1) an opportunity to choose the supper or dinner menu; 2) Mom making our favorite cake; 3) one gift. (Don’t I sound old-timey?)
My favorite cake was angel food, decorated with a cooked 7-minute frosting and one year I remember specifically indicating I wanted the frosting to be pink.
I’m not so much into pink frosting on angel food cake anymore but I still enjoy the lighter, buoyant nature of the food of angels. Plus did you know there is no shortening or fat of any kind used in angel food cake?
But it wasn’t until I tried my own hand at making an angel food cake recently (rather than buying one of those ready-made ones) that I remembered the truth of why I was so fond of angel food cake as a child. My friend Janet, who also gave me an Artisan bread recipe (here), made an angel food cake for another house church birthday and I enjoyed it so much, I decided to try making one myself. It had been years!
I used a box mix (had to go to a second grocery store to even find one) but the frothy batter whipping up as I was making it was just plain exciting to watch. Licking the beaters was like indulging in cotton candy.
The taste of my childhood came rushing back. I was so excited by the taste of the batter, I felt like a little girl again. And a little silly to get so excited. Coming out of the oven, it looked great!
The box said bake 30-40 minutes and cautioned not to under-bake it. I didn’t want it to get hard and tough, so I took it out at 30, when it looked perfect.
My excitement was deflated minutes later when, after turning the cake upside down to cool, it suddenly fell. Like a balloon losing its air, and just as disappointing as an escaped helium balloon. It not only collapsed, the ruckus caused me to knock over and break Mother’s old glass Welch’s Grape Juice “sprinkler” she used for dampening clothes before ironing them (yeah, that’s way back), upon which I had tried to perch the upside down cake. So I not only had a fallen angel food cake on the counter, but broken glass mixed in. (I have a small collection of old bottles, so I was not happy to break this special one.) What a mess.
I cleaned up the disaster and decided the only thing to do was throw out the cake, even though parts of it were still edible. I didn’t want to risk swallowing glass. That would have been dumb on top of dumb.
A few weeks later I would try making the cake again and this time baked it the full 40 minutes. It needs to feel light in the pan, not wet and still slightly gooey inside. It’s a bit of a trick to run a knife around the edge of the pan to get the cake out smoothly.
Success! I enjoyed my angel food cake, shared it with a family with a couple of new babies in the house (twins), and also at an office potluck.
If you are feeling really adventurous, here’s a recipe for Angel Food Cake from scratch from Mary Emma Showalter’s Mennonite Community Cookbook, originally published in 1950.** This is one of the 600 cake recipes that were tested in creating her collection, with 100 recipes she personally beat by hand. For this one, which requires whipping egg whites, she must have used an old fashioned rotary egg beater. Whew. That would be a lot of beating. It also includes a variation for Cocoa Angel Food by substituting 3 tablespoons of cocoa for 3 of the tablespoons of flour. Maybe I’ll have to try that sometime …. (Nah, not likely!) Note: I used a boxed mix in the creation of the 2 cakes you see pictured here! I would love to hear from anyone who tries making this scratch recipe. :-) Note that this recipe says to bake one hour.
Angel Food Cake
1 cup cake flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ cups egg whites (11 to 12 eggs)
2 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
Sift flour and measure. Add ½ cup sugar and sift together 3 times. Beat egg whites with rotary beater until frothy. Add salt and cream of tartar to egg whites. Continue to beat until whites hold peaks.
Slowly add remaining sugar to beaten whites, folding in with a wire whisk. Add flavoring. Then sift flour and sugar mixture, a tablespoon or two at a time, over beaten whites. Fold in lightly with a down-up-over motion.
When well blended, pour into a large, ungreased tube pan (10 inch diameter). Cut through batter with a knife to remove air bubbles.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Remove from oven and invert pan to cool.
Recipe submitted (1949) by Mrs. Henry Eichelberger (Hydro, Okla.); Lola Brunk, (Delphos, Ohio); and Mrs. John Martin, (Waynesboro, Va.)
What was your favorite cake as a child, or one you requested for birthday parties? What was your most memorable birthday as a child?
If you have small children, how do you deal with what seems like competition to have the biggest and best birthday party?
* TOO MANY BIRTHDAY PARTIES? One mom confided that they run to birthday parties ALL THE TIME, because almost every child in her kids’ classrooms invites every child (a good custom if you’re having a party), but that makes at least 20 parties a year! She gets a batch of gift certificates from our wonderful Green Valley Book Fair to have on hand so they’re not constantly needing to go buy stuff.
** BEST CHURCH POTLUCK EVER. You can win a free Mennonite Community Cookbook (new 65th anniversary edition) over at Mennobytes blog, by entering a photo of favorite potluck dish in the “Best Church Potluck Ever” and a short essay of 50 words of less of why you like church potlucks (if you do. Not everyone does!). Don’t worry about the best essay or the best photo–the drawing will be random, not judged! Deadline June 15, 2015.
Buy Mennonite Community Cookbook here or check out all the other great cookbooks from Herald Press.
Maybe it was because I grew up so far from an ocean
that the first time I ever saw the sea,
I was hooked.
Ever since, I have felt that same visceral thrill almost every time we have driven to the sea;
crossing over that last bridge or peninsula to an island or beach where the sea gulls swoop–
opening the car window you get a rush of salty sea breeze
and if you are riding with one of my siblings,
someone is sure to squeal “eeeeeeeee!” with unbridled glee.
Maybe it was this deep love for the sea that made me especially happy to introduce my two grandsons to its thrills and wonders in early May.
It had been six years since I’d been to a beach. Oh happy day.
One of my favorite pictures this trip, though, was not captured by me or anyone else in our family, nor will I ever see it, short of an online miracle. Here’s the story.
My mother had access to a wonderful wheelchair which we dubbed the “beachmobile,” provided (free) by the beach town of Sunset Island. It had tire tubes for wheels, the better to roll over the sand. (Check all that PVC piping for a frame!) But Mom, at almost 91, is normally someone who maintains a strict exercise regimen walking at least five times a week—outside if the weather is fit and inside in her apartment complex if it isn’t. So she wasn’t about to go to the beach and not actually walk on it.
Still, and especially after a fall at my sister’s house, she wanted to be cautious, so she asked that my sister and I take her hand on each side.
So we walked that way down the beach: two sagging sisters in their 60s, holding the hands of their frail and thinnest-she’s-ever-been 115-pound mother. Mom reminisced about how she usually walked the beach alone; even when Dad was able to get out on a beach, how he much preferred to swim, just fall asleep in the sand, or jump waves with the kids. She talked about how she envied other women walking with their husbands, which always looked so romantic. Thus her normal beach walks were times of solitary reflection which casts its own kind of redemptive spell for a harried mother and homemaker.
As we walked, we became aware of another beach walker some 20 feet behind us, and both my sister and I noticed her snapping a photo of our threesome with her phone.
The woman caught up to us and said “That is so precious. You should be on a postcard.” We laughed and she wanted to know how old Mom was. “That will be me in a few years,” she noted.
I wouldn’t have minded having the photo but the moment was soon gone. My sister, after the woman went on her way added, “Yeah, we probably looked like one of those funny postcards showing the backsides of old wrinkly ladies at the beach.”
Some “photos” are best only in our memories.
Our beach party included a pair of precious one-year-olds, two kids newly in double digits, some 20- and 30-something young adults, a late-30s dad, and us older ones, all making tracks and memories in the sand. In my previous beach post, I said I did not expect to go in the ocean much over my ankles, it being the first couple days of May in North Carolina, but the sun was warm. Finally I sucked up my breath and rode a few waves and got my hair wet without going under.
But our favorite stroll was an evening when the full moon cast brilliant moonshine over the waves. We had a great time photographing it, and photographing each other doing so.
I was so reminded of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s beautiful book, Gift from the Sea:
For a full day and two nights I have been alone. I lay on the beach under the stars at night alone. I made my breakfast alone. Alone I watched the gulls at the end of the pier, dip and wheel and dive for the scraps I threw them. … And it seemed to me, separated from my own species, that I was nearer to others: the willet … the sand piper … the pelicans … the old gull. I felt a kind of impersonal kinship with them and a joy in that kinship. Beauty of earth and sea and air meant more to me. I was in harmony with it, melted into the universe, lost in it, as one is lost in a canticle of praise, swelling from an unknown cathedral. “Praise ye the Lord, all ye fishes of the sea—all ye birds of the air—all ye children—Praise ye the Lord.” (Psalm 148: 7, paraphrased)
(Gift from the Sea, Twentieth Anniversary Edition, 1975, Vintage Books/Random House, p. 43)
What are the “photos” which linger only in your mind?
Are you a beach lover? Why or why not?
For more from my newspaper column, head over to Third Way website and find Another Way.
So we went on a family vacation to Sunset Beach, North Carolina May 2-6. Yes, that is a little early for beach weather even in the Carolinas, but we got lucky. The weather was warm and lovely for the three days my husband and I we were able to be there. (So fortunate to have missed the first named tropical storm of the season, Ana just a week later in the same area!)
Since it was early May, I said I wasn’t going to go in the ocean much over my ankles. I’m chilly by nature, so I figured I’d freeze. I’d wade like a proper grandmother of two, play with the little ones in the sand, and walk the beach.
The first thing I knew there was my nephew, Scott, walking on water, kind of. Scott was standing up on a paddleboard which looks like a surfboard but is flat, and paddling like he steered a gondola everyday. This was on a calm canal behind the beach house we were using. But then, Scott’s a strong and agile guy just in his late 30s.
It looked cool, but no way was I going to do that.
The next thing I knew there was my next older sister standing up on the paddleboard like she surfed everyday.
The ante was upped. And I was back in my childhood where siblings egg each other on to do things they maybe wouldn’t ordinarily do. If Pert could do it, two years older, I would have to, too.
Besides, it was free, provided by the beach house owner. And it would make a great blog brag, right?
Later that day, indeed I tried my sea legs on the paddleboard, with plenty of support and suggestions for how to stand, wide-legged, for better balance. I didn’t venture very far, but checked another thing off my imaginary bucket list.
I knew my oldest sister—actually more of a daredevil than I but with more health issues—would not be able to let her little sisters outdo her.
Cha-ching! Three sisters in their sixties all passed the paddleboard test, and no one ended up getting wet.
A couple days later my nephew talked my husband into trying out the kayak that was also sitting on the dock wanting to get wet. Stuart has long wanted to try kayaking, but never really had or made the opportunity. With some mobility issues, he knew it wouldn’t be easy getting in and out. Scott said “Better do it while you have a chance” and talked him through it and also provided some muscle getting out.
But more than just daring each other to go further than we’d gone before in adventures, its great when family members keep you going in other ways as well: encouragement, praise, constructive criticism, hugs, a helping hand, support across many miles. When the going is tough, as it has been many times in the past for our wider family and just as it surely will be in the future, I thank God for sibs to share the daring-do and the holding each other.
As a fitting example of sibs sticking together, we all enjoyed watching “baby sister” Megan “rescue” her 13-year-old brother Stone (Scott’s kids) a day or so later when Stone launched the paddleboard without remembering to take along a paddle. She got in the kayak and brought him a paddle. Aw, how sweet. Aren’t sibs great?
Not to say others can’t step in and be there for “only” children. Sibling-like ties can come through love and a long or shared history, and stepping in and up as needed.
Who has your back?
Do you have each other’s back or are you more like constantly quibbling puppies?
Or, any stories of how a sibling, young or old, egged you to try a new stunt? Or a new skill? Results?
Our church helped host Open Doors, a roving community thermal homeless shelter hosted in area churches a few weeks back (the program runs from November until April). This year I signed up to make food. Mary Lou McMillin, a wonderful cook and hostess sent me this recipe the planners had organized for one night, called simply “One Pot Dinner.” It includes several kinds of beans, ground beef, and bacon—loaded with protein which helps fire the fuel that keeps us warmer, internally.
While the shelter is great resource overnight, all guests must be back out on the street by 7 a.m., which is sometimes a brutally cold and harsh reminder of the reality of life on the streets. Other years I’ve cleaned the bathrooms in the morning and for me it was hard to see them having to get up and vacate so early. Some of course go to jobs even as they seek shelter overnight with the program, as they try to get back on their feet and save up enough money for a rent deposit.
At any rate, this is a hearty and flavorful meal for anytime you want an easy dinner ready after work, or to take to a potluck. I’m sure it’s tasty even without the extra flavor of the bacon, if you want to skip that, and you can substitute the beans of your choice. We enjoyed the small dish I set aside for our own evening dinner.
One Pot Dinner
1 lb ground beef
¾ lb bacon, cut in small pieces
1 cup chopped onion
1 can (15 oz size) pork ‘n beans
1 can (15 oz size) black beans
1 can (15 oz) kidney beans
1 can (15 oz ) lima beans
1 cup ketchup
¼ cup brown sugar
3 Tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
Brown ground beef in skilled; drain off fat and put beef in crock pot. Brown bacon and onions; drain off fat. Add bacon and onions and remaining ingredients to crock pot. Stir together well. Cover and cook on low for 4-9 hours.
Do you have a go-to crock pot meal you love? Or, have you helped with a homeless shelter at your church or elsewhere? Reflections? Have you been homeless–or had to couch surf for awhile? It happens in the best of families.
Rhapsody on Redbuds
I finally have a redbud tree.
Or perhaps it has me.
The redbud has long held me in its thrall.*
I’m thrilled that planting a free Arbor Day redbud seedling about seven years ago was all it took. We planted two and they are thriving.
Redbud trees are so hardy, springing up everywhere in the wild especially on the edge of forests.
I never knew what a redbud tree was, or even that there was such a thing, growing up in northern Indiana. Or maybe I was just ignorant and flower-poor. I certainly don’t think we had them growing there wild, in woods and byways everywhere. I’ve read that Chicago is about as far north as they grow well.
But I lived in the mountains of eastern Kentucky as a volunteer “teacher” the year after I graduated from high school and became acquainted with the Eastern Redbud, native to the U.S. My roommate hailed straight out of the desert surrounding Phoenix, Arizona, so she was the first one I heard rhapsodizing on redbuds. She would go on about the beautiful springs in Kentucky, stunned by so much green. She loved the dogwood too, and the interlacing of white blooms and purplish pink. It was only my 19th spring and having lived in only two places, I too fell in love with the rampant redbud. Something about the artistry of its dark branches accented by bright purple, looking like Japanese wall décor, maybe. The Chicago Tribune, where I was reading about the redbud, says they “set flowers on the bark, which trace the outline of the branches.” Ah, yes, that’s it!
Of course a redbud is more purple and pink than red. That’s why people get confused when they first start looking for or noticing the beauty of redbuds. Conversations go something like this: “What are those purplish pink trees along the road?” “Redbud.” “No, the flowers are purple.” “Yes, that’s redbud.” Would you call the flowers fuchsia?
However you describe them, I think it is the way the tiny blossoms lace through our barely turning woods on these Virginia mountainsides that speak to me of joy and new life and wonder after the long hard winter. Tints of soft green on other woodland trees paint a gentle contrast.
My sister, with some experience as a groundskeeper at a campground, told me how to prune it early, so that we wouldn’t have two or three trunks, and allow it to focus its strength growing into a main trunk. That was hard and painful. What if I pruned back the wrong one? As I inspected other redbuds that just sprang up wild near my office, I knew that many could prosper with several trunks growing closely together.
Applause for the Creator of all things wild and beautiful, from one small creature here.
The redbud speaks to me spiritually, pointing me to beauty, to hope, to thriving life in the midst of the hardships of forest life.
* “Thrall: The state of being … under the sway of an influence.”
What is your favorite flowering tree? What for you is the best part of Spring where you live?
Or what have you pruned in your life that was painful, but for which you were eventually glad ?