Use the Cloth Napkins and Good China

Use the Cloth Napkins and Good China

My great-grandmother used to always say “Use the good china.”

As I was folding napkins after the Christmas meal, I mentally added “and the cloth napkins, too.”  The thought came to me because they were sitting in a stack at my youngest child’s place at the table. 

At that moment, my heart became filled with two incredibly strong feelings.  The first was tied to a memory of my eldest child as a toddler at Christmas and how I set her little high chair with a water goblet, a silver fork, a small plate from my wedding china, and yes, a cloth napkin.  Her eyes grew so big and a smile lit up her face to have special things just like the adults did.  And I could feel the family story of my great-grandmother saying “Use the good china.”

You see, too often we don’t trust our children with the things we should, yet we hand them responsibilities for which they aren’t ready.  Could my child have broken something?  Yep, and we would have rolled with it.  But you know what?  She never broke any of it, and neither have either of her younger siblings.  Now the adults are a whole other matter! #multiplewineglassesdown 

Of course, the real moral to my great-grandmother’s saying was that the people around us are what is special, not the objects.  Don’t save things to use once per year; instead, use them regularly to celebrate your loved ones.  After all, aren’t we constantly being reminded that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed?   

So shake things up and make the signature Thanksgiving side in June.  Sing your grandfather’s favorite song whenever the mood strikes, rather than only on his birthday.  Share memories of favorite people all year long, not just at weddings and funerals.   

And break out the good china to celebrate with those you love. 

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Learning Through Grief: 3 Steps to Holding your Heart Together

Learning Through Grief:  3 Steps to Holding your Heart Together
I recently lost someone very dear to me. While the world would have called us friends, there is a circle of people who well understood that we were really family.

Her loss has devastated me.  Twenty-five years ago, she and her blood family gave a young, lonely college student a home-away-from-home.  What started out as a weekend job grew into a lasting bond.  Losing such a fixture as that rocks your world to its very core.

This loss was compounded by current coronavirus orders and suppositions.   I wasn’t able to do my random drop-by visits that we both so enjoyed.  Knowing others stole that time from us makes the grief even more mind-numbing. 

I’m usually one of those people that tackles difficult things head-on.   Doing, helping, and supporting helps me to heal, but in this case, that was all taken away.  I sat for the first few days, barely having the energy to lift my arm to take a drink of water.  Forget eating or sleeping well because none of that was happening. 
I realized I was going to have to do something to start processing my grief.   While tears can be healing, I was simply wallowing in them.  Here are some simple things I’m doing to begin healing my heart.

  1.  Talk to people.  I know, that sounds obvious, but in these days of so much isolation, it is more important than ever.  There was no gathering when my friend died, no plans for a funeral.  I so desperately needed human contact and to speak with people who knew her.  Phone calls became my lifeline of sharing memories, telling hilarious stories, and chatting about what an amazing cook she was.  Yes, I sobbed through many of these conversations, but it was incredibly therapeutic.  I will say, though, I was selective with whom I spoke.  Having people ask if it was due to corona or blow off my anger at not being able to see her would not have benefitted me in the least, so I only called people who would be a genuine source of support. 
  2. Listen to your loved one’s voice.  If you have a recording, voicemail message, or video, take the time to hear their words.   Photographs are great, too, for reliving positive memories, but there is just something about hearing the person’s voice.  It can make you feel closer to them and not quite so alone. 
  3. Enjoy something they created or an activity you did together.  This doesn’t have to be complicated.  Maybe it’s a Christmas card from five years ago with a handwritten message.   Perhaps you had some favorite songs you listed to together.  It could be a favorite shared recipe or some really corny joke.  In my case, my friend made bird feeders and have given me several.   I filled those up right before a big snow storm, and for days I was able to enjoy watching the birdies and remembering how much she enjoyed spending time in her workshop.
The biggest thing to remember is something everyone says but you don’t really understand until you are in the throes of it:  the grieving process is different for everyone, and that’s okay.   There is no wrong way to do this, as long as you are taking care of yourself physically and emotionally and not harming others.  If the steps above don’t speak to you, listen to your heart and find what does.  And if you need a listening ear, I’m here for you.

If you need a place to share ideas about preserving knowledge of the past while putting your own modern twist on things, I would love to have you join us in Old Souls with New Ways.

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Trying Something New: Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Trying Something New:  Chicken Gnocchi Soup
How many of you, after being mostly stuck at home for ten months, are going stir crazy?  One outlet we have found is in the kitchen.

If you've followed me for any length of time, you know our youngest child has had a passion for cooking since she was seven.  As a wife and mother, I've been cooking for decades.  This lockdown time has led my husband and other two children to become adventurous with recipes as well, and it has truly been fun for all of us. 

The other night, I tried this new recipe for chicken gnocchi soup.  It was absolutely delicious, but it made sooooooo much.  So I posted on my FB page, offering bowls to anyone who wanted to come and get some.  We had a few takers, but people who didn't live close by kept asking for the recipe.

I'm including both a link to the original recipe (because you have to give credit where credit is due!), plus all the ways I tweaked it.  Hope you love it as much as we did!

Here's the original:
You can click the "Jump to Recipe" button at the top of the page.

Here are my tips:
  • I used center cut bacon.  It has less fat and is easy to find in the store.
  • I always use Vidalia/sweet onions in any recipe that calls for yellow onion.
  • Only used 1 carrot.
  • Double the garlic (or more.) This is my standard advice when using garlic.
  • I used pink Himalayan salt rather than seasoned salt.
  • It was pretty peppery, so you may want to cut it by 1/2 tsp.
  • I always use organic chicken stock over broth.  It has more nutrients and flavor.
  • 3 chicken breasts, pounded.
  • 2lbs gnocchi, cuz you can't go wrong with that yumminess.
  • Highly recommend adding the Boursin.  I used garlic and herb. 

I would love to hear what you think of the soup.  And if you want more tips or to follow our hilarious shenanigans, check out Old Souls with New Ways. 

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The Common Sense of Pumpkins

The Common Sense of Pumpkins
I think most of us can agree that if something is going to go wonky, it will happen in 2020.

Many of us have missed birthday, graduations, weddings, visits with grandparents, as well as smaller things like county fairs, going to the movies, and simple grocery store trips.   Imagine my surprise when pumpkins are what interjected normalcy back into our lives. 
First I need to back up to March when the world shut down.  As things were closing and cancelling one by one, our 9 year old asked, “We’ll still be able to trick-or-treat, right?”  This silly momma laughed it off, saying of course, because who in their right mind thought certain government officials would want to keep us locked up for over seven months?!
Well, here we are in October, and various people want to cancel Halloween (which is a topic for a whole other post.) I was scrambling to find a way to keep some of our traditions alive, not only for our youngest, but also for our eldest during her last year at home.  Enter our local pumpkin patch.  

We live in an area that has multiple pumpkin patches, from easy drive thru and grab a few to large farms of pick-your-own.  About seven years ago, we discovered one of the latter with which we fell in love, and we’ve been back every year since.  It is a family-owned, multiple generation farm, currently run by a lovely young woman whose goal is to share her passion of agriculture with others. 

I was worried the pumpkin patch would be another Rona casualty.  Imagine my delight when they announced they would be opening … with slight differences of course, but at least opening!  No hay rides – okay, I can live with that.  No hay bale maze, cornhole games, or corn sandbox.  I can deal with that, too.  There would still be the amazing wagon deal on pumpkins, pick-your-own sunflowers, and the fantastic photo op of “how many pumpkins tall are you?”  All great stuff, but the best news?  The farm took a common sense measure on masks.

You see, the area is HUGE.   Plenty of room to socially distance from others and still find your perfect pumpkin.  That means no masks required (although recommended for the one person in your party you send to check out, which is also done outside.)   Finally, FREEEEEEDDDDOMMMMMMM!  Someone who recognizes that outdoors, breathing in fresh air, away from others, there is no need to strap something across your face, unless you choose to do so. 

Pumpkins may not seem like a big deal, but I am incredibly grateful for this little bit of normalcy in our lives.  And yes, I got a bit teary when I thanked the farmer for all of her hard work.        
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Finding Your Dream Job in Your Twenties

Finding Your Dream Job in Your Twenties
Mine actually fell in my lap.   True Story.  I got a call from a friend one morning that his job needed some last minute help, so I chipped in … to park cars.

Yep, I see you saying, “Parking cars?! How is that a dream job?”  Bear with me a moment. 
This was a family-owned canoe livery, where we rented river equipment to hundreds of people on the weekends, late May to mid September.  That first summer, I would park cars from 9AM-3PM, then I would spend several hours learning the ins and outs of the business.  By the next summer, I had been moved into the “office.”

I definitely use the term “office” loosely.  It was an old, historic building, no air conditioning.  We often worked 12 hour days jam-packed days, where someone would grab a tomato from the garden, slap together a sandwich for you, and you would grab bites in between customers.  It was hot, sweaty work, dealing with every personality type under the sun … and I wouldn’t trade a minute of the 15 seasons I worked there.

You see, customers became friends.  They came back year after year and wanted to catch up with you.  I’ve heard that years later there are still people who ask for me by name.  Most importantly, the folks who owned the business took me and the other employees as FAMILY.  Saturdays were home-cooked dinners, and the fridge was always stocked for us.  Many of us were given places to stay and sleep if we wanted.  In short, it became my home-away-from-home.   I was valued for my work, and I was loved for who I was.  

My last summer there was over a decade ago, and it took a long time to find another job that made my heart that happy.  I never let the exhaustion, the difficult customers, or whole weekends lost to bad weather drag me down.  I was excited to go to work every single day and so deeply saddened when we had to close at the end of a season.  

Now, I’m not saying your dream job is to work at a canoe livery.  What I am saying is this:  find a place that ignites your passion.  Where the owners become your family.  One where you actually miss it when you are on vacation.  And above all, find a job where people appreciate your personality and talents and pour into you, leaving you a better person that when you first walked through those doors … or in my case, the field parking lot. 

For more on my crazy, fun-filled passion journey, follow me here. 
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