There’s a French Fry in My Soup!

Just a quick post to share with you a great addition to soup: french fries.

Rather than plunking peeled potatoes in the pot to cook alongside with the beef, mushrooms, barley and other veggies today, I roasted the potatoes in the oven while I cooked the soup up top. The potatoes joined the soup in the bowl just before serving. Yummy! They add a nice crispness to the soup, almost like croutons. Way better than mushy soup potatoes.

Beef barley and mushroom soup with roasted potatoes

Beef barley and mushroom soup with roasted potatoes

Just wash the potatoes (no peeling necessary), dice and toss with olive oil and salt (a little pepper and basil or thyme if you’re feeling really wild). Roast at 400°F until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside (about 20 – 30 minutes).

The inspiration for this came from a recent visit to a new restaurant in center square. I had a pork, shrimp, beef mix like a stew with roasted potatoes. It hit the spot.

Sorry about the photos. I think these are the worst photos I’ve ever posted. They beg the question: Can I write off a kitchen rennovation as a business expense because the lighting doesn’t let me take good photos for my blog?

Fall Fun

Guide to the fall hotspots in the neighborhood

Guide to the fall hotspots in the neighborhood

I always thought of myself as a packrat, but maybe I’m really part squirrel. This realization came today as I weaved through the streets of our town showing three kids where all the “good trees” are, those dumping acorns and beech nuts and colored leaves.

Swirly squirrely mask.

Swirly squirrely mask.

Autumn is here. So says the calendar today. So said my mom yesterday. “A fall party,” was my 5-year-old’s answer to celebrating the beginning of fall. Did I really expect a different answer from her?

By this morning she’d concocted grand plans of 5 friends, handmade invites, decorations wafting from the ceiling and treats. All to be accomplished in the 4 hours before school.

I was thinking more along the lines of collecting colorful leaves for this craft.

When her Monday Morning comrade arrived we took to the neighborhood streets, my memory of nuts guiding us to the beechnuts and acorns, hemlock cones and chestnuts. Honestly, it’s amazing we have such variety here in little ol’ Easton.

Back at home they ate walnuts and pecans for a snack (like squirrels) and started the craft. The 5-year-olds loved cutting the spirals and the fall streamers slowly devolved into masks, many of them squirrel masks. Moms know how deviating from the craft is both endearing and infuriating at the same time…after I got out all the supplies for the craft we were supposed to do. But I’ll save that rant for another day.

Two 5-year-olds with screwdrivers make short work of my chair.

Two 5-year-olds with screwdrivers make short work of my chair.

We had some time to kill before going to school, so I gave the two 5-year-olds screwdrivers and told them to take apart a chair that had seen its better days. The only thing the chair had to do with autumn was that it was fall-ing apart. They thought the joke was funny.

My plans of celebrating fall with a cute craft ended in me making one fall spiral. I like it. I think they had more fun taking the chair apart (after removing screws, I let them bust it apart with a rubber mallet). Maybe tomorrow I can convince my kids to glue leaves and nuts to another spiral. Or maybe we’ll just destroy another chair.

Come to think of it, the plumber’s coming tomorrow to bust up the basement and make the sump pump hole bigger. Maybe the kids can get in on some sledge hammer action.

Happy autumn!

My (rather pathetic) fall swirly streamer.

My (rather pathetic) fall swirly streamer.

Return from Sea

Treasures from the beach: shells and sea urchin spines.

Treasures from the beach: shells and sea urchin spines.

Last weekend was my annual girls weekend at Bethany Beach.

The key ingredients for girls’ weekend: no kids, no husbands, lots of wine, lots of coffee, lots of chocolate. little bit of shopping.

We women vent our frustrations about life, kids, husbands.  In the grand scheme of things, the five of us have nothing to complain about. We all have healthy kids, husbands who held down the fort at home with the kidlets while we let down our hair, and lots of friends and family who love us.

I think I found a shark tooth.

I think I found a shark tooth.

Still, once in a while it’s good to let it go, feel like you’re heard, and realize your are not alone in the vast ocean of trying to balance family, work/career, exercise, relationships and personal growth.

After the emotional cleansing, we went for the external cleansing with a dip in the ocean. A little salt-and-sand exfoliation.

Then I got my yearly ass-kicking.

You know the scene: you’re happily rollicking in the ocean when a huge wave knocks you ass over tea kettle and next thing you know you’re swirling around among the crabs on the shoreline. There’s so much saltwater up your nose and sand in your ears you can’t even worry if the cute lifeguard saw you make a fool of your self. The main concern: are all of your parts are still inside the swimsuit?

The ocean doesn’t care if you weren’t ready. It knocks you over and moves on to the next person. The ocean reminds us that there are still things larger and more powerful than us, than our internet connections, than our excuses.

I returned from the sea renewed and ready to say for the 20th time (with a smile on my face): “eat that peanut butter and jelly sandwich at the table.”

Do what you can to get away for a weekend, a day, an hour. It’s good for you and those around you.

Apple Picking in a Hurricane

Two bushels was enough to pick considering the bushels of rain we endured.
Two bushels was enough to pick considering the bushels of rain we endured.

There we are, my kids, niece and mom (plus my sister-in law, who is beside me snapping pictures, too) slogging through Hurricane Hanna’s downpour with our apples.

An apple landed in a bird nest in one tree.
An apple landed in a bird nest in one tree.

Today was the day I scheduled for apple picking. So we went.

Mind you, we weren’t getting the high winds from the hurricane, just lots and lots of rain.

So am I so saddled to my schedule that I’ll take on a hurricane to meet today’s tasks? Or am I a free spirit, not constrained by such things as weather?

Most people don’t do enough in the rain. The first sign of a drop, a they’re in the house because it’s wet. Being in the rain is so fun.

Some were eating more than picking.
Some were eating more than picking.

Today we had more than our fair share of “fun.” We were drenched; even our underwear was wet. But the kids had a great time, and I got my bushel of organic apples to store up for the winter.

Tomorrow, the cozy smell of apple sauce and drying apples will fill my kitchen.

Canning Jar Bling

Sparkle and shine from canning jar rims.

Sparkle and shine from canning jar rims.

My canning jars needed an upgrade. They’re hand-me-downs from my mom, so after years of pickles and preserves, it was time for new rims. But what to do with the old rims?

Turn them into dress-up bling!

They have all the necessary ingredients for 5-year-old jewelry bliss: jangly noises when worn together, shiny metallics, and sparkly beads.

My helper got creative and wove wire in and out of the holes, string beads along the way.

My helper got creative with the bracelet at the upper left. She wove wire in and out of the holes, string beads along the way.

Here’s how my 5-year-old and I made old canning jar rims into fun new bangles.


  • old canning jar rims
  • block of wood
  • safety goggles
  • hammer
  • center punch
  • pliers
  • metal file
  • non-toxic spray paint
  • latex gloves
  • newspaper
  • Postion the center punch on the inside of the rim.

    Position the center punch on the inside of the rim.

  • screwdriver (for removing spray paint cap)
  • beading or craft wire
  • round nose pliers
  • beads
  • messy workbench (optional)

1. Place the side of the rim on the block of wood. Position the center punch where you’d like the hole and hit with hammer until you punch through the rim. Punch hole from inside to outside of rim. If a smidgen of metal remains in the hole, pull it off with a pliers.

2. After you’ve made as many holes as you’d like, file each hole with a metal file to remove sharp edges.

Filing the burrs.

Filing the burrs.

3. Spread newspaper in well ventilated area, don latex gloves and spray paint inside and outside of each rim. We used gold and silver and gave each band two coats.

4. After the paint has dried, add beads. Cut a 2 inch piece of wire. Grab the end of the wire with a round nose pliers and roll the pliers make several loops in a row. Thread wire through hole in rim, so the loop is on the inside.

5. Thread bead(s) onto wire. Cut excess wire so you have 1/4 to 1/2 inch of wire above beads. Grab the end of the wire with a round nose pliers and roll the pliers back toward the wire to make a series of small loops.

Little spirals of wire hold the beads in place.

Little spirals of wire hold the beads in place.

6. Although you are finished, allow the bracelet to cure for 7 days to a month so that the paints are non-toxic to the skin. Rust-oleum said its spray paint is nontoxic within 7 days. Krylon suggested waiting 30 days for paint to cure fully to a non-toxic state. If you’re not sure, call the manufacturer.

Safety and other notes

  • Always wear eye protection when hammering, filing and spray painting.
  • Be sure the paint you use can be worn against the skin and that it does not contain lead.  If you’re unsure, call the manufacturer. I used Krylon silver crafter’s paint and Rust-oleum metallic paint.
  • Spray paint can be removed from your forehead with nail polish remover.

Turqouise and Morning Glories

After I took the photo, I realized the beads are the same color as the morning glory in the background.

The beads woven into this bracelet reflect the colors of the morning glories in my garden.

This week I sent off four custom horse hair pieces to their owners. Hoepfully they’re all happily wearing them right now!

Custom work always makes you stretch. Sometimes it stretches an idea you already have.  This customer asked for turquoise-colored leather rather than the standard brown. Brilliant idea! I’m going to try some other colors in the future.

The bracelet is reversible so you can wear the horse hair side out or the leather side out.

The bracelet is reversible so you can wear the horse hair side out or the leather side out.

Other days it’s a stretch to find all the supplies. Inevitably, my manufacturer decides to discontinue the one finding I use a lot. Then it’s off on the treasure hunt again, finding a new supplier or replacement part. That was my reality this week as I worked on a quote for a new piece.

With the two round horse hair bracelets below, the client requested magnetic clasps so the bracelets were easy to get on and off. Part of that treasure hunt was finding super strong magnetic clasps that can withstand a little tugging. This is a bracelet after all.

Fabulous Four: Recent custom pieces.

Fabulous Four: Recent custom pieces.

Sometimes custom work just stretches your brain to create a new style that matches the vision of your clients. I have that challenge coming up as I embark on 5 new custom pieces in the coming weeks.

The most important thing I’ve learned from doing custom pieces is to capture a clipping of horse tail from your horse now.  I often meet people who wish they had some piece of their horse now that it’s gone. After their horse has passed they understandable don’t feel they can cut off a piece of its tail.

So if you do one thing today, make a momento of something important in your life. Whether its your horse, your child, a favorite fishing hole, a secret vacation spot, your best recipe, record the here and now of it. Take a picture. Write down what it stirrs in you. I know you won’t regret it.