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April 10, 2013

Just Be Happy

I have been thinking a lot about this blog lately.  Trying to figure out if I should keep trying to maintain it, or maybe start a different and more focused  one. I decided to go back and read some of my early posts -- especially the ones I've flagged as favorites -- to see if I could get inspired one way or another.  (By the way, if you have any opinions about the future of 'Round the Kitchen Table, please leave a comment below or contact me).   

Reading The Philosophy of Nicholas and Sarah put a smile on my face.   With my daughter graduating from college in a month, it seemed timely to repost it.  So for all you young graduates to be out there, this little story is my gift to you.   In my opinion, the "philosophy" has stood the test of time, as the words are as true today as they were 26 years ago.  There's no great magic to it.  You have a choice when you wake up every day -- just be happy! 

Without further delay....The Philosophy of Nicholas and Sarah (originally posted February 19, 2009).

Did you ever notice that there are some people who have these incredible memories? They remember names, faces, dates, and things like how much they paid for their first car. Those people amaze me, and in truth I'm kind of envious of them for having that treasure trove of memories in their brains.

Over the years I've learned to accept the fact that my memory is pretty bad -- with the exception of those things that I remember like they were yesterday. Like family vacations to Cape May every summer -- and the amazing smell when you walked off the boardwalk into Morrow's Nut House. Or the night I met my husband at The Cask in Boston. Or the time I tripped going up onto the stage to be the magician's assistance at the Knights of Columbus Family Party.

Incredibly vivid memories -- every one of them. But there is one memory I have that I truly believe was a defining moment in my life.

It was spring of my senior year of college, and I was struggling with the "big question" about what I was supposed to do with my life. One of my roommates (and best friend), Michelle and I, decided to go to my parents' house one Sunday afternoon -- probably to do laundry. It was one of the first nice days of spring, and we were sitting in the driveway at my parents' house talking about life and trying to find the answer to the "big question."

The little neighbor girl (whose name I don't remember, so we'll just call her Sarah) was out playing in her yard with her younger brother, Nicholas. Sarah may have been 4 or 5 years old -- and when she saw us in the driveway, she came skipping over to us all giggly and grinning. Nicholas toddled along behind with sticky fingers, a runny little nose (you know the kind that makes bubbles when you breathe) and an enormous one-year old grin. You could tell he just adored his sister as he teetered behind her trying to keep his balance.

"Hello! What's you're name?" Sarah asked when she got to our driveway. Nicholas just grinned and came over and climbed into my lap.

Michelle and I introduced ourselves, then proceeded to talk to Sarah about all the things that a 5-year old wants to talk about -- dolls, butterflies, clouds, pigtails, pierced ears and the like. Nicholas just kept grinning and occasionally would reach up and touch my nose with his filthy little fingers.

All of the sudden, Sarah just stopped talking, and she stood up and looked at her brother, then she looked at us and said, "Nicholas is a cutie pie, and I just wanna hug him." And she did, right there and then she hugged her brother, and the two of them giggled like crazy.

It wasn't a minute later that she said goodbye and took off back to her yard, and Nicholas tried to keep up behind her.

Michelle and I sat in the driveway laughing about how adorable the two of them were. They didn't have a care in the world, and the most important thing was just being together, making friends and being happy.

"You know, Lol*, " Michelle said to me, "That's what it's all about. Right there -- that's the secret to life -- just be happy."

We sat silently in the driveway for a few minutes and digested the words -- both of us realizing that plain and simple truth.

The ride back to Muhlenberg that night was an easy one. All the stress of trying to answer "the big question" was gone, and we just laughed each time one of us would mimic little Sarah's words, "Nicholas is a cutie pie, and I just wanna hug him."

I may still be trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, but fortunately Nicholas and Sarah taught us the best philosophy of life -- just be happy.

*Note: Lol is a nickname I've had since I was a child. My nieces & nephews call me Lolly...and someday I hope my grandkids will call me Lolly and my husband Pop. The nickname came long before LOL meant Laugh Out Loud...but I'm pretty pleased with that acronym. :)

April 9, 2013

Poor Little Lilly

In the shadow of the passing of Lilly Pulitzer, you might think by title that this post would be about her -- but no, it's about my little Easter Lilly.
It's been a long-standing tradition in my home that Jeff brings me a Lilly in the days before Easter.  I love Easter lillies -- everything about them -- the purity of color, the fragrance, and mostly the way they seem to open up and trumpet in celebration of Jesus' resurrection.
photo from Google images

This year, when Jeff brought her home for me on Easter Saturday, she stood tall, with six buds ready to burst.  Glorious! 
As always, she was given a position of prominence in the kitchen window where surely we would enjoy her magnificent blooms.  Sadly, in the days that followed, we watched as she began to bow down under the weight of her trumpet blossoms, until one day we found her laying on her side -- some dirt from her flower pot spilled onto the sill.
I tried to prop her up by leaning her against a window box vase, but still she just collapsed -- her stem too frail to hold herself upright.  That didn't stop her from blooming though, as one by one the buds opened up beautifully!
Now almost a week and a half later, I'm encouraged to see that after a week of leaning -- she can stand a little on her own without toppling over.  
In all of our years together, Jeff and I have never seen an Easter Lilly that sagged so sadly.  Jeff figures that at the greenhouse, she was probably jammed between a few heartier ones, and didn't quite get the light she needed to grow straight from the start.  At some point she probably burst through towards the sun -- bound and determined to make it -- but her stem didn't develop strongly enough to really support her.

Looking at her today I felt a little tug at my heart.  I can't help but wonder if Lilly isn't trying to tell me something.  We all need room to grow -- in our own time and at our own pace.   There will be times when we'll stand upright -- confident and ready for what the world has in store for us.  There will be times when we stumble and fall and we'll need to lean on a friend. 

Through it all, may we never forget to bow our heads and pray...just like little Lilly. 

March 17, 2013

O'Potato Soup!

The Celtic tunes were playing, the food was plentiful, and the laughs shared among friends were loud and heartfelt. 

In keeping with tradition, last night we had a house full of friends to enjoy a St. Patrick's Day feast with all the fixings -- corned beef and cabbage, carrots and potatoes, Irish soda bread -- and of course, a variety of beers.  Friends rounded out the menu with an array of appetizers and an impressive spread of desserts.  A true feast!

Also in keeping with tradition, this morning Jeff made a fabulous corned beef hash that the boys enjoyed with eggs and toast.  Yum!!   

I guess everyone is watching their intake of starch these days though -- because we had a ridiculous quantity of potatoes left over this year.  So much so, that I had to figure out something to do with them -- they're just too yummy after soaking up all the flavor from the corned beef.  I've never made potato soup before, but I figured I would give it a whirl.

This is definitely NOT your traditional potato soup -- and never, in a million years, did I think my "winging it" recipe would be good enough to blog about -- but this soup was pretty darn good if I do say so myself!  Needless to say, I apologize for not having pictures of the process, but it's pretty straight forward. 

Here goes.  Let's call it O'Potato Soup!

You'll Need...
1/2 an onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
About a cup of carrots, chopped
4 cups chicken broth
6-8 potatoes, boiled
About 2 cups of milk
3 Tbs. flour
Pepper to taste
2 Tbs. sour cream
About a cup of corned beef, chopped

Step by Step
  • Add onion, celery & carrots to stock pot along with chicken broth.  Bring to boil and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes or until the veggies are starting to soften
  • While it's simmering, take 2 of the boiled potatoes and chop them up into bite size pieces, set aside
  • Cut the remaining potatoes into large chunks and put into a blender or food processor.
  • Add the majority of the broth/veggie combo into the blender, leaving about 1 cup (or a little more) in the stock pot 
  • Puree the potatoes & broth until a smooth consistency
  • In a separate bowl, whisk milk and flour
  • Add to blender along with sour cream; mix well
  • Return puree to stock pot and mix with remaining broth/veggies
  • Add pepper to taste
  • Add corned beef and allow to simmer
If you're not a fan of corned beef, I'm sure you could use bacon.... or no meat at all if you'd rather.  That said, the corned beef adds a lot of salt to the recipe, so if you don't use it, I'm sure you'll need to add salt for flavor. 

For my first time ever making a creamed soup, I was really happy with the consistency.  It definitely wasn't watery, but it wasn't a total puree either.  Keeping some of the veggies in tact and adding the corned beef was just perfect.

I used skim milk and light sour cream to try to keep the fat content in check.  Plugging all the ingredients into the Weight Watchers recipe builder, it looks like it's about 4 points for a 1 cup serving.   Not too bad for such a hearty soup!
Enjoy -- and Happy St. Patrick's Day to all my blog world friends!

March 13, 2013

Soda Bread So Good, Even a Kitty Will Love It!

In my previous post, you saw our naughty little kitty on top of our refrigerator enjoying some fresh baked Irish Soda Bread!  One reader commented that the bread must be pretty good for a cat to love it -- and indeed it is delicious! 

With St. Patrick's Day quickly approaching, I thought it would be worth sharing the recipe, just in case anyone is looking to make their own this year. 

This recipe is pretty straight forward.  Both of my sons made it for their Creative Foods class and the flavor was outstanding! 

We followed the recipe exactly as written, using a cast iron skillet. It definitely needed a few extra minutes baking time to make sure it baked through.  Matt reminded me that we when we made it the last time, we deviated slightly from the recipe as written -- using a loaf pan rather than forming into a round and baking on a sheet.  The major difference is that with a loaf pan the bread keeps its shape and gets a little "taller."   

No matter how you make it -- beware of sneaky kitties who will try to steal a nibble!

Enjoy -- and please let me know how it works out for you!

Irish Soda Bread Recipe

4 to 41/2 cups flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 Tbsp butter
1 cup raisins
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups buttermilk


1. Preheat oven to 425°. Sift together 4 cups of flour, thesugar, salt, and baking
soda into a large mixing bowl.

2. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, work butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal, then stir in raisins.

3. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add beaten egg and buttermilk to well and mix in with a wooden spoon until dough is too stiffto stir. Dust hands with a little flour, then gently knead dough in the bowljust long enough to form a rough ball. If the dough is too sticky to work with,add in some more flour. Do not over knead! Transfer dough to a lightly flouredsurface and shape into a round loaf.

4. Transfer dough to a large, lightly greased cast-iron skillet or a bakingsheet. Using a serrated knife, score top of dough about 1/2'' deep in an"X" shape. Transfer to oven and bake until bread is golden and bottomsounds hollow when tapped with a knife, about 35-45 minutes. (If you use a castiron pan, it may take a little longer as it takes longer for the pan to heat upthan a baking sheet.) Check for doneness also byinserting a long, thin skewer into the center. If it comes out clean, it'sdone.

Hint 1: If the top is getting too dark while baking, tent thebreadwith some aluminum foil.

Hint 2: If you use a cast iron skillet to cook thebread in the oven, be very careful when you take the pan out. It's easy toforget that the handle is extremely hot. Cool the handle with an ice cube, orput a pot holder over it.

Transfer bread to a rack to let cool briefly. Servebread warm, at room temperature, or sliced and toasted.


March 5, 2013

Treasure Chest

So I thought we had hidden the Irish Soda Bread from the cat. I was mistaken.