Great Winter Soup Poor Mans Minestrone

I2014 Poor Mans Minestrone received this recipe from Getufit guru Irene Kok who is a personal trainer in Huntley.  She has a large following and runs a fitness business.  She’s quite the marathoner and loves to post on Facebook many of her recipes.  Many are really excellent.  I encourage you to like her on Facebook.  You’ll be amazed at what she does.

I’ve made this soup a few times because it is just so good and light on the calories.  I slimmed it down on the sodium so you can adjust to your needs with salt.  On the links you’ll see that I use WalMart and Aldi brands.  You would be amazed at the deliberate concentration they’ve made to provide healthier options to customers.  Of course you’re reading nutritional labels making your trip at the store a wee bit longer than normal.  Once you find your favorites, it is so much easier to pick up and go.  Or your hubby to pick up and go.

Poor Man’s Minestrone

A2014 Poor Mans Minestone 2ccording to directions on the ditalini package, prepare the noodles to be added to the soup later.

In a Dutch oven brown the ground beef, onion, and garlic with the olive oil.  Add the stock, frozen veggies, beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, and Mrs. Dash.   Stir to get the paste dissolved.  Taste the broth mixture and then salt to taste.  Add the Thyme, basil and pepper.

Simmer mixture for at least 20 minutes.  Add the cooked and drained ditalini.  Simmer for 15 more minutes.

Makes a LOT and it’s delicious.  Store in plastic containers.  Can be frozen.  I use the containers you see on Ina Garten’s show and they come from Casandra’s Kitchen.  These are my favorite and they last forever.  To have left overs, I add a little beef stock to the soup because it has a tendency to thicken up.

Open House and Holiday Party Drinks

It’s been a while since I did recipes but a friend reached out to Facebook friends for their favorite holiday drinks.  I remember making these many times and they’re all delicious and potent.  Especially the Open House Punch.  I’d suggest a holiday key bowl to collect keys from attendees or have a shuttle available.

2014 Open House PunchThis first one, Open House Punch, holy Christmas y’all.  It’s potent AND delicious.

  • 1 fifth Southern Comfort
  • 3 qts. 7 up
  • 6 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 6oz can frozen lemonade
  • 6 oz can frozen orange juice

This will be going into a 64 oz Punch Bowl.

Defrost the frozen concentrates.  Add all the ingredients into the punch bowl and stir until all the ingredients are well mixed.  Add ice or create decorative ice cubes by freezing maraschino cherries, or lemon slices, or orange slices.   This recipe calls for 7 Up but I’m a Sprite fan.  I think any lemon lime soda will work well.  You could also use diet soda.

2014 Freezer slushThe next part drink was my Aunt Mary Jeans favorite for the holidays.  She called it Freezer Slush.  This does not require a punch bowl but you should have a very large food storage container with a lid.

  • 4 c water
  • 1 c strong tea
  • 1 6 oz frozen orange juice, thawed
  • 1 6oz frozen lemonade, thawed
  • 1 1/2 c bourbon of choice
  • 1/4 c. sugar

Mix all these ingredients into the plastic container and place in the freezer.  Mix occasionally.  This needs to be in the freezer for at least 24 hours to make the slush work.

To create a drink, fill a glass 1/2 full of the slush mixture and add 7 UP or Sprite.  Add garnishes.

2014 Max and ermas sangriaI love Sangria and this one is fantastic at holiday time.  It’s from Max and Ermas.  I really enjoyed it and asked the bartender for the recipe.

  • 1 6 oz frozen orange juice, thawed
  • 1 6 oz frozen lemonade, thawe
  • 1 bottle of Sutter Home Merlot
  • 1/2 c Bar Syrup
  • Triple sec
  • Sprite
  • Limes cut in wedges
  • Lemons in small slices

In a large plastic pitcher add the orange juice, lemonade, wine, and bar Syrup.  Mix all to these together.  Keep refrigerated.

To prepare the drink:  in a rocks glass add ice.  Squeeze two lime wedges over the ice then add 1/2 a glass of sangria, a splash of Triple sec, and the remainder with Sprite.  Stir.  Add garnishes.MY FAV.  T’die for!

2014 Egg NogThis Egg Nog recipe is very close to Fred Haun’s, use to be my hubby’s boss years ago, recipe.  I just couldn’t believe how much stuff was in the recipe.  I just know it was out of this world good.  This one is very similar and comes from Esquire.  This is the exact recipe from Esquire – I did not write this.

  • 12 egg(s)
  • 3/4 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 pint cognac
  • 1/2 pint dark rum
  • 1 pint milk
  • 1/2 pint heavy cream
  • nutmeg

Separate the eggs, putting aside the whites for the moment. Beat the yolks strenuously, slowly adding in the granulated sugar. Continue at tempo until the sugar is entirely dissolved. Slowly pour in the cognac, stirring all the while. Follow with the rum. Pouring the liquor into the yolks has the effect of cooking them more lovingly than any stove could. Now stir in the milk and heavy cream. (The cream may be whipped, but this makes the result a bit rich, so to some tastes, plain cream is preferable.)

Clean off the egg-beating equipment and go at the whites until they will stand without toppling. Fold the whites into the general mixture, then stir in grated nutmeg. If the outcome is too sweet to suit your taste, splash about a little extra cognac (or a lot, if Aunt Henrietta isn’t watching too closely). This will serve about 10 people. For convenience’s sake, some people make this eggnog the day before the party and put it in the refrigerator. Parked there — or even on the pantry windowsill — it will keep perfectly for several days if air-tight glass jars are used.

So enjoy y’all.

That mind thing

2013 devil“Your body can stand almost anything, it’s your mind you have to convince.”

Not going to lie, it’s tough mentally to come back from an injury.  {Fell on backside at work – it’s taken three to four weeks to feel normal.}  What was easy is now a mental challenge.  It’s that constant battle of quitting or continuing that’s going on in your head at lightening speed.  Back and forth, like a video game, because you can’t focus on what needs to be done.  I HATE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I just want it, my mind, to shut up and go along with the program.

I’d been doing a 30 minute program on the stationary bike for cardio days.  Today was the first day back trying to physically complete that routine.  Even after the injury I’d bike normally without the high intensity intervals.   Twelve minutes in today and my mind is telling me, “Get off this Machine!!!!!!”.  It’s flipping hot in the gym, too many people around me, not enough water to last, will my legs make it, –just every stupid thing there was crossed my mind.

I made it to 21 minutes then hopped on the treadmill for 15 with 20 push ups every 3 minutes.   I wasn’t going to give up on the rest of the cardio plan.

Well, honestly, it wasn’t just the injury that’s been weighing on my workouts.  My Trainer has opened his own studio.  It’s called CrossKicks.   I’m so proud of him.  He is such an elite trainer.  But it’s a devastating blow to go in one day and find out that he’s not there.  Here’s a man whom has helped me to gain the strength in my legs to walk normal, or as close to normal as possible.  I’ve always encouraged him to create his life, in fact I lent him a book on entrepreneurial people some time ago because I saw in him the ability to do more.

I need to be more resilient in many aspects of what I do.  Today’s challenge was a test, while I didn’t make it to 30 on the bike, I switched it over to the treadmill and was then rescued by Dippin Doggies when Daisy was finished.  I burned 330 calories, 30% fat, in 43 minutes.  I’ll take it.  Lets just kick that little red devil in the butt a few times and see how she likes it, eh?

How busy can a quilt guild really be?

When looking for a place to live and raise our families we seek out communities that have opportunities for a better quality of life.   What does that mean?  Well, it could mean what matters to us most might be better schools, shorter commute time, a local swimming pool, youth sports, good churches, growing economy, better government, better roads, a good library system, social service clubs, or even a quilt guild.  I’m fairly certain that last one wasn’t on too many radars, but it is mine.

2014 sewing7The Algonquin Guild had a challenge this year to create baby blankets for the NICU unit at Advocate Sherman Hospital.  It is always our mission for our philanthropic work to create these quilts every year, but this year we may have gone over the top a little.  The challenge was to bring a full yard of fabric already cut into 2 1/2″ strips and share them with other members of the guild.  We were then to take our strips home and create a baby blanket for November’s meeting.  I think we did a pretty good job of it.  Out of the 27 members that participated in the challenge 23 baby blankets were returned.  GET OUT you say? Take a good look at these…and these.2014 sewing8

I should note that we will be giving them around 70 baby blankets this year.  That’s just fantastic.

This had to be one of our most productive evenings.  That lovely “Great American Quilt” that I’ve been writing about, we pulled the ticket and one of our own members won.  That doesn’t happen often.  Carlene Mueller won.  She is one of our most ardent quilters.  She has approximately 40 years of quilting and 20 years in the guild.   We love to see her applique work.  2014 sewing10

2014 sewing9We also had the opportunity to learn how to do hand quilting.  Three of our members showed us how to quilt by hand.  A bit thank you to Sue, Carol and Carlene.

Last but not least our Block of the Month we are doing with Blogger Girls II.  We adding the setting blocks next.  Tough little “line-me-up” matey project but sure looks nice.  Lookin pretty fancy I’d say.2014 sewing6

All said, it was a very productive meeting.  If you’re interested in joining we meet the fourth Thursday of the month.  Our new year starts in January and we meet at the Algonquin Congregational church.  Check us out on Facebook  (that’s us on the cover page with the baby blankets) or visit our site


Totes Galore

2014 MissMary Tote9A friend asked me to make a special tote.  I had her pick out the fabric and then asked her to look at all the shoppers and totes I’ve made over the years to see what style she would prefer. We played with the fabric and then came up with the style that seemed appropriate for the young lady.  My friend also picked out the stabilizer and batting.

Fabric for shoppers can be beautiful and expensive.  Some run around $11.00/yard and depending on what I make, could be 3 yards of material before we do t2014 MissMary Tote10he labor.  It is what it is.

If you want a sturdy shopper, Hobby Lobby(HB) carries heavy duty twill in solid colors only.  HB carries a beautiful cream color twill that I like to use often.  It goes well with most colors.

The fabric dictated the design.   I made much deeper pockets all around the bag.  I used a little gray material I had to contrast the inside of the shopper pockets so they’d stand out a little.  Look!  The tote stands up by itself.  That’s due to the batting and the weight of the fabric.

I2014 MissMary Tote3‘ve changed up how I make the straps when I’m not sewing them along the front pocket.  It’s a lot easier and they’re much sturdier.2014 MissMary Tote4

For some reason this bag called out for closures.  I haven’t made them in awhile so I always have to go back and find a pattern piece then determine the best way to add them.  The questions I ask are, should I sew it into the seam or onto the fabric?  How will that affect the top-stitching detail when I’m finished? I chose stitching it into the seam which made it much easier to top-stitch at the end.

2014 MissMary Tote 1

I toyed with not adding an inside pocket due to the four pockets on the outside already.  But, pockets are always welcome.

I have to find a better way to sew the plastic bottom in.  The fabric, batting and stabilizers make it very difficult to sew.  In fact I’ve broken a few needles trying to do so. 2014 MissMary Tote7

My daughter suggested large buttons an added detail.  Chrissy always sees details that I sometimes do not.  So, I headed to Joanne’s to find buttons to complement the chevron straps.  Well, there are SO MANY different colors of peach/apricot/ you-name-it that I couldn’t find one that would work well.  Sad face.  2014 MissMary Tote8

In the end it turned out cute.  I think this style would make a nice tote for moms with new babies.  They’re always hauling stuff.

With the cooler weather coming I’m back in the sewing room.  I have to finish out Monique Dillard’s  Block of the Month for the Algonquin Quilters Guild, I have my baby  blanket challenge to finish for Advocate Sherman Hospitals Nicu unit, AND a few baby things for newborns.

It’s fall Y’all.


What Inspiration do you need?

I like to be inspired physically, mentally and spiritually.  Inspiration should be a classification of narcotics but only with great side effects.

Mental inspiration. It’s a challenge.  I’m more of a visual learner and a slow reader.  I like things to make sense.  Game of Thrones was not making sense.  You know that feeling where you can’t connect the dots – makes you a little wicked sometimes.  Finally, I decided to pick up the books to read through them.  Everything makes sense now and all is calm.  Mental inspiration is also taking on a task and completing it.  I’m a retentive soul and until something is complete it nags at my being.  And then I need another project.  Doesn’t that sound perverse?  A constant state of projects.

Spiritual Inspirations, they’re meant to give us peace.  We have so little of it today.  The loss of peace leaves us lonely, sad, and aching for restfulness.

Today’s writers reach out to their readers to bring things into today’s perception.  Back 50 years ago the Sisters of Mercy said only prayer brought you peace – they really didn’t go much further with that explanation to all of us that attended St. Columbus Elementary.

There are several writers and sites that I visit or get poked with each day.  One of them is from Emily Miller whom I’ve known for many years.  I had no idea that she wanted to step into this realm of inspiration.  I love the series name that she’s given to her recent endeavor, 31 Days of Gentleness for the Rest of Us.   The other writer looks a lot like my surgeon, Dr. James Bresch, and he is very popular speaker and author – Joel Osteen Ministries.  I really enjoy his positiveness as it relates to all the negativeness in our lives.

And then from my very Catholic days I’ve always been drawn to Saint Faustina, known for her inspiration to others to be joyful in God’s Mercy, and the one who introduced the Divine Mercy to the world.   If you read Sr. Faustina’s writings they will speak to you personally, the way it should be.  I get a little miffed at those that want to shred it down to their version when the original works far better than an interpretation.

Physical Inspiration.  It’s all about how to work efficiently helping to produce proven results, aggression releases – I have a lot of those lately, and the music that keeps you in the game.  When I’m finished with a workout the endorphins and your muscles are all a buzz.  It’s what brings you back.

Here’s a fantastic beginner weights workout that a friend posted on FB, thanks Kathy Starr, that will get you in the habit easily to regain the strength you’ve lost over the years.  Now mind you, should you do this, the next day and the day after that, you will feel the ache of muscles that have been used.  The muscles need the exercise in order to improve your regain of strength.  Within 21 days you’ll see a positive change as long as you do this at least 3 times a week.

I really encourage you to find your inspirations.


There’s this teenie house that I’ve been meaning to mention.

2014 Faerie houseFor at least ten years I’ve passed this magical little house in Holland, Michigan.  It’s haunting existence dares me to write about it but as a faerie story.  It fits the beguiling nature of the wee folk but yet I haven’t allowed my imagination to run wild to create a fascinating tale.

The small building seems to be half buried into the ground with a curved roof line that is longer on one side than the other.  It has a singular door under the short angled roof.  There’s one window opposite the door which is very squatty and long.  The house sits back about 80 yards from the road surrounded by a field of grass.  Pine trees provide a backdrop for the faerie bungalow.

I half expected to see a grass roof on this home lending more reality to faerie tale prop than not.  Perhaps it is a garden house meant for the care of the field.  I’ve often wanted to stop and inquire to the nature of the home.

The most enchanting time to see the house is when evening falls and the moon rises.  The beams illuminate the whole area making the possibility of wee folk follies seem real.  I’m hoping by just writing this small bit will help me get back to sleep and quit thinking about the possibilities.


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