Monday, February 26, 2018

February Fun

The fact that January is National Soup Month was completely lost on me until I saw Pen and Prosper's post celebrating it near the end of the month. I am a fan of soup and have a handful of homemade favorites that my family likes. In discussing this with P & P's Jennifer Brown Banks, she suggested I share a recipe on my blog.  So I thought, why not? Better late than never, right? So if you're hungry for soup, I invite you to try it. :)

Santa Fe Soup 

A friend shared this recipe with me and it's become a family favorite. When the whole gang visits, I double or triple it.

  • 1 pound ground beef or turkey
  • 1 package taco seasoning
  • 2 packages ranch dip/dressing mix
  • 1 can crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes (or other brand tomatoes with chilies)
  • 3 cans beans - your choice, a combination of kidney, black, northern, or pinto
  • 2-1/2 cups water
  • 1 small package frozen corn (1 can works too)
  • shredded cheddar cheese 
  • sour cream
  • tortilla chips

Brown ground beef or turkey, drain. In large soup pot, combine cooked beef/turkey, water, taco and ranch seasonings, and both cans of tomatoes. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Drain beans and add to pot, then add corn. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally. When serving, top with sour cream and cheese. Some like to eat it like soup, some like a dip with tortilla chips - either way, it's delicious!

Black  History Month 

I did remember that February is Black History Month, so I'm not totally out of the calendar loop here. :D  The Underground Railroad and those who made it happen have always been an interest of mine. So imagine my delight when I learned that Harriet Tubman frequently visited southern New Jersey, just minutes from where I grew up.

Harriet often worked in Cape May, NJ, a shore resort town, to earn funds to help rescue friends and family. It's exciting and sobering to learn that I've walked the same streets as Harriet did. When history becomes more alive like this, learning interesting tidbits and such, I appreciate it more. If you like, you can read the full article here in Cape May Magazine. Many thanks to my cousin Edie for sharing the link!

Winter Reading

What does your winter reading list include? I'm always reading several books, and this month the stack includes Laura Frantz's The Lacemaker, You've Already Got it! by Andrew Wommack, and Rosanna White's The Lost Heiress. I'm also rereading Switch on Your Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf - you might recall January's post, Training Your Brain where I mentioned it.

I recently finished These Healing Hills by Ann Gabhart. Ann stopped by for this post in November to share about her latest release, but I hadn't had a chance to read it then. I've enjoyed all of Ann's books, and this one was no exception. Here are a few of my thoughts about it:

This story had me staying up way too late to finish chapters! But I'd say that means Ann Gabhart wrote another good, engaging story.  I enjoyed reading about and learning the history of the Frontier Nursing Service. I also enjoyed getting to know the characters, Francine, a "city girl" and Ben, the "country boy". The secondary characters were fun too, and added much, from Woody and Sadie to Granny Em and Betty. In addition to being rich in history, this book reflects some of the struggles we all face at times - decisions, direction, and following our heart. I give it two thumbs up! I'd enjoy seeing another book that continues Francine's and Ben's story.

Are you a fan of soup? Do you have a favorite you enjoy during the winter months? Have you come across any great tidbits in relation to Black History Month? What's on your reading list for February?  

Happy writing,



Photo credit: Pixabay

Monday, February 12, 2018

3 Reasons Why Breaks Reduce Stress

Most people would agree, a break in the routine can be a good thing. We spend hours devoting our lives to work and creative pursuits, family and community, and other required and voluntary commitments. While these are all noble, good, and necessary, we need a change of pace on occasion.

Take writing and blogging, for instance. They both require big chunks of time and energy. Inspiration and creativity are necessary too, to yield good results. When you add these activities to an already busy schedule, sometimes it's all you can do to keep up.

I think that a pause in the routine, whether a quiet afternoon alone, a long weekend or vacation, a blog break, a night out with your spouse or friends, a walk in the woods, a leisurely drive, a day trip, or whatever else you enjoy, is a good thing. Here are three reasons why: 

1) Mental and physical space are essential to function well. 

With today's technology, we're potentially connected all day, every day. There are benefits to this, but hazards as well. Do we want this connectivity and screen time to consume our waking moments? Influence relationships (or lack of them) with important people in our lives?

Real life happens to some degree on our laptops, tablets, and smartphones. If we're honest though, genuine living happens mostly apart from these devices. So we need to set boundaries and allow healthy space between us and them. We need uninterrupted time to think, to communicate in person, breathe fresh air, and see sunsets and other amazing wonders in God's creation. These are good and necessary activities that refresh, stimulate, and stretch our minds and bodies.

I read an article recently (sorry, can't recall where) that said that due to too much screen time, some adolescents have difficulty functioning in real life. They don't know how to communicate effectively or how to form and maintain relationships. They are experiencing high levels of depression and dysfunction. While there are other causes for these issues too, it's sad to see how the potential overuse of technology negatively impacts these young people.

We can't run on the hamster wheel 24/7 without feeling the effects. Setting parameters for mental and physical space will benefit our relationships, productivity, and quality of life. 

2) We need to get away to maintain health and peace.

Years ago, I heard a pastor say it's important to "Come apart, before you come apart." Being self employed for over 30 years, my husband and I've learned that this is true, and essential for our health and sanity. Getting away from the routine does wonders for one's perspective, allowing time, space, and rest to breathe and regroup. 

3) Rediscovering our creativity is a wonderful thing.

Life's constant demands can leave our creativity high and dry. I liken it to being on a treadmill. While it has its benefits, it has its limits too, and it only takes you so far. When we step off the treadmill, our world opens up, offering creative refreshment and opportunities.

While all this is nice in theory, it's harder to practice. What can we do to facilitate more breaks in our routine?

1) Just do it. 

Treat breaks like any other item on your list of commitments. From a vacation to a day off, add it to the schedule and go for it.  Be open to a spur of the moment hiatus too, once in a while, for a breather and change of scenery. Call a friend, meet for coffee, take a brisk walk, or whatever floats your boat.

2) Be purposeful.

This is your time off! Be determined and stick to it. Set boundaries, limit time on social media, do whatever is necessary to ensure that you actually get that break. Make a list if that helps, stay focused, and don't stress. Your break is intended to produce healthy benefits.

3) Get off the treadmill.

We often don't realize what we're missing until we get off. The world around us has much to offer and is worthy of exploration.

4) Remember that it'll all be there when we return.

Life as we know it will continue to move forward in our absence. And that's okay. We can jump back in when the time is right.

Speaking of breaks, I'm taking a short one next week for President's Day; will return on February 26. See you then!

How do you get a break and recharge your creativity? What kinds of breaks will you take this month? I'll be taking some walks outside to enjoy February's scenery. Anyone care to join me? :)

Happy writing,


Photo credit: Pexels

Monday, February 5, 2018

Are You Yourself?

"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."

Oscar Wilde

Today's original post isn't done yet. Last week was full of deadlines, and there are more in the queue this week. So rather than stress over finishing, I decided to save it for next Monday. I hope you don't mind. :)

This quote has always intrigued me; it causes me to consider who I am and where I'm headed. Not a bad thing for the new year, yes? Speaking of thinking, if you happened to miss this recent post, Training Your Brain, we had an interesting discussion about where our thoughts take us.

What's your take on Mr. Wilde's quote? Do you believe your writing reflects your true self? What are you working on this week?

Happy writing,

Photo credit: Pexels