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Monday, September 27, 2010

Entry # 3

The final losing entry.

Dear Reader,
When I’m feeling stressed or drained I head to the kitchen. There’s something about cooking that relaxes and soothes me. I turn on some music and my senses take over allowing my mind to wander at will. Memories come rushing back and I’m transported to another time. I don’t have to be cooking anything complicated to get the benefit of the calming effects it has on me. When I’m doing something as simple as opening a can of tomato soup and stirring it in a saucepan it takes me back to simpler times.

Every Sunday when I was a child my family went to church. Dad dropped off my three brothers and I for Sunday school, Mom went a little bit later in time for choir practice. As each of us grew old enough we joined her in the choir. After the service we visited with friends at the coffee hour before going home for lunch. In cold weather lunch was always soup, bread, and crackers. My favorite was tomato soup made with half milk and half water. It was a deep pink color and creamy without being heavy. My oldest brother crumbled up so many crackers in his that it was pink mush which he ate with such enjoyment that I can still picture the contentment on his face. I preferred to crumble a few crackers at a time so that I could eat them before they were too soggy. Alternately I’d dip buttered soft white bread into the soup, letting a corner soak just until it was ready to fall off and then quickly bite it off. How delicious I remember that being!

Today I am more likely to make a home made soup. I enjoy the chopping of vegetables, sautéing, measuring and stirring involved in the process. One of my favorites is potato soup. It was a recipe I learned from a friend in high school and has become a cold weather staple in my house. It combines the best of two worlds; cutting, chopping and simmering, and the convenience of canned soup. For stress relief it can’t be beat. Even when I’m tired it’s a recipe I can manage whether I’m feeding 2 or more. I’ve even made it to treat the school staff who work with my daughter. Made the night before and then dropped off along with my crock pot in the morning along with finger sandwiches and crackers it is always appreciated.

It is not a surprise that all my adult life I have worked in kitchens. First I worked at a doughnut shop and currently I work at a school. You’d think that once I get home I wouldn’t want to cook, but that’s not the case. I find it an enjoyable way to end the day and clear my mind of the day’s events.

Potato Soup
6 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon butter
1 can chicken broth
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 soup can milk
Salt & pepper to taste
Sautee garlic and onion in the butter until onion is tender. Add the potatoes, chicken broth and enough water to cover. Bring to boil and simmer just until potatoes are tender. In a bowl, combine cream of chicken soup and milk stirring with a wire whisk until smooth, add to pot and heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


She stood unprotected in flammable rain
Just waiting for Smokey the Bear
Although people were running and pushing and shoving
She knew there was no one to care.

The flammable rain ran in rivulets
Down her cheeks from off of her hair
While all ‘round was chaos she stayed where she’d stopped,
When she turned to look no one was there.

For time beyond measure she stood in that spot
While the rain lashed about in the wind
She was left all alone while she stood still as stone
Never realizing Smokey’s not real.

The flammable rain collected in puddles at her feet
And it splashed up onto her knees
Yet she moved not an inch to the right or the left
Begging save me please Smokey Bear, please.

She waited and waited with eyes full of tears
Holding onto her Smokey Bear dreams.
I’ll never forget all that flammable rain
And how sometimes things aren’t what they seem.

Susan Donald

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Contest Entry 2

Also a non-winner :-(

Mom’s Iced Tea

All my life I remember my mother making freshly brewed iced tea. In the cool hours of a summer morning I’d watch her while eating my breakfast. Now that she’s gone and I’m an adult I find myself following suit. There is nothing so refreshing as a tall, cold glass of fresh iced tea on a hot summer day. It’s one of the things that make me feel like she is still here, even though she has been gone for many years.

My mother’s family had a big family reunion every year on the Saturday before Labor Day. It was held at a rental hall that someone had connections to and each family brought a covered dish or two and a jug of something to drink. Mom brought lemonade and her iced tea. Her oldest brother, Stanley, always said there was nothing more thirst quenching on a hot day than that iced tea. I can still picture him taking the first sip, smacking his lips, sighing and saying, “Phoebe, that’s good iced tea.” Some of my cousins brought guitars and we had sing a longs in the early evening after an afternoon spent running around, playing ball and fishing in the creek for crayfish. I don’t recall how late into the evening the event went, but I’m guessing there were games of hide and seek and catching lightning bugs with all my cousins while the adults sat around talking. Those were some happy times.

Making freshly brewed iced tea isn’t hard; it just takes a bit of time. In the cool of a summer morning I make it, remembering that Mom always put it in the same glass jug that at one time held orange juice. It had a narrow neck so she used a funnel to pour the sugar and lemon juice in while the tea was brewing. Then she used the handle of the longest wooden spoon she had to stir it with. The neck was so narrow that she had to crack the ice cubes in her hand with a wooden spoon before adding them to the jug. We had no ice maker; we used metal ice cube trays with the lever that had to be lifted to release the cubes. If the person who filled the trays had put too much water in it was a challenge to get the ice. None of us have been able to exactly duplicate that delicious brew as she didn’t really measure the sugar or lemon juice. My younger brother and I did a decent job of figuring out the formula. There was a certain scoop she kept in the sugar that she used, and as for the lemon, she used an iced tea spoon which she kind of just turned 8 times while pouring in the juice. Even so I make it and think of her every time I pour a glass.

2 quarts water
8 tea bags
2/3 cup sugar
¼ cup lemon juice
In a 2 quart saucepan bring water to a boil. Clip together 8 tea bags and add them to the boiling water. Remove from heat and steep 20 minutes. Place sugar and lemon juice in 2 quart container. Remove tea bags and pour tea into jug; stir. Fill container with ice. Serve immediately in tall glass over ice or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Contest Entry 1

Well, for the third year in a row I entered the same write a column contest and didn't win:-(
I sent in 3 entries as this year there was no limit to how many you could submit. Here is the first one I wrote. I'll post the other 2 soon. Enjoy!

Dear Reader,
There’s something special about a cookie recipe handed down through generations. I mean the ones that were made before anyone started thinking about how bad all that sugar and butter is for you. I have many such treasures in my file, some written in my mother’s hand, some by mine, some typed on file cards and some scribbled on random scrap paper as they were told to me. Each of us has that go-to recipe that we can make without much thought when needed. Mine is Scottish Shortbread.
I never had shortbread cookies before I met my husband. His paternal grandparents, Gram and Mampy, with whom he had a close relationship were from Scotland. He told me that Gram generally kept a tin of shortbread in the pantry. As Gram passed away about a month after I married into the family, Mampy was the one who showed me how to make it. Side by side with him one summer evening in my mother-in-law’s kitchen I was instructed in the making of this simple cookie, my sister-in-law interjecting her methods and my mother-in-law quietly sipping coffee. As it baked, we sat around the table drinking coffee and listening to Mampy recite stories from his childhood. One of my favorites is how as a young lad he and his friend caught birds and put them inside their jackets. They went to the movies and opened their jackets to release the birds that then flew toward the movie screen. He always laughed when he told this story. I bet he was something when he was a kid. How I miss listening to his stories told in his Scottish accent over cookies!
I taught my oldest daughter how to make shortbread a couple of years ago. Her first solo effort was last Christmas. As a junior in college she had a campus apartment with 3 friends and they enjoyed baking. As a treat she wanted to make the shortbread for them. That evening I received a frantic text message from her that included a picture of burnt shortbread with the question “what did I do wrong?” I called her to try to trouble shoot from a distance and it turned out that the oven temperature knob was not accurate. She was very disappointed, but her friends ate some anyway and declared the cookies to be delicious. How very kind they are to each other! In the spring she came home for a weekend and tried again. This time she was successful, and took it back to share with a class for which she had to write a report about a family recipe. Another generation making the same recipe, unchanged through the years. Even though my daughter was young when Mampy passed on, and she never knew Gram, she takes a piece of them with her through knowing how to make the shortbread.
Ingredients: 1 stick butter
1 stick margarine
½ cup granulated sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
Sugar for sprinkling on top, plain or colored
Cream butter, margarine and sugar until very creamy. Mix the flour in well. The more you work with it, the better. Divide dough into 9 balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet, and flatten each ball into a ¼-½ inch thick circle. Press the tines of a fork around the edges to make a pattern, then prick the inner circle a number of times. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake in a 275* oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven, immediately cut each circle into 6 wedges and remove to wire rack to cool. Makes 54 pieces.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Well, readers, here is a bit of silliness that came from a writing prompt given at the writers group I go to. A potential new member stopped by one time and just LOVED this poem. She never came back, but asked me to read it several times, asked for a copy, and asked me to write my name on it. Hope you enjoy it as well.

I was on the shelf then
You took me home
Choosing me for my cover.
I was blank inside but
As we went along
You filled me up with
Adventures of all kinds.
We went trhough it all
I gave you shade,
Shelter from rain,
Helped you communicate.
I gave you answers and
Held your secrets.
Now I'm full
We've reached the end of
Our time together.
Now I'm
Packed away
Until one day
You find me again
And read on my pages
The person you were
That school year.