New Post – Have You Made The Move??

Threre’s a new post up today over on the new website. Have you stopped over there yet and signed up to follow? Do you have no clue what I’m talking about and need to read this post?

You don’t wanna miss out — a new recipe posted today!

SimplyWriteous.com

See you there!
H


Simply Eclectic Life Has Moved

25 Days. That’s how long it’s been since anything new has landed on this blog. But who’s counting??

Okay, me.

I’ve been counting…and it’s been weighing on me for weeks.

There simply hasn’t been enough time in the day/week/month to get done all that needs doing and part of my hiatus is due to the build I’ve been doing of a new webpage. What should have been a relatively simple process turned into a time drain at several junctures due to technological difficulties…but it’s finally done (or, at least the first pass at it) and this is where you will find all things new by me going forward.

If you’re scratching your head in wonder about why the change, here’s the scoop: I’ve been dipping a toe in the world of freelance writing. I’ve already found some successes along the way, which is totally exciting, and it all came with the need for some re-branding.

Sooooo….Simply Eclectic Life is now Simply Writeous and aside from that, nothing is changing! All the reasons you had for following me here will exist there AND all the content from this webpage has been moved over.

It will take only a quick minute to head on over to Simply Writeous (<— click the link) and enter your email address to subscribe. Or if you follow me on your WP Reader, click the button to manage your followed sites, type in Simply Writeous and add me there.

Heck, if you follow me by email and need some help, I’ll lend a hand in moving you over. Leave me a message in the comments section with your email address and I’ll get ya added!

Look forward to seeing you all over there. I’ve left a message that contains other details of what I’ve been up to over the last month of hiatus, too.

-H

PS- This site will be coming down in October 2017


Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup

I know, I know soup season has run its course and you might be wondering why this is being introduced now. I totally get it. So, allow me to explain…

Last night, after a particularly draining day at work, I was putting together dinner and thinking how thankful I was that I had meals already assembled in the freezer that could be pulled and quickly warmed on nights when there isn’t enough time or energy for much more than on-couch zombie status. Last night was one such night and those smothered burritos were exactly the answer!

Every so often I take a chunk of a day and do freezer meal prep. I’ve read lots of how-to for this type of thing and I do it slightly differently….but that’s another lengthy post for another long and rainy day.

Soooo….lemme talk about this homemade cream of mushroom soup and the why for now.  I’ve only ever really known cream of mushroom soup (C.O.M.S.) to be used as an ingredient in another meal or side-dish (casseroles, sauces, etc.) and haven’t ever felt enticed to warm up a bowl to be eaten soup-style. Maybe it’s the way it sort of blobs out of the can all unappealing or the voice in the back of my head questioning all those ingredients I don’t know how to pronounce (which often = chemicals). But despite the unappealing entrance into my world from the can or the wide array of chemicals often found in canned soups in general, there’s no denying the magical power of C.O.M.S. in recipes so now I just make it myself. Not only do I know <and get to control> what’s in it, the texture and flavor of this homemade rendition is so, so much better than that from a can.

Because homemade soup can be a somewhat messy situation, and because I bust this out with a particular line-up of freezer cooking, I typically make C.O.M.S. in a big batch but I’ll post the ingredient break-down for both a single and quadruple batch (not that you couldn’t do the simple math, but because I love ya and will save your effort for something else).

Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup

Ingredients (Single):                                                  Ingredients (Quadruple Batch):
2 large cloves garlic, minced                                      8 large cloves garlic, minced
1 cup onion, chopped                                                   4 cups onion, chopped
1/2 cup mushroom, chopped                                      2 cups mushroom, chopped
1/4 cup oil/butter (about half of each)                      1 cup butter/oil
1/4 cup flour                                                                   1 cup flour
1/4 cup stock                                                                   3 cups stock
Note: I use homemade chicken stock, but vegetable stock and/or store bought works too!
1 cup milk                                                                       4 cups milk
Salt & Pepper to taste                                                    Salt & Pepper to taste

Instructions:
1. Start by prepping all your veggies – wash and chop.
2. Warm butter/oil in sauce pan (I like to use my Le Creuset soup pot, but any ol’ pot will do for this job.
3. Saute garlic and onion until just before soft, then add mushrooms and continue cooking a couple more minutes
4. Create a roux by adding the flour to the pan. Stir to combine well and continue to cook for a minute to eliminate that raw flour taste.
5. Slowly add stock, whisking until all ingredients are well combined.
6. Once the liquid thickens, add milk
7. Salt and Pepper to taste

Few Considerations:
1. This rendition will be chunkier than the canned variety. Pending your preference, you can run an immersion blender through your pot until you have the consistency you prefer. I leave as is, but that’s just me!
2. If the soup is too thick for your preference and cooking purposes, add more stock/milk
3. I use this recipe as an ingredient in other dishes and eating soup-style. I also portion and freeze for later. Do know that freezing won’t leave you with the same creamy texture as fresh out of the pot though. Use this option for future casserole assembly.

That’s it! Fresh ingredients. Not difficult at all. Totally worth it!

-H


Oh, Hello There

Good Morning, Dear Friends.

I apologize for having gone MIA this last week. It became quite clear to me that not having the weekend to get my life together means the week to follow…well…let’s just say life = not together.

Scrambling to throw meals together on the fly, trying to catch up on chores that went undone over the weekend, looking at the lawn that was 2 weeks past needing mowed, all the while working my regular job that verges on insanity…you get the picture. How my obsessive, compulsive personality survived is still a mystery!

Time spent in Nebraska made the life = not together scenario well worth it as I shared time with my family. Check out this picture I snapped of this gorgeous flowering bush at my grandmother’s house!! It was so full of blooms that the branches drooped under the weight. Simply stunning!

Flowering Bush

I hope you enjoyed Mother’s Day, in whatever capacity you celebrated and that this past weekend left you rejuvenated and ready to tackle this week.

I’ll be back later with some fun blog posts, but wanted to drop in this morning to say hello and offer some encouragement that no matter what is on your plate this week: You Got This!!

H


Food for the Soil: Compost Update

A few years ago I blogged about compost…and the DIY project that went along with it. If you missed those posts, or if you never had the opportunity to read them the first go-round, here are the links:

DIY Compost Bins
Composting 101

After a few years of composting I wasn’t sure how enchanted I was with the dang thing. I got everything set up, and made sure to keep the balance of brown and green just right so as to avoid having my backyard smell like a landfill on a hot summer day. I turned the compost every so often to keep it all mixed up and jivin’ in the way that it does to break down into something delicious for my soil. And it just seemed to take forever. Some things didn’t break down all that well, there didn’t seem to be much in the end result and maybe it was my general lack of patience but this project felt like a whole lotta work for not a whole lotta reward.

This winter I resolved to re-purpose the barrels for growing potatoes and just be done with it…until something magical happened.

Okay, magical might be a stretch, but it was mind changing and turns out, I am enchanted with making my own compost. Who knew?

When J dumped the barrels this spring, for what I thought was the very last time, I spied something quite pleasing to the eye. I raced from the deck to the garden to get a better look…that compost was so rich and wonderful I was actually quite beside myself. I only regret that I didn’t get a picture snapped before he tilled it in. Rats!

And so, I’m back to composting.

Turns out, what seemed like not very much compost in those barrels once it had broken down is in reality more once it’s been dumped out. Funny how looks can be deceiving. I can get on board with that.

And here are some lessons learned — because why go through the pain of it yourself if you can just learn from someone else??

  • The plan I had for ‘turning’ the compost in my original “DIY Compost Bins” post didn’t work as efficiently as I had hoped. I found it was just as easy to turn the compost with a pitch fork right in the barrel.
  • I didn’t follow my own advice about keeping the compost wet. While you don’t want it sopping wet, moisture is part of the compost making equation. Mine was too dry, I’m sure, which is likely the reason it took eons to do its compost thing. I’m leaving the lids off the barrels going forward and will let Mother Nature have at it. As long as there’s ample drainage opportunity, which mine have, it should be fine.
  • A few foods didn’t seem to break down all that well for me so I’m no longer adding them to my compost as part of the ‘green’ mix. Those are: corn cobs, & avocado skins and pits. Even egg shells didn’t break down quite like I thought they would but I’m still adding them, I just crush them up before tossing them in the barrel. And in some instances, coffee filters, but because I know the benefits of coffee grounds in compost, I’ll continue to add them and those that don’t break all the way down are easy to pick out once the barrels are dumped and the compost is spread out with a rake.

For more information on what not to add, what to add and how much, etc. visit my Composting 101 link above. And if you have any other bits of wisdom about composting DIY, please share in the comments section below! I am clearly not the expert on this – heck, I just had to talk myself back in to continuing!

H

 


Mother’s Day: May 14th

Mother’s Day is quickly approaching. I hope you have already given thought to how you will honor the mother(s) in your life, but if not, now is the time to get those wheels turning.

 

Last year I put together the most awesome succulent potted arrangements for my mom. After finding these cool terracotta pots, shaped slightly different than your typical terracotta pot, at At Home store, I set off to score some succulents and cactus soil at HomeDepot.

 

Note: my internet research taught me that succulents will not thrive in regular potting soil – cactus soil is a must. Or you can read up on mixing your own soil that will help succulents live a long and happy life. I can’t speak a lot <or at all> to that as I used the easy route for that detail.

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I was so pleased with the final product. I even considered just keeping them for myself and picking up some PJ’s for mom (but, I didn’t, because I’m a good daughter like that). Oh! And the frog just casually hangin’ off the side? Every year for the last I don’t know how many years, I’ve bought my mom some sort of <sometimes obnoxious> “plant art”. All of her potted plants inside are adorned with something like this. I picked up the frog (which I think it quite cute, actually) from Hobby Lobby. 

I also made a little plant stake, not pictured, that said “Love U” and tucked it into the smaller pot – you can read about that, and see it too, in this post. 

 

This year I ordered something special for my mother that hasn’t arrived yet. I’m losing confidence that it will get here in time at this point, so will end up being a belated Mother’s Day gift. Ugh. I hope I’m wrong, but I’ve got a card and have planned a visit back home so I’m hoping that will suffice until this treasure arrives – and even more hopeful that when it does, it was worth the wait (you know how that sometimes goes…you order something, are excited, wait forever and it finally shows up and is a total dud?).

 

Any special Mother’s Day plans or gifts you care to share with our blog family? Hit us up in the comments section below.

H 

 

PS – I don’t get any sort of kickback from Hobby Lobby, At Home or HomeDepot for name dropping them on my blog. They are just all stores that are my ‘go to’ when I’ve got projects in the works. And I added links to their websites on here so you can quick search if this post sparked any ideas that require investigating if these store have what you need.


Fresh Start

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Photo Credit: David Ammerman

It’s the songs of birds in the large tree outside that stir me awake in this early hour and beckon me out of bed. The sun just beginning its ascent brings promise of a fresh start; a chance to begin again. It will later direct our paths as it gives light to the darkness and will thaw the thin layer of frost blanketing the earth.

As the coffee begins to brew, I peer through the kitchen widow. The greenhouse sparkles with a million crystals of ice shimmering in the slowly rising sun. Tucked inside all my delicate plants are happy and content; saved from the damaging frost by the shelter literally built by love.

It is the beginning of a new day.

Seize the opportunity to drink in all that is wonderful and good, and against all that may stand in your way, make this an incredible week.

H


Food Prep

Food prep can mean a lot of different things. Preparing meals for the freezer, assembling complete meals to be warmed during the week, or getting a head start on week night cooking by having ingredients prepped and ready to go.

I’m not always short on time during the week but I’m often lacking in energy and motivation at the end of a work day, and something that I generally enjoy <cooking> can feel more like a chore. I work really hard to stay on a budget, which includes the purchase of groceries as well as money spent on entertainment (i.e. eating out), and I also try to eat relatively well.

There are three reasons the wheels fall off an otherwise perfect meal plan for the week:
1) not having the ingredients on hand, requiring another trip to the store (because that is unlikely to happen, I’d rather order a pizza at that point)
2) forgetting to thaw frozen items from the freezer (again with the pizza order)
3) failing to have prep work done on the front end (you guessed it, pizza!)

So, in an effort to keep us on track with both our budget and healthy eating, I spend time planning meals for the week ahead, doing all my grocery shopping in one swoop, and prepping ingredients on the weekend. In the event that these things aren’t possible over the weekend I try to have a number of options I can pull from the freezer and warm in the oven through the week. Failure to do so often means eating out and I don’t know about you, but it’s nearly impossible for me to make the healthy choice when eating out. Add to that, eating out adds up fast!!

This weekend will be no exception and I’ll be busy washing and chopping fruits and veggies after a trip to the store and pulling items from the freezer.

A bit of what is on deck for the upcoming week are a few recipes I’ve shared with you previously:
Roasted Parmesan Asparagus as a side dish to Grilled Chicken:
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Brussels Sprouts with Bacon as a side dish to Pork Chops:
IMG_2883
My favorite smoothie for a quick grab breakfast:
image

And, assembly of several of these salads, using this shredded chicken pulled from the freezer, for lunches through the week:
image

What other tips do you use to keep yourself on track with both eating well and staying on budget where food is concerned? I’d love to hear your suggestions below in the comments section!

Wishing you a fun and safe weekend!
H


Mama Said, “Don’t play with your food”

After a blustery weekend in Colorado, I’m quite thrilled with the sun making an appearance today. In celebration of the return of warmer weather I thought I’d share with you this character I found in my ‘power foods’ salad the other night:

FullSizeRender

I got to the bottom of the pile of shredded brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale and cabbage tossed with a poppy seed dressing (it’s a salad kit from Costco – I’ll tell you more about it another time because it’s worth a try, for sure) to find this little guy looking back up at me.

Unsure how the stars all aligned in such a way to pull this off, but here you have it.

I like to believe that many things, especially those which are quite unique, are a sign; a communication from above, but I just can’t put my finger on what this one could possibly mean.

Let’s consider it a sign of good things to come – for me and for you. I hope you are having a fabulous week! The weekend is in sight!
H


May Day, A Forgotten Tradition?

As a child growing up in a small’ish rural community in Nebraska, I remember with fondness the fun and excitement that was “May Day”. I am astonished how many people have no idea what I’m talking about when I’ve brought this up in my adult years and I have to wonder, is this a lost tradition? Was it a tradition only known in certain areas of the nation? Both?

For those of you who don’t know, or who have forgotten after all these years, May Day presented an opportunity to share treats with the ones we love AND add a whole lotta fun in the mix. In the days leading up to May 1st we would spend time putting together May Day Baskets with little treats in them. They weren’t fancy or complex, usually a disposable cup of some sort filled with sweets or other inexpensive treasures. Then, when May Day arrived (on May 1st) the fun really began!

I always remember May Day landing during the week, which is obviously impossible, but that’s how the memory is stamped in my head. So, anyway, school would let out and we would race home to get the festivities started. Mom and Dad would load us up in the car and drive us around to the homes of our friends and family (unless they lived in our neighborhood, in which case, we set out on foot). They would drop us off and park just down the street. We would set the basket on the doorstep, ring the bell, and dash off. The recipient of the May Day Basket (if they were home) would race after us, and if caught, we were met with kisses, hugs or pinches — depending on who caught us. My grandmother handed out the sweetest hugs and kisses. I’m certain my cousins (who were all boys with exception of one) relished in pinching!

This would continue, one house after another, until all the baskets were delivered and then we would return home…usually to a wonderful pile of treats others had left for us on our doorstep while we were out. But, maybe the best part was when my grandmother brought one to me and I got to chase HER!

Every year when May 1st rolls around I remember this tradition and wish I had thought of it sooner so I could give life to it once again (or bring it to the area in which I now live, where people look at me as though I’m speaking a foreign language when I talk about “May Day”). I will have to set a reminder on my calendar for next year, so I can remind us all well in advance and we can get our ducks in a row and make May Day a ‘thing’ once again!

I promise if you have younger children, and you make this a tradition in the years to come, it will be one they won’t forget! Honestly, it’s right up there with Trick or Treating…maybe even better!

In honor of May Day, here is a treat for you from my garden. Spring bulbs make their appearance and warm my heart — I hope they will do the same for you.

IMG_2794

Happy May Day!
H