Category Archives: Blog Posts

A Letter to My Readers

Dear Friends,

I hope you are all well and as safe as possible in this time of anxiety and rampant illlness.  I do not need to tell you about the pandemic we are all experiencing in some way; I am sure you have been bombarded by news reports and seen evidence of the long lines in grocery stores and the numerous closed or limited-operating status of businesses in your area.

Here in Ohio the governor has ordered all unessential businesses to close temporarily.  This includes hair salons, movie theatres, and shopping malls.  Fortunately, my husband’s job is one he can do from home, and my daughter’s job is in security, so she is still working.  My son is in construction so he may soon face a layoff until things settle down. 

As for myself, my day job is in a large warehouse type store that includes both a grocery store and pharmacy, so we are still open for normal hours, though there have been numerous changes made to policy to protect both workers and customers. 

I get to see and experience so many people using various degrees of caution as they brave leaving their homes for necessities.  It is both frightening and heartening to see the response to the new rules.  Most are actually grateful for our precautions.   

I know the constant worry over the threat of the pandemic hangs over all of us like the constant gray skies we seem to be experiencing in this first week of spring, but I urge you to not lose hope.  There are responsible officials and medical personnel making good decisions and searching for treatments. Hopefully, in a few weeks or by summer we will be seeing fewer new cases of the virus and perhaps things will begin returning to normal.

The best thing we can do right now is take advantage of the enforced time together with our families.  Re-discover (if you haven’t already) the joys of cooking a meal together.  Play board games and watch old favorite and new shows on the endless availability of streaming services.  Catch up on sleep, and take care of your health by eating healthy, finding time to exercise, and reading books.  In my area, the library offers a huge selection of e-books available for digital checkout, no trip to the library required.

Above all, I hope you follow the safety recommendations to protect yourselves and your families during this time of crisis.  You will all be in my prayers.

Amy

A New Year and New Chances

Happy New Year!  While elsewhere people are preparing for parties, getting ready to watch the ball drop, I am taking a few moments to regroup and catch my breath.  2019 has been exceptionally busy for me; between work commitments, spending time with loved ones, and even squeezing in a vacation, the year has been very full and passed too quickly!

While today is a good day for reflection, the final day of the year is also a time to look forward.  Many of us make resolutions for the new year, to which unfortunately  we commit only half-heartedly , or that will soon loose our interest.  To me, the concept is still sound-we resolve to be better versions of ourselves, in whatever form we would like to improve.  Often, the motivation to change, to improve, is more important than the end result.  In other words it’s okay to try, and fail; it’s better than not trying at all, or loosing faith in our own potential.

There are a few things I would like to happen this year-I want to meet my Goodreads goals; I want to publish a new story that I’ve had on the back burner for a while; I want to take a vacation somewhere exotic this year, or at least somewhere I’ve never been before; and I want to achieve balance between my personal, day job, and writing lives.  Will I succeed?  I don’t know yet; but I’m going to give it my best shot.

Today is a good day to think about goals-about the people we would like to be this year.  I hope for the most of us, it is a chance to become, as Bill Murray’s character stated in the classic movie, Scrooged“the people we have always wanted to be.”

Happy New Year everyone! I hope yours is a great one!

Happy Holidays!

lighted reindeer decor
Photo by Ignored shots on Pexels.com

To all my friends out there, I wish you the very best for this Holiday Season.  May your fondest wishes come true, and may you experience joy, hope, love, and togetherness in abundance.

However and whatever you celebrate this time of year, please accept my heartfelt greetings for a Joyful Season and a Happy New Year!

Amy

Keeping the “Spirit” of the Holidays

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Don’t let stress ruin your holidays!  Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

Are you enjoying this holiday season, or just going through the motions?  December especially can be so busy; there are always so many things to do and get done, before the holidays and before the end of the year.  Santa is not the only one who makes lists this time of year, and like his, ours sometimes seem unending.

Are you doing the things you need to do-shopping, baking, decorating, or whatever else because you want or choose to do so, or because you feel obligated?  The reason behind your actions can make all the difference in your attitude, and your stress levels, as you go about your day.

I know that though there is snow on the ground, and I’m anticipating my own grown kids gathering in the next week, I have to remember to keep the right mind set as I go about my daily tasks.

Those of us that work in the health industry sometimes especially feel the strain, as patients struggle to use insurance benefits and money in Health Savings Accounts before the end of the year, or while college-age kids are home for the holidays.  The volume of business, the crowds, and the inevitable waiting in line add to everyone’s stress levels and quell the goodwill feelings many struggle to keep.

Personally, I have learned the best way to manage everything is to learn to say “enough,” and sometimes “no.”  Ask yourself if some traditions are not important or meaningful to you at this point in your life.  Are there tasks or duties or events that you can say no to, or simply “let go?”

“Picking and choosing” which traditions you uphold, decorations you use, events you attend, or even the number of people you shop for does not make you a bad person, only a human with limited time, energy, and resources.  Eliminating some less important or more trivial tasks may even make more pleasant to be around, bring more significance to those things you choose to keep on your list, and give you more time to simply be with your loved ones.

When you are not overwhelmed by your chore list, the decrease in stress can really put you in the holiday mood.

I’m sitting and writing this before I get ready to go to work, another busy day in the season.  I am not done with my holiday preparations, but the end is in sight, so I can go about my day with a lightened heart, knowing that everything is okay.  I will get done all the important things.  I will not let the below-freezing temperatures, the traffic, the crowds, or the grumpy over-stressed customers get to me today.

I hope you all find your bliss, your holiday spirit, in the middle of the chaos today, and are able to enjoy the season for all it’s worth.

Happy Holidays,

Amy

Holiday Brunch Recipe-Goetta Casserole

 

family sitting near dining table and eating food
Family meals- such an important part of the holidays! Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Before I simply start sharing this recipe, there may be readers out there asking, what is goetta, and why should I care?

Goetta, pronounced “get-uh” is a dish that originated in southwestern Ohio, and was invented by German settlers in the 19th century.  It is a type of sausage made of ground meat (either pork, beef, or a mixture of the two), steel oats, and spices.  It can be fried in a skillet like sausage, or added to numerous dishes.  It is so popular in the Cincinnati area that it has its own annual festival.

 

Goetta- it’s a local  phenomenon!

My family is a transplant to the region, but goetta is one food that we’ve come to love, though we don’t eat it often because it’s definitely not the healthiest of fare.  However, for the holidays, we indulge and I often prepare this recipe for special breakfasts or brunches.  It does take time to make, because the casserole turns out best if it is prepared and then refrigerated overnight, before baking.  This also allows for a little less work in the morning if you have guests or excited children anxious to open presents.

Goetta Cassserole

Ingredients:

8 frozen hash brown patties, or one package frozen shredded hash browns

8 slices of goetta-one block (no pre-cooking required), or 1 lb bulk breakfast sausage, browned and drained

4 cups of any blend of shredded cheddar, Colby and Monterey jack cheeses

1 thinly chopped green onion, or equivalent in dried chives

7 eggs

1 cup milk

Season salt, plus ½ tsp table salt

¼ tsp pepper

Directions:

Place or press hash browns into a single layer in a greased 13 x 9 baking dish.  Liberally sprinkle with season salt.  Top with goetta, then cover with shredded cheese and green onion.

Beat eggs, milk, salt and pepper until well combined.  Pour over other layers in dish, coating well.

Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight, or bake immediately.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and bake casserole, covered with foil, for 1 hour.  Uncover and bake for 15 minutes or until edges are golden brown and knife inserted near center comes out clean.

Feeds 8-12 people.  Great served with fresh fruit and pumpkin bread.  Refrigerate any leftovers.

 

*If goetta is not available in your area, there is always the Internet.  Or, if you’re not feeling adventurous, the recipe would work for ordinary breakfast sausage as well, though make sure to pre-cook the meat before adding it to the casserole.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does, and I hope you’re doing well with all your holiday preparations and plans.

Till next time,

Amy

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

Tomorrow marks Thanksgiving in the United States, a tradition started by peoples of two very diverse cultures sitting and peacefully sharing a meal.

Today, the meaning and emphasis placed on the holiday varies as much as the diverse groups who acknowledge this day.  For some, it is simply an extra day off work or a day to begin, or finish, holiday shopping.  For others, it’s about family, overeating, and falling asleep in front of the TV, with either a parade or football on the screen.

Many though, choose to remember that this day was originally envisioned as a time to give thanks for the blessings of enough food, a safe home,  freedom from religious persecution, and good neighbors.

group of people making toast

Family, food, and time together.  Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

Thanksgiving is also a time to remember there are those out there who do not share the blessings our ancestors celebrated- enough food to eat, and a safe and warm home.  Please consider sharing what you can with your local foodbank, the Salavation Army, or another local charity.

Above all, have a safe, and happy Thanksgiving!

Amy

Signs that you’re not ready for Halloween

I apologize that my posts have come at an erratic pace lately, but life is a bit chaotic at the moment, and I’ve been trying to clear some things up.  I hope I can get back to a regular day of posting soon or at least by the end of the holidays.   Meanwhile, I put together this list of issues that I’ve experienced, (not all at once, thankfully) and hope that some of you will be able to relate.  Enjoy, and Happy Halloween!

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Photo by Александар Цветановић on Pexels.com

Signs that you’re not ready for Halloween:

  • You arrive at work, and discover, in place of your expected coworkers, there is a dragon, a puppy, a kitten angel, and half a dozen assorted cats plus a few adults dressed as Disney characters.  Oops, you forgot that today was the costume contest.
  • Your spouse/kids/dog found your hidden stash of Reese’s Cups that you were saving for trick-or-treaters (honestly!) again.
  • You’ve lost your head, that is, the life-like skull that was part of last year’s graveyard display on your front lawn.  You don’t have time to look for another one, and they’re out of stock on Amazon.  Oh, well, you will just have to scatter the bones further and maybe carve an extra pumpkin?

pumpkin display
Welcome one and all! Wait, I’m not ready yet!  Photo by Artie Siegel on Pexels.com

  • It’s nine p.m. and your teenager informs you that they need a costume for a party they were invited to two weeks ago, which takes place tomorrow.  Also, they need a ride and snacks to satisfy a crowd of ravenous teens.
  • You visit your favorite craft store that had Halloween decorations on sale last week, and find nothing there now but aisle after aisle of Christmas trees, ornaments and decorations.  Really Halloween isn’t over yet!
  • You send your spouse to the store for milk, and he comes back with donuts, more candy, and a giant inflatable coffin, but no milk.
  • You make it to the grocery store and the candy aisle looks like a warzone, or perhaps a tornado blew through.  There are Snickers and Hershey bars on the floor and half of the bins are empty, and you really don’t want to know what that trampled mess on the floor used to be.  Also, they’re all out of Halloween Oreos.
  • You see a group of costumed children going down the street but they bypass your house, then you realize you forgot to turn on the porch lights, and consider chasing after them.  How else are you going to get rid of that ten pound bag of candy you managed to order at the last minute?

 

Here’s hoping that everyone out there has a stress-free and safe Halloween this year!

Amy

Life in the Digital Age

This past week while I was attempting to de-clutter my house as part of decorating for fall/Halloween, I pulled out a magazine holder from an over-stuffed bookcase and discovered some very old magazines.  I know I held onto these with the intention of referring to them again, but instead they were stored away and forgotten.

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Just a small sample of the magazines I had put away and forgotten.

Nowadays, while I still have paper cookbooks and print magazines and resources for decorating, gardening, etc., more often I go to trusted sites online instead of dragging out the books and magazines.  After all, the latest research, trends, and ideas are easily accessed there without having to dig through stacks and shelves of paper and remembering exactly where a reference is located.  Many times I can find the same information that is in my magazines, on a corresponding website with the same name.

While I still enjoy holding a print magazine in my hands so I can enjoy the glossy pictures, I have let my print subscriptions lapse, because, though I can always pick up the latest issue, eventually, they too will be dated and dusty.

What does this imply for the future of print issues, for myself, and the world in general?  In this digital age, more and more people are turning to digital subscriptions for their favorite newspapers, magazines, and of course, books.  While this is definitely better for the environment, the impersonal feeling of holding a tablet and turning pages by a swipe of the finger is completely different than sitting down with a print magazine or book in hand, especially when one is reading for pleasure.

women typing on the notebook
News, resources, and entertainment are only a few clicks away online.  Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

I am by no means ready to give up the print books I own, but I tend to acquire just as many e-books these days as print ones, if only to conserve storage space around my home.  Periodicals, though, I have decided I can enjoy and then recycle without remorse, but rather content about the fact I am helping preserve the environment.  After all, the information is still available, online, whenever I need it again.

I can enjoy the best of both worlds- the pleasure of reading books and the occasional print magazines, with the convenience of access to digital publications. And getting rid of some of those excess paper magazines just frees up space on my bookshelves.

Which do you prefer, print or digital magazines and books?  Or do you prefer a combination of the two, like me?

 

Fall Baking: Pumpkin Bread

I’m sorry friends that this is coming out so late this week, but I can honestly say I’ve had my hands full lately.   Between my “day job,” some projects we’re doing around the house, and getting the garden set back to rights after the long dry spell through July and September I have barely had a moment to breathe, much less write!

Luckily, some of our projects are coming to an end, just in time to herald the beginning of  Autumn.  While it officially starts early next week ( on my son’s birthday this year) we are already seeing signs of it’s imminent arrival.  The temperatures still soar into the eighties during the day, but those days are already growing noticeably shorter, and it is easy to allow my thoughts to turn to preparations for fall-decorating with mums and pumpkins, a few scarecrows, and perhaps a witch or skeleton or two; and fall baking.

I love the sights and smells of autumn, especially in all the apple and pumpkin recipes that are so seasonal this time of year.  To that end I decided to share one of my favorite recipes for pumpkin bread.  I know, a quick Internet search can yield dozens of such recipes, but this is a tried and true version that I’ve made and shared multiple times, and is very good served warm with butter for brunch or with coffee on a crisp Autumn morning.  I hope you enjoy it!

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I can’t wait to share this homemade treat with my family!

Pumpkin Bread 

1 2/3 cup of all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 eggs

1 cup canned pumpkin

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1/2 cup raisins

In a large bowl, combine the first eight ingredients.  In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, pumpkin, oil and water.  Stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients until just moistened.  Fold in the nuts and raisins.

Pour into a greased 9×5 inch loaf pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 65-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack.

Happy Labor Day!

photo of fireworks display
All across the country, many cities will be having their last, and most spectacular fireworks shows of the year this weekend.  Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com

Today is the day we Americans celebrate the national holiday Labor Day, the official celebration of laborers and the collective power of unions, and the unofficial end of summer.

Many Americans use Labor Day as the excuse to hold one last barbecue, or go on one last camping or fishing trip, or just plan a picnic and a trip to the nearest firework show.   My family plans to grill out at home this year, and just enjoy a day off from jobs and normal responsibilities.

While many employers are giving their employees a much-deserved break, just as many companies will be promoting wares and holding massive sales to attract consumers.  I need a new stove, so perhaps I will venture out later myself.

While the official beginning of autumn is still a few weeks away, most school children have just or will be starting back to school this week, and kids and adults alike have fall on their minds.  What that means to individuals varies, though many focus on the beginning of football season, and getting ready for Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Tomorrow, I will think about taking down the red-white-and-blue decorations I’ve had out around the house since Memorial Day, and pulling out my own stashes of orange candles and harvest decorations.  September is still warm here, though the nights have cooled down into the sixties and even fifties a few times, and the garden, which was so dry and wilting in the August heat, is coming back to life.

Fall and Halloween decorations have already made appearances in many stores, and fall flowers like chrysanthemums and ornamental cabbages are ready to take home and plant in gardens that will very soon be festooned with pumpkins and gourds off all types, dried cornstalks, and bales of hay.  Autumn is my favorite time of year, and I look forward to the colors, the scents of fall baking, and the cooler temperatures.

However, all of that can wait till tomorrow.  Today is about relaxing, and spending time with family, and eating some good food, preferably outdoors.

I hope you and yours have a very Happy Labor Day!