Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Potato Leek Soup...

Having received an immersion blender for Christmas (or rather...  having gifted myself one for Christmas), I'm thrilled with what a great tool is for for making creamy goodies like Potato Leek Soup.  In fact, it's such a great tool, and this is such a good recipe, I've made this soup three times now since the beginning of the year.

There are numerous and similar recipes online, but I started with this recipe found at Once Upon a Chef  and adapted it to what I had on hand.  Giving credit to the original creator of this recipe, I record here how I made this soup so I can easily find it again.  If  you make it (or follow the recipe linked to above) I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Potato Leek Soup


3 Tbs butter

2 or 3 good size leeks (The original recipe calls for 4 large leeks, but I just use whatever comes in a bundle - typically I get 2 or 3 leeks in a bundle).    
3 cloves garlic (peeled and chopped or pressed through a garlic press)
2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes - peeled and cut up (I sometimes mix other potatoes with Yukon Gold)
7-8 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 tsp powdered Thyme (original recipe calls for 3 sprigs fresh thyme - dried, powdered thyme is what I had)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper (I don't measure and I usually add more later)
Chicken Bouillon (if desired - I almost always end up adding some chicken boullion to my soup after blending it.  I don't know if you'll think it needs more, but this heightens the flavor for me.  I could just have poorly trained taste buds. Don't add it before tasting.
Heavy Cream to taste or desired consistency


If you're not familiar with cleaning leeks, here's a quick video tutorial - I prefer to cut them in half lengthwise and clean them before chopping them up.  I clean and chop leaks about an inch into the dark green stalk.  And being a plumber's daughter, who's sometimes learned the hard way that Dad was right, let me advise you... dump the sandy, dirty water outside - not down your kitchen drain.

If you're not familiar with cleaning leeks, here's a quick video tutorial - I prefer to cut them in half lengthwise and clean them before chopping them up.  I clean and chop leaks about an inch into the dark green stalk.  And being a plumber's daughter, who's sometimes learned the hard way that Dad was right, let me advise you...  dump the sandy, dirty water outside - not down your kitchen drain.

Melt butter over low heat in soup pot.  Add the leeks and garlic.  Cook, stirring so nothing browns.  This takes 10 - 15 minutes.  

Add the potatoes, broth, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper to pot and bring to a boil.  Stir, turn heat down to low and simmer for about 30 minutes (or until potatoes are very soft).

Remove the bay leaves (and sprigs of thyme if using fresh), then puree with an immersion blender until smooth.  At this point, the soup can be cooled and frozen for future use.  To eat now, read on:

Ladle soup into bowls, then add about 1 tablespoon of heavy cream to each bowl and stir.  If needed, nuke in microwave for 30 seconds to heat back up after adding cream.

Soup can be frozen without cream.  Just thaw, reheat, and add cream to hot soup.

This soup is great alone or with a light sandwich.  Very filling.


Sunday, March 29, 2020

Cakes two to tango...

Happy to report on this windy, but beautiful Sunday that I finished the Cakes Two to Tango Shawl I started a little over a week ago:

 The yarn used was Lion Brand Shawl in a Ball in the colorway Community Coral.

The "Cakes Two" refers to using two cakes (or skeins) of self-striping yarn, and alternating the cakes every two rows to create a different kind of striping than one would get working straight off a cake (or skein).  Of course, you don't have to use self-striping yarn to make this shawl, but it sure is fun to watch the colorful stripes play out as you work.

And also, of course, I can't leave well enough alone and just let the colors show up where they will.  Well, actually I did - up through the first chevron, but as the shawl got longer and wider, I decided to cut up the skeins and roll balls of single colors so I could control the color placement a little better.

I wasn't much concerned with how the single stripes ended up laying, but I wanted the two darker (wider) chevrons to balance each other.  Looking at the above picture, I think they do - more or less.

But now I'm left with many mini balls of yarn of different colors, looking for just the right project to use them in:

At the moment, I'm thinking I will mix them with some compatible yarn(s) and make a linen stitch scarf.

On another YOP note, Maria at Yarning With Ruby has suggested we YOPers meet up on Zoom.  I'm happy to say, this morning our small group from church used Zoom to meet up and I liked it (once I got over seeing my own mug on the screen).  I've got my comfy little spot ready to sit and chat with my fellow YOPers if we can manage to make it happen.  

For non YOPers, I hope mentioning ZOOM encourages you to use it (or other chatting options) online to connect to someone(s) during this time of physical distancing (if that appeals to you).  I'm an introvert who's fairly happy to have long days to myself, but even I have started to crave a little face time with other human beings.  Now, if I can just get my sons to agree to meet me on it...

Stay well.

Wash your hands.  

Please keep healthy.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Social Distancing...

Social distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak got a little more real this week in our state.  What about where you live?  

A little over two weeks ago, we were finally properly addressed by a suddenly serious President Trump and encouraged to begin social distancing.  Being a polite little town, it appeared to me that everyone started taking it fairly seriously here.  But when the directive to Stay at Home came in the form of the Governor's excutive order this past Monday, it took on a whole new meaning.  The order was to go into effect at midnight Wedesday morning - so Monday and Tuesday saw many people (hubs included) scrambling for some last minute items they might need (or want) in order to truly hunker down from 3/25 through 4/7.  

And now here we are.  

Hunkered down (sounds so determined)  

Cocooning (sounds about right - I'm thinking we'll all be ready to molt come June)

Social distancing as if our lives depended on it (because some lives do) 

And starting to go a bit stir-crazy.  

I'm finding myself thankful for a rainy weekend.  It makes it easier somehow to stay home and pretend like it's just life as normal.    

Though, of course, nothing's really normal right now, is it?

Early in the week, we learned that one of our neighbors has tested positive for COVID and another believes she has it and is quarantining herself.  That certainly got our attention.  Thankfully, both appear to be nearly over it without having to spend time in a hospital.  Being no stranger to taking a meal to someone sick, I have to say it was a first for me to leave hot soup outside the door, and text from a distance that it was safe (for me) for them to open their door and collect it.

Living near Indianapolis and having many people in our community as commuters to the city (hubs was one until last July), we've gotten more than our fair share of outbreaks in our county.  While compared to areas in New York or even Michigan, we're minor leaguers when it comes to the number of confirmed COVID cases here, but today's local newspaper headline was that ten people have tested positive in a large nursing home in town (some are staff, some are residents).  

Learning this was a reminder that our harmless little sleepy town is at war.  And that we do not vainly arm ourselves with sanitizer wipes when entering the battlefields of Mejier or Kroger.

Sunday, I posted what I thought was a great idea for motivating myself to move through my rooms, cleaning and "decluttering".  Well, I got as far as the bedroom and one bathroom cabinet.  Evidently, imagining myself sequestered to a room for 2 weeks didn't provide as much motivation to get rid of stuff as I thought it might.  

So I'm doing away with proclamations about what I need, or think I want, to do with this stay-at-home time. While I will seek out good ways to spend my time, I'm not going to beat myself up over unproductive hours or days. 

Hopefully, I'll get excited about something worth sharing here, but for now I think it will be enough to be more intentional about making connections with people (both in-person and online friends), reaching out to someone who is sick, being on the look-out for lonely someones, taking care of myself when I feel lonely, treating my husband with patience and kindness rather than irritation when we both are chomping at the bit for a change of scenery...    

If I manage all that in addition to cooking, doing laundry, and getting in some exercise, I'll count the time well spent.  And if I can manage to get into some sort of respectable sleep pattern (like collapsing into bed before 2 or 3 am - it was 5 am this morning 😵) I'll surely manage to do even more.  Being healthy - in mind, body and spirit seem the most essential right now.

I came across the video below last weekend.  It may not seem like it's saying anything all that new, but I really liked the presentation. And the reminders and clarifications are helpful. It's personal and heartfelt.  It gave a sense of personal purpose to this social distancing we're all doing. It's not very long at all (6.38 minutes).  I encourage you to watch to the end.  She saves the best for last.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Day 7 of 15 days...

At the end of this past week I was feeling discouraged about how unproductive the last week and a half has been.  I'm finding my days just getting away from me.  Hubs' and my sleep patterns are way off, and even though I'm not doing anything strenuous, I find that on most days I'm just tired.  And unmotivated.   Watching podcasts has become the default activity between things I have to do - like cooking and laundry.  And the only thing I've wanted to do when I sit down to watch a podcasts is knit dishcloths.  Just wait until you see the pile!!! 

Not that knitting dishcloths is bad, but I'm realizing I need a plan to get my rear in gear.  More on that later.  I did decide, though, on the crafty front that starting a new project Friday might just get me out of my dishcloth inertia.  I looked through patterns for inspiration and I decided to make something I've done before and that I know provides enough interest to keep me at it.  

I pulled out these two colors of Shawl in a Ball yarn from my stash:

And started making my second Cakes Two to Tango shawl.   My link goes to the first one I made, but here's a peek at my current one:

The idea behind this is you start your cakes (or skeins) of yarn from opposite ends, and changing colors every two rows gets the colors to mingle in interesting ways, fairly effortlessly.  It's fun.  And it's a nice departure from knitted dishcloths.  😄


I'm also giving thought to what my days need to look like.  I admire those who create schedules, but except for work or outside activities, I'm just not a schedule-follower at this point in life.   As I was thinking of how to be motivated to be productive during the remaining 9 days of social distancing (and beyond), I considered what kinds of things tend to motivate me.  

Last November I completed a 30-Day Minimalism challenge.  It was really successful and cleared out a bunch of stuff.  Then in January, I was motivated to go through my house with a different purpose - to find things to donate to a fund-raiser rummage sale.  Again, highly successful.  I have found reading books, and watching some videos to be motivating in the sense that they are perspective-changing, but I needed something to, again - break through the inertia that has set in.

And suddenly, it hit me!   I think I was in my bedroom at the time and a question occurred to me...  "If I were quarantined in here for 14 days what would I grow sick of seeing?"  

Wow!  Suddenly I saw things with fresh eyes.  Things I've been thinking I'm not really ready to get rid of, I could suddenly see myself bagging up and carting to Goodwill - and saying a hearty "good riddance!" to.

So...  While I've yet to do this seriously today, I did spend a few minutes going through a small storage space where I had stuffed some old, yellowed, worn-out embroidered pillowcases, and decided it was time to do something about them.  The pillowcases aren't worth saving at this point, so I cut off the hand-crocheted lace to save for some future craft purpose.  And decided to take a picture for posterity:

Now, I know someone is going to question throwing these away.  But questioning that myself for years now is precisely the kind of thing that has stymied me from moving on with decluttering.  These look really sweet in the picture.  And in a sense, they are.  But some of the embroidery is seriously worn, and the cases are so badly yellowed and thin there's no way I'm going to use them again.  My husband's grandmother made these and the His and Hers cases were put on our pillows for when we returned from our honeymoon.  That memory is very sweet, but the pillowcases no longer are, so I've decided to record them here for their memory to be preserved in some way.  And then out they will go.

While I may work on the bedroom later today, my goal will be for each remaining day of  this "15-days to slow the spread", I'll pick a room and ask myself some form of the question, "If I were quarantined in this room for 14 days what would I truly grow sick of seeing?"  And then (hopefully) get rid of those things.  I'll try to take some daily photos of my progress.  

I don't know how successful I'll be every day, but I need to start somewhere.  Even if it's just a motivator to clean and organize stuff, I will count it a success.


Now!  Even though I'm a few minutes late, I'm going to go play the piano for a little while - along with Liz at Field and Fen who's going to be playing her recorders.  If you miss the invitation in time to join in at 3:00 pm, EDT, you can make music at any point, any day.  It's a lovely idea, and I'm hoping it also serves as a push to use this time to get back to piano playing somewhat regularly.

Back with an addition:  I told hubs I needed to play the piano and that other bloggers were being invited to join in making music at this time.   He came into the living room about mid-playing and looked around. I asked him, "what are you looking for?"   He said, " I was looking or the camera to see how you were recording this."   I asked him, "Why do you think I'd feel the need to record myself?"  To which he replied, "How will you prove you've done it?"  To which I then replied, "I don't have to prove I've done it - it's just a nice invitation to do something nice - for oneself - maybe for the universe.  

But since he planted the idea in my head, I went and got the camera, got it focused and asked him take a picture.  Of just my hands.  Goodness knows, I didn't need a picture of the whole of me!

So here's the proof.  Just for fun.

My playlist included:

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Lift Him Up
Bring All Your Needs to the Altar
Leave a Well in The Valley

Then finished off with some rusty renditions of:

Blue Moon
Do Not Forsake  Me (theme from High Noon)
  when I finished, hubs called out from the other room, "Gary Cooper!  High Noon!"  

Yes, that's a glimpse into my home on this (another rainy) Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

It's Spring!

Today is the first day of spring!  The Google graphic says it's so, but I didn't believe it - so, of course I had to google it. 😄 

Well... to be precise, at 11:50 pm, it will officially be spring.  

I don't know about you, but the first day of spring crept up and totally surprised me this year.  At first I thought it was starting this "15 days to slow the spread" this week that put my internal calendar out of whack.  Do you find yourself losing track of the days or even approximately where we are in the month?   Well, added to our present (somedays feeling like a suspended) reality, spring actually has come early this year.  If you've looked at the date and asked yourself if you can remember spring starting this early, the answer would be NO.  You can't remember, because it hasn't happened in your lifetime.  Spring hasn't come this early in 124 years!

Google it yourself and find out why.  At the Old Farmer's Almanac website I found more information than I could digest in one sitting, but something else stood out to me that I didn't know - that there are two first days of spring every year.  There is an astrological first day of spring and a meteorological first day of spring.  Did you know that?

For me, the first day of spring always seems like cause for celebrating.  Or at least recognition.  

It's a rainy day, with severe weather threatening, so it's not really suitable for a walk - which would be the obvious thing to do to ring in spring.  But I already had a plan.  On this first day of spring I've hung up a brand new spring wreath - a wreath that was ordered and delivered to me in February.  I've been waiting weeks for this!  And today I'm so happy to finally have it hanging on my front door.  

On this otherwise dreary, rainy day, in the midst of so many things shutting down over this nasty, scary virus, I'm thinking of this wreath as a symbol of hope.  There may be some frightening and surely sad days ahead for many people - related to the virus as well as other perilous things that happen on this earth.  But this uncertain time will pass, and new ones will come.  In them all I purpose to hold tight to faith in God who knows the number of all the white and graying hairs on my head (as well as what few dark ones I have left).

It's my prayer that each of us experiences today, this first day of spring, as a gift.  The gift of another day, but also a gift of hope.  I also pray that you are kept safe - from the present virus and from any other perils that may threaten.

Stay safe.  Stay well.  


Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, 
the evidence of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1