The 2023 January Collection
: a fancy lunch menu, mysteries & memoirs, and the case for fuzzy blankets :
Welcome to more new subscribers this week! Tsjakka B., Christy W., gala.bell, oumaa.hass, Mindsplinter, Emily ML, and Molly K.—I hope you enjoy the community here as much as the posts. Be sure to join the conversation in the comments where you’ll always find varied perspectives.
We’ve made it to the first “Collection” post of 2023. If you’re not familiar, some of my favorite posts from others are collections of what they’re discovering, so I’ve curated a few of my own for you. The whats may change as I evolve in this venture, but I’d like to always share things that are important to me. Check out past collections if you missed them:
THE SEPTEMBER COLLECTION - broccoli melts, babka, and Arkansas artists
THE OCTOBER COLLECTION - a dinner fail, everyday people, and one really gorgeous notebook
THE NOVEMBER COLLECTION - a dose of courage, two dentists on wheels, and a guest is baking
THE DECEMBER COLLECTION - a return to Italy, 580 handwritten letters, and walking a mile in someone else's shoes
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Feel free to jump around to different sections.
WHAT I’M COOKING
WHAT I’M READING
WHAT I’M NOTICING
What I’m Cooking
Our little bungalow had more than its usual number of bellies to feed during the last month, which made this mama’s heart full. When you’re raising kids, the “What’s for dinner?” refrain gets tiresome, but then one day you find your table set for only two. It was a joy and a privilege to have most of my adult kids home, raiding my fridge, asking, “What do you have to eat?”
Inspired by our extremely cold temps, I cooked a big pot of chili and loaded potato soup the day before they arrived.Not Christmas food, but I find it’s good to have some untraditional fare on hand. Breakfasts included bacon, fruit, and French toast casserole, a last-minute attempt to circumvent standing at the stove cooking French toast in batches. The end result was just okay, so if you've got a tried-and-true recipe, don't keep it to yourself!
This week I whipped up a somewhat fancy lunch for a local women’s club meeting, and I’m definitely okay with sharing my menu and notes.
Jalapeño Sweet Potato Soup
A couple of years ago Mike and I toured Homestead Heritage in Waco, Texas, and had lunch at their restaurant—Cafe Homestead (which I’ve just learned burned to the ground on December 23, 2022. Such a loss!). I fell in love with their jalapeño sweet potato soup and created my own version as soon as I got home.
For this week’s luncheon, I cut the jalapenos and brine in half. Use the full measure if you like spice. I may experiment with fresh jalapeños in the future, but pickled ones are just so easy!
5-6 slices bacon, diced
3 tsp garlic, minced
4 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
8 c. chicken broth
1 tsp cumin
1/4 c. pickled jalapeños, chopped
2 Tbsp pickled jalapeño brine
1 1/2 c. whole milk
Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven. Remove from grease, drain, and reserve for topping.
Sauté garlic in the bacon grease until fragrant. Add sweet potatoes, chicken broth, jalapeños, juice, & cumin. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 30-40 minutes until potatoes are tender.
Purée with a stick blender. Add milk, stir, and taste. Add salt as needed (I didn’t measure but probably used 1/2 to 3/4 tsp).
Serve topped with a dollop of Greek yogurt, bacon pieces, and green onions or cilantro.
Pear Walnut Salad
Simple spring mix tossed in Girard’s Champagne Dressing with sliced pears and walnuts.Top with gorgonzola crumbles.
Chicken Parisien Sandwich
If you’ve ever been to La Madeleine and had their Chicken Parisien, try this copycat recipe! I omitted the lettuce and tomato and served on a softer croissant, but don’t skip the roasted garlic mayo. I served a side of fresh berries with the sandwich.
Let’s be clear: I do not have many sweet recipes in my repertoire, which is strange since I love all the desserts. I definitely do not make bread pudding. In fact, I never met a bread pudding that I would try until Mike got this recipe 15+ years ago. Bread pudding is my better half’s specialty. For a while, there was some panic each time he made it because we couldn’t remember where we put the recipe—is it in that drawer? the recipe binder? Finally, one day I snapped a photo and stored it in Evernote so we’d never lose it again, and now you can have it, too. It’s a little grainy—smartphone megapixels were amateurish back then.
Lemon Bars with Shortbread Crust
I follow this recipe exactly and if you love lemony goodness, do try this one. It’s super easy!
What I’m Reading
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned some books I had read or was reading, one of which was an Agatha Christie novel.commented that she was sorry I wasn't blown away by Christie (Jillian's post on Agatha Christie's notes was what prompted me to finally try one of her mysteries), which sparked a great thread that included the lovely :
I am happy to say that I’m well into Murder on the Orient Express and am enjoying it so much more than And Then There Were None. I think Rebecca hit the nail on the head—I just needed a protagonist! If you’ve read any Agatha Christie books, let me know if you liked them and which were your favorites.
After finishing McCurdy’s book in just two days, I was reminded of a period when I was on a memoir kick, consuming stories like:
Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited by Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
Coming Clean: A Memoir by Kimberly Rae Miller
Truth is stranger than fiction, and McCurdy pulls you in from the start.For years she lived in a situation she thought was normal until one day her eyes were opened—and that day came well into adulthood. That’s a common theme in many of the other titles I listed, and I’m amazed that the authors endured such trauma from their own parents.
Perhaps I’m fascinated with these stories because I have a family member—I’ll call her Jane—who went through something similar as a child and teen. I suspected Jane’s stepmother was not treating her fairly, but it was only when I created an email account for her and had a trusted person at her school give her the credentials that I finally learned of the terrible things Jane had gone through. She began emailing me and chatting with me in her computer class each day for over a year, sharing details that are still difficult for me when I recall them. Luckily, we were able to free Jane from the abuser when she was 16, but the scars are still there.
Why have McCurdy and others shared these difficult stories? As part of their healing, perhaps? Maybe to help others who have gone through similar experiences? Or could their tellings be an attempt at vindication? Regardless, I was all in with this one. Mike read it after I was finished, and he couldn’t put it down either.
You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better. - Anne Lamott
I read this daily devotional in 2021 and have come back to it this year. So many people complicate Christianity, but Bob Goff gives 365 practical ways Christ-followers can live out what the Bible tells us. It’s not complicated. Love God. Love others.
What I’m Noticing
I want to crawl into bed at 7 p.m. every night, and (confession) some nights I do. What is wrong with me?! At first, I thought it might be that I’m just so in love with this Sophie Faux Fur Throw Blanket that my nearly-daughter-in-law gifted me for Christmas. It’s luxurious, slightly weighted, and unlike anything I would have ever chosen for myself, and it beckons me when I walk into the bedroom. It’s like a friendly polar bear (the kind you don’t have to feed) that wants to hang out with me. I’m not trying to sell you anything—I’m just making sure you understand how awesome this thing is and where you can purchase a maintenance-free polar bear for yourself.
After reading an enlightening post by, I realize that desire to go to bed early is about so much more than a fuzzy blanket. She wrote:
It’s okay if the “new year” doesn’t feel like the “new year” to you.
This is something I have felt for a long, long time and only recently felt able to verbalize. January is a terrible month to treat like the new anything. It’s still dark, cold, and dismal. My body knows that it’s still winter. The last thing she wants (or needs, to be fair) is a juice cleanse and a new workout routine.
Instead, my body and brain crave to be treated like a hibernating animal: still resting. Still focusing on surviving the dark. I am soft and sleepy. Tasks require persuasion, work feels like an uphill climb.
How often do you read something and think, How did she know just how I feel??? This is why we tell our stories and put our words on the page—because somewhere out there, someone is reading those words and thinking, I’m not alone in feeling this!
I’ve had one false start after another in the last couple of weeks, and S.E.’s words remind me that’s okay. Just because it’s January doesn’t mean I’ve gotten this magical power-up to 100%.
No matter what the calendar says, it’s still winter.
Consider this, as you walk through these first days and weeks of a “new year”: this is not automatically the time to embark on new things just because businesses and social media influencers say so. Your body is still in survival mode, no matter how much you try to convince it otherwise.
2023 may have begun 14 days ago, but it’s an extension of what wound down in December. I might need a few more weeks to get my new year underway, and that’s okay.
How about you? Are you still hibernating? Or did you hit the ground running on January 1?
You may recall my meltdown over that canceled grocery order and the blessing of the extra potatoes:
Adapted from https://www.food.com/amp/recipe/jalapeno-sweet-potato-soup-41934
We were once carded when purchasing Girard’s Champagne Dressing. I assure you, there is no alcohol in it.
Who originally said this? It’s a mashup of quotes from several people, according to this article: https://quoteinvestigator.com/2015/07/15/truth-stranger/
Please read the entire, wonderful post: