Wednesday, January 26, 2011

In the Kitchen with Kate

We've gotten more snow so we're making more soup. Actually...
 Kate is making the soup. 
She will be making "Stuffed Spud Soup" from that good ole Just A Matter of Thyme Cookbook. This is the easiest of recipes and I keep the ingredients in good supply so that I've got a "go to" soup for surprise snow days like today.
Six ingredients are all you need. Frozen hash browns, butter, onion, cream of chicken soup, milk, and cheddar cheese. Six ingredients and a five-year-old and you've got it made...literally.  
Let's begin at the very beginning. First saute 1/2 cup of a chopped onion in the stick of butter in a soup pot.  Next, pop open 1 can of cream of chicken soup...

After the soup...
...add four cups of milk.  Then
wipe up the mess.
Next...the frozen hash browns. 
The recipe says to use "thawed" hash browns, but I've found that when you add them to the hot milk they thaw rather quickly, so I rarely "pre-thaw" them. After pouring in the hash browns...
...add the "escapees" to the soup pot and...
...hand-off the shredded cheddar to your little sister so that she'll feel like she played a vital role in feeding her family.
After 1 cup of cheese has been added, taste to see if any salt is necessary and add some pepper.  Stir soup until it is well heated but please be careful not to let it burn on the bottom. I hear it can be a real mess and that it ruins the entire pot of soup.  
That's it. Easy as that. Job done, the chef has left the kitchen!

She did come back to enjoy her masterpiece...

Note: If you really want your family to "rise up and call you blessed" you could add some cooked and crumbled bacon to each bowl before serving or perhaps some chives.  I was already feeling blessed because I didn't have to cook dinner, so we skipped the extras! Enjoy!

~Recipe follows~

2 lbs. frozen hash browns
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 (10 oz.) ounce can cream of chicken soup
4 cups milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, more for garnish
bacon, chives (optional garnish)

Monday, January 24, 2011

I'm a Bit Nervous About This Book...

For a long while I've been following a very interesting, very touching, very challenging blog called A Holy Experience. It is written lovingly and humbly by Ann Voskamp. And what a writer she is! This dear woman can craft a sentence that will take you on journey after journey into her heart, the heart of our Father, and into your very own heart.  The photos on the blog are breathtaking and awe inspiring, pointing you to the Creator, Himself.  

Ann introduces herself and her blog like this:
"I’m Ann Voskamp, a plain Ann without even the fanciful “e”,
wife to The Farmer,  mama to six,
determined laundress,  chief bottle washer, desperate Grace-clinger.
In the dark hours, I pray more and write. 
This place is about finding the beauty and quiet,
slowing to see the sacred in the chaos, the Cross in the clothespin, the flame in the bush
Just to listen – laundry, liturgy, life, — holy ground. 
A holy experience — because all of life flames with God.
Honestly, I’m a bit of a mess. It’s okay, really. Grace is the most amazing of all. I had a full-tuition scholarship to university and never finished. I married a Farmer instead & came home to gravel road & cornfields. I had babies. Half a dozen beautiful babies. My laundry basket is never empty. I lose library books. I homeschool our six exuberant kids and most days I feel just a tad bit overwhelmed and very crazy. When the kids and the washing machine sleep, I wash my real dirt down with words and The Word."

I look to this blog often for encouragement as a mom, as a wife, as a home-educator, and as a fellow Christ-follower who struggles on her own journey now and then.  The beautiful music that plays in the background as you visit A Holy Experience is a favorite of Megan's. "I just love the calm sound of it," she tells me as I'm reading.

While much of what I read and experience as a result of visiting the site is calming and encouraging, I did read a blog there that troubled my "getting ready for Christmas" heart last month and I turned away from it. I do stuff like that. I don't read books that will tug at my heart, if a movie might make me cry I'm not watching it. I've attempted to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" upon the recommendation of an awesome friend who even loaned it to me for encouragement, but when it took a poignant turn I bailed. I'm such a wimp! Gimme a predictable Disney ending! Don't make me sad, there's enough in real life that's sad and must be dealt with, why expose my heart to someone else's pain that I have no way to fix?

I clicked away from A Holy Experience that day knowing that the next day there would be something new and fresh and hopefully less troubling to me.  I was correct, and the next day the beauty was back. Ann Voskamp and I have since continued our virtual relationship (me reading anonymously and her writing beautifully).

Last week, on January 17, Ann's book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are was released.  I had been eagerly awaiting this date for a few months and, though I'd already decided that this was a book that I wanted to hold in my hands and read (as opposed to reading it on my Nook), I quickly downloaded the free first chapter excerpt onto my Nook.  I began reading and then I stopped...again. Would you believe that the first chapter of the book WAS THE VERY blog post that had bothered me so a few weeks earlier? So, away I clicked...again.  I was bummed.

Then I got a text message from my youngest sis a few days later saying that she was in chapter three of the book (that I had told her about) and that she was loving it.  Stinker. I don't like difficult books, BUT I WILL NOT BE OUT READ! So I ordered the book.
 "Have you watched the video about it?" she texted. No, I had not, so I did. It's wonderful...

AND a Christian community of women called (in)courage is hosting an online book club with this book as the selection.  The book club is called Bloom and you can join up too if you like. Click {here} to go to the Bloom website. Though, I'm still not sure about this book, the reviews are using words like "life changing", "will change the way you see the world","the sort of book you dog-ear and re-read for the sheer joy of cherishing the words and experiencing the depth of the heart that wrote it." My sis says, "loving it! It takes some energy to digest but has a big impact."  It is climbing up the best seller charts this weekend and is #12 on's list of best sellers.

I've asked my middle sister, Becky to join me in the book club. She actually belongs to a real life book club, (and does karate, and bakes beautiful cakes, and knits, and is making my dining room and bathroom, she was before I posted this picture of her anyway...) and is quite a level-headed kind of gal, so I'm eager to hear her thoughts on this book too.
 (I've got a post brewing about her...)

My copy should arrive Monday or Tuesday from
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
It is also available on the Kindle and the Nook. So here's to a bit of discomfort to stretch me and maybe you too? Happy reading and growing!  ~Gretchen

{Drop a note to me in the comments or email me at if you decide to read One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are too, I'd enjoy your company very much.}

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Our Retreat

Five inches of snow...
  Ten fingers intertwined...
Four boots trudging
  Side by side or in a line...
One short walk in wonder...
  A little bit of peace...
One cozy home awaiting...
   Our return from our retreat.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Snow's in the Forecast...Got Soup?

Freezing rain, snow and ice have been mentioned in the forecast for the next few days which causes me to begin assembling ingredients for soup post haste! At The Wright Place we live on soup during the winter - it's in our line-up at least twice a week beginning in December and ending sometime in March.  One of our favorites comes from one of my coziest  cookbooks, written by the same authors who brought us those apple muffins a while back.

The cookbook is called Just a Matter of Thyme...
and it's simply adorable!

Today, we will be cooking... Man's most requested soup, Chicken Soup Au Gratin (sans celery).
(Complete ingredient list follows post.)

First, grab your best soup pot and some chicken breasts.
The recipe calls for "two chicken breasts, whole".  I, however, never have "two chicken breasts, whole" (meaning, I think, chicken breasts which come bone-in and skin on), so I use three or four of those frozen jobs from the humongous bag in my freezer.  It all works.  Salt the water lightly and simmer the chicken until tender.  Remove the chicken from the broth and dice.

Now, to the broth add...
...chopped carrots.  
The recipe calls for 1/2 cup, but I usually add more. We all love carrots. The recipe also calls for 1/2 cup diced celery. I completely ignore that line, I'm not a fan of celery. Next, add 1/2 cup chopped onion. I pull mine from the freezer where I keep lots of snack-sized zip-top bags with 1/2 cup each of chopped onions. 
 I put them straight from the freezer into the pot, in a matter of 2 minutes or so they are defrosted and cooking.
Boil the vegetables until tender.  Gradually stir in 1 10 oz. can of cream of chicken soup and 
1/2 cup of milk or Half 'n' Half (I use 1% milk).
Next, put the diced chicken back into the soup, and season with pepper.
Finally, the best part...
...grated cheddar cheese. Be generous, you won't be sorry.
Heat through, stirring until the cheese melts.
Get your soup bowls and enjoy!
As written, the recipe serves four. 
I usually triple it and this family of six can make it last for at least two meals.
Ingredients for 4 servings:
2 chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup diced celery (if you must)
1 (10 oz.) can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup milk or Half 'n' Half
ground pepper
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Bunny

Hi! Molly Joy here,  
all bundled up to go play in the snow for the very first time. 
(To tell ya the truth, I NEVER thought Mom was gonna quit putting clothes on me. I've got on 92 layers including my flannel embarrassing! She even put my feet into zipper baggies inside of my shoes to keep them warm she I'm sure she's crazy!)

Last year, you will remember, Mom made me watch the big kids from the window.
 I didn't think it fair at the time but didn't have the vocabulary, as yet, to communicate my innermost feelings on the matter.

Com'on let's head to the back yard, I think that's where the big kids are...

 They're just behind this gate...I can hear them!

 Good thing Colten (that's what I call him, 
everybody else calls him Cole) wath out here, 
'cause my Mom wath NO help AT ALL!

 There's Kate, I can always count on her for some adventure...

Oh now THAT looks fun!!

I wanna sled like Colten!

Ok, sit down like this and...and...and nothin!

"Cole, can you help me?? I wanna go fatht like you!"

"Oh my goodneth, did you see me in mid-air? I wath blurry like Colten!"

"Sure, Molly, you looked the original flying Walinda!" 
(Mom says it's important to keep up her self-confidence!!)

After my big sledding adventure, we went for a walk...

Then Mom lined us up for one of those loony photo shoots where she attempts to get a good picture of ALL of us kids.  I mean really, what are the odds on THAT? Slim to none, I'm telling you, she just keeps trying though.  We really try hard to look nice, she does feed us and all...

"Thorry, didn't know you meant look NOW. I wath thinking about dinner. Lemme try again..."

"What do you mean Kate wath thticking out her tongue?"
Here we go again...

"Oopth, thorry once more! I was just wondering why 
Kate wath thticking out her tongue a minute ago...I'll do better for this next attempt."

"Hey look close, I think I did it...was Kate doing this?..."
"Hey Colten! Did you know you can catch snowflakes on your tongue if you stick it out while Mom isth trying to take our picture? Pretty cool, huh?"

"Lookths like we finally sent her to the moon! What a lift off!"

Thankth for coming out to play with me I had a blast! 
(Seems like Mom did too!)

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