Day #46: Condensed Soups

Our path for healthier eating has the signpost “one change at a time.” Here’s one change we’ve managed. A part of our cooking repertoire is the hot dish (casseroles for non-Minnesotans). Many of them use the red-and-white labeled “cream of” canned soup. High in sodium, containing many ingredients we don’t want to ingest, we’ve tried to figure out how to make recipes without them. It’s hard to imagine Thanksgiving without a green bean casserole. We’ve made the dish from scratch, cutting up mushrooms and breading and frying our own shallots, but it wasn’t quite the same. We are grateful that our research turned up this basic recipe (a roux) with natural ingredients that mix up in four minutes and equal, and improve on, the condensed soups. I think you’ll be surprised by how much better your hot dish recipes taste.

green bean casserole

Day #45: Maud Hart Lovelace

Gratitude Journal Day #45: Maud Hart Lovelace wrote the Betsy-Tacy series and Emily of Deep Valley, books I read over and over again after my elementary school librarian placed them in my hands. But Maud also wrote historical fiction for adults, sometimes with her husband Delos W. Lovelace. They are based on research at the Minnesota Historical Society. I find them fascinating … a wondrous connection to the past. Of writing with her husband, Maud wrote, “As was usual in our collaborations, I did the research and Delos did most of the plotting. We shared the writing… amicably, too.” I am grateful to the people and publishers who are dedicated to making these books available many decades after they were written.

Day #43: The New Yorker

Here at The New Yorker by Brendan Gill was one of my best book finds in 1975. This delicious history was a page-turner for me. It began my collection of books about the magazine as well as books by regular contributors to The New Yorker.  In 1995, when Genius in Disguise: Harold Ross of The New Yorker, written by Thomas Kunkel, was released, I couldn’t put it down. The Years with Ross by James Thurber (1959) is told from another viewpoint, equally fascinating. Writing this has helped me realize I need to re-read these books! I am grateful to Harold Ross for crafting a magazine that has sharpened the minds of generations of readers. Today, I read their articles daily online, thankful for the journalism that keeps me informed about the world.

Here at The New Yorker

Day #42: TV Role Models

As a latch-key kid from 1965-1972, I had TV as a companion. Coming home after school, and while my mom worked overtime, I had the TV on while I did my homework and read books beyond my school assignments. There were three women in particular who inspired me during those years. I am grateful to Nichelle Nichols, Diahann Carroll, and Sally Fields for portraying women who increased my confidence.

Nichelle Nichols, Diahann Caroll, Sally Fields

As Lt. Uhura, Nichelle Nichols worked on the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise, responding quickly and competently to communications challenges. I loved that she worked with languages. Following my reading of A Wrinkle in Time, even my mother forbidding me to watch Star Trek (who knows why?) couldn’t keep me from traveling through space. Uhura was the woman who helped me understand what a woman could do as a professional.

Diahann Carroll portrayed Julia Baker, a nurse and mother who, like my mother, had lost her husband and was raising her child alone. She did so with grace and good humor. At a time when most families in my school and church had two parents and often more than one child, it was important to me to see these fictional lives as happy and normal.

And Sally Fields as Gidget? Well, she was the intrepid, clever, and well-dressed teen I wanted to be. I loved her sparkle and her sense of humor. When we moved to California for a year, she inspired me to try surfing … once.

I suspect we all have these role models. Who were yours?

Day #41: Dusters

Something practical for a Wednesday. Some years ago, a friend gave me a Swiffer duster and the dusting heads that went with it. (I know. This was one of those dubious gifts that makes you wonder all kinds of things.) After a couple of months, I used them because they were there And I found that I liked the ability to extend the plastic wand and reach out of the way places. Particularly when one is dusting a myriad of bookshelves, the floppy, dust-collecting fingers of the dusting heads were impressive. Yet it bothered me no end that this was a consumable, destined for the waste bin, and replete with chemicals. I am grateful that, with a bit of research, I found Eartherella flannel dusters (they call them fleece, but I don’t believe they are, and fleece is a petroleum product while flannel is not). They are washable, over and over again. (You could make them yourself if you have a sewing machine, but I like supporting innovative thinking.) We are hanging onto the plastic wand because throwing it away would put it into the trash stream and I don’t think this will ever wear out. You might like to give them a try.


Day #39: Themes

I’m grateful that nineteen years ago, Steven Palmquist, Vicki Semsch, and I decided we didn’t like making resolutions. Instead, we chose a theme for our personal year, one word or a phrase that we wanted to shape the coming months. This year, my word is “motion.” It holds meaning for me on many levels. I think the best themes do that. Last year, my theme was “joy.” I kept bringing my focus back to that inspiration throughout the year … it was a good choice. How about you? What is your theme for the coming year?


Day #38: Conversation

Last night, as friends gathered around the table for dinner, I observed as people took turns listening, questioning, and conversing. Laughter, glistening tears, congratulations, surprise, and caring. I realized how grateful I am for conversation, face to face, no digital intrusion, no miles or pixels between us. It’s an emotional high that’s nearly impossible to replicate in any other way. Let’s sit down together soon and exchange news, thoughts, ideas, and our love for each other.

Day #37: Library of Congress

This photo is the background for my computer screen. You may recognize it as the main reading room at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. For me, it represents my dreams, goals, and ambitions. Reality and fantasy. Truth and fiction. The infinite possibility of discovery. I am grateful to the people who established this place that safeguards our knowledge and to those who carry on that mission. Do you follow them on Facebook? Something wonderful to behold each and every day.

Library of Congress main reading room