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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Italian Sausage and Veggie Soup

Hi There!

There is a crispness in the air that can only be attributed to the approach of THE BEST season in Ohio: autumn.  The sky is bright blue, there is football on almost every night, and my belly is craving comfort foods.

How 'bout you?  Are you craving soup, pasta, gravy?  I can't seem to get enough soup with its hot steamy goodness.  I WANT IT ALL TO MYSELF!  However, my mother's voice in my head says I must share, so share I will.  

This recipe was originally from Rachael Ray, but I changed a few things to suit my family's tastes.  It is so hearty, good and good for you.  It is high in fiber and antioxidants so eat up!

Italian Sausage and Veggie Soup

1 Pound Hot or Mild Italian Sausage (Remove from casing)
2-3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 Large Onion, peeled and chopped
Handful of Shredded Carrots (I use per-packaged matchstick carrots)
2 Ribs of Celery, chopped
1 Medium-Large Potato, peeled and chopped
1-2 Bay Leaves ( I usually use 2)
1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme or a couple sprigs of fresh
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Rosemary or a sprig of fresh
1/4 Cup Dry White Wine
2 Quarts Chicken Stock
1 Cup Lentils
1 Bunch Kale, cleaned, stemmed, and chopped
Salt and Pepper
Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley for Garnish

Add olive oil to preheated pan; brown and crumble the sausage.  Add onion, carrots, celery, potato and herbs to the pan and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for about 10 minutes.

Add wine, stock, and lentils to sausage and veggies and cook for about 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender.  Before serving, wilt in the kale.  (I think half a bunch of kale is more than enough).  

If you are trying to cut fat and calories from your diet, I  suggest using Johnsonville pork and chicken sausages.  They have 50% less fat and the taste is no different.  Who needs added fat to clog our arteries and take up residence on
 I hope you enjoy this soup if you try it.  Make it a great week!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Yesterday, I shared my trip to the National September 11 Memorial in New York City.  I shared photos of the pools and some of the artifacts from the attacks along with my personal and emotional experience, but I left something pretty significant out of my description of the memorial.   

All but one of the trees planted throughout the memorial are swamp white oaks.  Amidst this wooded area stands a Callery pear tree known as the Survivor Tree. 

This pear tree was originally planted in the 1970s on the World Trade Center plaza near the WTC-4 and WTC-5 buildings.  Weeks after the 9/11 attacks, it was discovered amid the destruction at Ground Zero.  All that was left was an eight-foot charred stump with snapped roots. 

It was taken to a Bronx park and nursed back to health by the New York City Parks and Recreation Department.  It grew to be 30 feet tall, sprouted new branches and began flowering in springtime. 

As if this tree hadn’t been through enough, in March 2010, it was uprooted by severe storms.  Again, the New York City Parks and Recreation Department came to its rescue and it survived.  It was returned to the WTC site in December 2010 and stands just west of the south pool. Today it is supported by temporary guide wires as it takes root.  As I touched its branches, I felt a great sense of peace and belief for a brighter future.      
BJ and me at the Survivor Tree
This wonderful little tree represents the resiliency of those who survived the attacks, the determination of those who helped rebuild this site and the hope of God’s promise for a better tomorrow. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Time to Heal

Tuesday marks the eleventh anniversary of the savage and senseless murders of 2,983 innocent men, women, and children from more than 90 nations in New York City, Washington DC and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  It was the day that time stood still as we were all in shock at what unfolded on TV and for many, in their own neighborhoods.   
Photo by CNN
Although we must never forget the horror of that day and how our sense of security was shaken, today I want to talk about healing.
Photo by Squared Design Lab
In July, we visited New York City and the National September 11 Memorial, which honors those who fell prey to evil in all three cities on September 11, 2001, as well as those who died as the result of the February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

First, we entered a small building where we picked up our tickets.  The building also houses some relics from the World Trade Center and offers memorabilia for purchase. 
This fiberglass replica of Lady Liberty stood outside an FDNY fire station and was adorned by tributes including a pair of United Airline wings.
These two displays honor the volunteers and the police officers who rushed to the site to rescue survivors and recover victims.

From this temporary museum, we moved on to visit the memorial.  After extensive security screening, and weaving back and forth through a maze, the path opens up to the memorial itself.
At first glance, it appears to be a simple inner city park...until I walked a little further to find the South Pool.  The memorial includes two pools that serve as footprints of the Twin Towers that once stood here.  
Although I expected this to be a solemn experience, nothing prepared me for the rush of emotions I experienced as tears streamed down my cheeks.  There is a palpable energy, on these hallowed grounds, greater than anything I have ever known.  
As I ran my hand over the names engraved on the memorial, like Vernon Paul Cherry and Ssu-Hui Wen, I thought about those who felt that jumping from a skyscraper window was a better alternative than what they were experiencing in those burning buildings.  These were people who were trying to make a living to support their families; who loved and were loved; who were just like you and me.

After spending some time reflecting on what was and what will be, we visited a second temporary museum.  There was a moving video and more relics from the Towers displayed.  

On exhibit, is a firefighter's helmet covered in dust and debris from the Towers and a man's very personal effects, which included his wallet, ID, and wedding band.   

Please take a moment this week to remember those who were murdered, assaulted, or left to mourn loved ones eleven years ago.  If you pass upon a police officer or firefighter, thank them for doing what they do best: serve and protect.
My heroes: Lt. BJ Gruber and Firefighter Jason Gruber



Sunday, September 9, 2012

Under Construction

I am having some serious formatting issues.  I can't seem to find a template that fits.  I've never had issues with Cutest Blog on the Block, but it is giving me fits today.  


Please excuse the dust.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Gone Hunting

Several Saturdays ago I drug my tired body out of bed relatively early and went hunting.  

Not for lions…tigers…or even bears….

On this beautiful summer morning, I went on an expedition to find barns.  Not just any barn.  You can keep the shiny new high tech barns of the modern farmer.  I find myself in a blossoming love affair with old, weather-worn barns.  

So after a healthy (ahem) breakfast at McDonalds, off I went into rural Marion and Delaware Counties of Ohio in search of these treasures.  

I was not disappointed.  Feast your eyes on some of the beauties found.

I almost missed this gem hidden deep behind some foliage.

And this little one is my favorite.  I pass it each day on my way to and from work.  I think it has so much character. 

Recently I came across a beauty in eastern Marion County that I am eager to photograph, if I can just find it again.  Hopefully, I will be able to share that with you very soon.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Glad to be Here

Hi there!

How’s the weather in your neck of the woods?  We are in the midst of a record breaking heat wave with heat indices well into the hundreds.  

I’m not complaining, however, because there are thousands of people in Central Ohio without power.  They have been without power since June 29 when much of the state was hit with severe thunderstorms packing winds in excess of 70 mph.

During the storm, I was driving home from work on the winding tree-lined route I normally take. There were times when I could barely see two-three feet in front of the car.  I was afraid to pull over due to the high winds.  I didn’t want to risk having a tree fall on me.  Cautiously, I crept along hoping for a respite from the winds as they were rocking my car significantly.

As the rain let up, I was able to see 20-30 feet ahead of me and I increased my speed slightly.  

There’s a lot of leaves down ahead….Sh*t!  That’s a tree!

I slammed on my breaks, the car slid sideways and I braced myself for an impact.  


I side-swiped the tree and ended up in the yard of a farmhouse.  Just then, my cell phone rang.  Shaking uncontrollably, I answered it.  The phone went dead.  The caller ID showed that it was Jordan so I tried to call him back.  It went straight to voicemail so I left him a message.  

Should I get out and assess the damage?

Lightening struck nearby and I decided to see if I could back away from the tree and onto the road.  Success.

There are headlights coming toward me.  I hope they see the tree.  

I flashed my lights at the oncoming truck and they stopped.  

Go home!  You can assess the damage at home after the storm.  

I turned around and made my way home.  Every so often I would have to change directions due to downed trees and power lines.  

Jordan tried several more times to contact me and Ashlee sent me a text asking me to let them know I was OK.  She said the storm was crazy and they were freaking out about me being out on the road.  Jordan finally tried calling me from a land line and was able to reach me.    

During 14 years of commuting, I’ve had many nerve-wrecking drives due to snow, ice, fog, near misses with deer and cows, but this is the first time I was SCARED that I may not make it to my destination alive.  

The fury of Mother Nature amazes me.  Once I was safely home and the storms had passed, we assessed the damage to the neighborhood and my car.
We've had this steel flagpole for years.  Mother Nature sheered it off like it was a twig.

This old tree was topped off by the strong winds.
The siding on our garage was bent and pulled away from the structure.
The end of our street was blocked from a fallen tree.
This huge tree at the church down the street was split into three.
Have you had any severe weather or power outages in your area?