Mar 292015

Weekly Menu Plan May 2013

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Most people view the end of Winter as the end of Soup Season, but it does not have to be the case.  Though it is technically Spring, it is still cool outside and a warm meal is appreciated.  What is not always welcome is a heavy meal.  Soups come in a variety of textures and consistencies, from a heavier Beef Bourgiugnon to a lighter Red Lentil Dal.  Both can be eaten alone or with a side of bread.  When temperatures warm up, cold or cool soup can be eaten.

I recently was given the opportunity to review a new cookbook – The Soup Club: Feed Your Friends, Feed Your Family, Feed Yourself.  To call it a cookbook would not be completely honest, as it is more than that.  In The Soup Club a group of 4 friends (Courtney Allison, Tina Carr, Caroline Laskow, and Julie Peacock) share how they share meal making responsibility with each other once a week.  Not only do they share the practical steps of making a large meal and transporting it, but also they gathered several of their favorite meals.

“… four busy moms share not only their formula for starting a soup club–which gives you at least three meals every month when you don’t have to worry about dinner–but also 150 fantastic recipes for soups and sides and storing tips for stretching those meals across the week.”

Meal sharing is something a few of my friends have mentioned but none of us had ever done.  One of the things I was concerned about was how to deliver the meals, as well as what to do if there were differences in dietary preferences or restrictions.  I appreciated the part where they talked about how one of their friends is a vegetarian (page 20) and how the group handles it.  Actually, the whole of Part 1 is How To Be A Soup Club.  The topics covered vary from the amount of soup to make to how to actually deliver the soup and when.  I appreciated this layout, as this is a major part of making the club run smoothly.

Flexibility and a willingness to try something new seems to be a key ingredient for something like this to work.  I am assuming that anyone who is interested in meal sharing with their friend, though, already contains these traits. With 150 soup ideas to choose from, I am pretty sure you can find something that will work for everyone.

“The Soup Club began when four friends (who, between them, have four husbands and ten hungry kids and several jobs) realized that they didn’t actually have to cook at home every night to take pleasure in a home-cooked meal. They simply had to join forces and share meals, even if they weren’t actually eating them together. Caroline, Courtney, Julie, and Tina happen to be neighbors, but a soup club is for anyone: colleagues, a group of workout buddies, a book club. All you need are a few people who simply want to have more home-cooked food in their lives.”

Parts 2 & 3 cover All The Soups and Food For Fingers & Forks.  Every recipe in these two parts begins with a short paragraph from the lady sharing the recipe.  Some tell the history behind the recipe, while others give tips and ways it can be adjusted.  Each page contains a tip or comment about the recipe, the ingredients, or a story behind the food being made.

Not all the recipes contained are soups, as there are toppings and sides that accompany soups or need to be added after delivery.  These are the kind of recipes you will find in Part 3 of The Soup Club.

While looking through the recipes, I noticed some contained ingredients I had never heard of before.  The comments accompanying each recipe gave me some ideas of where to start looking.  This is where is it a good thing that Big Town is within driving distance.  If Small Town’s grocery store was the only option, I am not sure if many of these recipes would be feasible. You would likely have to look at some online grocery  sites to see if they were available to be shipped to you.

Sun Dried Tomato Soup


Upon receiving The Soup Club in the mail, I marked a few recipes to try. To help narrow down the search, I tried to choose ones from various parts of the book.  My husband nixed a few of the choices, but that left me with a lot of choices from which to plan.

If I had read the introduction before making the first recipe I would have found out that these friend already accounted for the fact that sometimes a recipe does not produce as much as it should. They did not want to put you in the potision of running short on a recipe.  However, I did not do that.  So, after reducing the meal to what I thought would make enough for our supper and an extra meal for the freezer, I actually had 2.5 – 3 meals for us.  :)  I do appreciate the fact that they make the servings more appropriately sized than many recipes I come across.

“Recipes include quick and easies, classics, twist on favorites, and dozens of flavor-rich new crowd pleasers:  

   * Carrot Coconut and Chicken Chili, 
   * Senegalese Peanut Soup 
   * Faux Ramen 
   * Red Lentil Curry Soup 
   * Potato Cheddar Soup 
   * Sun Dried Tomato Soup 
   * Jeweled Rice Salad 
   * Cheddar Cornbread, 
   * Summer Corn Hash 
   * Soy Simmered Chicken Wings”

In the end I thought this was a great book to help others along on their journey to food and meal sharing.  Whether it be for a group exchanging meals among their families, for someone who is sick, or a group gathering, I loved the tips and larger recipes for those times that involve more people than your average family. I would recommend it as a good starting spot for those looking to begin a meal sharing group.

carrot coconut soup

Looking through the recipes, one thing struck me – most of these meals are ones that my extended family would give a wide girth rather than trying.  See, I grew up in an area where trying new things means adding something beyond salt and pepper to your food. My husband can guess within a dish as to what will be served at our family holiday gatherings. :)  Do not misunderstand, I love some of the dishes and the history that goes with them.  There are others I love because they are “old fashioned”, like Burgoo.  My husband still talks of his first taste of that dish and never not with kind words.  Of course, he is the one who eats Marmite on toast, so I only take his opinions on food so far.  :)  I did share with him that one of the recipes in this book contains Marmite.  His ears pricked up at that comment.

My point in mentioning this is that this is not a recipe book for everyone, especially my Grandmother and most aunts. I am not sure exactly how I came out of this group with a willingness to try and experiment with new foods.For those who may not be looking to start a meal sharing group but are wanting it mainly as a recipe book, this is a great collection of recipes that may give you a new take on a recipe. (We loved the addition of dried tomatoes to the tomato soup recipe in Sun Dried Tomato Soup.)

If you want to check out more about The Soup Club: Feed Your Friends, Feed Your Family, Feed Yourself online, here is their website.  For now, I am going to do some more browsing to add meals to next week’s menu.

*quotes taken from the summary found in The Soup Club Cookbook.


  1. Danish (brought by guests) and eggs
  2. Cereal
  3. Chocolate Chip Monkey Muffins (made into a loaf)
  4. Green Tomato Bread
  5. Shakes
  6. Eggs, salami and cheese sandwiches
  7. Pancakes, bacon


  1. Shakes
  2. Meatballs, gravy, rice, peas
  3. Tangy Black Bean Soup
  4. Salad
  5. Red Lentil Dal
  6. Leftovers
  7. Beef Bourguingnon, bread


  1. Pitch-in/Potluck at church
  2. Chicken Enchiladas, rice
  3. Minute Steak, rice, beets
  4. Falafel, rice, side salad
  5. Salad
  6. Bree’s Lentil-Tomato Soup
  7. Veggie and Cilantro Hummus Sandwiches, chips

With family in visiting, my husband still gone and the potential for attachment behaviors showing up (after a week of my husband being gone for a week) I decided to not go to church in Big Town.  This also meant we did not go out to eat at our normal location.  After my family left, the kids were all set for an t.v. marathon.  I agreed and so we all proceeded to decompress with very low energy activities.  That included not cooking lunch.  Shake anyone?

This week’s menu has more than sandwiches, shakes and spaghetti on it, which is what last week ended up consisting of for the most part.  Last week also involved a very messy project that I do not plan on repeating anytime soon.  Let’s just say that all sanding will be taking place outside from now on, not in the kitchen.  Besides milk and eggs, any grocery shopping I did last week was to take advantage of meat and clearance section sales.  I will need to pick up a few things like lettuce and milk this week, otherwise I have everything.  I enjoy weeks like this.

For the month, I will be under my goal for my monthly spending in this area! It may be only under by $5 or so, but it is under rather than $100 over.  :)

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

Linked up with OrgJunkieTheModestMomThis Week For Dinner MommyRunFas.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


Mar 282015

For those who are in an area still under snow, in the messy transition I call The Mud Month, or who need something to help them get to their Happy Place, I though I would share a few recent things I have read from across the web.  These are items that I thought were interesting, taught me something, or are things I would like to try.

Speaking of Happy Place:

Bonni L. Grant talks about – Antidepressant Microbes In Soil: How Dirt Makes You Happy - After reading the article I summed it up for my husband, then suggested I just roll the boys in dirt every day to help with their moods.  He laughed but then said, “Um, no.”  Jack overheard and thought it was a GREAT idea.  As I am more okay with them being dirty, with actual dirt, I foresee the summer being one where they are ‘tan’ from dirt during the day and sparkling white at night.  Would we be able to eliminate sunscreen if we did this?


Roeshel, at DIY Show Off, has a tutorial for a Free Standing Pallet Herb Garden.  With extra pallets around the yard right now and a deck that gets either full or partial shade, I know a project that will be happening soon.  Even if I did not already have the pallets around, I have heard of a source of free pallets in Big Town that I could stop by and obtain some from.  If the shad garden ever gets finished started, I will also already have landscaping fabric to use.  Perfect timing.

It also seems like something Jack could help with.  I am looking for a few things I can get Jack and George interested in making and potentially selling.  This seems like something they could handle, with help.

Jessica, at 104 Homestead, has some Low Cost & No Cost Trellis Ideas.  I love trellises, though am never sure where to put them.  As I think around my hard I realize there are a few places that these could be use – a corner where our phone line comes in underground, in front of our air conditioner, in front of some ugly basement windows, etc.

DIY Adirondack chairs

This (sorta) Old Life has a DIY Adirondack Chair Tutorial, giving 8 steps to show you how to make the chair.  I know it may jinx me to say this, but this project seems like you could make a set of chairs, or a few more, in one day.  Not sure if you were going to paint and stain, that would take longer, but I think they would at least be constructed.

Tomatoes in quart containers

IFAS researchers produce three new tomato breeds.  It only took about $25 Million and 25-years.  These are not even the finished varieties that we will see, once they come out.  I appreciate all the work that went into this, but wonder what prompted the need.  For that kind of money, I would think it was more than getting a better tasting tomato.

The United States is not the only place where new hybrids are being introduced.  Kenyan farmers will benefit from “New tomato breeds released for outdoors and greenhouses.”  The price and time frame for these hybrids being created and reproduced was not noted.  What was shared were the advantages of each.  For farmers who may already be struggling, these new characteristics will be very helpful.”{The Tyika} gives an extra 2 to 3 months of harvest compared to Anna F1. It is also more resistant to yellow leaf curl and mosaic viruses, grey leaf spot, root rot and nematodes.” and “In addition, “it’s sweeter and less acidic,” adds Soren Vester of Sygenta East Africa the company that released the breeds, and Tylka F1’s fruit size can weigh 130 grams compared to the weight of an Anna F1 fruit that reaches 120 grams.”

Mar 272015

DIY project collage


In case you missed it, here is Part 1 of this adventure.

Around the New Year I switched from doing laundry at home to going to the local laundry mat.  It meant taking the clothes there and paying for it, but there was the benefit of having all the laundry done for the week in about a 2 hour time span.  However, this was getting old really fast.  I was looking forward to warmer weather and getting back to doing my laundry at home.

A few weeks ago, when the weather warmed back up above freezing for a few days, I went to do a load of laundry. What I found puzzled me – there was water inside the drum.  I drained the water and completed that first load.

It was nice to get clothes cleaned without having to load everything up in the car along with the kids.  What was not nice, but answered the question of water inside the drum, was the flow of water streaming down the back of the washer cabinet.  I finished that load of laundry, then went to do a bit of searching for the water leak.

I tightened the water hoses on the inlet valve.  No luck.

I looked closer as the water was slowly turned on.  That is when I saw the crack in the inlet valve, past where the water hose was connected.  {sigh}

water inlet valve washer


I did not want to have to pay $70 plus parts for a service call.  What to do?  The same thing I did when looking to fix the broken door handles on my car – look online for a parts manual to figure out the part and order it.  There were several screws around the back.  I assumed I would be able to remove the back panel and install the parts.

I was having trouble finding what I was looking for, resulting in frustration.  That is exactly what I was not looking to find.

Okay, Plan B – online customer service from the manufacturer.  The cause for the leak was likely not covered by the warranty, but maybe they could help.  Live Chat online customer service works a lot better for me than calling on the phone.  Usually the kids do not know when I am ‘talking’ with someone, so they tend to not interrupt.  Even if they do, the person on the other end does not know it.  It also seems to progress faster than if I were to call by phone.

While talking to CS, I inquired as about if the work was covered under the warranty.  To find out, I would have had to call a technician to come do the work.  I chose not to take the $70 gamble and proceeded on to fix it myself.  Not only did customer service give me a link for the manual, but also a source for parts.

After looking up the part number that was to be replaced, I came across several different videos showing how to actually replace the part.  It was much simpler than I thought, requiring only a screw driver and a wrench or pliers.

Jack came over to watch the video with me, pausing his playing with George because, “When Mom repairs the washer you will be at school and I will be here, so I will need to know how to help her.”  :)

In the end I opted to order the part from a 3rd part source, thereby saving me $20.  Shipping was to take several days, but actually ended up being overnight.

True to his word, when it came time to work on the washer, Jack stopped his playing and came out to the garage to help.  Not only did he help, but he recited step by step what I needed to do to replace the part.

working on washer inlet valve collage

Once we got the part out, I let Jack play with the old part while I installed the new one.  And, yes, the washer was unplugged from the electrical outlet.  Before I gave him the old part, though, I took a closer look at the crack.  It was much more extensive than I thought AND it had cracked through the connection for the inlet hose.  I think the part ended up braking off during removal, but it must have been cracked enough beforehand to actually fall off without too much effort.

washer inlet valve crack collage

With the part replaced, I grabbed the laundry basket most needing to be washed and, with glee, set about doing my first load of laundry at home in a long time.  I had forgotten how much this little act really is a luxury and not a right.

While doing my second load I saw water running across the garage floor.  Really?! What now?  I went inside and had chocolate.  :)

That night I thought about the water and what could be the source.  Once I realized there were soap suds in the water stream, I knew exactly where it came from – the drain hose.  Seems it was leaking on both ends.  :)  After running a few quick Spin & Drain cycles, I realized it was leaking from the point where the hose attached to the washer.  Then I realized the problem was the lack of a clamp to hold the hose in place.  No wonder it was leaking.  I also figured that this was the source of water from before the other leak.  It happened every so often, but I could never find where it was coming from.  $1.50 and a clamp later, problem solved.

In the end, by doing this repair myself I saved:

  • $140 on a service call and a return visit to install the broken piece
  • $20 by buying the part from a 3rd party, rather than the manufacturer
  • $70 by avoiding a service call for the extra leak

I went into this knowing that I knew nothing about washing machine repair, nor exactly where to look to find the information. After asking a few questions and looking up information online, I was able to learn from other people’s knowledge.  Not only did I learn, but Jack now has a beginning understanding of how to fix something or find the information on how to fix it.  I count that as a win on several fronts.



Mar 252015
DIY: Washing Machine Repair, Part 1

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Mar 222015
Living Without An Oven - Meal Plan, March 22, 2015

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Mar 202015
Spring 2015

Flowers are appearing. The birds have started singing before sunrise again. The daylight lasts past supper time. Some days I can leave the house without a coat. The mud outside is no longer frozen.  :) The pile of coffee grounds and filters I dumped on the garden beds is no longer frozen in a large [...]

Mar 182015
How To Save $25 On Gardening Each Month With Swagbucks

(This post contains Swagbucks affiliate links.) The snow has melted in my part of the country.  The ground is beginning to thaw out and we have entered The Mud Stage.  You know, the one where the sun lures you outside with promises of gardening and warmth.  You then become trapped by either sticky mud or [...]