It’s National Homemade Soup Day- Recipe!

I am a huge fan of soup. It is the first meal I made solo at the age of five. Yes, I was five- you can read all about it here. My mom made this soup frequently and she taught me how.

Soup comes in so many forms ranging from extremely difficult to super simple. What we called homemade soup is super simple. Because I only know how to make soup in a large quantity, I often freeze portions in quart size freezer bags. This soup reheats well making it a great option for daily lunches. This recipe is very flexible making a great way to repurpose leftovers such as pot roast or pinto beans.

Recipe for Homemade Soup

1 lb. of ground meat or ground turkey
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 medium potatoes peeled and chopped
2-3 cups of mixed veggies- any kind you like
1- 13 once can of stewed tomatoes
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp ground sage
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

In medium skillet, brown the ground met with the onions. 

In an  8 quart stock pot or Dutch oven (you can use a larger stock pot- then you don’t have to worry about over-filling) bring water and potatoes to a boil.  Add enough water to boil the potatoes, but not so much that you have to pour a lot off, because the water does have lots of nutrients in it.  If you are using fresh or frozen veggies, add them now.  Boil until the potatoes are fork tender.  Add the ground meat, stewed tomatoes  and veggies- if you are using canned or leftovers.  Add seasonings and more water or broth as needed to achieve the desired consistency.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes then let  cool a bit.  This soup is great with cornbread or crackers.

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What is a Home?

What is a home?

What makes a house a home?  That question may be slightly different for each family, but it is the family that is essential to the home.  The structure could burn down, but the home would survive in the family that took it with them to the new location.

Home is much more than bricks, wood, or mortgage payments.  It is atmosphere, memories, unspoken or unwritten rules, it is essential.  Think about what you remember about your home growing up- you may have concrete memories of activities but those memories are wrapped in emotions.  That is the crucial key- emotions, atmosphere, the spirit of the place.  Was it a loving home, a home filled with fear, a home filled with laughter?  If your home was not a happy one, the good news it that you get a second chance.  You did not get to choose the home your were born in to, but you do get to choose the home you have now.  Now, you get to make your house a home and choose what you want to fill it with- laughter, happiness, good food, warm aromas and certainly the Spirit and peace of God.

To help women understand and to encourage them to make their house a home has been a long time passion for me.  Not that I have all the answers or make no mistakes, but I was fortunate to have a full time mother in my home growing up and she taught me many invaluable lessons.  I took those and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit,  improved upon them and set out to create a home in which my children could hear God speak, could be safe and free to be themselves, and would make many happy memories to look back on when they left home.  Not every home has children in it. Children are not what makes a house a home; however, if they are in the home they become a huge focus for as long as they are in your care.  The most essential element in the making of a home is the marriage.  If the marriage is not healthy, the home will not be, either.

Beginning with the end in mind is probably my mantra. If you want a marriage that stood the test of time, you must begin that journey with the mind set necessary to last the journey. If you want your children to leave home with a certain skill set or mind set or both, you have to begin parenting them when they are toddlers with those attributes that you desire in mind.  So that is what I did, I sought God and what he had in mind for my children and that is where I began.  Now, my four kids are 21, 19, 13, & 11.  I am seeing the fruit of all of our hard work- my husband is most certainly very involved- and it is good.  So, I desire to share what worked for me, what did not, & the lessons I learned as we have been on this journey.

Today, I am updating this post as I turn it from a page to a post. I love what I wrote 6 years ago. Those four kids are now 27, 25, 21, & 19. Two are fantastic mothers and business owners, one is about to graduate and go on to law school and one is currently beginning boot camp to become a United States Marine. What I have written is standing the test of time.

I pray that you will find the information in the pages and articles helpful, informative, and inspiring and I also hope you will laugh at the funny parts!  Without a sense of humor- life, marriage, & parenting will eat you up and spit you out!

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A Recipe for Christmas Fun

Way back when when I was a Pampered Chef Lady, I earned a stoneware gingerbread house mold. My oldest two daughters, the only kids at that time, were 2 years old and 4 years old. That was the first year we made a gingerbread house. We have made one every year since- with the exception of last year.

This year was the first with the grands. The grands are 4, 3, and 2 years old. Their mamas, the two toddlers from the beginning of this story, are 27 and 25 years old. That is a lot of gingerbread houses! That is a lot of really great memories.

Traditions can be a tricky thing. There can be a lot of pressure to continue traditions handed down to you and they can feel like a yoke. Those same traditions can also make you feel grounded, like you know who you are and where you came from. I don’t want my kids to ever feel like the things we do every year are a yoke. If we outgrow certain things, I don’t want them to feel guilty that things needed to change. But, I also want them to have a thread to hang on to that runs all the way back through their history.

The gingerbread house is one of those. It is also my tradition. They can develop new things with their own children, but this gingerbread house mold and this tradition belongs to me and Tony. Mostly me, he was usually at the station when the house was made. My family that I grew up in never made a gingerbread house, we have lots of other traditions. So this is a “new” thing. If someone wants to carry on the gingerbread house when I am gone, that is fantastic. If they don’t want to, that is okay, too. I will have made all the memories that I am going to make by that point and it will be their turn to make the memories they want. But, they will be able to look back at this blog and see pictures and know who I was- at least a little bit. I think that is the best part of traditions- the imprint it makes on family history.

I have included the recipe for the gingerbread just in case you wanted to create a new tradition.

A LITTLE EXTRA FLOUR MAKES THIS DOUGH STURDY ENOUGH TO MAKE GINGERBREAD HOUSES, BUT ALSO WORKS GREAT FOR COOKIES. PLUS, THE SMELL OF GINGERBREAD BAKING IS DELIGHTFUL. (pamperedchef.com)

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups (750 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp (7 mL) ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) ground ginger
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) baking soda
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) salt
  • ¼ tsp (1 mL) ground cloves
  • ½ cup (125 mL) vegetable shortening
  • ½ cup (125 mL) sugar
  • ½ cup (125 mL) molasses
  • 1   egg

DIRECTIONS

  1. Whisk the flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, salt, and cloves together in a medium bowl.
  2. Use a hand mixer to beat the shortening and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Add the molasses and egg and beat until smooth.
  3. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until fully combined.
  4. Shape the dough into a ball and divide it into 2 portions. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill it for 30 minutes. Use the dough to make cookies with cookie cutters or press into mold.

Herbs: An Overview

When thinking of gardening, cooking, eating healthy, one cannot get away from the beauty and necessity of herbs.  Regardless of your goal- to grow healthy food for you and your family, to attract butterflies, to make your gardens beautiful or to simply delight your senses- herbs fit the bill.

For the most part, herbs are perennials and hardy.  Even in our erratic weather patterns in Texas, herbs have performed very well for me and have brought me much satisfaction and joy.  As with most fresh food, when you have tasted the flavors of fresh sage, thyme, rosemary and more- you can never go back to the herb dust you can purchase off the shelves in the supermarkets.  The taste is just so amazing.  And by fresh, I also mean the herbs harvested and dried by your own hands.

And just to clarify a few terms:

Herbaceous– means that a plant dies back to the ground in winter, but comes back each spring.  You can have plants that are not herbs but are herbaceous and Herbs that are not herbaceous!

Perennial– a plant that returns year after year, can be evergreen or herbaceous.

Below is a tip sheet that will help you get stated in the wonderful world of herbs.

Many more articles on particular herbs and gardening are located in the Herb Category and in the Organic Gardening Category.

basil in the crate

Herbs- From Garden to Table

What To Plant Where

A large majority of herbs are perennials and biennials, so they will be with you for quite a while when choosing herbs:

  1. Consider their origin- did they come from wooded areas, desert areas, wet areas etc. and group like plants together.
  2. Consider water requirements of each plant
  3. Consider growth habits: height, cold hardy, heat tolerant, upright or rambler, etc.
  4. Consider their function:
  • For culinary use- what and how do you cook
  • Attract pollinators or repel insects
  • Or just for looks
  • Medicinal

Each of these points will help you determine where in your garden to locate the plants.  Obviously, a water loving herb does not need to be planted with Rosemary and Lavender as these herbs prefer a very dry climate.  If you consider these aspects before you plant everyone will benefit.

What Herbs are good for our area of Texas

  • Thyme- creeping lemon*
  • Sage- Salvia Officinalis*
  • Italian Oregano*
  • Lavender- English and Fern Leaf*
  • Parsley
  • Citronella
  • Basil- all kinds
  • Aloe Vera
  • Lemon Balm*
  • Mints*
  • Salad Burnett *
  • Rosemary
  • Lemon Grass
  • Catnip
  • Stevia
  • Sweet Woodruff
  • Garlic (plant in September)
  • Roses

The list goes on as there are so many, but these will get you off to a good start!

*- good for planting in fall as they grow all year long

 Now To Table

  1. Use Fresh- simply snip and use- sprinkle chopped herbs in your dishes while cooking or on top as a garnish.
  2. Dried
  • Cut and tie in bundle (rubber bands work great!)
  • Hang to dry or dry in oven on low or a hot car
  • Grind and store- chop in blender, store in jars in a cool dark place like a pantry.

Herbed Oils or Vinegars-  place herbs in clean jar and cover with oil or vinegar and let steep for 3 weeks. Strain and store in a cool dark place.

Making Medicine At Home

herbal tincture

For a live video go to Hollyberry Herb Farm on Facebook

An Herbal Tincture is a method of preserving the medicinal attributes of an herb in such a way will allow you to use the herbs long after their season is gone.  As I have said before, the more herbs you eat, the healthier you will be.  However, at certain times of the year, certain herbs are not available.  So, by making tinctures you can use herbs all year round.  Typically, to make a tincture you steep the herb of choice in vodka or brandy for four to six weeks.  Once the herb matter is strained out and the liquid re-bottled, the tincture will keep indefinitely.

The essential oils and herbal essences are soluble in alcohol making alcohol a better solvent than vinegar for making tinctures.  Once the menstruum (plant material and solvent) has steeped, all the herbal goodness and health benefits of the herbs will be suspended and concentrated in the alcohol.  This concentration is why so little of the tincture is needed in an individual dose.

There are many combinations of herbs that can be used- select the herbs based on your needs.  Dandelion is an all around great herb with so many medicinal qualities.  I use this herb alone to make a tincture that is taken by anyone feeling “under the weather” to boost the immune system and ward off the colds and flues that tend to go around in the winter.

A small amount- 1/4 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon per day is all that is taken by adults around our house.  When the children were toddlers a few drops in their sippy cups helped battle the snotty noses and colds that came with childhood.

There are many resources on the internet for recipes and several good herbal books that give instruction as to preparation of tinctures.  I like to use Growing 101 Herbs That Heal, by Tammi Hartung.

A basic recipe is:

1 clean 1 pint glass jar with a fitting lid

Approx. 1 cup chopped fresh herb or 1/4 cup dried herb, coarsely chopped.

1 pint of brandy or vodka.

Place the chopped herb matter into the jar.

Creating an herbal tincture

Pour in Vodka or Brandi, let steep for 4-6 weeks, shake weekly, then strain.

herbal tinctures

Herbal tincture steeping and waiting to be strained.  Be certain to label with contents and date- the only way to be certain you will remember what is in the jar.

Once strained, pour liquid into a bottle and cap

There you go, it is that easy!

You can see me make a tincture on Facebook @ Hollyberry Herb Farm

This is what I use for my family.  Research for yourself and decide what is best for your family and yourself.  This is not meant as medical advice or to diagnose illness.

 

 

Celebration Day! 27 Years Strong

tony holly state park 2 2018

Today is our Anniversary!  27 years ago I made the best decision of my life!

As I sit here and think about what had transpired over these years, I am in awe.

There is a phrase I like to use about Tony when people are talking about marriage and so forth-

“Just as the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, Tony Ross is a faithful man.”

It is the plain truth.  A few months ago, I was on my balcony watching the sunrise and reflecting on the past two years (this has been the most difficult season of life we have ever walked) and I said to God, “Just as the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, you are a faithful God.”  It struck me then, I see God better because of the way my husband loves me.  THIS is what marriage was meant to be.

Big romantic gestures, long strings of words expressing his undying love are not his style.  He speaks love by his day in and day out small acts of kindness, grace, and faithfulness to me.

There have been those that have said Tony was too laid back for them or too boring. But here’s the thing- when the proverbial sh@# hits the fan- I don’t have to wonder where he is or what he will do.  I know- he will be by my side, leading the way, and telling me that it will all be okay.  Life is “exciting” enough, I’ll take a Mr. Steady over Mr. Excitement any day.

There are not adequate words to express what he means to me, to describe what 27 years of being one means, but I don’t want this day to go by without telling you how GRATEFUL I am at being Mrs. Tony Ross for 27 years!

Help For Reoccuring Ear Infections

As I mentioned in my previous post,  my second daughter had a terrible time as an infant and toddler with ear infections.  At that time, I knew nothing of alternative medicine or holistic healing so I did what the vast majority of mothers do- I took her to the pediatrician.  He, then did what most doctors do and prescribed an antibiotic.

This cycle began and continued to several years.  When there seemed to be no end to the infections, tubes in the ears started to be mentioned.  I was not excited about this because I had heard where it was just another cycle of treatments and surgeries that did not really fix anything.

Along came Dr. Tina Ingram.  She and I were friends at church and as all young mothers do we discussed what was going on in our children’s lives.  She knew of our struggle with ear infections and asked me to let her have a try at helping Savannah.  My infant daughter, Sierra, also had an ear infection at the same time so, Dr. Tina treated her as well.  Both girls had vertebrate in their necks that were out of line, pinching the Eustachian tubes preventing the ears from draining off excess fluid.

Notice the tube leads from the inner ear to the throat, this allows for drainage
Notice the tube leads from the inner ear to the throat, this allows for drainage

Sierra, the 3 month old, was a simple adjustment, she just celebrated her 15th birthday and has never had another ear infection.  Savannah was a bit more complicated.  As it turns out, she had a vertebrate wedged up under her scull.  Not only did she have ear infections but she was really clumsy.  She tripped a lot and lost her balance.  We would get tickled at her and then we parents felt like heels when we learned that her clumsiness was due to her legs being uneven because her vertebrate as under her skull- poor baby.  In case you are wondering, as I was, just how did the vertebrate get there?  Dr. Tina suspects it occurred while she was passing through the birth canal.  The bones are very soft at that time and as you might imagine, birthing involves a great deal of pressure.  When my fourth baby arrived, we made a bee line to Dr. Tina just to be certain that everything was inline.

After a series of visits, Dr. Tina had Savannah all straightened out.  Come to find out, Savannah is our most gifted athlete and rarely loses her balance.  The ear infections did reoccur for a time.  The heavy use of antibiotics had suppressed her immune system so it took time for her body to learn how to protect and heal itself again.  We began to use garlic oil as an antibiotic.  Given time, the infections ceased and tubes were not needed.  Her ears are still the weak link in her system, if she gets sick(which is rare) this is where it will show up- but with the right natural treatments she heals up.

As it turns out, we were not alone in the neck being the source of the ear infections- this is an excellent article:

Ear Infections (Ottis Media)

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, over five million children suffer from chronic ear infections, resulting in 30 million visits to doctors’ offices and over 10 million prescriptions of antibiotics each year. 50% of the antibiotics prescribed for preschoolers are for ear infections. Symptoms of ear infections may include mild discomfort, irritability, fever or severe pain. Almost half of all children will have at least one middle ear infection before they’re a year old, and two-thirds of them will have had at least one such infection by age three. Frequent ear infections are the second leading cause for surgery in children under two – right behind circumcision.

If you have little ones in your life, seek advice from a pediatric certified chiropractor in your area.  I believed that chiropractors were just for car accidents and bad backs- boy was I wrong.

DIY Keepsake Ornaments

DIY ornament

As I spoke about in a previous post, the children are given a new ornament each year.  I try to buy the ornaments while on our summer vacations, but to be honest that is hard to do sometimes.  If I was content with buying a mass produced ornament at a big box store it would be easy- but I am not.  I want ornaments that tie into our trip and experiences in some way.  Then I discovered clear glass ornaments at Hobby Lobby.  Now, I can use all the shells, sand, leaves, twigs, and such to create ornaments.

This years ornaments have a beach theme as our trip was to Galveston Island.

What you will need:

  • Clear glass ornaments from a craft store
  • Ribbon
  • Filling for the balls- sand, shells, drift wood, sea glass, etc.
  • Embellishments of you choice- I used metal letters, glitter and jingle bells
  • Modge Podge

Step 1, pour sand and add large items

Step 1: pour sand in the ornament

Step 2: place the larger items in the ball- I started with the drift wood.  As the pieces we brought home were large, I broke off small pieces that would fit.

Step 2, adding shells in the ornament

Step 3:  add shells & rocks- obviously not a lot of the shells will fit through the hole at the top, but you can collect enough to do the ornaments.  This is a good use for the pieces of sand dollars and mother of pearl that you find.

metal lettersStep 4: Prep the embellishments for the ornaments.  I am using metal letters I bought at a local flea market.

Applying modge podgeModge Podge makes a great medium for applying glitter to the letters.  Of course, shinny paint or any other form of paint would have worked.  I like bling.

Applying the glitterOn goes the glitter. Notice the brown paper covering my work surface- this is contractor paper from Lowe’s super useful stuff and really cheap.

putting ribbon on the glittered lettersStep 5- Add ribbon to glittered letters- once they have dried.

keepsake ornaments put togetherStep 6- put it all together.  I added a jingle bell with fishing line to the ornaments as well.  You can tuck the ribbon and fishing line into the hole of the ornament then press the metal hanger and cap back into place and this will hold it all together.

DIY ornamentThere you are- pretty as a picture and full of memories.  That is the way you make a home.

Ornaments, Tradition, & Tapestries

Mickey Mouse & 3 of his friends came from our trip to Disney World
Mickey Mouse & 3 of his friends came from our trip to Disney World

When Cheyenne was about 3, a wonderful lady shared about buying ornaments for her grandchildren to hang on the “cousins tree” in her house.  Each Christmas the cousins would all come over and were given a new ornament to go on the tree and would then decorate the tree with ornaments from years past.  I thought this was great and I changed it a bit to fit the season of life that I was currently in and still am as I do not have any grandchildren yet.

Each year I give the kids a new ornament which is the first ornaments to be hung on the tree.  Their ornaments are stored in a plastic shoe box labeled with their names.  The idea was that when they left home that these would be their ornaments to decorate their own trees.  Last year, the first box left home.  Honestly, this was more traumatic for me than when the child actually left home.  There are precious memories in those boxes.

In the beginning, I wanted a themed tree- you know color coordinated and just so.  So, I purchased ornaments that went with my theme, mainly mercury glass type ornaments in shiny colors.  But then one year when the kids were still very little, I had the idea to purchase the ornaments while on our summer vacation.  I was able to do this without the kids noticing as my husband is great at keeping the kids busy while I hunt ornaments. At Christmas, the vacation would have long been a memory but when the ornaments came out the memories came back. Being stealthy about the ornament buying worked for a few years, but the children being smart and observant started looking for ornaments for me while we would be shopping.  Then this became a new tradition.  Also, it dawned on me the year we went to Chincoteague Island that if I didn’t buy myself an ornament I was going to have a very empty and sad tree when the kids left home.

From the island of Chincoteague- the light house
From the island of Chincoteague- the light house

Now, each year when the boxes are relieved of their contents, we remember each trip and tell the stories one more time.  Some years, there weren’t vacations so the ornaments were chosen based on a significant event in our lives.  Like the year all the kids got into horses, I bought horse ornaments that looked like each kid’s horse.  It has become something we all treasure and enjoy.  My tree is not coordinated, but it is themed.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I often ask the kids about their friends houses at Christmas- I am a bit of a junkie and I like to gather new ideas- so often their response is “The tree is pretty, but not special like ours.”  It seems I set the bar high without even meaning to do so.

Hand blown glass ornament from Hot Springs, Arkansas
Hand blown glass ornament from Hot Springs, Arkansas

This is what traditions are to me- threads that run through the years tying us together and weaving the tapestry that when we look back, it is the tapestry of our lives.  As the mother, it is my honor to be the keeper and maker of these traditions.

Tony would always sing the rymn "little pig, little pig let me in" to the kids and one year I found a set of 3 pigs and one big bad wolf.
Tony would always sing the rhyme “little pig, little pig let me in” to the kids and one year I found a set of 3 pigs and one big bad wolf.

What says Christmas like a pink flamingo?  Brought back from one of the many tips to the coast.
What says Christmas like a pink flamingo? Brought back from one of the many trips to the coast.

This years ornaments were make by me with shells, sand and drift wood collected from Galveston Island.
This year’s ornaments were made by me with shells, sand and drift wood collected from Galveston Island.

Opening the 2013 ornaments
Opening the 2013 ornaments

Hanging the ornaments from their boxes, the three still left at home.
Hanging the ornaments from their boxes, the three still left at home.

Simple Beauty- Christmas Decorating on the Farm

I love Christmas time- I have a  desire to bake, cook, clean, decorate, and wrap gifts tied up with lots of ribbon that sparkles that I am just unable to suppress.  I do get some help from the kids, but mostly its just me and I love it.  Tony enjoys my creations, especially those emerging from the kitchen, but is also content to sit and watch.  Many wives gripe about their husbands not being involved but I don’t see it that way.  He loves what I do but its not his thing to decorate- plus, if he got involved and started having opinions then I would not get to do it my way uncontested.  I like doing things my way.  Therefore, we have a nice balance, I drape greenery and lights on everything that will stand still and then when the sun sets and our home is shimmers, we sit on the couch and he tells me, “It’s beautiful, baby.”  That makes my heart happy and we avoid silly fights.

So, as Thanksgiving came and went the bins of decorations came out.  I have collected many items over the years that I love.  I usually pick a few things up each year after Christmas has passed.  But the things I love most are vintage junk.  The junk ( more on the great junk in another post) plus Christmas photographs of my children when they were little make up the most treasured of our Christmas decor.  For a few weeks, I am once again surrounded by their little cherub faces and toothless smiles.  These framed photos are stored in the bins with the other lights and ornaments.  As the bins are emptied of the Christmas contents, I pack away all of my usual decor into the empty bins- giving me a clean slate on which to create.

Decorating for Christmas can get expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.  Simple white lights mixed with fresh greenery is beautiful and elegant.  Add in some cheap dollar store bead garland and you have a classy display.  The greenery can be obtained by a county drive with a pair of lopping shears.

Cheyenne and the greenery

Vintage ChritmasWhite lights and greenery mixed with a vintage tool box, glittered Merry Christmas and a ceramic Santa painted by my very talented Aunt.

Coca Cola Christmas TreeThe only artificial tree that I have in my house, this white tree with white lights holds all my Coca Cola ornaments that I have been collecting for over a decade now.  The Coca Cola Christmas village was given to me by my awesome mother-in-law.

China HutchThis china hutch has a mixture of tool, white lights and glittered Pine Cones– the pine cones are a really fun project to do with the kids.  We made our pine cones about 5 years ago.  Each year I store them in large zip lock bags and they have lasted really well.

Merry & BrightThis in an antique window that I painted an ornament on.  The ornament is patterned after my favorite Merry Brite ornaments that hung on my parents tree for years.  I love those old ornaments.  As you can see, I need to fix the white stripes.  I stored this window in the storage room in our barn, this summer the cow got inside and licked off a lot of the paint.  I repainted the dots, but wouldn’t you know it I am out of white paint.

vintage santaSince, before I was born ( I am 41) this Santa covered my great-grandmother’s front door.  After she died, my grandmother moved into her house, so I have spent every Christmas Eve in that home and so have my children.  One day, I was over at Grandmother’s house and she was going to throw out this Santa.  I said, “I will take that, thank you very much.”  Now, it has hung in my home for over a decade.  My children  do not remember a year when that wasn’t apart of our house.

I love making memories.  I look at is as my privilege to be the keeper of those memories as well as the creator of memories for my family.  My Christmas decor is filled with memories of the people I have loved, many of them are no longer with me.  In this way, they live on.  In years to come, I hope nieces and nephews, grand children and children will pull something out of a box or smell are familiar aroma from the kitchen and remember me fondly.