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As Texas plunged into single digits with multiple days of a windchill below freezing, millions found themselves stranded with no power or water. Living along the Gulf Coast we have weathered hurricanes and endured power outages for much longer periods, but somehow this seemed different. Maybe for those of us close to the shoreline it was the unusual sight of snow we experienced as opposed to the natural disasters we usually face that arrive with rain, wind, and sweltering heat.

Our son and daughter (in law) were finally able to take a long-overdue honeymoon to St. Lucia in December. Cecelia interned one summer for a travel agent so naturally called the company to book their trip. What an incredible experience they had, and I was reminded WHY using a travel agent is worth the expense. Fees range depending on the service, but most charge between $300-350 to plan a vacation somewhere in the Caribbean Islands. 

Q: I will be a new mom soon, and I have been preparing for life “after” a newborn. There is a lot of information on raising babies, and how dads can support mom, but I cannot find much on how moms can support dads. A lot of my mental preparation has been around my marriage. Specific questions: How do I preserve my marriage? How do we embrace the changes? How do I maintain my husband as a priority when we have a tiny human demanding everything? How can I help my husband bond with our new child?

Want to set your children up for success? Then look no further than the habits of successful people you know, whether that be in the corporate world, media, or within your own circle of friends. Experts agree that there are certain common traits all successful people possess. This is great news because it means we can emulate those leaders that have come before us. 

How can you tell if someone will be successful? When I was in high school, they still had a category for a graduating senior titled: Voted Most Likely to Succeed. How, at 18-years-old, could classmates look at someone and say, “Yeah, I think they will be the most successful person in our graduating class.”

Many of us grew up learning multitasking was a hallmark of a productive person. While sounding good in theory, this practice has proven to be incorrect. Studies now reveal that multitasking is nothing more than switching back and forth between tasks and it lowers our productivity. Below are 5 points that deal with the facts behind project hopping and the lack of performance that occurs when we allow seemingly innocuous interruptions to occur in daily life.

The way my husband structures his day is different from how I organize mine, but there is one thing we both do. We start with a morning routine. I make coffee, read the news while eating my breakfast, and then dive into an hour of bible study. Once I finish, I pull out my journal and plan my day. About 2 years ago I discovered an organizational method that resonated with me.

Remember as children, during holidays, we would spend what seemed like hours creating homemade craft projects for our parents? It might be a paper Christmas snowflake sprinkled with glitter or a cutout heart for Valentine’s Day. We would address it: To: Mom or To: Dad. We would sign our name, and this become the gift we gave our parents. The act of giving is how we should view all letters, especially a thank you note. We may not be cutting out cute hearts, but when we take time to put pen to paper and share a little of ourselves with someone else, we are giving a part of our heart to another.  

People give to make you feel loved and remembered. Sometimes gifts are given out of obligation, but mostly they are presented to honor a special relationship or occasion. No matter the reason, we need to know how to show our appreciation. Here are my 7 tips to become a gracious gift receiver.  

Table manners seem to be the area in which I receive most of my questions, but it is introductions that have people the most baffled. After I explain the correct way to conduct an introduction, I often get that starry-eyed stare that tells me, “I really don’t understand what you just said.” To help all of us, I have broken down the process into a simple format. Before I proceed, let me say this. Do not let a lack of confidence in handling an introduction keep you from DOING an introduction.

I recently bumped into a friend at the store, and as we began talking, she expressed how she struggles with the holidays. When January rolls around, she feels like she somehow “missed out.” I understand this feeling because I, too, have often felt this way. Life was so busy with the preparation of celebration, that I missed the joy that awaited each of us this time of year.

Have you ever seen someone walk into a party that looked scared to death, unsure of themselves, and then watched them slink off to an obscure corner? Their body language screaming, “I wish I was anywhere but here!” Entering a room full of people that you do not know can be intimidating. I get that. Yet, your entrance is important in displaying overall confidence and portraying a strong image.

Giving a party, of any type, requires a great deal of work. If you have been fortunate enough to be included in a festive soiree, it is nice to arrive with a gift for the hostess. The typical present will cost between $15-$30, but there are less expensive things you can find at the local discount store.

  • Cecelia Zook

White Bean and Mushroom Soup Taste Test

Updated: Jul 10, 2020


Happy Foodie Friday! This recipe review and taste test comes courtesy of Penny and Eleazar Martinez.

www.thefrankincensetree.com

info@thefrankincensetree.com


Each of our Taste Test Reviews comes with the original recipe and the tester's notes/changes listed with the ingredient list in blue. We hope you enjoy!


What a fun time I had making the White Bean and Mushroom Soup! It was incredibly easy to make and an absolutely delicious starter to a wonderful meal. I made one minor change to the recipe by substituting 3 teaspoons of garlic powder with 4 cloves of garlic. I added the cloves to the cooking sheet still in the shell which we removed prior to adding them in the blender along with the other veggies. Being a longtime lover of mushroom soup, I was shocked to see that this was a completely clean meal. It is gluten and dairy-free and can be made vegetarian or vegan by swapping chicken broth with vegetable broth. It was a very filling soup, so I would recommend having smaller servings. I decided to garnish the soup with fresh parsley, but the soup is so versatile that you could top it with anything like avocado, a dollop of sour cream, or, if you're adventurous, jalapeños. I can't wait to serve this soup at my next gathering! 


Additionally, I have no clue where that stick of butter came from in the ingredient picture. Butter is my most used ingredient so I usually just have it always lying around when I cook. I guess it was just natural for me to put it in an ingredient picture. That should show you how shocked I was that there was no butter included and I always thought there had been - that's how good it is!



White Bean and Mushroom Soup
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Makes 6 Servings

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Cost: $15, but I used my own fresh herbs. If I purchased fresh thyme and sage, it would be around $23.


Ingredients:

1 pound mushrooms, halved or quartered

2 large sweet onions, quartered

3 cloves of garlic (I like garlic so I put 4 cloves)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons pepper, divided

8-10 fresh sage leaves

8-10 stems + 1 tablespoon leaves fresh thyme, divided

48 ounces chicken broth (vegetable broth can be substituted for a vegetarian version)

45 ounces canned white beans, not drained (cannellini beans)

Additional salt and pepper for seasoning


Preparation:

Preheat oven to 450F.

Arrange mushrooms, garlic and onion separately in single layer on large baking sheet.

Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.

Toss to coat, keeping mushrooms separate from garlic and onions. Add sage leaves and stems of thyme on top of the mushrooms.

Roast at 450F in oven for 10 minutes.

Toss and roast for additional 15 minutes.

While vegetables are roasting, add broth, beans, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves to a large stock pot and simmer over medium heat, about 5 minutes.

When vegetables are done roasting, let cool slightly.

Retrieve 2 cups of the white beans and 1 cup of broth from the stock pot. Add to a blender along with the roasted onions, garlic and herbs.

Cover and blend until smooth.


Notes:

There were about 2 cups of broth and 1 cup of beans left over after taking out some broth and beans to blend with the veggies. The recipe doesn't say what to do with what's left in the pot, so I decided to use this in another meal for dinner tonight!


I learned that some soup recipes have you add the puree back to the extra broth. This wasn't clear in the recipe, so I'm not sure if that's what I was supposed to do. Looking back, I think that's what the recipe wanted me to do.


Recipe and Taste Tester - Cecelia Zook

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