Soups Galore

A friend of mine hosts a Soup Swap twice a year. The rules are pretty simple.  You bring 6 quarts of soup, preferably frozen.   One at a time you tell the group what soup you brought and what’s in it. This is when you “sell” your soup: why did you made it, where you got the recipes, what add-ons you brought along (croutons, bacon bits, etc.)  Then you choose a number (there were 27 of us this time). When it’s your turn, you get to choose one of the soups.  We go from #1 to the end, then from the end back to #1 until all the soups are parceled out. To help with the process, there is the “Wall of Soup” where everyone’s soup is listed. Once all of a soup has been taken, that soup gets crossed out.

Of course there is also wine, appetizers and my friend always serves tomato soup over rice. If it’s your first time at a soup swap, you are a “soup virgin”.  One woman often has her mother make her soup.  Occasionally someone buys their soup and that’s part of their soup story. Everything is OK.

The first time I went to a soup swap, I was the only one who brought a vegetarian soup. I came home with 6 meat soups that I promptly gave away to neighbors and co-workers.  Most of the time there are a fair number of vegetarian options, but it’s the experience that draws me back.

This time I brought “Any Squash Shooters” and my add-on was a little cello bag with two shot glasses and a small packet of popcorn. I came home with Tomato Pesto, Creamy Butternut, Coconut Curry Squash, Tomato Red Lentil and 2 quarts of Vegetable Salsa Soup.  I’m already planning what to bring to the spring Soup Swap.

What soup would YOU like to bring to a swap?

Lest We Forget

I thought about my paternal grandfather this week leading up to November 11. In December, 1916, at the age of 19, my  grandfather enlisted in the US Army.  He was one of the younger offspring in a family of 12 children. His father had died two years before.  His next older brother, Albert, had enlisted in June, 1916 and was in the 136th Infantry.  (Albert was reportedly chasing Pancho Villa around the Southwest with General Pershing.)

Grandpa was sent to Fort Logan, CO and assigned to Company C, 4th Regiment of Engineers, and on April 30, 1918, he sailed for France on the Martha Washington. He was stationed in France on the Western Front, sometimes at the US camp at Allerey sur Saone.  He sent home postcard photos of the camp.  The header photo is of the Allerey camp, too.

Here is a photo of his unit. He is the second one from the left in the back row.

Grandpa was involved in the Second Battle of Aisne-Marne (Summer, 1918), the Battle of Mihiel (September, 1918), the Second Battle of Meuse-Argonne (Fall, 1918) and Alsace-Lorraine (November, 1918).  According to one source I read, The Engineers were in charge of repairing the devastation of the war to expedite troop movements such as surveying, bridge and road repair, constructing buildings, maintaining communication lines, removal of land mines and “booby” traps, digging trenches and constructing shell, gas and splinter-proof shelters, providing clean water and constructing or removing barbed wire. They also launched gas attacks, built hospitals, barracks, mess halls, stables, target ranges, and repaired miles of train tracks. Their extensive and time consuming duties left them little time for rifle practice and drills and they were not relied upon for frontline combat, but the success of the Allied forces depended upon the support of the Engineer Corps.

When he wasn’t digging trenches or building bridges, he was chasing women. He is the man on the left. I have no idea how this photo has survived for 100 years, and why my grandmother never threw it out!

Once Germany surrendered, the 4th was marched into the northern Rhine as an army of occupation. He was near the Mosel and sent this postcard home

He sailed back to the US on July 21, 1919, on the von Steuben, a German ship captured by the US.  He stayed in the army until June, 1920. He was a sergeant. He lived until 1980.

Grandpa had several studio portrait photos taken in France, and it is interesting to see how he changed over the course seven months.  Here are some early ones. He looks so young.

Here is a later one.

Oh, the questions I have after putting this together! I doubt I will ever get them answered.

How did the First World War impact your family?  After reading this, what questions would you have for my grandfather?




Paper Drive

This weekend’s post comes to us from Bill.
Photo Credit:  Ann Arbor District Library

Here’s a stream of consciousness for you:

Today I bought a roll of sisal twine to have on hand when I bundle tree trimmings or flattened cardboard boxes for recycling and I reflected that sisal twine always makes me think of paper drives. Remember paper drives? When I was in grade school and when I was in Boy Scouts, paper drives were a common way of earning money for extra-budgetary purchases. I especially remember the  school ones. We would each be given some lengths of twine and then, singly or in groups we would pull a wagon around the neighborhood asking neighbors, door to door, if they had any stacks of old newspapers we could have. There must have been a competitive aspect to it but I can’t remember specifically how it was set up. I don’t think it was individual; more likely it was grade against grade to see who could collect the most. I don’t recall a reward for winning either, other than the pride of coming in first. Paper drives have gone away because recycling has reduced the value of scrap paper and nobody has stacks of old newspapers lying around anyway.

It seems like there were a lot of fundraising schemes back then, most of which involved going door to door and trying to sell some commonplace item, like light bulbs, at an inflated price. An easy albeit unimaginative solution for some group of PTA parents to foist upon hapless students as a means to raise funds. Presumably, your native charm and powers of persuasion were supposed to compensate for the poor value of the transaction. Usually what happened is that your parents and grandparents ended up with a stockpile of off-brand light bulbs they had purchased at a non-competitive price. The only party to the scheme that made any real money was the company that supplied the fundraising products.

Door-to-door sales is almost extinct, it seems. Gone are the Fuller Brush men and I can’t remember the last time a kid came around trying to sell something. Although I imagine that would be considered child endangerment these days, most of us had some experience with that kind of commerce. I briefly considered trying to sell waterless cookware when I was in college. I had picked up the sample case and tried out my spiel on some female friends. I was so inept and so unconvincing that they were in helpless tears of hilarity before I finished. I returned the sample case the next day.

How about you? What did you sell?

Leaf Pile Loss

Today’s post comes to us from Crystal Bay.

Have you ever lost your cell phone? If so, you know what it feels like to lose all contact with the outside world. A friend installed an ap on my computer recently called “Find my iPhone”. All you have to do is open this feature and it’ll make the phone sound alarms. I mistakenly thought I’d be home free with this feature, but without my phone, I couldn’t read what my password was in my contact list!

Today, I completed five days of blowing leaves into three very large piles – 3′ high and 15′ wide. Lots of leaves . Somewhere in one of those huge piles, my cell phone fell out of my pocket. Panic set in at the prospect of digging through the gigantic piles to find it.

It then occurred to me to then email a whole bunch of people, hoping one of them was home, labeling the subject EMERGENCY, and asking him/her to call my number until I answered it.

Mary, thank God, started calling me as I waited outside in the hopes of hearing the ring. It was like the old game of “Hot or Cold”. I frantically tried to follow the ringing. It took a few minutes to find it but not before tearing apart much of the work I’d done.  Last winter, I dropped my cell phone in a 2’ deep snowfall and had to dig up a lot of snow to find it. That time, I walked out to the country road, flagged down a car, and asked the driver if he’d call my number until I found it in the snow. He kindly did this.

If I’ve learned anything, it’s to never have my phone on me when blowing or snowing.



Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Sometime yesterday between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. I lost my winter attitude! It was exactly the same temperature when I went to work as when I exited my building at the end of the day.  I had on the same clothes, wore the same jacket.  But on the way home and doing errands I was COLD.  I turned up the heater in the car, rubbed my hands together and even sat on my hands at one stoplight.  I’m afraid it’s going to be a long winter for me this year.

What’s your favorite way to keep warm?

Appliance Shopping

The electronic display on our range/oven is more on the fritz than off the fritz these days. Most days a good “thunk” to the side of the range will turn the clock/temperature display back on but with the holidays coming up, I thought it was about time to get it fixed.  Unfortunately one of the two broken parts isn’t made anymore and although we could send it in to try to have it rebuilt, but it would take 6-8 weeks and there is only a 70% chance of success.

So I took the day off; after voting and a nice breakfast out, YA and I started out for our hunt. As we drove to the first place on my list, a place that does refurbished  appliances, YA gave me her list of “requirements”.  She wanted stainless steel with a grill in the middle of the burners, electronic display separate from the light switch, a bigger drawer in the bottom; I lost track of her desires after that.  My list was shorter – gas, cheap.

My requirements were met within the first five minutes. YA spent quite a bit of time googling ranges at Home Depot and Warner Stellian before giving up and agreeing to the range I liked.  I know her idea of shopping was to hit several stores and mull over many alternatives before making a decision.  It’s hard for me to imagine a more horrible scenario for spending a day!  I do not have the shopping gene; she has it in spades!

Of course getting the old range disconnected and then the new range connected is going to take a while – Centerpoint Energy does not make it easy for you to buy an appliance that they don’t sell you. Looks like we’ll be thunking the side of the old range until after Thanksgiving but hopefully not into December!

Do you start your holiday shopping before Thanksgiving?


Today’s post comes to us from Crystal Bay.

A friend of mine sports a lovely bracelet with initialed charms of her grandchildren. I loved it, so I decided that I’d tell my kids that the most special gift they could give me is a bracket or necklace with my 12 grand kid’s names for Mother’s Day, my birthday, or Xmas. Years went by and this special gift never materialized.

Still wanting one, I decided that if I wanted this so badly, I’d have to make my own. I went on Google, ordered the charms, and bought a silver chain. I excitedly strung the initialed charms, in order of birth, onto the chain.

Hanging below the 12 charms is my “Survivor” pendant. I’ve worn it around my neck 24/7 ever since. The unexpected out play of giving myself this gift is that I find myself constantly rubbing the charms together. It makes me feel like my family is with me. 12 charms are a lot for one chain, so I put three charms on my three kids on an ankle bracelet.


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