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Monday, April 18, 2011


We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.”
~Frederick Koenig~
This past weekend was gray and blustery, we even had snow!  It was a good time to putter in the kitchen and just enjoy the coziness of our little cottage.  I also watched a lot of TV.  A lot of people eschew TV but I think it offers a good insight into the national psyche.  What I noticed is that  most of the shows promote excess.  The brides on Say Yes to the Dress buy wedding dresses that cost as much as a down payment on a house.  On the Food Channel, there's no such thing as a simple meal, everything must be an exotic concoction of flavors and textures, plated for visual appeal.  Over on good ole HGTV, house hunters are searching for houses that have closets larger than my bedroom. And a kitchen without granite countertops might as well be bulldozed, as it's a worthless as a tar paper shack.    What I want to know is this;  when did we become a nation of want-ers?

Contentment with what we have seems to be an idea that has become passe.  Oh I understand that it is human nature to aspire to have a better life, but when does it become too much?.  Really is the bride that buys her wedding dress from J.C. Penney's, less happy than the bride that spends her life savings on a bedazzled, meringue  of a dress?  Could those homeowners be just as content in a home that doesn't have a separate room for crafting and good old Formica countertops?  Wouldn't a simple meal of soup and homemade bread been just as satisfying as pan-seared prawns with a reduction of watermelon and jalapenos?

It's this wanting and envy that often lead people down the slippery path of indebtedness.  My husband makes a very good six-digit salary and I know what we can afford.  So I have to wonder how people that are making the national average for salaries, which is around $40,000, could even entertain spending tens of thousands of dollars on weddings,  or how they could   hope to pay for homes that cost in the upper hundred thousands.  Why is it so difficult for some to realize that there are some things that you simply cannot afford?  

I hate to sound like an old fuddy-duddy, but I do remember a time when people rarely used credit.  If you wanted something, you saved for it until you could afford it. If everyone did this, they'd be surprised at how little they can truly afford.  We thought a nice house was a house that had a garage and carpeting.  And when it came time to buy a house, you skrimped and saved for a down payment.  No one would ever have dreamed of a mortgage that you never paid on the principle.  If you couldn't afford the down payment, you rented a nice little house.    Each spring and fall, we took stock of our wardrobe and carefully selected items to fill in the empty spots.  We didn't need to worry about walk-in closets because we only had about five daily outfits, something nice to wear to church and one formal (sometimes passed down from an older sister). And you know what?  Clothes shopping was fun back then.  Each article of clothing was debated and selected with care with the assistance of a clerk,  no shoving something in the shopping cart back then.  I don't remember even hearing the word "plating" when I was growing up.  If you wanted to impress a guest with your meal, you'd serve a nice roast beef with mashed potatoes and brown gravy.  It looked good on the plate to us!

My wish for all of you is that you can be as content as I was with my meal of Sunday Supper Soup, a roll and a slice of Spanish Bar Cake ,sitting in a chair that was purchased at a thrift store and lovingly refinished by my dear husband in my little cottage of contentment.

Sunday Supper Soup

1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1 egg
3 Tbsp. water
1/2 C. bread crumbs
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
2 Tbsp. butter

Combine all ingredients except the butter.  shape into meatballs and brown in the butter in a Dutch oven.  Remove the meatballs. Drain the grease.Make the soup:
2 C. water
1 can (10 1/2 oz.) beef broth
1 can (38 oz.) tomatoes, undrained
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
1 C. sliced carrots
1/4 C. celery tops, chopped
1/4 C. parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp. each pepper, oregano, and basil

Combine the soup ingredients.  Bring to a boil,  Cover and reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add the meatballs, simmer an additional 20 minutes. To make this vegan, I used pre-made vegetarian meatballs, vegetable broth and dried onions instead of the soup mix.  A splash of Worcestershire sauce and mesquite seasoning  gives it a smoky flavor in lieu of the browned meat.

Spanish Bar Cake

2 C. water
1 C. raisins
1/2 C. shortening
2 C. flour
1 C. sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/2 C. chopped nuts

Cook raisins in the water over medium heat.  Stir in the shortening, until shortening is melted.  Remove from the heat. Cool.  Combine the dry ingredients.  Add to the raisin mixture, blending well.  Stir in the egg.  Fold in the nuts.  Pour into a greased 8 inch square pan.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 35 minutes.

It's important that you ice this cake with a thick layer of white buttercream frosting, or it won't taste like those delicious ones you used to be able to buy at the A&P!


  1. Those recipes look so good Jane! I am definitely going to try them next week. Tony will love the cake, he has a real sweet tooth. There is such a air of "entitlement" today. An expectation and anticipation for material possessions, almost as if it a birth right. On these "bridal shows" you often seen young women with the attitude that they deserve only the best.

    I wonder if perhaps they have been told all their life that they were "special" for all the wrong reasons. It truly breaks my heart to see how discontented and helpless people are today, how unprepared they are to meet the real challenges of life. The idea of starting slow and earning and working toward a goal is becoming a foreign concept.

    Those of us who can still remember need to continue to lead and teach by our example. I sure do appreciate your post, you expressed it so very well. I hope you enjoy a lovely evening in your cottage! Delisa :)

  2. Wonderful post- people are so concerned with material goods these days it often gets in the way of real life. I grew up in a simple little home, with homeamde simple meals, and handsewn clothing well into grade school. I think not being bogged down by stuff improves imagination in children.

    My wedding dress was very simple, I put in on layaway at the Emporium, and when I picked it up, I found it was on sale at quite a discount, and ended up paying under $50.00. I was a happy pretty bride, this August we will celebrate 17 years of marriage- I have always been happy that we had a simple wedding, it set the tone for our marriage. How aweful to start out in debt.

    Very inspiring post. Thanks- April

  3. Hi Delisa! It's not just the younger generation that feels this way, I know plenty of people from my generation that buy on credit because they want it now and are never content with what they have.

    Morning April! I think people are so concerned about material goods because they are trying to fill a void that's there from the lack of a strong faith. I have you beat on the cost of my wedding dress. It only cost $15! I bought it at a store that was going out of business. It wasn't an actual wedding dress, but an ivory Gunny Sax dress. We had a simple wedding at a church and a reception in my parent's back yard. I think we didn't spend more than $500 (1978 prices)for the entire affair. We'll be married 33 year in July.

  4. Both your soup and your bars sound so good - especially with the light snowfall we are now "enjoying" in Minnesota!!

    Your thoughts on our nation's excessive spending habits were right on the mark. It's amazing how many people go so far overboard because of the mindset - "I deserve it!"

  5. Hi Sandy! It's been snowing off and on over here too. Boy! Winter just doesn't want to go away this year!

  6. Winter is hanging on for sure Jane -your soup sounds wonderful today. I have to keep myself in check too about things I want -hate to get a case of the I wants!

  7. Hi Vickie! It's easy to get a case of the "I wants" after being shut inside so long. Guess it's just an offshoot of boredom. In the summer I'm so busy I never have time to think about things like a new davenport or pair of shoes!

  8. Dear Jane,

    Another lovely post; thanks for sharing your wisdom with us!

    I hope spring is finding you now; I thought we would lose our tomatoes the other night, but it only got down to 37 (whew!).



  9. Good Morning Marqueta! Glad your tomatoes made it through the cold. I was just outside checking my asparagus bed. No sign of life yet. I think everything is going to be late this year. Hopefully, I'll be able to plant my peas and parsnips tomorrow. Have a joyous Easter!