Top 10 Things You’ll Reconsider Once You’ve Become a “Kitten Mom”

Phoebe June is a delight. We adopted her on December 7th. Later that evening, I saw via Joanna Gaines on Instagram that on that same day, Chip surprised the family with a new kitten! For a moment, I questioned whether I should change Phoebe June’s name to Magnolia, but somehow “Phoebe” had already “stuck”. We do love “Fixer Upper” and the Gaines family and wish them the best with their new additions – the kitten and the soon-to-arrive baby!

I’m sure if you’ve seen any of her innocent-looking photos, you’re assuming that Phoebe June spends her days with her powder-puff paws crossed waiting for someone to stroke her velvet fur.

Phoebe on Adoption www.midweststoryteller.com

The reason for that is that all the action shots I’ve tried to obtain of Phoebe have been a complete blur. When she is not striking a demure pose for the camera, Smuffy and I are taking turns at Wildcat Patrol. Well, I take more turns than Smuffy, but then I also get the most kitty cuddles, so I suppose I can live with it.

Our veterinarian wanted to know if Phoebe was alert and playful. I showed him my scratch marks.

Having a cat in the house is different from having a kitten in the house. Our last two cats, who were two years apart in age, each lived to be 16 years old, so it’s been a long time since we started afresh. Though they remained playful all their lives – Y I K E S ! – it’s not the same as bringing home a charged-up little lightning bolt of energy that is the most playful hunter on earth – a 7 ½ week old kitten.

Phoebe June had an adorable sister. Here they are on the day we met when I was trying to decide which to adopt.

Phoebe June and Sweet Sis www.midweststoryteller.com

Sweet Sister seemed docile and shy – such endearing qualities. Phoebe June, on the other hand, entered the room with an air that suggested that if it were not a fun-filled place, she’d be happy to remedy the problem in three seconds or less.

Having had a couple of truly neurotic cats in the past, I chose brave kitty. I got brave kitty! She’s smart and tries her best to cooperate with the rules, but some things prove irresistible, such as the taking down of the Christmas tree. I should have probably gotten a sitter for that one.

To give you a glimpse of our fun-filled days and a guide should you consider bringing home a kitten, I’m sharing this list that reflects how we’ve acclimated to Phoebe June’s world.

Top 10 Things Kitten Mom www.midweststoryteller.com

Cats are fascinating and each one seems to have strange traits, odd fears and unique habits that don’t have any rhyme or reason and don’t quite fit in with any of the scientific studies on cats. There are just some things the experts can’t explain about feline behavior.

Phoebe June has her share of these quirks already, but the one that is the most puzzling and causes me the greatest loss of sleep is her unexplainable desire to eat my hair! This she confines, annoyingly, to the early morning hours. She’s a clingy sort, but being nocturnal, she roams a bit a night and nods off under the bed between her excursions and a few hops back onto the bed to be sure I haven’t run away from home.

Then, in the pre-dawn, when the stealthy mountain lions of the wild stir and head out for the hunt, Phoebe June stirs also. She hunts for one thing only – Mommy! It’s as though she’s re-discovered me after a prolonged absence and the joy is too much for her.

Climbing onto my head with her purr-box rumbling like a Harley, she wraps all four paws around my head and clinging with all her might, tries to remove my hair! And the question is: Why?

Needless to say, at this point I am awake! As I disentangle her and pull her down to ruffle her fur and give her a snuggle, I can’t help but giggle at the amount of affection that seems to be lavished upon me in this strange act. Though she may be clutching at my head with all her strength, there are no claws involved, only purring, wallowing and (sigh) gnawing.

And then you fall back asleep?” you assume. Nope. Phoebe June’s full affections take a while to dissipate and she’ll make several more attempts at snatching me bald before she gets it out of her system and settles down on my shoulder to flop around until breakfast is served.

Hopefully, this is a passing phase, because one of her favorite times to run amok through the house is around 10:45 each night. These frenzies can last a couple of hours, so if she doesn’t give up one or the other habits, I may be feeling soon, as they say, “a mere shadow of my former self.”

I thought Phoebe June’s story might bring you a smile during the wintry days of January. You can deny it, but I know you’re watching those funny cat videos online!

If you’re a “cat person”, I’m sure you have a story or two to of your own about the cats in your life. Scroll back up to the top of this post and “Leave a Comment” to share them. I’d love to hear from you!

Have some cat-loving friends? Be sure to SHARE!

Want more on how Smuffy deals with cats? Check it out here, but please, cover your eyes!

First Friday Freebie: Happy New (and Simplified) Year!

Happy New Year, Everyone! It seems impossible that we’ve already breezed through Christmas and landed in 2018. I knew this particular First Friday Freebie would sneak up on me and it did!

Don’t you love gifts that come with explanations? We were discussing at Christmas how it seems all our gifts come with some sort of novel-length explanation. So, now let me explain –

You may at first think that I’m too exhausted from the holidays to think of something better or that I’m just plain unimaginative (or cheap), but I wanted to introduce you to something life-changing.

You know what I mean – one of those small things in life that make all the difference and make you wonder how you ever lived without it – like Velcro on toddlers’ shoes, plastic wrap, duct tape and cooking spray.

While preparing the post on 50 Ways to Make 2018 a Better Year, I considered what I might offer as January’s Freebie to help out with that. Then, I remembered that innocent looking little sample package that arrived in the mail a few years ago.

I gave it a shrug and tossed it in my desk drawer. I’d seen Post-it Notes before. These seemed to be some new-fangled version and I wasn’t about to throw free stuff away. I knew 3M made the kind that pull apart from opposite ends and the ones that are super-sticky. These, apparently, had taken sticky down yet another avenue.

Later, when I’d finished up the pad I was using, I got them out and discovered that I’d been keeping something fabulous in hibernation in that desk drawer. That’s why I’m offering them as this month’s First Friday Freebie –

Full Adhesive Post-Its www.midweststoryteller.com

Full Adhesive Post-it Notes!

These are one of my favorite finds. Well, I suppose you’d say they found me! And, I’m giving away a full pack – not a sample.

(The ones in the photo are my open pack. The ones I’m giving away are due to arrive soon – yes, the January Freebie did sneak up on me.) The Freebies will be in yellow as I tried to pick something neutral for you.

What did we do before Post-it Notes anyway? Run around with fuzzy rolls of tape in our pockets?

Once I began to use these, the possibilities became endless. I stopped ruining storage boxes with marker pens – I just changed the note and because of the full adhesive, they actually stayed on and didn’t curl! I started using them to label cardboard boxes, plastic tubs, bottles, jars and plates of goodies. They adhere wonderfully, and best of all, come off cleanly when you want them to. Bookplates! They’re perfect for that! I no longer have to “ugly up” the nice boxes in my basement shelves of upstairs closets or pull them all out to see what’s inside. Use two sheets! On one, list the general heading in large print. On the other, list the individual contents.

There are lots of other removable labels out there – even nifty chalkboard ones – but they are way too pricey for marking storage boxes and other things that require temporary or alterable labels.

Consider these to be regular Post-it Notes in REVERSE! The adhesive covers the whole back of the note except for a narrow strip at the bottom (or top, if you prefer)edge, giving you a way to grasp it for removal.

Don’t scoff – you’re gonna love these things more than Velcro! BONUS: They also come in “super-sticky”, making the world practically perfect in every way.  The 3M Company isn’t messing around when it comes to its sticky business.  Under the Post-It section of their web site, you’ll find over 300 choices when searching for the perfect note!

You may have a little trouble finding them in your typical discount stores. Staples carries them, but being a bargain hunter, I order mine from Amazon.com here. They’re great for filling in your order for free shipping.

The “Freebie Rules” have changed recently to make it easier for you to win, so read on, SUBSCRIBE and share this post with all your friends so they can enter also. A winner will be chosen at random from those subscribers who enter today by leaving a comment which says, “I’ll take the notes!”

And now, here are the revised rules.

  1. First Friday Freebies are available to SUBSCRIBERS ONLY. That means if you have come to this post through social media or someone has emailed you a link to it and you haven’t become a subscriber yet, you’ll need to hop on over to the right sidebar and do that really quick. If you are on a phone or tablet, the easiest way is to go to the “About Me” page. All it means to be a subscriber is that you’ll receive an email each time Midwest Storyteller has something new, which won’t likely be more than once or twice a week. It keeps you from missing out on all the fun and FREE STUFF! And, I’m not sharing your emails with anybody.
  2. IMPORTANT: After subscribing, you MUST check your email to confirm the subscription or it will not appear. Then, sadly, you won’t be eligible to enter.
  3. To enter the drawing, scroll back up to the top of this post and under the title, click on “Leave a Comment”. Subscribers who comment as directed before midnight on Friday will enter the drawing, provided they are already on the subscribers list and live within the continental United States.

Three simple steps!

Now hurry! Go! Go! Go! Subscribe, Confirm and Enter before midnight tonight, January 5th

Did you miss the last Freebie?  Check it out here.  Don’t forget to “Share” and “Pin” and by all means, “Leave a Comment”.  Share the nifty-est “life-changing” thing you’ve discovered.

50 Ways to Make 2018 a Better Year!

After Christmas, what I’d really like is a long winter’s nap. The rest of the world, however, keeps trying to tell me year after year after ever-lovin’ year that now is the time to lose weight, organize myself and all my surroundings as though I have Martha Stewart’s minions at my beck and call and (using colorful flow charts, of course) reassess where I’m going in life. By the way, love that Martha. She knows her stuff!

I know where I’m going. I’m going to the kitchen to make some Pomegranate Raspberry Green Tea so that I can scoop up Phoebe June if she’s in the mood and settle onto the sofa under the furry throw and let it be -8 degrees outside if it feels like it.

I shared with my family as we gathered for Christmas that I believe we’re doing this all wrong! With the current system, we merely set ourselves up for frustration and failure – at least in the climate of the Midwest.

Why not, I asked, celebrate the new year in spring? The third week in March, when the equinox turns us all toward sunnier days, we’ll all be full of fizz and ready to get out and walk off the pounds, eat foods that aren’t piping hot and covered with melted cheese, move out the junk and organize what’s left in hopes of creating a nice spot for a vase of fresh hyacinths and maybe – just maybe – give a hoot once again about heading somewhere in life other than closer to the fire.

I fall in line with the Phoebe June Philosophy –

Phoebe Philosopy on January www.midweststoryteller.com

I try, though. Really, I try. Smuffy might dispute that. He’s one of those people who asks who’s been at his desk if he finds the tape and stapler lined up in reverse order. I’m one of those people who digs for the stapler, knowing that it’s under there somewhere. It makes me cry sometimes, and sometimes I get really organized, but it never seems to last for long.

Sometimes, it helps me to experiment with a “design re-mix”. I love jewelry and I always seemed to be leaving little stashes of it on the nightstand, even though I had a roomy jewelry armoire on the other side of the room I could have easily put it in. One day, when rearranging furniture, the armoire ended up much closer to the door. Suddenly, after years and years, I found myself taking off my jewelry and putting it away as soon as I entered the room. The new arrangement just seemed to function with how I think.

I’m always finding “helpful” ideas to spur me toward getting my act together in a Smuffy sort of way, but (hear me sigh) I tend to reject them or, to be honest – lose them. If I had a dollar for everything I lost between December 1st and the 25th, I could go out and buy Christmas all over again!

My darling daughter, over at www.JillianDanielle.com is much more organized than I am. She likes these planners from Rifle Paper Company and this year she is using The Simplified Planner, available at Emily Ley Paper, Inc., and on Amazon here.

I do like using a planner, but mine is homemade. I can’t seem to think like the pre-fab ones want me to. It works better for me to use a small binder that holds 8 ½ X 5 ½” ruled sheets and create my own.

In the front, I insert monthly calendar pages that I print out myself. Behind those, I use tab dividers where I create sections pertaining to my life such as Blog, Novel, Around the House, Health, Shopping, DIY, Gifts, Scrapbooking, Ancestry and Dates to Remember. I like to include an inspirational section where I can jot down quotes or Scriptures that encourage me or that I can share with someone else.

My Planner www.midweststoryteller.com

I take my planner along on appointments and shopping trips. That way, I can ask all the questions that have been popping into my mind since the last appointment (and find the answers when I get home) and I can look for elusive items and have measurements on hand when I find them.

Now, let me be clear about something. My creative space, though it may look better than it did a week ago, remains a place I’d still find myself apologizing for if you walked into it right now. Not a chance of seeing a photo of this post-finishing three novels/holiday preparation/getting a new kitten disaster! I do however, want to share something that I try to work with every year.

I’m often seeing lists that offer to help me “eat my elephant one bite at a time”. Most of the time, they just don’t fit with my life in one way or another. Others must have been written by someone living in a totally different climate. (Who wants to clean closets in April? It’s plantin’ time!) We all have to face the truth, even if we’re self-professed “messies” – we don’t thrive in chaos. A reasonable amount of order calms us, eases our frustrations and – DANG IT! – helps us find the stapler! As much as I love wasting time, there’s only so much of it and the more unorganized we are, the easier it seems to slip away.

Here’s the list I’ve adapted for my lifestyle and the climate we live in. The best thing I’ve found about this list? None of it matters! I have given myself the gift of releasing each and every item to the winds of time and tides of happenstance. There will be, sadly, deaths in the family. There will be, joyfully, vacations and surprises! This last year, with the frantic push to complete the novel series, none of it got done except in little half-hour snatches of time and I’ve told myself that it’s OK! After all, I was busy doing something great, right?

I hope this list helps you make one of your own and I hope you don’t get bogged down by it! Adapt the items to your lifestyle and write one across each week of your 2018 calendar.

Remember to read all the way to the end of the post because the First Friday Freebie is upon us!

50 Ways To A Better Year! www.midweststoryteller.com

I’d love your comments! These aren’t the huge jobs you may tackle during the year such as cleaning out the whole garage or putting new siding on the house or installing a fish pond. These are the smaller, often ignored things that really frustrate us when they’re all piled up and the stapler becomes a minor player amongst the things that have gone missing. I’d love to hear your ideas on things we could add to the list.

SUBSCRIBE and SHARE so that your friends can do likewise and you can all be in the drawing for January’s FREEBIE! It’s coming up Friday for subscribers only. Here are the rules:

  1. First Friday Freebies are available to SUBSCRIBERS ONLY. That means if you have come to this post through social media or someone has emailed you a link to it and you haven’t become a subscriber yet, you’ll need to hop on over to the right sidebar and do that really quick. If you are on a phone or tablet, the easiest way is to go to the “About Me” page. All it means to be a subscriber is that you’ll receive an email each time Midwest Storyteller has something new, which won’t likely be more than once or twice a week. It keeps you from missing out on all the fun and FREE STUFF! And, I’m not sharing your emails with anybody.
  2. IMPORTANT: After subscribing, you MUST check your email to confirm the subscription or it will not appear. Then, sadly, you won’t be eligible to enter.
  3. To enter the drawing, scroll back up to the top of this post and under the title, click on “Leave a Comment”. Subscribers who comment as directed before midnight on Friday will enter the drawing, provided they are already on the subscribers list and live within the continental United States.

There! Now that you’ve subscribed, you can hurry on to organize your creative space and put away all the Christmas decorations. If you need help, just consult Martha – she’s much better at it than I am and hers always turns out “perfect”! 

Oh, my goodness!  That reminds me – Martha’s calendar always schedules a specific date for her to trim her donkeys’ hooves!  Now, how in the world did I manage to leave that off my list? 

Want more encouragement so you can thrive in 2018?  Check out “Life, Laughter and Lemons” here!

The Day Before Christmas: Don’t Just Survive – THRIVE!

Hustle and Bustle is right – and we don’t even have small children in the house! I LOVE Christmas, so I suppose I create my own hustle and bustle as I think of one more special thing I can wrap up or make special. This year, though my oven went out the week before Christmas, I take heart that I do not face these challenges alone. Nope – not me! I’ve got a new “helper”! There’s nothing like bringing an eight-week-old kitten into a house full of Christmas trees, paper, ribbons and freshly baked goodies.

Meet Phoebe June – we adopted her on December 7th.

Meet Phoebe June www.midweststoryteller.com

This face explains why the blog has been silent since the First Friday Freebie! Things are busy here – really busy! Phoebe is clingy, and vocal, and so overly attached to me that it’s pitiful. And, I’m having a ball! I have to admit that I couldn’t be more tickled to have her if I were four years old! There’s something about having a cat that gives me joy and helps me thrive.  Smuffy scored BIG points by getting me a kitty for our anniversary. He is, however, getting a little tired of hearing all the baby-talk as I coo over my precious little ball of fur.

It’s been about a decade since we’ve had a kitty and the house has gradually become less and less kitty-proof. So…Christmas + Phoebe = Not-Accomplishing-Much-Except-for-Wildcat-Patrol.

I wanted to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and I thought I would do so by sharing something that I wrote a few years ago when, as I prepared for Christmas, I was exhausted to the brink of collapse. It might make you smile and you may be able to pass it on to someone else who is feeling the stress of life – be it good stress or bad.

The Day Before Christmas www.midweststoryteller.com

Enjoy your family, friends, (and of course, the furry family members) and take time to remember why we celebrate Christmas!  God Bless You!

Announcing December’s Winner!

Ten days till Christmas! That explains, in part, why I’m a little slow with the announcement. One of the things that helps me thrive is blessing others, so I love giving away gifts! Midwest Storyteller offers a monthly free gift to a faithful subscriber and December’s winner is –

Freebie Winner December 2017 www.midweststoryteller.com

Sharon of Boonville, Missouri!

Remember, the First Friday Freebie rules have changed, so Sharon’s name was drawn using our new scientific and impartial method. (I put all the entries on cards, placed them face-down and had Smuffy pick one.)

These EchoTouch ladies’ gloves by Echo Design should keep Sharon’s hands warm if the forecasted “snowmageddon” hits the Midwest as the long range forecast models predict. I wouldn’t count on that prediction as things change here in the blink of an eye.  Maybe I just don’t want to think about it.

Freebie EchoTouch Gloves www.midweststoryteller.com

The gloves come equipped with those amazing little fingertip additions that enable you to operate your smart phone and other devices without taking them off – an awesome invention, if you ask me. Similar styles are available on the EchoDesign web site, so their other styles here.

The next First Friday Freebie drawing will be on Friday, January 5, 2018. SUBSCRIBE and share this post with all your friends so they can enter also. A winner will be chosen at random from those subscribers who enter before midnight on the day of the drawing by leaving a comment as instructed in the post.

And now, here are the revised Freebie Rules.

  1. First Friday Freebies are available to SUBSCRIBERS ONLY. That means if you come to the post through social media or someone has emailed you a link to it and you haven’t become a subscriber yet, you’ll need to hop on over to the right sidebar and do that really quick. If you are on a phone or tablet, the easiest way is to go to the “About Me” page. All it means to be a subscriber is that you’ll receive an email each time Midwest Storyteller has something new, which won’t likely be more than once or twice a week. It keeps you from missing out on all the fun and FREE STUFF! And, I’m not sharing your emails with anybody.
  2. IMPORTANT: After subscribing, you MUST check your email to confirm the subscription or it will not appear. Then, sadly, you won’t be eligible to enter.
  3. To enter the drawing, scroll back up to the top of this post and under the title, click on “Leave a Comment”. Subscribers who comment as directed before midnight on the first Friday of the month will enter the drawing, provided they are already on the subscribers list and live within the continental United States.

Three simple steps! Subscribe now, before you forget, and you might start the new year by winning a free gift!

Take a look at some of the other goodies and their winners here and here!

The Midwest Storyteller household has been turned upside-down and we’ll cover that story next time, so get ready to join the adventure and “share”, “like” and “pin” so all your friends don’t miss out.

I love it when you “Leave a Comment” and let me know your thoughts. Scroll back up under the title of this post and let me know what you think of the freebies so far and which features of the blog you’d like to receive more of in the future.

Have a wonderful time and enjoy the coming days as you prepare your home and your heart for Christmas. What a glorious season we celebrate!

First Friday Freebie: Because There’s a Nip in the Air – Somewhere.

Only 24 more days till Christmas! How exciting! In case you’re having a difficult time with all the suspense, keep in mind that there are 0 – yes, ZERO – days until the First Friday Freebie. That’s right! You get to open this package today!

Mystery Freebie December 2017 www.midweststoryteller.com

It’s December and there’s a nip in the air – somewhere. Strangely, it’s not happening yet in our part of the Midwest. We seem to be getting someone else’s weather. The scary part is – someone else might be getting ours! I chose this gift for you with the hope of keeping you warm and cozy while you’re out and about finishing (or starting – breathe, just breathe) your Christmas shopping. It’s unseasonably warm here, but in this neck of the woods, that could change drastically in a matter of…say, 30 minutes?

Oh, come on! Don’t scroll at such a snail’s pace, like Great-Aunt Fannie trying to save the paper – rip it off and take a peek.

Freebie EchoTouch Gloves www.midweststoryteller.com

These EchoTouch ladies’ gloves “keep your hands warm while you keep in touch”. It seems that most everyone (excluding Smuffy) carries a smart phone these days. Though we enjoy the amazing technology that lets us navigate its depths with a tap or swipe of a finger, there’s that annoying fact that it can’t be done with gloves on! A few years ago, I received a pair of touch gloves as a gift and I’m hooked! I always seem to have cold hands and this helps me use my phone when I’m out and about without the hassle of taking my gloves on and off all the time. I find myself avoiding the “old style” gloves now in favor of this great invention.

Another problem with gloves, in a general sense, is keeping track of them. Although I don’t want to be seen running around like a toddler with a string running through my coat sleeves, it sometimes seems like a plan. If all the gloves I’ve lost were scraped from the parking lots upon which I’ve scattered them and were then placed end-to-end… Oh, never mind – back to the FREE gloves!

This neutral heather-gray pair of gloves are a Size LARGE. While I don’t consider myself to have large hands, I do have long fingers, so this is the size that always works for me. Not your size? They’ll make a great gift. And to all you guys out there – I know what your doing and the stores will be empty by the time you get finished doing it. Win the gloves and at least she’ll have something.

Similar gloves retail on the Echo web site for $39.00. (You have no idea how tempted I am to keep these for myself!) You can check out there other styles here.

The “Freebie Rules” have just changed to make it easier for you to win, so read on, SUBSCRIBE and share this post with all your friends so they can enter also. A winner will be chosen at random from those subscribers who enter today by leaving a comment which says, “I love the gloves!”

And now, here are the revised rules.

  1. First Friday Freebies are available to SUBSCRIBERS ONLY. That means if you have come to this post through social media or someone has emailed you a link to it and you haven’t become a subscriber yet, you’ll need to hop on over to the right sidebar and do that really quick. If you are on a phone or tablet, the easiest way is to go to the “About Me” page. All it means to be a subscriber is that you’ll receive an email each time Midwest Storyteller has something new, which won’t likely be more than once or twice a week. It keeps you from missing out on all the fun and FREE STUFF! And, I’m not sharing your emails with anybody.
  2. IMPORTANT: After subscribing, you MUST check your email to confirm the subscription or it will not appear. Then, sadly, you won’t be eligible to enter.
  3. To enter the drawing, scroll back up to the top of this post and under the title, click on “Leave a Comment”. Subscribers who comment as directed in the post before midnight on Friday, December 1, 2017 will enter the drawing, provided they are already on the subscribers list and live within the continental United States.

Three simple steps!

Now hurry! Go! Go! Go! Subscribe, Confirm and Enter before midnight tonight!

Want to see some past Freebies and their winners?  Take a peek here and here.

First Friday Freebie: Just like Christmas – It’ll be Here Before You Know It!

In case you haven’t heard, Midwest Storyteller offers FREEBIES! They happen on the first Friday of every month, which means you have only two more days to wait before entering the drawing for the December Freebie! The “Freebie Rules” have just changed to make it easier for you to win, so read on, SUBSCRIBE and share this post with all your friends so they can enter also.

Ooh…and what might this be?

Mystery Freebie December 2017 www.midweststoryteller.com‘Tis the season for secrets and surprises, so I’m keeping this secret till Friday, December 1st!  I thrive on keeping fun little secrets this time of year, don’t you?  It keeps the wonder in our world. 

Once you see Friday’s post, feel free to pounce on it! No pushing – no shoving – the nicest thing about lining up in cyber-land is that nobody gets hurt.

And now, here are the revised rules.

  1. First Friday Freebies are available to SUBSCRIBERS ONLY. That means if you have come to this post through social media or someone has emailed you a link to it and you haven’t become a subscriber yet, you’ll need to hop on over to the right sidebar and do that really quick. If you are on a phone or tablet, the easiest way is to go to the “About Me” page. All it means to be a subscriber is that you’ll receive an email each time Midwest Storyteller has something new, which won’t likely be more than once or twice a week. It keeps you from missing out on all the fun and FREE STUFF! And, I’m not sharing your emails with anybody.
  2. IMPORTANT: After subscribing, you MUST check your email to confirm the subscription or it will not appear. Then, sadly, you won’t be eligible to enter.
  3. When the Freebie is revealed on Friday, you’ll need to scroll back up to the top of the post and under the title, click on “Leave a Comment”. Subscribers who comment as directed before midnight on Friday will enter the drawing, provided they are already on the subscribers list and live within the continental United States.

Three simple steps! And now we wait…are you starting to get a little excited? It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Take a look at a couple of other gifts I’ve given away recently here and here.

Now hurry! Go! Go! Go! Subscribe, Confirm and Enter on Friday!

It’s the Most Pumpkiny Time of the Year!

America’s annual love affair with pumpkin begins where Labor Day ends and soothes us all with it’s warm flavor through Thanksgiving and its weekend of yummy leftovers. I thought I’d share this recipe to give you just one more pumpkiny thing to delight in before the season comes to a halt and all our fickle hearts leave it behind in search of the perfect Christmas cookie.Zesty Pumpkin Soup with Billy's Biscuits www.midweststoryteller.com

Let me introduce you to Zesty Pumpkin Soup – a favorite of mine that I make at least a couple of times during the fall. Why I don’t make it year-round is a mystery because it’s so yummy. To go along with it, I’m going to give you my recipe for Billy’s Biscuits, because what’s better than a great bowl of soup and a light and airy, buttery biscuit?

I’ve had the Recipe for Zesty Pumpkin Soup for years and years and I’ve tried my best to remember the source so that I can give credit where credit is due. I think I’ve finally remembered where I got it! Years ago, at a local shop, I picked up a super-cheap set of four paperback cookbooks which I believe were called, “Home Cooks’ Easy Recipes”. The pages were printed on newsprint and other than the cover, there were no photos. I tried all sorts of recipes in those books, but eventually parted with them in a garage sale – I think. I’ve looked online and can’t find any such books to reference here, or I would be happy to do so.

The interesting thing about Zesty Pumpkin Soup is that it is savory! Almost all pumpkin recipes are some variation that requires brown sugar and reminds you in some way of the eternal favorite, pumpkin pie. This is really different, but absolutely delicious. The original recipe called for the finished soup to be pureed until smooth. However, I forgot to do this once and ended up discovering that I actually preferred the “bits”, as long as they are finely chopped.

Billy’s Biscuits?” you ask. “Who on earth is Billy?” I believe these biscuits began with a recipe known to some folks as “Southern Gal Biscuits”, but I got the recipe from my friend, Billy, after he served them up for breakfast when I was a houseguest. They were the best biscuits I’d ever had.

Here’s Billy –

Remembering Billy www.midweststoryteller.com

I miss Billy, but know that breakfast in Heaven has been kicked up a notch ever since he arrived. I admit to tweaking the recipe for my own use, because I steer clear of shortening and refined sugars, but I’m sure if Billy were here to taste them, he’d approve! Normally, I also steer clear of wheat, but I do have an occasional cheat day. I’d sooner cheat and have these biscuits than almost any other treat. They’re worth it!  Since I’ve never made these without thinking of Billy while I’m doing it, I can’t call them by any other name.

I see you shaking your head and muttering, “Soup – maybe. Homemade biscuits – no way! Where’s the can?” I’m about to take away all your fears about not having enough time or know-how to make these. They are lightning-fast and fool-proof, due to a few little tricks I’ll share with you.

And, best of all, there’s a FREE printable recipe.

Let’s get started –

Zesty Pumpkin Soup

1/4 cup real butter

1 cup chopped onion (chop this fairly small)

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

3 cups chicken broth or stock (sugar free) 

2 (14 ounce) cans pumpkin puree

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Sour cream

Chopped fresh chives

Saute onion in butter until soft. Add garlic, curry powder, sald, coriander and red pepper; cook 1 minute longer.

Zesty Pumpkin Soup Step 1 www.midweststoryteller.com

Add broth; boil gently, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes.

Zesty Pumpkin Soup Ingredients www.midweststoryteller.com

Stir in pumpkin, milk and heavy cream. Cook an additional five minutes.

(As you can see in the photo, I tend to use my favorite ingredients from Aldi and Costco.  Finding broth without added sugar is sometimes more difficult than catching the chicken and making your own, so I really appreciate Costco carrying the Kirkland Signature Organic Chicken Stock.)

Garnish each bowl of soup with a dollop of sour cream and chopped chives.

Makes a 3-quart saucepan of soup.

Now, before you nix the idea of making biscuits to go with this quick soup recipe, let me give you four fabulous tips that will make life so much easier!

  1. Mix your dry ingredients ahead of time! If you know you’ll be preparing the biscuits for breakfast (when you are not exactly wide awake and ready to read a recipe and fumble around for ingredients) or if you want them hot and fresh for company, but don’t want to mess up your kitchen and be separated from your guests, this can save time and temper! Just measure all the dry ingredients into a medium-sized mixing bowl and set aside until biscuit time.

  2. Grate the butter! I saw this tip somewhere gave it a try. I could kiss the hand of the genius who thought of it! Whether biscuits, pie crust or any other recipe, I’ll never “cut in” the fat again! All I do is grab a stick of frozen butter and my handy-dandy grater that catches all the bits and work fast. Peel back the paper on the butter and grate it against the grater with the small holes. Pop the lid onto the container and put it immediately back into the freezer! All those frozen little curls of butter will stir into your dry ingredients in about three seconds and you’ll be thanking me for passing on this grand idea. Seriously – always grate the butter!
  3. Invest in a large silicone countertop rolling mat. Oh my goodness! I still dust with flour, but nothing sticks! You can roll out and cut cookies, biscuits – whatever you like – directly on the mat and best of all, when guests arrive,  you can just roll it up, tuck it away and clean it later. No messy counters! I got mine at Aldi for a really reasonable price and the holiday baking season would be a good time to check there. Big name brands tend to be super expensive.
  4. A dough scraper. I mean – really – where have these been all my life? Also, I have a marble rolling pin and I freeze it ahead of time if I know I’ll be making biscuits, cookies, etc. Nothing sticks!

Billy’s Biscuits

1 1/2 cups all purpose non-GMO wheat flour

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

4 teaspoons non-aluminum baking powder

2 Tablespoons coconut sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

7 Tablespoons real butter, grated and re-frozen

1 egg

2/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine dry ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Quickly add the frozen, grated butter and stir to coat the butter with the flour mixture before the butter begins to melt.

GRATE the Butter! www.midweststoryteller.com

Beat egg in milk; stir into dry ingredients, just until moistened.

Turn dough onto a floured surface. Knead the dough 15 times by folding the entire ball of dough in half, giving it a quarter turn and folding it again. Roll out the dough to 3/4” thickness. Cut into circles with a large 3” biscuit cutter.

Biscuits Ready for the Oven www.midweststoryteller.com

Transfer biscuits to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

Yield: About 8-10 biscuits.

Enjoy your quick and heart-warming autumn meal. If you’ve prepared your dry ingredients and butter for the biscuits ahead of time, you can whip up the biscuits while the soup is simmering and have them ready to serve!

Savor the Flavors of Fall www.midweststoryteller.com

Have a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving with your family and friends! And…don’t forget your free printable recipes below.

Free Printable Banner www.midweststoryteller.com

Questions? Comments? If you make the soup and/or the biscuits, let me know how you liked it! Scroll back up to the title of this post and “Leave a Comment”. And why not SUBSCRIBE, so you’ll receive an email reminder each time Midwest Storyteller has something new.

 

 

Be the Hostess with the Mostest (and the Cheapest)!

They’re coming! You can hear their expectant panting from miles away as they prepare to descend on your home for Thanksgiving. You make a frantic dart through the house and decide it’s time to throw away the 4th of July balloons and take down the seashell jar that’s been welcoming everyone to your home with its shades of summery pastels.

Now what? There’s enough money to be spent on the turkey and ingredients for the traditional side dishes.

Been there – done all that. One thing I’m thankful for is the fact that my mother handed down to me the ability to make something out of nothing. Another quality we share is “squirrely-ness”. I’m not talking about that tendency to be just a tad odd – you know, the type of person that makes other people tilt their head to one side and blink – I’m talking about the ability to squirrel away cool stuff, small stuff, odd stuff and “sooner or later I’m gonna use that for something and when I do, it’s gonna be really cool” stuff.

I love to decorate and hate throwing good stuff away, so I’ve learned to stare at things and ponder how I might recycle them into something new and different without having to go out and spend more than a few dollars to put a new twist on things.

I get the urge to decorate for fall at sundown on Labor Day. I ran a week or two late this year, but in case you’re way behind and wanting to “lovelify” everything before the doorbell rings and the turkey timer goes off, I thought we’d brainstorm.

Here’s my fall fireplace. I took the photo with all the candles lit so you could see how we like to enjoy it on these long fall evenings.

Fall Fireplace www.midweststoryteller.com

Here’s a close-up of the mantle.

Fall Mantle 2017 www.midweststoryteller.com

Now, let’s take a look at the individual elements. Aside from batteries for flameless candles and string lights, I don’t think I spent a single dime this year!  Even the votive candles are leftovers from a bulk purchase I made at my local thrift shop a year or two ago.

Fall Mantle Elements www.midweststoryteller.com

I hope I’ve gotten your cogs turning. Somewhere, tucked into a bookshelf, stored in a tub in the basement or perhaps still in a sack in the trunk from when a friend passed it on to you, there are things you can round up and experiment with.

Admittedly, I did some degree of head-shaking and standing around with my hands on my hips as I tapped my chin. Then, I’d arrange and re-arrange, and before long I found myself content.

Is it super-trendy? No. That would have taken a trip to the store for chalkboards and things covered in burlap and chevron prints.  Somehow, I just wasn’t tempted to go there.

Once I’d completed my “design remix”, I was free to get out an enjoy fall and do my usual thing, perhaps causing not a few people to tilt their heads to one side and blink, but that’s my normal and I don’t think I got it from Mom. 

As you can see from the photo, all you really need is family, friends, a mixture of garage sales and flea markets, a willingness to build your stash and a nice set of working blinkers so that you can zip into the stores with the best prices.  Obviously, I’ve done more than a little “squirreling” in Hobby Lobby, Tuesday Morning and Big Lots.  I can’t say enough about the great quality of QVC’s Bethlehem Lights collection!  Seems they always have something great on clearance.

I had a group of ladies over for an annual Pumpkin Night event and we enjoyed a buffet of recipes containing pumpkin.  I didn’t spend any money on table-scape either.  I just dove into my stash!  Take a look – as long as you don’t mind that guests had already arrived before I got the photo taken and things look just a trifle askew.  Trifle!  Now, why didn’t somebody bring a pumpkin trifle?  Great idea for next year!

Fall Tablescape www.midweststoryteller.com

I’d love to hear from you. Just under the title of this post, you can “Leave a Comment”, letting me know your thoughts and ideas. What kind of things have you pulled together to decorate that will inspire the rest of us?

More inspiration for quick fall décor can be found here. You might enjoy getting to know my mom here. Need inspiration from me and my mom to help you rescue and recycle the poor, the tired and the pretty-much-trash stuff around the house? Check it out here

Coming up next:  Two fabulous free recipes for a heartwarming fall meal.  SUBSCRIBE so you don’t miss it!

November’s Freebie Winner! You might be next!

I’m excited to announce the winner of November’s “First Friday Freebie”. A fabulous free gift is offered each month, on the first Friday, to a faithful subscriber. (Hooray for the letter, “f”!)

Subscribe now and you’ll be ready to enter to win in December! Instructions on how to do that are below.

Our November winner is…

November 2017 Freebie Winner www.midweststoryteller.com

Ginger from Prairie Home, Missouri!

Ginger left a comment on the post, saying, “I’ll take the Blessings Jar!” and she won!

You can see the Blessings Jar and it’s contents a  little better in this photo –

Free Blessing Jar www.midweststoryteller.com

I’m also announcing a change-up in the rules. From now on, the Freebie winner will be chosen from a drawing of the subscribers who leave a comment before midnight on the day the post appears.

I’m following the suggestion of subscriber, Liz, who was feeling that perhaps people who are busy or at work may not be able to comment until later in the day. So, a drawing will be!

If you’d like to enter the monthly give-a-way, do a few things to be sure you don’t miss out.

  1. SUBSCRIBE! On your computer, you can do that in the right side-bar. On a phone or tablet, you may need to go to the “Contact” page. Only subscribers are eligible to win. If you do not confirm your subscription by clicking on the confirmation email you receive, you are STILL not a subscriber, so don’t forget that. You’ll get an email when there’s a new post or freebie.
  2. Follow” Midwest Storyteller on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Even if you forget to check your email on the first Friday, the offer will show up in your feed.
  3. Spread the love – and the FREEBIES! “Share” Midwest Storyteller with your friends on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. Pin this post to Pinterest and send the pin to friends you’d like to see enter to win.

You’ll be eligible to win if you are a subscriber at the time of the offer and if you live in the continental United States. Then all you’ll need to do is read the post and leave a comment as instructed!

Simple, right?

Get ready! The next free gift will be given away on Friday, December 1st!

How are you liking the freebies so far? Please scroll back up and click on “Leave a Comment” under the title of this post and let me know.

If you’d like to see who won the First Friday Freebie for October, click here.