‘Tis the Season to Announce December’s Winner!

Amid the rush of preparations for Christmas there are just some things that can’t be ignored.   One has to make time to take a deep breath, listen to some Christmas music, spend quality time with friends and, oh, yes – have Smuffy draw out a winner for December’s First Friday Freebie!

We have another repeat winner. The winner of the lovely watch set is –

December 2018 Winner  midweststoryteller.com

Ruby from Boonville, Missouri!

Ruby says she’d been watch shopping and when December’s freebie offer appeared in her email.  The watch and its six coordinating bracelets seemed to be the perfect solution. All she had to do was to comment as directed in the post and then – just as if she and Smuffy had been of one mind – her name was drawn!

It’s great to know that my freebie winners are pleased with their gifts.  Enjoy your watch, Ruby, and keep entering!

Subscribe now, if you haven’t already, because December is slipping away and with the hustle and bustle of the season, you’ll want to check that simple item off your list so that you won’t miss anything from Midwest Storyteller in 2019.

To see the original freebie offer, click here. The next First Friday Freebie drawing will be on Friday, January 4, 2019 and only SUBSCRIBERS can win! 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. See the recently revised rules below.

And now, here are the Freebie Rules.

Freebie Rules www.midweststoryteller.com

Follow these four simple steps and subscribe now.   Then, you’ll be ready for January 4th.“Share”, “like” and “pin” this post!  You’re friends will want to enter to win, too!  Click here to go to my “Freebies” page and see what types of gifts my subscribers have been winning.

Have an opinion on the Freebies? Leave a comment! If you’re on your computer, scroll back up under the title of this post and let me know what you’re thinking.  On various devices, you may find “Leave a Comment” at the bottom of the post.

The Phoebe June Diaries: (Stolen Entry #1) “Gettin’ ‘Dopted is NICE!”

Baby Phoebe June midweststoryteller.com

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the day Phoebe June bounced into our lives, electrifying every nook and cranny of our world. And then there’s the noise.  There’s a lot of that.  As I shared earlier here, it would be no surprise to discover that Phoebe June kept a diary, as she’s as full of opinions as a stage director with a headache.  I thought it fitting to start with her earliest musings.   Please don’t tell her I snooped. I’ll never hear the end of it.

Wednesday, December 6, 2018

Sissy & Phoebe Take a Nap midweststoryteller.com

I played and napped in the mudroom with my sissy today. Sissy’s fun, but not as much fun as me! Mommy Blair got grouchy again when we tried to have some milk, but Joy-lady fed us at the bowl and then let us run all over the house! Sissy’s a little scared of the Christmas tree, but not me! We heard the door and that dumb dog yelling. A lady came. Sissy peeked around the corner. I bounced around it. People need fun and I’m full of the stuff. The new lady smiled and scooped up Sissy. I watched.

No time for scooping – I zoomed under the Christmas tree – the sparkly-est, rustly-est, dangly-est thing ever!  Joy-lady scooped me in the middle of a zoom and put me in the new lady’s lap.  She likes me!  I could tell by the way she …Zzzzzz….

Then, Sissy got scooped again.  She didn’t say a word.  I had to do all the talking as usual.  The lady talked about Sissy’s pretty eyes and my pretty nose. She talked about it a lot. She called me “brave”.  I think that means I like to zoom, zoom…zzzzz…

Kittens Nose to Nose midweststoryteller.com

Anyway, she kissed us and promised to come back.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Joy-lady says it’s a special day. One of us is getting ‘dopted. Whatever that is, it’s already happened to Charlie and the others and I’m blaming the dog for it.

The nice lady came back with a man. She asked him over and over whether he liked shy Sissy’s sweet eyes or my beautiful velvet nose and my zoominess. I showed both of them what awesome cats are made of and zoomed and zoomed until I got tired and she scooped me again.

I guess getting ‘dopted means someone tucks your whole self inside their coat and makes you ride in a noise-box. I didn’t like the noise-box, but inside the coat, I felt the lady’s warm heart.  She told me over and over and over that she was my new mommy.  Every time I asked for Sissy and Mommy Blair, she just kept giving me more kisses.  Silly thing!  When the noise-box stopped, we got out and went into a new place.  I got about a hundred more snuggles from my new mommy. Then, she put me down and started following me everywhere!  I didn’t mind much – I had a grand explore – sniffed till my sniffer ached and told them what I thought of the place.  It had a nice potty pan, some tasty food, feathery toys and about a million hidey-holes.

Phoebe June Collage midweststoryteller.com

I checked for bedbugs and took a bath and then explored some more till my zoomer was all zoomed out.  The lady put me in the man’s lap.  I was all ready for a nice nap until he started barking.

The lady called him “Daddy” and said he had a nasty cough, but I know a bark when I hear one. It took me twenty minutes to settle my tail hairs down.

I may have a brain the size of a walnut, but I know a thing or two and this new mommy’s got what it takes!  Her food is yummy, her robe is furry, she plays games and toys like a pro and I’m starting to get used to all the kissing.  If she would only stop interrupting me when I’m talking!  She calls me Phoebe June and I think I’ll let her ‘cause it sounds just right.

Each time I woke in the nighttime, all I had to do was reach up and pat my new mommy’s cheek and tell her about how I felt lost and how I couldn’t find Sissy or Mommy Blair.  She’d snuzzle me close and promise to take care of me and be my Forever Mommy.  When her eyes got all drippy, I knew she meant it.

I didn’t know how much I needed Phoebe June until I got her.  She lives life large, intent on letting us know that she is a mighty huntress, has no intention of being left alone and would prefer that we pay close attention to her running commentary.   Phoebe has two settings: “Park” and “Autobahn”.  Smuffy and I are learning to live with her effusiveness and the high-speed zooming.  It’s a little like having an emotionally needy child who is always following you everywhere, asking what you are doing now, insisting that you play games and that you sit down and pay attention to the umpteenth “show and tell” presentation – especially the “telling”. 

I’ll have to be careful about it, but I’ll try to sneak another page of her diary and share it with you soon.

You can get better acquainted with Phoebe June here and find out how Smuffy lost his marbles here. In case you’re considering adopting a kitten, you might want to check out “Top Ten Things You’ll Reconsider Once You’ve Become a Kitten Mom.”

“Time” For a Christmas Freebie!

The clock has been ticking away all year and once again we find ourselves in the full rush of the holiday season.  For our family, that means time together, feasting, gift-giving – all things we are so blessed we could do any time of the year if we chose to do so, but things we do now with extra joy in our hearts as we celebrate the birth of our Messiah. 

I’ve always loved gift-giving! I love packages and bows and surprises and keeping secrets. I love decorating and food traditions and dressing up and …well, you get the idea.

I’m tempted to wrap this up and make it a holiday “mystery freebie”, but there are enough secrets this time of the year, right? Let’s take a peek –

Watch Set www.midweststoryteller.com

This beautiful watch set will have your (or someone special) looking stylish at this year’s holiday gatherings.  I’m loving this latest trend in rose gold.  I think it’s so flattering to all skin tones.  The watch has raised markers for each numeral and a second hand.  The faux leather band is rose gold as well.  Six bracelets are included – four bangles and two beaded.  You can split them up or wear them all together.  (You know me – I’m wearing them all at the same time!)

To enter to win the watch set, all you need to do is “Leave a Comment” on this post, saying, “It’s time for me to win!”  You’ll need to do that before midnight TONIGHT, December 7th, 2018!

First Friday Freebies are for email SUBSCRIBERS ONLY, so if you’ve not become a subscriber to Midwest Storyteller yet, give yourself a another free gift by heading over to the right sidebar or using the menu to get to the “Contact Me” page and subscribe if you haven’t done so already.

Share this blog with all your friends and family through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or by copying the link into an email so they can enter to win and begin enjoying everything else on the blog as well!

Subscribers win every single month! Take a look at past freebies on the Freebies” page   to see what they’ve been winning.

Once again, a winner will be chosen at random from those subscribers who enter before midnight tonight by leaving a comment which says, “It’s time for me to win!”And now, here are the complete rules:

Freebie Rules www.midweststoryteller.com

Four simple steps! 

What are you waiting for?  Time is running out!  Subscribe if you haven’t already, confirm in your email and comment to enter before midnight tonight, December 7th!

Enjoy all the celebrations and those around you this holiday season. Years from now, you won’t remember any of those bargains you chased or a fraction of the presents you got or gave, but you’ll never forget the laughter, sweet tears and loving arms that made this Christmas a precious memory.

A Little Slow, But Still SO Thankful!

Due to circumstances that burned my candle at both ends and in the middle, I’m announcing November’s freebie winner in December. Welcome to my world. I am so thankful for all my readers and all the wonderful feedback I receive from you, whether in comments on the blog or on social media. Soon I’ll be giving you a glimpse into what has been taking up all my time lately – and Smuffy’s – I have him hard at work.

You may recognize this face. The winner of the Thanksgiving Hostess Set was –

Freebie Winner Kathy www.midweststoryteller.com

Kathy from Prairie Home, Missouri!

Kathy, a guest here at Midwest Storyteller a few months back, inspired us all to test our woodburning skills. You’ll want to check out our efforts and meet Kathy here.  After watching Kathy add some awesomeness to a set of wooden kitchen utensils, I was able to put my newfound talent to work and create yet another freebie for you, which you can see here, along with its winner, here.

I know Kathy will put the items in the hostess set to good use as she is always trying new recipes and loves blessing others with her amazing hostess ideas. She’ll be back here again on the blog sometime soon, I hope, to share what she’s been creating lately.

Take another look at the Thanksgiving Hostess Set.  (I realize the above photo is a little blurry.)

Thanksgiving Hostess Set www.midweststoryteller.com

All Kathy had to do to enter the First Friday Freebie drawing was to subscribe, read the blog post on the first Friday of the month and comment as directed in the post. Subscribe now, if you haven’t already, because December’s freebie is only days away!

To see the original freebie offer, click here.

The next First Friday Freebie drawing will be on Friday, December 2, 2018 and only SUBSCRIBERS can win!

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. See the recently revised rules below.

And now, here are the Freebie Rules.

Freebie Rules www.midweststoryteller.com

Follow these four simple steps and subscribe now. Then, you’ll be ready for December 7th.“Share”, “like” and “pin” this post! You’re friends will want to enter to win, too!  Have an opinion on the Freebies? Leave a comment! If you’re on your computer, scroll back up under the title of this post and let me know what you’re thinking. On various devices, you may find “Leave a Comment” at the bottom of the post.

Here’s What’s Cookin’: The First Friday Freebie!

Welcome to November! How did that ever happen? Soon the hustle and bustle begins as we prepare to gather our families and friends together for Thanksgiving.

Food begins to play an even more important role in our lives and I’m here to help you be the hostess with the mostess this Thanksgiving with November’s freebie.

Thanksgiving Hostess Set www.midweststoryteller.com

This set will spruce up your kitchen, give you a head start on baking cookies to celebrate the season and help you set a great display for your guests. The oven mitt lets you pull all those cookies out of the oven in style. The set of three cookie cutters offers a turkey, a pilgrim hat and a pumpkin and I know you’ll come up with great ideas for decorating those. Also included is a set of three spreaders with pumpkin and leaf handles to make those yummy spreads and dips even more appetizing.

If you’d like to enter to win this Thanksgiving hostess set, you’ll need to “Leave a Comment” on this post, saying, “Thank Goodness for Freebies!” and you’ll need to do that before midnight TONIGHT, November 2nd, 2018!

Remember, you must be a subscriber to Midwest Storyteller in order for your comment to be entered into the drawing. Head over to the right sidebar or use the menu to get to the “Contact Me” page and subscribe if you haven’t done so already.

I’ll be thankful if you’ll help Midwest Storyteller reach your friends and family by SHARING this post through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or by copying the link into an email so they can enter to win and begin enjoying everything else on the blog as well!

Subscribers win every single month! Take a look at past freebies on the “Freebies” page to see what they’ve been winning.

Once again, a winner will be chosen at random from those subscribers who enter before midnight tonight by leaving a comment which says, “Thank Goodness for Freebies!”

And now, here are the complete rules:

Freebie Rules www.midweststoryteller.comFour simple steps!

What are you waiting for? Go! Go! Go! Subscribe if you haven’t already, confirm in your email and comment to enter before midnight tonight, November 2nd! Coming up next – Comfort food is where it’s at this time of year! One of my family’s slow-cooker favorites is bound to become a favorite with your family as well.

Wondering “Whooo” Won October’s Freebie?

Owl Mantle Decor www.midweststoryteller.comMy little owl has been flying across the country, but he’s finally ended up here –

October Freebie Winner Jan www.midweststoryteller.com

He’s made his new home with Jan in Greeley, Colorado!

Jan tells me that she sometimes forgets to enter to win my freebie on the first Friday of the month, but this time she remembered. Good for you, Jan!

October marked the first time that I’ve had to do the drawing twice. That is because our first winner did not respond to the email notice and provide me with contact information so that I could send out the gift. After waiting a week, we conducted the drawing again from those who had previously entered.

Jan tells me that she’s already named her new little friend “Ollie”. I hope the two of you will be very happy together, Jan! When you introduce Ollie to your friends, I’m sure he’ll be happy to have you tell them that he came all the way from Midwest Storyteller so they can subscribe and enter to win also.

If you haven’t subscribed, you’ll want to do that now.

To see the original freebie offer for this adorable owl from Hobby Lobby, click here.  I know there’s a store near you with more awesome fall décor.  Or, you can order online here.

The next First Friday Freebie drawing will be on Friday, November 2, 2018 and only SUBSCRIBERS can win!

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. See the revised rules below – I am trying to make certain that I do my best to make contact with the winners.

And now, here are the Freebie Rules.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The drawing will be conducted the weekend after Friday’s freebie offer. The winner will receive an email at the address they’ve provided in order to subscribe. ENTRANTS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR CHECKING THEIR EMAIL so they can receive notification. If the winner does not respond within a week of the original contest date to provide name and mailing address, they will forfeit the freebie and another winner will be selected from those who have already entered according to the rules. Follow these four simple steps and subscribe now. Then, you’ll be ready for November 2nd.“Share”, “like” and “pin” this post! You’re friends will want to enter to win, too!

Have an opinion on the Freebies? Leave a comment! If you’re on your computer, scroll back up under the title of this post and let me know what you’re thinking. On various devices, you may find “Leave a Comment” at the bottom of the post.

It’s National Cat Day!

Phoebe June Who Knew www.midweststoryteller.com

If it hadn’t been for Martha Stewart, it would have slipped right past us.

I happened to see Martha on social media this morning posing with her felines. I knew I couldn’t let myself be outdone by Martha. What she had to offer in numbers (not to mention fluff), we completely make up for by the fact that we have the one and only Phoebe June.

Since today is a rare and glorious autumn day, we celebrated National Cat Day with a trip to the cemetery just down the street. This old cemetery, designed by an architect long ago, offers a great place to get away for a peaceful stroll.

Autumn Collage www.midweststoryteller.com

Phoebe enjoyed the autumn splendor as much as I did.

Phoebe June Autumn Collage www.midweststoryteller.com

The perfect afternoon held one spot of rare excitement for both of us. As we strolled down one of the long avenues between the towering cypress trees, we heard a loud pop and turned to see what caused the noise. There on the paved lane in front of us lay a squirrel, flat on his back, motionless. I surveyed my surroundings to make certain that someone with a BB gun hadn’t shot the squirrel and might perhaps take another shot and hit Phoebe June or me.  (Small town in the Midwest – that sort of thing happens here.)

We crept toward Mr. Squirrel with caution and with Phoebe’s tail bushed out and the fur along her spine doing its imitation of a razor-backed hog. As we approached, the squirrel stretched his back legs out as far has he could as though he’d forgotten his morning exercises. He gave them a few jerks as if to see if they’d been stretched to their absolute limits and relaxed again, ignoring the stick under his back. I knelt before him, trying to get my camera in place. It isn’t every day you get to hold your lens ten inches from a squirrel’s nose, which I now noticed was just a bit bloody.

Phoebe June sat two or three feet from the marvel, trying to decide if it was a gift from above or something that warranted caution. Like me, she’d never seen a squirrel with a concussion before.

After a slow roll, the squirrel sat up and studied us, weaving back and forth as though his eyes lacked focus and his head throbbed. I took aim, but before I could press the camera shutter, he staggered toward me, slipped under my left thigh and tottered off through the gravestones. Phoebe June flew after him like the mighty huntress she knows she is, but I reigned her in, reluctant to put the poor little fellow through any more trauma.  Also, they bite.

Having danced out onto the tip of a fragile branch of one of the tallest trees in the cemetery, it had snapped, the squirrel had plunged to the pavement below and had been knocked senseless.  After all that and wakening to find himself up close and personal with a human and a cat, this squirrel had had enough for one day.

I got no photo, but Phoebe had just about all the excitement she could stand for National Cat Day. That is, until somebody came walking through with their dog. Body language says it all. She disapproved.

Smelly Canine Interlopers www.midweststoryteller.com

Happy National Cat Day! Hug your kitty! Hand out a couple of extra treats. Have a cozy sit filled with chin scratches and neck massages.

Phoebe June recommends that you get into the spirit of National Cat Day and adopt a kitty if you don’t have one, because, as we all know, they are therapeutic. Food, litter, catnip toys and a few vet visits can run into money, but they are much cheaper than a psychiatrist!

Questions? Phoebe June is on hand to answer. Caution: She can be brutally honest. She’s excited to read your comments but her replies may reveal just a touch of high-mindedness.

You can review Phoebe June’s First Year by clicking here and be sure to check out my list of “Top Ten Things You’ll Reconsider Once You’ve Become a Kitten Mom”.

Hearty, Healthy Homemade Pork ‘n Beans

I have a great recipe to share today. It came about in a search for healthier, better tasting version of a canned “old stand-by”.  If ever a side dish needed to be re-thought, “pork ‘n beans” is at the top of the list.  The canned version focuses on the sauce, leaving us all short on beans and almost devoid of all pork as we try to keep everything else on our plates out of the path of the runny mess and avoid the two little squiggly, fatty pieces of pork that seem to have been dropped in just for show.  Finding pork and beans lacking, we often give them a miss, considering them a mere ingredient in other recipes which they also succeed in making way too runny.

BEANS www.midweststoryteller.com

Beans play an important role in our diets, but to be honest, most of us have a love-hate relationship with them.

What summer barbecue is complete without a huge casserole dish brimming with baked beans? What fall campout or retreat has ever been planned that excluded a pot of beans?

As members of the legume family, beans are cousins to lentils, peas and the like. Loaded with nutrients, we can count on them as a valuable source of protein, fiber, magnesium, iron and zinc. That means they can help us with fatigue, weakness, heart palpitations, loss of appetite and irritability.

Beans have been found to contain anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory properties and in certain studies have clearly been shown to have a positive effect on those with coronary heart disease and to lower cholesterol.

Now, if we must, we’ll discuss the down-side of beans. Must we, really? Their reputation has been wrecked by the endless jokes directed at the poor, humiliated souls who succumb to digestive discomfort because of them.

Why, we all ask! Why?  It’s like this:   Beans contain their own natural sugars – stachyose, raffinose and verbascose – and we cannot digest those due to the fact that we are missing an enzyme that is required to break them down. Therefore, when beans reach the colon, the bacteria there ferments those sugars and need I tell you what fermenting substances do? They give off gas. That, dear readers, is the awful truth in a nutshell.

Beans have never really bothered me much. This mystifies Smuffy, who fluctuates between begging me to make beany recipes and then begging me to never do it again. I’ve always figured there must be some way to make it easier for him to eat his favorite foods.

The answer always eluded his mother. I remember sitting in her living room once after a meal. Smuffy, after offering to help his dad with a project in the yard, exited through the back door as though carried along by sheer self-propulsion. She turned to me, sighing. “I tell you what,” she muttered with a shake of her head, “I’ve raised five of the beaniest boys there ever was!”

I challenged myself to eliminate (if you’ll pardon my expression) the bean predicament or at least get to the bottom (goodness – there I go again!) of the problem.

I tried to convince Smuffy that one of the main issues lay in the fact that I’m a fabulous cook. I suggested that he limit his portions rather than eating four bowls at a sitting. This remedy brought about no results other than an eye-roll directed at me.

Then, of course, succumbing to advertising, we tried the tiny bottles of drops that you were supposed to add to beans upon consumption. No measurable results there – not that we were measuring! Is this blog post over yet?

Then, I had a revelation. My mother had seven children. She spent decades feeding us beans – lots of beans. I couldn’t remember any real issues with beans, but then she had always used dry beans, soaking them overnight. Another flash of the obvious came to mind. Each time I opened a can of beans for a recipe that called for draining and rinsing them, there were bubbles galore! Perhaps we’d been ingesting all those bubbles! Then, another realization hit me. The beans with the worst effects seemed to be “pork ‘n beans” – that meant they were not only canned, but never rinsed!

Here are my conclusions after much research and experimentation.

  1. Never use canned beans! What could be more simple that measuring dry beans into a bowl and adding filtered water? Soak 8 hours or overnight, then POUR THE SOAKING WATER OFF, add fresh water and salt and simmer the beans until desired tenderness. The added advantage to this is that you’ll have control over the doneness. Canned beans are always extremely overcooked and by the time we get them into our soups or casseroles and cook them even longer, we tend to end up with mush.
  2. Need “pork ‘n beans”? No problem! I’m giving you the super easy recipe today. The canned version is loaded with syrupy goo that your doctor and your body would rather you didn’t have anyway, so just stir up a batch of your own!
  3. Watch what you eat with beans. Do eat lots of greens, making your insides a happy place. Don’t eat sugars or things that turn to sugar such as bread or white potatoes. You’re probably going to think I’m contradicting myself because I am about to give you two recipes sweetened naturally with honey, molasses and so on. Yes, they are delicious and much healthier than other recipes, but any sugars, even natural ones, are adding to the sugars in the beans so you may not get as much relief as when you make recipes that have no sugar at all, such as a pot of my fabulous chili con carne (recipe coming soon.)
  4. Since digestion starts in the mouth, savor your beans by chewing them well. This is also a little easier to do when you start from scratch as we are today because your beans won’t be overcooked and mushy like canned beans are.
  5. Rinse. Rinse. Rinse! Never cook beans in the water you soaked them in. Wash them, rinse them, soak them, rinse them again, add fresh water and salt, then cook your beans according to package directions and your personal preference as to doneness.
  6. Forgot to soak your beans the night before or before you left in the morning? There is usually a quick-soak method on the package, that will work if your schedule permits.
  7. Use fresh beans. Their effects increase along with their shelf life, so buy them when you need them from a store that keeps its inventory moving. I know it’s tempting to keep dried foods around forever, but it’s not a great idea if you’re trying to lower the risk of after-effects.

Let’s get started with easy homemade Pork ‘n Beans:

After doing lots of research, I began with a “clone” recipe from www.palatablepastime.com for Campbell’s Pork and Beans, but it changed drastically as I went along! Theirs was designed to remove high-fructose corn syrup. Mine is designed to be less “beany” and healthier all around.  Thanks to Sue Lau for getting me off to a great start!

This recipe is equivalent to a little over four cans (11-15 ounces each) of beans. You can cut the recipe in half if you like, but they are super easy to divide into containers and freeze. Since they are way yummier than the canned version, your family will probably eat more than you expect.

You can use chunks of pork, but I prefer bacon. Who doesn’t? I always bake my bacon – no mess in the kitchen and it turns out perfect every time. I fix the whole package and layer it between paper towels to freeze. I recommend baking it slightly less crispy than you normally enjoy it. Then, when you use it in this recipe or heat it in the microwave to enjoy with breakfast, it will come out perfect!

Everybody’s busy! The bacon and the beans can be prepared a day or two ahead of time, making this a “throw-together” recipe!

Hearty Homemade Pork 'n Beans www.midweststoryteller.com

Hearty, Healthy Homemade Pork ‘n Beans


8 slices uncured bacon, baked on a broiler pan in a 200-250 degree oven for about an hour.

1 pound navy beans, rinsed, soaked 8 hours or overnight, rinsed again and cooked in salted water until tender. Drain and rinse again in warm water.

1 – 2 cups water

1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste

3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup molasses

¼ cup raw honey

1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder

1 ½ teaspoons onion powder

1 ½ teaspoons sweet or smoked paprika

1 ½ teaspoons Celtic sea salt

3 Tablespoons arrowroot powder shaken in ¼ cup cold water

Prepare the bacon and beans as directed.

Mix all ingredients in a large saucepan and simmer until flavors are blended (5-10 minutes). Add arrowroot and water mixture and return to a soft boil, stirring constantly until sauce reaches desired thickness (1-2 minutes).

Makes 8-12 servings or the equivalent of about 4 (11-15 ounce cans).

Enjoy! But if you eat them all, you’ll need to be prepared to make another batch, because we’re about to take those Pork ‘n Beans and create a slow-cooker masterpiece!

Click below for your free printable of the recipe and bean tips!

Free Printable Pork 'n Beans

Searching for luscious fall soups? I have two ultra-simple recipes you’ll love! Try Creamy Leek Soup with Chicken and Sweet Potatoes, a “Golden Ladle Winner” and if you’re like me and can’t get enough pumpkin right now, check out my Zesty Pumpkin Soup which comes with a bonus recipe for Billy’s Biscuits that is guaranteed to please.

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.



Dear Readers: HELP!

Finding Jamie E www.midweststoryteller.comYes, Jamie – where are you?  Normally, I do love a mystery, but…

The winner of October’s First Friday Freebie is “Jamie E.”  Jamie has been notified with a reply to a comment on the blog post as well as through a personal email.  However, Jamie has not responded to me with contact information to claim the free gift.  It’s been over a week.

So sad.

Since I have no way of knowing whether Jamie is male or female or whether Jamie lives in my own hometown or anywhere else in the continental United States, it makes it impossible for me to send out the free home décor from Hobby Lobby.

So, my dear readers, please help!  Share this post and if you have any idea who Jamie might be, please contact this person and let them know they’ve won.  I’ll give it a few more days.  If I do not hear from “Jamie E.” by Friday, October 19th, I’ll have Smuffy choose another name from among others who have entered.

Check out what Jamie is missing out on here.  This owl is wondering “whoo” will give him/her a new home!

Thanks for sleuthing with me!  Leave a comment, but be sure not to share any personal information.  If you have any such details to share, please email me at barb@midweststoryteller.com.


Phoebe June’s Big Day!

Phoebe June is 1 www.midweststoryteller.com

On October 10, 2017, a kindle of kittens arrived, filling the mud room of the country home with tiny mews, squeaks and squirms. We didn’t have a clue.

Not until almost two months later did Smuffy hand me a gift bag for our anniversary. It contained, mysteriously, a can of kitten food. Since we had no cat and hadn’t had one for a decade, I stared at Smuffy, speechless.

“You don’t want a cat,” I finally managed to utter after he asked me if I intended to say anything.

“But you do,” he smiled. “And life is short, and I’m ready, and you need to get a kitty. That is, if you want one.”

I lapsed into another stunned silence for a bit and then a conversation started that lasted for the rest of the day.  Here we are enjoying our anniversary dinner and still talking about it.

Anniversary Sweethearts www.midweststoryteller.com

My main concern was that Smuffy might not be ready to become a kitty-daddy – heart and soul, that is. The last thing I wanted was to end up in a situation where he put up with a cat around the house for my sake while secretly hating every minute of it.

Once he assured me that he’d been thinking about it for months and was fully ready to commit, I got downright giddy at the thought. Since December isn’t really the season around here for “please, please, pleeeeeease take one of these kittens off my hands”, my word of mouth efforts yielded no leads.

I made a bold move and tried social media, hoping that I wouldn’t be swamped with 150 offers to wade through as I tried to make a decision.

Oddly, just one prospect appeared who had two kittens ready for a home. They both happened to be females, which I wanted, and the photos were adorable. On December 7th, a mere five days after Smuffy lost his marbles and made the offer, we adopted Phoebe June and it’s been nothing but fun, games and squirt-bottle discipline around here ever since.

And Smuffy, you ask? His heart melted and within the first week she’d become his little “Junebug”. When it comes to kitty discipline, he dreads nothing more than having to be the bad guy. Let’s just call him Mr. Marshamallow.

A Man and His Kitten www.midweststoryteller.com

As for myself, I didn’t know how much I needed Phoebe June until I got her. We romp and play as though she’s four weeks old and I’m four years old. Well, I haven’t dressed her up in doll clothes or anything, but I’ve come pretty close. I determined to keep her from being fearful of every little thing by harness “training” (and I use that word loosely because, she is, after all, a cat) her and taking her everywhere. Now, she’s a social butterfly and is not neurotic, but everybody thinks I am!

Cat About Town www.midweststoryteller.com

We’re celebrating around here today with a couple of extra toys from the dollar store, some “big girl” food and a trip to the vet to weigh in. You might think the latter would be enough to ruin a birthday for most cats, but Phoebe takes the kitty doctor in stride, along with her trips to see Amy Egglady, window shopping or popping in to see friends.

Happy 1st Birthday, Phoebe June! You’ve come a long way from the little powder puff nestled in the palm of my hand.

Phoebe June's 1st Year www.midweststoryteller.com

Cat years are calculated differently than dog years. It proceeds faster at first and then slows down to a ratio of Human: 1 = Cat: 3. Right now, Phoebe is supposed to be the equivalent of a twelve-year-old. We might just be moving into more exciting times. Hmmm…

I keep this Shakespearean quote above Phoebe’s playhouse –

Little But Fierce www.midweststoryteller.com

As you can see, it suited her from the start.  Born to leap, Phoebe June flies through the air with the greatest of ease all without the need for a trapeze. Add to that the fact that she is emotionally clingy, loudmouthed and opinionated and you’ll have but a mere hint as to how our “empty nest” household has changed.

In fact, Phoebe June talks non-stop! It should have been no surprise to discover that she’s been keeping a diary. I’ll be sharing some of her thoughts and experiences with you whenever I can manage to sneak a peek without getting caught.

I’d love to hear from you, so leave a comment!

Coming up Next:  I’m finally getting around to those hearty fall recipes I promised.  You’ll get FREE PRINTABLES, too!