Stuff

Hi Everyone!

I hope you have had an excellent week.  We are still thinking of all those folks in Texas cleaning up from Hurricane Harvey and now are watching Hurricane Irma starting to roll in.  Both of my kids are at the coast and we are putting together supplies here in case we need to have another evacuation hurricane party like we did last year during Matthew.  Mother Nature does not cooperate with life plans and I feel for all the people who are trying to decide what moves to make to protect lives and property.

Once again I can’t say that this week has included much artwork or creativity for that matter.  I did ship a print to Australia yesterday.  That was fun.  Guess I’m officially an international artist now (I hope you heard the chuckle I made typing that).

What I have been doing is sorting through yet more and more boxes from my SIL’s estate.  Much of it also comes from my husband’s Mother and his grandparents and even great-grandparents.  Where probably 75% has been general current clothes and household items the other 25% has been some vintage and antiques items that have been interesting to find.  I thought I would include some photos of what is currently laying around my house as we decide what to do with all of this STUFF.

I would hate for you to miss out on my other pile of STUFF…the peas that are begging to be shelled and canned.  This may be the first year EVER that I have looked forward to winter!

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Wishing you a great week.  Stay safe those of you on the East coast.  We will have you in our prayers.

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Beans, barns, bees and boredom

Hi Everyone!

How has your July been? Do you feel summer winding down? It has been hot and miserable here for the past couple of weeks. Midday is spent inside. 

This week we decided to enjoy a good dose of boredom around here. Last week was an awful mess of traveling to appointments that resulted in nothing more than frustration, disappointment and stress. Now it’s a waiting game for the attorney and government entities to accomplish something so we can move forward. Boredom has been a good tonic.

Our garden is producing high levels of green beans this year and the tomatoes are putting forth a good effort. Miss L got to try her hand at picking beans. I’m pretty sure she enjoyed it about as much as I did at her age. She also got to see the canning process while Danny canned the first 14 quarts of beans. She was keeping track of the pops the jar lids made as they sealed. We are also consuming green beans frequently at meals.  Last night’s dinner was green beans, potatoes, creamed corn, fresh tomatoes and biscuits. It just doesn’t get any better than that!!

I have been checking on my bees more and feeding them now that most of the blooms are gone. My goal is to get at least two hives through the winter this year. It’s sad to admit that, but with colony losses of 40-50% on average each year now in most places in the United States, you have to brace yourself and hope for the best. I have one hive I’m already concerned over and keeping a close eye on. 

Our keets are having issues. We have lost three of the 16 and have 2 more that aren’t doing well. After some research we think there is a possible vitamin deficiency so Miss L and I made an emergency grocery run for wheat germ and vitamin E this morning. Hopefully that will help. 

It seems like a combination of heat and boredom are making our hens cranky. They can’t free range anymore due to the Thing In The Thicket that has snatched a couple of their coop mates. They seem to be protesting with a decrease in egg prodution. 

I am almost done with the barn drawing commission. I hope to have the finished picture on here next week.  Sooooo close but I can’t show it to you before I show it to my clients.  The boredom and heat have allowed me the time to put in several concentrated hours on it. 

We have enjoyed walks, time with the dogs, cat and some crafty time this week.  Danny has been able to work with Bob several evenings. Books have been read, movies watched, etc.  It has been GOOD!  Next week could get crazy again and August will bring school shopping, soccer and school faster than I’m ready for. I’m going to enjoy one more weekend of “boredom”. 

Hope you find some boredom this week! 

Death, taxes and CHANGE

Hi Everyone,

Yes, it happened again. My post day got away from me last week. I did start it, but before I could finish the day was gone and we were well into a busy weekend.

We are slowly settling into new routines all around.  Mine seems to be the biggest struggle right now because of the overwhelming amount of paperwork and appointments I have to make in the process of settling J’s estate and getting Miss L’s benefits and other life stuff in place. Yesterday was an entire day of driving to different meetings only to arrive home late in the evening feeling like I only made two tiny drops of progress in a ocean of red tape.  

Danny and Miss L have worked out a complex schedule for who gets to sit in the King Chair (the recliner with the best view…outside to watch horses for Danny, the TV for Miss L) what day. I just stay out of that whole thing. They seem to enjoy the debate process!

The food buying and meal planning is also under adjustment. Our health nut food ways are not completely pleasing Miss L. She has the family genetics for an amazing metabolism and she does not waver on her likes and dislikes. I am compromising on allowing some junk food and she is attempting to try new food. I will admit that I have missed Kraft Deluxe Mac & Cheese. 

Sweetie Pie, the cat, had been stuck in confinement while awaiting her spaying surgery. Unfortunately that was not sitting very well with her and she jumped at the chance for escape while Miss L and Danny were cleaning her crate. The surgery appointment got cancelled and we are hoping that the now invisible Sweetie Pie does not appear in the future with a crate load of kittens. 

Princess Dinah, the dog, it adjusting very well and we are slowing introducing her to my pups. She will be getting her surgery next month and if the budget allows, a professional haircut. Her Princess title isn’t matching her wild child look at the moment. 


The chickens have had to give up the free range life as the Thing In The Thicket has increased its chicken consumption. We lost two of our little girls in the past two weeks. There will be an upgraded chicken coop in the Fall. 

Our oldest horse, Christy, carried her last rider this week when she gave Miss L her first riding lesson. Christy’s hip is causing her lots of pain so Danny decided to let her enjoy a rider free retirement. Now Bob is in major training to take over Christy’s job. 

I believe the quote about death and taxes needs to be changed to, “the only thing you can count on in life is death, taxes and CHANGE.”  Lots of change sometime. None of it bad here, just different and all of the elements of the quote are in play with our changes. A death brought about the changes and those darn taxes will be paid at the end of all the paperwork!

I have gotten a good start on a commission piece and hope to show at least some of it next week if not the finished piece.

Embrace the changes this week!

Get lost. Slow down. Change directions.

sunflower 2016
My sunflowers are enjoying the heat. They are at least 8′ tall and still growing!

I hope you all have had a lovely week. It has been a typical July week here. Hot as Hades all day with a late afternoon thunderstorm that hopefully cools the air a little. Often it doesn’t. Sometimes the air is so humid and thick after a storm that it feels difficult to breathe. You would think you could squeeze the juice out of it. My poor bees are spending more time on the outside of the hive than inside. I’m thinking I should get a tiny air conditioner for them. No, I do not spoil the creatures that live with me (much).

The past couple of weeks have been spent getting settled, finding my way around and meeting people. If I counted correctly, this is my tenth move in my lifetime. Most of my moves have been within miles of each other, but this is the third move to a completely new area. My first major move was as a newlywed to a different state. My then husband was working third shift, the company had put us up in a hotel until we could find a home and I knew no one. I couldn’t stay in the hotel room during the day while my husband was trying to sleep, but I had no where to go.

This was before cell phones and we had two not-so-great cars. So, I did what any bored, fearless (you have that in your 20’s) young woman would do. I got my car keys, filled the car up with gas and proceeded to drive in and out of town until I was hopelessly lost, then figure out how to get myself back to the hotel.  Honestly, it was a huge adrenaline rush. Sometimes I barely made it back before my husband got up to go to work.  By the time we moved out of the hotel three weeks later, I rarely got lost. I found all the important places (Town Hall, library, the MALL) and lots of scenic areas of the countryside.

I have been using this same technique with slightly more common sense this time.  Lately our vehicles have been just as bad (except for THE BEAST, our F-350 pickup that I LOVE to drive), but I do have my cell phone and AAA card with me now. I found the library. People seem to think that libraries are not important anymore. I beg to differ. The bulletin board alone was a wealth of information. Local events and services that I had not been able to find online were on the bulletin board.  So, I have the library, found the arts council, town hall, pharmacy, car mechanic and our local state park for hiking. Hey, not a bad start for two weeks of being lost!

ghost flowers 2016
I discovered Ghost plants on our way to pick blackberries this week. They are such an oddity with all the color this time of year.

The harder adjustment I am having to make is the pace of life here. I’m pretty sure it was the same way when I was growing up out in the country but I wasn’t aware of it. EVERYTHING is slower. I have been in Surburbia for twenty years. I have worked two jobs for about twelve years. I shuttled two kids to thousands of practices and events for eighteen years. All that has come to a screeching halt. I often find myself standing somewhere in disbelief that there is nothing on my To Do list that HAS to be done immediately. Trust me, I’m not complaining, but after decades of rushing around and working under endless deadlines, it is disorienting.

Now that I have said that life has slowed down, just this week events have fallen into place for D. to start a business he has been planning for about two years. Originally he was going to start it next year after he retires, but an opportunity presented itself that was too good to pass up. This means that for about four months I will be back to working two jobs again as we start this while he is still working full time.  I will fill I the details as this moves along.

blueberry jam 2016
More slow stuff. Making blueberry jam.

I need to mosey on now to finish tiling these floors (they WILL be done by the end of the month!).  I’m going to leave you with some hard earned wisdom. If life is a little boring or drab, or the creative juices have quit flowing (they do sometimes), literally get in your car, on your bike, take the bus, use your feet and go get lost. The change in scenery and the adventure will do you good. Don’t use the GPS. Use your God given instincts!

zinna butterfly 2016
Just one of the hundreds of butterflies that have been visiting my zinnias this year. I have never seen soooo many in one place before!

All photos by Christel D. Huttar.

The bees are here!

Welcome to the farm honeybees!  My Dad finally deemed the bees ready to move to their new home and made the trip out yesterday.  Here he is setting up the hive.

Dad and beesWhen I was little I was Dad’s bee assistant.  No, I did not get the official beekeeper’s veil, but stood nearby enough to fetch and carry as needed while he worked the bees.  Then, when the honey was ready I helped clean the racks after he cut the honeycomb out.  I learned early on that you get the most bee stings two ways.  First, going barefooted outside.  Bees love clover and we had clover in the yard.  Second, picking up sticky honey racks before looking to see if any bees were still trying to save their honey.

People get frantic when a bee is buzzing around.  They need to know that unless a bee thinks she is in danger they do not want to sting you.  Why? Because she dies afterward.  Just stay still and the bee will move on.  These industrious creatures have more important things to do than go around terrorizing innocent bystanders.  More important things like pollinating plants that make your FOOD.  They don’t do that for us. They are making their own food, but it happens to be a well designed by-product of their work.

So Dad situated the hive and we all went into the house for a visit.  When it was time to go we walked out to check on them and were happy to see they were already hard at work.

As evening fell they headed into the hive for the night and I was anxious to see how they were doing this morning.  All my reading up on bees said to situate the hive facing East or South.  Well, my Dad plopped the hive down facing West.  I suspect after 60-70 years of beekeeping Dad has decided that the bees aren’t really very picky which way their front door faces.  Sure enough, I got out to check on them as soon as possible and here they are starting to wake up and go to work.  D. and I speculate that our bees just get to sleep in later in the morning, but work later in the evening this way.  You know the rush hour traffic is probably avoided with these work hours.

first day beesOne more thing off this Spring’s To Do list! Dad said I need to walk by the hive every day.  I’m not sure if that is just so I can check on them or for them to get used to me or both.  I do know that sitting near them yesterday listening to the hum of busy bees brought back long buried childhood memories of warm, honey sticky days with my Dad and I’m glad he was the one to get my bees off to a good start.

 

Photos by Christel Williams

And a little more education

Happy Halfway Through February!  If you read last week’s post you know that I do not like the month of February.  By now I am getting cabin fever and needing Spring badly.

I’m running behind today so this might be short depending on how my morning goes.  Last week I talked about how I seem to be using YouTube often to learn new things.  No tuition required!  That has been continuing into this week as well.  I have been studying how to install tile.  I will let you know how that goes in a few weeks. Prayers requested.

Here is a little watercolor painting I did last week. It is actually a jungle illustration.  I can show you the finished product in March.

Jungle background 2

What else have I done this week? Oh, I fixed one FABULOUS dinner with a honey sriracha sauce.

I IMG_2762have been leery of taking on Asian cooking since a seriously botched Chinese dish about a decade ago that my children still laugh about.  It was so bad that we actually ate grilled cheese sandwiches instead.

Something that has been increasingly on my mind is the state of our planet Earth.  I have no desire to get into the politics of the environment, and I am not a member of any environmental group, but my intuition is ringing loud and clear that we are very likely on the tipping point of saving or destroying ourselves.  I believe the Earth will recover from our selfishness and arrogance, but we probably will not.

My kids have called me their “hippy momma” forever because I have always been the recycling, vegetarian, food-growing kind of gal.  It just seems to be in my DNA to make my lifestyle as earth friendly as I reasonably can.  Not to say I can’t do better.  I am always looking for little tweaks to improve.  So, starting next week I am just going to add to my posts ways to make small lifestyle adjustments or pass along some information that might be a light bulb moment for someone to take action toward healing our home.

We can pass laws and clamor for corporations and governments to do something to stop ruining our earth, water and air, but it will still come down to human beings taking responsibility for their actions each and every day to stop the destruction of ourselves.  No more ignoring the signs of things to come.  Poverty and suffering are only going to get worse if we don’t clean up the water, air and dirt. I have no control over wars starting or ending and am not even sure that the vote I cast in an election counts, but each little effort I undertake at least makes my tiny minuscule drop in the ocean one better drop.

Aren’t I just a ray of sunshine today? Oh, go out and hug a tree.  You will both feel better.

Have a wonderful week!

 

Thanksgiving

 

We are celebrating our day of Thanksgiving in the United States.  Here are a few photos of a typical Thanksgiving day and a blessing for the day.

 

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Wishing you all peace, safety, health, comfort, love and laughter.

O God of all Creation: You have cared for the earth, and have filled it with your riches. Abundance flows in your steppes, through the pastures and wilderness. You provide for our land, softening it with showers, bathing it in light, and blessing it with growth.

The hills sing with joy; the meadows are covered with flocks; the fields deck themselves with wheat; and together they glorify your name!

On this occasion of our Thanksgiving, we as a nation take rest from our labors to consider your many blessings. We thank you for our freedoms, and for the opportunity to contribute our skills, our attributes and our values toward the good of society.

We thank you for the mixture of our cultures, blending us into one people under God. Help us to be a light unto other nations, and to further the cause of freedom and justice all over the world.

We remember those who are less fortunate than we. We lift up in prayer the victims of poverty and racism, and all those who suffer from forms of political and economic oppression. Let the word that goes forth from our mouths speak of your peace, and let us proclaim our hope in Christ as Savior of all humankind.

We pray that you will bless all those who gather here, as we have come to experience your presence among us. Give us your guidance, O God, and empower us for your work. For we claim nothing for ourselves, but return all honor and glory unto you, and offer our thanks and praise. Amen.

From “Prayers for God’s People”
Thomas P. Roberts, editor

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Football photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/70806177@N00/15294277764″>Happy Thanksgiving from Levi’s Stadium</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Parade photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/22463037@N00/3162773680″>Trumpet</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

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Our apple adventure

Yes, this week I am officially late getting my post done.  If I can survive October, possibly November will be a tiny bit less busy.  My design/print work has been steady this month, there has been all the work at the farm trying to get ready for winter and home improvement projects going on as we gear up for remodeling Danny’s house. After weeks of non-stop work, including Sundays which is normally my true day of rest, Danny and I decided we needed to have a day off.  We had a wonderful second annual chicken stew with his family, but the preparation wore us out.

When we started out with our garden a couple of years ago we decided we wanted to keep it organic and as much as possible use heirloom varieties of plants.  There is an unused pasture on the farm that has been designated as the new orchard.  Danny went online to research heirloom apples and came across Big Horse Creek Farm here in North Carolina.  He decided to order several varieties of apple trees from them.  They can ship the trees, but since we were less than two hours away we decided to pick them up instead.  Easier said than done!  Ron and Suzanne usually have their trees at the West Jefferson Farmers Market on Saturdays.  We haven’t had a free Saturday in months and Danny works every other Saturday.  We asked if we could pick them up at the farm and they told us they had a very difficult driveway to navigate.  Danny assured them that his Ford 250 was up for the challenge and after a few more emails to coordinate times we had a plan.

That is the back story of what turned out to be a wonderful day off this week. Our plan was to head out Wednesday morning to West Jefferson and check out the town. Neither of us had been there before.  We like exploring antique/junk shops so we stopped along the way to poke through all sorts of antiques, pretend antiques (you gotta watch out for those) and just plain old junk.  Fiberglass surf boards sitting in a NC mountain town “antique” store look very odd.

Next we had lunch at a restaurant in West Jefferson that had some good reviews (Boondocks Brewing).  There is a well known restaurant called Shatley Springs that we considered, but most of our home cooking is the same type of food so we wanted something different. Then it was time to head out to the Big Horse Creek Farm.

When Suzanne said their driveway was difficult, this is what she meant.

This is the bottom of Ron and Suzanne's driveway where we decided to go into four wheel drive.
This is the bottom of Ron and Suzanne’s driveway where we decided to go into four wheel drive.

One and half miles, up the mountain.  We took it in four wheel drive all the way up and all the way back down later.  Danny loved it.  The drive was well worth it for the view and the chance to meet the Joyners.  I don’t think we would have had the opportunity to get to know them if we had picked up the trees at the farmers market.

Ron's observatory
Ron’s observatory

Notice that small structure with the domed top. My first thought was “that looks like an observatory” and yes, it is Ron’s observatory.  Suzanne told us that they have virtually no light pollution up there and can only see three distant lights at night so it is perfect for Ron’s astrophotography. You can see some of his photos on their Big Horse Creek Farm Facebook page.

Then I noticed their solar panels.  I hope eventually we can add solar power to the farm so I asked about those and Ron and Suzanne have been completely off grid since 1997 (correct me if my memory is wrong, Suzanne).  No power runs up the side of that mountain. They also have a wind generator.

IMG_2602This is the view over their orchards so the panels have a perfect south facing open area.  I would never get tired of looking at those mountains.

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After that we talked about how they built their home and the other structures on the property themselves, chickens, deer hunting, gardening, collards and crowder peas.  I think the topic we discussed the least was apple trees!  It was a lovely visit and we might have to add on to our orchard to have an excuse to go visit again. Here is the link to their website, Big Horse Creek Farm.

Our original plan was to pick up the trees then head back to Danny’s, saddle up Christy and Bob for an afternoon of horseback riding.  We spent so much time with Suzanne and Ron that we did not have enough time left to get back and ride so we decided to explore the back roads of God’s country.  I have been blessed to visit most of this country and there are many beautiful places, but this area is the only one that I have found that I would up and move to in a heartbeat.  Here is an old farm house we drove by in our travels.

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What a gorgeous Fall day to explore.  My only advice is to plan a trip, but don’t stick to the plans too tightly.  You never know who you might meet or what you might see that will be worth spending extra time with.

Wishing you a wonderful, adventurous week!

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/33721019@N00/1593122120″>mellow fruitfullness #1</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

My Pinterest addiction

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Two years ago this month I cut the cord of cable tv. The only reason I did not do it earlier was because I still had one teenager at home who thought he couldn’t live without it. As I watched him play hours of video games with his friends and grow to the sofa, marathon watching a series on Netflix, I was pretty sure he could survive without it but indulged him for the last year I had him at home. Ok, I admit to a weak parental moment.

With him off to his first year in college and me having downsized for the second time, I finally bid goodbye to the 150 channels of which I only watched two. I bought a Roku and a digital antenna, kept my subscription to Netflix and Amazon (I use it primarily for the shopping/shipping but it’s there for the watching) and waited for my HGTV withdrawal symptoms to start.  That was my only real concern about giving up cable.

As a lifetime maker/diy-er I got endless ideas from HGTV. I wasn’t sure I could live without it. But, like any addiction, there are many ways to get your fix. Pinterest entered my life. I blame my daughter for my newest addiction which has completely surpassed the HGTV problem. I am a HEAVY user.

Check out the number of pins I have. I think it's safe to call this an addiction.
Check out the number of pins I have. I think it’s safe to call this an addiction.

So why is Pinterest a problem for me? Because it has not only invaded my home improvement life, but my cooking, gardening, art, design, hobby and pet life as well. Forget Google. If I need to find something I do a search on Pinterest, then I have to start a new board to keep all that new info. I have given up reading novels before bed (what had been one of my great loves since I learned how to read) and Pinterest myself to sleep now.  As I write this I have over 15,000 pins!!!

I use Pinterest to inspire my design work when I am stuck on a work problem and to keep up with current trends. I find new recipes to perk up my cooking when I’m in a rut. There is the Art board, the Mixed Media board, the Mosaics board, the Fabric board, the Travel board, even the Critters board. In total I have 40 boards right now. Heck, I have recently culled a few  boards and deleted many pins that I decided were highly unlikely to ever be done in this lifetime.

How could you not just love something when you can find things like this! (Hey, I did some serious research to find these 😉

Facebook does not corner the market on bad jokes.
Facebook does not corner the market on bad jokes.
No explanation needed for this one.
No explanation needed for this one.
I think I had this same outfit back in the 70's.
I think I had this same outfit back in the 70’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have started to dip my toes into the Pinterest business marketing, but still have some learning to do.  I would love suggestions or information about how you or other businesses you know have used it and if it has worked.  I should at least try to make some money with all that time I spend on there.

With my most serious warning combined with my highest recommendation, if you need some inspiration, motivation, instruction or amusement I suggest you check out Pinterest if you haven’t discovered it yet. And now I have stepped into the realm of Pinterest pusher.

I think I know what I will need to give up for Lent this year 😳.

Tomato soup anyone?

No, you are not on the wrong blog.  Yes, I have deviated a little from the artsy stuff, but still in the realm of creativity.  Cooking is creative, especially the way I do it.  There has never been a recipe that I could follow exactly.  Come to think of it I don’t follow patterns or instructions exactly either.  I digress.  Back to the soup.

You know all those garden pictures you have been seeing here? IMG_2225 August garden

This year’s garden has done well.  Only our corn did not make it into the freezer or jars.  Why was that you ask?  Because a marauding band of masked thugs attacked our cornfield and left in in ruin. raccoonsAfter jars and jars of plain tomatoes, tomatoes with garlic and basil, and salsa we were running out of ideas of what to do with all the tomatoes.  We still have many jars of spaghetti sauce left from last year.  We were beginning to contemplate how to make tomato dog food.  Then I remembered my favorite Roasted Tomato Soup recipe.  It takes some time to make, but it is SOOOOOO much better than the canned stuff in the grocery store and you know what you put in it!.  So here is my recipe for you to try.  You don’t have to can it like we did.  It took forever to do the canning, but I will thank myself in February when we have this with a grilled cheese sandwich and I am wishing I had all those fresh ripe tomatoes laying around.

Tomato soup

Just remember, I consider recipes as guidelines.  Taste this as you make it and add or subtract what you like.  Sometimes you need to add a little sugar if the tomatoes are really acidic.  Most of the time if you let it simmer for a couple of hours after you put it through the blender it mellows out, so wait before you add any sugar to see if you really need it.

Roasted Tomato Soup

2 1/2 lbs ripe tomatoes halved, seeded, cored
1 med. onion cut into equal slices
2 garlic cloves
5 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 T olive oil
3 cups chicken stock (I use veggie stock)
2 bay leaves
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Place tomatoes, onion, garlic and thyme on foil covered baking sheet (use a deep one, these get very juicy), drizzle with olive oil and toss. Roast for two hours (I rarely go this long, less time doesn’t seem to make much difference).

Cool tomatoes, discard skins, put into stockpot (with garlic, onions and thyme) add broth and bay leaves. Bring to a boil then simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Remove thyme and bay leaves and season to taste. Blend until smooth and creamy. Stir in cream if desired. Simmer 10 more minutes.

I usually make a small vat of the stuff and prefer basil instead of or in addition to the thyme. In the winter I usually use tomatoes I froze during the summer.

 

Raccoon photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/28994435@N05/10164296833″>Lake Merced 76</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;