Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Super Easy Creamy Potato Mushroom Soup

It's soup season again; one of the reasons I love this time of year. A favorite soup here at A Joyful Cottage is my Creamy Potato Mushroom.

Looks good, right?

Looks like it took all day to make? Wrong.

It takes less than an hour -- from start, to finished and on the table -- and I'm going to show you how I do it with one big shortcut. 

A couple of years ago, when our local Safeway store had a BYGO sale, I discovered Bear Creek Country Kitchens Creamy Potato Soup Mix. Individually the packets are rather expensive, but with the two for one sale I picked them up for $2 each. Not bad for 8 - one cup servings. And the soup on its own is pretty good. However, I'm going to show you how you can use this easy soup mix as a base for a chunky, yummy potato mushroom soup that will make you swoon (or at least put a smile on your face).

(Note: If you're  a purist and the thought of opening a bag to make your soup offends you, then just move along. There's nothing to see here. However, if you're a busy woman like I am, yet want to serve and eat delicious, wholesome food that tastes like you slaved in the kitchen, then read on.)

Follow the directions for making the Potato Soup. Basically, that's bringing 8 cups of water to a boil, whisking in the mix, and simmering on medium heat for about 15 minutes; stirring occasionally. Easy, right?

While the water boils, chop up the following vegetables.
1 c. onions
1 c. celery
1 c. carrots

Mince 2 cloves garlic.

Saute the veggies and garlic in 1 Tbsp. olive oil until the onions are translucent and the carrots are fork tender. Remove the veggies to a bowl and set aside.

 If necessary, add a little more olive oil, and sauté 8 oz. of sliced mushrooms until tender.

By now the water should have come to a boil; you've whisked in the soup mix and cooked as directed.

Now add the veggies and mushrooms.

Stir well. Continue to simmer until the soup with all the veggies is completely heated through.

 That's it. You're ready to serve a delicious, hearty "homemade" soup.

How easy was that?

Have fun with this recipe and make it your own. Use whatever veggies you like; add more diced, cooked potatoes; shredded cheddar cheese; bacon; diced ham or chicken. There are so many creative things one can do with this very simple recipe. Not to mention all the ingredients you add will stretch the number of servings this soup makes. That's frugal, no?

If you try making this soup -- or adapting it your way -- let me know what you think.

I'll be sharing this with:
Make Bake Create
Inspire Me Wednesday at Mama Buzz
Share Your Cup Thursday at Have a Daily Cup of Mrs. Olson

Friday, October 25, 2013

Random 5 Friday

It's Friday, and that means I'm partying at Random 5 Friday, hosted by Nancy of A Rural Journal.
Here are five random facts about myself.
1. I have a weakness for ice cream. The past few years I've preferred soft serve over hand packed. My favorite is chocolate/vanilla swirl. Little Bear Drive-In in Wallowa, OR has the best ever. Very creamy.
2. Last Friday I finished my first quilting class. I now know how to make two blocks, and have made 10 so far.

3. I'm a freelance writer who loves applying God's word to life. In the past three years I've been blessed to contribute devotionals to Wesleyan Publishing's Light From the Word.

 4. "The Simple Life of Noah Dearborn" is one of my (and my husband's) favorite movies. We watch this PG movie several times a year. It's a beautiful story of  simplicity, loyalty, and friendship; starring Sidney Poitier. Every time I watch it I'm reminded that happiness isn't found in material possessions.

5. My version of Breakfast Tacos:
    Saute chopped onions, minced garlic and whatever chopped veggies you like (in the photographed
    tacos I used  red and green peppers).
    Whip up a few eggs, add them to the sauteed veggies in the pan, season with Mrs. Dash,   
    and cook until done, scrambling as you go.
    Serve with warm corn tortillas, shredded cheddar cheese, salsa and sour cream.

Thanks for stopping by today. Have a joyful weekend.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Winner of A Joyful Cottage Pumpkin Print Giveaway

The winner was picked randomly by Rafflecopter.

And the winner is. . .


Joy blogs at Yesterfood about "how cooking connects us to each other and to the past."

Congratulatioins, Joy!

Oh, how I wish I could give a print to each of the wonderful people who entered my giveaway. It's been a lot of fun connecting with "old" friends, and making some new friends along the way.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Pumpkin Print Giveaway.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fall Decorating at A Joyful Cottage - Simplicity Reigns

Laura at Sunday View has given me a jump start to a great week. Thank you, Laura, for featuring my blog post from last week "To Paint or Not to Paint" at your Inspired Sunday Blog Party. It's the first time anyone has chosen to feature my blog in such a way, so I'm really feeling the love right now.

Today I'm sharing some of the things I've done this year to decorate for fall. Mind you, it's nothing elaborate -- not by a long shot. I tend to keep things simple, especially now that we're temporarily in a rented apartment.

I have an antique pinch bottle that I like to change out with the seasons. (There's my chest, in the background, from my post "To Paint or Not to Paint".)  Recently I picked up a few fake blooms at the dollar store to add to the pinch bottle. I placed one of my autumn scented votive candles on the end table, and it's good to go.

I like to open my eyes to objects I already have in our home that I can combine for a seasonal vignette. The greens and brown of my old books work perfectly for fall.

I relocated my french pitcher, with the fall arrangemen,t next to the books.

And placed my metal magnetic calendar in the background.

Voilà! A fall vignette in minutes.

I am very fortunate to be married to a very talented artist who has provided our home with beautiful artwork. Usually I can find a painting to include in my seasonal decorating, such as this aspens watercolor.


And, of course, there's my beloved pumpkin that Dennis painted a couple of years ago. I always show it off in the fall.

There's still time to enter my giveaway for a chance to win your own unframed pumpkin print like this one. But hurry; the entry deadline ends Tuesday, October 22. You can find the Rafflecopter entry here.

I hope by sharing my fall decorating I've demonstrated that what appears to be subtle changes around our homes can have a seasonal impact. One doesn't need to expend a lot of time, or money.

Hope your week is filled with joy.


Sharing with:
Inspired Sunday at Sunday View
Link It or Lump It at Two It Yourself
Inspire Me Monday at Create with Joy
Tweak it Tuesday at Cozy Little House
Nifty Thrifty Tuesday at Coastal Charm

Friday, October 18, 2013

Random 5 Friday

It's Random 5 Friday, again. (Where did this week go?)

1. I've had learning to quilt on my bucket list for half my adult life. Today I start my first class. Check.

2. Since 2007 I've had four different blogs. For awhile I had 3 going at the same time, but since June A Joyful Cottage has been my only blog. Yesterday I launched a new photo blog Captured In My Lens. I'm thinking I might need to find a Bloggers Anonymous support group.

3. When I was 9 years old my dad brought home a collection of salt & pepper shakers he had purchased at an auction and gave them to me. He thought it would be fun for me to add to the collection over time. I did for quite awhile. Then fifteen years ago I decided I no longer enjoyed them. I sold the whole collection to an antique store. I kinda wish I had kept them.

Salt & Pepper Friends
Photo by Vickisee Photography. Some Rights Reserved.

4. Confession. Sometimes I just don't feel like cooking, nor do I feel like going out to eat. On those nights we have a store bought frozen dinner. Marie Callender's pot pies are pretty darn good, by the way.

5. I've rediscovered crossword puzzles, and have been working the puzzle in our local newspaper. It comes three times a week. I figure at 3x a week for 52 weeks, that's 156 puzzles. By this time next year I hope to be smarter, or at least have a broader vocabulary.

It's been a mighty fine week here. Hope you're having a good week, too.

Sharing with Random 5 Friday at A Rural Journal

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Monogrammed Burlap Pillow Cover and a $5 off Coupon

Is there anything more fun than checking your email and finding you're the winner of a giveaway?
I'm kind of doing a little happy dance in front of my laptop right now.
Melissa and Stephanie over at "Two It Yourself" hosted a Monogrammed Burlap Pillow Cover giveaway and I. Am. The. Blessed. Winner.

That's right. Coming very soon to my home is one burlap pillow cover like these with the letter "R". Can you blame me for being excited?

Two It Yourself is a DIY blog authored by sisters Melissa and Stephanie. They share so many great ideas and projects. From furniture makeovers to how to make your own curtain rods. All kinds of holiday crafts and décor, kids stuff and party planning. If you aren't following them, you need to. Especially if, like me, you're into saving money and doing things yourself.

Melissa is the owner of Cuteness Cubed, an Etsy shop where she sells, among other items, the monogrammed burlap pillow covers. She has created a coupon for people who entered the giveaway but didn't win. It gives $5 off the pillow covers. Melissa has very kindly extended that offer to the readers of A Joyful Cottage. The coupon code is 5OFFFRIDAY (3 F's), and it's good thru Friday, October 25. This coupon makes a great deal even better. Christmas is just around the corner, and these made in the USA monogrammed burlap pillow covers would make great gifts. What's more, it's a chance to support a fellow blogger, and entrepreneur. Here's the link to Melissa's Etsy shop:

Thanks so much Melissa and Stephanie. Best wishes for continued success.

Monday, October 14, 2013

To Paint, Or Not To Paint

That is the question.

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the original finish of an antique piece,
Or to take arms against it by painting over the stained wood.

Last week I blogged about my little $7.29 waterfall table redo.

I received some nice comments, which I very much appreciate. One comment mentioned that at a time when so many people are painting old furniture, it's nice to see me go the other direction.

Now, I don't dislike painted furniture. In fact, I have painted -- and will paint -- a number of pieces. And I have -- and will -- share them at A Joyful Cottage. But I like stained wood furniture, too. Especially vintage and antique pieces with beautiful grains, like my waterfall table, and like this $7.50 chest of drawers, which was part of the truckload of yard sale furniture my hubby picked up.

At first glance the chest didn't seem like much, and could have been a candidate for paint. But closer inspection revealed it's 100% solid wood (walnut?), with a beautiful grain,

Queen Anne legs on the front.

and unique vertical handles. I love their design; like a delicate silverware pattern.

Amazingly, the drawers are so thick that the hardware attachments don't show on the inside of the drawer. And there is no evidence that the handles were once horizontal. These vertical handles appear to be original to the chest. (Is this boring to you? If so, I apologize. But for someone like me who has an appreciation for antiques, this is fascinating.)

Ok, let me get to the point. I could have painted this chest in a French blue or gray, or white, and I'm sure it would have been stunning. But I just couldn't do it. Not this time.

So, I cleaned the chest and used Howard's Restor-A -Finish on it.

Followed by a polish with Howard's Feed-N-Wax.

And the chest thanked me.

Now the chest sits in our entryway. And it works perfectly with my husband's oil painting "Waiting for You" above it, and his sculpture "The Awakening" perched on top, along with a few of my other favorite things.

I think the chest is beautiful. I only wish I knew its history.

Now my question for you is:

Would you have painted this piece? (There's no right or wrong answer; I'm just curious.)

If you haven't entered my giveaway, there's still time. I'm giving away a 5x7 print of my husband's original watercolor "Pumpkin". Click on the pumpkin to go to the giveaway post and enter.

Click on the pumpkin to enter my giveaway.
Hope you have a super week.

I'm joining
Inspired Sunday at Sunday View
Amaze Me Monday at Dwellings
Tweak it Tuesday at Cozy Little House

Friday, October 11, 2013

Random 5 Friday

Today I'm joining Random 5 Friday, at Nancy's A Rural Journal, for the first time. Random 5 Friday is a weekly meme where you share "5 random facts about you, your pets, your kids, whatever".
Okay, here are my Random 5 for this week.
1. I thoroughly enjoy thrifting, and two weeks ago I scored this little French pitcher for $2.

2. Hubby and I spent a few days in Hood River, Oregon last week, and came home with some amazing pears at 75 cents/lb.
3. The red and yellow pears ripened to a delicious sweet flavor; so wonderful in a green salad with walnuts and feta cheese, dressed with a raspberry vinaigrette.
4. My husband recently spilled cinnamon hazelnut ground coffee and used our dustbuster to clean it up. The aroma remains in the dust cup. Now every time I use the dustbuster I crave a cup of coffee.
5. I have a weakness for mocha lattes and love to indulge myself when I spy a coffee bar.
Isn't this fun? Hop on over to Random 5 Friday to see other Randoms, and link up to join the party.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

My $7.29 Table Redo

In a post last week I promised to show you what I did with the black waterfall nightstand/end table my hubby brought home from a yard sale.
Total cost of this project = $7.29. ($6 for the table + $1.29 for the hardware.)
My motto when I begin a redo project is:
Let the piece tell you what it wants to be.
This little gem wanted something much different than what I had imagined. At first, I thought I would sand it down a bit, paint it, and use it as a nightstand. But once I started sanding I realized my art deco table would not be happy with my original plan.
No, this petite table was constructed of two kinds of wood, and in its natural state the dual shades were pretty interesting. So I thought maybe I'd sand all the paint off the wood and put a natural stain on it.
And just as I was stewing over how much work it would take to get that black paint out of the recesses of the trim unless I used chemical stripper, which I hate -- I mean loathe -- my beloved came home and said, "Wow! That looks really cool. You should leave it that way, with the remaining black on it."
"Huh?" I answered, with a you-must-be-crazy look on my face.
He smiled and wisely said, "It's your table. Whatever you do, it will look great."
So I looked at the table. Hard. And I realized that man was onto something. This little honey looked good with pinstripes.
(Sometimes you just need a second pair of eyes to point out the obvious.)
So I stopped my manic sanding.
I got out the Minwax natural stain (which I already had on hand from a previous project).
Petite Table received a nice new coat.
And I dressed her up with a new drawer pull because, as every woman knows, accessories make the outfit.
 I stood back and gave PT the once over.
She looked good. She looked really good. Too good to be sent to the bedroom where she would rarely be seen. So I carried her to the living room, and gave her a special spot. Now she holds my jade plant, in the hand painted Mexican pot we picked up for $2 at an estate sale, and the plate I found at the Dollar Tree that matches perfectly.
And every time I walk by PT I'm glad I didn't put a coat of paint on that beautiful complexion. 
Thanks for dropping by. If you haven't entered my Pumpkin Print Giveway, there's still time. Hop over here for details.
I'll be joining:
Homemaking Party at Hope In Every Season
Wow Us Wednesday at Savvy Southern Style
Share Your Cup at Have a Daily Cup of Mrs. Olson
Home Sweet Home at The Charm of Home
Home and Garden Thursday at A Delightsome Life
Shabbilicious Friday link party at Shabby Art Boutique
Link Party at Redoux
Tutorials, Tips and Tidbits at Stone Gable
Frugal Friday at The Shabby Nest
Craft Frenzy Friday at Craft Dictator