Warm Wishes

Dear Reader,

I hope you are staying warm this winter! I know so many of you miss all the other seasons! Take advantage of these extra cold weekends and cook something warm and comforting. This weekend, I chose to make Lasagna Soup.

I first created this soup last year during our annual “Souper Bowl” competition. We had clam chowder, taco soup, broccoli & cheese soup, and many more. Imagine a few tables pushed together full of hot soups, blended aromas filling the air, and all the power strips you can find! It was a fun gathering and hot soup is always a happy treat.

I have made this soup a few times since then. Each time the ingredients may change just a little, but the satisfying result is always the same. I hope this winter, maybe this weekend, you will make time for something warm and filling as well.

With warm wishes,


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
  • 1 can (28 ounces) petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 jar (24 ounce) pasta sauce
  • 1 carton (32 ounce) chicken stock
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons basil pesto
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 12 ounces farfalle pasta
  • shredded mozzarella cheese for topping


  1. Brown the onion and ground meat in a large pot, season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Stir in the tomato paste, mix well.
  3. Add Italian seasoning, garlic powder, diced tomatoes, pasta sauce, and half of the chicken stock.
  4. Stir in pesto and cottage cheese.
  5. Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Undercook pasta by about 3-4 minutes. Strain noodles and add to soup.
  6. Simmer for about 5 – 10 minutes or until pasta is done.

Serve with shredded mozzarella cheese, crushed red pepper, and garlic bread.


As the noodles continue to cook, they will absorb some of the moisture from the soup. Add some of the remaining chicken stock as the soup thickens. Soups like this can have many substitutions. I have used broken lasagna noodles instead of farfalle. If available, I will dice and sauté carrots before adding onions and meat. Try including mushrooms and zucchini, or add 1/2 pound of ground sausage for extra flavor.

Share with us your warm wishes! Leave a comment.

Just Another Day

I celebrated a birthday this week!  And on this birthday, I learned a new lesson.  I think it is natural – or at least healthy – to always be learning.  There are so many things we can learn each day.  As a teacher, I enjoy modeling for my students that learning never stops, just because you grow up.  I enjoy learning something new every day.  I learned many things this week, starting with a little history of what was happening in the year 1976, the year I was born: 

  • a dozen eggs cost 69 cents
  • stamps cost 13 cents
  • Stretch Armstrong was created
  • the Steelers won the Super Bowl
  • Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley were tv favorites
  • there were no red M&M’s

I don’t mind getting older, but I don’t expect balloons or a party. You don’t even need to call me or tell me happy birthday.  It’s just another day – or so I thought, until this week.  This week, I learned something new.

You see, there are six kids in my family – four boys, two girls. Growing up, we simply celebrated birthdays at home, with just the immediate family.  It made sense.  The six of us plus mama and daddy, eight people singing was enough of a party!  Usually, we would have dinner together as a family, and then blow out the candles.  Acknowledgement of the birthday.  Simple. With your parents and brothers and sisters.  It’s just the way birthdays were done. 

My birthday is two weeks after New Year, which is one week after Christmas, which is about four weeks after Thanksgiving!  That’s nearly eight weeks of classroom parties with students, parents, and teachers, and nearly eight weeks of family parties with aunts, uncles, and cousins! Eight weeks of celebrations. Eight weeks of holiday foods that you won’t see again until next year! By the time my birthday comes along, I am feeling quite full – and a bit rounder.

But this year, this birthday, this one was different.  It started out like all the others with my mother asking me what kind of cake I want.  I requested a sausage quiche instead of cake. I told my coworkers no party, no cupcakes, no special lunch.  It’s just another day. 

On the morning of my birthday, I arrived at work to find a doorway draped with streamers. Inside my classroom more streamers, birthday banner, birthday hat, balloons, and a card full of glitter!  I think this was the first time I ever received balloons for my birthday.  I actually cried – twice! I was surprised at the joy and love I felt from such a simple gift. At lunch, I was greeted with cupcakes and a display board filled with facts: a history of what was happening in the year 1976, the year I was born.  My students sang to me, friends reached out with happy birthday messages.  My siblings flooded Facebook with pictures and birthday wishes.  At home, the requested quiche was waiting for me, along with a surprise mac-n-cheese and homemade light rolls! 

Along with learning the cost of stamps and a dozen eggs, I learned that indeed, my birthday is just another day, but it’s not about me.  It’s about all the people I love.  It’s another day filled with opportunities to tell someone you appreciate them, reach out to friends and family, and share a little joy.

A New Year, A New Goal

The new year is full of reflection, promises, hope, and resolutions! You know the ones that are easy to predict – wake up early, get healthy, save money, and more! I read somewhere to just pick one word and let that be your goal for the new year.  Feeling optimistic, I chose two words – one for my professional life and one for my personal life. I chose money and skinny!  Later that day, a phrase came to mind for another goal:

Thoughts without judgement.  

I am generally a likeable person.  I think if you asked my coworkers to describe me, they would say I am nice.  If you asked my family, they would say I am nice.  If you ask my ex-husband’s wife, even she would say I am nice.  I’ve never bragged about being the smartest or the prettiest or the wealthiest, but I do brag about being one of the nicest.  I quantify “nice” by my actions.  I’m agreeable, kind, and easy going. I try to be generous with my time. If you need me to take on a project at work, I’ll do it.  If a friend needs help with moving, I’m there with boxes.  You need a ride to the airport? I’ll drive. 

Which brings me to the phrase: thoughts without judgement.  You see, being nice is easy, but sometimes my thoughts are not so nice.  Sometimes in my thoughts, I am quick to complain, judge, criticize, mock.  There may even be some inward eye rolling followed by silent insults.

Thoughts without judgement.

So, does keeping those judgmental thoughts to myself make me a nice person?  Does keeping rude comments to myself make me a nice person?  Does having s little self-control and not speaking out make me a nice person?  Absolutely not.  It makes me a hypocrite. 

At work, I shared my new year’s resolution with my friend.  I can’t even remember how the topic came up, but it did.  Of course her reply was, “Talley, you are a nice person.”   We talked a bit more and then both went back to work.  Later that day, she came into my room to vent – as we often do with one another.  You know the venting I’m referring to.  When you have to talk about someone who just said something annoying, disagreed with you, or heaven forbid – asked you to do something!  Anyways – she came into my room to share the “thoughts” that were running through her head, and then she stopped herself.  Suddenly remembering my new agenda, she decided to keep her negative thoughts to herself.  It was like not offering someone a dozen donuts when you know they are on a diet!

A similar exchange happened with my mother.  I told her about my thoughts without judgement plan, and she caught herself before criticizing someone. 

It’s been almost a week, and I can already see a difference! I’ve been keeping a mental score of how many times a judgmental thought pops into my head.  It was disappointing as first, realizing how hurtful I can be. This much needed self-reflection is slightly heartbreaking.  Thankfully, I’ve been able to catch myself mid-thought.  I can recognize and stop what is happening.  I am quickly shifting away from those negative thoughts altogether.

Thoughts without judgement

So, it’s the beginning of a new year.  Yes!  I want to make more money.  Yes! I want to be skinny.  But even more than that, I want to actually be what I claim to be. I want to be a better person, I want to be a nice person.  The next time someone describes me as such, I want it to be true.