Sunday Dinner: The Last Batch of Butternut Squash Soup

Last fall my butternut squash plants produced 17 squash. Image I gave a few to family and friends and stored the rest in the basement to use throughout the winter.

Butternut squash and Black Eyed Susans

Butternut squash and Black Eyed Susans

Today I used the last of the squash to make one final pot of butternut squash soup.*sniff*

I have to say, it’s delicious.

Here’s my recipe.

Rita’s Butternut Squash Soup

2 butternut squash, cut in half, seeded and roasted for 1 hour at 375 degrees.

3 apples, peeled, cored, cut up

2 T butter or olive oil

1/2 large sweet onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 qt. chicken broth

After the squash is roasted and cooled, peel it and cut it into 1-2 inch pieces. Saute the onion in butter/oil for a few minutes and then add the apples. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Pour in the chicken broth, add the squash pieces, and bring to a boil. I add 1/4 cup Vermouth here for additional flavor- you can use any dry white wine… or not. Turn the heat down to simmer for about 20 – 30 minutes. Use a hand-held immersion blender* to puree the mixture. For added richness add 1/2 cup half and half or heavy cream and stir to blend. (optional) Add salt and pepper to taste. *If you don’t have an immersion blender, use a regular blender. Blend about 1 – 2 cups at a time and hold the lid on. Blending hot things can be very explosive. 🙂 I have frozen this soup with good results. Use it within a couple of months.

Roasted Butternut Squash

Roasted Butternut Squash

Ingredients combined

Ingredients combined

immersion blender

Using immersion blender

 

butternut squash soup

Yum!

If you try my Butternut Squash Soup recipe, please comment to let me know how you like it. Thanks!

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What’s in a Gift Shop?

Last week I finally took some of my newest items to the gift shop in NJ Balance Wellness Center. They have a gorgeous display of jewelry, including mine!

Jewelry display

Jularee display at NJ Balance Wellness Center

gemstone bracelets

Jularee’s gemstone bracelets on display

jewelry display

Some of the gorgeous jewelry in the gift shop

Jularee Handcrafted Jewelry can be found at:
NJ Balance Wellness Center
Main Street, Medford, NJ

Happy Birthday, March!

Aquamarine is the gemstone for those born during the month of March. It is also associated with the Throat chakra.

Wearing aquamarine enhances the ability to communicate, allowing self expression. It is considered a calming stone.

The color of the aquamarine gemstone is a delicate blend of blue and green reminiscent of the sea. A variety of beryl, it’s clarity ranges from translucent to opaque.

aquamarine necklace

Aquamarine Gemstone Necklace

Grandmother-to-be Baby Showers? Really?

I’m not a grandmother, yet. My guess is that’s why I hadn’t heard about the trend of throwing a shower for expectant grandmothers until recently. Apparently, grandmother-to-be baby showers are all the rage.

Who knew? Not me.

When I first found out about grandmother showers, I thought it was a joke. Nobody really does this, do they? I have friends who are grandmothers and none of them had a shower.

So just what are grandmother-to-be baby showers? Here are answers I found to a few of my questions.

Who gives a baby shower to an expectant grandmother?

The grandmother’s friends or co-workers do the honors.

Where are grandmother showers held and what refreshments are served?

This type of party can range from a simple tea and cookies or wine and cheese at a friend’s house to a catered event at a restaurant.

Are the guests supposed to bring gifts?

Yes, of course.

What kinds of gifts?

Grandmotherly gifts. Photo albums, frames, magazines and books about grandparenting would be perfect. Or how about grandmother jewelry such as charm bracelets with space for add-on charms (for future grandchildren). Other gifts could include baby items for the grandmother to use with the child: car seat, playpen, diapers, baby toys and children’s books.

Should the mother-to-be attend the grandmother’s shower?

Not necessarily. The guest-of-honor at this party is the grandmother. The other guests attending the shower are her peers: friends, co-workers, and possibly her sisters. If the mother-to-be wants to stop by for a few minutes to introduce herself, I’m sure she would be welcomed.

Can you think of other questions? The concept of celebrating future grandmotherhood with a baby shower might seem odd to some of you as it did to me, but after I thought about it, I decided that it sounds like a perfect excuse for a party!

Tell me about your experiences with a grandmother baby shower in the comments below. I can’t wait to find out more.

Thanks!

Tips for Minimizing Your Risk When Shopping for Jewelry Online

Someone once told me, “Know your jewelry or know your jeweler.” This advice can be applied to any vendor, from box stores with machine-made products to a one-person handcrafted jewelry shop that sells online or at craft fairs.

If you are ordering from an unknown website or an unfamiliar Etsy shop you take on a certain amount of risk. Minimize your risk by doing your homework.

The Website

Scan the website. It doesn’t matter if it is simple or complicated. It should be organized, attractive, and informative.

The About Page and Profile

Read the “About” page. Look for the profile of the shop owner. Has the owner answered the questions of how the items are made and who designs and makes them? How much experience does the maker have and why did the he/she choose  jewelry (or other craft)?

Are the items handmade by one person or by a team? How long has the shop been in business? Is there a physical shop?

The Items

Look for detailed descriptions with measurements and clear photos.

Keywords

Check for keywords to describe the quality of the metals such as “silver plated” or “sterling silver”. Silver plating wears off quickly and should be inexpensive. Sterling silver is 92.5% silver. It might tarnish but it will never wear off. Know the difference between gold plated, gold filled, and carat gold.

Beads

If there are beads the description should include information about them. They could be natural gemstones, synthetic stones, glass, crystal, resin, plastic, wood, or many other materials.

Measurements

Measurements of the jewelry items should include the size of any beads or gemstones. Take out a ruler and mark the sizes on a piece of paper (or draw the item) for an accurate idea of the size of the item. Measure a necklace or pair of earrings in your jewelry collection to compare sizes. Bracelets are a bit more challenging. A chain bracelet or a bracelet with small beads can be sized by their total length. However, if the bracelet contains large or chunky beads, you will need a longer length than usual.

Photos

The photos should be clear and show different views of the item. In an ideal world the jewelry would be shown on a model, but many small businesses can’t afford to pay models. Is the item in the photo the actual item you will receive or a sample? That should be clearly stated.

Shipping and Packaging

Shipping information is also important. If the items are custom or made-to-order it might take one, two, or more weeks before the item is shipped. Add on the actual shipping time and you could be ordering jewelry for an event that will be over before you receive it.

How will your jewelry be packaged for shipping? Jewelry boxes inside bubble wrap envelopes seem to be the usual and most economical for small items.

Is the shipping included in the price of your item? If the shop says, “Free Shipping”, the shipping costs are usually included in the price. I personally would rather pay shipping separately.

Returns

Check the return policy. It is fairly standard for businesses to require that you ship the item back at your cost if you have changed your mind or ordered the wrong item/size. However, if the item arrived broken, is not what you ordered, or there’s some other shop error, the business might reimburse the shipping as well as the cost of the item.

Customer Service

Customer service contact information should be listed on the website. At the very least, it should have an email address and general physical location (city, state, country). Don’t expect a telephone number from a small handmade jewelry or craft shop.

Finally…Take a Chance

Be cautious and thorough, but by all means purchase from new shops. Give them a chance to prove themselves to you. Who knows… maybe the shop will become famous and you can say you found them first!

Do you have an experience or tips to share? Leave a comment.

( I sell my jewelry online through Etsy so most of my advice and tips are based on that experience.)