New Year brings beginnings

he winter solstice just passed so we are into the shortest time of daylight. I get up when it is still dark, and the light disappears before supper. I do not think I would do well in an area where darkness takes over the longest part of the year for long periods of time.

When we visited Alaska a few years ago it seemed strange to go to bed when it was still light. We journeyed to a resort a distance out of town and returned in the wee hours of the morning, but it was still light. When we got back to our hotel we went to bed and it was still light. What a funny feeling that was!

People complain about the weather around here, but I guess I am just used to it. I would not go so far as to say I like the snow, but it certainly is pretty when it has just fallen. I do not mind it, either. If the weather is too bad I just stay at home since I am retired. I do have to remind myself at times that I am only a volunteer. It is not worth risking life and limb to be helpful if it is really bad.

Ice is the worst. There is nothing you can do on ice. We already had one day of ice this fall. Going to the hospital turned out to be treacherous although I would not have known it from here. It scares me when I am sliding at an intersection and cannot stop.

I just received word that my cousin is experiencing flooding. The water is rising in her basement and she fears the loss of mechanical things. She is praying for a drop in temperature and a stop of the rain. Of course, Hickory Heights sits high on a hill. That is not without its own set of problems. There were times when the rain ran off the hills behind our place and came in the basement. When we dug a ditch out back that diverted the water away from the house. You can do that kind of thing if you live in the country, but if you live in town there is little you can do.

They say that people are depressed during the holidays, especially, those who are alone. It is no wonder since even the daylight hours make a difference in the rate of depression. During the winter months we do not have a whole lot of sun. It is most welcome whenever it makes its appearance.

Now that we are heading toward the spring equinox the days will be getting longer. Equinox marks the time when the daylight and dark are equal. I look forward to that. I look forward even more to the days when the light periods are longer than the darkness.

This next week will mark the beginning of another year. Since I am an optimist I tend to focus on the idea of the new beginning instead of the ending of a year. A new year brings hope. Each year I write an entry in my journal summing up the year’s happenings and another looking forward to things to come. Forcing myself to think like that lets me review just how many good things happened and how much I have to look forward to.

Some of the things I look forward to are good, but others are not so good. There is a saying that you have to take the good along with the bad. You just hope the good outweighs the bad.

Cold weather means it is time to get the soup kettle out. To me, soup is a great meal when it is cold outside. Once you have the meat browned or cooked in some way, it becomes a one pot meal – so easy on the clean-up.

While I am always looking for new recipes I have many tried and true ones that I go back to often. Last night I made my chicken noodle soup for a dinner at church.

Since I have ham left over from Christmas I will use some of that as a soup base. I also hope to grind some of the ham with some pickles for ham salad. Those sandwiches are delicious grilled.

If there was one thing I learned being a farmer’s wife it was to make use of everything. Nothing went to waste at our house. I learned how to recycle leftovers in creative ways since my husband always claimed he did not like leftovers. It became my mission to disguise the leftovers so that he did not recognize them.

When the children left the nest to go to college I had more leftovers than I knew what to do with. It was quite a while before I learned how to adjust my cooking for just the two of us.

I counted on leftovers to put food on our table during the work week. I always cooked a lot on the weekend so that I would have plenty to tide me over all week. My creative recycling made home cooked meals possible on a regular basis. A woman who works outside of the home has to be very efficient. She must be creative as well. There are only so many hours in a day and there was plenty to do in all of them.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at