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News from the Nest, January 1

Happy New Year, Friends!

I feel like I’ve been gone forever, but truly, I sent my last newsletter just two weeks ago! And thanks to all of you who reached out over the holidays! It is so nice to be missed! 😊

In a nutshell, our holiday was pure bliss. My entire (though relatively small) family was gathered for the first time in 27 years to spend Christmas together. By the numbers, we had eleven people, five dogs, and one rabbit under one roof. Mom got everyone, including the dogs, matching pjs to wear Christmas morning!

We stayed at a VRBO on the Isle of Palms, outside of Charleston, SC, and made a trek to the city one day to shop, wander, and eat. Other than that, our days were filled with working puzzles, playing chess, doing a large word search, sleeping, walking on the beach, reading, talking, eating, and cooking.

Instead of everyone hauling their gifts down, we just did a gift exchange that was so much fun. The gifts were so thoughtful; we had every family member give a little info about their interests/hobbies so that the giver could find something special. My brother had my name and I need to show you what he gave me. He is a novice woodworker. I say that, but at the same time he is in the process of building all the furniture for his office…so.

When I opened my first gift, it appeared to be a little box he built with a white front. I realized it was a light, which was very cool. But when he plugged it in, I immediately broke down in tears.

Dog picture in lightbox.

He had my daughter send him a picture of our Flora, who passed away two months ago, and had a friend laser-cut her image into a piece of heavy plastic. It is 100% Flora…it’s amazing how accurately it portrays her.

I thought that was my gift and was beyond thrilled until I was handed another big parcel! He also made me a desktop organizer which has a built-in charger for my phone! Say What? I really scored, didn’t I?

desk organizer

O.K., enough of that. I sure hope your holidays were everything you hoped that they would be. I know that this time of the year can be difficult for many, for various reasons. But I hope you were able to find a little peace.

So, now it’s time to turn the page to 2024!

I’m not a big one for resolutions, but we will be having a dry January…that’s the plan anyway! 😏 I really do enjoy my glass of wine each evening, which is why it will be good to give it up for a month. Of course, I need to get back to my exercise, which has been non-existent for the past two months. And I need to figure out how to be more productive.

I’m frustrated by the amount of time I waste mindlessly scrolling through social media on my phone. I’m investigating apps to limit that, but I may just delete those apps from my phone! It’s tricky because as a blogger, social media is important. I just need to figure out how to limit the personal time I spend on those time-sucking, mind-numbing platforms.

Start the Year with a Little Decluttering Challenge!

  • This is the fourth year for our free, declutter challenge and it keeps growing. When you sign up, each week, for seven weeks, you will receive an email that targets specific areas of our homes. The emails will give tips specific to those areas and give you a printable checklist with items typically found in those areas that you can get rid and most likely not even miss! I liken it to a decluttering scavenger hunt. These lists aren’t exhaustive, but they definitely help jumpstart your decluttering. Read more about the Declutter Challenge and sign up here.
Declutter Challenge button 2024.
clothes closet.

From the Kitchen

After a good month of excess, I like to scale back for January. I blew through both my food budget and my calorie budget! One of the ways I try to rein in both is by limiting my food purchases to only perishable food and finding creative ways to eat what we have on hand.

We always have dried beans on hand, that’s a staple that I depend upon year-round.

Here are some of our favorite bean recipes that are good for your budget and your health!

  • This Butternut Squash and Black Bean Chili is a hearty, comforting dish perfect for a cozy night in or a festive gathering. It starts with a base of sautéed onions and garlic, to which diced butternut squash is added, lending a sweet, nutty flavor that pairs beautifully with the bold heat of jalapeños and the smokiness of chipotle in adobo.
Butternut Squash Chili in a White Bowl.
  • No list of bean recipes would be complete without these Brothy Beans, which are in regular rotation at our home. Large White Beans (Cannellini Beans) are cooked in the oven until they are tender, flavorful, and brothy. Suggested variations to this original recipe and information about other types of white beans are also discussed. Roast tomatoes that need to be used up as an extra flavor boost to a bowl of these beans.
Brothy Beans with Roasted Tomatoes
  • This 15 Bean Soup Recipe is easy to make in the slow cooker and can be made healthier by substituting Smoked Turkey Wings and/or Legs instead of Smoked Ham Hocks. Instructions for making this soup in the slow cooker, on the stovetop, or in the oven are included. Additionally, adjustments for soaking or not soaking your dried beans are discussed.
bowl of 15 bean soup (1 of 1)-3
  • Often, the most simple ingredients combine to make the most flavorful soups. White beans, onion, garlic, celery, and carrots combine with stock, a parmesan rind, bay leaves, and tomato paste to create the alchemy known as Tuscan White Bean Soup. Finish this healthy soup with chopped kale or spinach and a sprinkling of rosemary, and serve it with a salad (try this Insalata Mista) and crusty bread for a delightful meal. This Tuscan White Bean Soup can be made in the Slow Cooker or on the Stove Top. The results are equally delicious; it’s just up to you what would make your day easier!
Tuscan Bean Soup
  • This White Bean Soup with Ham and Vegetables is a lighter, brothier version of traditional bean soup recipes. I’ve grown up eating thick and hearty bean soups, which I’ve always enjoyed. But last winter, Terry ordered ham and bean soup in a local restaurant that was more brothy than thick. The broth in the soup was ham-based and was delightfully smoky. This white bean and ham soup is my attempt to replicate that delicious soup.
Bean and Ham soup in a bowl with a spoon.
  • These delicious crock pot pinto beans, flavored with onions, jalapeños, garlic and spices, have become a staple in our home because they are effortless to make and very versatile. In addition to the slow cooker pinto beans recipe, we discuss whether to soak or not soak your beans, as well as how to cook this recipe in an Instant Pot and on the stovetop. We eat these slow-cooker pinto beans probably every other week. Typically, they top a bowl of black rice with avocado and roasted butternut squash. They are fantastic over a baked sweet potato, where their spiciness perfectly balances the sweetness of the sweet potato. 
Pinto Beans in a red crock.
creamy hummus and cucumber slices.

Canned tomatoes and pasta are other pantry staples that we can easily use to make meals without trips to the grocery store.

A bowl of marinara sauce which makes a good tomato sauce substitute.
  • This authentic Marinara Sauce is not only the best Marinara sauce recipe you’ll probably enjoy, but it is also incredibly easy and quick to make! San Marzano tomatoes, fresh garlic and basil, and a healthy glug of good olive oil are the central ingredients of this flavorful sauce. Salt helps balance all the ingredients and a few red pepper flakes add a touch of interest. And it is so easy to make in large quantities. I tripled this recipe for our Christmas Eve dinner with these meatballs and fresh pasta! *Chef’s kiss!*
Three meatballs in a bowl of marinara sauce.
  • Rigatoni al Forno, literally ‘Rigatoni from the oven,’ is Italian comfort food at its best. Pasta baked in a flavorful tomato sauce with oodles of delicious mozzarella cheese. It is virtually impossible to mess up this simple recipe. If you have penne but not rigatoni, by all means, substitute it!
Baked Rigatoni in white baking dish.
  • Make this easy, Healthy Homemade Tomato Soup from start to finish in under an hour. Suggestions for substitutions are included as well. This delicious, creamy soup is Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, and Low-Fat.
A bowl of Tomato soup,
  • What if you need to or want to avoid nightshades, such as tomatoes? This is a recipe for Nomato Sauce, which comes close to the color, texture, and taste of tomato sauce, but without the tomatoes.
Pot with vegetables to be cooked for Nomato Sauce and a measuring cup with nomato sauce.

Indoor Gardening

If these dark and cold days have you hankering to get your fingers in some soil, never fear! Bring some garden indoors!

  • A terrarium is a great way to nourish that green thumb during those winter months. You can get a little dirt under your nails and revel in the satisfaction of watching something grow under your care. Instructions on how to make a terrarium, plus material and recommended plants. Also, tips for terrarium maintenance.
  • I like having fresh flowers on our dining room table but buying fresh flowers every week can become costly. So, I decided to use the stalwart Orchid and combine it with another long-lived indoor plant, ferns, for a long-lasting, living centerpiece. This centerpiece has been going strong for four years…I just swap out the orchids when they are spent.
A crystal bowl with orchids and ferns.
Gold Pot feet on glass bowl.
  • A sunroom is a perfect cross between an extra room and a porch. It lets the sun in on the best days and provides a warm, welcoming space for everyone to hang out on cooler days. Adding indoor plants to a sunroom is a perfect way to grow an indoor garden and reap the benefits that plants provide, both aesthetically and for your health. And whether you have a three- or four-season sunroom, it’s perfect for growing plants all year. Let’s look at seventeen plants for sunrooms and what they need to thrive.
A variety of plants for sunrooms, including Fishtail Palm, Hibiscus, Kalanchoe, and String of Pearls.

Books Read in 2023

Well, I didn’t quite meet my reading goal this year but I did read (or listen to) a bunch of great books, with only one real dud. Pop on over for the list.

Some Fun Finds and a Few Favorites

  • An assortment of Free Kindle Books! They were free when I composed the list, but be warned that they do move titles on and off the free list frequently.
  • This Ornament Storage box is so much better than what I have! I really like that each ‘layer’ can be removed.
  • I bought these lights for the bar cabinet I made this past year and love them. So this Christmas I gifted one to both my mom and my daughter, who also love them! There are so many uses for these handy, rechargeable, cordless lights. One of the things I like about these versus other rechargeable lights is that these lights charge at the base versus the lamp shade. If I wanted to plug them in while using them, the cord would be less obtrusive this way.
  • This Retractable Clothes Hanger is brilliant! I have one that is much more limited but think I need this one…I mean, can you have too many clothes hangers in your laundry room? I think not.

Well, I’m off to work on a Knit Baby Blanket and watch some football. Wishing you a fantastic start to your year!


Signature of Lynn

Thanks for making my day by SHARING!!

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    1. Aw, Thanks Judy!

      I am truly blessed that I fell into this job of mine that I love to work on everyday. But, without exaggeration, it’d be awful lonley and unfulfilling if I put my words out into the universe and no one ever responded. So, thank you for taking the job to read and write back. It truly means the world to me.

      Wishing you a wonderful week and an even better year!


  1. Visited my niece in VA fir Chrustmas and we made the Fromage Firt and it was so yummy. Thank you fir the recipe. Your brother is as talented as my late brother. I treasure the gifts he made fir me on Christmases past. Happy New Year🎉

    1. Good Morning Barbs! It is so nice to hear from you. And Happy New Year!

      I’m so glad you like the Fromage Fort…it really is a yummy way to use up cheese bits! And isn’t my brother talented! I’m lucky he drew my name this year.

      Have a great week!

  2. Lynn, it sounds like you had a wonderful holiday season for sure. I have to admit I’m always looking for reorganization ideas. I also declutter regularly and I’m always amazed at how much I end up purging each time. I absolutely love the dog light. Your brother is very talented. My daughter has started doing oil painting, she’s a natural creative individual. She did a picture of her standard poodle. I should email you the picture. Alwa6s looking forward to seeing what you’ve been up to and the ideas and projects you have. Stay well.

    1. Good Morning Jackie,

      Thanks for the picture your daughter painted! She really is quite talented.

      Hope you find the decluttering and organizing ideas helpful.

      Have a great day!

  3. Happy New Year Lynn! I am trying my best to declutter. Sometimes it is so hard. I get distracted and my hardest part is the “maybe I will use this sometime” instead of realizing I have had the article for many years and never used it😊 But have to get busy, hoping to re-do my kitchen this year
    By the way, I absolutely love your brothers gifts to you. And the organizer? Wow! Bet he could sell those easily,
    Well hope you have a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year,
    Love, Juanita

    1. Good Morning Juanita! I struggle with the same thing! This weekend I took a long hard look at many of the items taking up space at the top of my pantry and realized that they had been there for far too long! It can be a challenging process, so don’t be too hard on yourself! That you are working on it is a big step!

      Hugs, Lynn

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