Lesson 1574 – Easy appetizers for when you leave the nest

Some of my kids are beginning to leave the nest. One left this morning to move into his first apartment.

He’s an officer in the Army and so he’ll be getting a lot of good advice, but the one piece of advice *I* could give him was “the best thing you can do for your wallet and your health is to learn how to cook.”

All my kids have learned how to cook to a degree (at the very least they know how to follow a recipe.) There are about 4 meals that they can make without opening a cookbook.  But if you make the same four meals over and over, you’re going get bored and bored people start eating fast food or going out to restaurants just for a break. And that begins to impact your health and wallet.

I’ve been working on a family cookbook for some time, I keep adding to it when I find something that the kids should know.

This was added today.

Easy Appetizers for When Guests Come Over

When you want to have friends over always put out something to eat. It doesn’t have to be much and variety helps. This summer when we were on a family vacation, each night I’d put the following out on the back table so that everyone could relax with drinks and nibbles before dinner.

Trust me, it not only is impressive, but it’s also much appreciated to be able to “break bread” with good friends while conversing.

It helps to have a collection of small bowls ready to use. You can buy them anywhere or even use something like vintage custard cups (often found in thrift shops.) Keep them cleaned and stored between use for when you need them.

Basic Appetizers

In small bowls serve:

  • Olives (provide another bowl for pits)
  • Nuts
  • Crackers
  • Cheese (you only need to have one type of cheese, but if you have more, by all means, put it out.)

Note: It helps if you keep all the above in your pantry. A small jar of olives, a resealable can of nuts, etc. Make a note of when you have finished what you have so that you can put it on your shopping list the next time you go.

Optional additions:

  • Chips, Pretzels
  • Grapes or cherries
  • Jelly (ex. Pepper for topping cheese)
  • Sliced meats, sausages

If you want to get fancy try

Cream Cheese Pinwheels 

  • 1 tub of whipped cream cheese
  • Dry mix-ins (a handful of dried cranberries, bacon bits, chopped up sun-dried tomatoes, use one or a combination)
  • 3 chopped scallions
  • 4 8-inch tortillas

Combine all ingredients, spread ¼ of mixture on a tortilla and roll up.

Place rolled tortillas in fridge and when chilled, using a sharp knife cut into ¼ inch slices. Place on a platter and serve.

Party meatballs

This one takes a little bit of planning, but is well worth the effort. It’s cooking the meatballs slowly in a savory sauce that’s what makes the difference.

In a crockpot place a bag of pre-cooked frozen meatballs (note the smaller sized ones work best)

Over the top of the meatballs pour one of the following:

  • A jar of red sauce
  • A bottle of Bar-b-que sauce
  • A jar of jelly + a cup of ketchup or cocktail sauce
  • A jar of “simmer sauce”

Cook on warm for about 4 hours

Serve with toothpicks.


Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com

Also, join me on Facebook to find out more about the flock (children and chickens) and see some pretty funny chicken jokes, photos of tiny houses, and even a recipe or two.

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Lesson 1573 – Another birthday *sigh*

It’s my birthday.

Another one.


Oh don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful that I even get to say “It’s my birthday” but, holy cow, those numbers are getting up there.

I’m now at the age I remember my grandmother was.


The other thing that’s difficult about my birthday is that it comes right after Christmas – when I got a lot of stuff, like 11 journals and 7 books, and 2 mugs. I’m kind of good for now. Continue reading


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Lesson 1572 – My dad’s shirt

This Christmas was a little rough.

Not only was I (and I still am) concerned about what’s going on in the political world – reduction of healthcare, tax scams, rolling back regulations intended to protect our environment, along with a President who could send my family’s military members into a nuclear war at any moment, all on top of managing the holidays.

The kids are older. They have jobs. They have mixed schedules. They’re tired. They let me know.

Planning family time becomes more difficult. The excitement of early childhood is gone and it’s been replaced with a semi-sense of adulthood, you know, I’m too mature to get excited about waking up early on Christmas morning – that sort of thing.

And then there was the realization that orphans, even adult orphans do not get to share Christmas with their parents.

Anyway. Continue reading

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Lesson 1571 – Reclaiming my writing


Last year was terrible in oh so many ways.

Like many other creative people, the constant negativity took a toll on my what I did. If you’re a reader of this blog or even my articles, you’d know that my productivity was low.

Very low.

To the point of almost non-existent. And that made me sad, because I live by writing.

But how on earth could I write happy stories (and I do consider myself to be a happy storyteller) when the world appeared to be falling apart? When my family and friends are threatened at every moment?

I fully admit that I wasn’t the best at creating boundaries. At protecting my creative self from the constant onslaught of political madness. Continue reading


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Lesson 1570 – Lost and found

New year, new us.

Prior to the arrival of a guest who was going to spend the night in my daughter’s room, I asked her to, well, make her room a little less pathogenic.

She huffed, she sulked, she whined, and when she discovered that her protestations had no effect, she finally set out to clean her room.

Ever since the kids were little we have had a NO FOOD ON THE SECOND-FLOOR rule. We have an older house and food would just attract mice. Something I definitely didn’t want in the bedrooms. Plus, there is really no need to eat in your bedroom when we have a perfectly functional kitchen and dining room.

Kids get older, they get hooked on their computers and over the years I’ve found that they think nothing of defying our house rule (even though I still yell about it) and taking their food upstairs.

But here’s the problem, the dishes and silverware go up, but they never seem to come back down.

“Where are all of my bowls?” I’d ask and get wide-eyed looks as the reply.

“Where the heck did all of the silverware go?”

Stunning silence. Continue reading


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Lesson 1569 – Burning the candle on one end


When I was young my mother always burned a bayberry candle on New Year’s eve. The legend I learned was that if you burned the candle down to nub then luck and prosperity would visit you in the next year.

As it turned out Marc’s mother also burned a bayberry candle, so it wasn’t that odd to him that one year when we had to leave our candle burning inside the bathtub when we went to a New Year’s eve party. (In hindsight I ask myself “what the heck were we thinking? What’s the good of luck and money if your house burns down?!) Fortunately, our candle burned down and the house didn’t catch on fire.

That’s some pretty strong luck right there.

Anyway, the kids are older, parties are the things they go out to, not us. Our family went out to an early dinner and then those who stayed home settled down for the night under blankets and with books, videos, and never-ending appetizers.

But even though our celebrations have evolved, I still burned our candle. Some things just don’t change. (And quite frankly, who wants to take the chance of bad luck visiting?) Continue reading


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Lesson 1568 – The view from Salem, Mass

A few weeks ago I spent some time in Salem, Mass (yes, *that* Salem) to gather some information for articles. If you’ve never been to Salem, you might be a bit overwhelmed by all the “witch” goings on there. Salem sure does like its witch heritage.

They have witch and haunted tours, graveyard tours, and if you’ve even wanted to buy the ingredients for a spell, this is definitely the place to go. Continue reading

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