These empty nesters not lonely

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By Betty Street

Children grow up and leave home, thus the empty nest occurs. What do parents do then? Sigh and mope about in loneliness and despair? Gleefully rejoice that they get to spend more time in the bathroom?
Gary and I had an easy time translating into empty nesters. We were married for ten years before we had children, so we were used to being a couple before we became a family, and it wasn’t difficult to become a couple again.
Yes, we miss the kids. Our daughter Esther graduated from Mobridge High School in 2007. I work online at home and she used to come upstairs and visit briefly in my office after school. I miss hearing how her day went.
But now she calls nearly every day from her home or job in northern Idaho where she is a licensed social worker. She tells hilarious stories about her clients. Sometimes she relates very tragic stories that make me want to weep for the children she counsels.
Our son Nathaniel, who graduated from Mobridge High School in 2000, is married, lives, and works in Aberdeen, and we often exchange emails in the morning. We get to see him and his lovely wife, the former Stacy Fritz, much more often than we do Esther.
But some of the benefits in being empty nesters are really cool. Gary and I get to choose which TV programs to watch. I have dibs on Castle, and Gary can see Bones or watch a ball game if that’s his choice. Tuesday evenings are devoted to NCIS and NCIS LA, and my sister-in-law comes over to eat supper and watch these programs with us.
There is much less laundry nowadays. Gas in the car lasts much longer—and we have two vehicles at home, not one with somebody away at school.
We can come and go as we please without making sure our offspring’s needs are covered first.
It should be easier to keep the house clean, but somehow things still pile up. Go figure.
We get more sleep now the kids are gone. There are two reasons for that. One is we’re getting older and we just run out of steam and sack out earlier. Gary added he doesn’t have to wait up any more for Esther to come home. He said when she first went to college, out of habit he used to check her room to see if she got home safely. I don’t know when he finally stopped doing that. She graduated in 2011. I hope he stopped before then.
We notice that milk and cereal last a lot longer. With Nathaniel here, a gallon of milk used to last two days; now it’s about five. He could consume the largest box of Wheaties in four sittings. Now it lasts easily a month.
Our eating habits have also changed. We eat a lot healthier now and our portion sizes are smaller. We try to follow that rule about filling half your plate up with greens for the noon and evening meals. Gary and I can go through one of those bagged salads in two days.
We count carbs and try to have balanced meals and snacks throughout the day, and limit before-bedtime eating.
One other change for Gary and me is that I like to experiment with new recipes. Most of the time our offspring refused to taste anything new or different from what they had eaten as children.
I make homemade chicken noodle soup instead of buying canned, unless Nathaniel is coming home. He prefers the national brand and can remember a time when he made the minimum wage and could not afford to buy much of that.
I make a very tasty potato soup. It is not low in carbs; but it tastes so good. My mother and father had a trick to making good potato soup, and I think I make it even better. Gary and I often have potato soup in the winter, but it’s great in the summer also, as is split pea soup.
My spaghetti sauce recipe is based on one my mother created, but I added spices. Spaghetti sauce crosses over very nicely into lasagna and it freezes well. I have also successfully canned this recipe.
I enjoy the freedom of now being able to experiment when cooking, especially with fresh herbs. Every spring I try unsuccessfully to grow several different herbs, so I purchase them locally in bulk and use them dried. Basil, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves are the ones I use most often.
Desserts are my favorite recipes to cook, but I have to cut back on them. However, I find that thinking about chocolate chip cookie dough is almost as satisfying as baking and eating them. I can smell that vanilla extract from here.

RECIPES
Chicken Noodle Soup
½ lb. chicken breasts
½ lb. chicken thighs
6-8 cups liquid (water, apple juice, broth or a combination thereof)
½ onion, chopped
1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
½ to 1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
½ to 1 cup celery, chopped
½ tsp. each basil, rosemary, thyme
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups cooked noodles
Bring chicken and liquid to boil and cook 20-30 minutes until chicken is done. Remove chicken from liquid and let cool in refrigerator. Strain liquid (new chicken broth) into clean pan. Add onion, garlic, carrots, celery, spices, salt and pepper to new broth and simmer for approximately 45 minutes or until carrots are done. In the meantime, dice chicken. When vegetables are done, add chicken. Add cooked noodles (I prefer Hosmer noodles). You may need to add more water or broth. Serves 2-4 or more depending on size of bowl. Makes great leftovers.

Potato Soup
5-6 potatoes, peeled and diced
Water to barely cover potatoes
Salt to taste
½ to 1 onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
2-4 Tbs. butter
1 can evaporated milk
Bacon, cooked crisp
Shredded cheese
Place diced potatoes in saucepan; barely cover with water; add salt to taste. Cover pan. Bring to boil and then turn down to medium heat. Cook potatoes 12-15 minutes or until fork is easily inserted in one. Remove pan from heat. DO NOT drain potatoes. Add butter. Add evaporated milk. Slightly mash potatoes, but leave most nearly intact. Stir in butter and evaporated milk until butter melts. Serve in bowls, adding bacon and cheese to individual taste. Makes 4-6 servings.

Split Pea Soup
1 bag split peas
Ham bone, ham hocks or approx. 1 cup of diced ham, more or less
2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped to taste
2-3 ribs of celery, chopped
½ to 1 onion, chopped
Garlic 1-2 minced cloves or ½ tsp. powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Saltine or other crackers of choice
Place all ingredients in Crock Pot and cook on low 6-8 hours, on high 5 hours. If cooking on stove, bring to a boil and then simmer 2-4 hours. Stir occasionally. If using bones with ham, remove bones from soup, cut up ham and return meat to soup. Serve in bowls with crackers and never mind the color of the soup. It’s delicious.

Spaghetti sauce
1 lb. lean hamburger
1 14.5-oz. can tomatoes or 3-5 skinless tomatoes cut in small pieces
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
1-2 cups water as needed
½ to 1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced, or ½-1 tsp. garlic powder
1 large bay leaf or 2 small ones
½-1 tsp. Italian Seasoning
½-1 tsp. each dried basil, thyme and rosemary
2 Tbs. dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Brown hamburger in large saucepan or Dutch oven brown hamburger and remove fat. Add the rest of ingredients and simmer from 30 minutes to 4 hours. Add water at the beginning of cooking time. Stir occasionally to test consistency; add more water if necessary. May use fresh herbs if desired.

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