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New Year Bean and Bacon Soup

The afternoon following my last post, I picked the boys up from school, acutely grateful for their safety while we were apart. On the way home, we stopped by the craft store to pick up two spools of a delicate, iridescent ribbon. After completing homework, snack, and our other normal after-school routines, we moved into the living room, where we used the ribbon to tie small bows to the boughs of our Christmas tree; one for each of the victims at Sandy Hook.

I spoke the name of each child and teacher aloud as we wrapped and tied each delicate bow, allowing a moment for their lives to be remembered. As I worked, the boys mostly bounced around the living room in their typical manner, half attending to the names I spoke and half lost in their own important business of being kids. They’d alternate between chat about their Christmas wish lists and comments about how about how they know Dylans and Chases and Jacks and Noahs; friends in their pre-k and kindergarten classes, children not much younger than the Dylan and Chase and Jack and Noah lost at Sandy Hook.


It was a small thing to tie those little bows, but it felt cathartic to be doing something, anything, to honor those tragically lost lives. The bows remained on our tree as we hosted all varieties of holiday celebrations; a quiet way to keep the suffering Newtown families in our prayers, even as we went about joyously celebrating the holidays.

I retied those bows a hundred times during the few weeks that the tree sat in our living room, each time trying not to become frustrated by the boys’ constant undoing of my work. Instead, I consciously replaced my frustration with appreciation of the fact that I had all my little boys with me to make their special brand of mischief in our home. Those little ribbons shimmered on the lit tree all throughout the holidays. My Liam commented that they reminded him of angels.


Our holidays were beautiful. We had a revolving houseful of family and friends straight up until New Year’s Day. We enjoyed Dinosaur BBQ takeout on Christmas Eve, our now-traditional beef bourguignon for Christmas dinner, and a plentiful selection of finger foods on New Year’s Eve. I’m talking about mini crab cakes with chipotle remoulade, tiny quiche lorraines in puff pastry, stuffed mushrooms, cheese, and chicken wing dip. For three weeks, our recycling bins overflowed with gift packaging and emptied bottles of wine and champagne; evidence of our prosperity in family, love, and life.


I was inspired by a friend’s recent comments about bean soup and its symbolism for prosperity in the new year. I must admit that the connection between beans and prosperity was not something I’d been aware of, but the description of her soup had me sold. This incredibly simple soup utilizes canned beans, which makes it super easy to throw together. It’s a hearty, comforting, and delicious way to celebrate the new year. Serve it with a nice, crusty chunk of French bread.

Wishing you all a prosperous 2013!

Focus on Technique – Canned Beans vs. Dried Beans

Both canned and dried beans offer the same high-protein, high-fiber, antioxidant-rich nutrition, which makes them a great addition to any diet. Dried beans offer the advantages of being lower in sodium, free of preservatives, and requiring less space for storage. Additionally, dried beans can be cooked to your personal preference, whereas pre-cooked canned beans come as they are, at the risk of being mushy. The downside of using dried beans is the length of time required for soaking and cooking, which requires advance planning and preparation. If ease and convenience is the name of your game, canned beans are the way to go. (Admittedly, I almost always use canned beans.)

Bean and Bacon Soup


  • 1 pound bacon, chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans chicken broth
  • 1 bag (approximately 4 cups) baby spinach
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


In a large saucepan, over medium/medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the cooked bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. Reduce the heat slightly and add the onion and garlic to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5-7 minutes, until tender and golden. Carefully drain any leftover bacon grease. Add the beans and chicken broth to the pan, then add the spinach. Cook for a few minutes until the mixture begins to simmer and the spinach has wilted. Return the bacon to the soup. Taste, then season with salt* and pepper, as desired.

*The bacon and beans will both contribute a good amount of salty flavor to the soup. Depending on how salted or unsalted your chicken broth is, you may not need any additional salt. Give the soup a taste before seasoning. I added a little pinch of salt and a good dose of pepper.



Holding Space

On 9/11/01, I was in my second week as a 2nd grade teacher at an elementary school in Silver Spring, Maryland, just outside of Washington D.C. The news of what was happening that morning came to me by way of a teacher’s aide, who entered my room and whispered the words, “We’re being attacked.” She had little other information, as the events were still unfolding. But her words communicated a sense of imminent danger.

She exited my room to inform other teachers, leaving me standing there full of fear and confusion, with a classroom of 7-year-olds I barely knew. I wanted to cry. I wanted to seek shelter. I wanted to run from that room to be with my family.

But I pulled myself together and distractedly carried on with my lesson, in the hopes of sparing my young students from the crippling fear I was experiencing.

As the events of 9/11 continued to unfold, panicked parents began flooding into the school, desperate to be with their children. We were all afraid that day, but the urgency to immediately remove their children from school was particularly elevated. As our fearless leader calmly scrambled to put a safe, emergency dismissal procedure in place, she said something of the following effect to one of the parents, “I don’t understand the urgency. Your children are safe in school.” to which the parent, from one of the many families in our school who had escaped a war-torn home country, replied, “In my country, schools are hit first.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about that day, as I desperately try to process the horrific events at Sandy Hook; the senseless loss of innocent lives, the fear, the heroism, the way we’re all forever changed because of it.

Like many parents, it was with trepidation and a heavy heart that I sent my children to school on Monday morning. The presence of a police car in the school’s parking lot generated more fear and sadness than the sense of security it was meant to communicate. If it could happen at Sandy Hook, it could happen anywhere. It could happen in my children’s school. It could happen on our playgrounds or in our churches or in our own homes. In our movie theaters or malls…

And that’s absolutely terrifying, because there’s no way to prepare ourselves or our children for all the possibilities of unpredictable, senseless violence that may occur. As a parent of three young children, the impact of what happened at Sandy Hook is deeply personal. I’ve cried a thousand tears for each of those young souls, the heroes who died trying to protect them, and the families who are suffering. I see those children in my own children’s eyes. I feel a heartbreaking fraction of what it must feel like to walk in those parents’ shoes.

I’m sure I’m not alone in my fear. But I can tell you this, your children are as safe at school as they are anywhere. As the stories of heroism coming out of this horror in Newtown demonstrate, your children’s teachers will protect your children as their own. I trust in that. As a teacher on 9/11, we each set aside our personal concerns for ourselves and our loved ones in order to tend to the safety of our students, first and foremost. We held our tears, in place of an outward appearance of calm; we stayed, when we wanted to run. A year later, when the area was under attack by the beltway sniper, teachers took turns standing guard by the doors to ensure that all of our students could safely enter and exit the building. That sort of protection for our students is not part of any teacher preparatory program. But it comes with the acute awareness of the responsibility of caring for someone else’s child. And though, in the wake of what’s happened, it’s still terrifying to let my children out of my sight, I trust they’re in good hands when they’re with their teachers at school.

I had cookie recipes to share, with stories of Santa Claus and Christmas magic, but writing about cookies just feels so trivial right now. Another time… For now, I need to focus my energy on holding space for those families in Newtown and rejoicing in every moment I have with my own family. If nothing else, these events should serve as a crucial reminder to appreciate every second with the ones you love. Hug your children often, celebrate their precious lives, be thankful for every moment (even the frustrating ones). Every second is precious.

Prayers and love for the families who are suffering. My heart is with you.

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