Why are Coins on Military Headstones? By Pam Crooks


Have you ever strolled through a cemetery and noticed a few (or a lot!) coins left on a monument?

Of course, it’s not unusual for loved ones and friends to leave sentimental items like a can of Dr. Pepper, a travel-size bottle of spirits, stones, a cross, and of course, flowers.

But money?

When we noticed several coins last year that had been glued on a headstone in our family’s cemetery, we found it odd.  Turns out, those coins have deep meaning, and if you see any, it’s very likely the headstone belonged to a member of the military.

Those coins are a sentimental gesture, not only from the person who left them, but to the family of the service member as well. It shows that others have been by to pay their respects, and they are showing great pride in someone who is no longer with them.

Per the Department of Military Affairs, the custom began during the Roman Empire when coins were placed in the mouths of soldiers for protection and payment into the world of the dead.  Here in the US, the custom especially grew in popularity during the Vietnam War, which of course was a controversial war.  Leaving the coins was a quiet way to honor and respect the fallen soldiers.

As you might guess, those coins are not left behind randomly.  Each one has special significance.

A penny means that a person has visited the headstone and is showing gratitude for the deceased’s service. There is no stipulation on who should leave the penny.  Anyone can.

A nickel means that the visitor had once attended boot camp with the deceased.

A dime signifies that the one who left it served in the military with the deceased.

A quarter – and this one is especially moving – means the visitor had been with the soldier when he or she passed away.


With Memorial Day only a couple of weeks away, now you know why those coins are there, and if you’re like me, you’ll be especially moved by the gesture. They are a lovely way to show thanks for service and friendship – when the service member cannot hear us say the words.

Omaha National Cemetery


Have you ever seen coins on a headstone? 

Have you or a child left a memento on a loved one’s grave? 

What is the most unusual or moving thing you’ve seen on someone’s grave?

To Trend or Not to Trend


As I pulled out my eclectic Christmas decorations this year, I wondered what trends were hot this year. Of course, now distracted, I turned to Google to find out. Here’s what I discovered.

Click here to go to article

According to a Better Homes and Gardens article, (click here to read) this year’s all the rage color schemes are jewel tones, “Crisp” blue (whatever that is), pastels, and “wintery” white. (I’m always amazed that there are variations of white.) I love the idea of jewel colors. Deep maroon, emerald green, and deep purple with gold always say Christmas to me, but I’m not sure about the pastels. Another trend I saw multiple places was “natural” ornaments and “organic” greenery. Basically this is a fancy way of pinecones, oranges, cranberries, and real greenery or bringing the outside in.

Click here to go to article.

Another article (click here to read) I found said to have a theme for a tree and decorations. It listed hot trends such as nutcracker, retro glam, pink Christmas Candyland (pastels again), gingerbread, and “mixed metals.” While they all look beautiful, and I would love to decorate with some of these (except for the pastels ?), two things keep me from doing so. One is the cost. Buying new decorations and ornaments is not in my Christmas budget. Plus, trends change so fast this year’s great décor becomes next year’s so over it trend. As to what’s out, I read mentioned ornate décor, tree skirts (we should replace them with a tree collar. See the picture below), traditional red and green. For me, that last one is never out of style.

A tree collar means using a basket, washtub, or something else for the tree to sit in.

The other reason I don’t want to replace my decorations and ornaments is because they mean something to me. It’s usually because of who gave the item to me and/or because of the event associated with it. I have “our first Christmas together” ornaments friends and family gave me and my husband. I gave my husband a little porcelain plane ornament. Every year when I see it, I envision him holding each of our sons as toddlers and them flying the plane around the living room before hanging the ornament on the tree. My bff Lori gave me a suitcase that says Australia ornament. That’s one of my favorites because when she or I have a bad day, we often joke about moving to Australia because of the children’s book Alex and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

One solution would be to have multiple trees. I started doing that a couple years ago, adding two table-top trees, but again, I went with ornaments that had an emotional connection. in the kitchen and family room. The one in the kitchen has Peanuts ornaments which I collected for years, but hadn’t put on the main tree for lack of space. The other tree has ornaments I’ve made to hold dog tags from our foster dogs.

So despite admiring all the wonderful magazine suggestions for decorations, this year I’ll stick with my eclectic-memory-filled items and save some cash.

To be entered in the random drawing for the long sleeve Merry Christmas T-shirt, leave a comment about your favorite Christmas decoration, ornament, trend, or what trend drives you crazy.

Mary Had a Little…Turkey?

What does the poem Mary Had a Little Lamb and Thanksgiving becoming a national holiday have in common?

Sarah Joseph Hale, born in New Hampshire in 1788, is largely responsible for both.

After being widowed, and with five children to support, Sarah wrote poetry as a way to make a living, and one of her most enduring poems is Mary Had a Little Lamb. Sarah became the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, a family-oriented magazine in 1841.  As editor, she began to crusade for a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to commemorate the pilgrims’ famous feast. Interestingly, the southern part of the United States was slow to get on board, as they considered the feast of 1610, when supply ships finally reached Virginia, to be a more important occasion.

Thanksgiving was unofficially celebrated in the Northeast and Midwest throughout the 1840s and 1850s, but it wasn’t until the contingency of southern states were absent from congress, due to the Civil War,  that Abraham Lincoln was able to declare Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday in 1863. For some time after the way, the southern states considered Thanksgiving a Yankee Abolitionist Holiday, but eventually  unity was reestablished and turkey and cranberries became part of a national tradition.

Now, about the turkey…

In Sarah’s day, people assumed that the pilgrims ate turkey as part of their feast due to the abundance of wild turkeys on the east coast, while in actuality, they probably ate venison. A turkey is a practical centerpiece for a celebratory dinner, being larger than a goose and able to feed more people.  Godey’s Lady’s Book featured many recipes for Thanksgiving and many of them featured turkey. Other publications pushed the idea of turkey being the traditional protein for the Thanksgiving feast, including Georgia’s Augusta Chronicle, which in 1882 announced, “Every person who can afford a turkey or procure it will sacrifice the noble American fowl to-day.”

Do you celebrate with a traditional turkey dinner? Or do you create your own traditions?


Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer


I loved the song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as a kid (who didn’t?) and I loved watching the Rankin/Bass TV special. In fact, it’s still a Christmas tradition for me. I know all the lyrics and sing along. When they were young it drove my kids crazy, hey half of the fun, but now if I’m not singing they ask if I’m okay. ? Rudolph’s message of belonging, compassion, understanding, and everyone having something to contribute always hit home with me. I was a smart, liberal, knew-my-mind girl growing up in Dubuque, Iowa. I didn’t always fit in. I never went to homecoming or prom. In fact, I wasn’t even asked on a date in high school. I look back now and think I intimidated guys. Anyway, guess you can see why I identified with our little red nosed guy.

I was stunned to discover this classic Christmas tale that led to the Gene Autry song, was written by a Jewish man, Robert L. May. As a child, May skipped a couple grades in school, making him smaller and younger than his classmates. As a teacher, I can’t imagine how rough that was for him. Being physically smaller is difficult enough but add in developmental differences with his classmates, and  no wonder he didn’t fit in and viewed himself as a “nerdy loser.” Anyone else see foreshadowing here and a writer who would write what he knew? (Being an outsider and insecure?) Yup, me too.

Names considered other than Rudolph.

As an adult May dreamed of writing the great American novel but worked as a catalog copywriter in the advertising department for Montgomery Ward. (As an author, that sure hits home as I dreamed of writing novels while working countless other jobs to pay the bills.) In 1939, Montgomery Ward wanted to create a children’s book for its annual holiday promotion rather than give away purchased coloring book. May was given the job because of his talent for limericks and parodies. The only direction his boss gave him was to have an animal in it.

original cover of Robert L. May’s manuscript

May chose a reindeer for his main character because his daughter, Barbara loved the ones at Lincoln Park Zoo. When turned in the story of a red-nosed reindeer teased by his peers, who had exactly what Santa needed one foggy Christmas Eve, May’s boss asked him to come up with “something better.” (Okay, let’s admit May’s boss couldn’t tell an incredible children’s story from a hole in the ground.) May didn’t give up, and with the help someone in the art department and his sketches, they changed the boss’s mind. Click here to read May’s original manuscript. (It’s definitely worth checking out. 🙂 )

On its release in 1939, Montgomery Ward gave away 2.4 million copies of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Yup, million. In 1939. Think about that. Despite the book’s success, May who was heavily in debt because of his wife’s medical bills, received no additional compensation. However, that changed in 1947, when the head of Montgomery Ward returned the rights to May. Another event that year that changed May’s life and impacted the classic Christmas song coming to life was May’s sister married Johnny Marks, a songwriter. Long before Marks married May’s sister he’d read Rudolph’s story, and jotted down notes in his song ideas notebook.

Robert May autographs copies of his bestseller, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” and a sequel, “Rudolph Shines Again,” on Dec. 11, 1969.

Marks added music to the story, and knew he had something special. However, Gene Autry apparently channeling May’s boss who “wanted something better” than Rudolph’s story, wasn’t keen on the song. Thankfully, his wife persuaded him to record the second biggest selling Christmas song of all time (White Christmas is number one) for the “B” side. (From my research, it appears If It Doesn’t Snow on Christmas was the “A” side and who’s even heard of that Christmas song? I hope he thanked his wife for her foresight.) Click here to listen to the Gene Autry song


Some articles I read claimed May and the Rudolph story is sad. I disagree. Yes, May had a difficult life, but he channeled that into something truly special. No, he never wrote the great American novel, but he wrote a great American Christmas carol that still inspires children and adults today. A pretty great legacy, I’d say. Plus, as an added bonus, Rudolph took care of May and his family for his life and beyond.


Now that I’ve learned the history behind the song, I love Rudolph’s story even more and it’s message seems even brighter.



The Age Old Holiday Question–Fruitcake Treat or Door Stop?

When I look back on my books, I can often tell something about what was going on with me. When I wrote To Tame a Texas Cowboy, transporting a lot of dogs from Corsicana, Texas. (For those who don’t know, my family fosters and transports dogs for Cody’s Friends Rescue.) I say that because of my heroine, Cheyenne’s comment describing her overprotective Mom. Despite the serious nature that brought about the scene (the mother reports her missing), I had a blast writing it. Here’s an excerpt.

“I’ve got to do something about Mom. I don’t care how worried she is, when she hurts other people she’s gone too far.” Cheyenne collapsed on the couch beside Aubrey.

If this was a sample of what Cheyenne was dealing with, no wonder she was desperate to move out. If a service dog could help her with that goal, how could he refuse to help? Wasn’t easing burdens like Cheyenne’s why he’d taken up Olivia’s cause with the SeizureReader?

Dog nails scraping against the glass patio door drew Cooper’s attention. After he let the dogs in, Penny trotted over to Cheyenne and curled up by her feet.

The wild idea that sprouted last night when he saw Penny with Cheyenne expanded. The idea could work.

“We should leave. I’ve caused Cooper enough trouble, and who knows what else will happen if I stay longer,” Cheyenne said to Aubrey.

Her friend shook her head. “Girl, I slept in my clothes and the officer showing up scared me so much I’m as sweaty as a teenager sneaking into the house after curfew. No way am I crawling in the car without a shower. Cooper, mind if I use yours?”

“Go ahead. That’ll give me time to talk to Cheyenne.”

After Aubrey left, Cheyenne stared at him wide-eyed. “Why would you want to talk to me? If I were you, I’d figure out how to get a restraining order.”

He smiled at her attempt at humor as he sank into his recliner. The woman had grit. Despite everything, she hadn’t buckled. “On your mom maybe, but this wasn’t your fault.”

Fatigue and vulnerability flashed in her green eyes, overwhelming the courage and toughness he admired a minute ago. “You’re wrong. This is my fault. I didn’t rein Mom in before this happened.”

“Has your mom always been so,” he paused. Would it be completely out of line to call her mom a nut case?

“Go ahead and say it. Crazy, wacko. Nuttier than a Collin Street Bakery fruitcake. Take your pick.”

He chuckled at her plain speaking. “I was trying to find a better way to phrase it.”

“That’s sweet, but unnecessary.” Cheyenne sighed. “She wasn’t as bad when my dad was alive.”

“You don’t have to talk about this.”

She shrugged. “You’ve seen my dirtiest laundry. Might as well know how it got so bad. My dad died in a freak rodeo accident when I was fifteen. A bull threw him and before the rodeo clowns got there, the bull stepped on his—” She shuddered, and horror flashed across her face. “There was nothing anyone could do. He was gone.”

“Saying I’m sorry is inadequate, but I am sorry.”

Cheyenne picked at the couch cushion. “That’s what started Mom’s overprotectiveness. Most people think things like that won’t happen to them or someone they love, but she knows they do. My diagnosis has dredged up that pain, along with her fear, and helplessness. She’s doing the only thing she can think of, trying to control everything, but she can’t fix this for me.”


I know a lot of folks outside of Texas won’t get Cheyenne’s comment “nuttier than a Collin Street Bakery fruitcake” but I had a good laugh writing with it. Her comment refers to the Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas, famous for the fruitcake it’s made for over 125 years. I can see the looks of disbelief on your faces now. Hey, I’ve heard all the fruitcake jokes that abound this time of year, but the Collin Street Bakery’s been featured on a popular shows like Good Morning America.

I thought the same thing the first time I went to Corsicana to transport a dog. But when I saw the Collin Street Bakery on my way to the city shelter, I had to stop. After that, every time I drove to Corsicana, I stopped at the bakery first. I would get a cherry turnover to devour on the way home, peanut brittle for my hubby, cupcakes, and a sample of their fruitcake, which is by the way, pretty good.

While we don’t buy fruitcakes, every year at the holidays, my husband craves our family’s version which is more like a pound cake. It’s so good that if I don’t have time to bake it, he does! Today I’m sharing that recipe with you.


Philly Christmas Cake



1 8 oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese

1 1/2 C sugar

1 C butter

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

4 eggs

2 1/4 cup flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

3/4 C each of candied red, green cherries, and pineapple

1 C chopped walnuts or pecans


Place 1/4 C chopped walnuts in each of two loaf pans. Place 1/4 C of the flour in a small bowl. Add cut candied fruit and remaining nuts. Mix and set aside.

Cream softened cream cheese, sugar, butter and vanilla until combined well. Add eggs one a time. Mix until incorporated. Add remaining flour (2C) and baking powder. Combine. Add remaining walnuts (1/2) and candied (now floured) fruit. Mix. Pour into loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour 20 min.

Giveaway–Today I have two holiday T-shirts to give away. Each one comes with a signed copy of To Tame A Texas Cowboy. To be entered in the giveaways, leave me a comment on your thoughts regarding fruitcake.


A Thanksgiving Cornucopia of Holiday Wishes

Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone Here at Petticoats and Pistols!

While I have many fond memories of this holiday, one stands out in particular from when I was in first grade. For a class project, we made a cornucopia. Each of us brought in an item to be placed in the cornucopia. My contribution was a small, dried gourd. Growing up in Connecticut, our cornucopia was very traditional and looked a little like the one below.

The teacher also gave us a little lesson on the history or cornucopias, or, as it’s sometimes called, a horn of plenty. The name is Latin in its roots and the earliest references to cornucopias are found in Greek and Roman mythology. It’s become associated with the harvest (an often late summer and fall occurrence in the Northern hemisphere) and prosperity.

Original cornucopias were likely made of woven baskets or pottery. These days, people have become very creative, both with the material used to construct the cornucopias and what goes in them. Here’s some really clever ideas.

Lots of healthy fruits


Not so healthy candy, but yummy!


Pretty flowers


Pastry filled with Waldorf salad – my favorite


And if you have nothing on hand, use a paper bag 🙂

I hope whatever your plans are for the day and the long weekend, they’re filled with fun and joy and lots of good food. Whether you’re celebrating with family and friends over a big dinner on Thursday, watching football, Black Friday shopping, traveling, or simply enjoying a little R&R at home, we here at P&P wish you and yours all the best.


Fall Fun Facts and a Recipe

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Today is the official first day of Autumn. That means the weather gets crisper, the days get shorter, the foliage gets more colorful and pumpkin spice can be found creatively added to any number of beverages and dishes.

Shanna’s post yesterday gave you lots of fabulous information on how to entertain and decorate with Autumn in mind (and if you missed it you really ought to go back and read it!) So today I thought I’d share some fun facts about Autumn and also provide a coy of one of my favorite recipes.

Autumn Fun Facts 

There have been some interesting statistics gathered about kids born in Autumn

  • They might live longer. This comes from a study conducted by the University of Essex in Great Britain. In fact they are statistically more likely to live to be 100 than those born in any other season
  • They are more likely to do better in school according to a Department for Education report that looked at the 2012-2013 school year.
  • They are also more likely to be taller and to excel at athletics. One explanation for this is that their mothers probably had much more exposure to sun when pregnant, which helped them produce more vitamin D, which in turn helped give their kids stronger bones.
  • But the news isn’t all good.
    One study conducted by National Jewish Health found that those born in Autumn have a higher risk of developing eczema, food allergies, hay fever and asthma in later years that those born during other seasons of the year.

One of the things people often mention  when speaking of why they like Autumn is the spectacular foliage. Here are some things related to that you may not know

  • Leaves don’t really ‘change colors’. The fall colors are actually always there, but their appearance is based on the amount of sunshine they get (or don’t get). Sunshine enhances the chlorophyll inherent in leaves, which is a natural chemical that makes them green. But with shorter days and less sunshine, chlorophyll isn’t produced as much, making the green fade and allowing the other colors to push through.
  • The depth of color you see in the Autumn is based on how much sugar and sap is trapped in the leaves – that’s why maple leaves are such a vibrant red.
  • Evergreen trees remain green throughout the winter because their leaves and needles are coated with a thick waxy substance and they contain materials that prevent them from freezing
  • Leaves fall from trees in the Autumn because of a hormone. As they are exposed to less and less sunlight they begin to produce a hormone that encourages the growth of a cell between the leaf and the stem. This basically forces the leaf to push away from the stem and fall off. And whatever doesn’t fall before winter arrives freezes and dies.

Okay, enough trivia. On to the recipe I promised you. Confession time – I LOVE soups. I can (and often do!) eat them several times a week year round. But soups are especially yummy and comforting as the weather turns crisper.  Below is a very hearty cold weather soup that I just love.

Taco Soup   


  • 2 lbs ground beef or turkey
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 med onion, chopped
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cans whole kernel corn
  • 2 cans Rotel w/chilies
  • 2 cans pinto or kidney beans
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1 pkg taco seasoning
  • 1 pkg dry hidden valley ranch salad dressing


  • Brown meat with onion. Drain and return to pot
  • Add everything else to meat without draining vegetables
  • Simmer for at least one hour. Add water as needed


  • If salt is a concern you can find NO or LOW Sodium options for most of these ingredients
  • When serving you can  top with cheese, tortilla chips and/or avocado if desired
  • Leftovers can be frozen.

So did any of my Autumn fun facts surprise you? Do you have a favorite fall recipe you’d like to share? Leave a comment to be interested in a drawing for your choice of any book from my backlist as well as a fun surprise.


And you’re also invited to join me and the rest of the Love Train authors for a “welcome autumn” celebration today at https://www.facebook.com/groups/2143576775865837. The fun begins at 8 a.m. Pacific Time (9 Mountain, 10 Central, 11 Eastern). It will be a day full of fun, games, giveaways, and more!

Rachel Fordham Finds Treasures of the Past

While researching a book, I came across several accounts of hidden money sewn into clothing, hat brims, or fake compartments in luggage. I didn’t end up using everything I’d discovered in my novel, but it did send my mind racing and ideas spinning. We are so used to electronic funds, checks, and secured shipping that we don’t often worry about traveling with the family’s heirloom jewels or your life savings, but times used to be different.

During the prime stagecoach and railroad days people often traveled with money or valuables. Robbers knew this, which is why we have so many accounts of stagecoach robberies and trains stopped by bandits and looted. Some passengers took to hiding money in their clothing, sewing it into the hem of their pants or skirt, or stitching it into lining of a jacket.

There have been other times in history when hiding money and valuables became the norm. During and after the Great Depression there was a general mistrust of the banking system. Our grandparents and great-grandparents (depending on your age) may have been some of those that weren’t quite ready to trust their hard-earned savings to an institution.

Rather than sew their money into their clothing (though, some of them might have), they could have buried it in the backyard, under floorboards, behind the mantle, in the piano, and even in the outhouse (gross).

There are fantastic stories of people buying old homes and finding “treasure” hidden in the floorboards or in the rafters of the attic. I can’t help but wonder how many homes have been torn down with their treasure never found, or items of clothing discarded that held a secret. The author in me wonders the circumstances that led to someone hiding away their money—were they saving so they could reach for a dream? Preparing for a rainy day? Hoping to give their children a better life?

When my husband and I moved to Buffalo, New York so he could attend dental school there, we bought a small, OLD home. I asked the neighbors about it and learned as much history as I could about the charming little place. It had once housed a large family. (Where they all slept, I will never know.) I tried to visualize them and often thought about those that had lived inside the walls of my beloved first house. At one point we decided to add more insulation. (Those Buffalo winters are brutal!) While working we discovered a small box tucked way back in the eaves.

I was not an author at the time, but I still had a vivid imagination and can still remember my heart beating a little faster when I reached for the box. It didn’t contain any gold, no rare coins, or fine jewels. But it did contain handmade Christmas ornaments from decades ago. As a lover of history and stories, I found my discovery fascinating. Holding those ornaments in my hand made it easier to picture the big loving family that I had only heard a few scattered details about. I confess, I still think it would be fun to prowl through an abandoned house and discover treasure, a journal, or any other fascinating piece of history. Wouldn’t it be so fun to sneak around a ghost town…sigh, someday!

Whether hidden to avoid bandits, or fear of a depression, or simply an accident, the pieces of the past we discover tell us a little about those that came before. I wonder what the next person to live in my beloved Buffalo house learned about me. We were students and had no money to hide, but there is a bird house my son made with his grandpa and nailed to the back fence, scratches in the floor from a baby walker, and probably a few missing socks behind the washing machine. (It’s been a decade, so maybe those are gone by now.)

And now after writing this and thinking about hidden treasure and stories, I am convinced that all writing retreats should take place in very old houses or near other prime locations for treasure hunting. Maybe we would all find a story worth telling!


Rachel Fordham is giving away a copy of her latest novel Where the Road Bends. To be entered in the random drawing, leave a comment for Rachel telling her if you’ve ever stumbled across a treasure or family heirloom.

Arizona’s Hashknife Pony Express

I grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona, a place that used to proclaim itself as the West’s Most Western Town. For longer than I’ve been around and to this day still, the first-ish week of February is officially Western Week. There are a lot of happenings to celebrate the occasion, including the Parada de Sol Parade, festivals and art walks.

The highlight of the week for me and many others is the arrival of the Hashknife Pony Express riders — the oldest sanctioned pony express in the world. The ride begins in Holbrook, Arizona and covers more than two hundred miles, from the Mongollon Rim through the Mazatzal range and all the way to Scottsdale where the riders then join the parade. Believe me, it’s quite a thrill to watch the riders come blazing in to town and to cheer them in the parade.

The ride gets its name from the hashknife, a tool originally used by chuck wagon cooks to cut meat and prepare — yes, you guessed it — hash. The Hashknife Pony express delivers approximately twenty-thousand pieces of first-class mail annually from around the world. The official pony express envelopes go on sale well in advance of the ride and are in high demand, so don’t delay in purchasing yours! All envelopes are hand-stamped with the “Via Pony Express” cachet and considered collectors’ items.

As you can imagine, the riders who participate in this keeping-history-alive-ride are a hardy bunch, and they take their job seriously. All are sworn in as an honorary mail deliverer and must be a member of the Navajo County Sheriff’s Posse. Stops are made along the route where the mail is “put up” in the local post office and the riders camp out for the night. Locals often join in, hosting dinners with campfire entertainment for the riders, all of whom are decked out in authentic Western clothing. Sometimes there are fundraisers or school educational programs.

Ever since its inception, this famous ride had taken place without fail. Just like the motto says, neither rain, sleet, nor dark of night will stop the Hashknife Pony Express from making their annual trek. I’ve been lucky enough to not only see them in the parade many times, but once leaving Holbrook. Sounds like a great idea for a book!

Mom’s Turkey Soup Tradition

Happy mid week between Christmas and New Years. I’m sorry to be late with this post. The holidays have been rather hectic this year. Then again, when aren’t they 🙂

I hate to admit it, but holiday traditions were something I paid little attention to until I grew up and had a family of my own. Only then, when making the holidays special for my own children, did I fully appreciate all the wonderful things my parents did for me and my brother. It’s really amazing, but whenever I get together with one of my cousins, we always talk about the great times we spent at each other’s houses while growing up and what fun we had doing the simple things like singing songs, crafting homemade Christmas tree ornaments, and, of course, eating incredible meals that included Auntie June’s secret recipe cranberry sauce and Grandpa’s spiced tomato soup cake.

My mom was a great cook. I often wish I’d inherited her skill. One of her many talents was taking leftovers and turning them into something different for the next meal. She didn’t just reheat all the various food containers, she created brand new and delicious meals. One of my favorites was her turkey soup. The secret, as she told me many times, was to have no specific recipe. Just put in some of this and a little of that. Whatever is in the refrigerator. I’ve been told that’s often what the best cooks do.



So, here’s how I make my mom’s turkey soup. As best I can put it down in writing. And don’t forget to add a little love all during the cooking process. Oh, and a heads up. This is entire afternoon project for me, so allow yourself plenty of time.


1 turkey carcass
Chicken or vegetable stock (two cans or one box)
1 small to medium onion (white is best)
1 green pepper (or red or yellow or orange, it doesn’t matter)
1 large or two medium tomatoes
1-1/2 cup chopped celery
1-1/2 cup diced carrots

Any other vegetables you have around. Some nice additions are corn, peas, diced mushrooms, broccoli or spinach (both will disappear in the cooking but add flavor), diced green beans and cubed zucchini.
Egg noodles – as much or little as you want. I use about 2 cups. Can also substitute other pasta, like elbow macaroni or broken up spaghetti. Rice is another option, I use about a cup. Also, cube potatoes or barley for a different starch. Or, you can leave out the starch altogether for a low-carb version.

Seasonings to taste. Some examples are salt and pepper, garlic powder, poultry seasoning, a bay leaf, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, and oregano. Be creative and always taste as you go.

Cook the turkey carcass fully submerged in a large pot of stock and water. Add the finely chopped onion about thirty minutes in. Continue cooking the carcass until the meat is falling off the bone. At that point, remove the carcass and set it aside on the counter to cool. Remove any bits of bone, gristle, etc. from your pot of stock until what’s left is clear. Small bits of meat are fine. Some people let the stock cool and blot off the fat for a healthier version. I don’t, preferring the flavor added by the fat.

Add all the remaining chopped vegetables that you sliced and diced and chopped while the carcass was cooking to the stock. Start seasoning, slowing at first as seasonings will become stronger during the cooking process. Bring to a simmer (small bubbles). When the carcass is cooled, remove all the meat. Separate good meat from the bad and being careful to avoid small bones. Add the all the lovely choice meat back into the vegetables and stock.

At this point, add your pasta or rice and continue cooking for another hour or so until everything is super tender. Continue to taste and season.

I can still picture my mom standing over the stove, stirring the turkey soup, taking a taste, and adding a dash of something. I never make a pot without thinking of her and appreciating the traditions she lovingly passed down.

What are your holiday cooking traditions? I would love to hear them. Sharing a meal is such a lovely way to bring people together.