It has been a great summer, but as with all good things, summer must come to an end. With one child already settled into his sophomore year in college and the youngest finished with band camp as well as the first football game of the season, it is officially fall, regardless of what the calendar says.

This year, I’m excited to get back into school year routine. One of the things that has me so thrilled to move forward toward the festivals and holidays is my new simmer pot. And the fact that my summer garden was much more successful than last year’s makes the simmer pot all the more important.

While at the coast during our family vacation, Hubby, Ma, the boys and I wandered into an Italian market. It was a small, quaint shop a block from the Cape Fear River. Ma wanted to go in and peruse the grocery items, hoping, I’m sure, for some authentic ingredients she can’t pick up at our local food stores.

As for me, I was enraptured by the many made-in-Italy cookware items. Most especially the terra cotta pots and pans. After browsing so long that Ma and the boys gave up on us and went outside to relax on a bench, I found an orange-colored, medium-sized simmer pot. I turned to Hubby and said, "If they had this pot in red, with an orange interior, it’s what I’d want."

Hubby giggled and said, as he picked up a pot from the display, "Like this one?"

I had been crouched down looking at the selections on the bottom shelves. I popped my head up and excitedly exclaimed, "Yes!" They had exactly what I wanted. I envisioned making half-batches of marinara sauce with the herbs and tomatoes from my garden as well as all sorts of delicious soups and casseroles.

Reading the joy in my eyes at the prospect of spending quality time in the kitchen this fall and winter, Hubby declared, "If you really want it, I’ll buy it for you." After which, the shop owner’s eyes began to beam.

The shop owner, Hubby and I chatted about creating great dishes using terra cotta and future visits during which we would add to our Italian cookware collection. The shop owner carefully wrapped up my new pot using extra packing materials in consideration of our long drive home.

When you buy a girl a simmer pot, she realizes her kitchen isn’t quite the right shade of terra cotta.

When we unpacked the simmer pot, the shade of terra cotta on its interior was much more in line with the shade I was going for on our kitchen walls. When I pointed that out, a conversation about other necessary changes to our kitchen décor ensued.

My youngest son noted we also needed black and red tile countertops. I am not a fan of tile countertops, but agreed that we need to do some updating. Of course, if we started planning repainting of walls and installation of new counters, something was going to have to be done about the floors.

Considering our middle child currently requires lots of funding for his college education and his little brother will be following on his heels, we knew we would have to be extremely creative to meet our kitchen facelift goals.

Thankfully, we not only come from a long line of thrifty people, we have friends who are masters at building and renovating — for next to nothing. Like them, we would have to begin frequenting our local thrift stores for sinks, countertops and flooring.

We planned to save up for a couple of gallons of new paint s to get the exact hue needed to complement my new simmer pot.

In the meantime, I have lots of herbs, peppers and tomatoes just itching to become soups, marinara and pizza sauce. But before I begin creating these culinary staples, I have decided to try something new. I’m going to take a stab at making homemade ketchup.

Now that I own the perfect pot for such a task, I plan to start pulling out the bags of tomatoes from my freezer and make the one tomato foodstuff my children enjoy the most.

Although, upon hearing of my intention, my youngest child rolled his eyes and stated, "You can try making it, and I will taste it. But if it isn’t good, you are going to have to go back to buying ketchup."

Considering we’ve already switched to the more natural, organic version, I believe I can create a tasty homemade ketchup. And to make sure his brothers, who are not as culinarily adventurous as their little brother, try it, I will save a couple of old ketchup bottles and refill them with my homemade version.

Yes, it’s going to be a good, delicious, exciting, decorative fall and winter. We are certainly well on our way to being fully prepared for a tasty, homemade, Thanksgiving feast.


Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and author of "Thurston T. Turtle Moves to Hubbleville." She lives in Asheboro with her husband, three children and mother. Her e-mail address is