Kitchen Sink Minestrone Soup

I have a confession to make… We ate steak on Saturday night. And you know what? I didn’t enjoy it at all. For one thing Jason overcooked it on the BBQ (sorry to call you out, J!). And it was just kind of… boring. Plus after being essentially meat-free for almost two weeks, both Jason and I found it didn’t really agree with our stomachs. Enough said, right? But since we had steaks in our freezer, it seemed like a waste not to eat them. The whole experience taught me that I don’t actually miss meat at all, so I guess it’s a win!

Feeling fully committed to a meatless lifestyle, I pulled together this kitchen sink minestrone soup last night and it turned about amazing. And the best part about a big batch of soup is that it’s always better on the second day, right?

Here’s the recipe, if you’re interested. Also, you don’t actually need these specific ingredients, use this as a guideline and just add whatever is in your fridge.

1 to 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 medium sized carrots, thinly sliced
1 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup of frozen peas
several mini potatoes, quartered
1 796 mL can of diced tomatoes (I used Kirkland Organic)
4 cups of vegetable stock
1 can 540 mL red kidney beans
1 and 1/2 tablespoons of dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon of dried chili flakes
salt and pepper to taste

In a dutch oven (or heavy bottom soup pot), add evoo over medium heat. Add garlic, onions, celery and carrots and sautée about three minutes until onions are translucent. Add bell pepper and potatoes, sautée five more minutes and add salt and pepper. Add canned tomatoes, vegetable broth, oregano and chili flakes, stir altogether and let simmer over medium for 15-20 minutes, stirring reguarly. Add kidney beans and frozen peas and reduce heat to medium/low until veggies are soft throughout. Serve with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast if you want to go fully plant-based.

Enjoy! Thanks for popping in, friends.

How We Stay Happy and Active in Winter

Winter has arrived in Winnipeg! With a crazy snow storm landing in early October, it feels like winter came and left and then came back again. After a little bit of seasonal confusion, I feel that I can safely say winter is here to stay, so let’s embrace it, friends!

This weekend, a few families from our street bundled up and walked over a couple of blocks to Omand’s Creek for some outdoor fun. We spent two hours removing ice from the footbridge, sliding down hills, checking out natural ice rinks, and drinking hot chocolate. All in all, an amazing day.

I’m the first to want to hibernate and hide from frigid temperatures, but I know that actually just makes it harder. I definitely feel the affects of winter on my mental wellness if I’m not being pro-active and embracing it. Here’s what I find helps:

  1. Exercise. This can be indoors or outdoors but incorporating some aerobic activity where I get my heartrate pumping a few times a week definitely keeps me feeling optimistic about life. My favourites ways to stay active throughout the winter are The Fitual, winter running, and Wheelhouse Cycle Club.
  2. Spending time outdoors. Even if it’s reeeeeeaaallly cold, which will happen, it’s still so important to spend time outdoors and breathe in that crisp, cold air. I’m prone to come up with all kinds of reasons to stay in when it’s bitterly cold, so if you see me do that this winter please just refer me back to this post.
  3. Dress warm! Layers, layers, layers. I love wrapping myself up in my MPG Sport Blizzard Down coat, it literally feels like a warm hug. Miles stays cozy in his bright red MEC Toaster Suit and Juliette is in year two with her Gapkids parka. She was very specific that she wanted a black coat with a fur hood just like mom’s.
  4. Make plans with friends. Last winter, we started a monthly pizza night with a couple of other families. It was such a great way to stay connected and enjoy a night out as a family. Making it a pizza night is extra helpful because then no one feels pressure to cook!
  5. Stock up on games and puzzles. Long hours spent indoors can wind up meaning long hours spent on screens if we’re not careful. Having a stack of puzzles and kid-friendly games will get us off our devices and enjoying time together. Some of our favourites are Telestrations, Headbanz and, the classic of classics, Monopoly (or Monopoly Jr.).

There you have it! A few fairly easy solutions to beat winter dulldrums and embrace what can be an unpopular time of year.

Thanks for popping in, friends!

Ethical Gift Guide for the Holidays: Patagonia Presents for Him and Her

It’s almost that time of year again… Ho! Ho! Ho! I love the holidays, and I absolutely love gift giving…. and receiving. This year, I want to think ethically about the purchases I’m making and items on my wish list, so I’m being mindful of the companies I choose to support.

Patagonia is leading the way when it comes to sustainable practices in the garment industry. A couple of months ago, I shared an inspiring short film on my Instagram they made about how they are taking recycling to the next level and encouraging other companies in the industry to do the same. If you find yourself with an extra fifteen minutes, I highly recommend watching the short film. It really had me reflecting on my own habits and take an honest look at my consumption.

Last weekend, Miles and I went to Mountain Equipment Co-op to get him a new snowsuit. We chose to get the MEC toaster suit, and he chose red! Love that kid. While there, I perused the men’s and women’s sections and started compiling a mental list of gifts to give… and to get! So here’s my round-up of Patagonia for him and her. I also picked up the pair of the undies shown in the above collage, and I must say, I give them an A+ rating. So comfy. They don’t ride up and no pantylines with leggings. The trifecta for perfect undies!

Here’s the breakdown of my Patagonia picks…

The women’s Quilted Crew and men’s Quilted Snap-t Pullover. I have been eyeing this style for quite a while now. It’s made from organic cotton, which is amazing, although not as sustainable as their other recycled garments as the cotton fields require a great deal of water and land mass.

Plaid for the fellas. In my family, plaid is always a safe bet for my husband, dad and brother. This Lightweight Flannel Shirt is made from organic cotton, will never go out of style and will remain a staple in their closet year after year.

The women’s and men’s Better Sweater. I have wanted one of these Better Sweaters since before Juliette was born! I’m also just now realizing that it’s been on my wish list for nine years!!! That right there means this classic staple is one that will never lose it’s place in your wardrobe and will remain a classic comfy, cozy layering piece for decades. Best part about the better sweater? It’s made from 100% recycled polyester. I bought one for my dad for his birthday in September, and he loves it. So there you go, dad approved.

The women’s Patagonia Los Gatos 1/4 zip. This one just looks so cozy, and I think I would reach for it everyday from October through March. It’s made of 100% polyester, 30% of which is recycled. This would be a great gift for your mom or sister, too. Put it on your wish list and maybe you’ll surprise each other by gifting one another the exact same thing!

Patagonia toque, or as our American friends like to call it, beanie. If you live in Winnipeg, I don’t need to justify a toque purchase. It’s a necessity and always a safe gift for a brother, sister, cousin, husband, wife, colleague, ex-roomate, girlfriend, nephew, and on and on and on. You get the point, everyone needs a toque.

Skivvies! I already mentioned I love the undies shown above. I have yet to try the bra but if it’s anything like the matching bottoms, I’m guessing it’s a good one. Although probably better for us gals who aren’t all that busty.

I had a lot of fun pulling this post together! I think I’ll plan a few more gift guides to roll out in the coming weeks, if you have any requests shoot them my way! Also, now I can just forward this link to my family who may be looking for gift ideas. 🙂 Who am I kidding? I always tell people exactly what I want. (I think maybe gift giving is my love language?)

Enjoy your weekend, friends!

What we’re eating: One pot curried vegetables

Jason called me around noon yesterday and said (with a mouthful of food, I might add), “I’m eating a chicken wrap for lunch… I forgot!” What he forgot is that we aren’t supposed to be eating meat anymore! At least not for the most part.

And before you ask, or make the recommendation, yes we watched The Game Changers on Netflix and, yes, that documentary was a big motivator in trying to make the transition to a more plant-based diet. If you haven’t seen the film yet, I definitely recommend checking it out. The main focus of the doc is on the health benefits of a plant based diet but they also discuss the environmental and animal side of things as well.

It’s been about a week and a half with our new-found eating habits, and by no means have we made the full switch over to all plant based. Will we ever go all in? I don’t know. Maybe yes? This shift will take some time and a bit of getting used to but so far we’re into it.

Surprisingly, Jason has been the main driver of it all. I mean, let’s not get confused, I basically do all the household cooking (and it’s not like that’s changing anytime soon), but he’s just as eager as I am to make the change and actually he was the one who piped up first and said “we gotta do this.” Both of us really prioritize health and wellness, so this next step feels like a natural evolution.

We all know the benefits of plant based diets whether we choose it or not. Lower cholestoral. Less animal agriculture. Better environmental impacts. But here is what I’m actually discovering to be one of my favourite benefits. MORE DELICIOUS FOOD OPTIONS AND RECIPE IDEAS.

I’m happy to report that I have navigated out of a cooking rut that I’d been wallowing in for a loooooong time. And hallelujah! Last night I made a one pot curried vegetable dish and it was, in my and Jason’s humble opinions, delicious! I’ve also started incorporating miso and ramen noodles into my repertoire. More soups and stews! And this weekend I am testing out a meatless Shepherd’s Pie with green lentils from Fraiche Food, Full Hearts. I’ll let you know how that turns out!

I was so stuck in my meat-with-a-side-of-vegetable cycle and dinners were just becoming so boring. Which is sad because I love cooking and, I love eating! So this shakeup in the kitchen has been welcome change. I encourage anyone who’s stuck in the same rut I was to consider going meatless a couple of days a week and force yourself out of your routine. You just may find yourself with way more culinary imagination and rewarded by delcious food! And with veganism and plant-based foods becoming so much more mainstream, it’s never hard to find inredients or inspiration.

Here is last night’s curried vegetable “recipe” in case you’re looking for some inspiration.

1 medium red or yellow onion
3 cloves of garlic
2 medium carrots
Several mini potatoes (I don’t know how many I used! But just eyeball it. These will make up a bulk of your dish.)
1 red bell pepper
handul of spinach
1/2 cup of cashews (optional)
tablespoon-ish of curry powder (I actually didn’t measure so just use your own judgment)
1 can coconut milk
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
s + p to taste

Start by sautéeing the onion and garlic over medium. Add sliced carrots. Sautée for about three minutes. Add potatoes. Sautée another four to five minutes and add chopped bell pepper. Sautée another couple of minutes. Add can of coconut milk, vegetable broth, curry powder and cayenne. Let simmer on medium for five to eight minute and then reduce meat to medium low. Let simmer another six to ten minutes until vegetables are soft but not to mushyy. Then add the spinach and mix until wilted. Top with raw cashews and serve with toasted naan bread. Enjoy!

Do you have any great meatless dishes that you love? Share them with me! I’m always looking for new ideas.

Have a great one, friends!

Eliminating Comparisons and Finding Contentment

Me, finding joy in front of my messy/beautiful garden and my in-need-of-new-paint house.

You know the that old saying, right? Comparison is the thief of joy. Lately, I’ve been on a real comparison jag, and I can definitely attest to the joy thievery. It’s a nasty habit that just seems to subtly slip in the side door when I’m not vigilant. Next thing you know, I’m longingly looking at someone else’s reality assuming their grass is greener, their kids better “behaved” (whatever that actually means), their success more valuable, and their lives are just generally more charmed than mine.

And frankly, my life is pretty damned charmed. So what gives?

It all comes back to staying in my own lane. I have forever looked at other people’s successes, or perceived successes, and felt somehow inadeqate next to them. Even when what they have doesn’t line up with my own aspirations. Like the beautiful lawyer friend. Or the teacher with summers off to enjoy her family. Or the stay at home mom. The yogi. The athlete. The intellect. All have looked appealing to me over the years and had me wishing I could trade spots and live their life for a while, just to see how it fits. “Maybe if I had what they have, I’d be happier…?”

But then where would I be? I’d be trying to live someone else’s idea of happiness instead of forging my own. And that just won’t work.

I wrote about in a recent post that if I want to find fulfillment, I need to create it for myself each day. It doesn’t matter if I am bagging groceries, living that #momlife, or climbing the corporate ladder, if I’m always looking around at others and comparing my life to theirs, satisfaction will always be at arm’s length.

Sometimes I think I seem to just write about the same thing over and over in this little blog. How to practise gratitude. How to live a life free of fear. How to feel whole and happy. These themes are just so reoccurring in my life. It’s not that I actually have an authority on “how to” do any of these things. It’s more that I’m trying to figure it out as I go along. Writing about it seems to help.

There are days that I feel like the latest bloomer who ever lived. Especially when I see women 10 or 15 years my junior out their KILLING IT in their careers. But then there I go again with comparisons… I wouldn’t be who I am today had I not taken the long scenic way around the mountain. And I wouldn’t trade my past, however difficult it was at times, for anything.

In this world of social media, it almost feels impossible some days NOT to make comparisons. There’s a saying I learned in recovery that goes, “I was comparing my insides to other people’s outsides.” There’s a lot of variability from most people’s insides to what they show you on the outside and even more variables when it comes to what they post on social media.

Practicing non-comparison is vigilant work in this day of Instagram and influencers. I am one who can be easily influenced, so it’s so important that I stay in my yard and admire my own messy, full-of-weeds garden. Otherwise I’m headed for trouble.

Maybe some of you can relate. Just a reminder that your garden is beautiful whether it’s manicured or overgrown with dandelions.

Thanks for popping on, friends.

What I’m eating: Snow Day Turkey Chili with a Side of Sassy Kids

Ah, family supper time. A time to come together and share stories about our day. A time to bond over food made with love. A time to bask in gratitude for our good fortune and enjoy one another’s company. Or, a time to be sass talked by your children as they don’t eat the bountiful food you’ve cooked them and wind up sending everyone to their rooms only after they leave their hot supper on the table in favour of a cheese sandwich they make themselves… Yeah, that sounds more accurate.

Today’s blustery weather had me wanting everything cozy and snuggly. I decided to cook up a nice big pot of turkey chili for supper. A pot of delicious homemade chili that my kids won’t touch with ten foot pole. I’m quite sure that I’ve done something wrong along the way on this parenting journey because my kids are the pickiest eaters you’ll ever meet. I swore they wouldn’t be. When they were babies, I was sure that my kids would eat everything because I knew that I would offer them everything and not become one of those ‘short order cook moms’ who makes 16 different dinners for four people. Yet, here I am, doing that exact thing.

So, to put things more accurately, when I say I made turkey chili for dinner, I mean I made it for me and Jason. I made the kids a quick and DELICIOUS batch of homemade macaroni and cheese. Macaroni and cheese that they also did. not. touch.

We’ve got a real problem with family dinners going sideways in this house. More often than not, Juliette and Miles are unhappy with what’s being served. Miles doesn’t sit still. Juliette wants us only to talk to her. I can’t even tell you how many times one or both of them leaves the table crying. The repetitive nature of this scene is absurd it’s so frequent.

As I sit here writing this, it’s becoming obvious that something’s gotta give. And I truly don’t think that my eight year old and four year old know how to do any better because, well, really how could they? We have to teach them to do better. I’m pretty sure that’s part of our job, right?

As predicted, tonight’s dinner went sideways. Parents yelled. Children cried. No one ate. (Well, that’s not true, Jason and I ate.) Blah blah blah.

What I’m coming to realize is that if I want the kids to sit and share a meal with Jason and me, I’m going to have to start trying a new approach. I’d like us to all eat the same meal while peacefully enjoying each other’s company. In order to make this work, I’ll have to keep a few things front and centre:

1. Make kid-friendly food that we will all like.
2. Strike a deal with them that they have to try at least one new food at suppertime. Maybe a new vegetable or side so that I can keep the rest of the meal pleasing to their pallette?
3. Ensure there is a reward in place so that when all goes well, they know they have something good coming their way.
4. Keep the convo child-centred and wait to have adult chat later in the evening.

I think if we can sit down and accomplish two successful family meals a week, I’ll call that a win. If anyone out there has tips n tricks on how to save the family supper, I would love to hear! Please comment below. 🙂 Also, if anyone is going through the same thing, solidarity.

I’ll keep you updated with what’s working and what’s not in case anyone else out there is interested.

As for the turkey chili recipe, I’d give it to you but let’s face it, if you’ve made one chili recipe you’ve made them all. I’m confident you can figure it out!

What I’m feeling: Motivated and Inspired

I’ve written over the past year about leaving my job and exploring a new path working with Keener Jerseys, our family business. Over the past nine months, I’ve been awkwardly fumbling and feeling my way through this transition. Quite frankly, I’ve been experiencing some discomfort. Although I seemingly got exactly what I wanted, somehow I didn’t magically feel renewed and energized by the change. I actually felt a bit let down, if I’m being honest.

Why, when I finally gained the freedom to live the life I wanted to live, did I feel numb? Where was the growth and fulfillment I was seeking?

I tried opening myself up to the spirit of the universe and inviting opportunity in. I kept my eyes open all around me searching for a sign of how I would find my fulfillment. At the same time, I wondered why I was struggling to feel motivated and inspired to successfully do my job, both at Keener Jerseys and with this blog. I kep looking around me for something that would help me solve my problem of lackluster.

Then, and this is kind of embarrasing to admit, just a few days ago I realized that dreams and fulfillment aren’t just going to fall from the sky and into my lap. If I want fulfillment and success, I need to work for it.

Like, duh.

I’m the first to admit that I’m a slow learner. I seem to have to learn the same lessons over and over again before I finally internalize what I need to move past my own self inflicted barriers. In this case the lesson is work hard and you’ll achieve results.

In some areas of my life, like running, I’ve been living that truth every day and putting in the work. In other areas, not so much.

My fear of “did I do the right thing?” stunted me from really throwing myself into anything with passion. The lack of structure that a regular 9 to 5 job typially provides paralyzed me with a feeling of not knowing where to start. I felt a bit lost on the inside and didn’t know how to get aligned.

I truly believe that these are all feelings I had to work through in order to arrive to the a-ha moment that FINALLY came to me recently. Some readers out there may be thinking, ‘sheesh honey, get a grip.’ But my whole life I have been a strong starter and a slow finisher and this experience is no different. I got gutsy and quit the job… and then I stopped. I didn’t forge ahead into my new adventure with purpose and drive. Instead I danced around the edges hoping something or someone would come along and show me what to do next.

Feeling a bit lost at sea for so many months became increasingly more difficult to manage emotionally. Luckily, I also have a very low pain tolerance. Whether the pain be physical, emotional or spiritual, I don’t like living in discomfort. So this extended period of discomfort was quite unpleasant at times. Especially since I was afraid to talk about how I was feeling because I didn’t want to appear as though I’d made the wrong choice. I knew I did the right thing, but I didn’t know how I was going to make it work.

Turns out, I was looking all around me for an answer that was within me all along. I just need to get up every day and show up. Show up for Keener Jerseys. Show up for my kids. Show up for this blog. For running. For spirituality. For all of it. I just need to put the work in.

If I start living my vision of how I want my life to look and feel then that’s how it will start looking and feeling. The people out there that I admire who are living their best lives didn’t get there accidentally. They hustled and did the work and they KEEP doing the work. It’s actually so frigging simple, I’m not sure how I missed it.

It’s one thing to have a vision of what you want your life to be. It’s another to show up and do the work to get it there. At the age 41, perhaps I should know this already, and in so many ways I do, but I also have a long way to go.

One day at a time, I’ll get there.

(Wearing J.Crew sweater, Madewell bag and MPG Sport vest.)