Soup Season: How to Throw a Plant-Based Soup Swap

Days are getting cooler and nights are falling earlier here in Colorado. It’s officially Soup Season! I love to cook, as anyone who follows me on Instagram or has browsed this blog and fall is a beautiful time to break out the dutch oven. I’ve put my 5th official Plant-Based Soup Swap on the books and I am plotting my recipe as the date gets closer, which has made me reflect on the past few years of plant-based soup swaps.

Plant-Based Soup Swap

The amazing thing about hosting a soup swap is everyone walks away with six delicious, brand new soups that can be frozen and eaten all fall….and even into the winter. Anyone who works a full-time gig knows it can be tough to get a homemade, nutritious dinner on the table – and even harder to pack a lunch! Having multiple soups to choose from during a busy week or perhaps when you just don’t feel like cooking, is clutch!

I threw my first Colorado Soup Swap in November 2015 after having been introduced to the concept by a girlfriend in Philadelphia. I made a Loaded Baked Potato soup with maple seitan bacon. It was scrumptious!

For my second plant-based Soup Swap, there was a smaller crowd, so I ended up making two soups to ensure everyone walked away with a variety of soups. I made Chunky Tomato (with tomatoes from our garden) and a Spicy Thai Noodle soup. Both ended up being delightful.

My third soup swap brought eight women to my backyard, during a beautiful November day. I ended up making an Italian Wedding soup with chick pea meatballs that I left out of the soup, so people could freeze them without them getting soggy.

Last year, I hosted my largest soup swap to date, with ten people coming out with soups galore! I made a veggie dumpling soup. I got word that although I thought the dumplings were super dense, people loved them .

This year, I’m hosting my plant-based soup swap on October 27th and so far, I think it’s shaping up to be an event for the books. Now the only question is….what kind of soup should I make!? The jury’s still out on that, but I’ll be sure to share the recipes after the event.

If you’ve never heard of the concept of a plant-based soup swap, or perhaps would like to start your own tradition, here’s how to spread the word and the directions on how to throw your own plant-based soup swap.

What you need to do to participate:

Pick a plant-based soup to make (you’ll need to double the recipe) and come to the party with 6 containers full of 1 quart of your soup – we swap them, so make sure it’s in a container you can give away (dollar store has cheap containers!) The idea here is that everyone leaves with a variety of soups they can freeze!

What Does Plant-Based Soup mean?

Using veggie broth, tomato/based, or beans, create a soup that is animal & animal product free (no chicken, turkey, pork, cow, dairy, cheese, butter). It’s not hard! Earth balance has a vegan butter that is super cheap, there are nut milks & veggie broth is found everywhere! Be creative – plants are so versatile and delicious!!!

What to do at the swap:

Have everyone clearly label their soup, taping small pieces of paper to the container or writing right on it with a sharpie marker. Once the swap is under way, each soup maker will have a chance to introduce their soup, stating why they choose it, or perhaps anything special about the recipe. All those who have made a soup will get a number and the swap will go in order, number one getting their first pick, and so on. If there are more than six people, it means that not everyone will get every soup, and the really appealing soups will go first.

Thinking about throwing your own swap or perhaps have done so? Let me know how it goes! Happy soup swapping!




Happy Homes: 100+ Days into Our 6th Investment Property

It’s been 100 plus days since we purchased our 6th investment property, Dudley Court, in Arvada Colorado and we are very close to putting this beautiful home on the market. As a small business owner of a real estate investment company (Happy Homes), it’s easy to get caught up in the grind of the project, not reflect on the progress, as you’re dealing with just getting it done. Hence not writing an update in a few weeks (I wrote a post one week in, then three weeks into the project, then 40 days working on Dudley Court…..and here we are!)

In the past few weeks, as the progress has moved swiftly, I’ve thought about the rolls Mike and I play in our company. I’m the ‘front office’ of the business, dealing with the costs, budget, receipts, bills in as organized fashion as possible. It’s seemingly easier than Mike’s gig, but can be overwhelming if I don’t keep up with it. Mike on the other had deals with the physical act of building (he typically does all the framing and support or structural things needed) putting in the windows, doors, trim, custom cabinetry or craftsmanship, on top of having to manage all of the logistics presented when you’re dealing with sub-contractors. I try to look at what we both bring to the table objectively, not become to attached to how much I do or don’t do, vs. what he brings to the table, as we are both vitally important to making this work. That being said, realistically it can be hard not to feel overwhelmed by your own bubble of responsibilities. Here’s how I think both Mike and I can think….

Me: “I not only have to work a 40+ a week, high stress job, but do most of the grocery shopping, cleaning, all of the cooking, dishes, folding of the laundry and walking the dogs, plus manage our household bills and inventory (aka do we have toothpaste)….then use my after work hours to help at the investment property with demo, mixing cement, cleaning the job site, tile and floor shopping, helping to carry heavy material onto the job, and managing all of Happy Homes finances.”

Mike: “I’m on my feet 8+ hours a day, problem solving the entire project, including not only how to build the best home for someone, but having to solve and decide on things my subs are bringing to me on an hourly basis. I don’t have any helpers we employee, so all skilled carpentry, framing, structural issues are mine to solve and execute. On top of that, I manage the problems that come with sub-contractors moving their timelines, which shift multiple elements when you’re on projects the size of ours, in turn pushing the on market date. Then come home and tend to all of our gardens, whether that’s planting or feeding the food we grow the nutrients needed, on top of mowing the grass and taking care of the yard.”

Sheesh, we are both BOSSES! And after a few shouting matches about stresses both of us were feeling, I had to map it out in my head. In stopping to truly consider what each of us are bringing to the table it allows for appreciation and conversation. Again, when you’re SO in the thick of the items on your to-do, it’s really hard to have perspective.

So, in the past several weeks, we’ve accomplished a lot…..

Old brick patio had to be taken out

We tore up the backyard to replace the sewer main going into the house, then had our amazing landscaper sod & put in sprinklers. He even tore up the cracked cement walkway.

Sewer main replaced, now time for sod
New Brick walkway & sod

Our kitchen layout and cabinets got selected, then we went to select our quartz counter tops. The island counter would be used on the master bathroom sink counter tops as well – super sharp.

The windows got ordered and were supposed to be delivered, but our Breckenridge vacation took place, so we had the company we use hold them while we enjoyed a week up in the mountains with Mike’s family.

When we got back from the mountains, Mike got to work installing them, all 17 of them, and trimming the interior windows out. Up and down the ladder, lots of scraped knuckles and long days. I even helped put in the huge front window, as it was an expansive three-tiered window. It was HEAVY!

We have walls!

After the windows went in, drywall went up, making the space look like an actual house!

Drywall in the garden level!

We selected tile for all of the bathroom floors and shower surrounds. Choosing different floors for each bathroom, but going with a simple and clean subway tile for all of the showers, each space would be unique but have a common element.

Weekend Warriors

Before we headed out for vacation, we needed to lay the hardibacker for the tile that would happen in the bathrooms, so a weekend was spent laying floor and cleaning out buckets.

Laying HardiBacker

While we were in Maine, the tile got installed, so when we got back we didn’t feel as bad for leaving in the middle of a project, as progress on the house was still happening.

Garden Level Floor!

The floor in the garden level also went in, a really beautiful water resistant style that makes the room feel warm, yet modern.

Front door on point

Mike got to work hanging doors, trimming out base boards and building the cabinet unit down in the garden level.

Hanging the doors

There is a brick wall that used to have an old wood-burning stove, which we pulled out of there. Mike used a custom wood top he had from another project to outfit the cabinets and it turned out gorgeous – and functional!

Cabinet Craftsmanship

Landscaping continues, with sprinkler systems and full on sod – the yard is beautiful! The mulch around the edge, along with a new brick patio, along with a new stone border in the front of the house gives it massive curb appeal. Our landscaper isn’t finished yet, but hopefully within the next few days.

The Beautiful Backyard

Our kitchen counters went in last week and the kitchen is looking amazing! We selected a darker quartz for the counter tops and a light marble looking piece for the island and master bathroom vanity. I love it and hopefully someone else will as well!

Kitchen counter tops in!

Mike headed to Wisconsin at the end of last week (horrible timing, but the trip was already booked!) but before he went, he oversaw the exterior paint (of which I had to go get more of while he was away!) and put in a really cool barn door slider in the guest room.

Barn Door Slider
Exterior paint on the brick

The house looks amazing and will be ready to list in the next week! It’s been a ride so far, with a ton of lessons learned both as a business owner, a hustler, and the wife of a contractor. Will definitely be writing a post about the lessons learned for future flips.

Happy House Flipping!

Adventures in Maine: The way life should be, continued

Our Maine adventure continues…

Day 5 on Lower Goose Island 

Today, Luke was on his way to spend the Labor Day weekend with us – Yay, more of the Lawrence crew! Since he lives in Boston, he left super early and made great time.

While Robin and Scott headed out to grab him from the main land, Mike and I kayaked around Lower Goose, heading counter-clockwise, towards the Goslings. The tide was going out, and the back side of the island had a number of boats docked, supposedly a party spot. We pulled up to a small beach to check the shore out, but it was a protected area for birds, so we headed out, passing the Dugas’s, our neighbors to the east.

We would take a property path hike to his compound later that afternoon and what he had created was nothing short of incredible. Paths that were covered in wood chips, there were no piles of fallen trees, as they had been put in the wood chipper. His home had solar power, built only several years ago, not several decades. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love our rustic cabins. But when we strolled past his cabins and peaked in the window at the gorgeous wood, bright and cheery kitchen with what looked like butcher block counters, it was hard not to get cabin envy.

The afternoon was spent continuing camp closing, taking down and scrubbing our gutters, storing pots and pans up in the crawl space in the kitchen, and cleaning. We were going to get lobsters and steamers that evening, so most of the crew headed out on the boat to grab lobsters.

Robin stayed back to enjoy the quiet, something that was truly unique to our precious island. We zipped around to the backside of the island, to a very bare bones, but awesome lobster joint where we got lots of good lobster and some steamers.

The guys decided to tackle the brush situation that was trickling down the side of the hill onto the beach. As trees and branches fall, or chopped down due to rot, they’re just thrown onto the pile, awaiting a good old fashion bon fire. Which is exactly what happened!

Beers were cracked and the flames flew! My Uncle Scott ended up getting attacked by a bee hive that the guys had been trying to pull into the fire, and he fell down the hill, thankfully not getting injured.

That evening we feasted inside, as the winds had changed suddenly, so it was a bit gusty and had even cooled off quite a bit. After the feast we shot some of the firecracker mortars my dad had left. A great day, filled with everything glorious Maine has to offer!

Day 6 on Lower Goose Island

The next day we woke, had a big pancake breakfast with fresh blueberry jelly my cousin had made. Fuel for the day, which was filled with more closing fun. That afternoon, we headed to Dolphin’s Marina to have a delicious lunch, gorgeous cocktails and a lovely day at sea.

Luke had to head back to Boston afterwards, so they dropped us off and we scooted around the kayak before putting it up for the winter. It was a beautiful afternoon, the grey coast of Maine whooshing by with each paddle. After our spin, we carried the kayak up and put it in the basement for the winter. Robin and Scott came back, so we hung on the porch, as the weather had turned a bit drizzly. That evening, since we had had such a late and big lunch, we munched on cheese, veggies and drank good wine. It was our last evening on the porch, so we savored it!

Day 7 on Lower Goose Island  

The sun rose on our last day in Maine and I couldn’t help but feel a bit sad, although we had had a wonderful time on the island. We spent the last day packing, sweeping our cabin, taking our shutters down, and closing up more of the main cabin. Even though the day was grey, it still held such beauty. Maine has been ingrained in my memory since I was young, and every year I get to spend time on the island, it become a more a part of me. Knowing we had to leave and I’d not set foot on the island’s soil for a full year had me a bit sad, but we had had an amazing trip, full of adventure, history (my Uncle Ted had written a biography that I read during the rainy afternoon), work, and beauty. As the Goosecraft, the boat named after my poppa, carried us back to the mainland, I waved goodbye to camp Lawrence and couldn’t wait to get back next year.