It’s a known fact that I’m the coldest-natured person on earth. If there was an actual contest for the honor, I have no doubt that I would win it. So when the temperatures in Houston dip below 60-degrees, you can find me wrapped up in 4 layers of clothing sitting on my heated seats or by the fireplace. I don’t do cold. Last night, the weatherman said that our temps would dip into the 20’s. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen that in the 11ish years that I’ve been a Texan. While most were out wrapping water pipes and covering palm trees, I made a quick, easy and delicious vegetable soup. I make this quite a bit and although it is lackluster on the fancy part, it’s big on taste!
STEPHANIE’S EASY VEGETABLE SOUP
2 cans corn
2 cans peas/carrots mix
2 cans green beans
2 cans diced potatoes
2 cans diced tomatoes (I used one can that also had added chilies)
1 small can tomato paste
1 lb ground beef
1/2 white onion
2 T minced garlic
2 bay leaves
Italian blend spices
Ground black pepper
I make my soup in one pan – it’s up to you, but it can all be done in one stockpot. The less I have to wash, the better!
I started the process by sauteing the onion and garlic until the onion was clear and a bit softer, then added the ground beef. Once cooked, drain the beef of any extra grease, and put back into the stockpot.
The hard part is over at this point, drain and add all canned veggies! Mix and combine.
To that, add the diced tomatoes and the tomato paste. The cans will still have tomato residue in them, so use the cans to add water. This gets all the tomato flavor from them & helps to add that pretty red color. Water should cover all the veggies and about 1/2″ more so that it’s actually “soup”.
Finally add the bay leaves, ground pepper and Italian seasoning blend to taste. I think the spices really add to it, so I have a heavier hand than some!
Heat the soup until just before boiling – stir every bit or so just to blend the flavors. Add crackers, shredded cheese, whatever you like to your bowl, and enjoy!
I CAN NOT believe you are 13 years old. I officially have no more babies, toddlers, or kids – with your birthday, I’m officially the mom of teens!
Here are the 10 things I love so much about you:
- You are sparkle and light to everyone! You elude happiness and joy at all times. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that is as optimistic as you are about everything. Not in a Polyanna way, but just choosing to see the good that is all around you.
- You love to watch others succeed. Your dad and I were watching you at a ballgame last week. One of your best friends has been working so hard on her tumbling. She nailed a tumbling pass and your face lit up. You allow yourself to be proud of other people. You truly understand the quote “Blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make yours shine brighter.” Your candle shines bright because you cheer on everyone.
- You are so smart. Many people truly don’t know that you are a brainy girl. Science is your thing … and I hope you never change. Never be ashamed that you are smart, and never stop challenging yourself!
- You are funny. You have the quickest wit and silliest personality. You have literally kept me laughing for 13 years. You have the best sense of humor and are secure enough that you don’t take yourself too seriously.
- You are mature enough to make the hard choices. You have shown that again and again this year, I admire your maturity.
- You love birthdays. Although today is your special day, you LOVE to celebrate everyone’s birthdays. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more special then on mine. You count it down, fret over the perfect gift, and are so diligent on making that person feel loved.
- You are an organizer. I am a pretty organized person – you take it over the top. Everything has a place. Everything is labeled. Everything has a purpose. You could set up systems for a Fortune 500 company in no time flat!
- You set big goals. If I had to put a mantra to your life so far, it would be “I can do this!” You have no fear in chasing the big dreams and setting high goals. I hope you never ever change – the world is truly yours to take!
- You take being a role model seriously. It’s been fun to watch your interact with younger kids and friends these past few years. I love that you think before you speak and are so careful to always set a strong example for them. You aren’t shy about being their friend and treat them not as little kids, but also as people.
- You are a star! You were made for a Disney show and the big lights. Watching you develop your YouTube channel and put videos together is the best. You make me smile with your outlook on everyday life. Your heart is pure and your soul is sweet. It comes out in everything you post.
Today is extra special because you get to spend it with your Tremaine family. You worked so hard, prayed without ceasing, and traveled more miles then I care to count … for the chance to become part of the Performance Company. I can’t imagine anything better then starting your Tremaine tour on your birthday! It’s almost like they planned to be in Houston just for you!
Piper Click, you are so loved. You are pure light and I hope that you never ever allow anyone to darken your flame. We need more people like you.
I love you so much,
This month, I’m proud to be writing at Houston Moms Blog about a very special trip that I got to take this summer with Piper. My 5 Things to Remember When Traveling Alone with Your Child post is now live over there and I know that you’ll want to read it!
Piper is a great traveler and was super excited to see New York. So, like any good mom, I started a Pinterest board about New York and began to make a list of what we must-see and must-do since our time was going to be limited due to the dance class and competition restraints. By the time the trip rolled around, we were ready, prepared, and excited.
Take a look at let me know what you think! Bookmark the Houston Moms Blog site, it’s full of great content and timely information for parents with kids of all ages.
I write birthday letters to my children every year. It’s just something that I do. It’s probably a bit of therapy for me to be able to reflect, in writing, on who they are becoming and what makes them special individually. This year, I’m choosing to write about myself.
This has been a hard year for me. So many things have turned upside down. It’s funny because I appear so open on social media and I think people have an idea that they really know me. In fact, I’m pretty private. If something means a lot to me or is very special to me, I won’t post about it at all. Only about a third of my life is lived online, believe it or not. And, in this past year, it’s been the third of my life – the stuff that I keep to myself that has seemingly come unraveled and taken me with it in some ways.
I had a life-shift of sorts around March. A friend of mine lost a close friend of hers; we were around the same age. In reflecting upon how my time was being spent, I had a life shift. My priorities were very much out of whack. I was devoting time to things that in the end would never matter (or not much matter). Giving the most of my energy to people who didn’t require it. And spending time doing things that I didn’t really enjoy only because I’d always done them.
I ran across this saying on Pinterest a few weeks back, it perfectly described what has happened with me over the past year.
One morning she woke up different.
Done with trying to figure out who was with her, against her, or walking down the middle because they didn’t have the guts to pick a side.
She was done with anything that didn’t bring her peace.
She realized that opinions were a dime a dozen, validation was for parking, and loyalty wasn’t a word, but a lifestyle.
It was this day that her life changed.
And not because of a man, or a job, but because she realized that life is way too short to leave the key to your happiness in someone else’s pocket.
It has taken a lot of getting used to, this life shift. Saying “no” to things that I’m not interested in or that won’t bring peace. Giving myself the freedom to say “yes” to new opportunities. (How exciting!) And, looking for the joy in all things and in all situations.
I lost my grandfather last month. As we prepared for his funeral with the pastors and our family, I knew that I wanted to leave just as big of a legacy behind. I saw glimpses of myself in so many of the stories that were told about him. I had never considered that growing up glued to his side had such an influence on me beyond the love that I was constantly shown. It was another reminder to be so careful and so cautious of how my time is spent.
I love the last line of the mantra that I shared above: “Life is way too short to leave the key to your happiness in someone else’s pocket.” So, here in year 44, that’s the line that I’m most focusing on. When I’m happy, I can take better care of everyone that I love and that’s the legacy that I want to work toward in this stage of my life. But, if I put the key to my happiness in anyone’s pocket but my own, that can’t happen.
Words of wisdom from a 44 year old wife and mom:
Love big. Don’t be afraid of change. Give second chances. Give the biggest chunks of your time to your biggest priorities.
In July, I took Piper to New York for a week of dance. It was her first trip to the city and I really looked forward to seeing her experience everything that NYC has to offer. On our first full day, we ventured to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. I don’t think either of us expected that this day would have such an emotional affect on us.
It’s easy to say where you were when the tragedy of 9/11 happened. It will forever be etched in our minds, much like the assassination of JFK is for our parents. I didn’t know anyone personally affected or that lost a loved one on 9/11, so it has been easy for me to simply pay respect to the day each year and move forward without an attachment.
One visit to the 9/11 museum has changed me. I’ll admit, embarrassingly, that museums are not my thing. I find them interesting, sure … but to spend an entire day at a museum is not on my list of things to do. Or on Piper’s list for that matter. (My husband and son are the complete opposite!) Piper and I entered the museum and thought we would just do a walk through. We could not get enough … and stayed until the afternoon.
For me, as an adult that vividly remembers the day of September 11, 2001, I can go right back to that time in my life. But, for Piper, who wasn’t even born, it was new. The fact that a group of people did this on purpose was baffling in her mind. She read every sign, every plate, looked at every piece of scrap – trying to make sense of it all.
We spent most of our time in the hall where the museum features photos of every person that lost their life on 9/11. There are some interactive boards that allow you to find out more about the individual and even a small glimpse into how they came into the path of tragedy on that day. Putting names with faces and stories was absolutely heart wrenching. It seemed unfair to not click on every photo to learn more. As a mom, I wanted to hear everyone’s story – almost like it paid a form of respect to their families.
So many young lives. So many beautiful stories. So many accolades and tremendous accomplishments. Our country lost a lot of remarkable people.
There was also an area where you could hear audio recordings from first responders and people who were in the towers during the attacks. You heard first hand their stories of how they attempted to save people, or how they tried to escape, and what they saw. There is also so much in the way of memorabilia from the day. Fire trucks, the door of an airplane, bent steel from where a plane entered one of the towers. To see it in person is just mind-blowing. The heat of the flames, the force of entry, the magnitude of the loss is impossible to put into words.
Piper is a very happy soul. She’s a people-lover and does a tremendous job of seeing the good in everyone. Going through the museum with her, explaining some of the things she was reading, and watching as we got further into the story and knowing that she was understanding the concept of terrorism crushed my soul. I have always tried to shield my kids, and probably moreso Piper, from the meanness of the world. But, there’s no shielding or fluffing up of what happened on September 11. She left heavy and so did I.
After we left the museum, we went to lunch and it was hard to find words for what we had seen. Like so many places in the world, you really need to see it for yourself. Your life and your outlook on so many things will change with just one visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Allow yourself the time to really take it in and do it justice, for yourself and for the families of those who lost their lives.