January 18, 2019

Mama's Slow Cooker Bean Soup Recipe


Love soup? Looking for the perfect winter comfort food? Check out Mama’s Slow Cooker Bean Soup Recipe. It’s sure to be a tummy pleaser!

Slow Cooker Bean Soup Recipe

If you’re like me, you have a leftover ham bone in the freezer from Christmas. Or maybe even as far back as Thanksgiving. Either way, it’s taking up space and you need to get rid of it. Am I right? 

Or, if that’s not you, maybe you just love a good recipe for comfort food? Maybe some hot soup on a cold day? A reason to bust out the slow cooker or crock pot?

Slow Cooker Bean Soup Recipe

Well, whether it’s reason a or reason b (or maybe even a combo of both), you’ve come to the right place.

Today, I’m sharing Mama’s Bean Soup recipe. And yes, that mama is me. And my mama, because I can’t take all of the credit. She taught me how to make it. 

It's easy to make, it's tasty, it's hardy and it scream winter comfort food. It's also sure to be a tummy pleaser. Hey, if a "three-nager" devours an entire bowl, you know that's a fact.

All you need is said leftover hambone (or a ham hock purchased from the store), some veggies, chicken stock and dried navy beans. 

Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Bean Soup Recipe

Mama’s Slow Cooker Bean Soup

Serves: 6-8 people

Ingredients:
  • Ham bone, with leftover ham (or ham hock)
  • 1 cup dried navy beans
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup carrots, shredded or diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
  1. Locate the slow cooker or crock pot from back of cupboard and dust off.
  2. Add onion, carrot, celery to bottom of the slow cooker.
  3. Place ham bone on top of vegetables.
  4. Pour dried beans around ham bone.
  5. Top with chicken stock and water, so that majority of bone is covered. Add water if needed.
  6. Set on high and cook for 6-8 hours, or until beans are tender and ham is falling off the bone.
  7. Remove the ham bone. (Be sure there are no ham bone fragments in the soup.)
  8. Remove leftover ham from the bone. Cut up and add to soup. Also cut up any large chunks of ham already in the soup.
  9. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  10. Can be stored in the fridge, covered for one week, or can be frozen for later. 

Note 1: I use half chicken stock and half water to make my broth, mostly to cut back on the sodium. The salt from the ham will help to flavour the broth. If you like a saltier broth, instead use chicken stock for the full 8 cups. 

Note 2: If you do not have a ham bone, you can purchase a ham hock from the meat department at your local grocery store. It will work just as well to flavour the broth, however, you may not get as much meat off the bone.

Slow Cooker Bean Soup Recipe

If you enjoy soup, you may also want to check out these recipes for The Best Chicken Dumpling Soup and Fall Harvest Root Vegetable Soup.

What is your favourite comfort food recipe? Do you enjoy soup? I’d love to hear!



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Slow Cooker Bean Soup Recipe

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January 16, 2019

Recharging at the Woods Parka Lodge



What do you get when you combine a winter parka, snow covered trees and a silent night?

Our first escape sans kids, to the Woods Parka Lodge.

Recharging at the Woods Parka Lodge

Ok, so maybe the night wasn’t so silent. Anyone with kids knows that you can’t escape them. Even during a night away you’re still talking about them and thinking about them and waking every hour to worry you’ve forgot them somewhere or because you hear a phantom cry. Or, is that just me?

Anyways…

Recharging at the Woods Parka Lodge

I recently read an article from Scary Mommy (article found here) about the impact of a second child on a mom’s mental health. I knew going from one to two would be a challenge, but I really didn’t know to what extent. We are so fortunate to have these little gals and my heart is filled with nothing but love for them, but it’s flippin’ hard. Rewarding, but hard. I constantly feel like I’m being pulled in multiple directions with no time to sit down and take a breath. Some days, I feel like I don’t know myself anymore. I’ll admit, some days, I just need a break.

And so, that’s exactly what we did. And one of the best ways we know how - outdoors.

Recharging at the Woods Parka Lodge

At only 5 months old and 3 years old, we were a bit hesitant to leave the girls for the first time. Miss B has yet to sleep through the night. But, knew they were in good hands. We also knew we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to sleep in Canada’s first (and only) parka-insulated winter yurt.

Yes, you read that right. A yurt. Or as it better described, glamping on steroids.

Before we get started, I should mention that this is not a sponsored post. After seeing the yurt on a fellow blogger’s Instagram, I knew we had to go. The trip was booked and paid for through with money from our own pockets.

Recharging at the Woods Parka Lodge

So what exactly is the Woods Parka Lodge?

A pretty clever marketing campaign. 

The outdoor lifestyle brand Woods took an adventurous approach when launching its latest winter-wear collection, working with retailer SportChek and Airbnb to create the Woods Parka Lodge – a winterized yurt “designed for modern day explorers with an eye for style” – with the goal being to highlight Woods’ 133 year history in Canada.

As part of the activation, lodge-goers are also given a new Woods’ Alverstone Expedition Parka or McBride Bomber Jacket and have access to the surrounding 60 acres of forest land to test out its warmth. 

Steve opted for the Alverstone in navy and I chose the McBride Bomber in black. And with temperatures dipping to -18C when we were out exploring, the jackets were definitely appreciated.

Recharging at the Woods Parka Lodge

Anyways, back to our visit…

We made the three hour drive up to the Haliburton area on a clear Thursday afternoon. Half way through the drive, the landscape began to change. The flat snowless ground turned to snow covered hills. It was a winter wonderland. 

When we finally made it to the yurt, we knew we were in for something truly special and unique.

At first glance, the yurt looked small. But as we opened the door, we were instantly transported into our cosy and classic abode for the night.  We explored the yurt, taking in all of the small touches - the Crosley record player, the boards games, the pieces of Woods history hanging on the wall and so on. 

Recharging at the Woods Parka Lodge
Recharging at the Woods Parka Lodge
Recharging at the Woods Parka Lodge
Recharging at the Woods Parka Lodge

While it was still light outside, we decided to don our new winter jackets and snowshoes and explore the acres of wooded forest behind the yurt.

For dinner, we took advantage of the outdoor grill and treated ourselves to steak, potatoes and a glass of red wine (or two) in front of the indoor fireplace. It was a celebration after all. 

Recharging at the Woods Parka Lodge
Recharging at the Woods Parka Lodge
Recharging at the Woods Parka Lodge
Recharging at the Woods Parka Lodge

As the sun went down, the skylight in the center of the yurt gave us a glimpse a life without light pollution. The stars were amazing. The temperature outside when we tried to view them, not so much. A chilly -23 degrees C over night isn’t for everyone. Thank goodness for the roaring indoor fireplace, a comfy Endy mattress and pillow and a heavy duvet. 

Without the yelling and screaming of a toddler and baby, it was eerily quiet in the yurt. Our heads hit the pillow around 10:00am, but not without a few texts to Gramma and Poppa to make sure the girls were ok. All was good on the home front. Now, we could sleep.

Recharging at the Woods Parka Lodge

Or not. We were both awake a few times throughout the night. You know, those phantom cries I mentioned before? 

While we may not have that great sleep we had dreamed of, one thing that was different was that we were able to stay in bed… until 10am. I forgot what it was like to sleep in.

And just like that, our time was up at the Woods Parks Lodge, and it was time to head back to the girls. 

Recharging at the Woods Parka Lodge

It was the perfect escape to refresh, recharge and reconnect since becoming a family of four. Just what this mama needed.

It’s crazy was a bit of fresh air can do for your mental health.

How do you recharge? I’d love to hear!


**********

If you plan to visit the Haliburton area, make sure to add these places to your list:

To Eat & Drink:

Rhubarb offers special features each evening in addition to the new all day menu which showcases local seasonal food.  Upscale casual dining in cottage country located on the shores of Mirror Lake in picturesque Haliburton County.

Located: 9201 Hwy 118, Algonquin Highlands, Ontario K0M1J2 

Boshkung is a small batch brewery focused on cottage living, local fare and great tasting beer. Their core beers (available year round) are a Cream Ale, Kellerbier and English Style IPA.  

Located: Beneath Rhubarb Restaurant

For over 80 years, Kawartha Dairy has been proud to be a 100% Canadian-owned company, still operated by the same family that started it back in the beginning. They sell ice cream, milk, butter, cream, egg nog, ice cream cakes and more. 

Located: 12750 Hwy 35 Minden, Ontario K0M 2K0

To See:

Haliburton Forest is an outdoor lover’s paradise and a wood lover’s dream. It is a research facility and an education centre. It is a property where members of our community make their livelihoods, and thousands of visitors make their day. Haliburton Forest is 100,000 acres, 100 lakes, and millions of trees, and it is home to countless creatures. Above all, and always, it is a sustainably managed forest.

Located: 1095 Redkenn Road Haliburton, ON K0M 1S0

The Wolf Centre is a 5,000 square foot facility that houses exhibits, a cinema and classroom and a large indoor observatory to catch a glimpse of the members of the Forest’s wolf pack, permanent residents since 1993. With live wolfcams and wolf exhibits, you can almost always catch a glimpse of our wolves as they wander through their 15 acre forested environment.

Located: In the Haliburton Forest




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Woods Parka Lodge in Haliburton, Ontario

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January 7, 2019

The One Tool You Need for Cleaning Up After a Toddler


If you have little ones at home, you know the cleaning NEVER stops. From piles of toys and laundry to food and drink spills, messes just come with the toddler and baby territory. Read on learn the ONE tool you need for cleaning up after kids.

The One Tool You Need for Cleaning Up After a Toddler: Bissel Little Green

When having kids, we knew we didn’t want to give up our personal style and “nice things”.

We also knew that nice things plus kiddos don’t always mix. But, it was a chance we were willing to take. 

And so, we made compromises. Decorative toy storage bins, a nice coffee table with rounded edges, inexpensive throw pillows and blankets, to name a few.

But, what about the big ticket, upholstered items in that living space? Like the carpet, couch and chairs?

Messes do happen after all. And those big ticket, upholstered items are not spared.

Pictured below: coffee stain 

The One Tool You Need for Cleaning Up After a Toddler: Bissel Little Green

Well, what if I told you that I have found the solution? Or, at least part of the solution. 

What if I told you that you can buy your nice, light grey couch or off-white area rug and not have to cringe every single time your clumsy child steps foot on it (while holding their cup of orange juice in one hand)?

Not that that describes my toddler or anything. 

Anyways, if you that is you and you buy ANY tool to help clean up after your little one, THIS. IS. IT.

I should mention, this is in no way a sponsored post. I’m an open book when it comes to sharing my adventures in parenting, including how to make things easier, and this is just ONE of the many products that we have found to be a winner. Especially in the cleaning department.

Enter the BISSEL® Little Green® Portable Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner. The ONE tool you need for cleaning up after your little ones.

The One Tool You Need for Cleaning Up After a Toddler: Bissel Little Green

When we moved into our new house, we were in need of a new living room rug. With the small space, we needed something lighter to make the space look bigger, so we ended up purchasing this popular rug from Wayfair. We were taking a chance with the light colour, but loved the way it looked (and also couldn’t turn down the price). 

Same goes for a new couch. We needed a pull out couch for overnight visitors. We found the perfect one - light grey.

Living in a small space, our living room also doubles as a play room and dining room. It’s a living room after all, it’s meant to be lived in. Messes are inevitable and happen on the daily. So does the appearance of the Little Green. 

Ketchup stain? No problem. Play doh? You got it. Coffee spill? Goodbye. Baby poop? Adios amigo. I think you get the picture…

When the first spill happened, my dad offered up his Little Green for us to borrow. Little did we know (silly us), these spills would start to happen on the daily, sometimes multiple times per day. Living three hours apart, borrowing the cleaner every day wasn’t in the cards. So, we decided to invest in our own. 

Pictured below: before (top) and after (bottom) of a coffee spill

The One Tool You Need for Cleaning Up After a Toddler: Bissel Little Green
The One Tool You Need for Cleaning Up After a Toddler: Bissel Little Green

Voila, with just a little muscle, the stain is gone. Now to work on all of the others that happened since this morning...

The strong spray and powerful vacuum suction of this cleaner removes tough spots and stains, and leaves your rug or upholstery like new. It will even get rid of a stain that’s been forgotten for a few days. Because lets be honest, cleaning doesn’t happen on the daily when you’re chasing two crazy kids.

The best investment we could have made to save our area rug, our couch and maybe most importantly, our sanity.

And now, whenever someone asks where we purchased our area rug (this one, from Wayfair) or how we keep the couch clean, I ALWAYS mention the Little Green. 

The cleaner retails for $119.99 (Canadian dollars) on the BISSEL website, but the best deal I have found is through Amazon.ca for $89.99 plus free shipping.

What are some of the cleaning tools you can’t live without? I’d love to hear!





*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

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The One Tool You Need for Cleaning Up After a Toddler: Bissel Little Green

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January 4, 2019

2018: To & Fro’s Year in Review


Happy 2019 my friends! I don't know about you, but for my little family, 2018 flew by. And just like 2016, 2018 was one for the books as our little family grew by one more. 

I may be the owner of a few new grey hairs and forehead wrinkles, but for the incredible, memory-filled year we had, they are all totally worth it. 

2018: To & Fro’s Year in Review

Family aside, 2018 was also a good year for To & Fro. 

It has been just shy of five years since I turned this little webspace of mine from a family and friends journal into something that I am especially proud of. Into a business that I am proud of. Something that has given me opportunities I wouldn't otherwise have and something that I can use to help support my family. 

I will admit, blogging is not easy. At many times, I have questioned what I was doing here. But this year, I was able to prove to myself that all of the long hours and hard work that I put into To & Fro are absolutely worth it. I have finally got my groove, and there is no slowing me down.

And most of that is in thanks to you, my readers. Whether you have been coming here for the past five years (thanks family), have recently discovered To & Fro or this is your first time here today, thank you. Thank you for your support. Without you, I wouldn't be able to do what I love to do. 

I can't wait to see what 2019 has in store (hint: some exciting things coming down the pipeline on the blog and on Instagram), but first, let's reflect on 2018 both personally and professionally…

JANUARY

As I’m not a huge fan of resolutions, in January I instead shared my word for the year - BE. As in, BE the best mom and wife. BE present. BE involved. BE grateful. I think you get the idea… Just BE. At this point I also knew about the little secret Steve and I were hiding about our growing family, so I also knew 2018 was going to BE a great year!

Morley also put on her first pair of skates and hit the ice with her proud dada. 

2018: To & Fro’s Year in Review

FEBRUARY

February, we were just trying to survive the winter. The joys of daycare and the germs it brings finally sidelined us.

MARCH

In March, we celebrated our little one’s 2nd birthday with a trip to PAW Patrol Live in Toronto. This was her first experience with any type of live show, and she did surprisingly well. She even got to meet her favourite pups Chase and Skye after the show. We had a BLAST, and can’t wait to take her again for her 3rd birthday.

*GIVEAWAY ALERT* 
If you live in Ontario, are 18 years or older and love PAW Patrol, check out this fun giveaway over on my Instagram. You could win a Family 4 Pack of tickets to see PAW Patrol Live on March 15, 16 or 17, 2019. (Ends January 7 at 11:59pm EST)

2018: To & Fro’s Year in Review

Later in the month, we finally let our big secret out of the bag with this cute announcement.

At the end of the month, I took a trip to Jacksonville, Florida for work. It was a nice break from the snowy, cold weather in Toronto, but at the same time, it was the first time being away from Steve and Morley. Man oh man, did I miss them.

APRIL

In April, we were hit hard by tragedy that shook the entire hockey community in Canada and beyond. You can read my thoughts on the Humboldt Bronco tragedy here

MAY

May brought a moment we had been waiting for for almost 4 years… being handed the keys to the condo, our first home, that we purchased in October 2014. It’s crazy to think that when we purchased the unit, it was just the two of us. 

2018: To & Fro’s Year in Review

In May, I partnered with the Home Depot Canada to bring Morley her dream bedroom. Using Behr Paints, we created this amazing, yet very simple, mountain wall mural.

JUNE

In June, we continued our annual family camping trip tradition, this time with a trip to Algonquin. Despite the bugs, we had a fabulous long weekend spent with family, paddling Canisbay Lake and sitting around the campfire. And I'm happy to report, NO rain, which is usually a given on any camping trip wit the Wards (seriously, just ask our Alaskan friends).

2018: To & Fro’s Year in Review

We rang in my birthday the only way it should be rung in, with good company and good food. 

I also officially became a soccer mom, and couldn’t be more proud of our little girl for developing her skills and love of the game over the summer. 

JULY

July was pretty low key. A very large baby bump and the summer humidity were not my friends. I was counting down the days.

AUGUST

August was by far the BEST month of the year, as we welcomed little miss B mid-month. A girl! She came fast and furious and big sister was over the moon. Pregnancy with her, and even delivery, were both very different than her big sister. Hopefully I’ll get around to writing her birth story… one day.

2018: To & Fro’s Year in Review

SEPTEMBER

In September, we took a fall family-friendly road trip through my old stomping grounds, Ontario’s Blue Coast. We picked apples, ate lots of delicious food and spent some quality time with family. 

Berkley and I attended a JOHNSON'S Baby event in celebration of the launch of new formula. We used JOHNSON'S Baby soap on the girls for their very first baths, and are a big fan of their entire lineup of products. These photos may have also made a few ovaries explode. 

OCTOBER

In October, I announced an exciting partnership with Babies“R”Us Canada that saw me (and an excited toddler) bring you many toy unboxings and products we love. If you missed it, be sure to check out everything in the Babies”R”Us highlight of my IG stories. 

We also made our way up to the family cottage on the Bruce Peninsula. We try to get up at least one a year. Fall is our favourite time to go because the tourists have all gone home but it’s not yet too cold to be outside. Plus the full leaves are a real stunner. We hiked to the Grotto, which for Steve and Morley (and Berkley, of course) was their first visit. Such an amazing place, but one that is slowly being consumed by all of its visitors (thanks to social media). We also continued our annual photo tradition, this time adding a new member. You can check out the past three years here

2018: To & Fro’s Year in Review

We continued our partnership with our friends at MEC, and helped celebrate the 25th year of their Toaster Suit (pictured on Morley above). She even made the MEC Toaster Suit website, here.

Towards the end of the month, I partnered with the Home Depot Canada once more to solve some serious storage problems in our kitchen, creating roll-out drawers in our island.

The end of the month saw Halloween. Morley was fired up. She dressed up as a fireman, or as she said, her Poppa

NOVEMBER

In November, we visited the newly opened Museum of Illusions, downtown Toronto. 

We also checked out Aurora Winter Fest, at Ontario Place in Toronto. We loved checking out all of the light displays, but being by the water, it was a little chilly. 

2018: To & Fro’s Year in Review

DECEMBER

December was my second favourite month of 2018 because, one word - Christmas. At nearly three years old, this was the first Christmas where she actually understood what was happening - especially the fact that Santa brought presents. It was such a fun morning, and I can’t wait for her excitement to grow as long as she still believes. 

We also attempted to introduce a new family Christmas tradition, with our own version of Elf on the Shelf - his Canadian cousin, Bob. I can honestly say, it did not go well. Morley lost interest real quick, and I will admit, so did I. The creativity just wasn’t there, and I really didn’t want to create something I had to clean up. We’ll see if we continue next year.

A big part of our month was the 24 Days of Kindness Challenge we took on, with the intent of teaching Morley what kindness was. It was such a fun challenge, and she rocked it. We went from simply saying hello to our neighbours, to donating food to the dogs and cats at the local animal shelter, to donating toys and money. At the end of the challenge, she was even saying “Happy Holidays” to strangers, a big feat for her.

2018: To & Fro’s Year in Review

TOP 10 POSTS OF 2018:












And before I leave you, check out these 45 ways to reflect and look ahead to do some self-reflection of your own.

>> You may also like: To & Fro's 2017 in Review

What would you like to see on To & Fro in 2019? I'd love to hear! Please leave your suggestions in the comments below. 

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