It’s winter y’all. And while it’s still pretty darn warm here in Florida at the moment, I’ve become so acclimated to the intense and fire-breathing dragon which is our summer heat, that right now it might as well be winter in Chicago. Any drop on the thermometer, even a pinch, and I’m absolutely freezing!
No joke. Like, for real.
And, I never enjoyed wearing sweaters. One year, many Christmases ago now, and after I was married, I received all sweaters for Christmas. All sweaters, and nothing more. Everybody who gave me a gift that holiday gave me a sweater. By the end of the evening on Christmas Day, I was literally drowning in sweaters sitting upon my lap.
I didn’t even ask for sweaters.
But sweaters I did get.
And to make matters even worse, my husband received all sweaters as well.
My mother-in-law correctly deemed it... ‘The Year Of The Sweater’ … and she really was absolutely right.
It remains to this day, one of the funniest things she ever told me, and it was all just so very true.
I’m not sure if anyone else on Earth has ever received as many sweaters for gifts as my husband and I both did that holiday a long time ago.
And for years afterward, I could not even look at a sweater without thinking of The Year Of The Sweater. I basically hated and despised sweaters since that infamous day of unwrapping all that extremely itchy wool I was then surrounded by and being suffocated from.
I mean, it could be well below zero outside, and I could be driving in a car with the windows rolled down, and I still would not succumb to the temptation of a nice and beautiful looking sweater that happened to be sitting next to me on the car seat. If it was a sweater, I was NOT wearing it.
Fast forward to today.
Living in Florida.
It’s beautiful. All year round. No joke. It’s perfection. I feel like I’m living in a paradise, or Heaven, or some combination thereof. I'm so used to the perfect weather that when the temperature takes a dip, I wear more layers than I’ve worn in my entire life, combined.
I could very easily be teleported to the Arctic tundra, and Santa Claus would hire me on the spot to work for him in his outdoor garden, simply because he wouldn’t need to buy me the standard uniform that would need to be worn in the elements. I’d already be wearing it. I’m ready for the cold.
So, yes, finally, at long last, the sweater has come back into my life. And it sits there and laughs at me with every breath I take.
It could be 69 degrees out here in Jax Beach, and I’m frozen solid.
And this winter is the worst yet - in terms of clothing. I’m in my third year living in The Sunshine State, and I was so desperate when the temperature took a slight dip that I had to go out and buy a big winter down puffy coat to get through the coldest days and nights.
And now, I’ve resorted to complete and total desperation while at home.
I currently take perfectly clean and dry sweaters, put them into the dryer, simply to get them feeling nice and toasty - steamy ... hot.
I RUN to the dryer the instant it buzzes me, and I wisk open the door of the magical appliance. I grab for the hot sweater, and hurl it around me. And then, what the heck, I might even throw on another layer. Then, finally, I can get back to work in my art studio, and I can actually concentrate. I’m from Illinois - and I’m now in Florida sitting under layers of blankets and sweaters with palm trees and perfect blue skies outside my window - I’m absolutely pathetic.
So naturally, while wearing sweaters, long pants and slippers, what does one eat when it’s a cold and frigid 70 degrees outside?
Soup. Of course. Minestrone Soup.
Today, I’m very happy to share with you my minestrone recipe that I have been making for years and years. It’s probably one of my favorite recipes that my husband and I both make together. It’s reliable, it’s consistent and tastes the same every time, it’s easy, and it’s very healthy.
I would say this recipe is a combination of my mother’s minestrone recipe, the internet’s soup, and our soup - rolling all those ideas into one perfect pot. We’ve tweaked it many times, and the recipe below is the one that is deemed perfection by my taste buds. So, we finally never waiver from this, our very perfect Minestrone Soup.
Also, I’ve done the calculations on MyFitnessPal, and at only 239 calories making 8 servings, it's not even heavy on the calories. And did I mention that it’s very healthy?
When we lived in Illinois, we tended to make this soup more so only in the winter months, as we tended to grill out every chance we’d get throughout the entire summer period.
But it IS winter in Florida, y’all.
So, as I freeze under fleece blankets and heavy sweaters, we desperately needed a hot soup to eat. We proceeded with the task, and dug out our biggest pot on New Year’s Day. Sometimes we make a big pot of chili on New Year’s, but this year, I needed soup. It called to me as much as I needed the warmth of a sweater straight from the dryer.
And I tend to think the best thing about this recipe is the week full of leftovers it will leave you with. (In our two person and one furry creature household, we have the first main dinner, and then about three nights of leftovers, both eating one bowl per night).
And I always recommend making a pot of soup on a Sunday. It’s the best day of the week for soup. On Sunday’s while you tend to your chores around the house, you can enjoy the scent of the long, slow simmer on the stovetop. But better than that, you have leftovers for the work-week ahead of you. So Sunday it is for us. Or New Year’s Day.
So this year, cold as we were, we enjoyed a nice, leisurely New Year’s holiday at home. Our little sous-chef helped us out in the kitchen…. It’s really important and vital to the entire kitchen operation that you hire such a chef. Your soup might not turn out correctly without one on staff.
And as our soup simmered long, and slow, and low atop the stove, we went through the annual routine of packing up and storing away all our holiday decor for the season.
I’m a huge fan of leaving everything up through the new year holiday if we can help it. So barring any trips or scheduling issues that would prevent us, we always take down the tree and pack everything up for the season on New Year’s Day.
We used to be completely dependent on the weather in Chicago as to when all our outdoor decor came down. If given a window of ‘nice’ weather, we had to go outside and take everything in before the world froze up again. Otherwise, we could be so unlucky as to potentially have everything sit out there until March or some other crazy date. So now I absolutely love that living here in the South the weather is not a factor to anything in terms of my household schedule.
I also took every item out of my plastic storage bins, and gave each bin a deep clean. By the time I was done with the entire process, my storage bins were clean enough to slap a pizza on top and eat right off of the plastic if one wanted. Clean AND organized, on New Year’s Day. Such a bonus.
We also purged a few older items, donating them to charity. Out with the old, in with the new. I try not to let clutter pile up until it’s unmanageable.
Overall, we had a very relaxing and productive New Year’s holiday. The soup made the day though. And as we sat down to dinner that holiday evening, watching Blue Bloods Season Eight on DVD, I was sitting under layers of blankets to keep warm during our Florida winter. And as I watched NYPD PC Frank Reagan sit at the head of his dining room table during one of the infamous Reagan family Sunday dinner scenes, surrounded by all of his kids and grandkids, including my favorite television character of all time, Danny Reagan, I couldn’t help but notice that Frank tends to almost always wear the same straw colored, button-down, cable-knit sweater to family dinner each Sunday. ~
Bean’s Minestrone Soup Recipe
For more of Bean’s recipes - click below:
~ Bean’s Soulful Southern Chili ~
Yes! Autumn is here! I wouldn’t really know it by glancing at the environment around me though. The seasonal changes I’m surrounded by are very difficult to notice within my natural environment. It does not cool down outside - I don’t bring out my favorite warm blankets from the back of the linen closet. I don’t unload my bin of clothing for colder weather; in fact, no such bin exists in my closet anymore. And I haven’t ordered any pumpkin spice lattes yet this season either. I’m just waiting for even one slightly ‘cool’ day to order a hot drink; for now I’m sticking with my usual iced tea.
When I first moved down here a few years ago in the springtime, I was very curious about how I would witness the seasons changing in Florida compared to experiencing four very real and legitimate seasonal changes that take place annually in Illinois. That first spring here was heaven on Earth. Sunny every day - perfect weather - blue sky. I was outside all the time. The funny thing was that everyone, and I mean everyone I met during that first season here said that they hoped the weather would improve for us to enjoy it. I was sooooo very and desperately confused. Here I was in perfect weather - it was still snowing in Illinois. I really didn’t know what these people all meant??? It took time for me to understand. Time, and experiencing the seasonal changes for myself. What was there to improve? The weather was literally perfect!
It was then that I learned about Florida cold fronts. If it was a nice 85 or let’s say 86 degrees outside, and then a cold front came through, dropping the average weekly temperature to a very low and very cold 83 degrees, everyone hoped for a warm front. Everyone spoke of the cold front. Everyone talked about hoping the weather would improve. When will the weather improve? That’s exactly what was happening during my first season here, it was a perfect and ideal temperature, calm weather. But maybe it was 83, instead of the more ideal 85? It was enough for me to be drinking coffee outside, when in Illinois I still would have been wearing winter clothes. But to Floridians, it was cold out.
After three years, if the wind is blowing just right I too get cold now sometimes when the dashboard reads 85 degrees... and I laugh every time… Never thought it would happen to me. I’m truly acclimated to the Floridian climate, and it happened quite fast too. So during that first year living through fantastic and then even more fantastic weather, the seasons blew in and out barely even with me noticing a change.
So how does one mark all the seasonal changes in a place where the weather stays practically perfect in every way, year round? The seasons were always tied to weather for me in the past; now, I relate seasons to the events themselves that take place during and within a season.
I learned real quick that if I wanted to enjoy fall in the Sunshine State, the best way for me to acknowledge such a seasonal change living in my new home was to put out a pumpkin scented candle… and maybe some autumn themed dish towels placed strategically in the kitchen. That way, every day when I walk in the kitchen, I look at a pumpkin towel and say to myself, oh yeah, that’s right, it’s Fall. Other than that, I could still drink my coffee outside, swim in the ocean, and drive with the windows rolled down, even though the autumnal equinox could be long since passed.
Maybe I could change the color or style of my swimsuit instead of getting out some autumn sweaters? Should I change the color of my purse, or the style of wreath hung upon my front door? Some or all of the above do help the transition. Today I put out my favorite ceramic white and orange pumpkin candle holders on my kitchen table. I even purchased a burnt orange tank top to wear this season instead of buying a burnt orange sweater.
Back in Illinois I thoroughly enjoyed the changing color of the leaves and then the falling leaves later in the season. I loved fall. Sometimes I thought it was my favorite season? I embraced the warmer days and cooler evenings. Evenings cool enough at the beginning of autumn to leave the window open at night. But later in the season the windows were closed, and then remained tightly shut for the remainder of fall and winter. And every year, usual mid-to-late fall, there reached a point where it always became officially much too cold in the house. And then, just like clockwork, the annual debate began of discussing how long can we last until we turn on the heat for the first time that season. It was a running joke, how cold can we sleep at night? At what point before it becomes unbearable and much too cold in the house to focus on anything else but how cold it is? I’d pull out layers upon layers of blankets to place upon the bed to help prolong our time in a house without the heat running. And we tried to function in the house during the day. It was a test of will, and stubbornness. I would not want to give in first. Like a child trying not to blink in a staring contest, sitting across from my friendly opponent, who is also trying desperately not to blink. Who will blink, my husband or me? Which one of us will be the one to turn the heat on? Who will break first? Usually my stubbornness would win out and my husband would be the one switching the heat to ON. His excuse would be that he wouldn’t want the pipes to start freezing. And that is exactly where my love of all things fall end. And I’d think to myself, is fall really my favorite season? Forget the cold, I’ll take the Florida sun any day.
I recently heard someone say that Florida is ‘Bizzaro World.’ And that only in Florida do we celebrate Halloween in August (at Walt Disney World). And that as fall comes round every year how else would we even know that autumn has even arrived unless we ‘force the sh*t out of fall’... I laughed hysterically and could not agree more with that statement. Maybe fall still is my favorite?...
So, in honor of acknowledging and celebrating the changing of the seasons, I’m ‘forcing the sh*t out of fall’ today with my pumpkin decor and pumpkin scented candles. I even hung an autumn themed dish towel in the kitchen. There - I’ve done it. Box checked. Season changed; season acknowledged. Time for people to keep on swimming, surfing, paddle boarding, and soaking in that sun. Enjoy the morning coffee outside on the front porch, eat dinner outside at the local fish camp, watch the turtles, gators, and snakes enjoy their natural surroundings. The globe will keep spinning and rotating onward. And we can all acknowledge and celebrate its angle of rotation once again during the winter equinox come December, on the beach, maybe with a peppermint latte sitting next to me in the sand. ~~~
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