It’s So Darn Cold, Let’s Have a Soup Party!


Soup Party 1
Pictured (left to right): Bruce Zimmerman, Juleigh Zimmerman, Mary Fran McQuade, Jennifer Connell, Barbara Phillips-Conroy, Lorraine Flanagan, Lorraine Hunter, Margaret Bennet-Alder, Tara Nolan & Ken Brown

By Barbara Phillips-Conroy

What’s better than one garden writer sitting alone at a computer? A whole whack of them gathered around a table swapping stories over a hearty meal. And, what’s the best meal you can have on a miserable cold day? Why soup of course, followed by enough dessert to top up those vital cold-weather calorie requirements.

As has become my custom, the party was held on one of the most miserable stormy days of the year. I have now been officially nicknamed “The Snow Queen” by Lorraine Flanigan of Toronto, ON. In spite of the storm, twelve determined GWA members and party people, including myself and my husband Kevin had a great time at the Region VII GWA Connect Meeting.

For those who didn’t make it, let me tell you about the food you missed. As people arrived they were greeted with a snack of cava and potato chips. The main course was a traditional two-chickens-in-the-pot soup, curried sweet potato lentil soup, and Italian socca and French bread. For dessert we enjoyed cava and chocolate bark with toasted almonds, ginger and dried cherries, apricot squares, blondies with chocolate and walnuts, ginger shortbreads, and coconut macaroons. We finished off with coffee, tea, and San Pellegrino.

Soup Party 2
Pictured left to right: Tara Nolan, Margaret Bennet-Alder, Ken Brown, Bruce Zimmerman, Lorraine Hunter, & Lorraine Flanagan

Aside from the delicious food, the best part was getting together. In past years, I had lamented the fact that the only time I saw GWA people was either at a sponsored event, regional meeting or the annual symposium. When I originally brought up the idea of doing something more informal to Veronica Sliva, she said that I should look into organizing a GWA Connect Event. That’s how the first Soup Party went from idea to action.

With room for twenty-four – three tables pushed together – I sent out my first invite. I was both excited and terrified that either everyone or no one would come. As a wonderful as my homemade soup is, there are geographic restrictions (as we like to say Region VII is Canada and the rest of the world), people’s work schedules, and let’s not forget the challenges of the horrible cold stormy weather. That being said, the response was both lovely and manageable and the first event in 2015 was a great success. When I was asked in January about organizing a repeat party, how could I say no?

So what happened at this year’s meeting? Kevin and I had a great time catching up with everyone. Ken Brown, who traveled over 90 kilometers by GO train from Whitby, ON to attend, said, “The more we get to know each other, the more we support each other.” We learned about Tara Nolan’s new book, “Raised Bed Revolution.” For a finale, we even had Jennifer Connell’s twelve-week-old puppy Piper join us at the end of the afternoon.

Mary Fran McQuade summed it all up when she said, “Topping everything off were all the jokes and stories and comments and experiences that were told over the table. What a wonderful afternoon in a dreary February!” There’s no doubt – it was a Souper Party.

Meet the Author

Headshot - Conroy, Barbara PhillipsBarbara Phillips-Conroy is a garden designer, consultant, and writer. In addition, she works with her real estate husband – doing the photographs, feature sheets and book-keeping. She loves dogs – especially great big ones (and now very a very small dear one) – and the odd friendly cat. She travels whenever she has the money and loves nothing better than entertaining and cooking up a storm. Learn more about Barbara at


Author: GardenComm

GardenComm, formerly known as GWA: the Association for Garden Communicators, provides leadership and opportunities for education, recognition, career development and a forum for diverse interactions for professionals in the field of gardening communication. GardenComm members includes book authors, bloggers, staff editors, syndicated columnists, free-lance writers, photographers, speakers, landscape designers, television and radio personalities, consultants, publishers, extension service agents and more. No other organization in the industry has as much contact with the buying public as GardenComm members.

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