I love to putter. Putter, as in, being able to wake-up alarmless, make a cup of tea, start to unload the dishwasher and then, leaving the door wide open, satisfy a sudden desire to peruse through my favorite food blogs upon which half-way through the list, I am seized by an urgent need to tidy up the “lego droppings” scattered here and there. Realizing the “trail” is just too long, I abandon that project, plop down on the couch and flip through my book “Life is Meals“. After scanning it like a mad woman, I hop up and pay one bill. Satisfied with that progress, I shuffle over to the counter, toast a piece of New Season’s unbelievable stollen with the marzipan center, after which I return to finish unloading the dishwasher while enjoying every bite of the sweet, holiday bread with the fruit bits. (Either I have a mild case of ADD or I’m hoping to provide inspiration for an adult version of Laura Numeroff’s books.)
Now, I need to be able to putter for at least two mornings a week. Doesn’t matter which days, but it must be two. If I don’t get this putter time, my face starts to freeze up with stress from being overscheduled. The muscles around my eyes become so hardened I feel as though I have owl eyes and I’m sure to onlookers, my pinched face looks something like this. So, here we are in the midst of the holidays and do you think I’m getting my putter time? What, with all the buying and parking and dashing through the rain and wrapping and ribbon tying and baking and singing and piano playing and eating and addressing and cooking and driving and basketball game watching and cleaning and painting and edging and taping and clutter-busting. (A few weekends ago, I was seized by a sudden urge to paint the 10-year old’s bedroom. Why on earth…?) And, then, there’s all the noise, noise, noise, noise from the over-excited children hyped up on sugar. Calgon? Wine? Tylenol PM? No, I was going on at least, Day 17 of no puttering.
I have dear friends who will not disagree with the thought that I may be genetically defected in regards to my “femaleness”. I do not like to shop. I start to hyperventilate inside malls. The claustrophobia. I did not get the shopping gene. I loathe it. I would rather rake leaves. A few years ago, my dear, dear, sweet husband realized that he must take over the bulk of the Christmas shopping in order to save the sanity of his genetically defected wife. This summer, as my daughter was skipping through the mall, acquiring articles of clothing for “Back to School,” I was sitting on the infamous “bench” texting my husband statements such as, “Please don’t let this be my last day on earth.” “Save me.”
When I left the house this morning, my face was frozen up like the “Icewoman Cometh.” I dropped the 4-year old off at his playdate, whipped into his preschool to play the piano for the delightful 3-year old Holiday Performance and then, glancing at the clock and my list of errands (which included a reluctant trip to the mall), concluded that I had exactly 1 hour and 15 minutes to hit 6 places…which, if I did my math right, would be exactly 12.5 minutes per each stop and I had yet to factor in the driving time…before the playdate was over. Overwhelmed and struck by indecision, I headed to Powell’s. It was out of the way. Not even the highest priority on the list but there I went, almost on auto-pilot.
As I walked into that City of Books, I immediately started to relax. Something about the way that row after row of books somehow seems to diminish the hard edges of noise. Absorbing the sound. Making it quieter. More hushed. As I strolled past the stacks of untapped knowledge, latte in hand, my mind started to think less about my list of errands and more about the possibility of finding a good book. I found myself looking at each spine, pulling the captivating ones from the shelf, turning them over, flipping open the jacket flap, putting them back and moving on to the next one. I went from cooking to staff favorites to travel to children’s. I found the pile in my basket growing as I tossed in books I was just sure would cause the children to squeal with excitement upon finding them under the tree. I lost track of time as I continued down every row, putting in a few for me “From Santa”. Yes, I was puttering. My spirits were lifted. I was excited. My mind seemed less burdened. My face less frozen. I thought, “This is how most women must feel puttering around a shoe department.”
I didn’t make it to one other stop on my list and barely made it in time to pick-up my littlest one. With him in tow, we headed for home. Starving, I heated up a mug of leftover Butternut Squash and Apple soup from my annual holiday dinner with my one-of-a-kind book club. (aka: The Amazing Book Babes.) Making sure the littlest one was out-of-site…creating yet another “trail of legos”, I’m sure…I pulled the books from the bag. I smiled at the thought of the recipient opening up each book for the first time. To discover. To imagine. To lose track of time. So, maybe it’s not shopping I loathe but certain kinds of shopping. As long as it feels like puttering, well, then, I guess it’s alright by me.
The Ultimate “Chick” Soup with Butternut Squash and Apples
(Ina Garten’s Butternut Squash and Apple Soup)
My husband, my brother-in-law and other males I have been associated with throughout my life have been known to relegate certain foods to the “Chick’s Only” category. These food items include, but are not limited to, quiche, risotto, brie, spinach salad with dried fruit bits, chopped nuts and crumbled gorgonzola and this butternut squash and apple soup. Well, I don’t care. I love it but then, I’m a chick. I find it has just the perfect amount of curry to counter the sweetness of the apples and squash. So, the next time you get together with the girls, take the little bit of extra effort to put this soup together. You’ll please the vegetarians and the gluten-frees alike. I follow Ina’s recipe exactly as written, so you can make it from here or click on the link above and go to the Food Network page where you can print it out should you so desire.
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp good olive oil
4 cups, chopped yellow onions (3 large)
2 tbsp mild curry powder
5 pounds butternut squash (2 large)
1 1/2 pounds sweet apples, such as McIntosh (4 apples) I used Golden Delicious
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cups good apple juice or cider
Warms the butter and olive oil in a large stockpot over low heat. Add the onions and curry powder and cook, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes, until the onions are tender. Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pot.
Peel the squash, cut in half and remove the seeds. Cut the squash into chunks. Peel, quarter and core the apples. Cut into chunks.
Add the squash, apples, salt, pepper and 2 cups of water to the pot. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until the squash and apples are very soft. Now, Ina’s directions are as follows: Process the soup through a food mill fitted with a large blade or puree it coarsely in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade; however, I do not partake in that kind of cooking craziness. I simply whip out my 17-year old hand held blender and puree the soup right in the pot.
Add the apples juice and enough water to make the soup the consistency you like; it should be slightly sweet and quite thick. Check the salt and pepper and serve hot.
Yield: 3 1/2 quarts
All original text and photographs, copyright: Carrie Minns 2009