This Land of Seasons

March 27, 2017
Made some soup Saturday night, and it was not bad. Butternut squash with beans, one of the last few comfort meals of the season. Perfect time of year for soup, I’d say. Things are shifting, and it is exciting and unsettling all at once. We’ve got the cold, still, and rain on its way for a good stretch, and today there was sun. Glorious sun. Sun to warm one through and through, and my gosh, did it. I went out there and stood in it awhile, and thought about spring and why and how, and remembered something I wrote a while back and want to share it with you. For no reason except I’d say it all the same if I said it right now:

When it comes to seasons, spring is the quiet sister. You’ve got summer with its hazy stretch of laze and sun and hammocks and books, dozing on the dock, mowing lawns and diving into rivers. I love the burning colors, the wood smoke scents, the gathering tables and orchards of autumn, and the reason I live here when you add the fury and wildness of winter, snow piled high and blowing, the sharpened definition of “cozy”, the sense of something impending, of survival mode. Spring, to me, is a restorative walk in the park, the planting, baskets of eggs, and the great prep time for the rest of it. Birds, yellow flowers, people sweeping garages and sidewalks and steps. Spring is a cool shower, the scent of rain, mud holes and the ascent of spiders on the windowpanes. Spring is the smell of dirt and worms, the haze of green fields, glistening red berries and fluffy pastel salads with pineapple and coconut and lime.

All of which is why I keep secret, most years, my early-spring wish for just one more storm. Bring it on, dark skies, and cover the house with snow. Blanket the drive so I can’t get out, and release Time awhile so I might bake, and pay a few bills, and dust the shelves that have gathered a layer. Let me run across a documentary by chance, something on the suffragettes or a forest in Japan or the giant squid no one ever sees. Or a love story I watched when I was younger and less wise, or the biography of Dolly Madison, or Roosevelt, or Rosa Parks or Rasputin. Give me a small stretch of time for a nap late in the day, and please let there be hot chocolate in the cupboard and leftover soup in the fridge. Yes, some soup and bread, and lit candles, and a text or two, or a call even, from someone dear, somewhere out there, to the north or west or east or south, in this land of seasons I love.

Here’s one for those partial to vegetables and goodness and a bit of white wine.

Megan’s Bean and Butternut Squash Soup

2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 tsp fresh sage, chopped
3 cups (2 pkg thawed frozen) squash
cut into 1″ cubes
2 T tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine (taste to make sure it’s good)
5-6 cups chicken stock
1 can white beans, drained
1 large bell pepper, cut into 1″ squares
1 cup thinly sliced kale
salt and pepper to taste
generous pinch red pepper flakes

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Saute the onions, garlic and sage until tender. Stir in the squash, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and the tomato paste. Then add the red wine and chicken stock. Increase heat and bring to a boil; then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, partially covered, until squash is tender, about 25 minutes. Stir in beans, pepper and kale. Heat through and season further as desired.

Enjoy!

Not Mud But Stars

Made some bars Saturday and they were not bad. Mr. S’s favorite candy, I might add, whipped up in bar form, baked, cooled, cut and served up with a couple scoops of vanilla ice cream and a cup of hot coffee. Irish coffee, I might add, with a gentle shot of Jameson and some real whipped cream. A little nod to St. Patrick, and I’m having another tonight. It’s quiet in the house except for the crackling fire and the occasional purr of a car driving by. Good quiet. The quiet made for thoughts and epiphanies and drifting into sleep.

It’s been stretch of challenge, I must say. With things as they are since the election, the weather behaving strangely (a thunderstorm on Christmas and February temps in the 60s?) and missing the kids and a few unexpected bills. Throw in the unknown and the odd sounds the fridge is making in the night and you’ve got yourself some restless hours. If I were a person who lived out of fear, I’d be a bit of a mess right now. But I’m not. Most things I do, I do out of love, and that makes for a less bumpy path. More scenic, anyway. I tend to see not mud but stars from the window, and that’s how it’s always been.

Some things make sense. It’s the time of year for people to get a bit down, and of course that’s part of why a few of my friends are struggling. Refrigerators need repair on occasion, and of course I miss the kids and the bills will get paid.

Thing is, you can’t control the weather or the political scene or how much mud is out there in the yard or how much is tracked in. Some things just are. Not to say you have to accept everything that comes across your path. Oh, no. What you can control is what you do with how you feel. Do it in the spirit of love. Not anger or fear. You can still say “no.” You can disagree. You can march and resist and even holler now and then. You can rant.

My father is one who waits until everyone has spoken, and then he offers his thoughts. And my mother’s advice? Wait three days, and then send the email. And that’s a good way to go. Find a park bench or a bus seat or a couch by a fire or a night sky full up with stars and give some good thought to how you want to respond to all of everything, or nothing in particular. You’ll use only so many words in your one beautiful life. Make them the kind you won’t wish to take back, and you’ll leave behind you a path not of mud, but silvery glitter. And I’m pretty darn sure of that.

When I visited Ireland not so long ago, I sampled a good number of bars with a shortbread crust; some were layered with caramel and chocolate, and some sprinkled with nuts. These are reminiscent of the flavor of those bars, and the crust is pretty much the same. I eat mine with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. And, of course, an Irish coffee every now and then.

Almond Roca Bars

1 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
2 cups sifted flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
Cream butter and sugars; add egg and beat well.
Stir in the vanilla and flour, and press mixture on bottom
of an ungreased 11×15″ jelly roll pan.
Bake at 350° for 20 minutes.
While hot, sprinkle with chocolate chips.
Spread melted chips over cookie base.
Sprinkle with almonds, pressing lightly.

Let cool and ENJOY!