It's a rainy Sunday afternoon, and Dora and I are home without a car. We sold my car on Friday - which was a little bittersweet for me - and until we get the replacement, we're sharing Brian's car. He had to work this morning, so, we're home. We have things to do this afternoon once Brian gets home - but all morning and now, while Dora pretends to take a nap although I hear her scurrying around in her bedroom - we have been home, which has been just lovely.
This morning it was cold - but not yet rainy - so we took the dogs for a walk and collected leaves. I have an overly ambitious plan to make all of my Christmas gifts this year, and I need the leaves for something I thought of while lying in bed this morning. We found perfect examples of Oak, Maple, Ginko, and Bamboo leaves and carried them home. We smelled the lavender that continues to grow and even bloom in spite of the cold weather. We petted the kitty next door, who Dora says she loves. We baked brownies. We made potato-leek soup. We colored and traced around the leaves, placing them between sheets of paper in old books to press and dry them.
I got to pretend, if only for a few hours, what it would be like to stay home with Dora every day, getting inspired by nature and filling the house with delicious smells. What a luxury that would be, although the sound of Dora refusing her nap - stomping around and probably undoing the cleaning of her room that I did yesterday - is a good reminder of how hard it would be, too.
I've made gifts by hand for years, but have always supplemented them with other things that are store-bought. This year might be the same, but I've got a big list of ideas and materials, so hopefully most of the gifts will be handmade, even if also last-minute. I'm hoping this approach affords us a few more weekend afternoons at home, me working on crafts while Dora "works", too, drawing, stacking her blocks, playing with her toy kitchen set while I cook. I'm hoping that, by making a lot of things by hand, I can teach Dora that the act of creating the gift is more valuable than the cost of the materials, and giving something handmade can be more meaningful than choosing something made a world away with no real connection to the giver or recipient. And I'm hoping that we can fill the house with good smells, soup simmering and cookies baking, while we work away at our craft. That time at home, with my girl beside me and maybe even my husband around now and then, will be the gift I'm giving myself this year.
Potato, Carrot, and Leek Soup for a rainy Sunday afternoon
adapted from Mollie Katzen's Enchanted Broccoli Forest
4 - 5 medium potatoes, scrubbed and diced
3 leeks, well rinsed, white and light green parts thinly sliced
3 large carrots, scrubbed, halved, and thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
freshly ground black pepper
chopped fresh rosemary
Put the vegetables in a large soup pot and add enough water to just cover the vegetables. Season with salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook for about 30 minutes, until potatoes and carrots are tender. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup in the pot until smooth. Season with pepper and more salt, if needed. Serve sprinkled with chopped fresh rosemary. Keeps well in the fridge for several days and, when paired with a salad and bread, makes a great prelude to an evening of crafting. Enjoy!