It’s solidly winter now, with temperatures here in New Jersey dropping to single digits at night and rarely rising above freezing during the day. (Okay, I have friends in Michigan for whom this is perfectly balmy, but for me it’s frickin’ freezing in here!) There’s been snow on the ground since December, and it’s dark every night when I leave work.
It’s a time of year that, for me, often coincides with a very deep depression, but this year I’m working hard on avoiding that pitfall. I’m still taking my medication, still writing, and still getting up every morning.
But sometimes, you need something that’s just a touch more, a little friendly—something comforting. It can be a favorite stuffed animal you carry with you, or, if you’re like me, a favorite food.
Last year for Thanksgiving, my wife bought a butternut squash. Admittedly, I didn’t really know what to do with it; I even had to look up how to prepare one online. We ended up turning it into a soup, probably because I mashed it anyway trying to get the damn thing open, and it became a instant hit: my new, favorite comfort food for the depths of winter.
We’ve made it a few times since, and it really couldn’t be easier. So long as you have a large pot and a stove, you’re set. Here’s how to make it.
First, gather your ingredients. You’ll need:
- One (1) really big butternut squash
- Three to five (3-5) potatoes
- Two to four (2-4) carrots
- One (1) small onion (or half a big one, or just a bunch – your choice, really)
- Forty fluid ounces (40 oz) of chicken/vegetable stock.
Then, fry the onion in some olive oil or butter, chop everything else up roughly, and boil the shit out of it for an hour. Once everything is really, really soft, you can do one of two things:
- Somehow get it all into a blender, or probably into several blenders, and blend it until it’s smooth;
- Use a potato masher to mash the crap out of it until it’s smooth.
You can guess which method I prefer.
You could season it however you like, and my wife recently suggested roasting the butternut squash first, which will be tasty, I’m sure. As you’re reading this I’m probably sitting down to a bowl of this soup right now, so I’ll leave you with this: what’s your favorite winter comfort food, and how do you make it?
A very good friend of mine recently posted on Facebook, stating that he was going to rant about something, but decided instead to list things that make him happy.
I thought this was very clever. You see, as someone who suffers from some form of major depressive disorder (bipolar, unipolar depression … something like that), I don’t often take the time to think about things that make me happy. I tend to operate more on a guilt/shame line of feelings; I could endlessly list things that make me feel bad about myself. And when I stopped to think about it, I realized that I couldn’t, off the top of my head, come up with anything.
Which is sort of a shame, really.
What makes me happy? I thought. Do puppies make me happy? Not really. What about kittens? I like them, but they make me sneeze. Good music? Too much butter on toast? Little children using words they don’t understand? All sorts of things come to mind that, perhaps, ought to make me happy, but I can’t be entirely certain any of them actually do.
Then it occurred to me that although not everything makes me happy, there certainly are things that, if nothing else, help me appreciate the world a little more each day. Things that renew my faith in humanity, or inspire me to continue when things are at their bleakest. And to return the favor to my friend for inspiring this post, here is a list of ten things that, if not make me happy, at least make me appreciate life a little more than usual:
1. When Little Satis asks me to read to him at night.
There’s something awfully rewarding not only about reading to your child, but them actually wanting to be read to. Even better when it’s your own story they want you to read!
2. Talented people who don’t take themselves too seriously.
There’s something unparallelably adorable about Benedict Cumberbatch. Plus, he’s a freaking dragon!
3. Clever rhyme schemes.
Swimming against the current
I wish I weren’t
Feels like I’m stuck
Lost in a sea
—Dream Theater, As I Am (Train of Thought, 2003)
Dream Theater’s lyrics are not always so clever, but this particular line often gets stuck in my head (possibly because it often reflects my own internal monologue).
4. Graphs and charts.
XKCD have some of the most marvelous and insightful graphs in the comic universe.
5. Typing the last word of a novel.
This is something I’ve done precisely twice. Those words are “laughed” and “spoke”, respectively.
Just realized they’re both past-tense verbs pertaining to speech. Perhaps the last word of Ancients and Death should be “giggled”.
6. Those months when you get paid three times.
Those of you on monthly salaries might not understand this, but when you get paid fortnightly, every so often there’s a month with three paydays. It’s like winning the lottery!
7. Really nice islay single malt scotch whiskey.
Not something I have all that often, but there’s something irresistible about the earthy, peaty flavor of a really nice single malt scotch. Those extra paydays help.
8. Browsing through independent record stores.
This is Record Collector, one of my favorite independent record stores. It’s in Sheffield, England, and I stopped in during our recent trip. My favorite thing is to buy a CD or record with an interesting cover by an artist I’ve never heard of and see what it’s like. It’s a shame there are so few of these wonderful shops left.
9. Mince pies.
Basically, it’s not Christmas without mince pies. End of story.
I’m rather fond of lists—wish lists, in particular. I have a rather extensive list of albums and movies I want to listen to and see. I also keep an ongoing shopping list on my iPhone with probably around 200 items on it at any given moment. Not sure what the point of that is, actually.
11. (Bonus) High-resolution stock photography.
It may be slightly ironic that I took this high-res photo from an article about not taking photos from websites, but … I am linking to it (click above).
Featured image from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-sheridan/the-life-you-want_b_6044498.html.