an almost-winter hike (chautauqua) + an almost-winter soup (mushroom barley)

I suspect that anyone listening to the news these days has felt a deep sorrow that seems hard to shake. We aren't the parents of the slain children, or the siblings who have lost so much, or even the community members who have to pull together and pick up the pieces. We are simply people who feel a connection with the grieving community of Newtown because we are human. 
Ever since the tragedy, I've been hugging my boys a little bit tighter, reading to them a little bit longer and telling them how much I love them a bit more often (if that is even possible).
A few months ago my friend suffered several personal losses in a row. When I asked her how she was doing she wrote: "I'm up in the mountains; the mountains are good for the soul."
Monday felt like the right time to go to the mountains. It was warmer than it should have been and the sun was shining brightly. So we drove to Boulder and hiked a small trail near Chautauqua. It was beautiful. 
We got some fresh air, got lost in our own thoughts and spent good, quality time with each other...the whole family. 
When we got off the trail, I turned to my boys and asked them, "Do you know how much I love you?" 
"So much," Otis replied with his arms fully extended.
"Yah," said Theo.
I ask them that each and every day...
This hike will probably be one of the last ones we do this calendar year. Temperatures are taking a plunge and a big snow storm is supposed to move in tonight.
I'm well into soup season and this one, from Mark Bittman, is really good. It will be a heavy-hitter in my soup rotation this winter. Enjoy it with your close friends and family.

Mushroom-Barley Soup (Adapted Slightly from Mark Bittman, Recipe of the Day)
The soup becomes a light meal with bread or, even better, croutons -- just brown slices of good bread on both sides in as much olive oil as you need. 
  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 pound shiitake or button mushrooms, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cups of vegetable stock (optional)
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1. Soak porcini in 3 cups very hot water. Put olive oil in a medium saucepan and turn heat to high. Add shiitakes and carrots, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown. Add barley, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to brown; sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Remove the porcini from their soaking liquid, and reserve liquid. Sort through porcini and discard any hard bits.
  • 2. Add porcini to pot and cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add bay leaf, mushroom soaking water and 3 cups additional water (or stock, if you prefer). Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer; cook until barley is very tender, 20 to 30 minutes. {I had to cook the barley a bit longer-- and I added a few tablespoons of water every few minutes until I thought the consistency was right.} Add soy sauce, and taste. Add salt if necessary and plenty of pepper. Serve hot.