What is comfort?

My son and I

My son and I

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Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always.    Hippocrates

Comfort always, as prescribed by Hippocrates is pretty much what my son and I spent the last 12 days doing.  Technically, neither of us is ill, although I would say he is rather homesick.

As I drove away from his house today aware that I won’t see him until Christmas I refrained from tearing up for his sake and mine.  We had such a good time together and I chose to think about what we have rather than what we don’t have.

Last night as he was baking the oatmeal cookies he whipped up for dessert and was wanting to feel guilty about the calories I reminded him how important comfort can be. We were avoiding what was on both our minds, I would be leaving the next day. The cookies were something familiar and ‘treatish’ to comfort and remind us of good times we have had in the past.  I teach my students a little brain science and I was well aware that we were getting our dompamine fix by stimulating good memories as well as our taste buds in order to move away from the ‘sad place’ we could easily have gone to.  We took goofy pictures of ourselves eating the cookies and played cards and then said good night on a high note.

Our children will teach us if we allow them to.  My son reminded me that when we are sad, suffering, lonely or uncomfortable we often think that ploughing through is the best way to cure the ill feelings.  In fact the opposite is true.  Sure there are things we need to do that we don’t like but that does not require that we never allow ourselves a moment of pleasure or at the very least calm.  Why do we practice mindful breathing exercises, meditation, prayer and creativity?

So what is your comfort?  Is it a certain food that reminds you of a safe comfortable time?  Is it nature?  How about poetry, reading, gardening, crafts, journalling?  All of these activities are capable of providing comfort to a weary soul.

In our family food was definitely a comfort because I loved to cook and bake so much ( one of my creative outlets that brings me comfort). My children were used to a house filled with an eclectic mix of music (also a comforting activity), lots of activity in nature and outdoors as well as being very active in organized sports and music lessons.  Any of these activities can create comfortable feelings that remind them of home.

So, as my son and I played cards,  walked along the lake and in the woods, baked, cooked and talked while listening to classical, country, jazz and even Christmas music we were creating comfort through familiarity.  Even though we were in a strange house, in a far away town, in another country, we could still conjure up the peace and calm we find in each other’s company.  We made each other laugh with what we believe are  witty comments and stories but most of all we were getting comfortable with  our new relationship as mother and adult son.

Calm and Cozy

sugarloaf mountain view

sugarloaf mountain view

Today my son did not have classes so we were able to have a slow start. We were sitting in jammies with a cup of java having a visit by the window by 8am.  It was a gorgeous sunny day but a little chilly when I stepped out on the porch to check the temperature.  We lingered over some favourite old music and a Face Time call to my parents.

view over Lake Superior

view over Lake Superior

My son and I

My son and I

After a quick bowl of oatmeal and shower it was time to get outside for our Vitamin N, (nature).  I feel a bit deprived in that area so we headed to Sugar Loaf Mountain (this term is used very loosely) for a hike and a view from the top.  We took the ‘difficult’ route to try get a vigorous walk in.  After climbing for about 15 minutes and about 100 stairs  we reached the top.The view was fabulous and the breeze had a bite beckoning in winter no doubt. We snapped a few photos and then descended.

Next it was time to drop  my son off at the rink for his workout and I headed to the Marquette Food Co-op which has become my favourite shop in town. I picked up some local eggs and yogurt as well as some baking soda for my son.  He has decided that he would like to learn to make  pumpkin loaf after his workout.

We arrived back to the house by noon and quickly made some salad for lunch before embarking on the baking lesson.  It was really very simple and he only needed instructions on how to not over stir the loaf.

We also picked up a sock-eye salmon from his freezer on the way back to the house so that will be what he makes us for dinner.  This will be a very satisfying dinner as the salmon is one he caught and vacuum packed himself this past summer back on the Vancouver Island where he lives.

sockeye fillet for dinner

sockeye fillet for dinner

The pumpkin loaf recipe was very easy and we got three small loaves for him to have as a treat.  The salmon recipe will be one he has picked up from several locals back home and adjusted to make his own.

You know  it is amazing how well we can cook and eat with just a few basic ingredients.  I was thinking about this as I walked into the co-op today.  Basically, we have milk, eggs, cream, olive oil, yogurt, lettuce, dried cranberries, nuts, coffee, frozen berries, flour, sugar, honey, oatmeal, and some seasonal fruit and vegetables.  We are eating local as much as possible by shopping at the co-op, the farmers’ market and the local butcher.

Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread

Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread

This afternoon as he does his homework and I knit we will enjoy a coffee and a piece of the pumpkin bread we made.  When I leave we will both cherish this memory and the warm feelings we had both physically and emotionally as we enjoyed our homemade little treat.

Tonight as we dine on bright red sock-eye caught in our local waters back home by my son we will talk about past fishing trips, good memories made and how fortunate we are to be so connected to the sea, the land, the forest and each other.

Just a brief footnote to apologize for not linking the recipes mentioned to the sites where they can be found.  I am composing on an iPad as I travel and so I am not able to highlight the text to create the links.  I will fix this issue when I am back on my home computer.

Cook, Create. Walk

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What does one do when visiting their university student son?  Well, in my case ,since I am a long way from home and away from anywhere or anyone familiar besides him I Cook, Create and Walk.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving for us.  A week late but the day we chose to celebrate because we were able to be together all day without going to the rink or the university.  My son and I started in the morining by making ‘the pies.’  That meant  I made the pastry and then he helped me mix the ingredients for the filling.  Once the pies were in the oven it was vegetable peeling time for him and stuffing making for me.  We worked together in the small kitchen quite nicely and I enjoyed the familiar banter that we fall back into when we are together.

With the potatoes and yams peeled, the stuffing mixed up and the squash cut and seeded it was onto the business of getting the stuffing into the turkey.  It was most amusing teaching my son how to stuff a turkey.  He was fixated on figuring out which end was the head and which was, well, you know….. the other end. We disagreed on which was which and finally to prove his point he took the wings and spread them to show me how the turkey would fly and which end was which.  Turns out I roast the turkey on its back which I hadn’t really thought about much so he was in fact correct about the ends.  Very amusing exercise in turkey anatomy.

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With the pies out, the turkey in and the veggies prepped we had time to head out on a ‘find some furniture and paint for the room’ expedition. This was a continuation of the previous day and we pretty much struck out again.  We had some options in mind if nothing else worked out but nothing ideal.  We did manage to get the paint and supplies so we were ready to at least get the room painted.  By ‘the room’ I mean his bedroom in the apartment he is sharing with two other students  At the moment it consists of a matress and boxspring on the floor and his belongings scattered willy nilly on the floor and in the closet.

Upon our return from the unsuccesful expedition we began cooking the vegetables and by 6:30pm were enjoying a glass of wine, some Miles Davis music and I was knitting an alpaca toque for him  At 7:00pm my son’s roommates joined us and we sat down to our Thanksgiving Dinner.  It was a gathering of the nations so to speak, as one of the boys was from St. Louis, USA and the other was from Sweden and us being from Canada. We shared our stories of traditions and  food but mostly just relaxed in the calm and comfort  which the boys are sorely missing.  As a student and NCAA Div. 1 Hockey player, relaxation and the comforts of home are something longed for often and experienced infrequently.  The evening gave us all an opportunity to reflect and truly be thankful for our  respective, supportive families and the comfort of familiarity

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With the cooking out of the way, I got up this morning and was able to finish the toque I  started yesterday.  My son and I had a coffee and some breakfast and then it was off to deliver him to his classes at the university.

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I returned home, strapped on my runners and warm vest and headed out to explore the area on foot.  I spent almost two hours walking the neighborhoods and looking at the old houses as well as perusing the shops in town.  A chilly northwind was blowing and I overheard  the locals chatting about the threat of snow tonight.  Geesh,  we are not ready for that.

I explored some of the old shops and of course had to stop by my favorite locavore haunt, the food co-op.  It is so nice to see that there is a local food movement and that not all  Yuppers want to shop at Walmart for their groceries.  A pet peeve of mine that I will elaborate on another time.  I also discovered a yarn shop, a library, (something I always look for in a new town) in addition to some very unique art galleries and shops. Add to that a very cool iron ore dock that is unfamiliar for me and a local brew pub rightly named, The Ore Dock Brew Pub.  I hope to try it out one while I am here.

We completed our mission after my son’s classes and hit up a store that we thought was a big box building suppy store.  It turns out it was but it also had some “assemble yourself” furniture and so after the painting is complete we will arm ourselves with a screwdriver and tackle the; some assembly required project.;  I suspect we will have to do it in sessions and perhaps not in the same room as we have both been known to have a rather short fuse when it comes to figuring out these things.  Remember my method of “just let me try it?”  My son subscribes to the same method so it could get interesting.  We will have to throw in a few Red Green lines and keep it light.  Wish me luck.

Cook, Thanksgiving dinner.  Create, a knitted alpaca toque and felted acorns for table decor.  Walk, exploring a new town and landscape.