Time to get busy

unnamedAn oak leaf hydrangea gives inspiration for all kinds of creations.

Today is a grey day and I am recuperating from a weekend with my daughters.  We met in Victoria and spent the weekend, walking, shopping, dining out and visiting, laughing and even crying.  I feel a little drained today but started the day with a gym workout at 6:30am  so I am ready to get back to a state of calm and creativity.

In the last few weeks and months I have been gathering and foraging along with cleaning up the yard and gardens.  I have a big blister on my hand from all the raking.  There are still a few mushrooms out in the forest but they are waning and although I am tempted by the challenge I have enough mushrooms for the winter so no need to take more than I need. I picked the apples two weeks ago, the hazelnuts have dried and I have a load of moose meat that my daughter and her boyfriend generously gave me when I saw them this past weekend.  I am also working on making Christmas gifts and items for the house.  Last week it was rag rugs and a knitted headband and now I am starting the second of a set of oven mitts.  I pulled out the November and December British Country LIving Magazines to provide me with comfort and inspiration so this week I shall try to inspire you with my epicurean creations and utilitarian crafts.

RAG WEAVING

unnamed What do you do with old clothes and scrap material piling up in boxes?  Why weave rugs of course.

These are the one inch strips of torn material that will provide the weft.

unnamed The warp uses a linen/cotton blend.  Turned out to be too stretchy but I got creative and fixed that after I completed the weaving.

photoThe weft is strips of torn material.  Here I used an old blouse, ticking and the lining of an old coat.

unnamed This one is for the bathroom.

unnamedThe larger of the two made with funky vintage cotton, old curtains and ticking. Great for in front of the sink.

Parents and Wisdom

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Wise Dad

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Mom still modelling getting outdoors and walking and then posing for the picture.

Today I am heading to visit my parents and that has got me thinking about parents as transmitters of wisdom.   Parents are sometimes unaware of what they may be teaching their children just by  going about living their daily life  but observation is a very powerful tool and the old adage “do as I say, not as I do” is not really effective. Sometimes it gets to be very difficult for parents to accept that the habits and traits that irritate them most about their children in fact have been picked up by observing them.  In my case this is very true.  I am not proud that I modelled stubbornness and impatience with my children often and it is not fun to be treated impatiently by my young adult children.  That being said I can look at so many good things that my parents modelled and that have now been transmitted to me and my children.

My parents are from the ‘hard working’ generation.  They believed that if you ‘put your nose to the grindstone’ and ‘buckled down’ you could succeed. They modelled this for us by going from having basically nothing but each other and their children, to paying off two properties, providing us with a beautiful recreational property to enjoy every summer, providing for any education we wanted and then turning around and repeating that with their grandchildren.  They provided rides and support to my children as they grew up and participated in sports, music and 4-H.  My parents were always there for my kids.  If one of them had a game and Gram and Pa were not notified so they could be there cheering they were disappointed and hurt.

Another thing my parents modelled to me was resourcefulness.  My Mom, in particular could make a meal out of nothing. I remember when we were young and short on cash we would be hungry and asking Mom what was for dinner.  She would sometimes reply ‘pine floats.’ I remember the first time she told us that.  Floats, I thought?  We never get treats like that; I wonder what a pine float is?  To my dismay I learned that a pine float is a toothpick floating in water.  This was my Mom’s way of telling us to stop bugging her and let her get about making whatever it is she decided to make and that she would not be taking requests.  Mom used humour often and I’m sure it was one of her coping strategies to quell her uneasiness about not being able to provide for her children and to avoid alarming us that that might be the case.

As we got older my parents hard work paid off and they were able to breathe a little easier.  They no longer had to worry about enough money for groceries; they were comfortable but not rolling in excess.  Some of the things I watched my parents do to save money and provide were things such as, going into the forest and collecting cedar blocks and then spending hours splitting the blocks into shakes for a roof.  My brothers and my Dad spent so much time carefully splitting the blocks and storing the shakes in the garage for when they would need a new roof. Generosity was also modelled and those shakes sat in the garage for years and were finally given to my oldest brother when he needed a new roof.

My Mom was and still is such a hard worker.  She always worked full time.  She would get up early and often walk to and from work in order to fit in her exercise which we learned was very important.  On top of that my Mom made all our food from scratch.  I can remember on Tuesdays or Wednesdays,  she would mix up a big batch of bread dough and put it in a covered bowl on the counter to rise.  Off she would go to work and then at lunch she would hustle home, punch the dough down and form the loaves.  They would be covered and left to rise a second time.  After work she would hurry home and put the loaves in the oven to bake and that is how we had our bread for part of the week.  Saturdays were cleaning the house and bread day as well.  She would repeat the same steps only this time she would make an even bigger batch of dough so that she could make us cinnamon buns for a treat.  All the while she would be organizing us to get our allotted house and yard work done while she worked away at jobs she did not have time to get to during the week.  Nobody was allowed to do anything with friends or for leisure until their Saturday chores were done.  At the time I remember hating Saturday mornings but funnily enough I found myself repeating this pattern with my own children for a time.  Through participating with and observing my parents, I learned to look after my belongings no matter how inexpensive or costly they had been and there are many jobs that need to be done to maintain a home and provide good food for a family.

Another one of the things my parents did to provide for their family was garden.  They would both participate in the preparation, weeding and watering of the garden but my Mom was the head cook and bottle washer when it came to preserving and preparing the food.  I spent many hours at my Mom’s side following instructions to boil canning lids, wipe the tops of the jars, pour in the syrup and such. Mom got really resourceful for a few years and we spent the winters eating canned everything. We had our favourites like cherries, peaches, pears and jam and then the ones we hated such as carrots, peas and even chicken one year.  Mom discovered that it was  cheaper to raise your own birds and then process them yourself so her and my aunt raised all these chickens and then butchered, gutted, plucked and wrapped the birds themselves.  You can imagine after that episode that we were a little turned off chicken.  My job was plucker and I remember being envious that my brothers got to gut and see the eggs and innards of the birds.  I thought it looked so interesting.

So this brings me to today. My Mom often marvels at how much I like to make things with my hands.  I have raised chickens, grown vegetables, kept a beautiful flower garden, grown fruit trees, picked mushrooms, canned, made chocolate truffles, baked bread, spun wool, knit and woven.  She can’t understand where I got the know how and willingness to learn all these things.  Really?  I rest my case on proving that the most effective way to teach your children is through being a good role model.  I may have not been listening so well but I was definitely watching.

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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.