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It’s been a rough week around here. With a bad case of viral ick making the rounds, we’re all in cocooning mode, cuddled on the couch with fuzzy blankets, our highly sympathetic pups, and our favorite Miyazaki films. When I’m achy in body or spirit, I seek the comfort of routine and closeness; spending time with the things I know and the people I love soothes me like nothing else.

This time of year also brings its own brand of comfort for me: kids in footie pajamas; steamy mugs of hot chocolate with marshmallow froth; the smell and crackle of a wood fire; a room lit only by tiny twinkling lights. Other comforts are less seasonal and a little more personal. I love to curl up on the couch with a big stack of my favorite cookbooks and browse until “my brain is storming,” as my daughter would say. Some people have comfort food; I have comfort cooking. (When life hands you lemons, zest them and make lemon herb butter for a roast chicken… :)

It strikes me that the ways we find solace and rest are often more individualized than the pain and grief we experience; what helps us heal depends so much on our memories, gifts, and values. The ultimate stress relief for one person may be cringe-inducing for the next. For instance: open-air camping, or read in the recliner? A long, hot bath or a long, early-morning run? Order restaurant take-out, or cook it all from scratch? Period romance drama, or campy 1950s sci-fi? (I know which I would pick.) I love that we share so much of the human experience in our need for comfort, yet we are still so singular in the ways we are consoled.

So in this season of scratchy throats, grumbly tummies, and traffic jams, here are three top-ten lists of my family’s favorite comforts. These are the things that speak to me of contentment, reassurance, and calm, and I wish you all three this winter. If you feel like commenting, I would love to hear about what comforts you too.

These are a few of my favorite (comforting) things…
+ Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carrol
+ Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne
+ the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett
+ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
+ The BFG by Roald Dahl
+ How To Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson
+ The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
+ the Lord Peter Wimsey novels by Dorothy Sayers
+ the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency novels by Alexander McCall Smith
+ A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg

+ Ponyo (2007, director Hayao Miyazaki)
+ Wild China (2008, BBC documentary series)
+ Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961, director Blake Edwards)
+ My Fair Lady (1964, director George Cukor)
+ Dr. Doolittle (1967, director Richard Fleischer)
+ Jeeves and Wooster (BBC TV series based on P. G. Wodehouse books)
+ Agatha Christie’s Poirot TV series
+ any episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K)
+ Dr. Who (especially episodes with the fourth doctor)
+ Star Wars (the original trilogy, episodes IV-VI)

Food and Drink:
+ Mighty Leaf tea, Vanilla Dulce or Chamomile Citrus
+ Almond and Cherry Jam Cookie Bars (recipe coming soon)
+ Sharp English cheddar, smoked turkey, crackers, and spicy honey mustard
+ Steel-cut oatmeal with maple syrup and pears
+ Udon noodles with ginger and soy
+ Creamy chicken and dumplings
+ Mashed potatoes with mascarpone
+ Spiced apple cider
+ Banana bread with cream cheese
+ Orange-banana-vanilla smoothies