Winter Solstice Celebrations

Winter Solstice is upon us. The first day of winter, when we move towards longer nights and shorter days and our energy begins to shift towards darkness during this time of rest and renewal.

Traditionally, the winter solstice is celebrated with lighting candles and burning a bonfire to light up the dark night. Often the house is decorated with seasonal decor, a Yule log, a tree (Christmas tree), ornaments, and treats. Sound familiar? A lot of our modern seasonal traditions are rooted in these ancient practices.

Yule Log. Made with natural twine, pine branches, bay leaves, dried star anise and cinnamon sticks, and wishes, dreams, and intentions of the family rolled into little scrolls. Burn with intention with the ones you love.

Symbolically, winter solstice shifts us into a mode of rest and contemplation. This is a good time to reflect and make resolutions. As the winter is setting in, it is time to remember to rest and nurture our bodies. Winter is a good time to relax, read, cozy up by the fire, practice stretching, breathing and restorative yoga, cooking and baking nurturing and healing foods, to tend to cleaning and decorating our home, and to take time off to spend time with family and loved ones. It is also important to embrace the seasons and get outside to explore what nature has to offer as the seasons shift.

Winter Simmer Pot filled with dried cloves, cinnamon sticks, star anise, pine needles, and citrus rounds. Smells like Christmas! 🎄🍊

I will be celebrating the solstice by cooking a delicious dinner, baking homemade bread, a walk in the woods and collecting materials to make a yule log with the kids, practicing a restorative yoga sequence, setting my intentions and writing out my goals and dreams for the coming year, cleaning and decorating my house, and enjoying the darkness with all of my candles and Christmas lights on with a fire in the fireplace. Probably some wine.

Namaste 🧘🏻‍♀️

Morning Routine

🍋 💛

How we spend our morning sets the tone for our entire day, which sets the tone for our entire life. Creating a soothing, nourishing, and loving morning self-care routine is one of the most beneficial acts of love that we can give ourself!!! I love quiet and peaceful mornings to myself, the house is quiet and smells like coffee and the sun is rising over the lake in front of my house. This is my time!! I have admittedly been having a hard time waking up and caring for myself the past few weeks so to re-amp my morning routine I thought I would share it!!

First of all, get the coffee pot ready the night before!! It gives me the motivation to actually get out of bed (gasp) early!!! Every grown ass women needs a kick ass coffee maker, professional toothbrush and a luxury mattress 💜 Now that we have that settled, this is my little morning routine.

*Drink warm lemon water. I cut lemon circles and seep them in boiling water for 5 minutes. This helps kickstart hydration in the body and helps to cleanse out toxins. First water, then coffee. Then more water!!! Then more coffee! ☕️

*Brush. Yes I obviously brush my teeth in the morning, but I also use a dry brush on my body and face. A dry brush is used out of the shower on completely dry skin. Always brush upwards towards the heart to help with circulation of the lymphs and facia and to help remove dead skin cells. Not only does this help with circulation of the body but it helps to remove toxins and improve the appearance of the skin. Always brush before your shower! 🚿

*Scrape your tongue with a tongue scraper. So gross, but another great way to rid the body of toxins.

*5-10 minutes of meditation or pranayama. Best way to start your day. Get centered, get focused, calm the body, set your intentions, realign your existence. I don’t play my guitar when it is out of tune… just saying!!! 🧘🏻‍♀️

*5-60 minutes of yoga or stretching. Usually I do closer to 5, but a couple days a week I really really try hard to do 30-45 minutes of yoga. Check out my 10 minute morning yoga sequence in past post!!

*Enjoy your day, put your best energy forward and make the most of your moments.

This is quite possibly our only life, let’s make it purposeful!!

Namaste 🧘🏻‍♀️💜

Green Christmas🎄

For so many of us the Holidays can be such a rush of business!! One event after another, endless junk food, and so much material stuff that we just do not need. I hated the clutter and all of the rushing around. I longed for open days filled with sledding and sipping cocoa and nights at home cozy by the fire reading books or watching movies. Being lazy in my pajamas watching the snow fall and cuddling with my children, husband and pets. So I decided to simplify!! I decided to stop doing a lot of the time consuming stuff that didn’t make me happy (Christmas cards, extra social engagements, stressful Santa visits, obsessing over cleaning my house, overly elaborate gifts and wrapping…) and focus on the Holiday memories that I enjoy, like cooking traditional family recipes or baking cookies, spending time at home with the family and enjoying time in nature.

A few of the benefits of simplifying for me have been more eco friendly gifts and wrapping, less spending on unnecessary items, more time to relax and enjoy my time off, and mostly, it has allowed me to focus more on the little moments, less on the stressful nonsense.

Simplifying is going to look different for all of us because we all enjoy different winter activities and celebrate different holiday traditions!! But here are a few things that I do to cut back on my holiday waste and help help me be more present, mindful and connected to the magic of the season.

*SHOP SMALL. If you have a friend that makes jewelry, paints, cuts hair, takes pictures, makes amazing cakes, teaches yoga, sells crochet this is the time to support our small artist community!! Buy art, handmade gifts, gift cards for local classes or services, etc. We love and need our local artists and small shops!! More now than ever!! 🧘🏻‍♀️

*SHOP LOCAL. We have all been doing a lot more online shopping these days, next year I will do much better!!! BUT we can still be mindful of shopping local and finding delivery or curbside pick up at our favorite local shops!!! I love how my downtown is decorated in the Winter and all of the boutiques are glammed up with Christmas cheer. Just doing some local shopping or checking out the local Christmas markets help me get into the holiday spirit along with supporting local businesses and finding unique and one of a kind gifts! And my local toy shop brought out my gifts curb-side wearing an elf hat! 🎄

*Shop Vintage!!! Once again, so many local and vintage shops are doing curbside pick up!! Although it is more fun to browse!! I love old pieces because they have a story. Finding a one of a kind item that holds a piece of history is so meaningful and sentimental!! 👛

*Farmer’s markets, art fairs and local Christmas markets. Usually a great opportunity to amp up the holiday spirit and get into some traditional or local holiday food and drinks!! If you don’t like the holiday rush (like me!!!), do your shopping early and enjoy unique finds throughout the entire year!! I have been known to shop for Christmas all year long, if I see something unique or one of a kind for the perfect person I get it and save it, sometimes for months, until Christmas!! Which makes me even more excited to wrap and give! 🎅❤️

*Find small businesses, vintage shops, or artists on Etsy for online shopping options. I bet a lot of the shops you love and miss at your local farmers market are on Etsy!! Check it out!!! 👩‍💻

*Handmade gifts or homemade baked goods. My ABSOLUTE fav!! 🍪

*Experiences instead of stuff!! We have too much stuff!! Why not go to one of those drink and paint places or jump out of a plane!! Possibilities are endless!! 🎨

*Family photo shoot with a local photographer. Local, beautiful, meaningful. All heart, no clutter. 📷

*Instruments, art supplies or science activities for kids. Bonus for going to your local small owned music and book shops! And you are guaranteed to fall in love with the smell of both!!!! 🎹

*Used books or vinyl records!!! Once again, local small or used book (and record) shops have the best smells!! 📚

*Framed artwork or pictures. I take black and white pictures, old calendars , cards, magazines and pressed flowers and herbs and make beautifully framed pieces!! 🖼

*Book a message, spa treatment or purchase a package for a yoga session!!

*Take a class! You are never too old to learn something new!! Painting, violin, rock climbing, basket weaving!!!

*Plan a trip or weekend away!!! Something to look forward to!!

*Adopt a pet!! If you are 💯 up for it!!

Now that we have a lot of sustainable gift options, it is time to wrap!!! This is my favorite because getting eco means getting creative! I keep a giant bin of wrapping materials that I collect and scavenge. I haven’t bought actual wrapping supplies in years!!! This I what I use instead…

*Cloth wrapping, scarves, bandanas or dish towels

*Vintage baskets, bins or tins (bonus when recipient can reuse the container!!!)

*Repurposed gift bags and tissue paper!! I never make anyone ever feel bad for gifting me non-eco wrapped gifts!! I just save them and reuse!!! And scavenge and collect at celebrations!! Seriously tissue and bags can honestly be reused so many times!!! Fold um’ up and save them!! And yes, my mom thinks I am nuts for going through her garbage but I don’t care!!!

*Brown shipping paper or craft paper from online packages or your local art store. Bonus, have your kids paint it first!! Fold it up nice and dress up with some pine twigs, cinnamon sticks, star anise and some twine!! So delightful!!

*Boxes, cute bags and literally anything I can find!! Old cards, magazines, newspapers, berry boxes, the list goes on once you get creative!! I have wrapped gifts in a cute lemon bag from Trader Joe’s stuffed with flowers from my garden before. I save ribbon, sashes, twine, etc from gifts and packages. I use as many natural elements in my wrapping as possible!

*I also make my own Holidays cards with family photos, dried pine needles, paints, kids craft projects, the stickers from bananas (lol) Christmas cards from last year, old books and magazines. Get creative and have fun!!

Not only is eco wrapping so much fun and great for the environment, but it has saved me so much money over the years!! Wrapping paper, bags and cards are expensive! I love that mine have an artsy and eclectic feel that only I could create!! Art!!

Shopping small, local and eco is obviously great for our community and our planet, but I love my unique finds and one of a kind gifts. I get so excited giving Christmas presents because I have always put so much thought, meaning and purpose into the gift itself as well as my own personal expression of wrapping.

I truly believe that we should bring this type of intent and meaning into each aspect of our life!! It nourishes the world around us and sparks a joy and purpose in ourselves. Because honestly, what is the point otherwise. When we are on our yoga mats I teach my students to set intentions. Intentions help us steer our practice into depth and meaning and mindfulness. And the ultimate purpose if yoga, I believe, is to bring this teaching off of our mats and into our everyday life. Find that purpose, sing your song, and live from your soul.

Better Broth

Homemade

Holiday cooking is around the corner!! I will be making Swedish Meatballs, a traditional recipe inspired by both of my beautiful Swedish and Norwegian Grandmas and adapted from the original Erikson’s Swedish Deli in Chicago. Sadly this famous Swedish Deli closed a few years back, but the recipe lives on every St. Lucia Day and Christmas Eve at my house and brings me back to my childhood holiday celebrations.

Swedish Meatballs are a labor of love. They are very time consuming to make and it has taken me years to get it just right. It occurred to me a few years back that the only ingredient that was pre-made in my recipe was the beef broth. Like most of our favorite traditional holiday recipes, beef, vegetable or chicken broth are often a key ingredient. I want my dish to be as fresh and authentic as possible. So why use a pre-made broth when it is so easy to make my own!!

I save slightly wilted veggies and veggie scraps, beef, pork and chicken bones in my freezer or fridge until I have collected enough to make a broth.

Pop in the crockpot with plenty of water and a bit of salt n’ pepper and simmer for about 8-12 hours. Use immediately or store in mason jars in the freezer for when needed. Voila… delicious broth sans sodium and icky preservatives. Making your holiday recipes even more delicious, authentic and healthy!

Morning Oats Revisited

It is meal prep day at my house so here is another one. I have always loved oatmeal, but really fell in love while traveling through Ireland. Creamy delicious oatmeal topped with milk and honey!! So delicious! I have used my Irish oat obsession and mixed it with my knowledge of Ayurvedic herbs to create a superfood filled breakfast meant to satisfy the stomach, keep the body healthy, hair and skin beautiful annnnnd improve mood with natural herbs. This is my quick upgrade to your morning oatmeal!!

Meal prep is so important for me when trying to eat healthy because I get so lazy!! Especially when it comes to breakfast. If I do not have something ready and easy I usually just drink coffee.

Our food not only sustains but heals the body. I look at my food and herbs as medicine and use then to heal my body and keep it healthy. This is also a great option for kiddos!!

You can use organic oats or organic quick oats for a faster weekday breakfast option!!! I bought a giant sized mason jar to fill all of my ingredients that I keep on the counter for accessible breakfast for the entire family.

Organic oats

Cinnamon

Hemp seeds

Flax seeds

Chia seeds

Raisins or chopped dates

Unsweetened coconut flakes

Maca Root Powder ( health food stores or in bulk on Amazon)

Reishi ( health food stores or in bulk on Amazon)

Ashwagandha (health food stores or in bulk on Amazon)

Prepare on stovetop or in the microwave. Add your choice of milk and honey!!

Nourishing Tomato Pepper and Chickpea Soup

Yummm ❤️

This is my favorite soup recipe that I have adapted over the years. Nourishing, healing, healthy and so delicious. Mom life can get super busy, so I love having pre-made soup for the week that I can heat up and sip when I need a ultra healthy, satisfying and quick lunch!

Admittedly, making soup is not that quick, however, I make a vat once a week and save serving sized mason jars is the fridge and freezer for whenever I need. Soups and purées are great for winter to make sure we are getting all our nutrients and keeping the body cozy! Also, when we are feeling sick, tired, unmotivated, or depressed soup is easier for the body to digest. I usually drink mine right from the mason jar!!

Tomato Pepper and Chickpea Nourishing Soup

4-5 tomatoes

2-3 red and/or orange peppers

1 onion

2-3 Garlic cloves

1-2 cups of chickpeas

Fresh Parsley, turmeric, chili powder, sea salt and ground peppercorn to taste

Fill a large pot with water and begin to simmer. Add salt, pepper, chopped tomatoes and chickpeas.

Sauté onions, garlic and peppers on the stove top. I like using cast iron for maximum taste, and to avoid the toxins in many conventional pans.

Add sautéed veggies to pot. Add spices and herbs. Simmer for about an hour for maximum taste. Cool slightly and purée in a blender. Serve, store, enjoy!!!

Going Virtual

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Monday night Restorative yoga at The Wheaton Park District is going Virtual due to increased Covid risk and tier 3 mitigations in our area. We will continue the remainder of our fall session via zoom meetings. The Wheaton Park District will be sending you a link to join. This class is also open for prorated registration if anyone new would like to join. Please bare with me as I try to figure out all the technological aspects. As you know, I was just finally figuring out the lights in our studio!!

Winter session will also be virtual and is now open for registration online at wheatonparks.org or you can call the community center front desk to register. I want to ensure all of my students are safe and healthy, but I am so happy that we will still have a way to connect. Thank you all for your ongoing support during this stressful time!!

To enhance your yoga experience, please find a quiet place to practice in your home, preferably against a wall, take a few moments to clean or refresh your yoga space and dim the lights or light some flameless candles for ambiance if you like. Remember to bring a yoga mat, blanket (or 10), strap or robe tie or dish towel, pillow(s) or bolster would be great, blocks or chair or bench or bed or whatever props you have to make class as relaxing as possible and the reach to your toes a little less far!! Grab a ton of pillows and blankets, put on some cozy socks, make yourself some warm herbal tea, put on some soft background music or aromatherapy if you like and get ready for an evening of ultimate relaxation in your home!! Thank you again!

Namaste,

Carlene 💜🧘🏻‍♀️

Calming Playdough Recipe with Essential Oils

Such a fun and easy activity to do with the kids or grandkids!! I started making playdough with my kids because they have so much fun making it, and it is so much cheaper than store bought!!!

***Also, not just for kids!!!***

Mixing, measuring and kneading is such a great sensory activity for kids (and adults) and with enough salt, homemade playdough can last up to 3 months. For an added aromatherapy benefit we started adding essential oils and dried lavender into our homemade recipe!! A little bit of an added calm to creative time!!

Essential Oil Sensory Playdough Recipe

2 tablespoons corn syrup

2-3 tablespoons corn starch

2-3 cups flour

1/2 cup salt

10 or so drops of your favorite essential oils , I used lemon for a lively creative mood and lavender to calm and soothe the senses.

I Like Dirt

Scraps!!

This is a perfect time of year to start a compost bin or pile in your backyard or garden!! Think of all of the food waste that ends up in the landfill that could be adding nutrients to your garden!! I add raw fruit and veggie scraps, leaves and yard trimmings, and plenty of dirt!! I use leftover dirt from my garden or when I repot my inside plants. You can buy some to get started also!! This is such a great way to keep your yard and garden healthy and divert TONS of waste from filling up landfills. Good scraps are not going to naturally decompose in a plastic bag sitting in the dump!

Composting not your thing?? Here is another option before you throw those beautiful, beneficial produce scraps in a plastic bag… save your scraps and make your own veggie stock!!! I save mine in the fridge (or freezer) and when I collect enough I slow cook them in the crockpot with water, salt, pepper and herbs for about 7-8 hours. Also a great way to revive past-their-peek veggies!!! This is such a wonderful solution to reducing our food waste and also a much healthier option than store bought stock which can be loaded with sodium and preservatives and and only adds to landfill waste because of the anti-eco packaging!!

Living in harmony with the earth is so important, and learning some basic eco lifestyle skills can keep us stay healthy, save us money, and of course help protect our Mother Earth!! 🌍