Dia De Los Muertos
St. Nicholas Day
Santa Lucia Day
The 12 days of Christmas
New Year’s Day
many times more antioxidants than berries
highest plant based source of iron
helps improve neurotransmitter function
one of the highest sources of magnesium
lots of calcium
enhances good vibes
I love how I feel after drinking my cacao each day.
- Wake up
- Walk with the dog
- Hot water with lemon and cayenne pepper
- Morning yoga
- Do all of the things to get the day ready……….
- Then breakfast: Matcha tea and Chia Pudding Bowl
Chia pudding is one of the secrets to making this daily rhythm work for me. Sunday night I whip up 1/2 cup of chia seeds and 2 cups coconut milk. It makes enough for the work week. Each morning I just scoop out some chia pudding and add in whatever I am in the mood for that day. In the picture above it was peanut butter, homemade strawberry jam, blueberries, walnuts, hemp seeds, and coconut. Other add-ins can be homemade granola, banana, kiwi, apple, raspberries, chocolate chips, pecans, almond butter, honestly, the list is endless.
Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron
Essential Fatty Acids
Vitamin A, B, D, E
Ever since @herbsandloreapothecary posted last week about herbal self-study I have been reflecting on how I came to love and use herbs. When I was little our neighbor, Mrs. H, had an amazing perennial garden centered around a bicentennial tree. I developed a love for forget-me-nots, Virginia bluebells, and hosta from her. From my parents came a love of honeysuckles, pussy willows, hydrangeas, azaleas, and tomatoes. Developing a garden for birds, squirrels, rabbits, bees, hummingbirds, and other animal friends was always central to a garden’s magic.
But herbs came to me on their own. My entry herb was rosemary. I was enticed by the smell, the essential oil, all its uses, and the lore. My wedding bouquet was even red roses and rosemary. Once I discovered books about herbs, the love was sealed.
First, I found The Potted Herb by Abbie Zabar. The second was a Christmas 1994 present from my parents – The Encyclopedia of Herbs, Spices, and Flavorings: A Cook’s Compendium by Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz. And, that was all it took.
I discovered ways to use rosemary in cooking, cleaning, body lotions, and so much more. Over the years new herbs have entered my life. And, so have new books such as Make Your Place by Raleigh Briggs. With each new herb I began to understand it and how to integrate it into my life.
What I have realized is that I only know one side of herbs, their energetic side. I’ve never really taken the time to stop and truly study them. To get to know them in a deep and rich way. To look closely at their structure – their petals, leaves, stems, roots, seeds, etc. To see their parts individually as well as part of a collective. To be able to distinguish them at a family level. To look with intention to understand.
I also believe it is important to continuously learn. Primarily because it is fun but also to keep my brain strong and young. Harvard Medical School, 12 ways to keep your brain young, (16 January 2018) suggests that challenging your brain with mental exercise stimulates new connections between nerve cells and builds up your brain.
Just like I exercise to keep my body healthy, strong, and fit, now it’s time to focus on exercising my brain. I am embarking on an herbal self-study and making it a priority just like physical fitness. Daily focus every day. My intention is to learn more about these herbs that I love. To learn all of their sides and develop a deep and rich understanding of them.
For the full Harvard Medical School article: visit Harvard Health Publishing.
I have been quiet in this space lately because I have been thinking about digital media, specifically my email, social media, texting and how my interactions with all of it have changed over the past three decades. It’s been on my mind since September but with the transition to Spring it has taken the forefront.
I remember my first email account. It was 1988 and I was provided with a college account as the Sports Information Director for a small liberal arts college. The email could only be used for internal communications across campus. It was helpful, the flow and speed of information amongst the college community felt effortless.
Fast forward to 1995 when I received an educators email through a local university. It opened up a world of communication. I could communicate with colleagues in other states and time zones. It let us tap into each other’s wisdom, insights, and ideas whenever it was convenient for each of us, regardless of time of day. Within several years our school system provided email accounts to all of the employees. By 2000 email was a part of every day life and routine. My daily world had changed. And, I liked it.
It was exciting. I like feeling connected to people far away. Being able to have the New York Times and BBC News at my fingertips makes keeping up with world events easier. I have access to libraries and museums around the world. And, so much music is available. Inspiration comes in the form of online essays, posts, pictures……..
When I reflect now, email was just the beginning. Email laid the path for the acceptance of all of the digital changes to come. Over time engaging with the internet and social media became regularized. As it all became more a part of my every day life it changed for me. It was emerging as an obligation. No longer a tool to enhance communication but rather a tether to expectations.
I have pondered and reflected on technology and digital media and the way I interact with it. I have learned that my tendency toward ritual and rhythm make it very easy for me to succumb to the pull of available technology. I realized I reach for my phone while waiting in lines, at red lights, on elevators, in carpool. All those little moments that occur throughout the day, where I could revel in the found time to think, breathe, notice, I fill with technology.
I know that when I am engaged with nature or creating I feel better. I sleep better. I learn better. I interact with people better. I think clearer. But my ritual, habit, dare I say addiction, to this technology interrupts my overall well-being.
I researched and read about technology’s impact on health and well-being. Just take sleep. We need 6-8 hours of deep, restful sleep, in order for our bodies to reset and recuperate from the day. While we sleep our bodies go to work repairing our cells, setting our circadian rhythm, balancing our hormones, making sure our systems are ready for the hard work of protecting our memory and immune system, and decreasing our risk of certain health conditions.
My work days are long – 6:30am – 4:30 pm and sometimes longer – and are often very stress-filled. When I feel over worked and over stressed my cortisol levels are high. When my cortisol levels are high while I sleep, my body can’t repair and actually sleep. “High evening cortisol makes you feel like you don’t need rest, at the time when you actually need it most. You can have trouble falling asleep or sleeping deeply. This depletes your adrenals, which heal at night. Depleting your adrenals can cause neurotransmitter levels to decline, including serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. The lack of sleep makes it harder to sleep because of stress and high cortisol, and it becomes an endless cycle” (https://www.saragottfriedmd.com/7-faqs-on-cortisol/).
Layer on top of that, the blue light of my devices. That light suppresses melatonin, the hormone that needs to rise for optimal sleep, and the light disrupts circadian cycles. So when I am checking my phone, “just one more time” before bed, I am making it even harder for my body to do its work.
And so, the Vernal Equinox and Supermoon emerged as an opportunity to reflect even deeper and to listen to my inner voice that has just been waiting to be heard. I am radically choosing my self and my family over the obligations of digital media. It’s time for me to adjust my interactions with digital media and to create new habits. Still in the digital world but not tethered to it. A digital detox. A digital cleanse. A digital sabbatical. A digital time-out. Whatever label fits.
Here are my goals:
1. Technology-free within an hour before bed time.
2. Technology-free within an hour of awakening in the morning.
3. Technology-free Sundays.
Time to relax. Play. Unwind. Notice. Be present. Interact. Be Bored. Create.
I was listening to Scarlet Begonias by the Grateful Dead this morning. I caught myself smiling. My pulse and breathing slowed. I was immediately transported to a road trip in 1982 when I first heard this song. Driving down Route 213 on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, car windows open, the warm summer breeze blowing through the car. Farm fields all around. Sun shining bright. I was reminded how something as simple as a song or a lyric can alter my entire mood and perspective. “Once in a while you get shown the light In the strangest of places if you look at it right.”
The Grateful Dead was speaking about the yogic path long before I ever learned about Bhakti yoga, asana, svadhyaya (self study), and mantras! February has always been a hard month for me. Dark. Slow. Emotional. Things that challenge my stability and balance seem to happen in this month. That might be an overstatement but it has always felt that way. I have always looked forward to the end of February and the beginning of March. This year was different. I found the light in all sorts of places. As I set an intention at the beginning of the month to relax into February, to accept myself and what happens as what is, I found light and lightness. When difficult things occurred, I named it, claimed it, and tried to set it free back out into the universe. I connected deeper to making to let my creativity have a means of expression. I opened my awareness to the daily practice of paying attention, morning meditation and chanting of mantras that speak to my mind and heart. And, each time I found light, I found myself finding it more often. February was a great month. I found it refreshing and invigorating. As February ends and March begins I take the following lessons with me:
- Be. Here. Now. -Ram Das
- It’s not about how much I do. It’s about showing up and paying attention.
- Each moment, and my response to it, is a choice.
- Bring it always back to the breath.
- Relax into my heart and I will see the light.
Light is everywhere – even in the strangest of places.
I have deep memories of growing up that involve food. My mom cooked every night. We were not a family that journeyed to McDonald’s or Burger King. Nor did we experience boxed macaroni and cheese or Twinkies or Lunchables. My mother was never more excited than when her Southern Living or Gourmet magazine came.
I remember when I has about 10 years old my family went for a Sunday drive and we discovered a roadside farmer’s stand. That began a weekly habit of driving every weekend to Beverly and Donald Burton’s farm to pick up fruits and vegetables.
Around that time the “egg-man,” as we called him, began to deliver farm fresh eggs directly to our house on Saturdays.
Labor Day weekend meant canning tomatoes. A couple of weeks later was applesauce. We always had some of Nannie’s (my dad’s aunt) hot pepper sauce around. As I grew up and began to figure out my own life I carried these traditions with me and added to them (canning and freezing of more fruits and veggies; making vanilla, mustard, breads, pasta; having a root cellar).
I became a vegetarian during my last year of college. This began without any intentionality whatsoever. The college I attended did not serve the most appetizing options in meat. So, I stopped eating it. After I graduated, I couldn’t afford to buy it, as I was making $2000 a year in my first job (1988) and $75 a week in my second job (1989), so I continued to not eat it. During this time I began to read and learn more and more about our food system’s impact on our environment – both physical (Earth) and human (body).
What I learned was astonishing, and it made me angry. How could we be destroying our own bodies as well as our planet? From manufacturing to marketing, our perceptions of food are shaped by what we see around us. The big food companies have figured this out and use it to their advantage. Sugar, salt, fat are the cornerstone of the mass production of food. This trio ensures flavor as well as preservation for long shipping distances. I read about companies efforts to find the “bliss point” and to enhance the “mouthfeel” so that consumers will purchase their products. And, how they appeal to our desire for ease and immediacy. The result is an epidemic of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and obesity.
Then, there is the impact of factory farming: pharmaceutical drugs administered to farm animals, downstream water contamination from leaching waste pits, environmental racism in the location of factory farms, more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation industry, ocean dead zones, rainforest destruction, mercury contamination of fish, and so much more. To me this just seemed to contradict ahimsa at every turn – respect for all living things and not causing harm to others.
From everything I learned I came to understand that the most powerful way I could combat this manipulation, harm, and destruction was to choose not to engage in it as much as possible.
Our family has supported a Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) program, and the egg man continued to deliver to our house until he passed away in 2008 or so. We still travel to the Burton’s farm on weekends, and for the past 14-years we have supported a farm that delivers dairy, eggs, fruits, veggies, our Thanksgiving turkey, and so much more directly to our house. We are fortunate that our local farmer’s market is open all year. Our girls have had the experience of knowing where their fruits, veggies, eggs, dairy, and cheese come from. They have met the farmers and walked the fields, and they have met the cows and fed the calves.
February 22nd was National Community Supported Agriculture Day. Community Supported Agriculture is a term that was first coined in the 1980s. Since then CSAs and the philosophy behind CSAs has spread across the country. From CSA Day’s website:
“CSA stands for “community supported agriculture,” which is a direct-to-customer business model for farmers. In the traditional CSA model, people pay for a season’s worth of produce (a membership), sometimes months in advance. The CSA member then receives a box of fruits and vegetables every week throughout the harvesting season. This is great for the farmers because they get the revenue when they most need it to get ready for the growing season.”
If you are interested in Community Supported Agriculture or farmer’s markets this is the perfect time to check them out as CSAs are taking new sign-ups and farmer’s markets are preparing to open in March and April, depending on location and if they are not all-year round. For more information visit:
How did it all begin? I was not a kid who grew up hearing family stories passed down through the years or who had heirlooms throughout the house that connected to people from prior generations. I grew up in the same town that my mother did so her family was close by but we rarely saw them. My father’s mother and sister were in a state on the other side of the country so on one hand I can count the number of times I saw them. I never even saw a picture of my father’s dad until 2000. The fact that I fell in love with family history and stories is remarkable. What is even more remarkable is that once I started asking questions and expressing interest, people started sharing. People came out of the wood work to connect with me, to help me, to share what they remembered.
It all started in grade 07. In those days Home Economics and Industrial Arts were required courses for graduation – sewing, cooking, and family studies one half of the academic year and woodworking, metal shop, and drafting the other half. It was in the family studies class that I created my first family tree that would set the rest in motion.
All we had to do was go back to our grandparents on both sides of our family. I ended up placing hand-drawn images with color codes for eye and hair color, height and weight, place and date of birth/marriage/death, and any additional information I discovered. It was multiple poster boards long when it was finished. I over-achieved on the project but what it really did was ignite my curiosity. I held on to that project for years until it finally fell apart from old age.
When my father became sick I felt compelled to return to that project. I felt compelled to know and understand more. Compelled isn’t a strong enough word. I was drawn to it by something deep within me. When I look back, in the beginning I was trying to hold on as tight as I could to my dad, then I was trying to ensure he would not be forgotten, and then I finally realized I was attempting to reconnect with ancestral memories that had long been forgotten from time and neglect. None of us exists in complete independence. We are all linked by our ancestry and our place on this amazing planet. I was seeking connection to my ancestors and to the universe. This compulsion led me to uncover generations going back further than I ever imagined. It is not just about bringing back names but also their stories. I still have more people and their stories to uncover but the stories that have already emerged connect our family experiences to colonists, soldiers, immigrants, reformers, politicians, reverends, doctors, dentists, blacksmiths, farmers, and more. These are people who are connected to the events that are memorialized in the narrative of United States history as well as the history of other countries. As I have discovered their stories, I have rediscovered this history in a deeply personal way. I have become the custodian of their memories, recipes, stories, and experiences with one charge – to keep it and them alive.
I have also come to understand the importance of making the time to honor my ancestors as a means of connecting with others and the greater energies of the universe. It is about connection. Empowerment. Healing. Resolution. At various points in my life I have been drawn to the tradition of the ofrenda and with each time I have grown deeper in my understanding of it. Dating back to ancient Mesoamerica, the purpose of the ofrenda is to remember and celebrate the lives of loved ones in the family, and to keep their memory and stories alive. It is a celebration of life, not death. It is joyful, not sorrowful. It is a welcoming of the spirits, a chance for them to sit and visit a while.
And so, I have uncovered more family members than I had ever hoped to find. People have been placed in my path to introduce me to long forgotten family members who I would have found through the long trail of research but whose stories I may never have heard. I would like to believe that this is because the spirits have recognized that they are welcome here. That if their stories are shared with me I will help them continue to be remembered.
Our girls are beginning to understand the importance of remembering loved ones so that they continue to live on in their new lives that come from death. Photos of our ancestors now live on a family tree in our dining room, and we are beginning to add tokens at the top of the tree that represent each of us. Our ancestors are with us at every meal, they are with us every day. I’m counting on our girls to keep the stories alive.
If you are interested in beginning to collect your family history and stories, just START:
Simply write down all the names you know, their relationship to you, and any dates you know about their lives: mother, father, sister, cousin, aunt, uncle, grandmother, grandfather, etc.
Talk to your relatives to find out what they know and what they remember about family members. Ask about their dreams, their loves, their challenges, their victories, their strengths, their weaknesses, their joys, etc.
Audio or video record your conversations with your relatives, and make notes at the same time. This will enable you to refer back to the recordings and notes as you dig deeper into your family history and to share the recordings with future generations.
Render a family tree diagram from the information you have gathered.
Travel to places you know where your family members lived – this may be visiting a house or a town or a country. You never know what new information will come from seeing the house, town, or cemetery.
For more information on rendering a family tree diagram, visit the National Genealogical Society for free charts and templates.
My mom died a year ago yesterday. After my dad died I struggled with the tensions and conflict between death and life. After my mom died last year I noticed that my relationship with death has evolved dramatically since my dad’s death in 1997. I am now able to look at death and see it for what it is, part of the entire circle of breath. Part of the journey. I no longer see death as an end. A void. I no longer fear it. I respect it. I no longer run from it. I see it as something to sit with and be transformed by.
When my mother passed away last year, I realized I was now the oldest living female in our family. That was when I started thinking of myself as not becoming older but becoming elder. Elder like the old medicine woman or the old wise woman or the woman who is the keeper of the family knowledge, stories, and special potions. I learned that I was at an age that in many traditions, including yogic and Nahuatl for example, is seen as a time of rebirthing with all of the wisdom that one has from the past. And, it seemed to feel right.
As I comtemplated this emerging role for myself, I reflected on all of the knowledge I had acquired from the elder women in my life and family. With a desire to not have it all be forgotten, and a desire to ensure that all will be okay when it is my turn to exit, I commenced upon the creation of our family Death Book. It really is not as morbid as it sounds.
In the early years of married life I had begun making seasonal menus and companion grocery lists for each week. It was a means to survival. Organization in the world of a growing family with young children. The menus streamlined costs, shopping time (the lists were efficient), and reduced the need for the question, “What’s for dinner?”
These seasonal menus and shopping lists became the foundation of our family Death Book. The book contains 7 sections:
- Family Recipes
- DIY Seasonings
- Sauces & Extracts
- Breakfast & Brunch
- Soups & Stews
- Slow Cooker
- Other Sweets
- Culinary Gifts
- Body Care
- Essential Oils
- Around the House
- Family Remedies
- Cleaning Plan
- Holiday Traditions
- Emergency Preparedness
These recipes and the information provided are all time tested and treasured by our family. They are the ones that I hope my girls will take with them and continue with their families some day. In fact, I have already found them using the book when they are in the making mood and decide to make drop biscuits, cookies, or room sprays. Volume 4 is particularly special to me as it contains the magic – how to make candles, how to can strawberry preserves, how to make deodorant, what to do for a sore throat, and so much more. These are the actions that are easily lost over time. I hope that by compiling all of this into one book my girls can pass forward some of these special aspects of our family. By doing so we will continue to live on.
Since I embarked on the Death Book I have discovered that others have done similar things. Check out:
Heather Bruggeman – Heather blogs at Beauty that Moves. Her approach was to create individual family binders filled with recipes. As she says on her IG, “if something were to happen to me, they’ll know how to keep this ship sailing. (Though I’m sure they’d find their way just fine without these.)” She can be found on IG at https://www.instagram.com/heather_bruggeman/
Melissa Coleman – Melissa blogs at The Faux Martha and has released a book The Minimalist Kitchen. Her new book grew out of an attempt to organize her kitchen in a manner that works for her. The process she implemented grew into her book containing all of her kitchen ingredients and her families favorite recipes.
The temperatures have broken! The polar vortex has moved on. Candlemas has come and gone. The sun is different as days lengthen. Good vibes and sunshine.
Good vibes call for good smells. The diffuser is going. Oven baked potatoes are cooking. Doggie is nested by the fire listening to mellow tunes. One daughter is still sleeping and the other is reading. Such a nice way to ease into a Sunday morning.
We have five diffusers throughout our house – each bedroom, living room, family room. Right now the ones in the living room and the family room are going. Why do we use diffusers?
Though they seem safe, scented candles are one source of indoor air pollution. When burning candles, whatever is in the wax is dispersed into the air. Burning candles that are full of petroleum byproducts, chemicals, and waste products puts all of that into the air in the room. Some scented candles don’t use natural based scent compounds. Some contain trace amounts of organic chemicals, including acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, acrolein, and naphthalene. Check out this article from the EPA for more information about candles as a source of indoor air pollution. Some scented candles also have lead in the wick. In fact, the University of Michigan released a study showing that 30% of candles in the USA release lead into the air. When burning a candle you are breathing it in everything the candle is emitting.
It’s been decades since I have burned scented candles. If I choose to burn candles for ambience, I burn 100% beeswax candles from Bluecorn Beeswax or I make my own.
There are a number of studies that suggest that using essential oils can:
- reduce stress
- improve mood
- purify the air
- aid in calming
To review more on aromatherapy with essential oils visit the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Our diffusers are used every day. Diffusing essential oils in our home is a great way for everyone to experience the benefits of essential oils. The diffuser takes an essential oil and breaks it down into micro molecules and disburses them into the air. Ours diffuses well in an average-sized room (200–300 square feet), and the ultrasonic mist gives any space a spa-like atmosphere.
We use our diffusers at night to prepare for sleep. We use them during homework time and reading hour. We have one in each of our cars – this is when I truly need peace and calming blends! One travels into the kitchen when particularly stinky food is being made in order to help meditate the smell. We keep pitchers of water next to our diffusers, at the ready, so that there is very little effort expended to get the diffuser going.
So often the quality of my entire day is tied to the way my morning begins – walk with the dog, morning warming beverage, meditate, first cup of tea, yoga, and what’s in the diffuser. While I may experience relaxation, alertness, motivation… most importantly it smells so good!!! Smell activates memory for me so different combinations of essential oils will take me back to different places, times, and emotions.
- Lavender + Orange + Thieves + Cedarwood = candy canes
- Cedarwood + Lemon +Rosemary = living on islands in the Chesapeake Bay
- Douglas Fir + Frankincense + Sandalwood + Lavender + Wild Orange = campfires
Today, as thoughts are turning to planning this year’s garden and day trips for spring family fun days, the good vibes are created by Bergamot + Lavender + Geranium + Lemongrass.
Why do you use a diffuser and what essential oils do you love in your diffuser?