The early-morning darkness greets me as I rise and stretch into another day. It’s 5 a.m. and I slip quietly downstairs to feed the cats, swish some coconut oil in my mouth, and drink a tall glass of warm water with lemon before stepping onto my mat to say hello to the new day with yoga.
A few hours later, I am finally able to see the trees outside as the daylight makes its mellow appearance, becoming lazier with each passing day and deciding to sleep in. Some days, I follow suit, but I prefer to get to bed earlier. I have never been a night owl, unlike my partner in life and business.
Each day, with the illusive appearance of the sun somewhere behind the grey clouds, I notice the colourful leaves on the trees start to become sparse, with the strong northern wind whisking the fragile leaves right off the branches and with a mesmerizing, swirling, aggressive dance, leading them around on the dance floor, mid-air, before finally allowing them to land on the cold ground. Laying them to rest. Just like that. The grand finale. It’s a dramatic prelude to the dull, grey month of November that inevitably follows. It’s not a favourite of mine.
Too many goodbyes have been said in the recent weeks, and not all of them bittersweet. We continue to watch the world around us change, as some of the personal and private sinks deeper into a secret hideaway, while other hidden stories come to light. Can we retreat into our own quiet sanctuary while continuing to remind others of all the gifts we have to offer? It’s a delicate balance I’m trying to find, learning to trust, to acquiesce to the unknown while laying low, like the fallen leaves, trying to create warmth on the cold ground.
Acquiesce. Let go. Allow nature to take its course, as it inevitably will every time. For now, we say goodbye and look for the nuggets of joy in the transformational seasons of our lives. They’re in there. We just have to mine for them and continue to create warmth, leading with the heart, and digging a little deeper to invite the sunshine in from behind the clouds.
We have created beautiful autumn mementos for you:
The maple leaves are made of Yellowheart (photo below) and Padauk (pictured above). We also have Purpleheart leaves available, but those are not shown here. The pieces are approximately 1 1/4 inches in height and 1.5 inches in width.
We will add these items to our website within the next couple of days. So, check back soon and follow us on Facebook or Twitter for frequent updates.
“The forest is a peculiar organism of unlimited kindness and benevolence that makes no demands for its sustenance and extends generously the products of its life and activity; it affords protection to all beings.” – Buddhist Sutra
What makes you feel alive? What brings out in you the vibrant spirit of innocence, inspiring you to leap in pure joy, to dance? The forest has always felt like home to me. I’ve been known to joke about having been born in the forest and magically teleported into my mom’s arms at the birthing centre. I remember the exact moment, in early childhood, when I first felt the calming effects of the trees, the mossy ground, the shimmering sunlight whispering down to me through the rustle of the leaves on the giant tress. I was about four or five years of age and, while enjoying a picnic under tall fir trees, my dad used a thick crown of moss nestled on the ripe earth to build a few houses that resembled The Shire. My imagination ran wild with images of witches and fairies peeking out from behind the doorways of the cozy inch-tall houses. Yet, I felt rooted, strong, peaceful and calm amidst my daydreams. To this day, I feel grounded in the forest like nowhere else. It literally is my happy place, my home.
I’m fortunate to have been born into a family that adores nature. Every weekend, until I was well into my teenage years, my parents would plan a family picnic for us, driving out to explore new hiking paths, trails, and lakes. It’s natural for children to love being outside, exploring freely, and I refuse to let it go. I don’t ever want to lose that love, and I strive to continue to cultivate the same passion for the outdoors in my children.
Safety, comfort, and freedom. Child-like freedom that flickers from the soles of my feet, rising up within me, bringing out an indescribable enthusiasm. Bring me into a forest and I break out in dance, or get some yoga on, all with a melodic giggle born from the depth of my heart and a bright smile on my face.
See what I mean?
Nothing else makes me feel this rooted and at once, this fairy-light. The forest is my playground, and I don’t ever want to leave.
And forest hikes make for a perfect date!
Pawel and I most often bring the kids along on picnics, walks and other outdoor activities. But it’s important, especially to those who are sensitive to noise, to enjoy some silence (and fellow introvert parents will understand this well). Restaurant conversation with the background noise of music and the chatter of other diners just isn’t the same as a comforting hike among the wise trees, with the soothing whispers of the golden leaves atop their regal Autumn crowns. It had been too long since our last date just before my birthday in early August. Instead of our usual dinner-and-movie-style dates, we escaped to the woods yesterday. While I danced, practised a few poses, threw leaves, and giggled, giggled, giggled, Pawel laughed along with me (and probably at me) while experimenting with a fancy new lens he recently acquired for his Nikon.
I’m grateful for my naturally talented photographer husband and creative partner, for my parents’ offer to babysit, and for the stunning late-autumn colours. I’m grateful for yoga, for October, for the magic of nature, moss, maple leaves, birch trees, abundant bird houses, and fairies.
The beautiful maple leaves in and around our neighbourhood, as well as in the lush forests around us, inspired the creation of a few new maple leaf wooden pendants…
We will add the new necklaces to our web store within the next week. Pawel used a few different types of wood to make these beauties.
Also, the third knitting video is on its way. We will post it within a few days.
Until then, leave a comment, subscribe, and share this blog with anyone you know who might enjoy following our creative adventures.
Wishing you a bright, kaleidoscopic last week of October,
I promised to teach you to knit. So, allow me to begin by sharing our first instructional knitting video in a series of three. In this week’s video, I provide you with a quick tip for choosing the perfect yarn for your first project, show you my favourite cast-on method and teach you the basic knit stitch using the Continental method of knitting. If you have any questions, please do leave a comment below.
In the second video, to be released on Oct. 17th, I will show you the purl stitch, the lovely sister of the knit stitch. In the first video of the series, to be released on Oct. 24th, I will show you a few variations with the knit and purl stitches, to allow you to play and practice, and teach you how to cast off your first project. To be the first to receive an update in your email inbox as soon as the video is released, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel.
Over the past weekend, unfortunately, I did not have an opportunity to spend much time on my knitting projects. That was the case for a couple of reasons: (1) Thanksgiving dinner and (2) preparing for an upcoming craft show.
We hosted Thanksgiving this year. Usually, Pawel’s parents host the dinner at their home, but I decided to take on the pleasure this year. I realized this weekend that it was a good decision, as our younger child was feeling under the weather and we wanted to stay close to home, instead of having to drive for 45 minutes there and back.
In any case, our family in Canada is small, and since my parents had a prior commitment and my sister celebrated Thanksgiving with her partner’s family, it was just the four of us, Pawel’s parents, and Pawel’s sister.
We had a lovely dinner for seven people, if I do say so myself. 😉 Here are the photos of the dishes I prepared:
Butternut squash, pumpkin and cranberry soup. The cranberries were an intuitive last-minute addition to the soup and I must say, the tart fresh cranberries mingled well with the sweet taste of the pumpkin and squash.
Field greens salad with apples and fennel, with a dressing that I whipped up intuitively. The secret ingredient was raw honey.
Roasted harvest vegetables.
Roasted brussel sprouts. These are a favourite of mine and I could eat them as a snack anyday! If you have never tried roasting brussel sprouts, simply toss washed and halved brussel sprouts (with the core trimmed and the outer leaves removed) with EVOO or coconut oil and sea salt. Spread them evenly on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes in a preheated oven at 400F, turning them once after the first 15 minutes. If you are a fan of kale chips, you will probably like this dish.
Slow-cooked lamb roast with cranberry sauce on the side. My mother-in-law always prepares turkey for Thanksgiving, and although we love it, I wasn’t in the mood for turkey this year. Lamb is a big favourite of ours and the cranberry sauce paired beautifully with it.
And of course, apple and cranberry pie for dessert. Although I love pumpkin soup, roasted pumpkin, and make great pumpkin spice muffins, I have never enjoyed pumpkin pie. It’s just not my favourite. Instead, we go for apples and cranberries in this delicate flaky pastry.
You may be wondering about whether I followed my usual Ayurvedic eating and food combination rules with this meal. The answer is no, because I do believe that it’s okay to venture off our usual path every once in a while. Instead, I focused on cooking and baking with love and chose the best ingredients while allowing my intuition to guide me to play with a few flavour combinations. The result was a good one for our taste buds and for our bellies.
And now, we’re back to preparing for the Made by Hand Show, to be held next weekend in Mississauga. We will showcase several items that have never been featured on our website.
Does it not feel as though this year is just zooming right past us? Here we are, in October, and just this evening, as I was putting my summer clothes away for the colder months, I realized how quickly the seasons appear to be transitioning this year. Thankfully, Pawel and I were able to make the most of the summer months, starting with backyard barbecue dinners in early May, camping during the last weekend in May, and many other interesting daytrips and getaways all through until the end of August. And although the month of October is my favourite month of the fall season, I know that it, too, will make a swift grand exit. Hey, at least we’ll get to say goodbye while dressed in costume!
Since this is one of my favourite months of the year, I am determined to make the most of it. I will continue to explore all the luxuries of this beautiful golden month; I will continue to create; and I will seek to be inspired every day in order to inspire others. It feels as though this year has been a roller coaster ride for many, and we all deal with challenges. Yet, I want to make life sweeter. Every day. Who’s coming with me?
To go along with the above theme, I will share with you a recipe for a fantastic sweet and heart-warming soup. I first experimented with this soup two winters ago and its simple and delicious flavour brought me home to comfort.
Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup
2 medium-large sweet potatoes or yams
1 tbsp butter or ghee (to make the soup vegan, you may use EVOO or coconut oil)
1 large white or yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 medium carrots, chopped
7 cups vegetable stock or water
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 bay leaves
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1. Wash and bake the sweet potatoes for about an hour at 350F (preheated oven). Using a fork, pierce the potatoes to ensure that they are soft enough. Allow the sweet potatoes to cool before peeling them and chopping into 1-inch cubes.
2. In a heavy-bottom cooking pot, melt the butter / ghee / oil on medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic and cook for a few minutes on medium heat, until golden and soft.
3. Add the chopped sweet potato and carrots to the pot and continue cooking for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Stir in the salt, turmeric, bay leaves, and cinnamon (if using). Continue cooking for another minute, stirring constantly.
5. Add the vegetable stock or water and bring to a boil. Then, cover the pot and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.
6. Allow the soup to cool. Then, discard the bay leaves, and puree in batches in a standing blender or use an immersion blender. The consistency should be completely smooth.
7. Serve and enjoy!
I served this soup for lunch last week with a sprinkle of black sesame seeds. On the side are two mini pitas with avocado and sea salt on top, with baby spinach, homemade sour cabbage and carrot slaw, and a drizzle of EVOO.
If you are in the Toronto area, visit this wonderful show to purchase unique handmade products. It’s a great opportunity to start your Christmas shopping early. We will be at booth 110 and look forward to meeting many of our clients there.
Best wishes for a colourful and sweet first week of October,
It all started with a creative writing exercise during which I was asked to write a vignette about my hair. Sitting at my sewing machine table that doubles as a writing desk, I smiled to myself as I typed the first words of my personal hair story. Here was a Pandora’s box, opened wide. At the time of writing the story, I was determined to let my hair grow. I wasn’t going to touch it until mid-December, when I was planning to return to a salon for a simple trim that would keep me looking presentable and avoid the awkward in-between stage that is inevitable with the growing out of hair. For a reminder of how my hair looked a week ago, refer back to last week’s post.
My hair and I have been the best of friends and we have been sworn enemies. A few times, I painstakingly grew my hair long only to get bored with it, walk into a salon and confidently say to a stunned hairstylist standing behind me and facing me in the mirror, “Just chop it off!” Okay, maybe my words weren’t as bold. Instead, I would sigh and say, demurely, “I think I want to go short again.” It feels liberating to have the old hair drift onto the sleek hardwood floor. There is something akin to a feeling of true pleasure as I would take a deep breath, look at my reflection in the mirror and realize how fantastic my hair looks. After each dramatic transformation, it looked — and felt — like a different person was gazing back at me. I would walk out of the salon, standing a bit taller, and catch myself constantly bringing my hand up to my freshly cut hair to play with my new short style.
The last time my hair was long, in September 2011. This photo was taken in San Francisco.
And then, I would get bored with it. Suddenly, everywhere around me were images of gorgeous women with luscious long locks. Long hair envy. That’s what it is. Likewise, after years of growing my hair, I would get that old familiar pang upon seeing a pretty gamine pixie cut on someone who looks perfectly chic. I would turn to the person next to me (usually Pawel) and say, “Oh, I really want to get my hair cut short again.”
This is what my hair looked like on most days, as I would wear it tied back in a bun. Nothing to write home about.
And one more photo from that SF trip, just because I’m feeling nostalgic. See what I mean? Boring, pulled-back hair.
Each journey to growing my hair has been long and arduous, taking years. My first short haircut, in 2004, was inspired by Meg Ryan’s hair in You’ve Got Mail. In 2008, I decided to get a chin-length cut on a whim. Unfortunately, I went to a terrible new salon and the hairstylist was a bit over-enthusiastic when I told her I’m comfortable with having my hair cut short, so I ended up with a shorter style than I had expected to see. Nevertheless, I loved it. And in 2011, I did it again with an inverted bob, donating 10 inches of my hair to be made into a wig. Since then, I have been attempting to grow it, only to get bored with it once my hair reached a shoulder-length bob style.
Long hair is easy to hide on a bad day when we don’t have much time to style it. On most days, I would wear my hair in a ponytail or wrapped in a bun. Short hair is practically impossible to hide, especially on a humid summer day when I leave the yoga studio following a sweaty class looking every bit like a mad scientist, with curls sticking out in every direction. And yet, short hair is easier to style and looks fabulous with a great cut. So, what to choose? That was my embarrassing inner dialogue, and yes, I will confess — blushing all the while — to thinking about my hair too frequently, obsessively.
So, I decided to step into my grown-up shoes and make a decision about my in-between hair. I called the salon and booked an appointment.
Et voila! The result is a pixie cut that I personally am very happy with.
So, I will keep my hair short for the next while and enjoy it to a hilt (an expression that I will shamelessly confess to have adopted from Audrey Hepburn). Thankfully, Pawel has gotten accustomed to my hair antics and is no longer shocked by my inch-long hair. At the end of the day, it’s just hair and I love to feel great.
While I was growing up, my mom, who is an excellent chef but doesn’t enjoy baking all that much, would sometimes get the baking bug and make a rustic apple cake. She passed on the recipe to me, and it’s actually a simple traditional Russian recipe for an apple cake that goes beautifully with tea on a chilly Autumn evening. We made a few substitutions to the original ingredients.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup coconut sugar
1/2 cup milk (almond milk would also be great in this recipe)
1/2 cup butter, melted (feel free to use coconut oil)
3 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (be sure to use tart apples that will remain firm while baking)
1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Melt the butter in a saucepan and use a small amount of the butter to grease a baking pan (we used a pan that is 8 by 10 inches in size).
2. Whisk the flour, coconut sugar, baking powder, sea salt and cinnamon in a bowl.
3. Whisk the eggs, milk and melted butter together in a separate bowl.
4. Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Then, stir in the chopped apples.
5. Pour the batter into the baking pan and bake on the middle rack for approximately 30 minutes or until the cake appears golden-brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
6. Allow the cake to cool. Slice and serve with a cup of your favourite tea.
Over the past weekend, Pawel finished this beautiful piece, inspired by the goddess Pele.
Both Pawel and I are big fans of mythology from different places around the world. The story of the Volcano goddess Pele is truly fascinating. And really, who isn’t interested in the magic of volcanoes? Right?
Do you have a story about your hair that you would like to share with us? How about a favourite recipe that features apples? Or, you can simply let us know what you think of the Pele piece, or any other material from this week’s blog post.
Now that we are mostly feeling better, we have been going outside every day to enjoy the changing landscape and enjoy the crisp chill in the air. Apple-picking is a favourite fall activity for our family. The boys always get a thrill out of running through the orchard and choosing the juiciest apples they can find. So, on Sunday, we dressed warmly and headed to our favourite organic orchard to pick apples.
Upon returning home with our delicious bounty, I was filled with inspiration to get in the kitchen and cook something seasonal and heart-warming. More on that below.
In Ayurveda, the fall season is governed by Vata, which is composed of ether and air. It’s no surprise that for many of us, this season also signifies the start of the cold virus. The lazy, lingering summer days are rarely strictly structured, keeping us up late at night and encouraging us to take cat naps in the hot and hazy afternoons. The following fall season signifies a complete change in energy. Suddenly, everything moves faster as we try to get back to our regular routine, sometimes anxiously struggling to keep up. This sudden change in routine can be incredibly stressful for the body and the mind.
As someone with a dominant Vata dosha and a bit of Pitta, I love the fall season for the relief it provides from the humid and hot summer days. However, I get cold very quickly and when it seems to me like most people around me are walking around in September with short-sleeved t-shirts on, I can be seen wearing a cozy sweater. I no longer feel self-conscious about this. I do what I need to do to take care of myself.
What else do I do to take care of myself, following the lessons of Ayurveda for the Vata season? Well, I’m glad you asked. I’ll share with you what I do, and please feel free to borrow these ideas for your own self-care, particularly if your constitution is mostly Vata.
I go to sleep between 9 and 10 p.m. every night and wake up at 5 a.m. This ensures that I get 7-8 hours of sleep on most nights. In the morning, after oil pulling and brushing my teeth, I drink a tall glass of warm water with fresh lemon juice and then exercise for an hour (yoga, cardio, pilates, or weights). After I shower, I do an oil massage before sitting down to have breakfast.
I eat at approximately the same times every day: breakfast at 7:30 a.m.; lunch at 11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.; dinner at 5-5:30 p.m. I consume a lot of healthy oils (avocado, coconut oil, EVOO) and hot, unctuous, mostly liquid foods such as steel-cut oats with cooked apples and cinnamon, soup, vegetable stews, etc. I still eat my greens (kale and spinach are great), but I either sprinkle the leaves on a hot bowl of stew/soup or consume a salad massaged with a lot of oil (see above) immediately prior to eating my soup/stew. I eat cooked/roasted root vegetables with — again — lots of oil. Why is oil consumption so important? The air and ether qualities of Vata mean that during this season, we have a tendency to feel dryness. We need the moisture, both on the surface of the skin and on the inside of the body.
If you, like I do, eat meat occasionally, I would suggest eating salad (at room temperature), followed by lean meat at lunchtime. Our digestion is strongest from 10 a.m. to 1-2 p.m. As such, my substantial meals are breakfast and lunch. Dinner for me is small and simple. Usually, I will have a bowl of soup with a toast of sprouted grains topped with avocado and sea salt. Eating dinner before the sun sets is also ideal, because our digestive system slows down after sundown. Of course, since the sun starts to set earlier these days, it’s best to try to eat dinner at around 5 p.m., if possible.
Interested in additional information on self-care during this season? I love this website and use it frequently as a great resource.
So, to summarize, this is a time to sloooooow down and get grounded, luxuriate under warm blankets, eat grounding food with healthy oil, and get plenty of rest. What about exercise? That, too, should be more grounding at this time. Long walks are excellent, as is a yoga practice with slow, deliberate Vinyasa and standing/balance postures held for a few long breaths. Restorative yoga is excellent right now.
A couple of years ago, shortly after our younger son was born, I felt I needed to get outside and move, but I also craved rest and relaxation to get me through the long days of taking care of our two children. And no, that pattern has not changed. Here is a video I made during that time, a how-to of one of my favourite restorative yoga postures, Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose):
Feel free to use a few blankets and cushions in lieu of the bolsters and blocks, if you do not have those at home. Relax and breathe in the pose for about 10-15 minutes.
So, back to the weekend… Here is what I cooked using butternut squash and the beautiful apples we picked on Sunday:
BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND APPLE SOUP
We started with a few basic ingredients:
Then, we chopped the onion and sauteed it with ghee while continuing with the preparation of our apples and butternut squash…
We reserved the butternut squash seeds and roasted them later on a baking sheet at 300F for about 30 minutes. I didn’t add any oil or sea salt to the seeds this time, but that’s a great option, if it’s the way you like your pumpkin/squash seeds.
Cook the squash and onions in a large soup pot, and then add the apples, a teaspoon of sea salt, and a teaspoon each of cinnamon and ground turmeric.
Add enough distilled water to cover the chopped squash and apple, and then top with another 3-4 inches of water. You can use vegetable stock in lieu of the water.
Bring the soup to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to simmer for about 30 minutes or until the squash is completely tender. Allow to cool a bit before using a blender to create a smooth consistency:
Yes, our soup was steaming hot while we blended it, simply because we were hungry and our children kept asking when dinner was going to be served. I would highly recommend allowing the soup to cool before blending it.
To serve, we sprinkled the soup with cinnamon, but those roasted seeds were also great. We garnished the soup with the seeds for dinner the following day.
1 tbsp ghee (coconut oil or butter can also be used)
1 medium-sized white or yellow onion
1 medium-sized butternut squash, peeled and chopped, with the seeds reserved for roasting
2 apples (choose firm, tart apples that will hold well together during the cooking process)
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Enough water to cover the chopped squash and apples, plus 3-4 inches on top. An alternative is to add vegetable stock.
Enjoy, and let us know what you think!
Our final update is regarding our latest product finishes. We are preparing for the Made by Hand Show and creating new, unique, interesting pendants for you.
Knitting-inspired pendant, made of Purpleheart wood and crushed shell inlay.
SUP-inspired pendant, made of Red Amboyna Burl, with turquoise inlay.
We do like insects! Praying mantis pendant, made of Purpleheart wood with crushed shell inlay.
As always, please leave a comment to let us know what you think of our new products, this week’s recipe, yoga pose, or about whether you enjoy the fall season as much as we do. If you did take the Dosha quiz (link above), let us know what your Dosha is and how you cope with weather changes.
All the buckles are approximately 3″ X 2″. On the back of the piece is a metal hook that easily attaches to your favourite snap belt.
Here’s how it works!
Check out all the pieces in our online shop, and let us know what you think! Remember: we love custom orders. If there is a specific design that you would love to have on a belt buckle, send us a note: firstname.lastname@example.org