Happy New Year!

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We spent a quiet holiday week at home, making Lego creations; playing board games; reading books; practising yoga and dancing; making music; knitting; watching movies by the fireplace next to the Christmas tree; and going for walks. Although the snow arrived belatedly several days after Christmas, to the delight of Wanderlust Juniors we spent a morning making snowmen in our front yard. Walks in the winter always seem to be more pleasant with a bit of snow on the ground.

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We rang in the new year quietly. Mr. Wanderlust and I stayed up until 1 a.m., making plans for the upcoming months while drinking champagne that we received as a present from my parents and munching organic tortilla chips. I joked about having already broken one of my resolutions: avoiding snacking and generally eating after dinner. In truth, I do not believe in making resolutions. However, I do set aside time to review the year that has passed and set intentions for the year ahead.

I learned several years ago that when we make resolutions based on external factors such as someone else’s research about the best diet and the most effective forms of exercise, we soon forget about the resolutions because they do not reflect our truth about ourselves. What works for one person might have a very different effect on someone else. Reading Gretchen Rubin’s book, Better than Before, reinforced my own hypothesis. At about the same time when I accepted this fact, I stopped paying close attention to ‘health and fitness’ advice that so many people readily bestow upon anyone within earshot. I also became aware of my own previous tendency to offer unsolicited advice. Instead, I chose the freedom of creating space for myself to study my own habits and get to know myself better in order to create positive personal changes.

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To set my clear, true intentions for the year ahead, I ask myself about my heart’s desire. I ask myself how I picture myself at my ultimate best state — this includes perfect physical, mental and emotional health and wellness. Those are my guidelines for setting intentions. From that space, I am able to create a vision for the year ahead. When I know how I want to feel, I can make positive changes to bring me closer to that ultimate state. (That is also how I know that snacking between meals and eating late in the evening are, for me, a recipe for indigestion.)

Year after year, I continue to return to the same intention that encompasses all my other goals and allows me to stay true to my ultimate vision: To be the best version of myself, every day. 

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Do you make New Year’s resolutions? What are your intentions for the year ahead? Do you follow certain guidelines while creating intentions? Please leave a comment below and feel free to share this blog with a friend.

Wishing you a wonderful start to 2016!

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In the colder months of the year, I am susceptible to very dry, itchy skin and chapped lips. After years of trying the different specially formulated lotions and lip balms available on the market and ending up with disappointment (at the best) and a bad allergic reaction (at the worst), I started using natural, pure moisturizing ingredients. I enjoy playing with my collection, creating my own skin care products. Here are my go-to items:

  • Sweet almond oil: An excellent overall moisturizer. I use it as a massage oil, eye makeup remover, and facial moisturizer. We recently discovered that our cat also is a big fan of sweet almond oil and I often find her on the bathroom counter, licking the bottle. Since the bottle is usually hidden inside the cupboard, she goes to great lengths to try to lick the oil off my face!
  • Shea butter: The richest moisturizer of which I know. I slather it on my hands and feet at bedtime and wake up with incredibly soft skin.
  • Castor oil: I have to confess. I haven’t had a ‘real’ haircut in a salon in the past six months. I’m in the process of growing out a pixie cut and my hair is finally starting to resemble a short, layered bob. To keep those pesky short layers healthy in the process of patiently growing out my hair, I turn to castor oil for a deep conditioning treatment. After brushing my hair before bedtime, I work a small amount of the oil into my hair and massage my scalp. It’s not an attractive look, but I leave the oil on overnight and wash it off in the morning shower. Castor oil is not only a great ingredient for soft hair but also for soft skin. Instead of washing my hands after applying the hair treatment, I simply let it absorb. I have also, under the direction of my Naturopath, used castor oil in conjunction with a heat pad to relieve muscle cramps and other aches.
  • Essential oils: I love aromatherapy and the wonderful effect essential oils have on the nervous system. My favourite soothing oils are lavender and/or lavandin. I have a tiny bottle of pure lavender oil that Mr. Wanderlust and I purchased during a tour of a lavender factory in Provence more than nine years ago while on our honeymoon in the region. I use it sparingly, as just a drop of the oil goes a long way. I also enjoy fir needle oil, eucalyptus, peppermint, patchouli, sandalwood, geranium, and tea tree oil. I use these oils in conjunction with shea butter or sweet almond oil, adding them to my DIY scented moisturizer, massaging them into the soles of my feet at night, adding them to my bath, or simply using them as perfume. I stopped using conventional perfume years ago, replacing it with essential oils.

I use essential oils and a couple of basic kitchen ingredients to make a ‘universal cleaning spray’ for disinfecting everything from my yoga mat to the bathroom counter. I promise to share the simple recipe with you in an upcoming blog post.

A combination of coconut oil and shea butter makes an excellent moisturizer for the lips. About a year ago, I started to concoct my own lip balm using a few of my favourite clean and natural ingredients. I use it myself on a daily basis and gift it to others at Christmas to help us enjoy the winter season with healthy skin.

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DIY LIP BALM 

Ingredients:

  • 200 mL pure shea butter
  • 100 mL pure coconut oil
  • approximately 100 g pure beeswax
  • 5-6 drops of pure peppermint essential oil

Method:

1. Chop the beeswax and allow it to melt over a double boiler, stirring constantly using a metal spoon.

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2. When the beeswax is almost completely melted, add the shea butter and coconut oil. Continue to stir.

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3. Add the peppermint oil. Stir. Remove from heat.

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4. While the mixture is still hot, pour into small plastic containers, filling them about 3/4. I use plastic containers purchased at the local dollar store.

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5. Allow to cool completely before twisting on the lids. The balm should be solid.

6. Enjoy, and pop a few containers into Christmas stockings! One batch is enough to fill 10 containers.

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What are your favourite DIY skin care recipes? Have you found innovative ways to use oils? Please share them in the comments below.

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend!

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“The oscillating rhythm of the heart

knows there is a time for activation

and a time for regeneration,

a time for quiet and a time for ecstasy,

a time for clearing and a 

time for celebrating,

a time for receiving and a time for giving,

a time for igniting the fire, 

and a time for letting go into the fire.”

~ Shiva Rea, Tending the Heart Fire

 


 

We planned for November to be a quiet month, free of social commitments. We are dedicating this time to slow-and-steady-sometimes-lazy pre-winter home repair projects. In the colder months of the year, I heed to the natural call to spend more time at home, tending to the hearth but also setting aside time for relaxation and quiet contemplation.

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Crunchy leaves under my feet during a lunchtime walk.

I did not always readily acquiesce to nature’s invitation to rest. There was a time when I judged myself harshly for the patterns of low energy that I experienced in the colder months of the year. Comparison to my more energetic counterparts only made me feel worse about myself. Time and time again, as I continued to turn to books that honour nature and seek to inspire others to live in harmony with the natural world through the changing of the seasons, I found that I started to soften my point of view. INov3 let crumble the hard boundaries that I had set around myself and instead, began to acknowledge that I am a part of this cycle. I am a part of the flow. We all are.

Shiva Rea’s Tending the Heart Fire is an excellent resource that supports and validates the patterns that I have been studying within myself. Ancient traditions lived in harmony with the magical cycles of the earth, honouring each season and greeting it with reverence. We have moved too far away from those traditions, but for myself and my family, I am choosing to make changes that allow us to minimize the permeating sense of societal urgency.

Instead of complaining about the weather, I do my best to dress for it. I tend to feel cold all through the colder months in the northern world, but I have adopted Ayurvedic rituals that help to keep me in balance through these seasons. I have embraced oil massages, drinking hot water, and eating grounding foods. I have slowed down my yoga practice and end a strong HIIT session with luxurious restorative or Yin poses. I am very much attached to my electric blanket and have become protective of my early bedtime.

So, we tend to our hearth and we tend to our hearts, making space to reconnect with ourselves and our loved ones. The dark period is a gentle and generous invitation for us to shed artificial layers while focusing on what is most precious to us.

I have mailed my RSVP card. Will you?

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Our 2015 holiday sale is officially on now!

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“Pick the day. Enjoy it – to the hilt. The day as it comes. People as they come… The past, I think, has helped me appreciate the present, and I don’t want to spoil any of it by fretting about the future.” – Audrey Hepburn

Sometimes, we just need a nap. A long nap. A very, very long nap. Here’s a story about a tired holiday weekend, and the lessons of which I have been reminded.

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I was looking forward to the Easter long weekend and the many plans to spend three beautiful days with our family. On Thursday night, after a four-day work week that felt longer than the usual five-day week, I felt blissfully tired and headed to bed earlier. I was fully expecting to wake up at 5 a.m. to start the day with a gentle yoga practice and a meditation session while welcoming the sunrise. Instead, on Friday morning, I hit the snooze button on my alarm clock several times before realizing I felt utterly exhausted. I turned off the alarm clock and chose, instead, to pay off the big sleep debt I accumulated earlier in the week while staying up for a few nights to take care of our younger child who was sick with a stomach bug.

I woke up at 9:30 (very unusual for me) to see the sun streaming in through the window. Yet, my brain felt foggy even after I drank an extra cup of strong coffee with almond milk. Had I overslept? Too much of a good thing isn’t helpful, either. The day was glorious and the sun felt warm. We shed our jackets and went for a walk around the neighbourhood, wearing only our sweaters! However, the walk wasn’t as relaxing as we had hoped it would be. Our younger son, having just gotten over the stomach bug, was now fighting a sinus cold. Exhausted and ready for a nap, he felt uncomfortable and kept whining, finally laying down on the sidewalk and refusing to walk any farther. I wasn’t the only one dealing with brain fog. The fuzziness continued into Saturday and Sunday during a roadtrip to visit our family. By this point, the weather went from sunny 14C on Friday to snow and 2C on Sunday. Once again, I slept in until 9:30 and woke up feeling not only tired but also with a sore throat. By this point, our youngest child had a runny nose, and I knew I was headed toward the same outcome. Suffice it to say that I was not a lively conversationalist during Easter brunch at my in-laws’.

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Our plans for a lively, fun weekend didn’t work out the way we had hoped they would. I’m still dealing with sleep debt and had a difficult time getting up on Monday to prepare for the new work week. I haven’t stepped on my yoga mat in the past four days, and now I have come down with a cold.

But I’m not writing this to whine.

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Despite the exhaustion, despite the strange (and somewhat depressing) weather patterns, despite the busy pace, I am grateful. I am grateful for another weekend spent with our loved ones. I am grateful for good food. For strong coffee. For cuddles with my favourite people. For warm hospitality. For Easter chocolate. I am grateful for a small window of time, thanks to my parents’ offer to babysit, when Pawel and I were able to head out on Saturday night to the book store once the kids were quietly snuggled in bed together. I am grateful for the ever-growing stack of books by my bedside. I am grateful for hot tea to soothe a sore throat. I am grateful for the beautiful warm, sunny days and the promise of spring. I’m also grateful for snow and rain, because chilly grey days remind us to slow down and take better care of ourselves. I am grateful for events that don’t work out as planned. I am grateful for the reminder to make the most of every day, to enjoy it all to the maximum, even when gratitude is the last sense I want to cultivate.

Here’s to a fantastic week! Let’s make the most of it, every day!

Are you enjoying this blog? Share it with a friend via email or your favourite social media platform!

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What I have been reading:

What Compassion Looks Like: The Lesson of the Flowers  – a brilliant article by Karen Maezen-Miller. I keep picking up her book, Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood, whenever I need advice. I first read this book when my firstborn was only two months old. My copy of the book is dog-eared and underlined.

When I Married My Mother  by Jo Maeder. A memoir of a woman caring for her aging, ill mother.

Insight Yoga by Sarah Powers. This book has been on my ‘To Read’ list for the past few years, since I attended an incredible workshop led by Sarah Powers. I’m happy to have finally acquired it.

Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin. I read and loved Rubin’s The Happiness Project  and had to get my hands on her latest publication. By the way, I still have Happier at Home: The Days are Long but the Years are Short on my ‘To Read’ list. I think I will pick it up after I finish Better than Before.

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Image courtesy of http://jaymantri.com/

My eyes scan the long lined piece of paper in my left hand. In black ink, I have crossed out the blue items I have already completed. Yet, there are still so many blue words on the page, uncrossed, and not very attractive.

I dislike the word ‘busy.’ I’m not looking to make myself ‘busy.’

I still have much to learn.

I surround myself with reminders.

I’m still learning to slow down, to stop rushing to get it all done.

Simplify the ‘to do’ list.

Focus on one task at a time.

Don’t over-analyze.

Ignore the mess.

Embrace the chaos.

Breathe.

Sleep when you can.

Have faith.

Trust that it will all work out.

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This week, I’m reminding myself to keep my mind and heart open to receive delightful surprises, such as this sneaky neighbourhood watcher whom we met during a Sunday afternoon walk.