There are many ancient traditions surrounding year-end holidays -- some of which that have held my family in good stead since making them part of own set of holiday traditions. One of these involves eating an apple on Christmas Eve, something that dates back to the time of Jesus Christ, when it was believed that doing so honored his mother, Mary. It's believed that everyone should eat an apple after the sun has set on Christmas Eve in order to ensure their own healthful Garden of Eden in the year ahead!
Another piece of advice suggests that taking any sort of cleansing bath on Christmas Eve will wash away all worries and troubles from the past six months, thereby allowing you a clean slate as you enter the next six months. The particular bath blend I grew up with involved combining pine needles, bay leaves and rosemary in a small pouch, then placing it in the tub before soaking.
So, you've guaranteed yourself good health for the year ahead by eating an apple on Christmas Eve, and you've washed the last six months' worth of cares down the drain. Now it's time for a little culinary celebration! You'll find a magically delicious recipe to help you do just that under December's "Recipe of the Month."
A very healthy, happy, and prosperous holiday season to you and all of yours -- from me and mine!
Hey fashionistas, here's a thought! While you're decking your halls with boughs and holly, why not think about decking yourself out in a great new outfit as well? It doesn't matter if you find the perfect red suit with a fab black patent belt and some swinging white trim, or if you've had your eye on a new LBD forever. The entire idea here is to do something special for yourself -- and your closet as well!
See, the tenets of Feng Shui say that at least once a year, you should commence a thorough cleansing of your closet to rid yourself of anything and everything you haven't worn in the last two years (or the last two sizes -- whichever takes precedence). And of course, this advice strongly suggests that you share your old clothes with someone who could make new use of them.
The results of such a charitable effort will be twofold. On one hand, you'll make space to welcome more au courant couture into your own closet -- the one you've just proactively cleared in order to create space for something (or even someone!) new and special to enter your life. And of course, the additional implication of donating worthy pieces of your wardrobe is fabulously karmic in nature: Remember that what you give away with empowered intent always boomerangs back threefold to support a positive intention you may have been keeping hidden in -- where else -- your closet!
Now, about that brand new outfit. Feng Shui also holds that whenever you get all decked out in something shiny and new, your sense of self-esteem and self-worth rises and your stress level actually decreases! So why not give yourself the invaluable gift of self-confidence this holiday season and spend a little quality cash on a gift that will really keep on giving?
Have a very merry couture Christmas!
Before you start making any New Year's resolutions, why not make some early holiday ones instead -- all aimed at keeping you happy, harmonious and in a holiday state of mind?
Commit yourself to going for a walk outdoors every day for at least 10-15 minutes each time. Given all the season's indulgences, this one simple and empowering act will most assuredly keep you a step ahead of stress. Taking time to commune with -- and lean on -- Mother Nature not only offers a chance to recharge and refuel, but also brings you "back to yourself" in as little as ten short minutes. After returning from your swift sojourn, take another few minutes to enjoy a warmed drink like ginger tea.
Now, if you're really serious about staying sane, draw the following bath mixture to keep you the picture of health -- all while sending stress straight down the drain!
Add one tablespoon of sesame oil to your warm bathwater, then place two tablespoons of uncooked rice and one chopped, unpeeled raw potato into a pouch. Suspend this pouch in the bathwater and climb into the tub. Recline, close your eyes and concentrate on the end of your tailbone; as you do this, massage the soles of your feet for a few minutes. This is an ancient Feng Shui cure for what ails you, and promises to leave you refreshed, recharged and ready to face the (holi)days ahead!
There is a recipe for spiced wine that's been a staple in German holiday celebrations for generations. It can be considered to be a mulled wine of sorts, especially since it's served hot and usually during the Yuletide season. In Germany, this wine is available in stores, and whole families partake (glasses offered to children are always watered down).
A ritual accompanies imbibing this holiday wine -- it starts fairly late on Christmas Eve. Families gather around "O Tannenbaum," where everyone gets a glass of this wine called gluwein, or "glow wine"; carols are sung while the wine is universally enjoyed, and each person recites a poem or story to celebrate the season. (Sounds so much better than breaking open a bottle of scotch and watching old Uncle Pete fall asleep in the barco, doesn't it?) This seasonal routine is believed to build up enthusiasm for Santa's visit later that night, as well as remind everyone of the importance of this high holiday -- a time of light's increasing return.
You can start by building a little light from within by sipping a little glass of gluwein. Gives new meaning to getting lit, eh?
8 cups of cabernet sauvignon
1/2 cup of sugar
10 whole cloves
9 sticks of cinnamon
6 slices of orange peel
3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
Mix all ingredients together in a large saucepan. Cover and simmer for an hour to an hour-and-a-half. Stir infrequently, then let cool slightly before serving warm.
During this most heavily traveled time of year, it's safe to say that a whole lot of us will be packing up and hitting the road to spend time with special family and friends. This might mean staying in hotels and motels along the highway, where the possibility of encountering bedbugs is becoming a more common situation lately than you may realize. In fact, I've had an exponential increase in inquiries regarding the efficacy of all-natural substances in repelling the scourge (and bite!) of these insidious insects.
So this month, let's take a look at herbs, essential oils and other holistic repellents before we hop on any planes, trains or packed-with-presents automobiles!
(But before we begin, let me say that, although I know substances deemed "all-natural" are appealing, such a designation doesn't necessarily mean these substances are universally safe or environmentally friendly. It's up to you to make sure you're familiar with the agent you use, and know how to use it correctly and safely.)
Adding 10-12 drops of any of the following essential oils to an atomizer filled with spring or distilled water can bring sweet relief to your worries about encountering these bitty biting bugs: cinnamon, lemongrass, clove, peppermint, lavender, thyme, tea tree and, finally, eucalyptus. Each of these oils has laid claim to both repelling and killing bedbugs. (A quick reminder that tea tree can be toxic to both humans and pets if used in an incorrect or inappropriate dosage.)
I include this piece of advice not so much because of the holistic nature of the antidote, but because I know a few people who have used it to success: Vaseline, the most commonly recognized brand of petroleum jelly, can be applied to the legs of a bed (and any other common surface) to catch bedbugs. Although some say it's the smell that repels the bugs, there is no evidence to validate that claim. Rather, I might just think the bugs get caught in the goo ... but however it works its magic, petroleum jelly does seem to do the bug-disappearing trick.
Instead of taking to drink to make this infestation easier to swallow, why not rub alcohol in this wound instead? Rubbing alcohol, combined with two parts water and then sprayed around the bedbuggy space, has been known to kill these critters on contact. It is not, however, a repellent.
Another all-natural insect repellent and pesticide is neem oil, a derivative made from the seeds and/or leaves of the neem tree. Neem is reportedly the most heavily used (and researched) herbal remedy in India, the country from which this tree hails, and Indians consider this tree sacred, even going so far as to call it the "village pharmacy." Although neem oil has been shown to be effective in repelling both mosquitoes and lice, it doesn't seem to have 100 percent efficacy in fighting off bedbugs, so I wouldn't use it as a repellent. However, I'd be sure to slather it on my body before getting under any covers that aren't my own, while additionally spraying the sheets with either the aforementioned alcohol or essential oil repellent remedies.
Diatomaceous earth is another substance that kills pests naturally. This non-toxic powder is made from a ground-up rock called diatomite, and because it's a mineral, it won't evaporate or break down over time.
BLACK WALNUT DUST
According to a host of field guides regarding the use of medicinal plants as effective insecticides, some anecdotally tout the efficacy of black walnut dust as a repellent and active destroyer of bedbugs.
Remember, if you come across bedbugs during your travels, the last thing you want to do is bring an unexpected souvenir home with you. So, be sure to spray the inside of your luggage and any other bags before you head home!
The Winter Solstice, a day that falls a few days before Christmas each year, is a time reflective of ancient themes related to the Sun in myth, legend and lore. At the core of Winter Solstice celebrations is the idea of sacred light: In many traditions and cultures, light was viewed as savior and redeemer, an ideal that likely arose from primitive fears of darkness and all things that go bump in the night. To most of our ancestors, the darkness hid predators and enemies, and true nightmares certainly did exist. To them, the ancient world was saved daily by the arrival of the powerful Sun god. The Winter Solstice marks the rebirth of this ancient god who renews and restores with sacred light, and who is viewed as the newborn god of light, sometimes called the "Child of Promise."
Certain older customs connect the Sun god to the evergreen tree or sacred oak. Mistletoe, which grows in abundance on the oak, is another important symbol in Yule celebrations. We know mistletoe today as a decoration that can elicit a kiss from anyone standing beneath it, but that custom stems from mistletoe's former role in ancient fertility and healing rites. The Sun god's link to trees was also the catalyst behind making evergreen and mistletoe part of our own personal celebrations.
Anytime after the Winter Solstice on December 22, hang some mistletoe in every corner of your dining room and kitchen to introduce prosperity into your New Year. While you're at it, hang a branch or two of evergreen over your outside entryway to keep evil, darkness and negativity at bay. Not only will you be symbolizing the renewal of life all around you, you'll also actively invite the divine principle of eternal life to be embodied within these bows and branches now hanging all around your house. And that's one Yuletide visitor you'll want to have stay awhile!