Winter Herbal Companions Part 1

This is the first in a series of blog posts where I’ll be sharing about herbs that can be helpful to use in the winter months.

Safety Note: Please remember that each individual person has different wellness needs and responds to herbs in unique and varying ways. Always do your homework and research herbs for yourself, including the contraindications of herbs with pharmaceutical medications or medical conditions, and check with your healthcare practitioner before taking any new medicine, herbal or otherwise.

The Northeast is getting a taste of Winter at last, and at our house soup is simmering on the stove and cups of herbal tea warm us throughout the day. As someone who is waking up to the wonders of herbs a little more each day, I look for ways to bring them into my life each season.

With Winter comes the desire to keep well, to strengthen our immune systems, to aid digestion, to encourage calm and grounding, and to get a good night’s sleep. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share about herbs I am working with as well as why and how I’m using them.

The first herb I’ll introduce is Tulsi. It’s an Indian, Ayurvedic herb in the basil family that grows year-round in warm climates and as an annual in cooler climates. Its minty, floral, herbal aroma and taste has a warming, energizing quality to it.

Why I use it:

  1. Tulsi is beneficial for and supports the respiratory system. It helps keep airways clear and decreases Kapha congestion. If one has a cough or cold, it suppresses coughing (it’s antitussive).
  2. Tulsi strengthens and supports the immune system. In Ayurveda we say that it builds ojas (strength, immune system) and prana (vitality). Read more here.
  3. Tulsi soothes the digestive tract, particularly the colon/large intestine. If you ever have Vata-type issues with your digestion like gas, Tulsi will ease this problem (it’s carminative).
  4. Tulsi is beneficial for moods: helping us cope with stress and feel less depressed or anxious.

How I use it:

  • I drink Tulsi tea. Right after we got our boosters in December, Alan and I drank Tulsi for several days straight. An easy way to make it is in a French press, but you could use a tea strainer as well.
  • I diffuse Tulsi essential oil in this aromatherapy blend.
  • I rub this Immune Boost Balm I made with Tulsi essential oil on my lymph nodes on my neck and under my arms ( as I did after my vaccines and booster) as well as whenever I’m feeling like I need some immune system support. I also will rub the balm on the bottoms of my feet.
  • I also use this massage oil with Tulsi essential oil after a shower when I need a boost.

Want to read more about Tulsi? Check out herbalist Rosalee de la Foret’s article here.

What herbs would you like to learn more about in this space? Let me know in the comments below!

Contraindications: Tulsi is not recommended for those who are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or those who are nursing. Also not recommended for those with low blood sugar. Always check with your healthcare practitioner before using any supplement or essential oil.

Health Disclaimer: Any statements or claims about the possible health benefits of any herbs I mention in this blog post are my own opinions and have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease or condition. Please see your health care professional if you need medical treatment of any kind.)

Fourth Day of Christmas

Reader friends, a most joyous of winter holiday celebrations to you, if you celebrate any, and good wishes for a happy, healthy, prosperous new year.

This year, I celebrated the Winter Solstice/Yule for the first time with my daughter and husband. It was a simple, homespun evening baking, cooking, making mulled wine (another first), setting the table with fresh evergreens, crystals, and a beeswax candle, the reading of a David Whyte poem, and a fire in the cold, wild, and windy night. It was such a beautiful start to a new tradition.

Ella & me on Solstice night

And now, after a fleeting Advent season, we are celebrating the twelve days of Christmas, another tradition I’m building upon each year. I didn’t know till I was in my thirties that the twelve days of Christmas, now relegated to the song by the same title, is a long-forgotten but rich tradition that allowed the magic, joy, and wonder to ring out for a dozen days and nights. At the end of which is a twelfth night celebration, and then the Feast of the Epiphany or Three Kings Day.

I love these twelve days between the old year and then the first few of the new. We usually spend them quietly, with Christmas carols playing in the background, candles, trees, fresh greens, fairy lights, good food and drink, books, puzzles, favorite films, and creative pursuits. Yule, which predates Christmas, overlaps part of the twelve days, so as I learn more, I incorporate more delightful merriment into the season.

Whether you have children at home, adults, or you live by yourself, I encourage you to seek out beautiful traditions that are meaningful to you. They can add a depth, a richness to your daily life, to your years. They’re worth the work, the planning, and the extra-ness because you will look forward to the splendor, the enchanted, transformative quality of the traditions you choose to call your own.

I’d love to hear about your winter traditions and celebrations, wherever you are in the world.

On the doorstep of Advent

A previous Advent arrangement.

This afternoon I brought out all my advent books and am readying the wreath-of-sorts that I’ll be using this year. It’s simple: a plate with four beeswax taper candles and freshly cut evergreens to fill it in and make it more festive.

As I learn more about the traditions of other, older cultures and religions, I’ll admit to conflicted feelings when it comes to the Christian observances and celebrations I’ve come to hold dear. Christianity stole much of what was meaningful from “the pagans” and put its own name and “more holy” stamp on the seasonal feasts and holy days. The fact that this religion that I loved my whole life is attached to colonization, to genocide means that there is a darkness, a shadow side to it.

Where I am landing right now is within the word syncretism which is the combination of different forms of beliefs or practices. I have my roots in Christianity, for better or for worse, and that’s where I feel most at home, but my respect and interest in other belief systems grows all the time. I have added observances of other days including the Celtic wheel of the year.

But tomorrow, I will light the first candle amidst the darkness of these short days. I will sing a carol and ponder a reading in one of my many devotional books. And I will revel in the beauty and mystery of the story.

Another Advent candle arrangement from a previous year.

The Magic of Found Objects, a book review

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small compensation at no extra cost to you. This helps keep my blog ad-free.

The Magic of Found Objects by Maddie Dawson is a heartwarming tale of a woman becoming herself, of discovering what she really wanted in life, who was important to her. It’s a love story and a family story and I found it captivating

Phronsie grew up with a troubled home life, idolizing her hippie mom who she didn’t get to see, despising her dedicated, caring stepmom who she thought was an interfering control freak, and trying to stay on the good side of her bad-tempered father.

Now a successful career woman in her thirties wanting to settle down and start a family, Phronsie still hasn’t dealt with the pain from her growing up years.

And speaking of settling down, her best friend thinks that since they each haven’t found suitable mates they should marry each other. They do get along so well after all.

Is this what love is supposed to be–comfortable, dependable, stable? Is there more?

Read what Phronsie discovers about true love, parenting, responsibility, following one’s heart, and more in The Magic of Found Objects. Highly recommended!

I received a free e-copy from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Food Saved Me, a book review

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small compensation at no extra cost to you. This helps keep my blog ad-free.

I’ve enjoyed Danielle Walker’s cookbooks and followed her journey on Instagram for years, so it was a treat to read her new memoir, Food Saved Me. Her story was especially interesting because I also live with food intolerances and chronic health issues.

The book is laid out in a linear fashion: from before she first became ill to the present time. She shared her experiences in her clear, sweet Danielle style: very personal and vulnerable. We get a behind-the-scenes look at a young woman who was hit with ulcerative colitis and, with the support of her husband, sought for answers and relief from Western and alternative medicine, herbal and other supplements, and dietary changes.

Her success as a cookbook author started in her own kitchen as she tirelessly experimented and learned how to make delicious dishes, including childhood favorites, with whole, unprocessed foods and without a long list of foods that trigger flare-ups. If you like cooking, cookbooks, and food blogs, you’ll love reading about how she became a household name–especially among those of us who have dietary restrictions.

She takes us through both the times of sunlight and dark despair. And although she is adamant that what she eats has made the biggest difference in her health, she doesn’t hide the fact that medication has been necessary at certain points.

At the end of the book are helpful lists of both recommended foods and those to steer clear of, as well as several recipes. And her husband, Ryan, has a helpful and encouraging note for the partners of those with chronic illness.

I loved this book because Danielle is very open and honest about her own journey. And I also appreciate that it’s a message of encouragement and hope that a person with an autoimmune disease can get through the difficult times, learn to thrive, and learn to cook and eat delicious, healthy food as well.

If you’re interested in cooking or food blogs, you’ll enjoy this book, but you’ll also want to read it if you have dietary restrictions. Or gift a copy to someone who does! Food Saved Me will be released on Tuesday September 14th.

  • I received a free e-book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, a Book Review

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small compensation at no extra cost to you. This helps keep my blog ad-free.

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World of Whiteness is a book that white people need to read. Especially if you consider yourself a Christian. It’s important because we need to understand what it is like to live each day as a Black person in white organizations and institutions so that we can change our thoughts and behavior and evolve.

In her memoir, Austin Channing Brown shares her experience of growing up, going to school & to college, going to church, and working as a Black woman in a white world. I’ll admit to feeling tired just reading it because it was so difficult to read about how she has been treated. And as someone with Christian roots, I felt deeply ashamed and sickened to learn that this is how many white “Christians” treat Black people.

The author describes the mental and emotional labor involved in getting hired and working for white organizations that claim they want a diverse staff and are anti-racist but act the opposite; the daily micro-aggressions that she experiences; the strategies she sets up in order to protect herself; how the feelings of white co-workers must be catered to so they will always feel good around her. And on and on.

This is not a feel-good book. It’s an opportunity for white people like myself to listen to and learn more about the Black experience of living in the U.S. And as the author says, to not end with dialogue and mere conversation, but to act on what we learn.

“Reconciliation is the pursuit of the impossible — an upside-down world where those who are powerful have relinquished that power to the margins. It’s reimagining an entirely different way of being with one another. Reconciliation requires imagination. It requires looking beyond what is to what could be. It looks beyond intentions to real outcomes, real hurts, real histories. How just, how equitable can our efforts be? What would it take to enact reparations, to make all things right?” (p. 171 &172)

I highly recommend I’m Still Here I hope you’ll put it on your TBR and read it soon.

We Should All Be Millionaires, a Book Review

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small compensation at no extra cost to you. This helps keep my blog ad-free.

Rachel Rodgers (owner of Hello Seven) shares her own story of growing up poor, working hard through law school, to becoming a lawyer, and then her years of growing a seven figure business.

This is not a book on how to get rich quick. Rather, the author presents many mindsets and hangups that prevent us from building wealthy and then shows us how to change our thinking.

The author encourages us to have focus, to have boundaries and to follow through on our goals as business owners and entrepreneurs instead of caving to every family member and friend’s whim and request. It’s ok to say no. She addresses the division of labor in heterosexual households and how to have conversations with one’s partner on this subject.

There are practical chapters on how to price your work, how to find a “squad” or group of likeminded people who can encourage you to stay the course. And toward the end of the book, there is a $10,000 in 10 Days Challenge. I told you it’s audacious!

Did I mention that Rachel Rodgers is funny? No matter how serious the content about making money is, she will make you laugh throughout the book.

Personally, this book came my way at a time when I was in a business slump and the message really encouraged me and re-energized me to go after my entrepreneurial goals again. I even bought a copy for my daughter for her eighteenth birthday.

We Should All Be Millionaires is a book that most women need to read and I highly recommend it.

Rooted (A Book Review)

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small compensation at no extra cost to you. This helps keep my blog ad-free.

In her new book Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature, and Spirit Lyanda Lynn Haupt weaves together her love of nature, insights as a naturalist, life experiences, and philosophical musings as a creative, imaginative, and spiritual person. It is a delightful, informative, and thought-provoking read.

I enjoyed the personal stories that connected her deep love for the natural world that began as a child to her interest in spiritual matters that began with her Catholic upbringing and expanded to other religions and philosophies as she grew older.

The varied topics of frogs, moths, and birds, the reciprocal relationship between trees, earthing, forest bathing, Jungian philosophy, mindfulness, the life of Rachel Carson, the writings of Thomas Merton, camping solo, and night vision captured my attention and stirred my imagination.

The chapter “Relate” with the story of the kidnapping of the Salish Sea orcas in the 1960s and 1970s hit me hard. I’d never heard that tale before, but my innate antipathy towards aquariums and zoos was justified as I read.

In the same chapter, she brings up Descarte’s “I think therefore I am” statement that divided mind and matter, that further separated humans from nature, and encouraged us to think of ourselves as the only life forms with consciousness.

While this book speaks the hard truth, it is upbeat, nonjudgmental, and encourages us toward more connection and healing.

Now that we are on the edge of losing it all, some of us are slowly waking up, shedding our shoes, and taking barefooted steps back into the heart of nature, listening, reconnecting with our many plant and animal sisters and brothers, relearning the ways to reintegrate ourselves with nature. To become again. This book inspires us along these lines.

Read Rooted. You’ll be glad you did.

*I received a free e-galley from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

People We Meet On Vacation, A Book Review

Hi readers, today I have a book to share that’s a bright and relaxing read. I am trying to add more of these in my life, as I often choose stacks non-fiction, mysteries or weightier fiction.

Just the right mix of romance, travel, and lighthearted fun made reading People We Meet On Vacation by Emily Henry a delight. Although I normally find books that tell a story by going back and forth between time periods a bit tedious, this one worked for me.

Told from Poppy’s perspective, we follow her and her best friend, Alex, as she weaves the present day and the past ten years of their vacation experiences together. No matter what they have going on in their lives, where they are, or who they’re currently in a relationship with, they meet up each year for a week-long trip somewhere together.

These two are so different which is what makes them so wrong for each other romantically. Or so they think. They remain just friends while attempting to dance around the fact of their attraction for one another. Will they remain best friends? Will they become lovers? Or will this ruin their relationship for good?

Highly recommended summer reading!

The Heron’s Cry, A Book Review

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small compensation at no extra cost to you. This helps keep my blog ad-free.

What I enjoy in each book by Ann Cleeves is her cast of troubled, quirky, fascinating, and lovable characters combined with a satisfying murder to solve.

Just as she’s done in her Shetland and Vera Stanhope series, her new Two Rivers series provides characters I care about and mysteries that stump me every time.

DI Matthew Venn lives with his husband, Jonathan, in a house by the seashore. Matthew’s religious past still haunts him, but he makes a very good detective. Jonathan runs a local non-profit called “The Woodyard” that employs differently-abled people through a café and provides studio space and hosts events for local artists. The murders in The Heron’s Cry do involve The Woodyard and artists, just like the first book did.

Detective Jen Rafferty, a single mother of two teens, also features in this book. She does excellent detective work and feels guilty that she can’t spend as much time with her kids as she’d like.

The Heron’s Cry begins early on with a ghastly murder that leads Matthew and the team to interview families of people who died by suicide and to investigate the health care facilities that treated them. They uncover a dark online club, the true story behind an incident in the past, and find the trail that points them to the person who connects it all together. Will they solve the case before yet another murder is committed?

If you like Ann Cleeves’ books, you will enjoy The Heron’s Cry. The release date is September 7, 2021. (If you like these books, there is good news: The Long Call, the first book in this series, is being made into a new TV series to be released on BritBox in early 2022!!!)