Friday, December 30, 2016

Myddfai Reiki: 6 Potent Healing Herbs for Cold and Flu

It's that time of year again, when you and everyone else in the world is prone to sneezes, snuffles, and worse. (My household has already been hit a couple times now.) If you're reluctant to pour DayQuil into everyone, try these helpful tips from Michelle Schoffro Cook instead:

6 Potent Healing Herbs for Cold and Flu

‘Tis the season of comfort and joy as the carol remind us, but it is also the season of socializing and with that comes the spread of cold and flu viruses. Fortunately, you don’t just have to suffer. There are many great herbs for colds and flu—both to keep your immune system strong to prevent these nasty infections or to help your body fight them off. Here are some excellent choices:

Echinacea—Who hasn’t turned to this beautiful flowering plant for help preventing or fighting off a nasty virus or to shorten the duration of time spent suffering from a cold or flu? Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea or Echinacea angustifolia) has become the go-to herb for just such occasions for good reason: it works. Research in the journal Advances in Therapy found that Echinacea extracts significantly reduce the risk of recurring respiratory infections. Other research in the journal Cell Immunology has also been shown to reduce the severity of symptoms of respiratory infections. Use one teaspoon of the dried herb per cup of boiling water. Drink one cup three times daily at the first signs of a cold or flu.

Elderberry—One of the best antiviral herbs, dried elderberries, elder leaves or flowers can give your immune system the boost it needs to fend off viruses, including colds and flu. David Hoffman, FNIMH, AHG, herbalist and author of the book Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine, reports that an alcohol extract of elderberry was effective in laboratory tests against ten strains of influenza virus. It also reduced the duration of flu symptoms for 3 to 4 days in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study. Use two teaspoons of the dried flowers or herb per cup of boiling water. Drink one cup three times daily at the first signs of a cold or flu and throughout the infection.

Garlic—Garlic is a well-established antimicrobial herb. According to renowned botanist James Duke, author of The Green Pharmacy, garlic contains several different antimicrobial compounds that can help while battling colds and flu. One of the most antiviral compounds is known as allicin. Thanks to its pungent flavor and aroma, garlic is best suited as additions to foods like soups, stews, chili, curries or other savory fare, but it doesn’t make a particularly good tasting herbal tea. Alternatively, you can crush one clove of fresh garlic and mix it into a teaspoon of honey and eat at least one per day to help prevent or eliminate a cold or flu.

Lemon Balm—One of the most anti-viral herbs available, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), has been proven effective against the herpes virus but it can also help with cold and flu viruses. That’s because, according to Dr. Duke, lemon balm quickly and effectively slows the entry of the virus into the cells. Use one teaspoon of the dried herb per cup of boiling water. Drink one cup three times daily at the first signs of a cold or flu and throughout the infection. Keep in mind that lemon balm is not the same as lemongrass.

Peppermint—Peppermint (Mentha piperita) has natural antiviral properties but its potent vapors also help to alleviate sinus congestion linked with colds or flu. Use one teaspoon of the dried herb per cup of boiling water. Drink one cup three times daily at the first signs of a cold or flu and throughout the infection. If your sinuses are severely packed, you can also make a peppermint tea that you cool and use as a facial spritzer.

Yarrow—In the herbal world, yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is known as a diaphoretic herb—one that induces sweating. The skin is your body’s largest detoxification organ, and in some cases of high fever or serious infection, sweating is one of the best ways for the body to reduce its internal temperature and eliminate toxic buildup linked to infection. Many herbalists, myself included, recommend the use of yarrow in combination with potent antibacterial herbs like ginger and Echinacea to combat infections. Use one teaspoon of the dried herb per cup of boiling water. Drink one cup three times daily.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

11 Homemade Beauty Gifts For Everyone On Your List from Hello Glow!

Never mind giving these as gifts; I want to make a bunch for myself! However, the wonderful people I work with will definitely enjoy these.  

11 Homemade Beauty Gifts For Everyone On Your List

It’s the season for giving and, as always, we’re all about taking the homemade route. There’s so much joy and care in making your own gifts, plus you get to save some dollars and your own sanity (who wants to go to the crowded malls this time of the year? not me!). Give the gift of homemade beauty with these 11 ideas:
11 Homemade Beauty Gifts Everyone Will Love - Melt + Pour Soaps
1. Rosemary & Eucalyptus Soap can be made in big batches in no time with this easy melt-and pour-technique. Bundle two or three together for a lovely stocking stuffer.

11 Homemade Beauty Gifts Everyone Will Love - Solid Perfume
2. Sandalwood Vanilla Solid Perfume works for everyone and it’s easy to customize the containers with a pretty, seasonal label.
11 Homemade Beauty Gifts Everyone Will Love - Cheek Stain + Lip Gloss
3. Creamy DIY Lip and Cheek Stain is the perfect multitasking beauty product to give your BFF! You can play around with the beet root powder to get the color intensity you love.
11 Homemade Beauty Gifts Everyone Will Love - Body Spray
4. Homemade Jasmine Aloe Perfume Body Spray is a refreshing treat for any woman. It’s lightweight and beautifully scented to remind you of summer.
11 Homemade Beauty Gifts Everyone Will Love - Detox Bath Salts
5. Himalayan Pink Salt Detox Bath Salt is the absolute easiest thing you could make! The bath salts look beautiful and they’re super relaxing to use.

11 Homemade Beauty Gifts Everyone Will Love - Clay Facial Soap
6. Homemade Almond Vanilla Clay Facial Soap is gentle on the skin, which makes it perfect for winter, and surprisingly easy to make in bigger batches.

11 Homemade Beauty Gifts Everyone Will Love - Bath Bombs
7. Aromatherapy Bath Bombs are such a little luxury during the stressful holiday season! Save some for yourself and give them to everyone on your list.
11 Homemade Beauty Gifts Everyone Will Love - Body Oil Spray
8. Vanilla Clove Body Oil Spray is like a big tray of freshly baked cookies for your skin. Who wouldn’t want that in their Christmas stocking?
11 Homemade Beauty Gifts Everyone Will Love - Bubble Bath
9. Honey Vanilla Bubble Bath is a great excuse to take time for yourself and enjoy a relaxing soak in the tub. Your friends will appreciate this gift!
11 Homemade Beauty Gifts Everyone Will Love - Sugar Scrub
10. Vanilla Sugar Cookie Body Scrub + Soak is the perfect combination of thoughtful and personal–and who doesn’t love the smell of cookies on their skin?
11. DIY candles in the slow cooker will save you a lot of time and effort, so you can make many candles at once! Mix in some essential oils to give them an aromatherapy boost.

Myddfai Reiki: How to Avoid Getting Sick When Everyone Around You Already Is (from Care2)

This information comes a bit late for me, as I am on day 2 of Rest At Home following the sinus infection from Hell. (I'm going back to work tomorrow, no matter what it takes!) Still, a little second-hand info isn't all bad; it may help keep me from a second bout of the plague. And if you haven't been struck down yet, here's some advice on how to avoid becoming so:

How to Avoid Getting Sick When Everyone Around You Already Is

It happens every year. The holidays approach, the weather cools, and just as the season really begin to get busy, you begin to feel sick. We all know the feeling: fatigue, headache, sore throat, low energy. Why does the winter seem to be married to illness?

The answer, according to Dr. Anthony Lyon with the Ash Center in New York, is a combination of overtiring our bodies at the exact time we ask them to battle the cold weather. And when you add the element of enclosure—more people are cooped up together in the winter months, germs spreading as the heat blasts—well, it’s a sure recipe for sickness.

So how can you protect yourself when everyone at the office is catching the flu? The trick isn’t to avoid the ill, but to focus on priming your body to fight off any pending sickness that may be sneezed your way.

In addition to eating well (come on, leafy greens!) and avid hand-washing, Dr. Lyon offers tips for staying well, even when you seem to be the only one.

Breathe better. Lyon suggests you battle exhaustion—a leading cause of illness—by improving the way you breathe. Lyon notes that improper breathing can impact the 5 main reasons why you feel tired: sleep disruption; overwhelming stress or anxiety; gastrointestinal upset and suboptimal digestion; immune system dysregulation; and chronic neck and low back pain.
So how can you breathe better?

“When asked to take a deep breath, most people bow out their chest, lift their shoulders to their ears and breathe in a  very vertical manner,” says Lyon. “This is the style we have adopted after years of reacting to challenging situations, including physical or emotional trauma. But, by breathing like this, you are actually perpetuating a sense of fear and unrest by sending a signal to your brain that you are in ‘flight or fight’ mode. Instead, expand your abdomen when you inhale and make it look like a pregnant belly, which engages your diaphragm, and dissipates turmoil by telling your vagus nerve that all is fine and it is okay to rest, relax and digest.” Lyon explains that when you can rest, relax and digest, you give your body the best chance to restore and recover, and protect itself from germy invaders.

Move your muscles. Lyon promotes movement as a surefire way to stay healthy. And while any physical activity is great for keeping your systems moving, Lyon says that weight training to build stronger muscles can help ward off winter illness. “We are only starting to learn all of the health benefits that strong muscle confers, including its role as an endocrine gland,” says Lyon. “Muscles secrete proteins, hormones and other vitally important messenger molecules that send signals to direct essential activities elsewhere. Keep your muscle happy so your immune system will be primed and ready to go.”

Adjust your bedtime. We all know catching enough zzzs can help us feel rested and give our body ample time to fight potential illness. But Lyon stresses it’s not just how much you sleep (aim for 7-8 hours), but when. Lyon recommends falling asleep by 10pm at the latest. “By going to bed at a decent hour, your sleep will be physiologic – which means it is congruent with your body’s normal functioning. Right around 10pm is when certain organs need to start the housekeeping work to prepare you for the next day, including your brain, which needs to detoxify from the day you just had. When you stay up late, the housekeeping cannot be completed, leaving you fatigued the next day.” If you have a ton of tasks on your to-do list, Lyon says you’ll be better off turning in at a decent time and waking up early.


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Simple Gifts...Happy St. Nicholas Day!

   Those of you that have been reading steadily will know that my family is of Swedish and German heritage, and my husband is of Finnish and Polish descent (among other things). As a result, we have learned about various traditions from these countries, and by far our children's favorite is of course St. Nicholas Eve, which was last night, December 5. Our little boys set their boots by the door and left a carrot for Santa's pony, then we read a story I wrote (which I will not post here, but you can find it at if you are interested: )

     Santa doesn't leave many things when he stops by on St. Nicholas Eve, just a few trinkets to let good children know how much he appreciates their efforts at being good. Today each of the boys found a small hand-sized ball, a pair of holiday-stripey socks, a wooden car and a small package of gingerbread cookies. Nothing fancy. Nothing electronic, light-up, noise-making, battery-powered...nada. In fact, what they found was very similar to what my grandfather, born in 1907 to a Swedish immigrant mother and a hard-working, no-nonsense Anglo-American father, may have very well found in his boots on St. Nicholas Day when he was 7 years old. And they were delighted. I woke up to giggles, squeals, and "oh my gosh, Mush left some of his carrot in front of the door!" (apparently Santa's pony missed a bit)

   The boys, usually very argumentative first thing in the morning showed off their gifts to each other, gave hugs, and Bubbah wished Cubby a 'Happy St. Nicholas Day!' We were a little late heading out the door this morning, but their joy was palpable, and they carried their excitement into the daycare, where Cubby couldn't wait to show off his firetruck and ball, and Bubbah sat down to tell the other kids about what St. Nicholas Eve was.

   Bubbah has his own LeapPad Ultra tablet and a Playstation 2 (his sister's old one, but still: a seven year old with a Playstation...I feel like a failure somehow); Cubby has obnoxiously vast amounts of light-up noise-making cars and trucks and trains. And yet this morning, they found incredible happiness in a few very simple toys and socks. It is a reminder that gift-giving doesn't have to be an eventful to-do. The real meaning of gift-giving is to give from the heart, and to receive with joy.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Ellie's Kitchen: 6 Comforting Squash Recipes For Any Fall Day

6 Comforting Squash Recipes For Any Fall Day

Fall might be all about the Halloween candy for some, but this time of year also brings with it a bountiful harvest of winter squash. If the most squash you consume during the season comes via pumpkin spice latte, it’s time to expand your culinary repertoire to include a variety of these nutrient-packed veggies.

Squash is packed with vitamins and minerals, including beta carotene from its bright orange hue, and has a mild and sweet flavor. Some varieties are perfect for sweet dishes and others pair perfectly with savory ingredients, making them an easy and delicious way to boost your vegetable intake during chilly, comfort food-laden months. Add a few of these recipes into your seasonal rotation and you will be a squash aficionado by Thanksgiving.

6 Comforting Squash Recipes For Any Fall DayPhoto: Care2
1. Winter Squash and Pear Soup with Sage
This warming soup can be made from just about any seasonal squash you find at the store or your local farm. Once you pick out your preferred gourd, pairing it with the sweetness of pears and the distinct flavors of garlic, onions and sage brings dinner to a whole new level. A dash of coconut milk makes it extra creamy.

2. Roasted Spaghetti Squash
One of the most versatile squashes out there, the spaghetti squash can replace pasta in just about any dish. If you have yet to try spaghetti squash, try it out with some olive oil, salt and pepper first to get a sense of its unique flavor and texture. Then, go wild with sauces and toppings!
6 Comforting Squash Recipes For Any Fall Day
3. Stuffed Acorn Squash with Barley, Apples and Walnuts
Possibly the most classic preparation for squash is to slice it in half, scoop out the seeds, and stuff it with a mixture of grains and veggies. Once these babies are baked, they are so soft you can eat them with a spoon. This unique filling is made of cooked barley, autumn apples and omega-packed walnuts.

4. Butternut Squash Lasagna
Now, here’s a fun spin on a classic! Lasagna noodles are layered with homemade marinara, tofu “ricotta,” butternut squash and a fragrant sage-pepita mixture on top. This unforgettable recipe will surely make itself a regular in your rotation.
6 Comforting Squash Recipes For Any Fall Day
5. Squash, Walnut and Apple Bread
For a warm brunch treat, try out this homemade bread flavored apples and walnuts. Pumpkin or fresh squash puree makes this loaf moist and delicious, perfect for a slather of coconut oil or vegan margarine for breakfast, alongside a cup of hot coffee.

6. Curried Butternut Squash Soup
When it’s cold outside, we need to turn up the heat a little. That’s exactly what this curried butternut squash soup does with a helping of curry powder and a dash of cayenne. Serve this with a chunk of baguette and you will be warmed from the inside out.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Myddfai Reiki: 5 Healthier Ways to Deal with Stress & Anxiety

5 Healthier Ways to Deal with Stress & Anxiety

 By: Jordyn Cormier

  • November 8, 2016
Everyone experiences stress from time to time. Stress and anxiety can feel like a heavy, suffocating weight, and many of us unfortunately don’t have sustainable methods of managing it. Instead of letting your mental anguish overtake you, here are some healthier suggestions to help you better manage those moments of crisis and turn that stress into productive energy.

Instead of: dwelling on the negative.
Try: engaging your brain.
If you’re feeling upset about political results, remember that change does not stop on Election Day. There are many ways to turn frustration into productive progress. If you cannot think about politics, try knitting, rock climbing or even doodling to help stop the carousel of negative thoughts. You may not feel like doing the activity at first, but, once you get into it, your head will feel a heck of a lot lighter and you may emerge with a brighter, more creative outlook.

Instead of: pulling up the covers and drawing the shades.
Try: getting outside.

Locking yourself up in a dark bedroom is only going to amplify your feelings of self-deprecation and loneliness. Even if all you want to do is curl up in a corner, forcing yourself to get outside has swift and major benefits. Light is often used to treat mood disorders such as depression, and sunlight exposure boosts both vitamin D production and serotonin levels, both of which will make you feel a little better on a chemical level. Additionally, a breath of fresh air may be all you need to put the world back into perspective.

Instead of: reaching for the ice cream or chips.
Try: getting some exercise.
When in doubt, exercise will always boost your endorphins. No matter your mood, an influx of these happy chemicals will surely brighten, or at least stabilize, your outlook. If you sit on your couch and shovel in junk food, you are guaranteed to feel even worse in a few hours. Instead of filling your body with junk, why not get rid of the junk? Exercising will help detoxify your system and reset both your mind and body. It’s an incredibly powerful tool to deal with stress and anxiety, and it is free!

Instead of: downing a few glasses of wine.
Try: drinking tea or broth.
Stress wreaks havoc on the body. Adding alcohol on top of that is a surefire way to weaken your immune system and make you feel worse in the long run. If you choose to indulge in alcohol now and again, do it for pleasure, not as a quick fix to mask your problems. Instead drink tea or broth to soothe your stresses. Tea is naturally calming. It forces you to slow down and fills your body with natural warmth. Bone broth is nutrient rich, warming and anti-inflammatory, meaning it will help thwart the inflammatory reaction stress causes in your body. Sure, you won’t get the same buzz you get from alcohol, but tea and broth are both comfort foods that far surpass alcohol in terms of relieving stress.

Instead of: trying to shove the problem away.
Try: communicating with someone who shares your values.
Be it a spouse, a parent, a friend or a therapist, we all need someone to talk to who will listen. Try finding people who share your values and ideology through meet up groups or speaking events.
Stress and anxiety are nothing to be ashamed of—we all experience them. What matters is how you deal with them when they come barging through your door. By doing your best to take a mindful approach, not only will you emerge from the darkness unscathed, but you’ll be stronger for it.
And always remember to breathe.
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Lulu's Library: 10 Early Chapter Books for Boys by Dena McMurdie


There are more quality chapter books for boys in existence now than ever before. If you’re wondering where to get started, check out these ten titles.
  • The Notebook of Doom series

    by Troy Cummings
    This series is perfect for boys who like things a little bit creepy and a lot action-packed. Each book features a new mystery, new monsters, and new problems for Alexander and his friends to solve.

    *Note from Nicole: My seven year old LOVES this series, and it was so much fun to sit down and read these ones with him! Completely wacky, but with subtle messages like believing in yourself and being brave, they really are a hit in our house :)

  • Alien in My Pocket series

    by Nate Ball, illustrated by Macky Pamintuan
    They may be small, but these aliens are determined to take over the earth! It’s up to Zack, Alice, and a little blue alien to save the world from invasion. With lots of illustrations, this series gives kids an extraterrestrial adventure they will love.

  • Eerie Elementary series

    by Jack Chabert, illustrated by Sam Ricks
    What would you do if your elementary school tried to eat you? Sam Graves is the new hall monitor and can’t help feeling like the school is out to get him. With the help of his two friends and a mysterious custodian, Sam must get the school under control before it devours every last student.

  • Dragon Masters series

    by Tracey West, illustrated by Graham Howells
    As Drake gets thrust into the world of dragon training, he learns about himself and the dragon he is entrusted with. This short, fully developed story has illustrations on every page and is perfect for kids just starting out with chapter books.

  • George’s Marvelous Medicine

    by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake
    Wacky situations and laugh-out-loud moments prevail in this short chapter book from one of the world’s greatest storytellers. It encourages kids to look on the bright side and believe in the impossible.

  • Danny’s Doodles: The Jelly Bean Experiment

    by David A. Adler
    Friendship, school drama, and humor make Danny’s Doodles a fun contemporary read. Danny shows kindness and maturity as he repeatedly goes out of his way to befriend a strange new boy at school.

  • The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog

    by John R. Erickson, illustrated by Gerald L. Holmes
    Kids that like to laugh will warm up to Hank the Cowdog real fast. Hank is a goofy ranch dog that takes his job and himself a little too seriously.

  • Geronimo Stilton series

    by Geronimo Stilton
    Geronimo is an easily spooked newspaper editor who gets pulled into one humorous adventure after another. Full-color illustrations and text features make this series entertaining and fun to read.

  • The Whipping Boy

    by Sid Fleischman, illustrated by Peter Sis
    For kids ready for bigger themes, The Whipping Boy is a quick, fast-paced book full of wisdom and heart. It delivers a full-scale story in a short, accessible format.

  • Flat Stanley: His Original Adventure

    by Jeff Brown, illustrated by Macky Pamintuan
    Who knew being flat could be so fun? Stanley can slide under doors, down drainage grates, and even act as a human kite. With lots of pictures and goofy situations, this is a short, delightful story that young readers have loved for generations.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

It's November 8, America.....

Image result for vote 2016

I don't care who, I don't care why, but please, please go exercise your right and vote!! Too many people in this world don't have the freedoms we do. Go protect those freedoms today. Vote.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Myddfai Reiki: 5 Ways to Clear and Bless Your Home this November, from Tess Whitehurst

5 Ways to Clear and Bless Your Home this November

In the Northern Hemisphere, the beginning of November is SO PERFECT for clearing and blessing.

Summer is certainly gone, and fall is inching toward winter as many of the flowers disappear and the trees surrender the last of their leaves. Samhain is passed, but the holiday season has not quite begun. There is a singular stillness: a clean energy filled with clarity and peace. Plus, the wheel of the harvest year has reached its end, so a new cycle has begun. 

Like I said: perfect time for clearing and blessing.

Not sure where to start? I've got you covered with these 5 simple ideas. Do one or do them all. Or riff on them and make them your own.

1. Burn white sage. Oh I know it's the old standby. But sweet and simple are perfect for this time of year. You know: no frills. 

2. Tie a bundle of fresh rosemary with blue ribbon and hang it over your front door. This brings freshness and clarity to the home while energetically protecting the home for winter and blessing the new cycle of the year that lies ahead.

3. Clear out your cupboards and fridge. We're about to enter a time of abundantly flowing food and a time when food banks will be more than happy to take your extras. So get all the expired and spoiled stuff out, and donate the stuff you know you'll never eat. You'll love the way your kitchen feels!

4. Clear digital clutter. Never underestimate the power of deleting all your old emails and downloads. Your home - and mind! - will feel so much clearer. 

5. Bake pumpkin or zucchini bread. As you stir the batter, direct positive energy into it through the spoon. As it bakes, send love and light into the loaf as you chant,
Sweetness, light, abundant wealth,
Laughter, joy, and vibrant health,
Fill our homes and fill our lives,
As we throughout this winter thrive.

As it bakes, feel and sense the blessing moving throughout your home in the form of the delicious scent. Then serve the bread to your family and/or loved ones (and eat some yourself!) to internalize the magic. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Thankful, Indeed.

   This is the first year in many that I will be hosting Thanksgiving, and in typical Cole fashion, I am browsing 'simple Thanksgiving table' images on Google rather than reading 'How to Read the Akashic Records' in preparation for my class on Sunday. (I did mention this is fairly typical for me, correct?) Part of me is wondering if I should even have people over for the holiday, as I don't have much space, and what space I do have is crammed with bookshelves (my fault), toys (not my fault), and various exercise equipment and laundry baskets (mostly my fault). Will a good vacuuming and dusting make this place presentable enough? Will everyone be squashed together like sardines? Only six people are invited, but add myself and my husband, and three of our six children (for dinner; two more may show up after the fact: one for pie, the other for a second dinner...and pie. Honestly, I have no idea where he puts it all. Yes, he is a 21 year old young man. Yes, he is a Sasquatch. But still.) and I'm looking at eleven seated around my beloved, care-worn, scarred kitchen table. Thirteen in my living room for tea and dessert, where the seating is even more limited.

      Should I even be worried?

     Of course not. The people invited to my house for Thanksgiving are all people that know and love my family, and are familiar with our home. They know we have littler children charging around the house; they expect cars, trains, trucks and robots to be scattered around the living room floor and plastic swords littering the hallway. They've been here before, and are familiar with my literary obsessions, which is why the shelf crammed with books by and about Alcott will elicit compliments and queries rather than sniffs. (Though I will make sure they are properly dusted just the same.)

     The people coming to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family aren't coming to look at my house. They are coming to celebrate togetherness and thankfulness, to enjoy a meal and share stories. I know I won't hear 'Your house is too small.' I'll hear 'Something smells good,' and 'Did you make this pie?' Words like 'I'm so happy we're together' will be said, not 'You need to dust more.' Music will be played, toasts made, and laughter shared. Yes, this week begins the frenzy of cleaning this place from end to end, but come November 23rd, I will look around and say 'Enough is as good as tomorrow's feast.' I will drape my green tablecloth over my dear table that is greatly in need of a facelift and lay out a mix of my white and my grandmother's red-and-white patterned 'Memory Lane' china. My husband will serve the cider-and-sage turkey as our little guy serves everyone a sweet potato roll and our older son ladles out mulled cider. Our dear friend (practically family, really) will be talking football with my husband's grandfather and my mother will be making friends with Grandpa's guest, an old friend of his. Really, the only one who won't enjoy the day will be the cat, who hates crowds, and pretty much everyone.

     I am aware that I am my harshest critic (who isn't, really?). I am also aware that it will take a great deal of effort to not try to make things 'better' for Thanksgiving, thereby spoiling the day for myself. I am going to do my best to live in the moment. We will be making memories that day, memories that I want to be able to reflect on days and months later with thankfulness and joy. I will prepare as best I can, and if on Thanksgiving morning the living room carpet doesn't get vacuumed, too bad. I'll just be thankful I have a carpet, and leave it at that. 

For a unique (and tasty) twist on your Thanksgiving pie display, try this recipe I found last year. It sounds really weird, but is in fact faboo!

Apple Cider Cream Pie (Recipe by Allison Kave via Food & Wine, November 2011)

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice and chilled
  • 3 tablespoons cold milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • I WILL STATE HERE AND NOW THAT I DID NOT MAKE THE CRUST. I bought a frozen one and baked it. Much easier, and far more cosmetically pleasing than any of my pie crusts ever come out.
Filling and Topping
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
In a food processor, combine the flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt. Add the butter and pulse in 1-second bursts until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Combine the milk and vinegar and drizzle it on top of the flour mixture. Pulse in 1-second bursts until the dough just comes together. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather up any crumbs and pat into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

On a floured work surface, roll the dough into an 11-inch round, a scant 1/4 inch thick; ease it into a 9-inch glass or ceramic pie plate. Trim the overhanging dough to 1 inch and fold it under itself. Crimp decoratively and chill the crust until firm, about 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425° F. Line the crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake in the lower third of the oven for about 15 minutes, until the crust is barely set. Remove the parchment and pie weights. Cover the edge of the crust with strips of foil and bake for about 10- 15 minutes longer, until the crust is just set but not browned. Press the bottom of the crust lightly to deflate it as it puffs; let cool. Lower the oven temperature to 350°.

In a medium saucepan, boil the cider until it’s reduced to 1/2 cup, about 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Whisk in 3/4 cup of the sugar, the sour cream and salt, then whisk in the eggs.
Pour the custard into the pie shell without removing the foil strips. Bake the pie in the lower third of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until the custard is set around the edge but the center is slightly jiggly.

Let the pie cool completely.

In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the heavy cream with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and the cinnamon until firmly whipped. Mound the whipped cream on the pie, cut into wedges and serve.

The pie is best eaten the day it is made, but it will keep for up to two days in the fridge. If you plan on making it in advance, do not top with the whipped cream until you are ready to serve.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Myddfai Reiki: How Does Daylight Savings Impact Your Health?

How Does Daylight Savings Impact Your Health?

For many, daylight savings means nothing more than setting your clocks back, and perhaps waking up in the dark for that pre-work yoga class. But it turns out daylight savings can impact much more than your gym schedule.
“Moving the clocks back an hour is an artificial change in our routine and can upset our circadian rhythm,” says Dr. Wayne Scott Andersen, Co-Founder of Take Shape For Life.
Andersen explains that before we invented clocks, we relied on our pineal gland, a light-sensitive pea-sized organ that secretes melatonin to help us know when to fall asleep. The gradual shift in day-length from summer to winter gives the pineal gland time to adjust. An overnight changing of the clocks does not.
But what does it look like when our circadian rhythm is thrown off whack? According to Andersen, this annual adjustment can not only disrupt our sleep pattern, but also our moods, eating habits, levels of stress and the time we set aside to exercise (remember the aforementioned pre-light wakeup call).


Eating habits
For some, daylight savings can lead to overeating, as our bodies struggle to adapt to the change in our sleep cycle. And even if we’re not prone to overeating, when your brain is foggy, your ability to make healthy eating decisions may be impaired, and you may be craving a sugary pick-me-up—so that box of cookies will look extra enticing.

Weight maintenance
“Sleep is nature’s nurse,” says Andersen. Our pillow time impacts every factor of weight maintenance, from appetite regulation to inflammation management. When we interrupt our sleep, we interrupt all of these processes. What does this mean? According to Andersen, our likelihood of overeating can go up and our energy levels and interest in exercise can go down.

“Daylight savings coincides with shorter winter days, which can lead to an uptick in the number of people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD),” explains Andersen. And even though we gain an hour of sleep, Andersen says that the lack of sunlight can make us irritable and less motivated when we do rise.

Do you ever feel like the summer is stress-free while the winter has you hiding under the covers? The time change may be to blame for this phenomenon. “Though we gain an hour of sleep, only a handful of people actually get that promised extra hour of sleep,” Andersen explains. “Many actually wake up earlier than usual due to the body’s circadian clock. When our sleep schedules are interrupted, we are more likely to experience stress and can feel more anxious.”
So now we know the impact of setting back the clock. But what can we do to help our bodies adapt?
To modify routines and help our bodies adapt this fall, Andersen suggests keeping constant sleep and wake schedules (yep, even on the weekends), exercising during the day, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed, and eating lightly at night.
“If you have habits of healthy sleep already—like a consistent relaxing evening routine and bedtime—you should strive to keep that routine intact before the time change,” says Andersen. “If not, I recommend modifying your bedtime accordingly before daylight savings.”

Wait – what about naps? Andersen says that a quick nap is fine, but anything over 20 minutes could make issues worse


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Soul's Companion

A Soul's Companion: I grew up in a house surrounded by trees. The backyard maple was a favorite perch for reading the afternoon away when I was a child. Before I climbed I was careful to loop a rope around the branch above me so I could pull a basket of apples and books up after me. The willow tree often found me seeking faeries among her branches, and later, after I ...

Ellie's Kitchen: Crockpot Barley Vegetable Soup and Sweet Potato Knots

It's 39 degrees in my little Massachusetts town: a beautiful crisp, sunny October morning. The trees are glowing in shades of flame and gold, and mist is rising off the river like wraiths. There is no place like New England in the fall. And nothing says 'cozy' like coming in at the end of the day to a warm home smelling of baking bread and hot soup. Thus, while my family is away at work and school, I'm prepping dinner in the slow cooker:

Crockpot Barley Vegetable Soup


  • 1 cup medium pearl barley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. fennel seed
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 2 cups frozen green beans
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 3 (14 oz). cans vegetable broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 14-oz. can diced tomatoes with herbs, undrained
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • Preparation
    1. Place all ingredients except the can of diced tomatoes and spinach in a 5-6 quart crockpot in the order given. Do not stir.
    2. Cover crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours. Stir soup and add tomatoes and baby spinach; stir again to combine.
    3. Cover crockpot and cook for 20 to 30 minutes longer until soup is hot and spinach is wilted. Remove and discard bay leaf before serving.

  • Easy Sweet Potato Knots.


    • 1 cup Warm Water
    • 1 envelope (7g Envelope) Active Dry Yeast
    • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
    • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil,, Plus More To Oil The Bowl
    • ½ cups Sweet Potato Puree (fresh Or Canned)
    • 3-½ cups Unbleached Bread Flour
    • 1-½ teaspoon Coarse Kosher Salt

    Preparation Instructions

    Note: To make sweet potato puree, microwave sweet potato until soft, place in a paperr bag to cool, then peel. Easy as pie.
    1. Pour warm water into a medium bowl and slowly whisk in yeast. Let sit for 10 minutes, then add honey, olive oil and mashed sweet potato. Whisk until thoroughly combined and smooth.
    2. In a separate bowl, mix flour and salt. Slowly stir in wet ingredients and continue to stir until it becomes impossible to stir more. Then use your hands to continue mixing and slowly start kneading your dough, adding more flour to your hands to keep it from sticking.
    3. Once you’ve created your dough ball, add olive oil to the bottom of your bowl and roll the dough ball in it until it is coated. Cover with Saran wrap or a damp towel and store in a dry place (I use my microwave) for two hours.
    4. Around the last 15-minute mark, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Divide your dough into pieces you can easily hold in your fist and roll them into long strips around 8 or 9-inches long. Don’t worry if they’re skinny, they’ll still get fat when they bake. Tie each into a knot, tuck the edges under each side, then place each on the baking pan.
    5. Brush with melted butter. Bake until golden, around 10-15 minutes.  Allow to cool 3-5 minutes.
  • (I forget which cookbook I got this recipe out of. I copied it years ago...)