31 December 2012

A Year in Pictures

My simple year in pictures.

It was full of trips, emotions and lessons but most of all it was full of beauty. Thank you for spending it with me.

Take a moment to go through your year and recollect the moments that made you stronger. These moments will take you through to a much better 2013.

I wish you a very productive and creative New Year.













Happy New Year!

30 December 2012

Beauty DIY: Shimmer Eyeshadow and Body Gel for a Sparkly New Year

This post is written by contributing author Rebecca D. Dillon.

New Year's Day is all about the feeling of being able to start fresh and correct any mistakes as you move forward - which is why we make New Year's resolutions. But it's also about that sparkle and shine of new things to come. So add a little sparkle to your look for this year's New Year's party - and throughout the rest of the year - with this super simple DIY recipe for shimmer eyeshadow and body gel!
DIY Shimmer Eyeshadow and Body Gel - A Handmade Beauty Project for a Sparkling New Year

DIY Sparkle & Shimmer Eye Shadow and Body Gel

What you'll need:
  • 2 teaspoons of diamond dust or pearl shimmer mica (or super fine cosmetic grade glitter).
  • 1 Tablespoon of cold pressed aloe vera gel.
  • Two .25 oz. (7 grams) lip balm sized containers with lids.

What you do:
To create your shimmer gel simply measure out two level tablespoons of mica (or glitter) and place into a small bowl. (For this project I used cosmetic grade diamond dust mica.) Next measure out one Tablespoon of aloe vera gel and add to the mica. Mix well until the gel is a smooth consistency and there are no remaining lumps. Finally, fill your containers and cap. If you like, you can use washi tape to decorate your pots of shimmer. Make one for yourself and gift one to a friend!

To use:
Simply apply a small amount to your skin and rub in. Use less for a little bit of sparkle or more for a more obvious glimmer. You can also apply as an eyeshadow in a thin coat using the tip of your finger over existing eyeshadow or by itself! The aloe gives it amazing staying power!

What activities will you participate in this year to make 2013 shine?

Photos by Rebecca D. Dillon.

Rebecca D. Dillon claims a fine arts degree from Roanoke College and has enjoyed being creative since she was a small child. She resides in the Historic Arts District of her hometown where she lives with her miniature dachshund, Jasper, and works for a small business full time. Part time Rebecca handcrafts and sells homemade soaps, lotions and lip balms for her home business, Rebecca's Soap Delicatessen. In her spare time she squeezes in time for dancing, live music and the occasional karaoke. She is also the author behind Soap Deli News blog where she shares her DIY projects, bath and beauty recipes, handmade finds and other things that suit her fancy. Connect with Rebecca on Twitter and Facebook.

29 December 2012

For a Mindful End of the Year

The end of the year puts way too much pressure on our bruised and battered nervous systems, don't you think? It is a time for unusual activities and lots of them. Here is what happens in the short 7-day period between Christmas and New Year's Eve:
  • We eat too much.
  • We drink too much.
  • We meet too many people.
  • We spend more than planned.
  • We make it a point to revise the past year and plan ahead for the new one.
  • And that, on top of all the cooking and cleaning.
To me this is stress, not joy.

This last week of the year seems to be enjoyable only for children, careless as birds. 
Mindful living. Appreciate what you have, by Kanelstrand

I challenge you to spend this day mindfully.

Sit quietly for a moment and reflect. Let the stream of events surround you like the waters of a fast and cold river but don't allow them to carry you away.

Here you are, today, having the only chance to live it to the fullest. 

Treat it like your last day. It really is. You will never have the chance to re-live it again.

Be present in the moment. 

Observe your surroundings. 

Listen to your body. 

Go outside, look around with love and be grateful that you are alive and healthy.

Your priorities will change once you embrace calamity and you will be able to finish off your duties much more efficiently. You will enjoy them, to that matter.

And stress will be no more.

Whatever happens, don't let a moment slip away without you being fully present. The year ends in a couple of days and instead of wasting time for manifestos and affirmations you'd better take action and start living mindfully today.

It is the simplest thing you can do. Just be present here and now.

28 December 2012

Conscious Living: Giving Instead of Taking

This post is written by contributing author Anabel Bouza.

A while ago, some friends (now married) included in their wedding registry the option to donate a goat to a family in a developing country. 

An actual goat? I had no idea such tangible things could be donated!
Their gesture swept me off my feet: most people about to marry are put in a self-absorbed mood by that mix of joy & stress, and yet — as they planned to furnish their new life together — they had managed to remember those who have nothing.

I have often considered the contrast between the dainty, beautiful and superfluous stemless wine glasses in their gift registry, and the resilient goat. 

During these last days of feasting and cozy reunions, I've been reminded of how lucky I am to have things like warmth and sustenance. It seems I'm not the only one to feel this way over the holidays: on average, charities receive almost half of their annual contributions in the last few weeks of the year. 

Have you looked recently at the ways in which you can help? 

For every cause there are multiple charities, each trying to help in more than one way. It is easy to feel paralyzed by the heart wrenching issues, but there are many ways to approach them.

There are sites like Charity Navigator that exist to provide valuable information on a charity's financial health and transparency. In case of doubt or overwhelming confusion, a charity's ability to perform consistently and get results can help you determine where and how to concentrate your efforts.   

You could focus on local issues, or make a long-term commitment to a specific cause — ending polio, any of the clean water initiatives, preserving sea turtles... There is always the option to contribute an undesignated cash donation and leave it to the organization to decide how to spend it. 

Imagine if the fervor with which we browse for online sales this time of the year could be redirected toward providing those in true need with gifts that keep on giving, like a baby goat, or a handful of honey bees... 

Anabel Bouza insists there's powerful magic in the action of creating something out of a vague vision, a chill of inspiration. She is an illustrator with a passion for nature, paper manipulation, and pointing her camera at things.

Her appreciation for simplicity dates back to a former life in Cuba - her strange homeland - where she refined the ability to see the alternative uses of common objects, and the enchanting side of things. She's often found blogging as
Weird Amiga, hard at work in her sunny studio, or staring at things as if looking at them for the first time. Her tiny family is comprised of her husband & a turtle; they're new to the city of Chicago, and they love it. Connect to Anabel via facebook and twitter.

24 December 2012

Don't Make It a Lonely Christmas

"Lonely widow without family is looking for company on Christmas Eve. Pays well." 

That's what she wrote in the newspaper ad. Clean and simple. 88-year-old Reidun Orest made the Norwegian news in late November this year. Offers from people who wanted to keep her company started pouring her way although she didn't expect a single response. Their intentions, of course, remain unclear.

I've kept the story of old age loneliness to share with you on Christmas Eve because it is one that we seldom think about and even more seldom we see unfold in front of our eyes. Either because we're keeping them closed, or because the main protagonists in the story are keeping it a secret.

Reidun, as you can imagine, is not the only lonely pensioner on Christmas/Easter or every day. And while she has no family, I can name at least a dozen elderly people who feel abandoned by their families. And loneliness only gets stronger in the evenings. That is a recurrent phrase I've heard from themselves.  

The simple "Pays well." is what makes me question the moral values of Western civilization. Norway is one of the most technically and economically advanced countries in the world. Nursing homes here are certainly luxurious and yet human attitude and plain sympathy are often lacking. No amount of money can replace the time spent listening to someone's story or just sharing silence.

In the gold rush of present day, people simply don't have the time for the lonely. They don't even have the time to think of those who are vulnerable and often financially unimportant. Capitalism has turned us into money eating beasts who rarely do things out of good heart and that is why we feel so moved when we watch the next YouTube video of a wonder-person who's helping the poor.

The mere act of kindness has turned into an exception of the rule.

So, today, on Christmas Eve, I am asking you, don't make it a lonely one. And please, don't make it your only attempt.

Billions of dollars have been spent for Christmas decoration in the US, while people in need are left out. Your government is not to blame. It is you who needs to take action and do what your heart tells you. Until you leave the action to someone else, nothing is going to get done. 

I will not give you a list of ideas on how to make a lonely elderly person's life happier, I will tell you what my husband and I do.

We visit our friends for evening meals; remember, that's the time when loneliness can be felt most distinctively. We love to cook there, in the pleasant company of friends twice as old as we are, people whose precious experiences and memories from childhood spring to life on candle light. We listen to their favorite music together, start loving it with them, get influenced by them, let them broaden our horizons, share our experience and invariably have the time to hear the same story again and again. With time all this turns into love.

Even if those people are not your family they become one.

And loneliness is no more. Neither for them, nor for us. Because we become one. Family. Of human beings that share their hearts.

Merry Christmas, my friends, don't make it a lonely one.
Neither the days that will follow. Because one day you might be in Reidun's shoes and you might not be able to pay well.

22 December 2012

Simple Pleasures: Holiday Edition

This post is written by contributing author Vanessa Williams.

Greetings from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania - Christmas City USA! We are in full swing holiday mode here. (We have to be, the Christmas trees decorating our lamp posts start going up around Halloween!)

I have a confession - I am a Christmas kook. I just LOVE the holiday season and all the festivities that go with it. It is one of my favorite times of the year. It seems like everyone is in a cheerier mood - just happy and friendly.

Like many of you, I am busy this time of year - but only because I want to be, not because I have to be. This requires some careful planning and coordination on my part (like shopping for Christmas all year round and finishing by Veteran’s Day weekend), but that allows me to take in some of the many, many activities and holiday shows that happen around here.
Lehigh University Vespers by Lehigh Valey

Perhaps my favorite thing in town is to walk around and see the beautiful windows of all the independent shops that have been decorated to the hilt. Christmas music plays in the air, tourists bustle about, and friendly shop owners offer a cookie and a smile. Last year there was a welcome addition to our quaint downtown - a pop up village of crafters inspired by the markets in Germany. With the clip clop of horses pulling carriages of visitors through the historic neighborhood it’s a magical time to live here.

But outside of all of the hubbub some of my favorite activities are the simple ones that all of us can have no matter where we live - activities that we do with friends and family. Annual traditions that grow and change over the years, but hold a special place in our hearts.

For me, this means two things: a holiday craft and cookie baking both with my mother (and growing up, with my sister). Over the years we have made a lot of things - ornaments, stuffed snowmen, even garland. My mother and I were reminiscing about making gingerbread houses the other day and how a “simple” project ended up taking all day. Three batches of royal icing and god knows how much candy later we were finished and my mother swore we would never do that again!

Other projects, like the wonderful cinnamon ornaments that made the whole house smell fantastic, were a hit and will be repeated in the future as the new addition to my family, my daughter Cora, grows older. Cora has brought a new level of excitement and magic to the holiday season in a way that only children can.

This year the holiday craft made a comeback, after being shelved for a few years. I am obsessed with vintage Christmas anything, so we made vintage inspired bell ornaments with little snowy dioramas in them. They turned out pretty well if I do say so myself. (This is a big accomplishment for me since for all my mother’s talents, the artsy gene skipped me.)

Cookie baking we got brave this year and tried not one, but three new recipes. They all ended up being absolutely delicious and we agreed they will be kept in our ever-growing repertoire. Cora supervised.

Other things I love to do this time of year are just stay home, get a fire going, and watch one of the many holiday shows, with Rudolph being my absolute favorite. What’s not to love? It’s quirky (an elf dentist?!), it’s retro, and it has a great message (being different is ok).

These simple memories are the ones I cherish most despite going to countless light displays, shows and other holiday activities over the years. So I hope you take the time to slow down and spend some time how you see fit. Relax and enjoy the holidays. Much love to you and yours from my little corner of Pennsylvania.

Vanessa Williams is the author of A simply good life where she explores how lower standard of living doesn’t mean lower quality of life. After her decision to  get off the beaten track and forge new paths she has found that living with less actually means living with more. Vanessa explores the luring and dangerous grounds of the consumerism trap and offers a solemn and wise account of her real life experiences on the quest to finding what truly matters in life. Connect to Vanessa via twitter and facebook.

21 December 2012

Seasons in Scandinavia: December in Norway and a Lost Forest

It is December already. The streets are covered with ice and my steps produce the dingle, jingle of Santa's sleigh. They're singing a song of frozen asphalt met by shoe spikes. Each steps takes me closer to town. It's been 6 months since we left our tiny paradise on Earth and moved to the big city. The bird songs are replaced by motors roaring and trains passing. 

We are adapting but that doesn't make me happier. I miss my forest, I miss my beaches. I miss the Great Tits that used to wake me up with their songs or even visit me at home.  My first ever post on this blog was about the birds! And now they are nowhere to be seen. 
great tits feeding
We used to have this lovely feeder on the balcony where Great Tits and other song birds came to feed a few times a day
I bet you know how I feel. I bet you have all dealt with loss, be it just the loss of a very favorite place. Christmas and snow; lights and cookies are all so very festive but they cannot make up for my lost forest. I cannot even bear to see the thousands of photos I have taken during the past couple of years. 

Today I am going to show you how December looks like in the city. It is still beautiful even though it is very different from the rawness of nature. Hope you are preparing for a very warm and bright Christmas.
There are apples on the trees and the first snow makes them even more beautiful.

The town is getting festive

There are Christmas trees everywhere
And the Christmas markets are abundant.
Here is a smiling angel on yet another Christmas market. This lady is clearly walking the talk!
A lady dressed in the traditional costume of the saami - the indigenous people inhabiting the Arctic area of Sápmi, which today encompasses parts of far northern Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Kola Peninsula of Russia,
Christmas is so much about chocolate, isn't it. A lovely chocolate shop is full to the brim with all types of sweets.
While everyone is busy with Christmas preparation the nearby ski run gets a facelift. Soon we will be skiing again.
And a distant memory of a peaceful place I used to call home. The most popular beach in Norway.
How has December been in your part of the world? Are you getting ready for Christmas and how different is it from last year's?

20 December 2012

Simple Christmas: Your Authentic Self - Let It Shine

This post is written by contributing author Shelly Kerry.

The holiday season can make everyone feel a little off-kilter. Even the fun activities like all the parties and gatherings can make us feel overwhelmed. It makes sense to me. Our schedules become even busier and the energy in and outside of our homes is at an all time high. It is normal to feel a little disconnected from our own personal projects and from our own needs.

It is a beautiful time of year when we are giving and doing a lot with others. I love this aspect of the holidays but sometimes self care suffers during these busy times. How do you prevent overwhelm and how do you deal with the disconnection?

I took a very helpful class on business and boundaries from friend, psychotherapist and SF artist (Zelma Rose), Lisa Anderson Shaffer. She was discussing how to reply to even the most difficult emails with grace. It is easy to answer emails with haste and judgment. She reminded us that if we take some time (say maybe 24 hrs.) and our reply really speaks to the person we want to be (say someone kind, approachable and compassionate) then we can maintain a connection to our true self and secure good, healthy practices. The class was for small business owners so in our case this was all about securing good business relations and maintaining a level of professionalism.

I took a lot of wonderful business advice from this class but the question I kept asking myself was “What are my personality traits that make me feel confident and happy? What do I want my clients to see?  During times of overwhelm and disconnection, what personality traits do I want to shine? I wrote these words on my wall - Compassionate, Magnetic, Compelling and Authentic.

Even during times of stress, I want these characteristics to show. When I am trying to complete my Christmas shopping and families are running around the stores in a frantic state, I am going to remember the word compassion.

When I really am trying to rush home to relax and I found myself mumbling under my breath, head down, I want to smile at people and meditate on the word magnetic.

When we are busy and the world around us is even busier, it is so easy to lose track of our wishes.

When we try to stay true to our dreams of who not what we want to be then we and our friends and loved ones get the best and biggest present of all - our true, authentic self.

I wish for you all a happy and loving holiday season! I look forward to the new year full of new, fresh ideas and experiences.

Shelly is the founder of the program Creating Space, Mindful Living – motivating and inspiring people to run their businesses more efficiently. She helps others look at their personal and professional lives and explore what is and isn’t working. As a jewelry designer she has spent many years testing and honing the skills and discipline needed to run your own creative business while still having time for friends, family and fun. She puts her wealth of experience to use in the Creating Space service – healthy living advice to help keep you motivated and make the most out of your already busy schedule. She will help you find both the physical and emotional space so you can pursue your dreams and she’ll always insist there’s time for yourself. You can also find Creating Space on Facebook or contact shelly@creatingspacemindfulliving.com

18 December 2012

Simple DIY: Upcycled Holiday Card Gift Tags

This post is written by contributing author Annie of Montana Solar Creations.

Every year thousands of holiday cards are sent around the world wishing family and friends a happy holiday season. Instead of throwing out the cards after reading them, repurpose them and create upcycled holiday card gift tags!

To start, find a holiday card that does not have any writing on the inside front flap.

To cut out the gift tags you can use a pair of scissors or a die cutter if you have one. I have a basic low-cost die cutter for gift tags from the local craft store since I make my own hang tags for vending. 

I used scissors to cut out the center design from the card and then used the die cutter to make several tags from the pine cone design. 

Once you cut out some shapes, use a hole punch to place a small hole to thread string or ribbon through to tie the gift tag to the gift.

On the back of the tags write "To:" and "From:" or your own personalized message.

Now the gift tags are finished and ready to be used!

How have you upcycled or repurposed items for the holidays?

Annie lives in western Montana with her husband, 15 month old daughter and two lazy dogs. Annie is a frugal, nature loving, simple living, work from home mama with an Etsy shop. She also blogs at MontanaSolarCreations where you can find DIY projects, real food recipes, natural living tips and stories about their outdoor adventures in Montana.

16 December 2012

Simple DIY: Free Christmas Gift Tags!

This post is written by contributing authors Vivid Please.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

This month we thought we would create a fun free print out for everyone to share - tis the season after all!

Vivid HQ is already brimming with gifts for the holidays, and we love nothing more than to sit down and have a good wrap-a-thon.

Always keen to have something a little different and to save some money, we've created a set of 6 tags for you to download and attach to your presents to jazz them up a bit. How fun!

We've got Santa's mustache, a couple of crackers and 3 classic styled gift tags with our very own special design for you to download and print for free.
All you need to do is save the file below, and print out at A4. Carefully cut each one out with scissors and hole punch the circles into the gift tags. Then using some string or glue, simply stick on your pretty wrapped boxes and pop under the tree... Perfect!

Vivid Christmas Tags (1MB PDF - right-click and 'Save As...')

Don't they look fab? 

We have over 20 family members coming round for the big day and we think the little personal touches like these make all the difference. The prettier and more fun the better we say :D  

We hope you enjoy our little gift to you and we wish you a very merry Christmas!

Happy Wrapping...

Vivid Please are known as Vicky and David when they are not together, but to be fair, that is rarely the case. Forever collecting odd trinkets and pointing at cute dogs, they believe that happiness is found in the little things. Their etsy shop stocks everything from prints and stationery to bags and accessories, everyday life has never seemed so fun! You can keep up with them by following their blog Vivid Please where they share their awesome DIYs, cool design and fashion posts and, of course, lots of snapshots from their world of wonder. Connect with Vivid Please on Twitter and Pinterest

15 December 2012

Simple Herbal Treatment for Strained or Sprained Ankle

This post is written by contributing author Cory Trusty.

Strained and sprained ankles can seem to take forever to heal.  Mugwort is one herb that can be used externally to help speed recovery. Mugwort or Artemesia vulgaris is an easy to grow garden herb which has many uses in Traditional Westen and Chinese Herbal Medicine. The Chinese name for dried Artemesia vulgaris is Ai Ye

Photo from one of my visits to the Bastyr University Herb Garden.

Mugwort is used to make moxa which is used in warming external moxabustion treatments by Chinese medicine practitioners for various injuries. In order to make moxa from mugwort the herbs must be dried, ground and allowed to age for 2 to 3 years.

photo by Wolfgang Michel
I prefer to dry my Mugwort and save it for making pain relief salve or liniment, or I keep some stashed for in case of ankle sprains or strains. 

I collect my mugwort in March in Central Florida, but the time of year will vary from region to region. You should harvest Mugwort when it is in full flower. Cut back the stalk and hang it to dry in a well ventilated dry place. 

The mugwort I use is a variagated  variety that I got a start of from the Bastyr University medicinal herb garden in Seattle, Washington.  Here it is up close under our digital microscope.

Once you have your Mugwort dried to a crisp you can store it in a glass jar away from the sunlight. 

If you need it later for yourself or a friend, you can simply take up a few large handfuls and add it to a big stock pot with lots of boiling water. Let the water boil and then simmer for about 45 minutes. 

The next step is to let the water cool just to the point that the hot water will not burn the skin. Then dip a towel into the hot water.  Wring out the towel and wrap it around the sprained ankle.  Let the towel sit on the ankle until it starts to cool, then dip it again in the hot brew and wrap again one or more times.  When the brew cools it can be stored in the refrigerator and used again the following day by reheating on the stove top. 

Don't have mugwort?  You can also try this with Comfrey root or Comfrey leaf. Frankincense and Myrrh resin can also be used, but it needs to be ground a bit and boiled for a full hour.   

What are your favorite remedies for strain or sprained ankle?

Cory's Kanelstrand blog posts are licensed under Creative Commons. You are free to copy, distribute and adapt Cory's Kanelstrand content provided you attribute it to her by linking back to the original post as well as Cory's AquarianBath.com website.

Cory Trusty is a soap maker, community herbalist, organic gardener, and homeschooling mom to two girls. Cory and her family live in Daytona Beach, Florida. Cory's background is in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Biology.  She is sharing tried and true natural home remedies and mini lessons from herbal classes that she teaches. Cory works full time making soaps, shampoo bars, herbal salves, flaxseed heat packs and more for her website AquarianBath. Read more from Cory at the Aquarian Bath blog. Cory is also a Food and Gardening writer for EcoEtsy and has published in The Essential Herbal Magazine and on the Herb Companion Blog. Connect with Cory on TwitterFacebookGoogle Plus and Pinterest.