Friday, December 31, 2010

Finishing Up The Calendar Year

I was watching the snow fall the other day and thinking what a beautiful way to finish up the calendar year.
Just watching the quiet...before the snow changes to rain or the kids come out and tromp it all down attempting to make snowmen (which is nice in a whole other way).
In the practice of qigong, this is referred to as retreating into the energy of the North. Quiet, a rest time when we hibernate our thoughts and ideas. Turning our mental and energetic kettle on low, letting the flavors settle and rest together before developing into the new and bright energy of the Spring (East).
This is one of my favorite times of the year. Take advantage of it for what is is, not what you would like it to be. Remain in the moment, let yourself settle in and gently rework your plans and ideas. Allow yourself some quiet time, give your body permission to rest and take a breath before you charge forward into your next adventure.
Have a good new year.
From all of us at the Mind Body Spirit Marketplace, we wish you well! 
~ diane fergurson

"Colorado Winter Flower Photo:  Rose Sparkle" is by Colorado photographer Julie Magers Soulen and available in her Etsy Shop.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Winter Solstice: A Time for Light, Release and Transformation

There is a striking thread that runs through many of the winter holidays, whether celebrated in Jewish, Christian, pagan, or other traditions – that of light, the return of light, and an embrace of light, both within and without. The Winter Solstice is a major holiday for pagans, but can be enjoyed by anyone without stepping on the toes of other faiths. It is the shortest day of the year, the day when the sun shines the least – in ancient times it was literally called “sun standing still day.” After the solstice the days begin to get longer, our time under the sun increasing little by little.

Even if we don’t see a reason to celebrate this as a religious or spiritual event we can see how it might have significance psychologically. For a good example of our reliance on light, I need only look back a couple of weeks to when a big windstorm knocked out power for thousands of people in my area – including me and my family. Reading by candlelight had a certain homey appeal, but there was an awkwardness to brushing teeth or simply walking up the steep narrow stairs in the old farmhouse, by candle. Schedules and routines change – bedtimes tend to be earlier, the dark greeted differently when we have no control over it. If we can be so affected by a diminishment of light, imagine the ancients, who truly set their lives by the light of the sun.

Perhaps of greater meaning to us now is the symbolism of light, especially in a season of growing darkness. I believe many of us are in great need of this renewing return of light – enough events have been taking place in our culture that have thrown some of us into the dark. The loss of a job and one’s income, family members in the military or simply news of war, ugly politics and the threat of individual rights narrowing, personal anxieties and fears… Concurrent with days growing ever shorter (not to mention an increase in cold temps, keeping us indoors even more), our moods may be suffering. Through holidays such as Hanukkah, Christmas, and the pagan Yule, we have the invitation to accept and celebrate this return of light, and on the solstice we see the literal return of that light.

Also occurring on the solstice this year, will be a full lunar eclipse. In itself this is a relatively rare event, and one that astronomers are taking note of. Astrologers are also taking note of it, because the belief is that eclipses and solstices affect change… taking place as they will together, this combined event is expected to bring even bigger changes, on social as well as individual levels.
Major shifts are possible (some would say likely), and the general advice is to approach the day of this solstice with an openness to good things and joy, and from a place of acceptance and calm. If transformation is going to take place, embrace it and make it what you would like it to be – or at least to the extent that you can.

I am still a little on the fence about what I believe with regard to astrology. I tend to think who we are and become is not so governed by where the planets were when we were born, but I find myself making simple assumptions based on astrology more often than I’d like and have recognized some uncanny truths when doing deeper reading into it. I do find it exciting to think that a full moon eclipse on a winter solstice might usher in big change, new direction, and inner transformation, while also helping us release old fears or habits; hopefully all good of course! Experts are saying to check your natal charts for planets that fall between 27 and 1 degree in any sign, for those areas will be affected. I plan on going home tonight and pulling out my chart, to see just which houses might start experiencing some influence on Tuesday. I am just slightly nervous, knowing I have quite a few that fall in those degrees. I will also probably emphasize a practice of mindfulness on Tuesday, and perhaps do some simple meditation on opening to more love, joy, and yes, light.

~ nellie levine

photo, "Through Frosted Glass" is by Jude McConkey.  It's available in her Etsy Shop.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Enabling the Disabled in India

We'd like to thank Indira Govindan for sharing this touching blog post with us.

Beading and Stringing at the Workshop
During my trip to India in March 2010, I did a workshop on jewelry making to a group of physically challenged girls at the Andhra Mahila Sabha. These girls are victims of childhood polio, one of the last groups of children, before polio was officially eradicated in India a decade ago. 

These young women are not only physically challenged but also economically disadvantaged. Organizations such as the Andhra Women provide them with vocational training in book binding, sewing, computer software, which is their path to economic independence. Occasionally, someone like me will come along and teach them something that is fun. Which woman can say no to jewelry?

The workshop was sponsored by Sukriti Social Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by my sister, Sowmya Simhan, who too was stricken with polio at the age of two. She is highly educated with a career in accounting, and her foundation provides a wide range of services and programs to physically disabled men and women and, collaborates with other organizations that provide similar services.

Since I knew that these girls would not be able to buy the materials for jewelry, I took with me all of the materials from my personal stash. Sowmya felt that these girls could use some help in understanding the use of colors and design principles.  So, I made a color wheel for them. I also took several issues of Bead Style magazine with me.

I did the workshop for two evenings after their day class was over. About fifteen girls, ranging from age 12 to 18, participated. The girls were charming and were quick learners. I taught them to make the wrapped loop and showed them how to use the color wheel. I gave each one a kit for a pair of earrings and a necklace and they were quite thrilled when they found out that they get to keep what they had made. The chorus of “thank you auntie” at the end was touching. I donated a whole bag of beads, wire, the color wheel and a toolbox to the girls.

It is unlikely that the girls would ever be able to go into jewelry making business. They do not have the means. However, teaching them the techniques and, giving them the materials would enable them to make things to sell at craft shows. This condition applies to any skill they are taught. It is not enough to just teach them a skill. To enable them to use it gainfully, they also have to be provided the tools and the materials. Hence, organizations such as Sukriti, raise funds to buy them computers, sewing machines, school supplies and so on. I try to do my tiny bit. All proceeds from sales from my shop are donated to Sukriti Foundation.

More information about its work can be found at and  Facebook

Sowmya, the founder of Sukriti, is being honored with Ascendas Award for service

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Aromatherapy On The Go

 There are many different forms of aromatherapy on the market these days. Between the use of candles, of oils or tarts in a burner, incense, or diffusers, you have many options to choose from.  But, all of those are meant to be used in your home/apartment/office.  Now, there is a great way to be able to enjoy an instant aromatherapy treatment anywhere you are, anytime that you want/need one.

Aromatherapy necklaces are the perfect way to carry your treatments with you wherever you go.  The pendants on these necklaces are actually bottles.  You just have to fill them with the appropriate oils and you are good to go.  Attached to the screw top of each bottle is a wand.   You can use the wand to apply the oil wherever you need to.  If you don’t want to apply any oil, you can just run the bottle under your nose for a quick treatment.

The preferred method of using these is by using an essential oil mixed with a carrier oil.  The most common carrier oils are cold pressed vegetable oils like olive oil or avocado oil, but some nut oils, like almond oil or sunflower oil, will work as well.  If you are going to apply this to your skin, please make sure it is an oil you are not allergic to! 

Depending on which essential oil you use, you will want to use either a 2:1 or 3:1 dilution (with the carrier oil being the larger portion).  Essential oils are very strong, and should never be applied directly to the skin.  They need to be diffused into a carrier oil.

Now, to choose what sort of necklace to wear, and what kind of oils to use, the first thing you need to decide on is what you want the treatment for.  Gemstones and essential oils both have healing properties.  You will want to choose a stone and an oil that both work towards accomplishing the same basic goal, whether it be clearer thinking, simple relaxation, a boost of confidence, or stress relief.

Here is some examples:

Tourmaline is believed to help achieve calmness, balance, focus and self-assurance.  If this is what you would want in your necklace, then you would need to choose an oil that also worked for promoting those same things.  You could use this with sandalwood oil, since sandalwood is good for relieving anxiety, fatigue, grief, insecurity, stress.  This combination should help you get through a tough work day, a stressful family meeting, even help calm you before an important job interview.

Amber is believed to protect you from negativity and promote attractiveness and energy.    You could pair this with a lavender oil, since lavender is good for relieving anxiety, depression, irritability, panic, or stress.  You could use these two together to pick you up before an important presentation at work, to keep you up and focused during a craft fair, on a first date, meeting the potential in-laws...anytime you just need a shot of confidence.

Now, what if you aren’t currently a practitioner of aromatherapy or find it all just too confusing.  Well, there are other uses for these necklaces.

Perfume - you can simply fill these with your favorite perfume, and carry it around with you at all times.  Face it, your clutch purse is prime real estate.  If you can carry one less thing in there, the better.  Work the necklace into your evening attire, and you can carry your perfume with you that way.  Use the wand to apply the perfume to your wrists, behind your ears, wherever you need a quick touch-up.

Prayer/Wishing - The mouths on many of these bottle are big enough to slip a piece of rolled up paper into.  Is there someone special you want to keep in your thoughts?  Someone who is no longer with us who you always want to remember or memorialize?  A secret wish/desire that no one else knows about?  Well, whatever it is, write it on a small slip of paper and place it in the bottle.  Now, you have that wish/thought/prayer/desire with you at all times, and are carrying it close to your heart. 

Necklace - When all else fails, you don’t really need to carry anything inside the pendant if you don’t want to.  These can be used as simple gemstone necklaces with large, bold silver pendants.  There is nothing wrong with that either.

These necklaces have multiple uses.  One of them is right for you.  You can find the ones pictured here, and many others by visiting my website.

~ Giani

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Have Your Home Smell Great for the Holidays. A Recipe for All Natural Room Spray

There's nothing better than a heavenly scented home, especially as we approach the Holidays. I like to burn tarts and candles, but when company is coming I like to be able to spritz the curtains, furniture (which sometimes smells like Eau de German Shepherd with our pooch), and the guest bath downstairs.

I am going to share the recipe for my Holiday Blend Ambiance Room Lamp & Linen Spray.  It smells so good!

This is also 100% natural. There is a reason major companies fail to mention the ingredients in their home scent sprays--the Air Wick and other varieties come in aerosol containers and contain a host of ingredients that are bad for you and the earth. This one is safe. It is so safe that you can even spritz some on your clothes or skin if it strikes your fancy--although some people do have allergies and sensitivities to the cinnamon, so you'll want to do a patch test first.

This is how I usually scent my home from Thanksgiving through most of the winter.

You will need:
*Distilled Water
*A small handful of whole cloves
*Witch hazel (I prefer the alcohol free witch hazel hydrosol, but for a room spray, the typical witch hazel from the drugstore is acceptable and more economical)
*Vanilla Absolute (you may also put a vanilla bean in the water/clove mixture if you have one on hand)

To make:

The amounts used will depend on how much you will make. Let's base this project on an 8 ounce recipe. You can make 4 small bottles to give as gifts or keep a large bottle around the house.

Combine 5 ounces of distilled water into a small saucepan. Add a handful of whole cloves. Simmer over low to medium heat for at least 30 minutes.

Strain the mixture so the cloves are left out of the liquid. Cool for a bit on the counter.

Now add 3 ounces of witch hazel to the cooled clove water.

Add in 20 drops of the cinnamon essential oil and 10 drops each of nutmeg essential oil, sweet orange essential oil, and vanilla absolute. If you have anise or almond oils, these are also nice substitutions and additions.

Stir slowly and pour into bottles. Shake lightly.

These are best in cobalt or amber glass bottles, but any bottle that is not a clear plastic will work well.

Vanilla absolute is expensive. It smells heavenly, but is pricey. You can put a vanilla bean in the clove mixture and simmer instead.


Karley Ziegler Mott

Editor, Chic & Green™
Owner/Designer, Loubird Handmade™
Founder, The Embrace Your Curves Project™

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mercury Retrograde, For Your Holiday Pleasure

Well, it looks like Mercury Retrograde will be gracing us with it's presence during the Holiday Season this year, December 10-30th 2010.  (November 24 to December 13, 2011.)

What is this astrological transit that always makes me glance over my shoulder and take an extra breath of patience (or just give up) when things aren't going my way? Read on and find out.

March 30 to April 23
August 2 to August 26
November 24 to December 13

March 11 to April 4
July 14 to August7
November 6 to November 26


February 23 to March 17
June 26 to July 20
October 21 to November 10


February 6 to February 28
June 7 to June 30
October 4 to October 25

There are numerous astrological aspects which transit our chart every day, every year. Mercury going retrograde however, is one that has always caused my antenna to rise a little higher and pay a bit closer attention to the situations going on around me.
I grew up with a mother who was a student of astrology. Every time this aspect would approach she would begin her lengthy mantra warning me against signing important documents, beginning anything new, engaging in transactions, and of plans. Although she is in her mid 80's now, I fully expect a letter AND phone call this week reminding me about the transit. It's something she has obviously learned, by experience, to take seriously.
Perusing through my astrology books to prepare for this blog post, I came across a good description of Mercury retrograde by James R. Lewis in his book The Astrology Encyclopedia Here are some excerpts:
“Retrograde refers to the apparent backward motion of a planet in its orbit. Because all planets in the solar system are moving in orbits of different sizes at different rates of speed, there will be periods in the orbit of the Earth when each of the other planets seems to reverse direction for a period of time. The effect can be compared with that of a jet as it passes a slower-moving airplane that is flying in the same direction at a lower altitude: As the pass is made, the slower craft appears – particularly when viewed against the backdrop of the Earth – to be moving in the opposite direction. Similarly, retrograde planets appear to move in reverse direction when viewed against the backdrop of the fixed stars.”
Lewis continues: “Astrologers tend to pay particularly close attention to the retrograde periods of Mercury, ruler of the Mind, communications, travel, and related matters. The period of Mercury’s retrogradation may be considered fortunate for introverted activities like reflection and meditation but it is considered unfortunate for traveling and making important decisions (e.g., signing contracts). Travel is sometimes delayed while Mercury is retrograde, and decisions made during such periods are often reversed after Mercury goes direct.”

~ diane fergurson
About the image... This illustration of Mercury is originally from De Sphaera, an illuminated astrology manuscript from the Italian Renaissance.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy Hanukkah

* Hanukkah 2012 begins Saturday December 8 and ends Sunday December 16.

Tonight begins the celebration of Hanukkah, also known as Festival of Lights, an 8 day Jewish Holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt on the 2nd century BCE.

There are many festive traditions associated with Hanukkah, in addition to daily prayers and blessings. There is also the lighting of a candle each night for 8 nights on the menorah to commemorate the miracle burning of the oil in the Temple menorah which should have lasted for only 1 day, but instead burned for 8.

Blue and white are the traditional colors of Hanukkah along with silver and gold.  There are also traditional games, music and a luscious variety of wonderful food and treats.

Probably one of my favorite foods associated with Hanukkah are potato latkes (crisp potato pancakes) served with sour cream.
A few years ago in the magazine Everyday Food (December 2006), they ran an updated version of this traditional recipe using sweet potatoes.  I love it and thought I'd share it with you below.

To all of you who are celebrating Hanukkah, The Mind Body Spirit Odyssey hopes you have a wonderful Holiday Celebration!

                                              Sweet Potato Pancakes

1 pound sweet potatoes peeled
3 scallions, finely chopped
2 large eggs lightly beaten 
1/2 cup flour
salt and pepper
3/4 c vegetable oil
sour cream for serving (optional)

Grate sweet potatoes on the large holes of the grater.  Transfer to large bowl and stir in scallions, eggs and flour.  Add 1 tsp coarse salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.

Using a packed 1/4 cup measure of potato mixture per pancake, shape into 12 mounds.  With hands form each into a firm ball and transfer to a baking sheet.  With palm flatten balls into 3/4 inch thick cakes.

In a large skillet heat oil over medium heat until hot.  Using metal spatula with a thin blade, carefully transfer 6 cakes to skillet, flatten to about 1/2 inch thick.  Cook until golden brown 4 or 5 minutes per side.  Transfer pancakes to paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with course salt.  Repeat process.
Serve immediately with sour cream if desired.

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