Winter Soltice Yule Tree

The Winter Solstice, also known as Yule, is the longest night of the year and the official start of Winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and it is meant to celebrate the returning of the sun. Honoring ancient traditions like this one in recent years has actually helped me to appreciate all of the seasons throughout the year so much more. I’m a person who is almost always cold so I’ve always despised winter, but now that is changing. I have enjoyed really embracing time, seasons, and moon cycles as a way of being mindful and developing gratitude for everything the year has to offer.

I learned this past Spring that one of my spirit guides is a Bear – so this year I’m taking a page out of the Bear’s book and honoring the Winter as a time for rest, recovery, planning, and preparing for the warmer months ahead. It is a beautiful time in which nature forces us to take cover indoors – it is only natural to use this time for inner-work. I’m taking time to deepen my yoga and meditation practice, develop my business, focus on my goals and dreams, and manifest good things for our future.

All of that is to say that I wanted to embrace the Winter Solstice this year by making a traditional Yule Tree. You might have already guessed that this is the pre-Christian tradition that was the original inspiration for the Christmas Tree. Although traditionally Winter Solstice or Yule Trees were evergreen trees, because they represent continual life – I don’t have any of those in my yard so I had to make do with the Rose of Sharon next to my front porch.

The Winter Solstice trees would be decorated with coins or trinkets that represent wishes for the New Year. The trees could also be covered with fruits, nuts, and different natural things to feed the birds as we enter the longest night and coldest time of year. This also resonates deeply with me because I inherited a passion for taking care of birds from my father and grandfather. And although my Grandpa is no longer with me on this earth, I definitely felt connected to him while decorating my tree.

To decorate my tree I sliced some oranges and hung them with some jute cord I had around the house. Then I made these apple bird feeders by slicing some large apples, spreading peanut butter on the flat surface, and pressing sunflower seeds on the peanut butter. Then I poked a hole through the apple so I could put some jute cord through and hang them on the tree with the orange slices.

As I hung my little offerings on my tree – I meditated on my gratitude for my ability to spare these fruits to feed the animals in need. I sent love and light to my relatives and ancestors that are passed and to my friends and family that are still living. I also took time to appreciate the earth and the inspiration it provides us to continue on, no matter how dark or difficult things may be.

Luckily this tree is close to where I have all of my bird feeders set up already. The birds are already accustomed to coming to this area of the yard and gathering in this little tree. I love hearing their songs outside my window even as the snow falls and it gets colder outside.

Don’t forget the little critters that can’t fly! I spread some smaller apple slices and loose sunflower seeds on the ground to feed the animals that can’t fly but still need extra food and warmth for the long winter ahead.

Looking for other ideas on how to celebrate the solstice this year? Throw a feast or party, burn a yule log, hang mistletoe and holly, decorate your home with red, green, and white, or bake some gingerbread. If that is starting to sound a lot like Christmas, you are not far off – many Christmas traditions were originally based upon Winter Solstice or Yule celebrations.

How are you honoring the Winter Solstice this year? Have you ever done anything to recognize this day of the year before? I would love to hear your traditions.

Sending love and light to all of you this holiday season,

Lena

Carpet Freshening Powder Recipe

I don’t know about you guys, but nothing drives me crazier than when I enter a room with a rug or carpet and I can smell that distinct pet smell. We have a new puppy at home and as much as I love him – the carpet has taken on a new smell since bringing him home. We do regular deep steam cleans of the carpet, but that is a lot of work and cost – as well as hard on the carpet, so I wanted to find an easier way to keep our upstairs carpets fresh and clean smelling all the time.

We try to keep as few chemical cleaners as possible in the house. I am a big fan of natural health and cleaning products so it was right up my alley to figure out a solution. I tried using Febreeze and other carpet sprays at first to help manage the smell but I would get headaches easily from the artificial fragrances used in those products. One day while scrubbing away I had a flashback to when I was a kid and seeing my Mom use a powder on the rugs to clean them. Why hadn’t I thought of that?

This is my recipe for an easy make-at-home, all natural, artificial fragrance-free carpet freshening powder:

Ingredient:

  • 2 cups Baking Soda
  • 1 cup Borax
  • 20 drops essential oils

Directions:

  1. Combine these ingredients together in a glass jar with a lid and shake well to mix. My favorite essential oils are lavender, lemon, rosemary, sage, Thieves, lemongrass, and grapefruit – but you can use whatever oils you prefer! I find that essential oil preferences are very personal.
  2. Sprinkle the powder on the carpet and let sit for about an hour. I find this is enough time for the fresh scent to soak in and for the stink to be pulled out.
  3. Vacuum carpet to pick up all leftover powder and enjoy your fresh home.

This is my regular go-to now. Every time I plan to vacuum, I sprinkle this powder beforehand, let it soak in, and then continue with my chore as planned. It is an easy, affordable way to fix the problem, and it uses ingredients you most likely already have at home! If you haven’t tried essential oils yet, I am a Young Living distributor, you can get in touch with me here and I can answer any questions you might have!

Does anyone else love making their own cleaning products with essential oils? What are your favorite recipes?

Wishing you all a beautiful day.

love & light,

Lena

All-Natural Hanging Birdseed DIY

These photos are actually from a the winter before last, my Dad and I always love making these all natural bird treats for all of our flying friends who stick around for the cooler months. I shared this as a DIY once upon a time at my old blog, Tiny Painter, but I love this project so much and it brings back such great memories that I wanted to share it again!

I figured with Valentine’s Day, this seemed like a perfect time to share my love for the birds with all of you. Growing up, my Grandpa was always passionate about taking care of the birds in his garden. He passed the passion onto my father, who then shared it with me. Whenever I am out in the yard, gardening, watching the birds, or just admiring the beauty all around me, I always feel so connected with both of them. It feels like a magical gift they gave me somehow.

Here are the instructions I originally shared:

Materials:

  • Birdseed
  • Coconut Oil
  • Cookie Cutters {whatever shape you please!}
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Stick/Pencil/Skewer
  • String

Directions:

In a microwave safe bowl, first warm up some coconut oil, it doesn’t take long because coconut oil liquifies pretty quickly! Place your cookie cutter(s) on foil and wrap edges to make sure the oil won’t spill out. Next, stir birdseed into your warm coconut oil. You can eyeball the amount, the oil is there to hold the seeds together without causing harm to the birds {Note: coconut oil is much healthier for birds than Crisco – which I have seen some people suggest, but please don’t – that is bad enough for humans, let alone the animals!}

Fill the cookie cutter with the oil and seed mixture. Insert your skewer in the mixture where you would like to thread your string for it to hang from. Place in freezer or outside for at least an hour for it to solidify. When the time comes to take your birdseed out of the cookie cutter, just place your hands around the edges of the cookie cutter, that will warm the oil up enough that they will slip out easily without losing their shape. The stick will also come out easily!

Thread a string through the hole and hang it on a tree that the birds like visiting!

What do you think? Is this a project you could see yourself enjoying with your family? You’ve got a little time before it gets too warm!

love & light,

Lena

Dip-dyed napkins for our late summer wedding…

When Will and I were planning our wedding we knew we wanted to DIY as many elements we could because we love making things ourself. Over the past year we’ve been slowly phasing out paper products from our home and acquiring more reusable clothe options! Because we only use clothe napkins in our home, this seemed like a great opportunity to bulk buy napkins that we could use for years and years without any extra production waste happening due to our consumption.

I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of basic white napkins because our theme for the wedding was lots of color, so I decided to dye the napkins myself. For this project I bulk ordered white 100% cotton napkins on Amazon – I purchased around 180 napkins for under $100 and used RIT dye from the grocery store. I would love to try this project again in the future and explore more sustainable dyes or learn how to make my own natural dyes!

I was able to dye all of the napkins within 2 days, the first day my little brother helped me and the second day my good friend Abby was there to assist! I separated the napkins into sets of 20 and tried folding them in lots ofdifferent ways. After that it was time to start dyeing! Be sure to pre-wash anything you plan to dye to remove any finish that may be on it!

Here are the steps I followed to customize our colorful wedding napkins!

Materials:

  • White 100% cotton napkins
  • RIT dye
  • salt
  • water
  • large tubs or bins
  • drying rack

Instructions:

  1. Fold napkins in various patterns – this is the creative part where you can really just play because no matter what they turn out beautiful.
  2. Fill the tub halfway with very hot water (for me it was about 8 cups), I just used tap water on the hottest setting but you could heat it up in a tea kettle if you wanted it really hot.
  3. Dissolve 1 cup of salt in the dye bath.
  4. Add 1 bottle of RIT dye to dye bath. If you want softer colors, use less dye!
  5. Soak napkins in dye bath for 30 to 45 minutes.
  6. Wring out napkins and rinse well to remove any extra dye.
  7. Line dry or if you are afraid of the dye bleeding, you can run them through the gentle cycle of the wash and hang them to dry.
  8. Iron and enjoy!

I did all of my soaking in the backyard to make sure I didn’t make a mess in my house – luckily we were able to complete the whole set without an spills! Now we have a huge supply of beautiful napkins that we can use daily! I love that they are a reminder of our wedding day too, that makes them even more special! In the future I would love to explore ways to do this project again but in a more sustainable way!

Any other wedding DIYers out there? What about you? Have you ever tried to create your own dyes? Or what is your favorite kind of  organic natural dye? I would love to learn more!

love & light,

Lena

DIY jasmine make-up setting spray

The past few years I have been transitioning to a more natural beauty and skincare routine. Sometimes I make my own products and other times I buy products that I know are made without the use of dangerous chemicals. I have lots of favorite all-natural beauty and skin products but sometimes I just like something I have made myself better. When I’ve made it, I love knowing exactly what has gone into the product that I am absorbing into my skin and bloodstream.

This recipe is for a make-up setting spray that I put on after applying my make-up in the morning. As a teacher I am on the go all day long and have very little time to stop and look in the mirror so I need to know that my make-up is going to stay in place without any touch-ups! This light weight spray takes care of that worry for me and gives me all the peace of mind I need while teaching my tiny humans how to paint!

Here is my recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp Witch Hazel
  • 1 Tbsp Aloe Vera Gel (natural, not the bright green stuff)
  • 1 Tbsp Distilled Water
  • 5 drops Jasmine Essential Oil
  • 3 drops Lavender Essential Oil
  • 2 oz. glass bottle with spray nozzle

Directions:

  1. Fill 2 oz. glass bottle with 1 tablespoon natural aloe vera gel.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons witch hazel and 1 tablespoon water to fill bottle.
  3. Shake well to mix thoroughly.
  4. Add essential oils and shake again to evenly disperse.
  5. To use: Shake well and spray over freshly applied makeup.

I love using lavender and jasmine essential oils because they smell so lovely. Lavender is also great for your skin to soothe redness and irritation. I use Jasmine for its empowering and confidence-boosting aroma, as well as the fact that it is great for improving dry or dehydrated skin!

I know there are lots of different recipes out there, has anyone tried a different recipe for a DIY setting spray? How do you make yours? I love this one and I hope you to do!

love & light

Lena