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

Homemade Apple Cider Recipe

  I don’t know about you, but when it comes to cider (as well as most things this time of year,) I prefer mine homemade. I am a highly sensitive person and an unexpected way that it comes out is in my taste for food and drink. When I was little, like 5 or 6, I could already sense if something had a preservative in it. I remember my Mom laughing when I would say “Ew, this tastes like preservatives!” She probably wondered where I got that from, and to be honest, I just kind of knew. I can also tell if something I taste has been near something that has gone bad – so very strange. It is a blessing and curse.

But one of the good things that has come of it is that I embrace the homemade lifestyle as much as I can because that is what my body craves. I am all about honoring the wishes of my body and my bio-individuality.

This is a easy recipe that I use when I am making homemade cider. It is simple and has very few ingredients so it doesn’t take a ton of prep.

Ingredients:

  • 10 apples, cut into quarters
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • Optional: Mulling spices

Directions:

  1. Place quartered apples in a crockpot or large stockpot. Add water until apples are covered with 2 inches of water.
  2. Stir in sugar and spices.
  3. Set crockpot on Low and let simmer for for 3 hours. (Or if you are making your cider on the stovetop: Bring to a boil. Boil uncovered, for 1 hour, then reduce to a simmer, cover pot, let simmer for 2 hours.)
  4. Mash with a potato masher and strain cider through a fine mesh sieve. Toss or repurpose the solids.
  5. Strain once more with cheesecloth to remove extra spices.
  6. Put in the refrigerator until chilled or enjoy warm.

This recipe is a classic and sure to please all of the cider lovers in your family. We enjoy this starting in the fall and going all the way through late winter. The taste truly sets the scene for a cozy night in. For ideas on how to dress it up more you can join my Newsletter.

I hope you enjoy this recipe! What are your go-to warm winter drinks?

Sending love & light,

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

Hygge Your Home This Autumn

Will and I have been big fans of the “hygge” trend these past few years. If you aren’t sure what hygge is, it is a Danish philosophy about happiness and enjoying the cozy comforts in life. According to The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking, the word hygge comes from a Norwegian word for “well-being” and has transformed into a cultural movement embracing comfort and coziness.

I’ve never been a big fan of the colder months here in Michigan, but after Will and I started planning hygge nights and creating a more cozy atmosphere at home,  I have learned to love this time of year a little more. Whenever I think about hygge, autumn and winter are what come to mind immediately.

If you think you could use a little more coziness at home but aren’t sure where to start, here are 10 of our favorite {affordable} ways to create more hygge at home:

  1. candles & soft lighting: candles are a quick way to create that warm cozy feeling. We like to use all natural soy candles made without artificial fragrances, and we’ve even made our own with essential oils before! tip: if you live in an apartment that doesn’t allow open flame, twinkle lights can do wonders.
  2. warm sweaters and socks: it is hard not to think about soft warm knits as fall approaches. Embrace the season and cuddle up in your softest sweater. Bonus points if you can knit them!
  3. hot drinks: it is hard to think of hygge and not think of those warm fall and winter beverages, think hot cocoa, tea, hot toddies, or our favorite, mulled wine.
  4. get outside: the more time we spend outdoors, the more we appreciate getting hygge inside afterward. Take a nice long nature walk to enjoy the colors and then come home and get cozy.
  5. play board games: boardgames are a nice way to spend and evening with family and friends without getting distracted by technology. I think Scrabble is the most hygge board game of all!
  6. cuddle with your pets: we always jokingly call our cat Amelia “hygge cat” because she is so warm and fluffy and loves to snuggle with her humans. She is the cat embodiment of hygge, we’re pretty certain.
  7. make homemade soup or stew: comfort food at its finest.
  8. pillows and blankets: get comfy on the couch, or our favorite thing to do is to build a fort out of pillows and blankets and watch some of our favorite old films.
  9. read your favorite book: we love to read Harry Potter books aloud to each other, but you could enjoy this activity solo too!
  10. baking: we just baked a homemade apple pie and it makes the whole house smell wonderful. Treat yourself to one of your favorites!

I think the thing I love most about getting hygge at home is that it encourages me to be very mindful of my surroundings and appreciate all of the wonderful comforts we have here. Take time to cultivate gratitude for the simple joy of being cozy and enjoy.

love and light,

Lena