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

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

zero waste cold brew coffee

It took me a really long time to jump on the cold brew coffee bandwagon. When I first heard about it all I could imagine was how bitter my coffee tastes when it has been sitting out a little too long and is a tepid room temperature. That is probably my least favorite taste. I love coffee when it is hot and I love coffee when it is ice cold, but anything in between is not acceptable.

My recent morning obsession has been a cup of cold brew coffee! I love that I can make a big batch and it’ll stay good all week long in the fridge – that makes my morning rush a lot easier.

This is an awesome zero-waste coffee option for anyone who needs convenience (& caffeine) in the morning too! I use the same glass jar every week, the grounds can be composted, and the cheesecloth can be reused! If you like the idea of cold brew but you like your coffee hot, this brew can be warmed up in the microwave and still tastes amazing!

Have you been wanting to make your own cold brew but haven’t known how to begin? No worries. Here are the simple steps I follow when making my own:

Directions:

  1. Grind your favorite whole bean coffee to a coarse ground. If you don’t enjoy grinding your beans fresh like we do, that’s okay, you can buy in bulk at the grocery store an
  2. d have them coarsely ground there!
  3. Place grounds at the bottom of your glass jar and fill with cold water. You should have a 1 part coffee to 8 parts water ratio, roughly!
  4. Cover jar and shake to combine well.
  5. Let steep in the fridge for 18 to 24 hours – I have let mine go as long at 48 hours before, it makes a strong coffee but I still love it! You can always add more water if it is too strong to enjoy.
  6. Place cheesecloth over the container you plan to store your coffee in and strain coffee into container.
  7. Store in the fridge and enjoy for the next week!

Tip: Carry your coffee in a reusable container and compost your coffee grounds!

Personally I usually drink my cold brew black but occasionally I like to add a little honey or coconut milk. This brewing method is my favorite because it takes all of the acidity out of the coffee but still leaves the bold flavor.

Have you experimented with cold brew at home? What are your favorite variations or ways to dress it up? I would love to hear your suggestions!

love & light

Lena

12 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Impact on the Environment Today

Did you know that the first week in September is International Zero Waste Week? We love practicing zero waste routines at home, every little bit counts! We are not a zero-waste household (absolutely NO garbage) yet, but we’ve made lots of small changes over the past couple years to move in that direction!

If you are looking for some easy ways to reduce your waste and help the environment here are some easy tips you could start following this week!

  1. Carry a reusable cup with you all the time.
  2. Use cloth napkins at home instead of paper.
  3. Use rags like old t-shirts or tea towels instead of paper towel!
  4. Say no to plastic straws! Or use a reusable stainless steel or glass straw!
  5. Compost! (We are just starting to explore this and it is a fun adventure!)
  6. Avoid single-use plastic such as plastic utensils, cups, plates, sandwich baggies, etc. I always carry a bamboo fork and spoon in my bag to help with that!
  7. Wrap your food in bee’s wrap instead of plastic.
  8. Buy toilet paper that is packaged in paper instead of plastic!
  9. When shopping online, ask retailers if they can send your package plastic-free. I have had good luck with this.
  10. Always carry a container for leftovers in your car or bag so that when the time comes you don’t need to ask for a to-go box!
  11. Always check an item to see if it is recyclable before tossing it in the trash.
  12. Buy produce that does not come wrapped in plastic, or better yet – grow your own!

These are all easy changes that make a big difference! We have had a lot of luck at home with these practices and it has been fun to challenge ourselves to make more informed choices about our waste. We have a lot of room for improvement so we are doing our best to create NO garbage this week! If you want to make a pledge for Zero Waste Week too, you can do it here! They will send you tips and motivation all week long!

The most important thing when working to reduce your waste is to simply be conscious of your habits. When you are mindful about the choices you are making it becomes very easy to recognize opportunities to make zero waste choices. It all starts with awareness!

Good luck on your Zero Waste journey!

love & light

Lena