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

Dairy-Free Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

This time of year is so truly magical, isn’t it? I not only love the colors and smells of the season, but the flavors this time of year are so cozy and wonderful.

I’ve been craving those autumn and winter spices lately and wanted to find a healthy way to satisfy my sweet tooth. This recipe was modified through one shared by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, when I first found it, it sounded amazing but I know that my stomach really struggles with milk so I needed to find a way to create something similar without the dairy.

This is my favorite dessert right now! It totally tastes like a drinkable pumpkin pie and there is no guilt involved. For the past few months I have been trying to eat healthier and as I have cut more processed sugar out of my diet I have noticed a big difference. I thought I would notice the change by feeling more fit – which is true, but more importantly I have felt more positive on an emotional level.

This recipe will make either 2 small snack smoothies or 1 meal size smoothie.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 almond milk yogurt alternative
  • 3/4 coconut milk (vanilla or original)
  • a little honey if you use unsweetened milk
  • 1 banana (frozen)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • dash of ground cloves

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients to blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Pour into glass container (or metal, or ceramic, or anything not plastic) and enjoy!

This is an easy way to enjoy dessert without feeling guilty! Or, if you are in need of a little pick-me-up midweek for breakfast, forget the sugary cereal or breakfast bar and make yourself this smoothie! It makes every day a good day, if I do say so myself!

What are your favorite dessert and breakfast smoothies?

love & light,

Lena

10 Reasons to Join a Crop Share

This past summer my husband and I decided to join a crop share through one of the local farms here in West Michigan! Our interest was sparked when a couple of our neighbors told us they were members of this particular crop share during a game night. We are so fortunate to have such like-minded friends living in our neighborhood – they’ve introduced us to so many community resources that we love!

Here are 10 wonderful reasons we’ve found for joining a local crop share…

  1. Supporting local business and agriculture. We all know how important it is for our local business owners and economy to support them!
  2. Eat local and seasonal. Eating local has so many benefits, many of them listed in this post!
  3. Connecting with local community. It is a wonderful thing to become closer with individuals in your community. Plus, if those people are also members of your crop share, you most likely have similar values.
  4. Building a positive relationship with your food and where it comes from. In todays busy world we are used to eating fast and rushing to the next thing on our “to-do” list. Eating local fresh produce allows you to not only to appreciate the way your food tastes, but where it came from, and all of the love and labor that when into harvesting it!
  5. Fresher produce. When your fruits and vegetables come from a local farm, you get them sooner because they don’t need to be shipped. Because of this the produce tastes fresher, better, and can be more nutrient rich.
  6. Less pollution caused by shipping produce thousands of miles.
  7. Produce is picked at its peak for ultimate health benefits and flavor since it doesn’t need be sent long distances.
  8. Enjoy your food again. Knowing exactly where your food comes from and how it was grown makes eating a much more enjoyable event.
  9. Safer food. When you decide which farm to buy your produce from, you have the ability to be fully informed on the chemicals and methods used to produce your food.
  10. Encourages a plant-based diet. We still eat meat occasionally (once or twice a week) but I can’t believe how much better I feel when I am eating a plant-based diet. With our crop share, we get lots of fresh fruits and vegetables to inspire our mostly-plant meals! Note: If you simply cannot stand life without meat, choose a farm that offers a Meat Crop Share option! 

What about you? Have you tried a crop share? What about buying your fresh produce locally? What surprising benefits have you experienced by making this easy change?

love & 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