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I can’t believe it’s been a year already. With all the ups and downs and in-between times that make up the passing of another year. Along the way I’ve met some incredible people who have been willng to share their wisdom and experiences. This has been an interesting adventure so far.

Here are a few highlights of the past year:

Facials –fun any time of the year.

Chillin’ on the Cheap— tough times don’t always mean no fun

Gettin’ Steamy–get your mind outta the gutter.

Do Unto Others–sometimes you just need to spread the love

The Important Things–through good times and bad

Giving Back–community service comes with its own rewards.

It’s time to sit back, enjoy the ride, and see what new adventures the coming year will bring.

I’m off this weekend and half of next week due to the holidays. Here are some things I may do on my time off:

1) Brew up a nice pot of my favorite tea. It’s perfect for a solo afternoon snack or for sharing with someone special.

2) Sit down with the above tea and a book…or three.

3) Add some fresh scones,rolls, or biscuits.

4) Take a nice, long soak in the tub with lots of bubbles.

5) Follow that bath with a lovely warmed oil rub.

6) Time for some pajamas fresh from the dryer.

7) Pop in a movie, grab a snack, a drink, and my blanket, and take over the couch.

8) Take an afternoon nap.

Sometimes the best thing to do is really nothing at all. Enjoy your downtime, I know I will.

My family has been incredibly blessed these past few years. No matter how tight things were, we always managed to have food on the table, a roof over our heads, and reasonably good health. We worked very hard for what we had but we also received quite a bit of help along the way.

Now, we seem to be past most of the hardest times and I am working a job that pays a living wage. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to work in a field doing something meaningful and keep my family from completely drowning while I’m at it. The downside is that my job can be very difficult spiritually and emotionally from time to time, especially around the holidays. There is just so much need in my community and resources are less than they have been in the past.

One of the things that lifts my spirits and makes me happy is to give back to my community. It’s the ultimate “feel good” for me. Even when we had no material resources to spare I always found some way to give back. When I didn’t give financially, I gave of my time. When someone needed a shoulder, I lent mine. If someone needed to vent, I gave them an ear. None of those cost me anything more than a little bit of time. The feelings I get from seeing a smile where there wasn’t one, or looking around at piles of gifts for boys and girls who didn’t have any, or a box of food that helps a family have a special meal–that is priceless.

It’s cold, wet, and dreary in my area right now. Still, I know that this week at least one more family will have a little something to celebrate the holiday. Next week I know that my family and I will spend 2-3 days packing boxes and loading toys–taking care to choose gifts we think the family will enjoy as part of our annual holiday tradition. More than the presents or food baskets, we are trying to lift spirits and give a little hope. We do this with a smile, a kind word, or meeting someone’s eyes. We do this with no expectation of anything in return, simply for the joy it brings. We look forward to this the entire year—it’s the one thing we really do together without fail.

No matter how busy my life gets, how chaotic my environment is, I know that I can always reconnect with myself and the world around me when I am generous with myself, my time, or my spirit. This is the single most important lesson I could ever hope to teach my children: giving simply for the joy of it.

MamaBirdie goes on vacation!

Simple pleasures make Luscious Decadence smile.

Melia cooks, again!?!

Jayda teaches HippyMom a lesson.

Tie Dye Tree prepares for winter.

Roller coasters, Spectacular Me style!

a hippy chick bids us adieu… le sigh.

Journeywoman makes a pit stop.

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When you think of your happy place, somewhere you go to relax, or when you’re not feeling well, somewhere that is comforting for you, where do you go? What do you do? Is there one spot in your home that is soothing to your soul or just comforting to be in? For me, when I need to relax, cry, fight an illness, or just be surrounded with warmth, I go to bed. If it’s been a really rough patch or I really need to feel the comfort I’ll wash the bedding first.

There’s something to be said for the smell and feel of freshly laundered linens. Even on the coldest days you can wrap yourself in warmth with freshly dried blankets. I’ll be the first to admit that it is very rare for me to actually do the laundry. I’m lucky enough to have a spouse who is willing to take over that task for me.

I will make an exception for my bedding. There’s just something so soothing to slip between a set of warm from the dryer sheets on an overcast day. Even better is snuggling deep into a comforter right from the dryer. Add some fluffy pillows, a book, and a mug of warmed cider and it’s my idea of a relaxing afternoon.

And have cake for breakfast.

Yes, cake….for breakfast. Read the ingredient list of most “breakfast foods” anymore and you’ll see a wide variety of ingredients that may or may not be good for you. I figure if you’re going to indulge in a sugary treat for breakfast, you should make it count. Forget the stale pop-tart or granola bar, or cereal with marshmallow bits and sit down to a nice, moist slice of cake, or for breakfast on the go, grab a cupcake.

Please don’t waste your time with those things you can buy in the gas station–if you’re going to indulge do it right. Visit a good bakery or make your own. Pick your favorite flavor, your favorite frosting, and enjoy.

The weather is turning cool and the leaves are turning color. It’s officially autumn, the summer has passed for another year. While I am not overly fond of autumn as a season–not liking the cooler weather or the realization that snow is just around the corner, there a several wonderful things about this season.

Fall is harvest time and that means an abundance of treats that are wonderfully fresh and delicious! Some of my favorite harvest-time treats include:
Squash–there’s just something comforting about roasted squash. It can be served sweet or savory, depending on the seasonings and often becomes the meal itself.
Fresh potatoes–now I know that potatoes can be had year round but those that come from the local farms are firmer, with a finer texture and just plain taste better than some of those that are found later in the year.
Corn—this is not something I normally indulge in. This year my family discovered a farmer who runs an urban farm in a neighboring city who uses organic farming methods. I have to say that his corn was the BEST I’ve had in several years–and we’ve tried it from just about all the local farms.
Apples–I am not an apple fan most of the year. There’s just something special about fresh-picked apples.
Apple Cider–with the apples comes the fresh cider. I am lucky enough to live near enough cider mills to have my pick of the best cider in the area. There is something so refreshing about the sweet-crisp taste of cider. It’s such a versatile drink too–when it’s cold outside we’ll heat it up with some spices and either drink the mulled cider or add a bit of caramel sauce to drink “caramel apples”.
Raspberries–in my area the best time for raspberries is in the fall. They are so big and bursting with flavor!

There are so many ways to enjoy the fruits of the harvest–what are some of your favorites?

Tonight will be a rare treat in my world–an evening out with my husband while someone else watches the hoarde. We are so caught up in the day to day details of kids, housework, bills, job, school, life that we don’t often take the time to reconnect. Even when we do have a minute, we may not put any effort into spending time together. As I grow, I’m realizing that we get out of life what we put into it. If I’m only willing to give 30 seconds to my partner every once in a while, I can’t expect to get more from him.

When you think about having a “date” or “night on the town”, what are your thoughts? Are you someone who gets all dressed up even if you’re sitting in the living room or do you prefer a more casual approach? There’s no right or wrong way to go about it. The point is to make the effort to connect with someone else.

For tonight’s date, my husband helped me pick out an outfit that I feel attractive in and that he likes to see me in. Because this isn’t just about me, I wanted to ask his opinion. Again, that helps us reconnect. I’ll take the time to pamper myself while getting ready because it’s so much easier for me to connect to someone else when I feel good about myself.

I will be the first to admit that tonight’s event is very rare–we have to find ways to reconnect when we don’t have the ability to go out for the night. There are so many different ways to reconnect with your loved ones.

Do something you enjoy together. We are fond of music and spend some evenings practicing the guitar together. We may not be very good yet but we have a good time.

Do something for your friend/partner/family member. Make a favorite treat or meal, give a massage, leave little cards or notes where they can be found, take over a chore for the day, pick flowers from the yard. The focus is not on what you do, just that you do something for someone else.

Spend some time just being. Life gets so hectic sometimes that we forget to stop and just be for a minute. Try to take the time to just sit together for a while.

No matter what you choose to do, focus on being in the moment with the ones you love. Allow yoursef to reconnect without expectations. A date can be anything you want it to be.

How many times do you drive down your block? Walk your kids to school? Pass the corner store on your way somewhere else? How many times to do pay attention to the details that make up your surroundings? Do you see the beauty that surrounds you as you go about your daily business? Do you know how to look for beauty in everyday life?

So many days, I am busily rushing from one place to the next–from home to grab a cup of coffee to work to lunch to the grocery store and back home again that I don’t often have the time to stop and look at the world around me. Because I spend so much time in my car or office, I have started to notice the little things that make the world beautiful. Paying attention to those little details as I go about my daily life helps to keep me grounded and can bring peace after a difficult or tiring day.

In the spring time, the lilacs are blooming in the bush in my yard and two doors down the neighbor has an abundance of orange daylillies that sway gently in the breeze. There is a miniature woodland that boarders the parking lot of my local coffee shop–looking lush and green in the spring and summer, fading into a riot of color with the fall, and providing a beautiful backdrop for the sparkling snow in the winter. As I turn a curve on my way to the office, I see the mist rising off the lake with the sunlight glinting off the rippling surface, maybe there is a fisherman on a boat on the lake, maybe there is a flock of ducks or geese, always there is an abundance of water plants. After I pass the lake I notice the sunlight shining on the remains of an old silo sandwiched between a house and condo development, looking like the relic from earlier times that it is. It rises majestically out of the grass, towering over the modern houses around it. As I work throughout the day, I take frequent peeks a the garden tended with care by a coworker or at the plants growing around the few windows we have. I look outside at the sun shining or at the rain falling on the flowers and trees, I see the birds and small animals that live in the land around the building. Someone put some fairly clings on one of the windows that overlooks a fairly wooded section of the cemetery next door–when the sun hits it just right it’s a lovely surprise.

Take a minute this week and think about all the beauty that exists in your community. Look around you as you drive to work, school, or the grocery store. Pay attention to the little details that surround you making the world an incredibly beautiful place to be.

There’s been quite a lot going on in the world lately and it’s been hard for me to think of ways to indulge when it took everything I had to just get through the day. So many people get caught up in the details of day to day life. Even without the crises that happen to us all, just living each day takes a toll. Like most everyone, I have a job, family, and outside responsibilities to balance with the same limited amount of time as the rest of the world. Even when life is good, sometimes I just need a little comforting to get through the day. We see children learning to comfort themselves from a very early age. Sometimes it seems like we forget the importance of comforting rituals as we grow older. Being an adult doesn’t magically make the world a better place, we all have times when we need to seek comfort.

There are many little things I do for comfort–if I’m having a rough day at work, taking the time to sip a cup of tea or coffee on my break, sneaking a piece of chocolate or fruit, putting some inspirational music on my headphones, or even getting up from my desk and taking a quick walk to stretch are all comforting rituals.

To comfort my body I can wear soft clothes, take a warm bath, soak my feet in warm water, cuddle up with a family member, enjoy a nourishing snack or meal, or stretch my muscles.

To comfort my spirit I can spent time in meditation, listen to music, touch base with my spiritual roots, or allow myself to spend time just being for a moment.

When I’m feeling really vulnerable and needing comfort I’ll usually warm up my space with a heating pad, wrap up in a soft robe or blanket, light a stick of incense, turn the lights down and the music on, grab a book and a cup of tea and maybe a special snack and create a cocoon around me. That’s my space to express my fear, sadness, anger, loneliness, and seek comfort from whatever is bothering me.

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