Merry Merry!

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I hope you have a wonderful holiday! This is our little Xmas card this year – basically a tribute to how freakin’ adorable our dog is and how much better Thad’s eka pada is than mine. :)

Thaddeus and I are off for a week of rest, fun and skiing in Telluride!

It’s going to be quiet round ye ole bloggy blog for a bit….Enjoy the holiday cheer with your family and friends.

 

Love and Blessings,

Frances

My Soundtrack Of 2013

At the end of each year I make a playlist encapsulating songs that meant something to me over the course of the past 12 months. Some are new songs, but many are old ones that have re-emerged for me in significance for some reason or another.

I give a CD of my yearly “soundtrack” to my girlfriends and family around the holidays.

But I mostly make this compilation of favorite songs for myself – I love having these yearly playlists on my ipod. It’s fun to go back and see how different each year has been.

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Those Damn Vrittis: Maneuvering On The Mat In Times Of Mental Chaos

Occasionally I forget that the whole purpose of yoga is to control the mind  – “citta-vritti-nirodha” – until I’m faced with a mind that is out of control.

This past week in practice, I caught myself a few times spacing out/psyching myself out in a pose for so long that I forgot what I was doing. You know in Ashtanga you typically only hold an asana for the length of 5 breaths. This doesn’t provide a whole lot of time for the mind to wander. The conjunction of the breath, movement, bandha and drishti lends itself to a full absorption of attention. But not always.

For no legitimate or provoked reason at the start of this week my mind was whirling with fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of catastrophe, fear of possible bodily harm, fear of the passing of time.

I’ve spoken with other Ashtangis about facing fear on the mat in regards to poses themselves – the fear that arises in deep and challenging backbends for example, or the fear that you will fall on your head, that your back will snap, that your arms won’t hold you, etc., But there are other fears we face in practice that have squat diddly to do with the physical shapes and movements.

These are the fears in the mind, the types that muddle thoughts, shorten breath and whisk you away from the here and now. How does one move past these? How does one brush aside scary visions or worst-case scenario monologues that start overtaking the head and the heart?

Personally what I’m learning, ever so slowly and stubbornly, is the importance of just keeping at it. Sometimes when I’m fraught with emotion in practice, I really want to stop and give up. I want to curl into a little ball and go deeper inside my thoughts, shutting the world out. I want to cease moving and simply lie there, self-absorbed, floating away with my jumbled breathless mind-stuff.

To keep moving is the hardest thing to do…but that movement is powerful. The process of adhering to the rhythm and the pattern of the practice has the ability to move you mentally. The dynamism of the series and the will to keep going burns through the vrittis. By continually bringing one’s attention back to the breath, back to the bandhas and the drishti and back to the flow of in and out, up and down, there is the opportunity to cut through the swirling of the mind’s chaos.

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Fifteen Joyful Ways To Celebrate The Holiday Season

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Yesterday as I left the flower shop with silver glitter all over my face, it hit me – Christmas is two weeks away! It’s time to get a little festive.

Some of my friends know me to be a bit of a Scrooge. But this is not entirely true, because, in fact, there are parts of the Christmas season that I really do love.

First off, I adore winter. I love the sparkly snow and the chilly weather. I would take a powdery mountain over a Caribbean beach any day. I am quite fond of wintery foods, hot tea, and feather down jackets. I also love the whole concept of “comfort and joy” and the generosity of spirit that can be especially present this time of year.

What I don’t love is the abundant tackiness, the over-commercialization of the holiday and the incessant bad Christmas music every darn place you go, but really, who actually likes all that? Not many of us, if I had to guess.

In honor of the upcoming holiday, whether you’re a Christian or a Hare Krishna, here are a few ideas for fun, festive and wholesome ways to celebrate the season:

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The Perfect Healthy Winter Snack

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Last week I shared with you my husband’s favorite seasonal sweet treat, and today I want to share with you mine.

Bruléed grapefruit: quick to make, chock-full of vitamin C and totally decadent despite its lack of calories or fat.

I was raised to enjoy a cold sugar-less grapefruit every morning in the wintertime. We always received big boxes full of them from my Florida grandparents. I still love the simplicity of the sweet and tart Ruby Reds eaten with serrated spoon. It’s one of the few cold things I can even think of eating this time of year. That said, when a friend introduced me a few years ago to the concept of broiling brown sugar on grapefruits, I was rather smitten.

Bruléed grapefruit is the perfect evening snack for me at the end of a long winter day. It’s sweet, warm and has got a little kick, but it’s not going to make me go to bed feeling yucky and full. Like most Ashtangis, I try to stick clear of eating a large meal in the evening before practice days, but sometimes I still get hungry once the sun goes down and I need a bit more sustenance after a full day on my feet at the flower shop.

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Essential Oil Of The Week: Silver Fir

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The fragrance of the holidays has overtaken the flower shops where I work. We are receiving evergreen bundles, garlands and wreaths every day. It is lovely and so very wintery. The resinous, heady and fresh scent of pines, balsams and fir boughs is invigorating and cheery.

This got me thinking about a favorite essential oil of mine: silver fir.

Silver fir essential oil encourages deep breathing and is healing for the entire respiratory system as well as supportive of the immune system. Because it is a strong oil that can be irritating to skin if used undiluted, it is best to use take benefit from this oil through inhalation. Simply placing a drop or two in the palms of your hands, rubbing them together and then holding in front of your nose for 3 or 4 deep full breaths is an easy way to appreciate the healing effects of this oil.

This is also an ideal oil to diffuse in your home. This allows the anti-viral, anti-septic and anti-microbial actions of silver fir to cleanse the air in your home – especially beneficial during cold/flu season. Plus it will make your house smell incredible.

It is a great decongestant because the scent can easily open the lungs, heal respiratory infections and bronchitis as well as clear excess phlegm and mucus. On a more subtle energetic level, this oil offers the sensation of more “breathing room.” It encourages inspiration and creativity.

Silver fir essential oil tonifies Qi and warms the interior. One single drop or two added to a warm bath is very soothing and clarifying as well as relaxing for muscular aches and arthritis.

This oil is distilled from the cut needles of the silver fir tree (Abies alba). It is important to get high-quality, hand-harvested silver fir oil because some conifer oils are contaminated with unwanted resins, petroleum byproducts and turpentine due to chain saws and other harvesting methods.

Happy December dear readers!

Love and Blessings,

Frances

 

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A Family Feast

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I hope you all had very happy Thanksgivings yesterday! We had a lovely and surprisingly relaxing day. I cooked up a storm, but it was quite calm since there were only 5 of us for dinner.

Thad’s parents are down from Montana for the weekend, but we spent yesterday with my mother as well at her home in Boulder. We took a mid-day stroll through quiet streets to break up the cooking and then ended the night with pie by the fire.

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Giving Thanks

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Gratitude is a beautiful practice. It opens the heart, connects people and creates a more accepting and receptive energy that is palpable even on a physical level.

Acknowledging our blessings and giving thanks is something we can do everyday all year long, but there is something special about having a holiday as a collective reminder of this.

My husband and I moved to Denver at Thanksgiving of last year. It has been such a full and vibrant year, replete with challenges, learning opportunities, adjustments and newness.

As I reflect upon this time, I am filled with gratitude and a touch of awe.

For all the friends who offered such loving kindness as we moved away from one town and settled into another one, I give thanks.

For my dearest Thaddeus whose humor, tenderness and sensitivity carries me through my days, I am most grateful. I am constantly learning greater awareness and skills of balance, communication, grace and devotion from you. Our marriage is my greatest teacher. 

I give thanks for my little pup Artemis for her delicious snuggles and her love of play. She helps me to cultivate patience and spend a little more time in the sunshine each day.

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Links: Pretty + Interesting

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Let’s take a quick pause to acknowledge just how amazing the internet is.

Sometimes I feel like looking at my computer is a waste of time, but honestly, I receive so much inspiration, humor, connection and education from my web perusals. It’s a pretty incredible resource. I received my first email address when I was in elementary school, so I don’t really remember much of life before the web, but I have witnessed real evolution in it as a medium for communicating art, style, design and information.

Here are a few links of things I’ve loved recently….from silly pretty stuff to more serious thought-provoking issues:

As a bookworm myself, I adore these book cover tees.

This powerful essay on patriotism, service and injustice in our military and our country is challenging but very important.

I love the design of this blog on health, wellness, beauty and life. It’s so peaceful.

Smitten by this 1950’s vintage wedding dress.

Seriously coveting this handmade ikat purse.

These incredible portraits of dying cultures are so arresting. I would love to see this book.

Slouchy (and affordable) cashmere tunics - yes please!

I had so much fun styling and modeling this week for an industrial wedding inspiration shoot. I can’t wait to share the photos with you. For now, check out our inspiration board for it.

I think the whole notion of something “changing the way you live your life” is way overused these days, but that said, I found many of these quotes on writing, love, dreaming, truth and gratitude to be very beautiful and affirming.

I found this article and slideshow to be quite fascinating. I’m always intrigued by what we fetishize as a culture, particularly in the realm of design and lifestyle.

For all you Second Series practitioners out there, this is rather illuminating.

Joy Thigpen is my idol these days in the world of flowers, weddings and style. So much ethereal, raw, swoon-worthy prettiness…

This piece by my friend’s mother on worry, changing thought patterns and the small victories of a consistent practice is a must-read for all my fellow worriers out there.

 

Enjoy these links my dear readers.

Love Frances

 

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Thad’s Favorite Seasonal Sweet Treat

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The other morning as I was pulling out breakfast ingredients, Thaddeus informed me that the time had come for sweet pecans. These tasty spiced treats have been a regular part of our wintertime nomming the past few years and apparently, with Thanksgiving just around the corner, I needed to hop on it!  Bossy indeed, but it’s hard not to love a man with such a sweet tooth. ;)

Spiced pecans are a delightful addition to oatmeal, granola, salads or even sprinkled on a bowl of creamy squash soup. They are so easy to make and the perfect tidbit of something sweet and satisfying when you need a little pick-me-up on a cold winter day.

Recipe:

4 Tablespoons of Organic Coconut Oil

3/4 Cup of Organic Turbinado Sugar

1 Tsp of Cinnamon Powder

1/2 Tsp of Cardamon Powder

1/2 Tsp of Ginger Powder

1/2 Tsp of Nutmeg Powder

Melt oil in a large saucepan on the stovetop.

Turn off heat and then stir in pecans until they are all lightly coated.

In a large bowl, mix together sugar and spices, leaving just a touch of sugar out on the side.

Then add the oily pecans to the bowl and mix gently.

Spread out the pecans on a large cookie-sheet and dust with a light coating of the remaining sugar.

Bake for 20 minutes at 300 degrees.

Allow to cool and then dig in!

Happy (almost) winter!

Love Frances

Meditation To Heal A Broken Heart

Let’s be honest here. Sometimes life isn’t always rosy and sweet. There are so many horrible, sad things happening every single day.  With all the beauty and bliss, there is also great tragedy, inequity and injustice in our world.

Sadness, darkness, pain, broken hearts – there is no way to sidestep these aspects of the human experience, and one shouldn’t even try. It’s important to for there to be shadow and light. We need that depth of emotion and the perspective it provides.

I’ve found that when I’m in the midst of a hard place, I have to approach my spiritual practice and yoga discipline from a different angle, depending on what I feel I need most at a core/heart level. Sometimes I need to push push push and emerge victorious on the other side. But often I need to be still, self-reflective and “selfish.” Going deep within the energetics and emotions of practice can take me to a place of greater awareness of why I’m going through what I’m going through and how I can grow from it.

Taking time to grieve, and to feel, to really feel, is an essential step in healing.

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