Have a bouquet!

Right now I’m in South Carolina while my dad recovers from surgery—an esophagectomy, to remove his esophagus and any remaining cancer cells in or near it. I got here last Wednesday evening, and have managed to create exactly one piece so far. Considering that we spent all day Friday at the hospital, and lots of time every day since then there as well, I consider this a victory of sorts. This bouquet is made using oil pastels on watercolor paper.

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Oh! And one of my friends who purchased chakra heart garlands shared a photo showing them hanging in her workspace, and how great are these?

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My sweetheart reminded me that I still have some of those chakra heart garlands at home. They are hand-punched from handpainted papers, and strung on red and white baker’s twine. Each string is approximately six feet long, and carries 14 hearts (each of the chakra colors, twice). They were created with lots of positive energy and an intention of helping to balance your chakras. If interested, they are $8 each or two for $15, and can be ordered here.

Crocuses. Croci?

I know that a few have started to pop up here and there in sheltered areas in New Jersey. Sadly, we have none on our property, except for these:

Original oil pastel on cold-pressed watercolor paper.

Original oil pastel on cold-pressed watercolor paper.

At present, I’m in South Carolina to spend some time with my parents, since my dad is having cancer-related surgery, and their spring is so much farther along. The forsythia is almost done, the azaleas are starting, pollen is everywhere, and it’s glorious. If I’m a bit less present here, though, you will know why.

Sharing a quick cleaning tip

And if you are not an artist, this may sound like it doesn’t apply to your life, but stay with me for a minute.

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As mentioned in my last blog post, I’ve been working on some oil pastel paintings (and yes, that’s what it’s called when you cover an entire surface with oil pastels). In fact, here’s a closeup of one of my favorites:

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Wild poppies

One of my favorite new oil pastel paintings, which I made using Sennelier oil pastels and cold-pressed watercolor paper

Turns out I didn’t just cover watercolor paper with oil pastels, I also managed to get a decent amount on my fingers. And on the surface of my wooden work table. And also? I dropped a bit of the wrapper from one of the oil pastels on the floor, and stepped on it, and it left a big white smear. And Kismet, my helpful studio assistant, knocked bright yellow on the floor and it smeared like WHOA when I tried to wipe it up. And I was temporarily bemused (not amused, trust me).

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Lemon

So fresh, so happy

And then I remembered that I am a distributor for Young Living essential oils in possession of many oils, but most specifically, of LEMON essential oil, which is the go-to for removing things like “chewing gum from hair” and “label adhesive off of glasses” and such. So i put two small drops of lemon oil on a paper towel, and wiped, and lo! the oil pastels transferred onto the paper towel and off the floor (and table) and all was well.

In fact, it was a bit better than that, even, since it left my studio smelling lemony fresh.

So if you, fellow artist, manage to get oil pastels on your surfaces, reach for lemon oil. If it’s on a wood surface, remember to wipe in the direction of the grain of the wood.

And same goes for anyone else with a sticky or greasy sort of issue that needs tackling (like tree sap) or something sticky that you’d like to remove—like chewing gum from hair, or stickers from things, or temporary tattoos on skin. (If you don’t have a local supplier of lemon oil, you can get in touch and order Young Living lemon essential oil from me.)



Trying something new

Actually, I’m trying lots of new things these days. And getting rid of some old ones, as well.

Case in point: MY HAIR.

Me, feeling sassy as I left the salon.

Me, feeling sassy as I left the salon.

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Back in my studio

And still feeling sassy. Of course, now that I washed it, it’s back to curly.

What’s new about my haircut isn’t just that I had it cut, and then blown dry straight. It’s that I went to a new salon (literally new - it just had its grand opening last Saturday): Mystic Ginger Collective. And I treated myself to one of their special “full moon haircuts” that comes with a scalp massage of oils and extracts mixed by the owner, Kellie, and even a surprise take-home gift that brings me joy! I set an intention for my haircut, which was to get rid of all that no longer serves me. (And I didn’t just mean the tips of my hair.) And so it is. 💫✨

I’ve also been playing a bit more with creating oil pastel paintings, and I’m starting to get the hang of it, you guys. All of these are done on cold-pressed watercolor paper that is 9”x12” in size. The first one you see (left) is done using Prima Water Soluble Oil Pastels, and the other three are done using Sennelier Oil Pastels (so buttery, so creamy . . . happy sigh). I’m going to be making these guys (and any others I make tomorrow) available to my newsletter subscribers on Sunday, February 24th, for $45 each (US postage included) on a first-come, first-served basis, so if you see something you’d like to have in your house, you should probably subscribe!

My last, latest new thing is actually the decluttering of old things. Between watching Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up on Netflix (I love her so much!) and some other energy work I’ve been doing, I am back to decluttering, big-time. And my sweet Morris is on it, too. Between us, we’ve filled two of those ginormous 55-gallon trash bags, plus two smaller kitchen-sized bags, with clothing that we have thanked and decided to let go.

I can feel the energy flowing a bit more freely in the house, and I know that we are creating space for new energy and more abundance to come into our home. I’m already looking at what else is due for some decluttering, and it’s enough to keep me fairly busy for the next two weeks. It helps that we’ve been activating the qi in the house with clapping and music and light and incense, all of which are feng shui energy clearing tactics. And wow, I feel lighter. Both because of the haircut and because there is so much less stuff in my closet. Next up is accessories, followed by makeup and other face products. Wish me luck!

Loving Life

In general, I try to choose happiness every day. And yes, I’ve come to believe that it’s as much a choice as anything else. I’ve thought it for quite a while now, but here’s a way to think about it:
If you’ve spent time around young kids, you will occasionally see them decide to get upset about something. Sometimes it’s valid (based on something they find upsetting that is not super serious), and sometimes it’s just them choosing to be in a mood. You can often jostle them out of it through hugs or something funny, but a truly dedicated kid will insist on returning to their sulk. And you can see them making that choice.

Here’s the thing: we as adults often do the same thing. And if we can choose to be sad or upset or sulky or insistent on holding onto a grudge, we can also choose to be happy. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have or experience other emotions, including anger, sorrow, confusion and more, but it does (for me) mean finding the things I’m grateful for and celebrating them.

Here’s me on Tuesday, choosing to be happy during my regular IV treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

Here’s me on Tuesday, choosing to be happy during my regular IV treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

Lately, I’ve been super busy. I spent two weeks in North Carolina with family, and flew home on Friday in time to pack things up and go to an event on Saturday. The Valentine’s Pop-Up Market at Creek Mercantile in Rancocas Woods (Mount Laurel, NJ) was a huge success. And I loved seeing so many female-owned enterprises in one terrific space! I bought the small macramé piece you see in the top row from Erin at Clove & Cedar, got myself a candle (vanilla and sandalwood, with a citrine stone) from April of Willow Moon Candles, scored a blue tiger’s eye necklace from Dot of DorothyClaire Crystals, and bought some more elderberry syrup from Jody & Michaline of Mystical Blossoms. (You can’t say I didn’t do my part to support the event — LOL!)

Saturday evening, my husband and I joined his kung fu family in Philadelphia to celebrate Chinese New Year with the United Fellowship of Martial Artists (of which Morris is a member). As you might imagine, Sunday was for getting things in order, like laundry, and groceries, just in time for snowy Monday. Pretty sure you are largely caught up on things now, though I do have a few other things going on: commissions that I’m fixing, talks with some businesses, and more. I will fill you in when it’s allowed!

In the meantime, I’d like to thank any and all of you who came out on February 9th, or who have gotten in touch for cards, garlands, and more!

Happy Valentine's/Galentine's Day!

A super quick blog post to share the love with all of you, and to let you know that I will be posting a more detailed update about the many things I have to share soon.

But for now, just know that you are loved.

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This is one of my original heart collages. As always with most of my work, holler out if you’d like one. (I have these in a variety of colors and am happy to make a custom one!)

Oh. And I’m about to send out an epic newsletter, so if you’d like in on that, you can subscribe here: SIGN UP.

Coming up this weekend!

It’s a Valentine’s Pop-Up Market!

Creek Mercantile is located in Rancocas Woods.

Creek Mercantile is located in Rancocas Woods.

I am super excited to be attending this wonderful event, which will take place in the newly opened downstairs space at Creek Mercantile. Here is who else will be there: Relics Revisited, Mystical Blossoms, Creatively Obsessed, Henna by Ash, Evelyn Taylor Designs, Proud Mary Designs, Dorothy Claire, Le Petit Fox Knits, Works of Hope, Clove & Cedar, Canary Works, Willow Moon Candles, Sage Woodworks, Loriginals, Lisa Mark’s Designs, Studio 42 Jewelry, Karen Hoffman, and Hunny House Market. It’s going to be a terrific day—sunny outside, warm and friendly inside. YOU SHOULD COME!

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Hand-painted Valentines

I’ll be bringing some of these beauties along

I will also have chakra heart garlands made with positive energy and hand-painted papers, collage heart pieces in two sizes and lots of colors, tambourine art, greeting cards, and possibly a couple of larger mixed-media collage pieces. (It will depend on how much I can put in my space without it becoming too crazy!)

A hyggelig end to the month

Well, it seems that the polar vortex has decided to visit quite a number of places here in the lower 48 states, forcing many of us to remain indoors for several days. And what better to do than to celebrate that with a bit of hygge?

As a reminder, if you are staying in, you can remain in your hyggebuskars (cozy pants that you never wear out of the house) and enjoy some homemade soup (using my recipe or your own) or a hot toddy. And, of course, there are tips for how to establish hygge in your home. And yes, I quoted Admiral McRaven in that last link.

This week, I’m following the core idea of hygge, which I discussed in this post, which I entitled “A little more conversation, a little less action.” I’m spending some time with folks I love and being a lot less present online (at least when they are with me) and a lot more time focused on the moments. And, of course, I’m painting my heart out.

Quote from “Grasshoppers” by Mary Oliver.

Quote from “Grasshoppers” by Mary Oliver.

Here's a heart for you

I am still enjoying keeping things cozy on this cold winter month—lots of cuddling with my husband (and our cat), and reading, and artwork in my studio. I’ve started the process of learning how to paint with watercolors, and while playing with them to start to figure them out, I created a series of watercolor hearts on cold-pressed paper, which decided to grow up and become Valentine’s Day cards.

Here you see the first four I made, though there are now about a dozen, and I plan on making some others this week just because they are fun and pretty and help me learn how watercolors work. These will be going with me to the Valentines Pop-Up Market on Saturday, February 9th at Creek Mercantile in Rancocas Woods, Mount Laurel. Each original artwork is mounted on a kraft paper card, which comes with a matching envelope—perfect for the one(s) you love!

This week, I hope to start painting flowers, in order to take part in a flowers for February campaign on Instagram, so wish me luck . . . as I said, I’m super new at working with watercolors! Meanwhile, there is cold weather and maybe even a bit of snow in the forecast, so we shall continue our focus on keeping things hyggelig around here. What has been your favorite way of injecting a bit of higgle happiness into your life?

In memoriam Mary Oliver

The world lost an observer, a speaker of truth this week, when Mary Oliver left our realm. I am a published poet myself, and even in my wildest dreams cannot imagine achieving the popularity and success that she did. I don’t resent her for it, but am instead grateful that we had her for as long as we did, and that she left us so many books.

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I am spending a hyggelig day here, nestled on the couch reading some of her poems. The quote above is from her poem, “Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long, Black Branches?”, which is from her collection entitled West Wind. If you haven’t read her work, or even if you have, I highly recommend the poem “Wild Geese”, which begins “You do not have to be good./ You do not have to walk on your knees/ for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. / You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” Here’s a link to allow you to read the rest.

Tell me , what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
— Mary Oliver, "The Summer Day"

Chakra heart garlands!

You guys. Yesterday, I woke up with this idea and made my first chakra heart garland. You can see the first half of it here—seven hearts punched from hand painted papers, strung on red and white baker’s twine. The full string has 14 hearts total (for 2/14). It’s just so pretty!

The full garland is twice this length, with 14 hearts.

The full garland is twice this length, with 14 hearts.

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I’m making a bunch to sell at this event

Thinking I’m going to pack these up and have them for sale at the Valentines pop-up at Creek Mercantile in Rancocas Woods on 2/9. In the meantime, hit me up if you’d like to order one or more for yourself. $8 each or two for $15, US shipping included. You can order them here.

A little more conversation, a little less action

Hopefully you get the reference from this blog post title - it’s a deliberate misquote of the lyrics from the Elvis Presley song, “A Little Less Conversation”, written by Mac Davis and Billy Strange. And my take on this is related to my exploration of the idea of hygge this month. One of the posts that got me thinking along these lines is this post, “What Hygge Really Looks Like”, written by Alex Beauchamp at the website, Hygge House. As she says in that article:

And that’s what real hygge is – a simple moment that feels so special, cosy, relaxing, loving or happy that you just need to call it out. It’s not about being fancy, or styled, or being in the best circumstances, or having the right things. It’s literally about being present enough to see how great a moment is, and give that moment a name – hygge.
One of my favorite people to have a conversation with — seen here at Mona Lisia, a favorite restaurant.

One of my favorite people to have a conversation with — seen here at Mona Lisia, a favorite restaurant.

Seen here in this photo of my sweet husband Morris: dinner, soft(ish) lighting, candle on the table, delicious food (mussels in red sauce—and if you get to Mona Lisia Restaurant in Williamstown, NJ, they are SO WORTH IT). And yes, I took this photo using my cell phone, but other than that, the phones were put away. And that is entirely intentional, so that we can focus on one another and on our conversation. It allows us to be in the moment with one another, and that, my friends, is what hygge is all about. If that sounds like some of the same sorts of advice you’ve heard on fostering relationships, or on intentional living, that’s no accident. And it’s no wonder that hygge help people to live happier lives.

Homemade soup as a form of hygge

If hygge is about comfort, coziness, and mindfulness, then homemade soup seems to me to be a hyggelig food. After all, it requires mindful chopping of ingredients, and its slow-cooked goodness provides lots of warmth and comfort, as well as whole-food nutrition.

My homemade minestrone

My homemade minestrone

I’m happy to share with you my own recipe for minestrone, which is really my take on vegetable soup. I patched it together a few years ago after referencing quite a number of recipes, and it is consistently good.

Minestrone/Vegetable Soup

  • 2 T. olive oil

  • 1 medium onion, chopped

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced

  • 2 stalks celery, cleaned and sliced

  • 1 small to medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and diced

  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and cut in 1/2” cubes

  • 1/2 small head of Savoy cabbage, cut into 1” strips

  • 1 can chick peas or cannellni beans, rinsed and drained

  • 1 can diced tomatoes

  • 2 T. tomato paste

  • 8 c. liquid (low-sodium chicken or veggie broth, and/or water)

  • 3/4 c. tubettini or elbow pasta

  • 6 springs fresh thyme

  • 2 T. chopped fresh parsley

  • 1/2 t. dried basil

Heat olive oil in Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds. Then add carrots and celery and cook about 5 minutes until they start to soften. Stir in tomato paste, then add zucchini, tomatoes, potato, herb, and liquid. Bring to a boil, then simmer 10 minutes. Add cabbage and pasta, and simmer 10 minutes more. Stir in chick peas or beans, then heat about 2-3 minutes longer. Top with grated Parmesan cheese (if desired) and serve.

It’s especially good when served with bread and butter.

3 steps toward achieving hygge in your home

HYGGE (pronounced somewhere between HOO-guh and HEW-guh) is the Danish word for a sort of mindful coziness. Now, I’m a word geek who absolutely loves things like etymology (the history of words and their meanings), and the background of the current Danish word is fascinating. The word hygge derives from an old Norse word that is about comforting, and is related to the Old German word that came over into English as “hug”. Kind of fun to know, especially when you are trying to get a handle on the concept.

If you are interested in incorporating hygge into your life this year (as a way of slower, cozier living, even if it’s just during the winter), then here are three concrete tips that will help you to get started:

First, tidy up a bit. Maybe you have been binge-watching Marie Kondo’s “Tidying Up” on Netflix, or have read her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, in which case this idea may already be on your radar. Or perhaps you read my earlier blog posts about decluttering, including this one from the end of October entitled “Creating Space for Abundance.” I’m not telling you to get rid of your favorite things (those stay!) or to clear your bookcases (heaven forbid — though weeding out those books that you don’t like or that make you feel bad about not loving them is a great idea). But having a bit less stuff allows abundance into your life, and also allows you to relax so that you can feel a sense of hygge.

One tip that works super well, and that has helped some friends of mine as well, is to find one space in each room to keep clear and tidy, to give your eye a place to rest. It helps even if it is a small piece of furniture, but it’s super soothing if it’s the largest thing in the room. For instance, a made bed in a bedroom (without stuff piled all over it) gives your eye a place to rest. And as Navy Seal Admiral McRaven says in this speech (which has gone viral and also become a small book), it will give you a sense of purpose and achievement. If you can keep the dining table clear, the dining room will seem okay. Same goes for the island in your kitchen, or at least a stretch of countertop.

Second, organize your stuff. If you have massive piles of books all over the place, consider obtaining a bookcase and corralling those books in one place. If you (like me) have Serious Paper Issues involving mail and articles that you intend to read but haven’t gotten to yet, figure out (a) where to keep them and (b) if there is an organizational device that would work for you. For some people, a set of mail bins is super helpful; others prefer a few folders; still others are fond of binder clips, or boxes, or a file system.

Quite seriously, I’m best with piling stuff in one place on my desk and scheduling time to go through it each week, then filing the stuff I need to keep and recycling everything else. And I would argue that forking out a lot of money on boxes, baskets, bins, and folders that just contribute to your stress and/or clutter level makes no sense (no matter how tempting those Container Store catalogs look, if you won’t actually use the things you buy, you will just end up with more stuff to manage).

A hyggelig moment in my living room.

A hyggelig moment in my living room.

Third, allow yourself to relax and enjoy your space. Introduce cozy elements such as lit candles, an afghan, or other comforts into your living space. Take time to enjoy and appreciate your space, and to enjoy and appreciate your day. Make your favorite tea or coffee or (if you’re an adult) open a favorite bottle of wine or beer. Spend a bit of time having an actual conversation, in person or by telephone. You can always use some of the suggestions from this post about celebrating the little things in life.

If you are starting to see a trend in these posts, I hope it is that these many suggestions about how to live a more positive life dovetail and overlap. Tidying up is good for creating comfort (hygge), but also it’s good feng shui, and it helps reduce stress (since you can find things when you want them and your things are no longer taunting you by being in disarray).


Hot toddies: such a cozy cold remedy

This month’s theme is hygge, which is all about feeling comfort and warmth (in the emotional sense, at least). I remain in the throes of rather nasty upper respiratory virus, which is apparently some sort of three-week cold that’s going around, and one of the things that helps to loosen the tightness in my chest and sooth my throat after coughing is a good, old-fashioned hot toddy.

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Ingredients:

  • honey

  • lemon

  • alcohol of your choice (if using): brandy, cognac, bourbon, whisky, or even rum

  • hot tea or boiling water

Here’s how to make this hyggelig drink:

Coat the bottom of your mug with honey. Add the juice of 1/4 of a lemon. Add 1-2 ounces of brandy, cognac, bourbon, whisky, or even rum (that’s 1-2 ounces of alcohol total—not of each!). Then fill the mug with hot black tea or hot water. Stir and sip.


This is a super soothing beverage on a chilly or damp day, and has actual medicinal properties if you are feeling under the weather. If you cannot have alcohol or are serving this to a child, just omit the spirits: the hot tea or water with lemon and honey is still soothing and tastes good.

Let me know if you try it!

This month is all about coziness

Or, to use the Danish term that better encompasses the precise idea of coziness that I’m referring to, this month is all about hygge. I’m defining hygge in brief as “a sense of cozy well-being; feeling present in this moment”.

My hyggelig work area at the dining room table. A favorite tablecloth, tea in a favorite mug, a candle, and a book.

It is a feeling, not an object. As a result, it’s something you create, not something you purchase. It can be as simple as mindfully enjoying a cup of tea or coffee in your favorite mug while focusing on the warmth it brings you. Or sitting down at your kitchen table with a lit candle and book.

It can be found in wearing a comfy sweater or pajamas or even a pair of “hyggebuksers”, defined in a December 2018 article in Country Living Magazine as “that pair of pants you'd never be caught dead wearing in public, but practically live in when you're at home on the weekends”. Again, it’s about the feeling of comfort, not so much the precise object you’re wearing. Note there’s no mention of it having to be “cute”, though many of the images you will find if you google hygge tend in that direction. (Think fireplaces, hot cocoa, a gathering of friends laughing and chatting.)

The Danes are consistently rated as among the happiest population on the planet, and hygge is part of the reason why. It is about comfort and connection with others, and there is much to commend it. So look for a few blog posts each week this month on the topic, and if you’re interested in getting the info delivered straight to your email, sign up for my email newsletter (no spam, just emails about living a positive life).

Scenes from my studio on New Year's Day

We are happy with our quiet start of 2019. I got a pretty awful upper respiratory virus last week, and spent all of Saturday in bed with a a miserable fever. I mean, I shouldn’t judge, I guess. But it made me feel miserable, so I assume its feelings won’t be hurt if I reference it that way.

Today is for doing just a bit of each of the things I’d like to enjoy and focus on this year. (You can read about that a bit in this prior post.) I’ve done my meditation this morning, and am going to sit down with Morris, my sweet husband, and engage in some “year in review” stuff once he gets home from his tai chi class. There will be time for cooking and laundry and a walk in the sun.

And I’ve already spent some time in my wonderful studio, which is something that didn’t even exist at this time last year. Here are some photos from this morning.

And yes, I noticed that these pictures strategically cropped out a bunch of mess. I was hoping you didn’t notice.

Celebrating fallow periods

As I mentioned briefly in my most recent newsletter, the gap between the holidays can feel like a weird no-man’s land of time. I even shared a funny cartoon on Facebook about how from the 1st through 26th of December, people are really into the holidays, and then from the 27th to 31st, then are full of cheese and unsure what day of the week it is. Funny, but it can also be disorienting.

I find it helpful to look at these sorts of times and spaces as fallow periods. Just as many farmers rest their land from time to time by plowing their fields under and leaving them unplanted (fallow), many people run into fallow periods in life. It’s super common among writers, who are between projects, or stymied and doing no writing. It applies to other creatives as well (actors, singers, artists, etc.).

Fallow periods are terrific times to engage in nurturing acts and self-care. These include things like rest, meditation, going to the movies, reading books, visiting a museum, getting out in nature, and so forth. It’s a great time to do things that fill your inner well or feed your spirit. All those things give you something to draw from and help to sustain you when it’s time to be creative again.

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So if you are off work or school this week, or somewhat at loose ends due to travel or houseguests, and you cannot stick with your “regular routine”, my suggestion is to treat this time period as a fallow period. Take a few deep breaths and a few minutes to figure out what acts of self-care will make you feel better. If you need some suggestions past what I listed above, you can check my post from earlier this month on six ways to celebrate the little things, since many of the small celebrations double as self-care or well-filling activities.

Celebrating the New Year

In just about a week, it will be New Year’s Eve. How will you celebrate?

This is not representative of what our neighbors will shoot off, but still . . .

This is not representative of what our neighbors will shoot off, but still . . .

There are several ways of celebrating that get lots of press and publicity: pay to attend a fancy party (or a not-so-fancy one), with food and a DJ and too many drinks and free hats; go out somewhere to stand in the streets with strangers and wait for balls to drop or fireworks to explode (some of our neighbors set them off nearby, so we don’t really have to go outside—though there have been a couple times we had to wake up for them); go to or host a party in your home and watch a TV countdown with friends. Maybe it involves banging pots and pans outside at midnight, or sparklers, or waking the neighbors with your fireworks.

Then there are the quieter celebrations: out to dinner with your spouse and maybe some friends, then home before it gets too late, or a nice, quiet evening at home. Possibly with some champagne or prosecco (the leftovers are great for mimosas on New Years Day).

But what about New Year’s Day?

Well, I have a bit of a superstition. This is not a long-held superstition, nor is it one passed down by generations of family members (unlike the "shoes on a table is bad luck" thing, which is TOTALLY the result of generations of my mother's family). It's one that I developed myself over the past ten years or so, and it is a simple concept:

I believe that what you do on January 1st sets the tone for the year. Therefore, if I want to be a person who writes and paints a lot, I need to make time to do some writing and painting on January 1st. If I want to cook more, I need to cook something. ("Something" on New Year's day used to mean a pork roast and sauerkraut, based on long-held and family-bred superstitions, again from my mother's family, but may switch to ribs, since my sweetheart doesn’t eat pork — unless it’s bacon or ribs.) If I want to read more, I need to read. If I want to be a decent housekeeper, my house has to be clean by then, and I need to do a wee bit of tidying on that day as well. If I want to maintain the morning routine/ritual I’m working to establish for myself, I for sure have to practice it on New Year’s Day. That means yoga, meditation, journaling, and the aforementioned reading. If I want to spend time with my husband, I need to do that, too.

It's all very simple in theory, and not necessarily difficult in practice, but it does take being really conscious of choices on January 1st. Basically, it can make for a busy day. And, I suppose, it means being really conscious of choices on the 2nd, and 3rd, and 4th as well, though these aren’t resolutions as much as intentions. Nevertheless, come next Tuesday, my house will be clean and relatively tidy, and I will be starting my day with my morning routine and moving on from there.

Of course, come February, there will be Chinese New Year to celebrate (Year of the Pig!), and then there’s the start of the US school year in September, and the start of the new year in Judaism (Rosh Hashanah means “head of the year”, if you didn’t know that), which comes at the end of September next year. And I’m pretty sure there are some other new years in there as well, depending on your belief system.

So tell me: What will you do to celebrate the new year?

As always, if you are interested in subscribing to my weekly newsletter, which is designed to share tips on things you can do to live a more positive life, you can do that here.

Celebrating the Solstice

It’s been a busy week here. Of course, that’s largely because we had contractors in the house on Tuesday, finishing up some work in our hall bath, and I needed to spend time at the Post Office, mailing things to relatives and friends at a distance. And I’ve been busy working on a commission as well as taking a new art class and working on some new ideas.

This is from an 1851 book called “A primary astronomy”: isn’t it marvelous?

This is from an 1851 book called “A primary astronomy”: isn’t it marvelous?

And, of course, the 21st was Solstice. The shortest day of the year for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the longest for those south of the equator. It’s lovely to me to think of welcoming the long dark of night on Solstice, and to know that we are slowly turning our way back into the Sun even as the temperatures become colder. It’s also good to light the candles or lights as a way of keeping the dark at a distance. Though with the beautiful now-full moon in the sky, there is quite a lot of light right now, even at night.

How about you? Do you celebrating the turning of the year? Maybe with some hot tea, hot chocolate, or something else you consider warming, like whiskey or wine? Do you head to the kitchen to make slow food like stew or soup or chili, or to bake things you might not bother with in sunnier months? Light a fire in the fireplace or wood stove? Do you cozy up with a cat and a lap blanket? Curl up with a good book? Pick up your knitting, quilting or other handiwork? All of these are excellent ways to honor and celebrate the season without venturing out into the cold or the wet.

Here in New Jersey, I’ve been celebrating the turning of the season with most of the things listed above, with the exception of fires (no fireplace) and quilting. And my knitting has been a bit limited by painful joints in both thumbs, compliments of my rheumatoid arthritis. But it’s meant pleasant days and nights for me lately. And it hasn’t escaped my notice that a lot of what I’m describing is related to the Danish notion of hygge, which I referenced in passing in a post I wrote last December. Expect to hear a bit more about it as we move into January.