Bantu proverb —
The bitter heart eats its owner.
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1.5.17 Bottled Up

The year 2017 is upon us! I'm a January baby, so this month always feels like a fresh start. I'll be turning 54 in a couple of weeks; well past the halfway mark, which is a bit startling somehow. I think about death a lot—have done ever since my father died when I was 26 (he was 64), and then my husband died when I was 40 (he was 41) and my mother died that same year (she was 76). For me, a big part of living is preparing to die and I don't feel this is morbid or maudlin. I want to die in peace and without regrets and this means striving to live in a state of grace. For those of you who haven't yet made it to this age and are curious about what lies ahead, here is what I can report: I have plenty of energy, dreams and plans. The world continues to be full of surprises and challenges. I am never bored. Slowing down is something I do to improve the quality of my life. There is always something new to learn, including about myself. The longer I live, the more I turn to nature for guidance, nourishment and wisdom. Any time I can be outside or interacting with plants is a source of joy for me and making bitters is an extension of that. 


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T.S. Eliot —
For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice.
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12.27.16 Party Tricks

Ice swans. Mountains of caviar. Tuxedoed waiters. Silver candelabras. Live jazz. Piping hot gougères. Flutes of champagne on gilt trays. That's entertainment—of one sort. We should all be so lucky to at least attend one extravagantly grand gala in our lifetime, if not host one. But such an occasion is less appealing to me than gathering close friends together in a relaxing, well-lit room and indulging them with a few comfortingly delicious treats. Although it might not always appear so, I like things pretty simple and I stick to a well-oiled routine that keeps anxiety to a minimum. By now you must know that I believe in being organized. Allotting plenty of time to get things done ahead means no last-minute panic and enjoying the party alongside your guests. So, if you're planning a get-together for New Year's Eve, or thinking about planning one (or dreading the one you've promised to host), I've got some tricks up my sleeve and a few words of counsel.


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Anonymous —
Stressed spelled backwards is desserts. Coincidence? I think not!
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12.21.16 Bitters/Sweets

How about we start with the sweet and move on to the bitter? Nothing would please me more than being able to send every one of you who commented a bag of my caramels, but I just can't swing it this year. (The postage alone is prohibitive!) But I do have three bags and they are going out to randomly selected Diane, Teresa and Jack. (I will email you separately to get your snail mail addresses.) Thank you to all for sharing your beautiful traditions and thoughts on celebrating at this time of year. I am very moved by how thoughtful and graceful you are and feel lucky that I am part of this ad hoc community.

 

And now, for the bitter. Or, actually, bitters—a new project of mine. I gathered a number of roots late this fall and decided to make a few different varieties of bitters. (If you'd like to learn more about how I got into foraging, here is I piece I wrote for a recent issue of Edible.) My witchy work is still in progress...


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A.A. Milne —
Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.
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12.14.16 Holidaze (& a Giveaway)

Have you been sucked into the December vortex? Standing in long lines, eating too much sugar and feeling like a loser because you can't afford to buy all the presents are some indications that the holidays are getting the better of you. Resist! I say. Go simple. Stay true. Be calm. It's a challenge, I know. Just the other day, as I sat wrapping gifts, I was overcome with sadness. Both my parents are gone, what little family I have lives on the West Coast and most of my friends are far away. I never had children. I live in a tiny cottage and my home doesn't overflow with several generations. My life suddenly seemed very thin to me and, I confess, I felt a little sorry for myself. And I start every day with a gratitude practice in which I carefully review all my many blessings! What is it about this time of year that preys on our vulnerabilities? I didn't really snap out of it until my husband came home and took me in his arms and talked me through the realities: I am healthy. I am safe. I am lucky. I am loved. There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.


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Bertold Brecht —
Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are.
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12.6.16 Take Root

Big changes can unseat us, make us feel wobbly and uncertain, as though the ground beneath our feet has shifted uncomfortably. Though we can't see the future, we often operate under the delusion that we know what's coming and that brings some measure of comfort. But, inevitably, our roots are disturbed and we must find a way to regain our equilibrium.

 

A few months ago, my life unexpectedly changed shaped and fear and anxiety threatened to overtake me. It required a lot of strength (and support from people in my life) not to react from a place of despair. Instead, I have chosen to remain calm, to give myself space and to simply exist in the in-between moment—a limbo I have historically found untenable. The eternal temptation is to take action to fix a problem.

 

This is where a regular meditation practice can be very helpful. It turns "Don't just sit there, do something!" into "Don't just do something, sit there!" The very act of sitting calmly allows you to feel grounded—in yourself. Your root chakra, located at the base of the spine, the pelvic floor and the first three vertebrae, creates a solid foundation that provides a sense of safety and security from within, regardless of your circumstance. Bit by bit, I am starting to feel more connected to myself, to my true nature.


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