Saturday, December 29, 2018

An Affair of the Heart: Heart Disease

    Coronary artery disease is the number one cause of death and affects approximately seven million Americans, causing 1.5 million heart attacks each year. Mainstream medicine offers only a temporary fix with $9 billion spent on bypass surgeries each year. If that money went instead into preventative approaches, the health system would be better off and so would millions of Americans.
    Preventative therapies include treating high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, encouraging Americans to quit smoking, lose weight, exercise more and manage stress more effectively. Garlic, onions, ginger and red pepper help prevent and treat heart disease by reducing blood pressure and garlic and onions also cut cholesterol and discourage the blood from forming clots. If you know much about herbs, that probably isn't news to you. But you may not know that many other herbs can help.
    High-calcium plants such as lamb's quarter, stinging nettle, watercress, licorice, marjoram, savory, red clover and thyme can significantly reduce the risk of heart attack.
    Angelica- contains 15 compounds that are calcium channel blockers. Doctors routinely prescribe calcium channel blockers such as verapamil (Calan) to prevent heart attack.
    Hawthorn- improves blood circulation through the heart by opening the coronary arteries. It also helps to reduce blood pressure.
    Purslane- is a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids which help prevent clots that trigger heart attack. In addition, it contains calcium, magnesium and antioxidants- all very supportive of a healthy heart.
    Chicory- has two heart benefits: It slows a rapid heartbeat and it also has a mild heart-stimulating effect similar to the often prescribed medication digitalis.
    I do not advise abandoning any current medications (Calan or Digoxin) in favor of Angelica or Chicory, but adding herbs to your daily diet in cooking, teas or supplement form can improve your chances of preventing heart disease and heart attack. If you do decide to use these, let your doctor be aware so he/she can monitor your medication effects closely.

Low Cholesterol Tea
1 tsp. roasted chicory root
1 tsp. linden flowers
1/2 tsp. fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp. ginger root
1 quart water

Combine all in a pan and bring to a simmer. Cover and steep for 20 minutes. Strain the herbs. Drink 1-2 cups a day.

Prevention Better Than Cure- Heart Care Aromatherapy-Style
These formulas reduce stress, improve circulation, nervous system and also lower high blood pressure.

Cardamom    2 drops
Geranium      1 drop
Clary Sage    2 drops
Bergamot      1 drop
Rosemary     1 drop
Hyssop         1 drop
Bergamot     1 drop

Use in a bath or in two teaspoons vegetable oil for a full body massage or in one teaspoon vegetable oil for self-massage. Self-massage once a week. Bath twice a week.

by Judy Burger

Thursday, December 27, 2018

HELICHRYSUM: Essential Oil of the Month

Helichrysum, with it's golden flowers, is named for the Greek words helios (sun) and chrysos (gold). Commonly, it is called immortelle, due to its long-lasting blossoms.
Helichrysum oil is naturally antibiotic, antifungal and antimicrobial. It is known for reducing the appearance of scars and wrinkles, and is often added to facial serums to treat acne. It is anti-allergenic and many have found it beneficial in the topical treatment of hives. Helichrysum oil boosts normal immune function and can support the body through post-illness fatigue. 
The scent of helichrysum is warm and woodsy and it is believed to soothe away deep emotional feelings. It diffuses anger and destructive feelings and is slightly hypnotic. 

by Kristy Baird

Interview with Chris Reinelt, Doula

Interview with Chris Reinelt, Doula by Chelsea Morning
Find out why Chris became a Doula, how she cares for the new mama, and what the universe is trying to tell us.

Women are a combination of pure strength and compassion. We are peaceful warriors; holding life in our core. Among our many talents, we birth new hope, new beginnings, a new addition to beauty and endurance of our kind. We’re the primal earth that ripens the seeds. Chris Reinelt, Doula with Erie Doulas, is the ultimate mother to the mother. With encouraging words of empowerment, she can invoke your inner Gaea. She supports with the gentle touch of hundreds of births in her hands, and will, through it all, be your emotional cheerleader. Like the best of mothers, she wholeheartedly believes in you, she roots for you, and guides you through, as you make your way to becoming Mother!

Why did you become a doula? Was it something you knew you always wanted to be, or did it find you, so to speak?
During my 4th and last pregnancy and birth, I was under the care of Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner Darlene Kerner. It was her care that exposed me to different options that lead to a beautiful, empowering birth and that ultimately put me on the path to becoming a Doula. I wanted other women to experience what I had experienced. I believe and have seen that when given support and knowing your options, you have better outcomes. That your involvement and participation in confident decision-making helps create a positive outcome and you're not just a bystander to the process or routine management.

How would you describe your style, your approach to birth, and your doula philosophy?
When attending a birth, I won’t know if I need to be “hands on” or “holding space” until witnessing where the mother is at in the process and how she can be supported best. Going with her rhythm and meeting her where she needs to be met. I involve her partner to their comfort level, reassure them both, and help them find what works best for them.
After years of practicing solo, I partnered up with another Doula, Michelle Totleben, whom I had trained with in 2000 and used as back up if needed. We are now known as Erie Doulas. . Between us, we have attended over 200 births and offer solid coverage at the time of birth. After an initial meeting and reviewing the contract, 1-2 prenatals are scheduled, which can take place at the woman’s home or place of choice. During those visits, topics include; history, health, birth location, early labor support, breastfeeding and generally anything that may be of concern to her/them.

What services are included during an expecting mama’s pregnancy and during labor?
Early support is offered at home until the midwife arrives, and after, as well, or until transitioned to the hospital of choice. We give continued support for several hours after birth or until feeding/breastfeeding is established. Massage, relaxation, positioning, partner support, and guidance, along with photography, if desired, and written documentation are some of the options used. In the event a surgical birth is needed, support is also available to the mom and her partner.

How do you care for the new mama and baby in the days after the birth?
Typically the day following the birth, I will visit the mom at her home or at the hospital. A week later, or sooner if needed, a home visit to go over notes, photos, and discuss anything needed, as well as to ensure that breastfeeding is going well. I will also encourage Mama to rest and reach out to many local resources for support if needed.

What have you learned about life, love, and strength from assisting and witnessing so many births?
I don’t know if I could even begin to relay what I’ve learned about life, love and strength. I continue to be in absolute awe at each and every birth. I’ve realized how amazing it is to be a witness to the sacredness of the whole process and what a privilege it is to be present at the birth of a child, to watch a woman become a mother, and to see a family be born.

10 little questions (because the little things mean so much)

What's your favorite sound? My favorite sound is centered around water; rain, waves, ripples, falls, (just not the sound of a sink dripping at 2 a.m.!) And anyone that knows me well, knows that I love the sound of a sport bike!

What smell do you love? I love the smell of warm, dry autumn leaves.

Would you rather shrink down super small or grow to the size of a giant, taller than the trees? The size of giant! I love to travel and I could cover so much more ground and see further!

Sunrise or sunsets? I love them both! Sunrises are energizing--the breaking of a new day with so many possibilities to explore, and with sunsets, I slow down and reflect. To sum it up: Sunrise= energizes= set goals. Sunset= slows me down= reflect. It’s nature’s way of balancing me.

What’s your favorite weird food combination that sounds gross but tastes really good? No weird food combos now, but growing up I loved my mom’s homemade mac and cheese with ketchup.

Is the hokey pokey what it's really all about? I guess if you looked at the hokey pokey as another way of just saying--get out there and participate in life--put yourself in or out there and do it--then it is what it's really all about.

What's your favorite herb? Rosemary

What essential oil do you love? Bergamot

What’s your favorite gemstone? Peridot--for me, it’s strength and confidence.

What is the universe trying to tell us? They universe is trying to tell us to slow down, pay attention and receive.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Preventative Measures for Optimal Health

If your New Year's resolution is to live a more healthy life, a common sense approach to maintaining optimal health always includes basic preventative measures. We all know: eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables; avoid alcohol, tobacco, drugs and processed foods; drink plenty of water; exercise; get plenty of rest, fresh air and sunlight. But did you know essential oils can also help in your efforts in a number of ways, especially during the cold and flu season?
Not only can essential oils prevent infections, but in some cases, they can fight off one that has already invaded. The oils used for cold and flu prevention include tea tree, eucalyptus, lemon, myrrh, lavender, peppermint, rosemary, grapefruit, frankincense and bergamot. Tea tree and eucalyptus oils are the most useful for preventing upper respiratory infections, and for treating them once they have set in.
Steam inhalation is the best method, or placing a few drops of either oil in your humidifier also works very well to sanitize the air and you will also inhale the molecules of the oils. For children or anyone who may object to the odors of tea tree or eucalyptus, try lemon and lavender oils instead. Any citrus oils such as grapefruit, sweet orange or bergamot also work well.
Any of these oils can be added to a suitable base oil to make a comforting chest rub. Reduce fevers by adding lemon, peppermint and eucalyptus to sponge baths or compresses. To ease general muscle aches that accompany cold and flu, bathe with a combination of rosemary and lavender. Any symptoms that do not respond to your own home cures (such as prolonged chest pain or congestion) can lead to serious illnesses like pneumonia. Use common sense, listen to your body and seek professional advice when needed.
Aromatherapy is a subtle yet effective method of maintaining your health without the side effects of drugs or the expense of other medical treatments. Continue to adopt preventative measure to improve your general level of health and let Chicory Hill Herbs be a part of your success.

by Judy Burger

Friday, December 21, 2018

ASHWAGANDHA: Herb of the Month

Ashwagandha (withania somnifera) is a small shrub with yellow flowers that is native to India and North Africa. The root has been used in traditional Ayurvedic practice in India for over 3,000 years as a stress reliever, energy tonic and concentration aid. Ashwagandha is a part of a group of herbs called adaptogens- that is, it helps your body adapt to and manage stress. Ashwagandha, when taken daily, is well-known for reducing cortisol. One study reported that it “blocked the stress pathway in the brains of rats by regulating chemical signaling in the nervous system.”
Those who suffer from diabetes and schizophrenia may also benefit from Ashwagandha's ability to lower blood sugar. It is also believed to inhibit tumor growth and help treat certain types of cancer. Ashwagandha “is believed to generate reactive oxygen species, which are toxic to cancer cells but not normal cells. It may cause cancer cells to become less resistant to apoptosis.” Research has also shown that it protects nerve cells from free radicals and promotes antioxidant activity.
Another amazing ability of this plant is lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. When taken daily, it can reduce body fat and increase muscle mass in connection with exercise. Ashwagandha can also increase testosterone levels in infertile men. It decreases inflammation and lowers heart disease risk.
Ashwagandha is safe for most people to take. Pregnant and nursing women should avoid it, as well as those with autoimmune disease. If on thyroid medication, use caution because it can increase hormone levels in some people. Because it decreases blood pressure levels and blood sugar, consult your doctor if you are already taking medication for these.

Ashwagandha Latte
1 tsp dried Ashwagandha root
1 tsp rose hips
1 tsp pine needles
1 Tbsp coconut oil
8 oz unsweetened almond milk
honey, to taste
Bring almond milk and ashwagandha to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and add pine and rose hips. Allow to steep for 5 minutes. Strain into blender and add coconut oil and honey. Blend until foamy. Enjoy in a mug with a sprinkle of nutmeg for a creamy winter treat.

By Kristy Baird

Thursday, December 13, 2018

BLUE APATITE: Gemstone of the Month

"Blue Apatite is a cleansing influence on the auric field, especially in the mental body- the vibratory level associated with psychic perception and paranormal abilities. It is stimulating to visionary states and is a good stone to keep in one's pillowcase for lucid dreaming and astral travel. Blue Apatite can enhance one's experience of 'vertical vision,' in which one is able to see multiple levels of consciousness operating harmoniously and simultaneously. It is a stone of inspiration, capable of making one more susceptible to the 'aha experience' in which one has an instant understanding, which crystallizes the answer to long-standing problems or questions. Its vibration attracts the 'blue being' of the supernal regions- whether they be ETs, guides or godlike entities such as Krishna- and it allows one to communicate with them." -The Book of Stones

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Book Spotlight: The Spirit Almanac

Taking time to nourish yourself and connect to the rhythms of the Earth can feel like a tall order when your days are packed to the brim but this beautifully illustrated handbook can make it a whole lot easier. The Spirt Almanac provides readers with potent, accessible rituals they will  want to call on again and again throughout the year to feel more grounded, aligned with their purpose, and in touch with their own innate sense of knowing.
Readers will be invited to practice and personalize dozens of routines incorporating science-backed techniques like breathwork, meditation, and aromatherapy, as well as more esoteric offerings like astrology, crystals, and tarot. Along the way, they will learn the fascinating history of ritual and trace these ancient spiritual practices through the ages to modern day applications from several true masters—from reiki healers to psychologists to sound therapists—who live and breathe this work. Divided by the four seasons, this book features dozens of ideas for spirit and soul enriching rituals including:
· Honor the quiet of winter and the start of the year by setting new intentions with a seed planting ritual
· Come spring, try a breathwork ritual to release blocks and move forward 
· Celebrate summer with a forest bathing ritual to clear your mind or a crystal ritual for an open, receptive heart
· Wind down in fall with a self-soothing full moon ceremony to reflect on the year 
The Spirit Almanac will infuse your life with more joy, gratitude, and a deeper connection to yourself and our Mother Earth.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Sandy Schuschu, local DJ: Interview

Discover how local DJ Sandy Schuschu, became a DJ, why she loves spinning at senior centers, and what movie should be re-made into a musical.
--interview by Chelsea Morning

Every time we experience something life-quenchingly amazing, our brain gives us a dopamine reward. The sweet, neurotransmission rush cues the brain to get more of whatever it was that brought on that juicy goodness.  It’s a survival mechanism! For example; Food= Dopamine Reward= Survival! “Hugs and Kisses” = Dopamine Reward= Survival! And for many, like me; Music=Dopamine Reward=Survival!    Therefore, Sandy Schuschu= Dopamine Reward = Survival!

Local DJ, Sandy Schuschu is one cool chick! With a soul as deep down and groovin’ as Motown, she’s got blues in her bones, jazz for a brain, punk rock eyes, a gospel choir wailing in her heart and a sweet rocksteady smile that can get a whole dancehall feeling fine!  
She sets up her vintage 70s turntable as though she’s rigging wires to an input/output plug hidden behind the cosmic veil, her cart of vinyl stacked next to her like ancient scrolls. She has a way of making any place so cozy and intimate, that you might believe you’re sitting on a rug in a dim lit apartment, while she’s playing records just for you. Still, as soon as the needle touches the grooves of the LP, and the first sounds of crackling fiery notes escape, smiles spread on faces as she delivers the Dopamine and helps us all survive another day.

What was your experience with music as a child? Can you remember the first song that you ever loved?
I was surrounded by music my entire life. My Grandfather and my mother both played instruments and we had a piano, growing up. My mother and my 4 older siblings had record collections. So of course, I was exposed to every kind of genre under the sun. To this day, I love everything from Broadway to Metal. I think the first song I remember playing over and over, was my mom's copy of Mashed Potato Time, by Dee Dee Sharp. I love that song. I still play it when I spin records.

People love music--I personally can’t live without it--but most people don’t run out, acquire turntables, and amps, and become a DJ! How and when did you decide that this is something you wanted to pursue?
A few years ago, I started crate digging…picking up records at various thrift stores, yard sales, etc. I was especially drawn to the old soul 45's. There is such a charm to hearing the driving beat and slight crackle of a good old soul record, when it's played on a turntable. One day, while browsing my news feed on Facebook, I saw a post by Matt Texter a local Musician/DJ. He was promoting vinyl night at Bobby's Place. He invited anyone with Soul, Hip Hop, Blues, Funk, etc. to bring their records down and give them a spin. I thought it sounded fun, so I did just that. Matt welcomed me and my little soul collection, showed me the ropes and I was instantly hooked. I loved learning the rhythm and timing of it and letting the records lead you on a journey. Watching the crowd forget life for a while and lose themselves in the music, was pure joy. And it came so naturally to me. He and I went on to co-DJ a string of vinyl dance nights at Scotty's. It wasn't until my friend Christine mentioned the need for female DJs in the area, that I actually thought…”Yes..., I need to do this”! Being a stay-at-home mom and out of the work force for six years, I had been cleaning houses as a side job. This was a chance to do something I love, still take care of my son...and empower myself by getting out there and doing my thing, just like the guys.

I LOVE that you LOVE to DJ at senior centers, tell us the meaning and importance of doing this?
As folks grow older, their lives change in ways that can only be understood through that very experience. The world advances at a fast pace. It can leave many senior folks feeling out of step. Things feel unfamiliar…like technology, cultural changes, social trends, fashion, etc. and simply how they are perceived and treated in society. Playing the music they request is something that helps them connect with themselves in such a pure way. It lets them experience feelings and memories that are not only familiar…but have meaning to them. I feel that allows people to feel at home in a special way.

Music has been known not only to bring patients in nursing homes out of their isolation and help revive memory, but it also helps people experiencing anxiety and depression, military and refugee PTSD, as well as people enduring physical pain. Why do you think the harmony and magic of music is so healing?
Whether it is joy, pain, hope, inspiration, longing, fear, humor, regret or love…Music taps into the deepest part of our souls and allows us to experience these thoughts and feelings in a very natural, organic way. It can help us move through thoughts and emotions, that sometimes awaken, after many years… without speaking a word.

Music is an ingrained part of every culture, tribe, and society. Though humans like to take credit for almost everything, music began in nature; the babbling brook, the songs of birds, whales, crickets, the crackle of fire. Would you say that music is also our contribution to the spiritual conversation of the universe?
Absolutely…it transcends all of the things that tend to separate us…sex, race, religion, culture, politics, and AGE!

15 Little Questions (because the little things mean so much)

What’s your favorite noise? A nice thunderstorm.
What smell do you love? Campfire.
Who are you most like in the Muppet Band, Dr. Teeth & the Electric Mayhem? Well, I’m not sure that I'm cool enough to be in that band…but if I was… I think I might be Zoot.
What movie should be re-made into a musical? The Man with Two Brains.
What’s your plan to survive the apocalypse? Offering my cleaning services in exchange for room and board in someone’s underground bunker.
Ziggy Stardust was David Bowie’s alter ego, what’s the name of your alter ego? My name would be Celeste Summers…and I would run a café in a small sea port.
People make money with careers as Elvis impersonators, who would you be best at impersonating? Oooh…I do impersonations…but none of them are good. Hahaha!
Fraggle Rock or The Dark Crystal? Fraggle Rock.
Rhett or Link? Can’t pick just one…no way.
Carpe Diem or Carpe Noctem? Carpe Diem!
What always sounds like a good idea, but hardly ever is? Ice cream.
What’s your favorite herb? SWEET BASIL.
What’s your favorite essential oil? Sandalwood.
What’s your favorite gemstone? I don’t have one.
What is the universe trying to tell us? Love and care for one another.
To request Sandy for any upcoming events, she can be messaged via Facebook @ Sandra Schuschu

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

DUMORTIERITE: Gemstone of the Month

"Dumortierite opens the doors of insight, activating the third eye chakra and assisting one in making the mental leaps necessary for transcending intractable difficulties or seemingly hopeless situations. It enhances all mental abilities- linguistic, mathematical, abstract, etc.- as well as what is termed 'emotional intelligence.' It activates the latent psychic abilities and stimulates clairvoyance, clairaudience and clairsentience. In gifted individuals, it can instill the gift of prophetic vision. It can even facilitate the building of skills in psychometry and psychokinesis. The simplest way to work with Dumortierite for these purposes is to meditate or sleep with one of the stones. In addition, wearing a piece of Dumortierite in jewelry allows one to be immersed in its energetic pattern all day long, speeding the process of vibrational assimilation.
Dumortierite is a strong stone of mental discipline and is capable of enhancing one's 'will power' in regards to learning. It is excellent for students, especially those required to take in large amounts of information in short periods of time. It aids in memory retention, as well as in the mental manipulation of concepts necessary to bring forward a new synthesis of ideas.
Because of its stimulation of mental and psychic powers, Dumortierite is ideal for those who work in areas such as astrology and tarot. In both cases, one must master a complex symbolic system and then use one's intuitive abilities to derive the most accurate interpretation from the data at hand. This type of task is tailor-made for the properties of Dumortierite." -The Book of Stones

WHITE SPRUCE: Essential Oil of the Month

White Spruce is an evergreen tree that is native to North America. The essential oil is uplifting and calming at the same time. It relaxes and restores energy and emotions. The scent is very fresh and piney. Because it is antimicrobial, using it in a diffuser to help clear the air is a wonderful use of this oil around the holidays. White Spruce oil supports general wellness and promotes healthy respiratory systems. Many use it for pain and inflammation, as well as to ease joint and muscle tension. Try blending it with peppermint oil and diluting in a carrier oil for a sore muscle rub!

by Kristy Baird

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Chill Out This Holiday Season: Stress-Less Remedies

The holidays can be a wonderful time with friends and family. It's a time to remember the past or make memories for the future. I love the traditions our family has developed over the years, but it can also be a time of great stress. You get caught in traffic jams. When shopping for a special gift, you find every store is currently out of the one thing you wanted. You need time for baking and decorating. It's during these times your adrenal alarm goes off in response to stress, excitement or anxiety. Your adrenal glands are controlled by your nervous system and respond quickly to your emotions. Extra stress overworks these glands and they become exhausted. You get sluggish and seem tired all the time (not exactly what you need at this time of year).
Make sure you are getting a sufficient supply of the "anti-stress" B vitamins. Also consider nervous system sedatives such as Valerian, Scullcap, Chamomile and California Poppy to help keep you calm and to repair damage that may already have been done (heart disease, ulcers, allergies, high blood pressure, headaches, need I go on?).
The versatile herb Valerian calms people who are agitated, but stimulates those who feel fatigued. (To get the full picture of just what Valerian can do, read Valerian: The Relaxing and Sleep Herb, by Christopher Hobbs).
American Ginseng and Siberian Ginseng can help you handle stress by sedating or stimulating your central nervous system, according to your body's needs. Ginseng also increases your brain's utilization of amino acids, which is important because when you are under stress, your body uses more protein than usual. (Proteins are composed of amino acids).
Schizandra also has a regulating effect on the central nervous system. This herb quickens responses and makes you more alert. It relieves headaches, insomnia, dizziness and calms a racing heart. It also has been reported to control anger and aggression.
Kava tea is used to induce relaxation, restful sleep and a sense of mild euphoria. Kava is not a true sedative, however. Instead, it is a muscle relaxant. It is used to treat nervous tension, muscle spasms, tension headaches, insomnia from stress or tight muscles. I have found that Kava lives up to its reputation of promoting peace and harmony among people. This is a pretty amazing feat for an herb, but I am convinced that all the world's leaders should sit down to cups of Kava before their meetings.
You can make a tincture to use in emergencies.

"Chill Out Tincture"
Combine 1 tsp. each tinctures of Valerian, Licorice Root, Siberian Ginseng Root, Kava Root and California Poppy.
 Take as needed up to 1 tsp. per hour (in emergencies). Otherwise, take 1/2-1 dropperful per day, as a general aid.

If the tincture isn't your style, and if you're a person who enjoys hot baths, combining herbs with heat is one way to combine stress-relieving methods. Add herbs or essential oils to warm compresses or baths. There is evidence that at least 20 minutes of heat in a sauna or hot tub or half an hour of deep massage changes brain chemistry for the better. Some of the most relaxing essential oils to try include lavender, chamomile, sandalwood, orange, petitgrain and ylang ylang.

by Judy Burger

ELECAMPANE: Herb of the Month

Elecampane is named after Helen of Troy, who was said to carry the flowers with her as she was abducted from Sparta. It is also called Elfwort. This lovely plant ally has vibrant yellow flowers and downy leaves and is in the same family as sunflowers and ragweed (if you're allergic to chamomile, feverfew or echinacea, she may not be for you).
Elecampane is a bitter, spicy, aromatic and warming antimicrobial herb. It is great for helping to dispel that cold, damp early winter malaise. Typically, it is taken in a tea, capsule or tincture.
Most commonly, Elecampane is associated with lung issues. This makes sense, as it is a great expectorant and can help with chronic bronchitis and pertussis, bronchial asthma, emphysema and tuberculosis. It helps to relax cold, wet lung issues by warming, loosening and drawing forth stuck phlegm.
Elecampane is also a great helper for digestive issues, such as bloating and gas. It helps to stimulate digestion and can be candied or given as a syrup. It is a wonderful herb to reach for when treating children and the elderly, as it is sweet and stimulating and helps to combat invading illness. Its high inulin content can help to stabilize blood sugar and it can be taken as a general tonic for the pancreas.
Elecampane is also said to enhance psychic abilities. It is one part of a medieval nine herb bath blend that is said to impart protection from witchcraft. The root can be burned as a protective incense or worn as an amulet.

by Kristy Baird

Book Spotlight: Sidewalk Oracles by Robert Moss

Synchronicity is when the universe gets personal. Through this book of games and enchanting stories, you’ll learn how to monitor the play of coincidence and the symbolic resonance of incidents in daily life in order to tap into the deeper logic of events, receive extraordinary counsel, and have wonderful fun.

You will be invited to become a kairomancer: someone who is poised to catch the messages in special moments when synchronicity is in play — and to take action to seize the opportunities those moments present. To be a kairomancer, you need to trust your feelings as you walk the roads of this world, to develop your personal science of shivers, and to recognize in your gut and your skin that you know far more than you hold on the surface of consciousness.

This is a way of real magic, which is the art of bringing gifts from a deeper world into this one. Follow it, and you will put a champagne fizz of enchantment into your everyday life.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Dylanna Jackon Grasinger of the International Institute of Erie: Interview

by Chelsea Morning

There is nothing sweeter in this difficult world than finding your place, coming home, and sharing your life with loving family and true friends.

Most of us have our humble homes, our little nests filled with our favorite things, a place to tuck our children safely in with love and lullabies , to dance, to sing, and to dream, a moveable feast of life, that infuses into the walls, the floorboards, the very foundation.
As the holiday season embraces us and we fill our warm dens with our tribe of family and dear friends, when the smell of spice steeps our kitchen like tea, and little trinkets are joyfully gifted and lovingly received. Let us also think of our neighbors and those in need.

For refugees and immigrant families, whose lives have been uprooted from their communities, finding no other choice but to flee from war, injustice, and violence, leaving behind their homes, their favorite things, their own spice-scented kitchens and memory-infused walls to seek refuge, shelter and new beginnings, starting over in a new place can be difficult and frightening.

We, as individuals and as a community can be the change we wish to see. We can help our new neighbors find their place and finally feel safe, welcome and at home. I asked Dylanna Jackson Grasinger, the earnest, compassionate, and amazing director of the International Institute of Erie, what we can do to help.
What is the mission of the International Institute of Erie? What services do you provide?
Our mission: We are part of a nationwide network that assists the world’s most vulnerable people overcome social, cultural and economic barriers so that they can flourish and help local communities grow.
We provide a variety of services to assist the newest members of the Erie community. Our Reception and Placement Program (R&P) is the welcoming committee. R&P workers meet new arrivals at the airport, get them into their homes, provide cultural orientation and show them how to navigate through the city and through all the various systems they will use towards establishing their own success. Our Matching Grant Program (MG) works with our arrivals who are able to work and provides classes and support towards finding sustainable employment. We have an interpretation program to help improve communication between our new arrivals and providers. We also have a diverse portfolio of ongoing classes that assist with learning English, family support, women’s groups as well as childcare and after school programming.

Each of the individuals and families you serve are all seeking safety, freedom, and the opportunity to rebuild their lives and their futures. Many have had to flee their homes, leaving much behind, and arriving here with very little. Donations, of course, is one way the Erie community can help our new neighbors feel welcome. What are some of the more helpful donations that are needed, and where can donations be brought to?
The Erie community has always been a very giving community. Donations help us to fulfill our mission. Our families arrive with little more than their clothing, and the weather they are coming from is not the same as the weather we enjoy here in Erie. Donations of winter coats, boots, gloves and hats are always welcomed. Backpacks, school uniforms and other school supplies are extremely
useful in preparing our students for school. Household goods ranging from silverware through pots and pans in good condition are helpful in getting our households set up. Gift cards to Walmart or cash donations always seem to help us get needed supplies and household goods. Furniture donations are on an as-needed basis. All of these donations can be brought to the International Institute at 517 E. 26th Street, Erie, Pa from 8am until 4pm, Monday through Friday. If you have any questions call (814) 452-3935 ext 2021 or email

Other than donations, are there other ways the Erie community can be supportive? Are there opportunities for local employers or landlords to become involved? Are there occasions where people can volunteer?
Erie has long been a very welcoming community for people wanting to build a better life and continues that tradition and support. We work with a variety of landlords and employers who see the benefits of having refugees as tenants and employees. We have amazing volunteer opportunities ranging from assisting in-home set up, organization of donations, assistance with office work, etc. If someone is interested in getting involved as an employer, landlord or volunteer call (814) 452-3935.

The families and individuals arriving here are coming from many different countries, with lifestyles and culture that may have few similarities to America. What have you noticed that they like most about living in Erie, and what do you feel our community can do to help them feel more at home?
The amazing thing about refugees that arrive here in Erie is not the differences, but the similarities. People come here looking for a safe place to live, the ability to earn a living, and the opportunity for their children to achieve their dreams. Our clients love that Erie provides them those opportunities. Community members should treat them like they would treat their other neighbors. Speak to them when they have the opportunity. Make sure they feel welcomed. Ask them questions and provide them with information and help if the opportunity arises.

After having worked with so many uprooted families, assisting them in reclaiming their lives, learning their culture, hearing their stories, witnessing their struggles, watching them achieve their dreams; what does the word ‘Home’ now mean to you?
I have been fortunate enough to meet and know people from around the world and be a part of their success. They are defined by their love of their family, desire to build the best life possible and acceptance of things that cannot be changed. I try to build my home around those same concepts.
Follow on Facebook at: International Institute of Erie/USCRI

Saturday, October 27, 2018

I Can't Believe I Ate The Whole Thing!: Digestive Upsets

This is the time of year most of us generally heap liberal amounts of abuse on our digestive systems on a day we call "Thanksgiving". Our bodies sure aren't thankful and, unfortunately, have ways of exacting revenge. Upset stomach, burping, gas, heartburn and indigestion can ruin the whole day. Herbs can help. Be aware, however, that if your digestive problems involve pain or bleeding, you may have a more serious disorder such as appendicitis or intestinal blockage. Seek appropriate help.

Heartburn is most often caused by too much acid in your stomach, or hiatel hernia. Herbs that decrease stomach acid include licorice root, meadowsweet, chamomile and lemon. Herbs that absorb excess acid are slippery elm, marshmallow, flax and fenugreek seeds. The acids in carrots and apples also neutralize stomach acid. Clinical studies have shown that chamomile, marshmallow, licorice, slippery elm, calendula, garlic, wild yam and St. John's wort protect the stomach from its own acid and also reduce inflammation and infection of the lining. If you suffer from gas, try using coriander, anise, caraway, fennel and basil in your cooking, or make yourself a tea of peppermint, thyme, lemon balm or chamomile. Most of these herbs are described as digestive stimulants, but research has found that they actually relax intestinal muscles and relieve cramping. Peppermint is the most popular of all of these herbs. Caution: people with gastric reflux should not drink peppermint tea because it relaxes the sphincter between the esophagus and the stomach.

Many people assume that their stomach problems are caused by too much acid, but poor digestion of proteins can result in too little stomach acid. Gas and indigestion following a high-protein meal are an indication of this. A treatment for low stomach acid is to take herbal bitters, which encourage your stomach to produce its own acid. True to their name, these herbs are bitter. One of the best-known bitters is gentian. Bitters are quite popular in Europe but have a rather limited popularity here in the USA. However, we drink our bitters without even knowing it. The primary ingredient in beer is the digestive bitter known as hops. Other bitters include goldenseal, Oregon grape root, blessed thistle, chicory and dandelion.

You can forget taking capsules to disguise the bitterness- you won't get the same results this way. You can mix bitters with tastier herbs such as orange peel and spices, or even sweeten them. Fortunately, you do not need much of a bitter to enjoy its effects. Just fifteen drops of a tincture or a quarter teaspoon of the powdered herb before each meal is enough. (Recommended amounts of all these herbs are considered safe for otherwise healthy, nonpregnant, nonnursing adults. Use all herbs cautiously and be aware of any contraindications.)

Heartburn Formula
1 tsp. each chamomile flowers, lemon balm leaves, licorice root
1/2 tsp. slippery elm
1/4 tsp. each fennel seeds, catnip leaves
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups apple juice (optional)
Combine herbs and pour boiling water over them. Steep 15 minutes, strain out herbs and add juice. Drink 1 cup after each meal. Store in the refrigerator. This will keep for a few days.

by Judy Burger

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Pumpkin Pie Spiced Nuts Recipe

It's that time of the year! We've mixed up our special Pumpkin Pie Spice and want to share a special seasonal favorite with you.

Pumpkin Pie Spiced Nuts

One 8 oz jar dry-roasted peanuts
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup walnut halves
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp water
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
3/4 tsp salt

Combine the nuts. Mix together the egg and water and toss with the nut mixture. Combine the sugar, Pumpkin Pie Spice and salt and toss that with the nuts until they are well-coated.
Spread nuts in a single layer on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 300 degrees F for 20-25 minutes. Break up any large clusters and allow to cool.
*May substitute any combination of nuts, such as almonds instead of pecans.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Bell Pine Art Farm

"Bell Pine Art Farm sculptures are handmade by loving hands as reminders that healing and balance begins within. We provide meaningful art as tools for ceremony and gift giving. Practitioners of every faith apply this circle of sculpture in the healing and sacred arts. It has found its way onto personal alters, medicine circles, hospital programs, churches, sacred sites, and meditation retreats and is collected by people all over the world.

Some of the sculptures are a vessel with a cloth in the bottom for absorbing sacred fluids such as water from ceremony, sacred places, sacred sexual practices, menstrual blood, essential oils, or for holding small stones, crystals or earth.

Paired with essential oils, our sculptures offer a calming experience combining the beauty of handmade art with the ancient craft of aromatherapy. Our Pacific Northwest clay-body releases essences, relaxing our nervous system and nourishing the body-mind. Oil absorbs into the porous surface of the clay and gently diffuses into the air as it evaporates, slowly dissipating and waning over time. A 60-80 square ft (8X10 ft) enclosed room can be subtly filled with fragrance with one to two drops of oil in the tiny bowl, impression or on the surface of the sculpture. Strength and time depends on quality, volume, temperature and variety of drops used, but generally lasts 1-2 days fading gradually. The diffusion process speeds up when sculptures are bathed in warm sunlight or nestled among candles. Any of our clay sculptures can withstand heat up to 1000 degrees f. and can be placed on a warming tray, or directly on a wood stove surface."

Learn more at

Conscious Ink: Humanitarian Spotlight

Get (temporarily) Inked Up... For Good!
"At Conscious Ink, we love supporting our community, and the world, by donating much-needed funds, and our empowering products, to amazing causes, along with supporting fundraisers and charity events.
Some of the organizations we've worked with and supported: Realize Your Beauty, Embrace-Body Image Movement, Safe BAE, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Canadian Fabry Association, Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation, Rain City Rock Camp, Mindfulness Thru Movement, Boys and Girls Club, World Muse, Ignite South Africa, American Red Cross,  Heart and Soul Academy, Brave Girl Boxes, Cervivor,  Make-a-Wish Foundation, Prader-Willi, Angels, CureDuchenne, Living Beyond Breast Cancer, LA Gives Love, Operation Shanti Rocks L.A. and many more!"

PATCHOULI: Essential Oil of the Month

Patchouli essential oil is extracted from the fragrant leaves of the Patchouli plant. Its earthy scent has been used for centuries to mask offensive odors and to scent clothing and other textiles before trading. Patchouli oil has many uses for both the mind and body. It is grounding and balancing, with a somewhat spicy scent that mellows and deepens with age. It is often used in facial products due to its ability to lessen the appearance of wrinkles and nourish aging skin. Patchouli is often mixed with other essential oils in perfumery as an enhancer, but it can easily overtake other scents so little is needed. 
Try a few drops of patchouli and a few drops of frankincense blended in a light carrier oil for a luxurious bedtime massage oil.

by Kristy Baird

K2 STONE: Gemstone of the Month

K2 is a combination stone of Azurite in Granite. The anchoring energy of Granite with the high vibrations of Azurite gives one the sense of floating freely with their feet firmly grounded. For meditation and retrieving information, K2 allows for deep understanding of universal truths, past life recall and connection to lineage. It gives you the knowledge of experience and the foresight to apply it for spiritual advancement.

SCULLCAP: Herb of the Month

Scullcap (scutellaria lateriflora) is a powerful calming herb with many uses. The name comes from the latin scutella, meaning "little dish". It is also sometimes called Mad Dog Weed, because in the 1700's it was used as a treatment for rabid dog bites. 
Scullcap calms and strengthens the nerves, relaxes spasms, relieves pain and promotes rest. It can help to rebuild nerve sheaths, and can actually stimulate the brain to produce more endorphins. People who are going through opiate withdrawal may find scullcap to be a calming ally. 
Scullcap is very high in antioxidants. It fights free radicals and therefore has been researched as a cancer fighter. Also due to its high antioxidant content, we find scullcap to be very helpful in calming anxiety as a nerve tonic. It is comforting and is used to promote emotional well-being and relaxation during times of distress. Those with epilepsy may find a reduction in seizures- it also reduces tremors, muscle spasms and other nerve-related symptoms. 
Scullcap also reduces inflammation and can be helpful for those suffering from arthritis and inflammatory bowel diseases. It also has cardioprotective efffects, helping to reduce the risk of heart disease. 
Scullcap is a very potent herb and should be used with precaution, particularly when using it in tincture form. It should not be used during pregnancy.
Try a cup of scullcap tea at the end of a long day to help relax and ease into sleep.

by Kristy Baird

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Book Spotlight: Sacred Contracts: Awakening Your Divine Potential

New York Times bestselling author and medical intuitive Caroline Myss has found that when people don’t understand their purpose in life the result can be depression, anxiety, fatigue, and eventually physical illness—in short, a spiritual malaise of epidemic proportions. Myss’s experience of working with people led her to develop an insightful and ingenious process for deciphering your own Sacred Contract—or higher purpose—using a new theory of archetypes that builds on the works of Jung, Plato, and many other contemporary thinkers. 

Myss examines the lives of the spiritual masters and prophets—Abraham, Jesus, Buddha, and Muhammad—whose archetypal journeys illustrate the four stages of a Sacred Contract and provide clues for discovering your own. Myss explains how you can identify your particular spiritual energies, or archetypes—the gatekeepers of your higher purpose—and use them to help you find out what you are here on earth to learn and whom you are meant to meet. Exploring your Sacred Contract will shine a light on the purpose and meaning of your life. You are meant to do certain tasks, you are meant to have certain relationships. 

In coming to know your archetypal companions, you also begin to see how to live your life in ways that make the best use of your personal power and lead you to fulfill your greatest—in fact, your divine—potential.

Both visionary and practical, Sacred Contracts is a bold, powerful work of spiritual wisdom. Without a doubt, your most intriguing challenge in life is to recognize your spiritual commitments and live them to the fullest.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

An Interview with Sarah Peach

by Chelsea Morning
Find out why magic is so important, how she started doing "Imagination Shoots" and what "Friend" she's most like!
Half gypsy, half mermaid, Sarah Peach is a mythical force of stunning beauty, amazing strength, magical creativity and above all else, love.
She's a free-spirited, whimsical soul; wild at heart, child at heart, a coven of proud ancestors in tow. Vast and brilliant, there's no lie in her smile, the word impossible won't cross her lips, she'll create another world on a whim, and be back in time to make dinner. Her eyes can see beyond the ordinary, able to capture the colors of our world, our inner beauty, our outer glow. She reminds us that we truly are magic and made from the stars. 
I couldn't help but feel a sense of wonder and enchantment interviewing local portrait photographer, Sarah Peach.
When did you first become interested in photography?
My first specific memory of falling in love with photography was when I went to NYC with my school's marching band when I was 14. This was during film days, and my camera I brought with me popped open and my whole roll of film was exposed... and the back wouldn't shut. I was pretty devastated I lost all those photos. I had to buy a disposable camera and just deal with it. My sister, knowing how upset I was, and a few close friends helped me recreate those photos by back-tracking our whole day. But even looking through the lens of a cheaply made (super overpriced) disposable camera, I couldn't help but notice how much I loved it. Even though I lost all those other photos, I created new ones with the people I loved. And my love for photography grew from there. 

Your photos are full of beauty, creativity, spirit and a lot seem to come straight from another era or even of another realm. I love how you're not the traditional portrait photographer! How do you feel your "nontraditional" perspective helps you in capturing the perfect shot in your couples/marriage portraits, family, maternity and senior year portraits?
I always hope, even on a traditional shoot, that I can somehow capture magic. I feel like everyone has a little magic in them and I try to bring that out. I think my nontraditional approach to shoots really helps me think outside the box, whether I'm doing an Imagination Shoot or a wedding.
You specialize in what you call Imagination Shoots, where clientele can be portrayed as whimsical mermaids, mythical woodland sprites inspired by the natural world, legendary unicorns, enchanting witches, royal maidens, all within stunning magical settings transported from faerie dimensions and fairy tales. It's truly an otherworldly concept. How did it become your specialty?
Part of it is because ever since I was little, I've loved magic and fairytales. And, thankfully, I never outgrew that. The rest of it came when I had my daughter. She became the most magical thing in my world, and my love for everything magic became her love, too, and she became my muse. I would photograph her, and she would ask for things that no one else would, like "can you add a rainbow in the sky?", or when she lost her two front teeth, "make me a vampire" or "make me have wings!!". And I would never know if I could do it, but I'd spend hours trying. And I'd always come up with something fun, even if it wasn't perfect. It was like modern day dress-up with my daughter and being able to bring her imagination to life was magical. It became something I wanted to do everyday and I knew I had to incorporate it into my business.
From mermaid tails to antler headdresses to Harry Potter, the costumes of your Imagination Shoots are fantastically amazing! Do you have a huge wardrobe of beautiful attire to choose from or are all ensembles customized?
Sometimes clients provide their own wardrobe and accessories, but I also get a lot of my stuff from thrift stores or my own closet. I am also lucky enough to be friends with the owner of Pointe Foure, a local vintage clothing store. She is sweet enough to lend or rent out clothing for me quite a bit. The mermaid tails I own are specially made by a company in Colorado called Swimtails, and I'm hoping to get some more very soon. I also love to create, and I make a lot of the headpieces you see in my shoots. 
I feel like if I called you up to schedule a photo shoot as a mystical gypsy fortune teller, complete with a crystal ball and caravan, you'd say, "Not a problem!". How important do you feel it is in today's world to connect with our magical side and to let our inner spirit essence shine?
My family actually comes from gypsies! My grandma still has my great-great grandmother's crystal ball. I think connecting to your magical side and inner spirit is so so so important, especially in today's world when people forget to just take in all the beauty and magic around us. And a lot of that comes from our own history and family. I love the quote, "We are the granddaughters of the witches you could not burn." Because not only is it important for us to connect to our magical side, it's so important to pass that down. I brought my daughter up having a strong spirituality and love for our church and God, and I also brought her up with a broad imagination and a love for nature, magic, reading, singing and creating. Keep the magic and beauty alive through the next generation!
You're a family oriented person, it's so sweet how you literally shout with joy your adoration for you daughter and your husband! What do you think you've learned from photographing all different kinds of people and the celebration of all the different kinds of love?

I love love! I know it's cheesy but it's my favorite thing. I think that's why I love photographing weddings and seeing smiles and capturing joy on a mother's face when she looks at her new baby. I think what I've learned photographing different people and different kinds of love, is that love looks different to everyone, but as long as it's real, it's the most beautiful thing in the universe. 
10 Little Questions (because it's the little things that mean so much!)
What's your favorite sound?
My daughter's voice
What smell do you love?
There are shops in the Morocco section of Epcot I always have to walk through when I visit, because they are so beautiful and I absolutely love the way they smell. It smells like the perfect blend of different herbs, spices and incense all mixed together. Every time I smell something even remotely similar, my brain takes me back to a specific shop there with a thatched roof, as the sun is peeking through the ceiling and all the different colors of fabric are flowing in the wind.
What mythical creature are you?
Definitely a mermaid!
Rotary dial phones or cell phones?
I like to look at and take photos of rotary phones, but for functional purposes and photo storage, cell phones.
What "Friend" are you most like; Rachel, Ross, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler or Joey?
100% Phoebe, I actually get compared to her quite often.
You're a witch, what's your signature spell?
I'm going to dive into the Harry Potter world real quick and say, "Lumos" since I'm afraid of the dark.
What's your favorite herb?
What's your favorite essential oil?
What gemstone do you love?
Hematite or Unakite, I can never decide between those two.
What is the universe trying to tell us?
I don't think the universe tells us anything as a group, I think it tells us all different things, you just have to listen or look for your own message. My messages aren't specific words or anything. More like images (ironically) or sounds and feelings. Just the beauty of the world around us. Watching the sunset. Taking a walk in the woods and listening to the birds. Petting my cats. Listening to my daughter sing. My husband's laugh. They aren't exactly messages, more like the things that are the most beautiful- maybe appreciation and thankfulness are my messages.
Facebook: Sarah Peach Photography
Instagram: @mrspeach @sarahpeachphotography

SNOWFLAKE OBSIDIAN: Gemstone of the Month

"Placed on the sacral chakra, Snowflake Obsidian calms and soothes, putting you in the right frame of mind to be receptive before bringing to your attention to ingrained patterns of behavior. It teaches you to value mistakes as well as successes.
It is a stone of purity, providing balance for the body, mind and spirit. Snowflake Obsidian helps you to recognize and release "wrong thinking" and stressful mental patterns. It promotes dispassion and inner centering. With the aid of Snowflake Obsidian, isolation and loneliness become empowering, aiding surrender in meditation." -The Crystal Bible

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Day of the Dead

By: Amy C. Keiper, also known as the writer, LC Harrison

Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) is traditionally about a three day celebration coinciding with All Saint’s and All Soul’s Days and even All Hallow’s Eve, usually around November 2 each year, starting activities on November 1. It is an ancient tradition from Mexico and the Aztecs, and is a time to honor ancestors, spirits, and souls of the deceased. In modern times the traditions of Day of the Dead have blended with All Saint’s and All Soul’s Day. All Soul’s Day is a time to honor departed loved ones, just as the Day of the Dead, when families decorate the tombs of their loved ones. In Day of the Dead, there are a few separate celebrations: one for children, one associated with All Saint’s Day, and one for celebrating and honoring ancestors. The celebration centered on children is the first activity for Day of the Dead. During this time children set up altars to acknowledge the spirits of deceased children. Around All Saint’s Day it is believed adult spirits visit their loved ones. Lastly, families go to cemeteries and decorate the tombs of their ancestors. The symbols associated with Day of the Dead are Marigolds, sugar skulls, and skeletons. There are often lavish and colorful decorations including these symbols. Families often take favorite incenses, foods, fruits, beverages, and mementos of loved ones with them to the cemetery. There are even toys set out for departed children. It is a time for remembering, and celebrating the departed with joy and love; as well as, a time for connecting with spirit and ancestral wisdom. Common activities include setting up small spirit altars, decorating sugar skulls, making decorations, and even dressing in costumes much like Halloween. Face painting is also practiced, and masks may be worn. Altars may include candles (often chocolate scented), marigolds (usually common or Tagetes Marigold, but Calendula is also used), photos, a bowl of salt to represent the continuity of life, fresh fruit, favorite foods and items of the departed, incense, and sugar skulls. There is also the art of paper cutting known as Papel Picado which is practiced making images of cheerful skeletons out of colorful tissue paper, that looks almost lace like when finished. Pan de Muerto, which is a bread consisting of flour, eggs, milk, butter and yeast, often flavored with anise seed, or orange zest, or even sometimes cinnamon is made. Pan de Muerto is sometimes even shaped into the form of skulls. This bread is placed on altars, and enjoyed throughout celebrations. There are also similar traditions around the world that bring even more ways to connect with spirit. Many are familiar with the traditions of Samhain, which have become associated with Halloween. Such as the custom of dressing in costume to fool spirits that were thought to wander between the otherworld of spirit and among the seen world, as the ancient Celts felt the veil would be more thin on the dark nights surrounding October 31 and November 1. The Celts would visit among neighbors sharing poetry and receiving nuts and apples. Like Day of the Dead, during Samhain food and other offerings were placed for honoring ancestors and visiting spirits and fairies. In Japan, Obon is a time recognized in July and August for honoring ancestors, and is considered a time when ancestors may visit loved ones. Aside from festival activities, lanterns are hung for Obon to guide loved ones as they journey, there is dancing, respect is paid at graves, and offerings of food and flowers are made at temples and home ancestral altars. At the end of Obon, floating lanterns are placed in rivers, lakes, and the sea to guide spirits home. Another tradition for spirit comes from the Norse and is called Álfablót or the Elven Sacrifice, where spirits of nature and the departed warriors are honored. Álfablót is a time for ancestor worship and celebrating the life force of family, and has a second celebration around the Winter Solstice to honor female relatives. Prayers and offerings of mead and food were made and addressed to ancestors and the Elves for protection during winter, and for an abundant return in spring. For incorporating these traditions and to add connection of spirit to your own activities, consider when decorating to add marigolds, which are a symbol of the cycle of life, death and rebirth, as well as other flowers like heather for ancestral wisdom and favorites of loved ones might make for nice decorations along with paper lanterns, lights, and sugar skulls and skeletons. You could decorate with candles in favorite colors and anoint them with a chocolate perfume oil. There are endless possibilities in making a colorful and thoughtful space to remember loved ones and connect with spirit and ancestral wisdom.