In honour of February being the month of love, I wanted to share some herbs that I use to nourish my heart on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level. Listed below are five of my favourite heart-warming herbs for you to enjoy with the ones you love.
Hawthorn/Thornapple (Crataegus sp.) - this thorny tree produces berries that are high in antioxidants, protective for the physical heart, and soothing as a herbal tea
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) - in traditional herbal medicine, the oil extracted from rosemary leaves are used to increase circulation in the body and strengthen the heart
Ylang ylang (Cananga odorata) - the essential oil produced from these flowers are used in aromatherapy to calm and slow down the rate of the heart
Rose (Rosa sp.) - the petals can be steeped into rosewater, or distilled into an essential oil to emotionally comfort the heart
Holy Basil/Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) - this flowered plant is most commonly infused as a tea and, according to Ayurvedic traditions, it nourishes the spirit and energetically uplifts the heart
Send some love to your heart this month, by adding one or two of these herbs to your herbal tea, diffuser, or cooking.
If you have any pre-existing heart or medical conditions, consult with your herbalist, naturopath, or health care physician before experimenting with any herbal remedies.
February is a month of love. Valentine’s Day celebrates the love between partners, but love comes in many powerful forms. Love can unite us and break down our boundaries. When fear threatens to cloud our vision, love reminds us of what matters. Love is the force connecting us when we stand together. Love will help us crack the wall so the light can shine through. But love can only take us so far. When people we love are in danger, we take action. We gather together and show our numbers. We will remind strong forces outside ourselves that fear is not an answer we will accept. Together, we can break through. Together, our love can do great things.
Zodiac illustrations by Katie Maasik
(March 21-April 19)
I have a serious question. Why is it, that when the past chooses to repeat itself, it only ever repeats the bad stuff? When I see the danger approaching, I have to laugh. I know this trouble! I’ve seen its kind before and it does not bring a lesson that I need to learn again. I know its hardships very well. I’ve fought and overcome this beast countless times before. Yet here it is again, all up in my face! Maybe I didn’t scare it away well enough last time? I admit I’ve been busy, quietly working away on my own life. I’ve been creating happiness for myself, no one can fault me for that. For the first time, I’ve stopped looking over my shoulder. I’ve finally felt peace! I won’t let the beast ruin this for me. And yet...I’ve heard whispers. They say that while I’ve been safe, others have never known my safety. They say they need help. Maybe it’s time to step up and use my power. Perhaps the past is repeating itself for a reason after all..?
(April 20-May 20)
I want to find someone I can respect. I want to look up to someone again. Maybe it’s difficult for me to find this person because I’m a leader myself. I resist following others. But even a leader needs an example to follow: even I have my blind spots. I want to trust someone who can point out my weaknesses, someone who will help me strengthen them. I want a mentor. But where do I look? Perhaps this person is already in my life. Perhaps my heart has pointed them out, but I've ignored my instinct. Maybe I was afraid to get closer. The energy from confident people is often intimidating. I know whoever this person is, they will not need anything from me. I know their happiness will come from within. Materialism is something I struggle with at times. I want the things around me to broadcast my success! I need possessions to prove that I am who I say I am. I think a mentor can help me grapple with this. If I can gather the courage to seek out this person, perhaps they can show me the way toward fulfillment.
(May 21-June 21)
I will take on a new name this month. The name could come in many forms, with many results. It may be given to me freely, or bestowed on me with a heavy responsibility attached. I may choose to snatch up this name to make it my own. It may signify nothing more than harmless fun, like a dumb nickname earned on a wild night out. On the other hand, the new name could give rise to big changes in my life, with fresh responsibilities. Names have always been very important to me. I sense their significance and power. I’ve seen how a name can be a great blessing or curse. If I choose to take on this new name, it may shield me and cover me like a disguise. I could find myself entering unusual places, and creating strange connections with people I never thought I’d meet. This name is my ticket to new experiences. I'm ready for the challenge.
(June 21-July 22)
In the past, I’ve been the one to remain calm during catastrophe. People I care about look to me to make sense of the chaos. They think that my calm comes from courage, but I know better. My calm comes from acceptance! I figure if I’m on the way out, the least I can do is go out with dignity. Okay, I’m joking...mostly. I like using my black sense of humour to lighten the mood. But these days I haven’t been laughing so much. It’s hard to even muster a smile when there’s trouble everywhere I look. I’ve been doing the crab thing and retreating into the safety of my shell, but I’m the only one who fits in here! I’m okay, but what about everyone else? Seems like now is the time to dig out a foundation for something. It will start out small, but over time it could become the base of a great shelter. A shelter that could put a roof over the heads of many people. I carry my sense of home with me everywhere I go—perhaps it’s in me to share that comfort.
(July 23-August 22)
Not to sound full of myself, but everyone wants me right now! They want my ideas, and my energy, and well...some of them want more if you know what I mean. It’s fun to be in demand! I’m super energized by all the attention, but maan! Everyone wants my input on every little thing! Close friends are sad that I’m so busy, and new friends want to see more of me. I feel like dozens of people are each trying to take my time. I’m getting divvied up like slices of pizza over here—if this keeps up I there won’t be any of me left! I seriously gotta take a step back. It’s just hard when there’s so much going on. I want to be a part of everything! But yeah, I gotta take a breather. All this attention is addictive. I can be healthy about it, or I can jump right into the chaos. Guess which one I’m going to pick? Hah!
(August 23-September 22)
My nighttime visions show me who I can become. In my dreams, I move swiftly and easily through the air. I feel weightless and joyful. My burdens are released from on high. They fall from my body and plunge deep into the waters below me. I lose sight of them as they sink into the unfathomable darkness. I am sad, though. I know when I awake, I will be back in the depths, treading water with my burdens weighted beneath me once more. But when I sleep, I see the lightness. I feel peace. If I truly desire it, this peace is attainable in my waking life too. But it’s so much simpler for me to remain here, treading water. I know I can access this peace—I’ve already felt it within me—I simply need to let go, look down, and see what’s holding me back.
(September 23-October 22)
I’m balancing my work ethic with my desire for new things. Tbh, I think freedom is tipping the scale for me. I want to give myself a break, and break free from the comfort of my routine. I mean I love doing great work, but if I don’t keep to a rigorous schedule, things fall out of whack. I hate when that happens! Everything always in its place, please. Plus I haven’t been feeling like my usual efficient self. There’s a fog hanging over everything. So yes, a little leisure may be the antidote for all this labor. I know I don’t need to travel far, but I do need to pick up and move somewhere new for awhile. Maybe I'll venture to the next town over. I could take a walk, eat at a new restaurant, look at some cute dogs—whatever it is, I need something novel to bring a little colour into this grey. Time for a much-needed jolt!
(October 23-November 21)
I like to get down to work. I’m lucky because I’ve always been free from the burden of impressing people. No one motivates me except me. My drive has always come from within. Don’t get me wrong: it’s not that I don’t care about others. In fact the whole reason I do a good job is because I want to do my part! We’re in this together whether we like it or not—we might as well work hard to make it easier for everyone. What I really despise is when people think I don’t notice when they’re slacking off. Just because I can carry you, doesn’t mean I want to. This month I’m going to encounter someone who looks like they’re messing around. From every angle I can see, this person is simply wasting time. But I’m going to fight my instinct to tear into them—because there’s something going on with them beneath the surface. I know all about hiding weakness—which is exactly what this person will be doing. I’ll need to soften my blunt approach this time. They may have a growing problem that I can help cut away, before it gets out of control and entangles the rest of us.
(November 22-December 21)
I like to romanticize the past. I have this idea that things were better back then, but when I stop and think about it, I’m actually having some of my best times right now. Part of that is the headspace I’m in. I used to worry more. I think I used to get too inside the heads of everyone around me. Now I’m okay with letting them think what they think. I keep inside my own head, I worry about my own needs. Turns out my head is full of enough stuff to keep me occupied anyway. I’m feeling so creative these days! I’m making cool shit and really seeing the world in technicolour. I might still wear my rose-coloured glasses now and then, but I’ve decided it’s okay. I need a little dose of romance in my life. As long as I remember to keep my needs in focus, I can give myself up to a hopeful dream now and then.
(December 22-January 19)
The thing I’ve been building is finally up and running. It took me years to plan it out. I doubted I would ever get it the way I wanted, but all those long hours I spent toiling alone are finally paying off. Now it’s finally complete, and I can rest as it does its work. So why do I feel strange? I realize I’ve traded uncertainty for peace and security. On the surface, that should make me happy—I like a solid foundation to stand on. But I also like to work hard. I like the struggle. Nothing has ever felt real to me unless I earned it. And now this: freedom, time to myself, a wide space to fill. It’s overwhelming. The thing I built is running well right now, but it would take so little to hijack it. Maybe I should break it down! Then I’d have a purpose again! But I know this isn’t the answer. I will spend this month tinkering and honing my skills again—I will find a new project. A new passion. A new thing to build up and make me feel alive.
(January 19-February 18)
I like doing things my way. I’ve got a unique way of seeing the world and making my mark. In the past when I’ve let others take the lead, the results are well...let’s just say they weren’t what I expected. Whenever I let other people lead, I almost always wish I’d stepped in earlier to help things move in the right direction. Does that make me a control freak? I like to think of myself as a creative director, but maybe I do tend to micromanage the people closest to me. It’s just that since they’re such a reflection of me, I want them to be great! I put a lot of pressure on them. I guess I could give them—and myself—a break once in awhile. This month I’ll try to let go and accept another person’s vision. Often people want to give me things, but they’re afraid the gifts won’t impress me. I’m going to let them know I appreciate them as they are. I’m going to be grateful for the effort they take with me. In turn, I’ll ease up my own efforts—so there’s room for their vision too.
(February 19-March 20)
Love feels elusive to me sometimes. I can feel closed off when other people are connecting. I often feel left out on my own. But this isolation is self-inflicted. In truth, I’m surrounded by love—it’s just not the type of love I’m expecting. I have a version of love in my mind. I seek it out in its entirety, and nothing else will do. But I am learning to let love have its rougher edges. Sleek, idealized love is no longer for me. I am ready to open my heart. I know opening up leaves me vulnerable, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I look around—I mean really look—I’m going to see the love I seek. It’s there in the kind words from a friend, and the warm smile from a stranger, yes. But it’s also there in the hearts of a few special people. These are the people who understand me most. These are the ones who see my true self. The ones who help me remain open, so I can love them back. The ones who want to love me the most, if I will let them.
Julia Khan Anselmo is the founder of Feisty Feast, a series of long table dinners where speakers share stories and inspire meaningful conversation. Thank you to Julia for inviting us into her beautiful home We shared some tea as we spoke of family, friends, and the resilience of the feminine spirit.
All photos by Alison Page
Describe your work. When did you first know it was what you wanted to do?
I am the founder of Feisty Feast, a long table dinner event that brings women together to connect over a divine feast, meaningful conversation, and beautiful atmosphere. It’s an exciting time to be a woman and, I believe, it's one of the best times to be a woman. It’s so important for us to come together and lift one another up. My events are intended to unite and empower women in the feminine spirit and to give women in the community a platform and a voice to bring to light the many, many issues that affect us.
"My events are intended to unite and empower women in the feminine spirit and to give women in the community a platform and a voice to bring light the many, many issues that affect us."
I’ve had eleven events thus far, all ranging from stories of how women have endured and healed—from living with a terminal illness, to the idea of exploring non-monogamy, to learning about the positive effects of slow fashion and natural dyes, to female sexual empowerment. I strive to create a warm, open-minded, safe and magical space for women to commune, listen and talk. It's my goal for the women who attend my events to leave feeling inspired, well fed and to go out into their communities uplifted and hopefully open to holding space for the women in their lives. All the magic happens when we let our guards down and share the most vulnerable parts of ourselves.
I knew what it was I wanted to do after getting laid off from a job in a company I had always wanted to work for in 2013. That was a tough time for me, I went on Employment Insurance for a year and explored what it was that I actually did with my time, rather than what it was I should be doing because of my previous work experience and the university degree I hold. I was meeting incredibly inspiring women, cooking and exploring different cuisines from around the world, and hosting dinner parties every week, so I began Feisty Feast.
Describe your space and your favourite parts of it.
I’m in love with beauty and aesthetics and creating beautiful spaces. My home is a sanctuary for all the things that are important to me. Cooking and hosting dinners, meditation, tea, making love and creating. My taste and sense of style are inspired by a sense of classic old world interiors, textiles collected from travels, and a strong western influence from Alberta. I try to only purchase and keep things in my home that are functional and mean something to me. We live in a world where people consume so much, so I’m making an effort to be more intentional with my purchases and surround myself with only the essentials.
"We live in a world where people consume so much, so I’m making an effort to be more intentional with my purchases and surround myself with only the essentials."
What is the toughest thing about being your own boss?
For me, it’s a combination of self-doubt and discipline. I’m getting better and having a routine practices like tea and meditation, yoga and running are useful. I'm easily distracted. I feel I could accomplish so much more if I were to able to direct my focus, but it's a challenge and I'm getting better!
Do you have any rituals that help you unwind at the end of the day?
I prefer a morning practice as opposed to the evening because it helps me steady my busy mind and get me to a place of focus. I have a dedicated tea practice that was introduced to me a few years ago by my dear friend Nathalie Kelley. It involves setting up a space to come and rest, to just be and think and drink tea. The practice and ritual of pouring tea is where I love to begin my day. But, a long hot bath at the end of the day with a fine glass of Japanese whiskey is pretty great too. And, one more! I love cooking with friends and having a big communal Sunday supper, with African Jazz and a lots of candles: Woodlot candles, of course.
...a piece of art you wish everyone could see?
My educational background is in Art History, so this is a very difficult question for me to answer because it’s hard to choose just one piece! But I’ll do my best. I’ve always been drawn to art that is experiential and art that uses the body as a medium to communicate a message. Though I have never experienced this art piece, or performance artwork personally, I feel it would be a powerful one. I first learned about the artist Marina Abramovic while studying in London in 2008 and am inspired by her steadfast relationship with the themes of endurance, vulnerability, and power. Her Piece The Artists is Present is one I wish everyone could experience, including myself. Maria sits in a red dress in the gallery space from open to close without getting up. Open entering the space the audience is invited, one by one to sit across from her at a table and look into her eyes. I think having that space and time to do something so intimate with a complete stranger is powerful.
...a book you wish everyone would read?
I’m reading a book by Esther Perel called Mating in Captivity that’s enlightening on the subject of desire in long-term relationships. In her book she discusses the philosophical question of whether you can desire that which you already have. Through eloquent and relatable examples, she draws on the history of love, marriage and her knowledge of sex to give an honest and realistic understanding of modern love, sex and relationships, and the pressures we all experience. I find her writing exceptional, it's a very difficult book to put down. I'm also enjoying Rupi Kaur's book of poetry, Milk and Honey. Kaur is a young Canadian writer of Indian decent sharing her life through words on being a woman of colour, universal shared experiences of femininity, abuse, relationships, sex and family. She speaks to my heart.
...a place you wish everyone could visit?
I think it’s important to visit wherever your roots are from. To know where you come from and find out how that has shaped you and your family; to know your ancestral history so you can better understand yourself is important in my mind. My mother is Trinidadian and my father, Portuguese, but I grew up in Calgary, Alberta. It was so far removed from extended family and family traditions, I always felt out of place there. My mother sent me to Trinidad when I was five years old to learn about Trinidadian culture, and meet my many aunts, uncles and cousins. I remember it was overwhelming because there were so many of them, but it left a strong impression on me and gave me a better understanding of my mother and where she came from. It left me wanting to learn more. A couple of years ago, I went to Portugal and felt very at home and connected to the land, culture and people. This year I will be going to India where my ancestry on my mother’s side of the family is from. I’m so excited to receive all of the challenges, beauty, and wonder that India has to offer.
January marks the beginning of a great transformation. Last year was a difficult time for many of us. We were forced to make difficult decisions about the lives we were living, and the people we would like to become. Positive changes are coming later in the month, but 2017 kicks off with mercury still in retrograde. We must prepare for breakdowns of all sorts, as miscommunication will rule us until January 8th. Be wary of technology, especially when sending messages through email and texts—there are simply too many occasions in which our intentions can be misunderstood. Mercury retrograde is always a tumultuous time, but we must remember that even chaos has its value. Only through struggle can we reach our full potential, and form a sincere vision of the people we can become. Stay strong, our vulnerability will push us closer to truth.
Zodiac illustrations by Katie Maasik
(March 21-April 19)
I usually have a solid idea of what I want. When people around me say I should want something different, I rarely give in. I’m a natural leader and people trust me. But sometimes I do go too far. Sometimes I need to step back, and wait a moment before jumping to a decision. I’ll need to be extra patient this month or my ambition may get the better of me. I know if I want to be a great leader, I need to learn how to share my power. Over the next few weeks I’m going to feel overwhelmed. Delegating some of my responsibilities will help everything make more sense. It’s hard for me to truly trust people, but I am going to work hard to open up. The more knowledge I share with the people around me, the more relief I will feel as I begin to unload my burdens.
(April 20-May 20)
There are pieces of my life that I want to reimagine this year. Now is a good time to step back and evaluate, to think about what I want. If I’m honest with myself, I’ll admit that I’ve been working hard to uncover something. I am finally ready to tackle the skeletons in my closet. It’s not going to be easy, but I know if I can move beyond simple black and white, I will find something wonderful in the grey. As someone who sometimes clings to easy answers, I know this is a big step forward for me. I am so open to complexity right now! I know I will always value tradition: it reminds me of what I love, and helps ground me in the past. But this month I will examine the structures that hold these traditions in place. I can build on the values that make up my foundation, and let go of the shaky beams propped up by habit alone.
(May 21-June 21)
I am going to be so busy this month. I can’t believe how much my checklist is growing! But it’s a new year! So why isn’t my slate wiped clean? I’m ready to forget about my mistakes and start all over. But when I look around, the blur of the holidaze is still fogging my vision. All my little indulges have started to add up! It looks like I’ve racked up a debt that’s going to weigh heavily on me for awhile. Ugh, but what else is new? I’m used to living beyond my means. Often it’s the only way to get what I want! Starting this month, I am going to work hard. I will check items off my list and earn my keep for real. I’ve learned the hard way that my big dreams come with even bigger price tags. So this year I am going to be much more intentional with my choices. I am going to slow down and plan my movements. I won’t fill the void with things I don’t need. Instead I will seek out love. I will spend my time creating memories with the people I trust. Their guidance is a rope that can pull me out of this hole I keep digging.
(June 21-July 22)
When people talk about “self-care” I get stressed out. It feels like one more thing I’m expected to be good at! If I don’t meditate for an hour every day, does that mean I’m a terrible person? That I’m not enlightened enough? Does my Instagram feed need more yoga poses and less dog noses? But petting cute dogs makes me feel good, and I’ve never been the flexible type! I feel so overwhelmed by all this advice. External voices are so loud that I can’t hear my own. This month I promise to set aside time to think about what I truly value. The holidays are wonderful, but they also brought a lot more stuff into my life. I am ready to concentrate on how I feel inside, instead of accumulating more things to decorate my outside. I am looking forward to clarity. This year will pose many challenges, but I’m going to learn a lot. First things first. I will focus on how I treat myself, instead of what I decide to treat myself to.
(July 23-August 22)
I’ve always felt in touch with my body, but lately it feels like a stranger. My brain is doing all the heavy lifting, and it’s starting to take its toll. My mind can’t stop racing. I’m constantly restless, and I can’t concentrate for more than a minute at a time. I’ve tried using technology to solve these problems: now I can count my steps, and track my heart rate, but I’m still overwhelmed. What should I do with all these stats? And how come this new sleep app isn’t helping me sleep better? I feel so worn out and disconnected. It’s like my body is trying to talk to me, but I can’t hear it over all this noise. Maybe I need a break. This month I’m going to take a breather from the mayhem. All this monitoring is putting me at a remove. I can’t completely disconnect, but maybe I can shut things off for an hour or two. I’ll go for a walk and leave my phone at home. I’ll turn off my laptop and read a magazine. Whatever I do, I’m going to do it slowly and with purpose.
(August 23-September 22)
Maybe I’m being myopic, but last year didn’t seem so bad! Everyone else was struggling to stay afloat, but not me. I guess I’m just lucky? I mean sure, I had some setbacks, but it’s nothing I couldn’t handle. I’m the most competent person I know! People depend on me. If I couldn’t hack it, we’d all be in some serious hot water. I can’t let my weakness show, I don’t want to alarm people. If I let myself dwell on things (just a few things, really!) I might be able to pick out a few personal problems. Let’s see...well, my work felt scattered. I was pulled in every direction but forward. And my love life surprised me more than once, and not always in the good way. And my health has been better. But overall I handled everything! There’s a few holes in my boat—but so what? It’s not like I’m sinking. Hahaha…okay yes, I’m laughing nervously. Maybe I have been slightly in denial. Alright, alright, I suppose it’s time to bail out some of this water this month, before I spend another year in over my head.
(September 23-October 22)
I have been laying low for awhile, but I don't feel shameful about it. I needed to heal. I dealt with some heavy things last year. My desire to hide away was only natural. To recharge I had to escape and get away from it all. But I’m finally starting to feel stronger. My wounds have hardened into tough scars. I know it’s time to venture out into the world again. I’m ready to face the familiar sights and sounds that once overwhelmed me. I have developed new ways of being that will help me thrive. But I am going to be rusty, there’s no doubt about that. I will falter more than once. I will struggle. My new ways may startle old friends, but I will be patient. If they’re meant to remain in my life, they’ll come around. Most of all I will be patient with myself. I will remember how far I’ve come. And for the first time in a long while, I will let myself hope.
(October 23-November 21)
Strangers usually raise my suspicion. When I turn a cold shoulder to newcomers, others look down on me. They assume I’m close-minded, but they don’t know the trouble strangers can bring with them. I do. I’ve created a beautiful ecosystem of people and places that are dear to me. My life is a delicate balance. But it took me a long time to put it in order—and the last thing I need is someone new barging in and disrupting things! So why do I have a feeling that’s exactly what’s in store for me this month? I’ve been raising my fences higher, but maybe I’ve been going about it all wrong. I know, I know—now and then I should open the gate. But it’s hard for me! What if all the good things I hold dear fly out the door and away from me? What if the newcomers bring unfamiliar traditions that challenge my own? Strangers often signal change. I need to prepare. Whether I’m ready or not, change is coming.
(November 22-December 21)
I love my home, but I get restless facing the same walls each day. To stir things up, I often venture out to seek new experiences. My travels have introduced me to interesting people from all walks of life, and I like to file away each new personality type I encounter. This knowledge has instilled me with confidence. I like to imagine I’m a good judge of character—I even think I’ve got a good grasp on why certain people do the things they do. That’s why last year, when someone close to me betrayed my trust, I was shocked to my very core. Their deception blinded me with so much pain and self-loathing that it was easy to miss the power I was unlocking inside. That pain awakened new abilities within me. As the first month of this new year begins, I am still mining my core for strength, but hindsight is finally offering me a window. I can begin to see my breakdown as a chance for true reformation. I'm ready to come back, stronger than ever.
(December 22- January 19)
I’m off to a wobbly start for 2017. I feel a little like Mariah Carey during her NYE performance: I’m ready to kill it, but nothing is lining up right. People aren’t doing their jobs, they’re not pulling their weight, and I’m left looking like the fool. But what are you supposed to do? Sometimes things are out of your hands. So far I’m just rolling with it. If last year taught me anything, it’s that laughter is my best survival tool. For these first couple weeks, things will feel completely out of control. I just might start laughing a little too hard. I’ll probably freak out the people around me, but that will just make me laugh even harder. What can I say? The madness helps keep me sane. As the month goes on, things will quiet down. I’ll grope for the control levers, and finally switch off some of this noise. Until then, I just gotta hold on.
(January 19-February 18)
When things go well for me, I get caught up in a wave of excitement. I can’t help it! Once I see the light of possibility on the horizon, I storm ahead into uncharted waters. My enthusiasm has led me to great things. But sometimes it’s led me to big complications—like it’s going to this month, when others begin to blindly follow my lead. I may try to convince them to stay back where it’s safe, but it’s too late. They’ve seen the opportunities my brashness can bring. If I truly want to avoid some serious complications, I’ll need to step into a teaching role. This won’t be easy. My natural charm gets me out of most jams, but I’ve never tried to pass my power of persuasion on to another. My charms usually only work for me! I suppose if I practice lending my power to others, instead of only using them for my own gains, it could feel natural after a while. Hey, I guess in the end it works out for me too: I feel at my best when I’m helping others.
When I look back at 2016, I see way more lows than highs. I don’t know if that’s my fault, but I’m praying that all these negative vibes are on the way out. I just can’t take it anymore—last year was full of too much heartache! One thing I will say, is that I’m proud that I was able to meet my troubles head on. When it comes down to it, I showed a lot of courage. And all those great people I attracted last year? They’re going to stick around and keep supporting me. When times are rough, I will move closer to what matters. For me, that’s the family I’ve created for myself. I will begin this new year by reaching out to those who helped me through my struggles. Maybe I can return the favour: maybe I can be the strong one for once.
The holidays generally mean more stress, less sleep and mindLESS indulgences that we would ordinarily skip. Unfortunately, all of this (and more) can contribute to issues like unwanted weight gain, low energy levels, mood swings and an angry, inflamed complexion!
Luckily, with just a few minor adjustments, this holiday season might end up being your most mindFULL one yet!
When I choose to indulge, I often reach for these easy nutrient-dense, homemade fudge truffles. Although still technically a dessert, they’re low in sugar and absolutely packed with some of my favourite skin-saving nutrients like calcium, magnesium and potassium to keep me looking and feeling my best this season!
Makes approximately 20 truffles
1/2 cup coconut oil
2/3 cup organic crunchy peanut butter
4 tbsp cacao powder
4 tbsp dark maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
2-4 drops food grade rose essential oil (depending on taste preference)
1. Add all ingredients to your blender or food processor and mix until smooth.
2. Pour into a freezer safe dish and let set for at least 1-2 hours until firm.
3. Remove and scoop one tsp-size amount at a time.
4. Shape into a ball and roll in more cacao powder.
5. Top with rose petals—because we eat with our eyes first!
Truffles will keep for up to four weeks in the freezer: if they last that long!
I hope you all have a beautiful holiday season! Enjoy!
Written for Woodlot by Dr. Deanna Weiss, ND
It’s that time of year again when many of us feel excited yet overwhelmed with celebrations and commitments. Besides taking care of your basic needs (getting enough sleep, eating well, not overbooking your schedule) I wanted to share a few other ways to support yourself during the holidays.
Listed below is my favourite collection of plants to help calm your body and mind this holiday season:
This soothing herb is calming when prepared as a loose-leaf tea, or refreshing when added as an oil to a dark chocolate treat.
The calming scent of lavender encourages us to take a deep breath this holiday season. Sprinkle a few flowers on a baked treat (such as shortbread cookies), add the essential oil to a diffuser, or tie a sprig of lavender onto gifts for your nature-loving friends.
Fresh oranges paired with cinnamon and cloves is a holiday staple for many. Use the essential oil as an uplifting aromatherapy, or simply add orange slices to holiday beverages like mulled wine or hot cider.
Eating cooked oats the morning before a day of festivities grounds and supports your nervous system. Bake oats into a granola or crisp, and combine with fruit for a nutritious and delicious dessert option.
Before your guests arrive, light bundles of sage to cleanse the rooms of your home. This season you may also want to try cooking with crushed sage leaves: add sage to your favourite savoury dishes, such as cranberry stuffing or roasted potatoes.
Written for Team Woodlot by Elizabeth Hammond
The season of rich foods, boozy drinks, and dietary indulgence is upon us! Not to worry—our city has a host of healthy options that provide a much needed reprieve from holiday fare. Whether you’re touring, visiting family, or just taking a break from cooking, we’ve got some suggestions for healthy (and delicious) spots to try this month.
If you’re a vegetarian or a regular Main Street dweller, you’ve likely tried the award-winning restaurant The Acorn. Opened by the owners of The Acorn, Arbor delivers the same plant-based ingredients in a more low-key environment and menu. Inventive appetizers like the broccoli popcorn and cauliflower nuggets paired with a stacked wine and cocktail list make this an ideal happy hour spot. The holidays can induce a craving for comfort food. You won’t miss out on that at the Arbor with its to-die-for veggie burgers and unique take on the classic mac and cheese. Arbor’s inviting space and thoughtful dishes offer a calm reprieve from the merry mayhem of December.
Virtuous Pie did the unthinkable: they made pizza healthy. Spun out of a desire to create delicious food that’s good for you and the planet, Virtuous Pie serves up a plant-based take on the dynamic duo (aka pizza and ice cream). While the idea of pizza without "real" cheese may seem sacrilegious, each pie uses nut-based cheeses that are entirely drool-worthy. Attention needs to be paid to the Stranger Wings pie for its amazing name and ability to make cauliflower taste alarmingly close to buffalo wings. While take-out is always an option, if you stay, you can enjoy your pizza with a selection of local juices, wines, and beers. Bon Appetit!
If you’re looking for a quick and healthy dinner on a cold night, Harvest is your best bet. Located in the heart of Chinatown, Harvest is an organic grocer that also sells addictive noodle soups. Each bowl is made with homemade broth and organic vegetables and meats. The small but mighty menu offers both seasonal and vegetarian options that will leave you feeling warm and satiated.
Hungover from last night’s Christmas party? Need some energy to brave the mall? Battling a winter cold? Hit up the Juice Truck to solve (almost) any holiday woe! This beloved truck now has its very own storefront that serves up a range of juices, smoothies, and bowls that will help you feel amazing during this hectic time of year. Some must-try menu items include the ever-popular Green juice, the Almost Chocolate smoothie, and the Macro Bowl.
Heirloom offers a vegetarian menu in an elegant setting that would be ideal for visiting in-laws, a holiday dinner with friends, or Sunday morning brunch. Almost every menu item has a vegan modification and are all delicious enough to please even the most devout meat eater (seriously, the owners are converted omnivores). If you’re in a party mood, Heirloom also offers a full list of specialty cocktails along with local beers and wines. When you’re ready to take a break from the turkey, Heirloom will be ready and waiting with some vegetarian goodness.Here’s to a happy and healthy holiday season!
As the year draws to a close, we yearn for satisfying resolutions. We want to believe we can check each box off our list. That we can untie the strings around our fingers and forget. But it is not in our power to close every door that leads to darkness. Nor would we want to. Our paths will continue to wind into the new year. The forks in the road force us to pause. The twists and turns will challenge us. But we will not move mindlessly. We will move with purpose, and use each new experience as a chance to consider how far we have come. The future is filled with possibilities. Now is the time to reflect. So that when we are called to choose, we will know in our hearts which path we must pick.
Zodiac illustrations by Katie Maasik
(March 21-April 19)
This month I may feel nostalgic for another time, when loved ones felt closer and everything seemed to come easier to me. I know it’s natural to seek comfort in my memories. I don’t mind indulging the past, as long as I keep my feet planted firmly in the present. After all, I am about to see the results of the hard work I’ve put in these past few months. My future will soon outshine my past. But first I need to be patient with myself. I must accept that even I (mighty Aries!) will falter now and then. Sometimes my life feels like a test that I can pass with flying colours. Other times it feels like there’s always another meaningless hoop to jump through. Lately I’ve felt like these hills I’m climbing are more like one giant, insurmountable mountain—but I refuse to admit defeat. I won’t let my people down. I will continue to lead. I’ve learned it’s the unexpected challenges that guide me toward the highest rewards. So I will keep moving forward. I will stay strong. My sights are not far off. I can see the summit ahead.
(April 20-May 20)
I feel out of touch with the world lately. I usually pride myself on my practical, no-nonsense approach, but these days a strange sense of vertigo has been interfering with my ability to find level ground. I am taking on too much. I need to step back and breathe. I will find a quiet place to orient myself, and refocus on my own needs. I am letting too many people pull me in too many directions, but I will soon feel the end to this dizziness. This month I will let the anxious heat float off my body. A cool breeze is about to blow through my life and refresh my spirits. I see this breeze arriving in the form of a thoughtful gift, a free-spirited traveler, or a surprising financial reward. The winds are changing, and they bring with them new joys and relief from pain. I am here, ready and willing, to greet them when they arrive.
(May 21-June 21)
I can’t help it, I wear my heart on my sleeve. I want to share and talk about everything, all the time. I love communicating and meeting new people, but sometimes my need for connection can backfire on me. I can be loud! I can be impulsive! I can definitely be the black sheep! And this month I truly feel like I’ve got a target on my back—like the ones closest to me are loosing all their arrows upon me. I don’t deserve this! I give and I give, yet my efforts are taken for granted, even laughed at! But just watch me. I’m not going to do what they expect this time. I’m not going to fire back. Nope. Instead I’m going to gather my wits and work on a plan. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve got myself into some pretty sticky situations in the past—but I’ve also gotten myself out of them too. So don’t give up on me yet. I have a few tricks up my sleeve. Trust in my resilient nature. I just might surprise you.
(June 21-July 22)
This month I see myself flying high over a great chasm. My sensible side says to enjoy the marvellous heights I’ve reached, to revel in my achievements—but I’m drawn to the darkness below. The mystery of the unknown calls to me. What will I find there? Danger, yes—but also excitement and self-knowledge. Insights into the self are often hard won, but the closing of the year is offering me many opportunities to look hard into who I wish to be. The space between me and them may feel unfathomable, but the high ground is already mine—I just need to reach out and offer a hand up. Though I typically enjoy using my power to influence the ones around me, I am in a unique position to share my wealth this month. Instead of holding fast to the things and people I value, I will release them. I will choose to grow with the ones around me, and try to listen, even when their viewpoints differ so drastically from my own. I will do my best to offer them my generous side.
(July 23-August 22)
Ever since I can remember, I’ve stood out from the crowd. People are drawn to me. I’ve never had to put much work into making friends. I’m not ashamed to say that being popular is important to me. I like being surrounded by fun people who like to have a good time. Self-expression comes so naturally to me that I often find it difficult to be around quiet or reserved people. Their distance infuriates me—I just want to shake a reaction out them! This month there is one person in particular who is posing a challenge to me. This person is a closed book. My usual charms are not working on them. I find their reticence very alluring, they’re like a puzzle I’ve become obsessed with solving—except you can’t solve a person! So instead I’ll be spending this month mooning around thinking about them, until the next beguiling soul comes around and catches my eye.
(August 23-September 22)
This is embarrassing to say, but I know I can be great. I’ve seen how successful I can be when I apply myself. I can create wonderful things. I can bring people together. I can lead. But the same keen perception that enables me to achieve so much also hinders me. I can envision every future, and imagine every possibility. This vision can overwhelm the people around me. I need to work on my patience. I see pointing out mistakes as an efficient way to correct and move forward. But my blunt direction can sound like harsh judgement to some. This month I will not soften my approach as I have in the past. That approach has only hindered me. Instead I will invite my colleagues to see as I see. I will offer words to fill the gaps. I will translate my language for all to hear and understand. And I will shift slightly to allow myself to hear things from their angle. At first our dissident voices will sound like noise. But over time, we will hear a new dimension and depth to our shared expression.
(September 23-October 22)
I’m fighting against the way things are right now. I have an image in my mind—a perfect illusion of how the world should work, and people could be. But my reality is not matching this image. In fact it’s not even close! I’ve been here before. I know what to do. I will examine my perfect model. I will try see it for what it is: a beautiful fiction of my own imagination. But who’s to say I can’t create parts of my perfect world? I am creative and bold. I can make my ideas happen. This month I will create harmony by making a place of my own. Starting small is the way. I will retreat for a short time, in order to heal. When I have access to my full power, I am a conduit of peace for others. My vision of the world inspires them. I help my loved ones see themselves as I do. I help them live their best lives. I can live my best life too. I may think that striving for balance will lead to my happiness. But I enjoy switching the weight on the scale too much. Happiness will only come for me when I accept myself as an imperfect being, one still worthy of love.
(October 23-November 21)
I’m not sure what started it, but something strange has been brewing inside me for some time. Quiet mornings alone, brisk walks through the rain, time spent curled up with my animal friends—these experiences have only heightened the feeling. Could it be...contentment? I can feel my hard shell in danger of softening. But I am pleased for the chance to let my guard down for once. All too often I find myself carrying the load alone, yet lately my burden seems lessened. I will look around this month. I will notice the kind souls around me. These are the people close by who are easing my pain. They do this with no expectation of reward. It is up to me to recognize them, and bring them closer to me. My intensity is useful because it drives away those who fear action and change. But these helpers are quietly communicating a desire to follow me. They share my vision for a more sincere and just world. Together we can build something truly great.
(November 22-December 21)
On the surface I appear cool and unruffled, but there’s a fire raging inside me that never seems to let up. I know it’s up to me how I choose to use the energy, but I still find it difficult to harness the power. I can feel it swirling fiercely around me, but I’m often afraid to put it to use. Maybe it’s because the people I love have been burnt by it before. This time it’s different. I can wield my power. I’ve seen how my fire can warm my friends and family—and raze my enemies to the ground. I’ve grown a lot this year. New friendships have rekindled past passions. I’ve brought light back to parts of myself that I thought were snuffed out for good. I am ready to reinvent myself by drawing on the best parts of my past selves. I seek out the unfamiliar, but I am drawn back to the comfort of the rare people who have retained my attention over the years. I see most relationships as transactional, but some, like the connection I share with those in my inner circle, have the power to transform my life for the better.
(December 22- January 19)
I find immense joy in my work, especially when it allows me to create. I am a builder. I like to bring the images of my mind into reality, and share my art with others. I can work with others, and often enjoy the feeling of collaboration. But to build my best work, I prefer time alone. Yet solitude often invites loneliness into my heart. When I’m in the flow of my work, I am invulnerable to its gloomy pangs. Yet when the thrill of creation has passed, I am vulnerable and loneliness descends like a fog. I won’t lie: sometimes I enjoy wallowing in the sadness. Other times those idle days can wind me up. Suddenly I move from slothful to speedy. But in this manic state I cannot access the usual joy I find in my work. I toil without purpose. It is the movement that keeps the darkness at bay, and so I move. This month I will strive to be mindful of my movements. I will leave my safe place. I will allow others a glimpse of my process. I may even invite a trusted few into my creative space. Then when I am lost, they will know where to find me and pull me back out again.
(January 19-February 18)
Some days I feel like an old soul. Other days I feel like I was born yesterday. In one moment I can see the world as a broken, chaotic place, and in the next, a bountiful source of hope and renewal. My mood is ever changing. I am overwhelmed by all the paths I could take, and all people I could be. I’m told “still waters run deep,” but lately I’ve been feeling a strong urge to express myself in words. I want to write again, to record the minutiae of my day. I imagine it may reveal something profound to me, or at least reveal the mysterious patterns that organize my mind and habits. If nothing else, it’s nice to clear some space up there in that cluttered head of mine. There really is something to bringing the inside out. What’s the point of all this knowledge if it stays traps in my head? As this year comes to a close, I will focus on sharing my passions with another, and passing my skills along to those who could benefit from them. If I grant myself the authority, I can be a great teacher.
As the year closes, an overwhelming sense of “coming home” will wash over me. Something has been driving me toward the familiar. I miss the faces I once knew well, the sights and sounds of the places I’ve left behind, but I also fear them. I am very good at creating a bubble wherever I go, but the energy it takes to sustain it exhausts me. I feel depleted by the effort. I’m ready to return to the place I know best. I will rest there. I will recharge. I will heal among the people who knew me when. But to see the good people, I must confront the ones who look down upon me. Suspense and anticipation swirls around me. These forces push me toward my future—one that will only come to fruition if I can soothe the ghosts of my past. My intuition tells me this month will be one of great strength and regeneration, but only if I am brave enough to return and reconsider the places that made me who I am.
Written for Woodlot by Dr. Deanna Weiss, ND
As I write this, it’s pouring rain, there’s a foggy blanket in the sky, and everyone’s bundled up outside. It’s that time of year where some of us start feeling more sleepy, less motivated, and may be dealing with unexplained sadness. Some struggle with it to the point of getting the diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), while others notice a slight change after the days become noticeably shorter and colder.
To encourage getting out of bed on those dark mornings, I have put together a list of ways that may help. Here are 7 lifestyle tips to cope with the winter blues:
Switch a SAD lamp on for 20 minutes as soon as you wake up. This helps trick your brain into feeling more refreshed, as the light inhibits melatonin levels. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for balancing our sleep-wake cycle and causes that listless feeling of sleepiness. A regular sleep schedule is important for balancing our mood and energy, so try to stick to a consistent bedtime if you can.
Create a positive morning ritual to help get motivated for the day. This may include putting on your favourite upbeat music, lighting a palo santo stick to set a positive mindset, or drinking a delicious and nourishing tea.
Make sure you are eating well this time of year. That means cooking meals high in protein to help build the body's chemical messengers. These vital messengers are in charge of motivation (dopamine), energy (adrenaline), and self-worth (serotonin).
This is a great way to do something good for yourself, especially since you don’t have to do much at all! Beneficial treatments that may help beat the winter blues include: massage therapy, acupuncture, and infrared sauna. Twenty minutes in an infrared sauna can stimulate endorphins, and create an overall feeling of well-being.
Even when you don’t feel like it, stay connected. Making plans with a friend is a great motivator to get out of the house. Even a simple meet-up for coffee can help boost your mood.
Sign up for a new exercise class, or bundle up in your winter or rain gear, and get outside. If you are still not motivated to venture into the world, roll out your yoga mat and do some simple stretches on your floor at home.
Lastly, and most importantly, when feeling down or unmotivated, ask yourself: “What do I need to feel well today?” Your answers may include one of the tips listed above, or they may be something unique to you. Either way, listen to your body pay attention to your needs, and if you need external support, seek help from a friend or local health care professional.
All photos, credit: Brit Gill
For as long as she could remember, Vancouver-based stylist Elim Chu knew she wanted to pursue a career in fashion. After enrolling in fashion design school and finding out she was failing half-way through the program, Elim had to consider other ways to enter the fashion field. With the help of her instructor (and some research via Vogue and the Rachel Zoe Project) Elim began to see styling as a legitimate career worth pursuing.
Elim's journey as a stylist began at the lululemon lab where she dressed mannequins and advised on visual merchandising. From there, Elim became the first dedicated stylist at the lululemon head office, and she now works for herself full-time. Elim helps her clients create something fresh with the clothes in their closets, and encourages them to focus on how their clothes make them feel. Team Woodlot sat down with Elim to learn more about her approach to styling, and how her friends at the Vancouver consignment store My Modern Closet are inspiring her work.
What styling services do you offer your clients?
I do traditional styling at editorial and ecommerce photo shoots, and I help brands create content for their social media channels. I also offer wardrobe edits and styling inspiration to help people feel confident in their clothes. I find that when people go shopping, they often bring items home and don’t how to incorporate them into their existing wardrobe. My approach is to look at the clothes my clients have already, as opposed to telling them to go out and buy more.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Definitely the wardrobe edits! My clients range in age from 25 to 50 and I've learned so much by working with them all. Despite differences in age and demographic, most people experience the same challenges when it comes to clothes. Some people feel a boredom with their options, or an uncertainty about how to put outfits together. Others refuse to support fast fashion, and desire to buy quality pieces over quantity. I'm so impressed with these women’s efforts to make a stand for more intentional dressing and shopping, and I'm seeing a growing number of people starting to adopt this philosophy.
The idea of a minimalist capsule wardrobe is super hot right now. Have you ever created one for yourself? What would be in your capsule wardrobe?
Funnily enough, I just finished participating in a 10 items for 10 days challenge! I was inspired by Lee Vosburgh of the Style Bee. I'd created a mini capsule wardrobe before when travelling, but I'd never done an intentional challenge like this. What I learned is that I can wear the heck out of a slip dress! Some other key pieces included a skinny turtleneck for layering, two pairs of jeans, and a classic coat. (Note: Elim documented her challenge via Instagram, check it out: @elim_chu)
Do you have a style icon?
Yes! From a young age I have been drawn to Kate Moss. It may be because she is a supermodel, but I love how her personal style is always evolving, and that she wears her clothes with complete confidence. I also admire Tom Ford’s commitment to beautiful basics, and the Olsen twin’s lean towards androgynous style with hints of feminine elegance.
When did you get involved with My Modern Closet?
I was interviewed for their blog and during that I met Chloe (the founder of My Modern Closet). Chloe reached out afterwards to let me know that she loved the services I was providing, and wanted to know how we could work together. During this time, we were both fresh to our businesses and we've been supporting each other ever since!
What have you learned since working with Chloe?
Chloe was the first person who made me realize that what I was doing was eco-friendly. I'd never considered my approach to styling to be sustainable until I started working with her. This honestly blew my mind and opened me up to a new world. I now approach shopping in a more considered way, and I am asking questions of brands before I purchase from them. Before I used to just go to a store and buy something, but now I read through a company’s sustainability policies, and really do my research before making a purchase. Chloe has helped arm me with these questions and as a result, I've had to abandon some brands who don't have the answers I need to feel good about buying from them.
How often do you shop now?
I typically shop once a month, at most. Previously my shopping was much more frequent and not as intentional. I've made a move towards more thoughtful shopping and now I look to consignment stores more and more to find the pieces I love.
How do you relax and treat yourself?
A daily indulgence for me is starting the morning by reading and enjoying a cup of coffee. I treat myself to a workout class at Tight Club or Ride Cycle Club monthly, and splurge on a facial on special occasions! My husband and I also just went on a yoga retreat with The Social Yoga which was amazing. Generally, I love treating myself to experiences rather than things.
Do you have any natural beauty or self-care rituals? If so, what are they?
It wasn’t until my thirties that I started thinking about what was in the beauty and self-care products that I was using all the time. Isn’t that crazy?! I met the founders of Woodlot and Harlow at an event a few years ago and loved hearing their stories and learning about what is in their products. The charcoal soap was and still is one of my favourite products. I also swear by washing my face once a day, and choosing beauty products that are green.Thanks for sharing your styling wisdom with us, Elim!