A Balanced Holiday Season
(Used with Permission From The Huffington Post)
The holiday season usually asks for even greater demands on our time and energy, so meditation is a time for replenishing. Your breath is one of the most potent ways to nourish yourself. The oxygen you breathe travels to every cell in your body and the more oxygen we have in our system, the more energy we produce.
Sit or recline in a comfortable position, fully supported. For about 3 minutes, inhale through your nose to a silent count of 4, and exhale through your mouth making a “shhhhh” sound for about 6-8 counts. Keep the count even, and set a pace that is comfortable for you. Keep your attention tethered to your breath, and focus on emptying out stress and tension. When your mind wanders, simply bring your attention back and refocus again on your breath.
Are you pressured to respond to the holidays in ways that other people want or expect? Or perhaps you’ve establish traditions that no longer serve you or fit your current circumstances. Depression and anxiety around the holidays are often triggered by expectations imposed by what others (or your inner critic) think you should be doing, which gets reinforced by the media. While there are often many people to take into consideration with holidays, be sure to keep yourself in the equation and factor in what is important to you too. Create new traditions. Invite those close to you to have a holiday “makeover,” finding creative ways to celebrate that are expressive of current interests and budgets. Stay true to your values. Suggest gifts and activities that support the life you really value and enjoy. Pace yourself. The rhythm of the holidays can easily become an intense flurry of activity. If you enjoy multiple gatherings, spread them out. If you skip a party with friends, invite them to rejuvenate with you on a post-holiday spa day. Grab a pen and paper and brainstorm possibilities for this season for three minutes.
November and December are concentrated with the well-known and promoted holidays and celebrations of Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and the New Year. And the poet Longfellow described the holiest of all holidays the “… secret anniversaries of the heart.” When we strip away the commercialism we can use these opportunities to gather and share the goodness of life with people we love and recommit to our deepest values.
The word holiday originally came from Holy Day, and the root meaning of holy goes back to the Middle English holi, a variation of Old English hālig, hāleg or hāl, which translates towhole. With this perspective, holy days cannot be relegated to a particular time of year. Is it even possible for one day to be more whole, more holy, than the next? St. Francis of Assisi remarked, “No one lives outside the walls of this sacred place, existence.” Whether you belong to a faith tradition, or are inspired by the beauty of nature in its fullest expressions, take three minutes in silence releasing all other demands on your attention. Be in awe at the underlying mystery of life itself that is within and around you, and is in essence, you.
Erin & Andra’s Christmas Cookies with Royal Icing
For the last 9 years, my friend Andra and I have made Christmas cookies for our kids to decorate. Izzie’s first cookie ever was one of these (she loved it)! If you decide to do this with your kids, I suggest making the cookies the day before. On the day of, make the royal icing and let the kids add the food coloring to their personal color preferences. We never use a pastry bag, but rather a snack size ziplock with one corner cut off. Have plenty of sprinkles on hand too!
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for shaping the cookies
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the egg and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla.
With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated (the dough will be stiff). Shape into a disk and (unless otherwise specified in an individual recipe) refrigerate, wrapped, for at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
Heat oven to 350° F. On a floured surface, roll out each disk ¼ inch thick. Cut into shapes and place on parchment-lined baking sheets; refrigerate until firm. Bake until just beginning to brown, 12 to 15 minutes.
Cool completely and then ice and decorate using royal icing.
2 cups confectioners Sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons – meringue powder
3 tablespoons – warm water
Assorted food coloring
In a bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat confectioners’ sugar, meringue powder and warm water until stiff peaks form, about 5-7 minutes. If icing is too thick, add a couple drops of water. If icing is too thin, add additional confectioners’ sugar, and continue beating until desired consistency. Tint icing with desired food coloring. Using pastry bag with decorator tip, decorate as desired.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.