Things I Love

In an effort to keep fitness easy and accessible, I am always looking for fun new ways to exercise at home. I was excited when I recently came across a new offering through Netflix called Nike Training Club. This is the first exercise program of its kind that I have come across on a streaming service. I hope that it is reflective of more to come!

Each program has multiple episodes — a grand total of 30 hours of exercise sessions released in two batches. The programs are available in multiple languages, on all Netflix plans, with workouts for all fitness levels and interests (e.g. strength training, yoga and high-intensity workouts).

While only the first batch of fitness classes has been launched, the streamer has said additional programs will be released in 2023. To find the collection of workout videos, just search ‘Nike’ on Netflix.

Aix at Christmas

This past spring, I had the amazing privilege of living in Aix-en-Provence, France for two months with my daughter. Aix will forever be an incredibly special place to me and it is a one that I hope to return to many times in my life.

As I take time to slow down over the holiday season, I discovered this lovely series of photos taken by a traveller; and it took me on a virtual journey back to my beloved Provence. It warmed my heart so I thought I would share it with you.

Things I Love

I recently came across a great YouTube resource called “Dad, How do I?” On this channel, Rob Kenney posts new videos every week in which he demystifies many basic skills that everyone should know how to do, but many do not (including me)! From jump starting a car, to unclogging a sink, or finding a wall stud, he provides information that is both practical and applicable.

Beannacht / Blessing

Photo by Steven Hylands on

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets into you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green
and azure blue,
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

~ by John O’Donohue, from Echoes of Memory (Transworld Publishing, 2010)

A Beautiful Tradition

Photo by rikka ameboshi on

Imagine this: It’s Christmas Eve and after receiving a brand-new book from your family, you cozy up in front of the fire, with a mug of hot cocoa, or an alcohol-free Christmas ale called jólabland, and spend the rest of the evening reading.

This is exactly how many Icelandic people celebrate Christmas each year. This tradition is known as Jolabokaflod, which translates roughly to “Christmas book flood” in English. Jolabokaflod started during World War II, when paper was one of the few things not rationed in Iceland. Because of this, Icelanders gave books as gifts while other commodities were in short supply, turning them into a country of bookaholics.

“The culture of giving books as presents is very deeply rooted in how families perceive Christmas as a holiday,” Kristjan B. Jonasson, president of the Iceland Publishers Association, told NPR. “Normally, we give the presents on the night of the 24th and people spend the night reading. In many ways, it’s the backbone of the publishing sector here in Iceland.”

I recently learned of this beautiful tradition and it really resonates with me. Living in a culture that promotes excessive consumption during the holiday season, Jolabokaflod focuses attention back on the simple pleasures in life: reading and spending time with the people you love.

In the last few years, I have done most of my Christmas shopping in local, independent bookstores. I enjoy choosing a special book for each of my family members and investing my money in the community. Rather than buying a lot of additional gifts, I also make a donation, in their honour. This year, I am supporting The Gift of Good Food. This fundraiser supports families who are in need of consistent, healthy produce for their children. Families receive a free Good Food Box every two weeks for an entire year. For me, it feels like a meaningful way to reorient the holiday season.

However and whatever you choose to celebrate at this time of year, I wish you all much love, joy and happiness; and I hope that you have the opportunity to rest, replenish and relax with your friends and loved ones before beginning again fresh and new in 2023.

Winter Solstice

Today is the winter solstice. In the northern hemisphere, this date marks the turning point of the season, the shortest day and the longest night. The word solstice itself means ‘standing still sun.’ From this point onwards, the days continue to grow longer until midsummer on June 21. In Celtic tradition, the winter solstice is a time of rebirth and renewal, as signified by the return of the light. It was the turning point in the year where the darkest hours began to brighten and the nights would grow shorter.

Solstices and equinoxes were very important to the pre- and early-Celtic people, as seen through the construction of monumental tombs whose passages align with the solstice sun, such as Newgrange. Rituals for welcoming back the sun date from the dawn of civilization, as communities came together to celebrate life with feasting, music, dance, drama and above all, light and fire.  Although today we consider Christmas to be a single day, or a weekend event, many cultures traditionally celebrate for at least twelve days.

A key ingredient of celebrations is mistletoe, a revered healing and fertility plant found mainly on oak, ash and apple trees. Long before the Germanic-influenced Christmas tree made its way indoors, a bough of mistletoe would be placed inside the front entrance of a dwelling, there to garb the inhabitants with its protective magic. Oak and ash were particularly sacred to the Druids, as was the holly tree.

Whatever your belief system, consider spending some time to honour the longest and darkest night of the year. Sit down in a quiet place to journal about your hopes and aspirations for the year ahead: plant your seeds of intention. From this day forward, the light begins its slow return, and they will start to grow.

Heart Centered Learning

Photo by Fahd Dajani on

“Whenever despair gets the better of you—or anger, or anxiety, or reactivity, or any undesired emotional/mental state—take your hand (either hand, or both hands) and place it over that soft spot in the center of the chest, what some traditions call your heart center, or your sacred heart. Feel the warmth of your hand on your chest. Direct your breath to that spot. Breathe in, pause, let your breath pool in the heart, feel whatever you are feeling, then slowly breath out. Do that several times. Hand on heart center, breathe in, hold, feel, release.

You may want to make an audible sigh when you exhale. Breathe in, hold, feel, release with a sigh. Ahhhhhh. Don’t attach any thoughts or judgements to the practice. There’s nothing to get, nothing to understand, just allow yourself to be a human with a heart that feels. You can pat your heart with your hand if your mind starts getting involved. Breathe in, pat your chest the way you would pat a baby or your pet, and then exhale with a sigh.

Sometimes I spend a good ten minutes calming and opening my heart. Sometimes I cry and am surprised by that. Sometimes I take in and release just one breath with my hand on my heart, and that’s all I need to ground my body, clear my head, and open my heart. I connect to something bigger than “little me”—anxious, fearful, little me. Hand on heart, and I rest for a moment in the big beating heart of what some people call universe or god or great spirit, or you fill in the blank. An open heart is my gate. It restores my hope, my energy, and my willingness to “be the change.”

~ Elizabeth Lesser