"It's the most wonderful time of the year..." Yep, that song is running on an endless loop in my head. I think that might have something to do with the fact that I had a little decorating party at my house this past weekend that included a lot of hall decking with musical accompaniment (on very high volume). I can also tell that it's that time of the year again based on all of the sales emails that hit my inbox -- Black Friday, Cyber Monday, blah, SALE, blah.
I'd like to take a break from the crazy holiday marketing (like Santa rolling out the naughty and nice Mercedes Benzes and jewelry stores hawking huge sparkling diamonds galore) and get back to the simple stuff -- a bunch of items that have caught my interest over this past year. You won't find advertising here (yes, I get inundated with email pitches wanting certain products featured in this guide) -- just some quirky stuff that quirky 'ole me enjoys and would recommend to those that I love (that's YOU in case you were wondering). There's something in every price range (unlike the famous O List featuring the obscenely expensive) and most everything here is pretty simple.
And while I enjoy all of this stuff and yes, I do enjoy getting presents, I know that it's about presence more than presents. But if you want to offer a token of love and appreciation to someone dear to you, here are my offerings for 2013:
There's an app for that: Thanks to the advent of Smart Phones, there are plenty of yoga/meditation apps out there. While I have a bunch on my phone, I admit to not using the majority of them regularly (surprising for a techie geek such as myself). The one that's caught my fancy lately is The Peace App. There's no Android version (boo hiss!) so I run mine on my iPod/iPad. What I like about this simple app is the fact that you get to choose the practice you'd like to engage in (a variety of options are offered including movement, yoga, prayer and many others). After choosing your practice for the day, you simply set the timer and get to it. There's also a community aspect so that you can share your practice with others. I firmly believe in a keeping up with a regular practice of whatever grounds you and this app is a good way to stay on track.
The Memory Foam Yoga Mat: About a year and a half ago, I made the change to a memory foam mattress. What can I say other than it's heavenly?!?!?! I absolutely love mine with the only downside being that it's mighty hard to get out of such a comfy bed in the morning (re: there's lots of oversleeping in my house). Now after I pull myself from my heavenly bed, I can roll out my memory foam yoga mat. Yes, Vernice Vita has created a yoga mat that offers up extra support and serious comfort (watch out -- you might not want to come out of Savasana...ever). I only have one thing to say here: The Cadillac Mat. Ahhhhhhhh.
In the I ❤ Etsy category...
Color Your World: I just love colorful art and enjoy surrounding myself with beauty. Outiart creates not only fabulous pieces to decorate your space but jewelry so you can decorate your body as well. I've got quite a few Outiart pieces in my home and I love them.
All Natural Bath Products: <SIGH> I'm a huge sucker for natural bath and beauty products. My most recent find is Aquarian Bath. They have fabulous shampoo bars and lotion bars (among other things of course). And if you're looking for something natural for your teeth, I highly recommend the tooth powder.
Metal Work: During the sleeveless weather months, I like to dress things up with an armlet. I found a fabulous one at Stone Delite. They also sell cuffs and bangles and other jewelry delights. Hand made awesomeness!
Vinyl Decals: When I moved into my new place, I wanted to add some pizzazz to my walls in the form of inspirational quotes (there's nothing like seeing my "You are beautiful" message on my bathroom mirror in the morning). Klein Kreations offers up vinyl decals that will inspire you, make you laugh, and make your space look unique. Not only are the decals inexpensive, but they are pretty easy to apply (just be sure to read the directions they provide). And the best part -- you can remove them easily without damaging your walls.
Sensational Scents: I'm NOT a perfume gal (to me there's nothing worse than being able to smell someone a mile away...GAG!) but I love essential oils. Alkemia Perfumes blends oils to create some of the most alluring scents I've ever encountered. And the best part -- no parabens or other chemical nastiness.
Yoga Inspired Jewelry: Sundara offers some unique pieces that don't look like the same old same old. Two of my faves are the sterling silver lotus and moonstone necklace and the smoky and cherry quartz yoga bracelet. Gorgeous!
Headbands: If you're looking to keep your hair out of your face during yoga practice or you just want to accessorize your fine self, I recommend Violet Love Headbands. Yes, the selection of designs and colors is a bit overwhelming but there's something for everyone (and something to go with every outfit that you own).
Glass Bottles: My stainless steel bottles are sitting on the shelf now that I've gotten glass water bottles. I love them and they have become my constant travel companion. Rive offers up a great selection.
Natural Body Care: Yes, I've already mentioned that I love natural body care/beauty products. Lest you not take me seriously, I offer up one of my favorite sources for my goodies: Living Libations. I love everything they sell but I'm a huge fan of the Yogi Tooth Serum and Underarm Charm.
A Chakra Healing Practice: I'm a fan of Amy Weintraub so it's no surprise that I love her daily home practice download. The under $8.00 download includes a short centering meditation, warm-up poses, and a chakra clearing meditation. A downloadable manual is also included with purchase.
Raw Hair: Yep, back on the beauty product train but this time with hair care. Morrocco Method Intl offers a variety of natural, raw, vegan, gluten free hair care products that your hair will love. Yes, they are a bit pricey, but your hair will love you for it (and it'll show its appreciation by looking great). Bye, bye bad hair days!
Handmade Luxury: A friend of mine introduced me to Maguey Weaves and I got hooked on their natural Ayate washcloths and agave and terra cotta foot scrubbers. The goodness doesn't end at bath products -- they also sell a variety of handmade decor items. They also offer some great reasonably priced gift sets.
Perfume with a Cause: I've already mentioned perfume here but I also have to give a bow to GiveScent. The scents are delightful and a portion of the proceeds go to Women for Women International. With these scents, a little goes a long way, so they'll last for quite a while.
Play Misty for Me: Hmmmm...it's a cross between a room freshener and a body spray...it's Zum Mist. I've quickly become addicted to the stuff. I buy mine at Vitacost. There are over 10 scents, so you're sure to find something that your nose loves.
Personal Fitness Trackers: Call me a geek but I just love being able to track sleep quality, steps taken, calories burned, along with perks like a vibrating alarm. For me, it's a great way to be more conscious about my healthy habits. My choice in regards to personal fitness trackers (there are many on the market) is Fitbit. I have the Fitbit Flex but the Fitbit Force recently came out and offers an extra feature or two. I started with the Jawbone UP, despite the awful reviews about the unit not lasting past 3 months. The two features I loooved on the UP were the inactivity alarm (you get buzzed when you're inactive for a set amount of time) and the smart nap function (you can set the unit to determine, based on your sleep stats, the perfect amount of time needed to awaken from a nap feeling rested). It was love until my unit died after a few months. It took Jawbone two months to send a replacement, and, frankly, I'm not convinced that the new unit will last any longer than the first one. My Fitbit has stood the test of time and is funtioning perfectly. And since it's your constant wrist companion, it's pretty cool that you can change up band colors with Fitbit. Yes, I liked my UP but Jawbone's quality control needs work. I gave them the benefit of the doubt despite all of the negative reviews on Amazon and the Jawbone Facebook page only to be disappointed. Buyer beware. The Fitbit is actually cheaper than the UP but a step up (HA -- no pun intended) in quality.
Scalp Massager: This nifty little invention is cheap while delivering an amazing amount of pleasure. I ordered a bunch and gave them out to my friends, who now love me even more. Yep, they feel that amazing. Yes, it looks weird, but it's the perfect pleasure-packed stocking stuffer.
I also ❤ books, and these are my selections for the year:
Yoga XXL: You know what I love about this book? It's real. It shows REAL people in the poses. I'm a M myself, but I love this book because it demonstrates that yoga is for everyone, regardless of size. The book is easy to follow and perfect for beginners.
Happiness Doesn't Come from Headstands: This book falls into the "it's for children but grownups will love it too" category. The author describes the books as a tale of patience, friendship, and developing resilience in the pursuit of a goal. I call it a rulebook for life. This colorfully illustrated book reminds us that it's not all about achievement. Perfect for children, yes, but also perfect for the yogis in your life. It's easy to get caught up in feeling as if one needs to execute a pose perfectly and this book is here to remind us that happiness doesn't come from doing, achievement, and/or doing things perfectly...or Headstands. Frankly, I broke up with Headstand years ago and I've never looked back. I can't recommend this book highly enough. The message is simple yet powerful and perfect for children and adults.
Yoga Sparks: 108 Easy Practices for Stress Relief in a Minute or Less: Yes, it sounds like this is some sort of quick fix book, but I assure you it's not that. Instead, it's the perfect book for incorporating yogic practices into your daily routine in a painless manner. I'm a big fan of Carol Krucoff and she doesn't disappoint with this book. It's packed with practices and tips that will have you feeling relaxed and happy in no time at all. It's the perfect daily companion -- simply crack it open to any page and follow the short and simple practice laid out there. I've been doing this very thing myself and I find myself looking forward to my Yoga Sparks breaks. Truly the perfect stocking stuffer. It's a small book that packs a lot of punch. Intermediate to advance yogis might scoff and say, "Oh, I know that," but I urge them to try it. That's what I've been doing and even though I'm familiar with some of the content, it's still powerful to incorporate into my day.
Polishing the Mirror: How to Live From Your Spiritual Heart: This is Ram Dass in all of his glory and it's beautiful. It's as if all of his 82 years of wisdom is packed into this 200+ page book. Fabulous read.
The Present: A Gift From the Divine: Remember, it's about presence, not presents...yeah, this book captures this perfectly. The book is divided into lessons so you can spend just 10-20 minutes a day soaking the wisdom in. A truly inspiring read.
Caring for the Temple: I've been working my way back from an injury and here are some of the tools that I've relied on for relief: Yamuna Body Rolling, Trigger Point Therapy (you can take advantage of the holiday sale they have going on by purchasing directly from them here), the Tiger Tale, and the Fenix Rehab System. These are my go-to tools in addition to hot epsom salts baths (with a little apple cider vinegar thrown in), proteolytic enzymes, and arnica.
That's about all for this year. Usually, days after I post the guide, I find myself thinking, "Oh, I forgot to mention that." If that happens, I'll let you know. And now, a few free gifts for you:
Ode to Failure -- In this inspiring video, Tamara Levitt, the author of the book I mentioned above (Happiness Doesn't Come from Headstands), offers us a little levity along with an important reminder about the lessons of failure and the meaning we give it.
The Happy Map -- Blissologist and yogi Eoin Finn offers a delightful visual promoting happiness. You can download it for free as a poster or a screen saver or even a Facebook cover photo. Enjoy the happy!
And a little gift to myself this year:
Dear Chip Wilson,
Do you hear that sound? No, it's not the sound of my thighs rubbing together. It's the sound of me giving my money to a clothing retailer that promotes women loving and accepting their bodies. Yes, Lululemon, I'm breaking up with you. It's been fun all these years, but I love myself too much to stay in this relationship. Bye, bye! And Chip, all the apologies in the world won't make me give you my money again (ever) [cue up the Taylor Swift] . I don't support nonsense like this. Best of luck and happy holidays!
Happy holidays everyone! May it truly be the most wonderful time of the year for you.