Monthly Archives: December 2013

Happy New Year 2014 — from San Francisco!

2013-12-27 17.06.38(1)Wishing all the readers of this blog, a very Happy New Year — may 2014 be your best year ever, bringing you whatever you need to feel peace and joy within. After all, that’s why we want things, and we do things, to expand our sense of happiness!

It’s as good a time as ever to also realize that happiness is an inside job :)! It is a decision to take and then keep yourself fixated on choosing to be happy, no matter what. Sounds like a contradiction? No, it isn’t, if you just keep being ‘happy’ independent of the events, situations and circumstances in your life, happiness is yours to have and to keep! So, ideally, what I want to wish you all is the inner strength, to choose happiness above self-pity, victimhood and negative self-judgement. So, go out, be happy, and SHINE :)!

The picture above is from the world famous San Francisco landmark The Ghirardelli Square, home to the chocolate factory established here in 1852 by Italian chocolateer Domenico Ghirardelli, who came to San Francisco from South Africa. The ‘square’ has beautiful gift shops, chocolate stores and an ice cream parlor that serves as a cafe for the most delicious sundaes, floats and hot and cold chocolate drinks! It’s a dream location for children of all ages ;)!

HAPPY NEW YEAR, again — wishing you the best of 2014!!!


The Nutcracker ballet at San Francisco

2013-12-29 13.40.17Today, we were 4 adults and three children (4 males, and 3 females) who went to  see the world famous ballet The Nutcracker, known in French as Le Casse-Noisette. The age range of our party was from 6 years to 60 plus, but none had seen it before. It was really, really exciting then, that each and every one of us loved it immensely! What added to the pleasure of the experience was the superbly beautiful building it was staged in. This grand edifice, pictured alongside, was built in 1923 and has been used since then for some well known shows as well as meetings of historic importance!

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To commemorate all those who participated in World War I, it was named The War Memorial Opera House of San Francisco. It is home to the San Francisco Ballet Company, and is a very special building indeed. I’m a real sucker for beauty and elegance and found this Opera House winning on every score. In the lobby they had erected this beautiful Nutcracker Christmas Tree which people were posing against for pictures :)! Adding to the sophisticated ambiance were little carts selling Prosecco by the glass and other drinks.

2013-12-29 13.57.50The interior is absolutely enchanting, as can be seen in this picture of the stage and the proscenium*. Such buildings aren’t made everyday, and not much any more… they’re reflections of a bygone era! I hope the few pictures here give the readers an idea of the architecture and the ambience!

San Francisco is a very lovely city, with some fabulous architecture. In the area of the Civic Center, where the Opera House is, there is also the City Hall with its domed roof.

Not far from all these building is a vegetarian/vegan restaurant called ‘Anand Phuara’ which translates from Hindi to ‘Fountain of Joy (or Delight)’! If you ever visit San Francisco, go have a meal there and order the Quesadilla with Portobello Mushrooms and melted cheese — for dessert, have their prize-winning chocolate cake! Yummy 🙂 — we had a pretty amazing day!

Autobiography in Five Chapters

Autobiography In Five Short Chapters

by Portia Nelson

Chapter I

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am hopeless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter II

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in this same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

 Chapter III

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it there.
I still fall in… it’s a habit… but,
my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

 Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter V

I walk down another street.

This beautiful  poem written by Portia Nelson, is a highly popular self-help and recovery text. During different stages of my life, specially during intense periods of personal growth, I often measured my ‘progress’ against the Chapters, using them to understand my own life’s journey as it unfolded! It would be useful for anyone committed to their personal growth…especially as the year 2013 is drawing to a close, and as we stand on the threshold of a new one, 2014!

Lemon Essential Oil and its 15 uses

LEMON (Citrus limon) has many, many more uses than just 15, but for the sake of the blog length I’m mentioning some important ones here! This essential oil has antiseptic-like properties and contains compounds that have been studied for their effects on immune function. It may serve as an insect repellent and maybe beneficial for the skin. CAUTION: Citrus oils should NOT be applied to skin that will be exposed to direct sunlight or ultraviolet light within 72 hours. As always, no guarantees of results unless it’s a ‘therapeutic grade essential oil’ — and as everyone here knows I only swear by Young Living Essential oils form Utah, USA :)! The picture below is that of an all season lemon tree at my daughter’s house in California…

2013-12-28 07.48.58(2)1. Use 6 drops of Lemon essential oil and 6 drops of Purification essential oil blend in a squirt bottle mixed with distilled water to use in the bathroom as an air freshener.

2. Use 1- 2 drops of Lemon oil to remove gum, oil, grease spots or crayon.

3. For home made lemonade, in a blender mix 2 drops of Lemon oil, 2 tablespoons of honey and two cups of pure water. Adjust the amount of each ingredient to suit your own taste.

4. Rub a drop of Lemon oil on a corn, callous or bunion mornings and evenings, and on a wart to make it disappear. Lemon oil is also helpful to use on athlete’s foot.

5. To clean and increase the shelf life of fresh fruit, fill a bowl with cool water and 2-3 drops of Lemon oil. Drop your cleaned fruit into the water and stir. Be sure all surfaces of the fruit contact the lemon water.

6. Add 2-3 drops of Lemon oil to water and spray counter tops, and to a butcher’s block and other cutting surfaces to sterilize them.

7. Soak your dishcloth overnight in a bowl of water and a drop of Lemon oil to disinfect and kill germs.

8. Add a drop of Lemon oil to your dish washer before the wash cycle.

9. Rub a drop of Lemon oil on your hands after using a public bathroom.

LEMONPictured here is a bottle of Young Living Lemon Essential Oil!

10. Use a paper towel soaked with several drops of Lemon oil to sanitize bathroom fixtures.

11. Place a drop of Lemon oil on cold sores, herpes or other mouth ulcers to lessen pain and aid in healing.

12. Put a drop of Lemon oil on bleeding gums caused by gingivitis or tooth extraction.

13. Put a drop of Lemon oil on oily skin or acne to balance sebaceous glands (oil glands).

14. Rub several drops of Lemon oil on cellulite to improve circulation and help eliminate waste from the cells.

15. Rub several drops of Lemon oil on varicose veins to improve circulation and relieve pressure on the veins.


A message from a tree :)

2013-12-25 11.52.53On the visit  to Muir Woods yesterday (picture alongside), I bought a beautiful little book ‘Advice from a TREE’ by author Ilan Shamir, from the gift shop there! In the preface, Ilan Shamir writes that the tree speaks to us like a wise friend — ‘someone who knows how to say just the right thing; at just the right moment, sharing its simple wisdom about life, about living in harmony with ourselves and with nature.’

I really loved the book and decided to share what it says with the readers of this blog! Here’s what the tree advises we do:

* Stand Tall and Proud

* Sink your Roots Deeply into the Earth

* Reflect the Light of Your Own True Nature

* Think Long Term

* Go Out on a Limb

 * Remember Your Place Among All Living Beings

* Embrace with Joy the Changing Seasons — for each Yields its own Abundance (this picture is from Montreal in the Fall)

– the Energy and Birth of Spring

– the Growth and Contentment of Summer

– the Wisdom to Let Go like Leaves in the Fall

– the Rest and Quiet Renewal of Winter

* Feel the Wind and the Sun and Delight in Their Presence

* Look up at the Moon that Shines Down Upon You

* And the Mystery of the Stars at Night

* Seek Nourishment from Good Things in Life

* Simple Pleasures — Earth, Fresh Air, Light

* Be Content with Your Natural Beauty

* Drink Plenty of Water

* Let Your Limbs Sway and Dance in the Breezes

* Be Flexible

* Remember Your Roots

and finally,

* Enjoy the View 🙂

A note: The capitalization is the author’s, not mine


Tree gods and tree worship :)

2013-12-25 11.39.23(1)No visit of mine to California, make that the Bay Area of San Francisco, is complete without a visit or two to Muir Woods, named after John Muir*. The experience of bliss is too special and too precious to pass! This Christmas morning, after opening the presents, the plan, as usual, was for the whole family to go for a walk into Muir Woods, about a 40-minute drive away. Here we are, on the boardwalk, specially constructed to prevent the destruction of the delicate ecology of the area!

I had read about the Redwood Trees of California in my geography books in school, and used to imagine them to be something unreal, as though on another planet.

2013-12-25 12.00.39Who could imagine that there really were trees between two and three hundred feet tall, kissing the sky, with a girth (circumference) of anywhere from 20 to 26 feet. And still less, that I would one day be a regular visitor to a Redwood forest! The Muir Woods do not have the tallest trees of the Pacific Coast of the United States but at the given dimensions they are extremely impressive all the same!

Some 15 years ago, my daughter and her husband decided to make Northern California their home and although I’d visited here as a tourist some 20 years ago, coming here to stay with family was different. California now started feeling like an extension of my own home.

2013-12-25 11.53.06They chose to live in the Bay Area of San Francisco, so close to nature’s wonders of Redwood forests, the Bay Area itself, the beautiful beaches of the Pacific coast, and the traveler’s delights: the  Napa and Sonoma wine country, the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco, the wonderful museums…oh, I could go on and on… But, for today’s blog post, back to the late morning spent at the Muir Woods today! The first time I visited there, I had such an urge to hug those beautiful trees, and that became my ritual :)! Each time I visit, I faithfully visit my trees, and hug a few, exactly as I did  today :)! If you haven’t already, do put this on your places-to-see-before-you-die list, yep, the bucket list :)! I personally cannot think of a better way to worship the Creator, than through such magnificent creations!

*John Muir was a Scottish-born American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States.


Twenty-one little known facts about Christmas

Have you ever stopped to wonder how Christmas traditions started — why we kiss under the
mistletoe, or give each other stockings full of goodies? Here are 25 festive facts you probably
didn’t know…

imagesLMNT1H7X1. US scientists calculated that Santa would have to visit 822 homes a second to deliver all the world’s presents on Christmas Eve, traveling at 650 miles a second.

2. THE word Noel derives from the French expression “les bonnes nouvelles” or “the good news”, referring to the news about the birth of Jesus.

3. HANGING stockings out comes from the Dutch custom of leaving shoes packed with food for St Nicholas’s donkeys. He would leave small gifts in return.

4. THE tradition of putting tangerines in stockings comes from 12th-century French nuns who left socks full of fruit, nuts and tangerines at the houses of the poor.

5. THE abbreviation Xmas isn’t irreligious. The letter X is a Greek abbreviation for Christ.

6. BEFORE turkey, the traditional Christmas meal in England was a pig’s head and mustard.

7. THE Greeks celebrate Christmas on January 7, according to the old Julian calendar, while Xmas presents are opened on New Year’s Day.

8. MANY parts of the Christmas tree can actually be eaten, with the needles being a good source of Vitamin C.

9. THE holly in a wreath symbolizes Christ’s crown of thorns while the red berries are drops of his blood.

2013-12-25 00.28.08 (1)10. HANGING presents on trees may come from the Druids who believed the tree was the giver of all good things.

11. JINGLE Bells was the first song broadcast from space when Gemini 6 astronauts Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra sang it on December 16, 1965.

12. ASTRONOMERS believe the Star Of Bethlehem, which guided the wise men to Jesus, may have been a comet or the planet Uranus.

13. SANTA has different names around the world – Kriss Kringle in Germany, Le Befana in Italy, Pere Noel in France and Deushka Moroz (Grandfather Frost) in Russia.

14. THE word Christmas comes from the Old English “Cristes maesse” meaning “Christ’s Mass”.

15. THE bestselling Xmas single ever is Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, shifting over 50million copies worldwide since 1942.

16. SINCE 1947 Oslo has sent an Xmas tree to London to thank them for their help in the Second World War.

17. SANTA Claus comes from a Dutch folk tale based on Saint Nicholas, or Sinterklaas, who gave gifts on December 6.

18. BOXING Day gets its name from all the money collected in church alms-boxes for the poor.

19. KISSING under the mistletoe is thought to spring from Frigga, the Norse goddess of love, who was associated with the plant.

20. THEY may date back to pagan traditions, but the earliest known reference to a Christmas tree is in a German pamphlet from 1570.

21. THE first Christmas celebrated in Britain is thought to have been in York in 521AD.

All the above are from a December 2006 issue of the UK newspaper The Daily Mirror, from their list of 50 little known facts about Christmas.


Wishing the readers of this blog…

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…a very Merry Christmas! I hope your plans include a celebration and a special meal or two, specially if there are children in your home and in your life. I feel very blessed that even though I’m not a Christian my parents raised us to celebrate this very important day when Jesus was born. Thus, very early on in life, I learnt that Christmas was a time for love, charity, generosity when families come together in a spirit of caring and sharing, and especially creating joyous moments for their children. When I grew up and had children of my own, I did the same for them…creating special moments for them to last their whole life. And today it is so wonderful to watch them do the same for their children.

In this very spirit, all of us get together each year in the home of one of my children in San Francisco. Presents keep piling under the tree until Christmas Eve. In our family we open our presents on Christmas morning. There is much joy and excitement as the children and us adults open our presents — some from each other, and some from Santa Claus ;)! The two youngest children wrote their letters to Santa again this year and there’s no doubt  here that Santa’s bringing their presents :)!

Wishing each one of you much joy, much love and happy times with your loved ones, and may Santa visit you all ;)! Merry Christmas! — HO! HO! HO!


We are all born with…


In a beautiful verse, the Persian mystic Rumi says:

“You were born with potential.
You were born with goodness and trust.
You were born with ideals and dreams.
You were born with greatness.
You were born with wings.
You are not meant for crawling, so don’t!
You have wings — learn to use them and fly!!”

I believe I have wings ;)! Do YOU believe that too? If not, are you willing to dare yourself to believe it? That which you can believe you have, you WILL have! It’s a spiritual Law 🙂


Peppermint — the essential oil of ‘joy’

PEPPERMINT: (Mentha piperita) is one of the oldest and most highly regarded herbs for soothing digestion, and many other physical and emotional issues. It is also called the ‘oil of Joy’, because of the tremendous ‘lift’ it gives us when inhale it! French doctor, Jean Valnet, M.D, studied the oil’s effect on the liver and respiratory systems and this study has brought us a wealth of useful information. Other oil scientists have also researched Peppermint’s role in affecting impaired taste and smell when inhaled. Dr. William N. Dember of the University of Cincinnati studied and found Peppermint’s ability to improve mental accuracy and concentration. Alan Hirsch, M.D., studied Peppermint’s ability to directly affect the brain’s satiety center, which triggers a sense of fullness after meals, making it a very useful oil to use for weight loss. And, again, all this research is documented by the Utah-based company Young Living Essential Oils — no guarantees can be made for oils sourced from another company!
I have compiled 15 popular uses of Peppermint oil here, that are sure to enhance your life and your health!
1. Adding a drop of Peppermint oil to herbal tea may help aid digestion and heartburn. Or, simply add a drop of Peppermint to a cup of hot water for a refreshing cup of Mint Tea.                               

2. Massaging several drops of Peppermint oil on an area of injury may help to  reduce tenderness, Rubbing a few drops on painful or sore joints or areas will bring relief. When different oils are applied to an area, Peppermint is always the last to be applied as it helps to push the other oils deeper.
3. Rubbing several drops of Peppermint oil on the bottoms of the feet may help lower high temperature. This is especially useful for children.

4. Applying a drop of Peppermint oil topically on unbroken skin may help stop itching.

5. For poison ivy or poison oak, applying Peppermint oil on location may help with irritation and soothe the area. 

6. Inhaling Peppermint oil before and during a workout may help boost your
mood and reduce fatigue.

7. Massaging several drops of Peppermint oil on the solar plexus area and the abdomen may help relieve nausea. Rubbing Peppermint oil in and around the  navel may help to relieve travel sickness. This will also help with nausea if you’ve had one drink too many ;)! Sipping a glass of water with a drop of peppermint oil added to it will relieve the symptoms of a hangover. 
8. Rubbing a drop of Peppermint oil on the temples, forehead, over the sinuses (stay away from the eyes) and on the back of the neck may soothe head pressures.

9. Applying a drop of Peppermint oil on each side of the fifth cervical vertebra (up three notches from the large vertebra at the base of the neck) may be beneficial in helping to stop hiccups.

10 Placing two drops of Peppermint oil on the tongue and rubbing another drop under the nose may help improve alertness and concentration.

11. Diffusing Peppermint oil in the room while studying may help to improve concentration and accuracy. Inhaling Peppermint oil, when taking a test, may help in improving recall.

12. To deter rats, mice, ants or cockroaches, placing two drops of Peppermint
oil on a cotton ball and placing along the path or point of entry for these pest. This may help to send them elsewhere.

13. Mixing one 15 ml. bottle of Peppermint oil into a 5 gallon can of paint, before
painting your house, may dispel the fumes of the paint. 
14. Adding 4-5 drops of Peppermint oil to 4oz. of water and spray on plants may
help get rid of aphids. 
15. A drop of Peppermint oil on a cotton swab and swabbing a tick may help its 
removal. Wait for it to unhedge its head and remove from your pet.
And don’t forget to just inhale deeply from the bottle, for the aforementioned lift to your spirits :)!