Tag Archives: winter holidays

Ginger Masala Chai Worthy of a New York Winter

chai-tea-e-liquidI recently moved to New York City from California and am (ahem) “enjoying” my first real winter here. Let the wuss jokes begin!

It’s alright. I’m laughing at myself, too. Born and raised in California, used to being fairly tan, gets cold easily, loves sunshine so much she’s basically part lizard… Yep, that’s me. Now instead of donning a windbreaker for misty San Francisco mornings or wearing a hat for fun in the 60 degree Los Angeles winter sun, I’m learning the art of boots, down coats, ear muffs, long johns and mittens. Endless mittens. See you next April, world, because I am officially 75% clothing right now, and I can barely see over my scarf.

It’s going to be a long winter.

In all honesty, though, I love autumn and winter. I love the snow; I love the holidays; I love the feeling of warming up after being cold. It probably has something to do with a nesting instinct. One of the most beloved memories I have from childhood is making nests with my big sister on rainy days and sick days. When it was miserable, grey and raining outside, or when we were stuck in the house with colds and fevers, my sister would orchestrate a grand “nesting.” We’d pile tons of blankets and pillows on the ground, arranged in little cup-shaped seats like an egg carton. And then we’d hop inside the nest with a box of Nilla wafers and tea and watch a Disney movie to pass the time. Pure joy.

I still make nests of sorts, as does she, both literally and figuratively. Sans actual blankets and pillows, I just love making people feel warm, comfortable, and cared for. In any kind of weather, there’s little I love more than bringing people together around a table for delicious food and loving company. But this is a particularly important practice during the cold and dark months when our souls really need that extra swaddling. And many traditional winter recipes do the trick of warming us inside out.

Case in point, spice-infused recipes. This season you’re undoubtedly enjoying foods flavored with all kinds of spices, whether you know it or not. Butternut squash soup, gingerbread cookies, curries and stews, applesauce, etc. Winter recipes tend to incorporate many different spices, for several reasons. In Ayurveda, the winter season is associated with exacerbated Vata qualities, which are best assuaged through warming foods. This can be literally hot foods (like soup, hot cereal and warm drinks) and/or through warm-ing foods, made invigorating through the use of spice.

Even outside of Ayurveda, there’s a very practical reason to eat more spice during the winter. It’s cold, there’s a bug going around, you’re sniffly and sick…Voilà, spices curb cold and flu symptoms! Ginger, for instance, is an anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-bacterial. It can help boost your immune system, loosen mucus, open your sinuses, and relieve sore throats. That’s a lot for one little root!

Keeping the health benefits in mind, as well as the essential need for warming and nesting that we all experience during this season, I offer you chai.

“Masala chai” is the Hindi term for a drink made with black tea, milk, and lots of spice. It is a drink that has been consumed in South Asia for centuries and is traditionally much less sweet and much more spicy than what you’d get at your local coffee shop. I can’t necessarily vouch for the total authenticity of my recipe, as I’ve never been to India, but I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Ginger Masala Chai

Makes 2 servings


2 cups of milk (I like organic whole milk, but soy, almond, or oat work as well)

2 cups of water

3 tablespoons of loose leaf, unflavored black tea (the stronger the better; I like Darjeeling)

1/4 teaspoon Wakaya Perfection ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch of saffron

2 whole, crushed up cardamom cloves

3 teaspoons of Turbinado sugar (or Agave, honey, etc)


Get two saucepans going on the stove on medium heat. Pour the milk in one and the water in the other. You’ll need to work in both pots simultaneously. As the milk begins to warm, add the pinch of saffron, pressing it between your fingertips gently before dropping it in the saucepan.

Once the water in the other pot begins to boil, add the loose tea leaves and reduce to a low simmer. Let steep 3-5 minutes. While you’re waiting, add the sugar to the milk and stir until it dissolves. Once the tea is ready, place a strainer over the milk and strain the tea water into the milk saucepan. Now you’re working in just one pot.

Start building the spice. Add the ginger, cinnamon and any other spices you want to the pot, saving the cardamon to the side for the end. You can try the chai to see if it has the right spice/sugar ratio, and adjust until it’s just right. Bring the pot to a boil, and as it begins to bubble up, throw the cardamon in and turn the heat off right away. The chai will stew for a second, cooling down slightly, and the cardamon will infuse the drink just enough without overpowering it.

Serve in two mugs and enjoy! Stay warm, everyone!

Winter Solstice Purpose Renewing

Winter Solstice 'standstill' is the perfect period to renew life purposes!

Today during the Northern Hemiphere’s darkest moments of spacetime I celebrate and renew my life purposes.   I pray and shamanize within daily and seasonal cycles like those of the traditional, liturgical church I grew up in.  Years ago I co-founded a new church of contemporary shamanics but I still pray the liturgical seasons and daily cycles – in my shamanized version. 

Winter Solstice presents a perfect opportunity to ‘do my accounting’ for the year much like I do my daily accounting during Compline (around 9pm), when the darkest hours of night begin.  Those darkest hours that open after my Compline prayers are, for me, a wondrous period for unleashed new dreaming.  The Winter Solstice is my yearly spacetime sanctuary of standing still for an unmeasurable while, both in and out of ordinary reality, for accounting for this year of my life, and then for even bigger dreaming and renewing my overall life purposes.

My seasonal cycle of winter holy days begins with All Hallows Eve – Samhain on October 31, which corresponds to my daily Vespers or early evening prayer period, a pause before a little more work can be done – or any other intentional activity such as study or recreation – before Compline.  Epiphany on January 6 is my ‘end of winter’ holy day, which corresponds to my Pre-Dawn or Dawn prayer period, the little while where I see the sun rise, envision the new day, and prepare for my work of dancing my dreams to life.

This Winter Solstice 2008 I am already dreaming that you – the wonderful person reading this first post of mine here – dream the best new life starting now and flowing through the New Year.  If you are reading this on a later date, know that this Winter Solstice shamanic shift works in Spirit and by Spirit, beyond all ordinary spacetime boundaries and limits.  So you can always (and in all ways) do it NOW!

For more of my blogging visit Shamanic Shifting Dreaming Drumming & Foolish Wondering.

Overcoming Winter Allergies

This is the time of the year when family gatherings and social calls put us in new environments.  The holidays mean we visit the homes of friends and family much more frequently–and in a condensed period of time–than other times of the year.  It also happens to fall during the winter months, which means a very “closed” environment with no open windows and less fresh air.  Combined with the stress and lack of sleep that this time of year brings, these new environments can put a strain on your immune and respiratory systems.

Allergy sufferers beware:  this time of year can also bring the “gift” of an allergy flare-up. At first pass, it seems odd that during the cold winter months allergens are present and ready to strike.  But let’s consider the various factors at play.

Allergies are personalized set of responses that your body demonstrates when it has been exposed to a compound it rejects.  Essentially, your body acts as though an invader is attacking it.  Since it doesn’t know how to process the foreign compound, an inflammatory response is ignited as a protective mechanism to your organs.  These compounds are collectively referred to as allergens, and commonly include: dust, pet dander, tree and flower pollens, mold, and ingestible things such as food and medications.   

Most commonly, the term  “allergies” refers to the environmental allergens that enter your body through air and skin contact, causing sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, sinus congestion, headache, foggy head and low energy.  This time of year can also mean dust and the products of dust mites, such as pet dander, perfume and holiday scents, and Christmas trees and wreaths.   Considering that we are indoors more, allergens have our bodies at their mercy and enter your body more easily.

Most allergy sufferers have identified the allergens in their environment and taken steps to remove them, such as frequent dusting, a “no pets” rule, and air filters.  But what happens this season when you must visit a home that doesn’t live up to your clean environment standards?  For example, maybe a family member has pets or your best friend doesn’t mind dust balls.

 Your best strategy is foresight. A few simple steps can help your body defend against unfriendly invaders.

1.    Take steps throughout the year to support your immune system

Remember, allergies are a sign that your immune system isn’t quite able to battle the attacking allergens. The best, broad stroke strategy when dealing with allergies is to find ways to support your immune system.  Check out my article “5 Ways to Protect Your Kids (and Yourself!) From the Flu,” at Intent.com to read more ways to support your immune system.  While allergies are different from the flu, both are an indication that your immune system isn’t operating at full speed.  A natural supplement that has helped many allergy sufferers is quercetin.  Quercetin is a compound-“flavonoid” found in food that has anti-inflammatory properties so it can help decrease the reactions caused by the attacking allergens. You can increase your intake by eating more citrus fruits, tea, onions and berries, or by taking a supplement.  You can find quercetin in most health food stores.   

2.    It is common for allergy sufferers to have more than one allergy. 

While you might only be allergic to pet dander or outdoor pollens, it behooves you to keep your home extra clean.  The cumulative presence of allergens in your home can be a consideration and may add to your battle.  If you keep your home a clean and safe haven, your body will be better able to handle the foreign invaders you’ll face when visiting family.

3.    Plan ahead when visiting a home where you know allergens are lurking.

Let your friend or family member know about your allergies and that you may need to cut your visit short. Or, if you will be spending an extended visit, take a break from the environment and go outside for a short walk.  The combination of fresh air and exercise will increase circulation and bring relief.

4.    Keep a over-the-counter, non drowsy allergy medicine in your bag if you do not use a regular prescription for allergies. 

Most non-drowsy allergy medicines at your local pharmacy will provide some relief.  Even if you don’t normally use this kind of remedy, you may find that it helps a great deal when in a pinch.

5.    Try a niacin flush. 

Niacin is the proper name for vitamin B3, is found in everyday foods and can be purchased over the counter as a nutritional supplement. When taken in proper dosages, Niacin causes vasodilation (expansion of the small blood vessels) and brings an increased blood flow near the skin’s surface.  When this occurs, you will experience a warm, itchy, tingling sensation in your face, hands, ears and other areas. The skin looks red and “flushed,” hence called a “niacin flush.” It is a weird sensation and could seem a little worrisome if you’re not aware of the cause. 

A good niacin flush will cause increased blood flow through the vessels and bring circulating histamines to the surface so they can be released from the body.  In simple terms, histamines are responsible for the common allergy symptoms of itching, swelling and congestion.  The flush you experience when taking niacin is partly due to the summation and release of histamines.  When the flush has subsided, histamine levels are lowered allowing a temporary relief from allergic symptoms.

Try a niacin flush immediately prior to contact with allergens such as just before your holiday party or visit.  Niacin and niacin flushes are safe and natural.  Try beginning with a 50mg dose on an empty stomach.  You will begin to feel the flush within 5-10 minutes.  Once the flush has peaked, redness and itching will subside in 10-15 minutes. 

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