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Food for Thought, by Rachel Bartholomew and Mandy Pearson

Food for Thought: Mindful Eating to Nourish Body and Soul, by Rachel Bartholomew and Mandy Pearson
CICO Books, 978-1800653221, 160 pages, April 2024

Recently, I’ve been seeking to change my relationship with food. Instead of jumping into a new food trend or committing to a diet that doesn’t feel maintainable, my focus has been on cultivating new habits by making one little change at a time. Food for Thought: Mindful Eating to Nourish Body and Soul by Rachel Bartholomew and Mandy Pearson has a motivating source of supportive on my journey to changing my eating patterns.

“You may be ready to give your eating habits a complete overhaul straight away, or you may decide to just change one thing to start with. Do tell yourself that whatever you can do right now is right for you in this time and place, and is absolutely worth it.”1

Food for Thought serves as a comprehensive guide to transforming one’s relationship with food through the practice of mindful eating, delving into the philosophy that eating is not just a physical act of nourishment but also an emotional and spiritual experience that can lead to improved health and well-being when done mindfully. The authors, Bartholomew and Pearson, combine their expertise in nutrition and mindfulness to present a harmonious approach to eating. They teach readers that by being fully present during meals, we can achieve a deeper appreciation for the flavors, textures, and overall experience of eating, which can lead to better digestion, reduced overeating, and a more satisfying relationship with food.

This book is filled with practical exercises, thoughtful insights, and easy-to-follow advice aimed at helping readers slow down, savor each bite, and reconnect with their food in a more meaningful way. There’s also plenty of delicious recipes throughout the book, such as a carrot and lentil dip, spiced oatmeal cake with cinnamon and chocolate frosting, falafel with minted yogurt, and slow-cooked lamb salad.

Plus, the colorful pages and easy-to-understand content, enriched with little graphics, make this book not just a resource but an experience as you move through it. There’s plenty of moments to pause, as the authors have included “Mindful Practices”, encouraging readers to stop and savor not only their meals but also the moment and the sensations that come from integrating this information as they read. These practices are perfect for reflection and create the space to truly deepen your connection with the information being presented.

What I like most about the authors’ approach to eating is how they believe we can intuitively know what our body needs. Instead of going to extremes in our eating or obsessively seeking out new information, we can instead learn to listen to our inner voice, and honor what our body is telling us. They write, “Your instinct will often point you in the right direction if you slow down and make space to connect with this inner wisdom.”2 And I’ve found that taking time in the morning and before bed to read a chapter of Food for Thought or taking time to reflect on what I’ve learned–the important of having a direction, staying organized with my meals, affirming new beliefs–helps me to stay on track with my goals.

The well-rounded content brings a level of mindfulness to food triggers, cravings, and lifestyle factors that influence one’s health and eating habits in a way that feels gentle. These topics can feel very painful to acknowledge, especially if they’ve been unconscious while we eat on autopilot mode. But change requires doing a bit of deeper questioning about the way we are fueling ourselves in order to pick more nourishing options. The authors’ approach is compassionate, caring, and very helpful in a practical way, paving the way for this inner work becomes a practice of self-love.

Bartholomew and Pearson also have taught me that making changes to my eating habits is not just about the act of eating–it’s about reshaping one’s entire approach to food. They emphasize the importance of choosing foods that are nourishing to both the body and the soul, advocating for a diet that is as good for the planet as it is for the individual, helps me be more conscious of where I am sourcing my food from, the time (or lack thereof) that I take to prepare it, and the impact of the speed I consume my food and my attention while doing so.

With its blend of nutritional science and mindful living practices, Food for Thought is a valuable resource for anyone looking to foster a healthier, more conscious approach to eating. Whether you’re a seasoned practitioner of mindfulness or new to the concept, Bartholomew and Pearson’s insights offer a refreshing perspective on how to enrich your life through the simple act of eating. I recommend this book both for those looking to create more conscious eating habits to enhance their overall well-being and those who are seeking to expand their mindfulness practice to include meal time.

Ocean Spirit Oracle, by Kristine Pidkameny

Ocean Spirit Oracle: Harness the Power and Wisdom of the Sea, by Kristine Pidkameny
CICO Books, ​​978-1800653054, 64 pages, 52 cards, April 2024

Intuition and the ocean share a remarkable and seemingly mystical connection, both opening us to awareness that expands our perception of the world. The ocean, with its vastness and depth, mirrors the nature of intuition. Just as the ocean’s surface can be calm or turbulent, it hides a complex world beneath. Our intuition operates beneath the surface of our everyday awareness, influencing our decisions and perceptions in subtle yet powerful ways.

Ocean Spirit Oracle by Kristine Pidkameny is a captivating tool for those seeking insight and guidance from the depths of the ocean’s wisdom and their inner knowing. With mesmerizing artwork that draws upon the vast beauty of the marine world, each card is a gateway into the profound and healing energies of the ocean, offering a unique blend of spiritual guidance and personal reflection.

“The ocean accepts you as you are and offers many life lessons.”1

Pidkameny’s gorgeous deck invites readers to embrace the ebb and flow of life by calling upon the wisdom of the ocean. This 52-card oracle deck is infused with a beautiful, serene, and calming energy.

One of the most remarkable aspects of Ocean Spirit Oracle is its ability to blend the sublime with the tangible through natural beauty. The stunning images on the cards look like one’s ideal vacation photographs, transporting the reader to destinations of the heart and mind. The realistic quality of the images brings the wisdom of the ocean, inviting the healing power of the natural world right into the room with you.

This exploration of nature  is supported by a comprehensive guidebook, which provides detailed interpretations and thoughtful reflections, making the oracle accessible to beginners and seasoned practitioners alike. For each card in the guidebook there is a thoughtful message that offers guidance and reassurance. Sometimes these messages ask you questions to reflect upon, other times they detail the scene for you, prompting the reader to meditate on the scene and how they feel immersed in the imagery. The gentle optimism of the guidebook is sure to leave readers uplifted and centered: mentally, emotionally, and spiritually transported to a  realm of serenity.

Additionally, for each guidebook entry, there’s a mantra for reflection. I’ve found repeating the reflection mantra a few times helps me to integrate the message and further invite the ocean’s energy into the present moment. As I go about my day, I will often come back to the mantra, and instantly, I am reminded of the ocean’s calming energy.

Working with this deck feels less like using a divinatory tool and more like drawing from a source of comfort and inspiration. It prompts readers to connect with their spirit through the natural world, fostering a sense of peace and understanding. Whether used for daily inspiration, meditation, or as part of a more extensive spiritual practice, this oracle deck is a treasure trove of wisdom. Readers can use this deck to embark on a journey of self-discovery and personal growth, guided by the ancient and enduring spirit of the ocean.

The card I pulled most recently is Wonder. The image has crystal clear sparkling water reflecting the blue skies above. On the calm waters, a boat calmly floats, completely present in the moment with no sense of urgency or rush. The guidebook reads, “The bright, blue horizon beckons the seafarer within on a fascinating journey of discovery and delight. Brimming with countless moments of awe and awareness, the seaside offers a universal experience of enchantment.”2 The reflection mantra reads:

“Right now is my favorite moment.”3

Pulling this card definitely pulled me back into the present moment, reminding me that this is where magic is found–not in the past or the future. After a day of organizing my schedule for the next month and making/confirming plans, it was a pleasant and much-needed message to bring me back to the here and now. Moments after pulling it, I looked up at my toddler son, realizing I hadn’t given him my full attention in a while. Noticing my gaze resting on him, my son turned to me with a big smile–what a wonder indeed!

Overall, Oracle Spirit Oracle is a lovely addition to one’s collection. While it might seem like a more summery deck (it would certainly be a beautiful addition to summer decor), it’s also a cure for the winter-blues to remember the sunny days spent lounging near the mystic ocean. Readers of all levels can enjoy this deck, as Pidkameny’s words open the heart and center the soul. I highly recommend it for those seeking to deepen their connection with the ocean and embrace the mystical wisdom of the marine world.

Faerie Wisdom, by Gillian Kemp

Faerie Wisdom: Magical Guidance & Wisdom, by Gillian Kemp
CICO Books, 9781800653191, 64 pages, 52 cards, March 2024

With her set of Faerie Wisdom: Magical Guidance & Wisdom oracle cards, creator and illustrator Gillian Kemp takes us into the magical land of the fairies and other mythical creatures from literature and lore.

Gillian Kemp is an author of more than ten books, five other oracle decks, and a Love Spell Box for enhancing your love life. Kemp is a clairvoyant who utilizes astrology, tarot and playing cards, palmistry and tea leaves to predict the future for her clients; she is also a medium, who receives messages from those on the other side. Kemp was only twelve or thirteen when she saw her first spirit and viewed the event as a natural occurrence. Learn more about Kemp at her website.

As I unboxed the set, feelings of peace, strength, and calm surround me. I felt safe and held in the loving arms of the Divine and all these magical beings. The whimsical illustrations really drew me in, and I delighted in shuffling the card deck and flipping through the guidebook. 

Although only 64 pages, the guidebook is full of history and fairy lore and “wishes to reveal the importance of fairies in your life by revealing folklore as old as the hills in which fairies have lived since time immemorial.”1 From the introduction, Kemp goes into fairy wisdom, customs, and rituals and what she calls “Faeireland.”  In this section, she discusses how we can find fairies living among us and then shares how authors and poets have shared stories about fairies for thousands of years.

Next, the deck creator tells us “How to Lay the Cards,”2 with no less than twelve unique spreads. Many of the card spreads are quite unique, such as “The Gallitraps Circle”3 and “The Faerieland Dance Spread.”4 Most of the spreads utilize a large number of cards.  She includes two three-card spreads: “The Yes or No Spread”5 and “The Faerie Divination Spread”6

I chose “The Gallitraps Circle” spread and proceeded to go through the deck and select a card to represent myself. I chose the Faerie Queen of Fall. Her hair is similar in color to my own and she has a sweet spirit. Then, I shuffled the cards and placed 8 cards around the center card, starting at the top and going around clockwise. When I turned the cards face up, I read: “The first two cards reveal what Spring will hold for you; the second 2 cards predict Summer; the third two cards, Fall; and the last two cards, Winter.”7

From this reading, I came to know that my Spring represents both good fortune and winning and Summer will bring magic and sweet dreams. For Fall, I may see that “Optimism opens doors . . . (and) Your wish will most certainly be fulfilled.”8 The Winter season will grant wishes and bring strength. 

After a web search, I learned that “gallitraps” are circles of grass, which may have been created by fairies. These circles possess magical powers. Humans have also been known to draw circles in meadows or glens for magical purposes. Later, when I looked at the back design of the cards, I noticed three fairies dancing in a gallitrap!

At my Friday Coffee & Cards group, I shared the magic and wisdom of these cards, and my friends loved them!

My friend Z had just returned from a trip and was wondering what was next for her. She drew the #3 card in the suit for Summer and learned that the time is right for new people to come into her life. She expressed her gratitude and said, “I guess it’s also time to let go of some people that no longer fit in my life!”

Another friend had a dream earlier in the week and was looking for confirmation. She drew #8, also in the suit for Summer, which represents “the glory of winning” and that “a bonus or reward is imminent.”9 Her dream had been about a windfall coming her way in June.  She saw this card and the guidance as confirmation of that prediction!

The illustrations are so whimsical and beautiful that you are easily taken to another place and another time. The cards are divided into the four seasons, starting with Spring. Each section or suit contains thirteen cards. Within each suit, the cards are numbered 1 to 13, which is reminiscent of tarot cards. Each card spells out the season and number, so it’s easy to follow along in the guidebook for the extra wisdom Kemp shares.

What I like best about these cards is that a brief bit of wisdom is listed on each card.  So, if you were to use the cards at an event or in a group where going back and forth to the guidebook was not practical, each querent can easily gain a quick message.

The cards are an unusual size, in that they are 5.25” X 2.5” and horizontal in design.  The guidebook is printed in four-color, with a thumbnail version of each card shown with the expanded guidance. The guidebook is also filled with accents of drawings of faeries, mythical creatures, and magic mushrooms. Both the guidebook and cards are printed with a glossy varnish.

The card stock is a nice weight, and the cards are easy to shuffle.  The cards and guidebook fit nicely into the box, which is quite sturdy.  After placing the cards and guidebook into the side of the box, you can add the box top for safe keeping.

This set of oracle cards would be enjoyed by both new and experienced card readers. Someone who has an affinity for faeries and nature spirits will especially resonate with the colorful artwork and guidance shared.

I plan to keep Faerie Wisdom in the box of cards I carry in my car trunk so that I have cards available for groups or coffees I attend.  Everyone loves fairies, and it is my hope that the wisdom and guidance from these cards may brighten the day and encourage someone who most needs it!

Your Book of Shadows, by Cerridwen Green leaf

Your Book of Shadows: Make Your Own Magical Habit Tracker, by Cerridwen Greenleaf
CICO Books, 1800652968, 144 pages, April 2024

Mastering your magic takes time, focus, and dedication. Especially when just starting a magical journey, navigating the vast and intricate world of spells, rituals, and energies can quickly feel like uncharted territory. Getting to know what works best for you is a practice of trial and error, a journey where each misstep is as crucial as every success. In Your Book of Shadows: Make Your Own Magical Habit Tracker, Cerridwen Greenleaf teaches readers all they need to know about tracking their own magical practice, refining it by figuring out what did and did not work well, in order to chronicle a repertoire of the wisdom gained from magical experimentation.

Right off the bat, I was drawn to this book for the bright colors and many images throughout the pages. Each section is short and sweet, covering the necessities while creating the space to engage with the book by performing the suggested spells and rituals along the way. The layout of the content makes it easy to engage with the text as you move through the book–there’s a lot of places for your eyes to roam, helping your mind to take in Greenleaf’s wisdom through the sensory appeal of color, font style, and text organization. The design of the book makes me feel inspired, playful, and crafty!

Greenleaf begins by covering the history of Books of Shadows and their importance to a coven or solo practitioner. She then moves into how to choose and design your Book of Shadows, consecrating and protecting your Book of Shadows (as well as creating a shrine), and creating organization through a Table of Contents. She offers advice on how to select a book, decorate it, and keep it magically protected.

As one moves through the process of creating their own Book of Shadows, Greenleaf provides easy-to-follow rituals and spells  to assist with the process: a ritual of thanks, inscription rite,  pendulum spell for choosing the right book, self-assurance charm for creativity when decorating, and safeguarding spell to clear away unwanted energy from your Book of Shadows. There’s also parts on color magic (one focusing on the associations of each color and the other a correspondence chart of each zodiac sign with colors), along with crafting tips for adding pages and creating a book lock.

“… making a Book of Shadows is a very personal endeavor–let go of that fear of making mistakes. Always remember that perfection can be boring–something that is real and unique is much more appealing and special. Keep an open heart and mind, and your Book of Shadows can become a stunningly beautiful work of art.”1

Greenleaf’s emphasis on personalization is particularly noteworthy, encouraging readers to see their Book of Shadows as a living document that evolves with their spiritual journey. This approach not only helps one to build confidence in one’s practice but also makes the process of creating and maintaining a Book of Shadows a deeply personal and fulfilling endeavor.

The following chapters cover cyclical energies of nature that can influence one’s magical practice. Greenleaf first writes about moon spells, specifically focusing on the phases of the moon. For each phase, she gives an overview of the best type of spellwork to do at that time, a table of magical correspondences for the energy of the phase (days, colors, herbs, incense, essential oils, crystals, and metals), and a spell, ritual, or magical craft one can do for that phase.

For instance, Greenleaf describes how new moons are best for new beginnings and offers an incantation for new ideas, while noting waning moons are a “time to conserve our power, to turn our attention towards home and inner peace and wisdom”2 and sharing a recipe for spiritual scrub to cleanse energies from one’s home or ritual space.

Next, Greenleaf covers The Wheel of the Year. Beginning with the Celtic New Year, the high holiday Samhain, she details the eight sabbats, sharing recipes, rituals, divination spells, prayers to the god and goddess, and more. The descriptions of each sabbat aren’t too long, just an introduction, but each one contains enough information for readers to familiarize themselves with the energy of The Wheel of the Year to then further their own practice.

Now that readers have an understanding of the quick-paced moon cycle and the overarching Wheel of the Year, Greenleaf delves deeper into astrological energies. She describes the twelve zodiac signs, along with the correspondence stone for each time period. Later in the chapter, she also provides herbal correspondence for every sign too.

There’s also a very helpful table of the magical planetary hours, which shows the ruling planet for every hour throughout the week. This table is extremely useful for those who are at the level of fine-tuning their spell work to correspond with specific planetary energies, such as doing a love spell during Venus hours or an abundance spell during Jupiter hours. Greenleaf also delves into the elemental power of signs, highlighting which each element is best suited to perform certain magic.

There’s an entire chapter to tracking your magic as a solo practitioner too. Greenleaf recognizes that it can be hard to find community at times or that one might want to keep some matters private, but she still assures readers they can grow their magical practice through their personal Book of Shadows. She advises “keeping a list of personal intentions”3 as these are the key to success in magic. She shares a visualization to create an inner temple, how to make your own DIY wand, meditations for centering yourself, and a candle ceremony to invoke a deity

Then the final chapter is a real gem because it is filled with different correspondences to help readers discover more about subtle energies. There’s a list of trees and what else one can assist with spiritually; flower, herb, essential oil, and color correspondences; correspondences and enhancement abilities for gems, stones, and crystals; totem animal correspondences; significance of numerology; planet correspondences and colors; metal magical correspondences; and a list of magical domains and deities one can work with.

Overall, Your Book of Shadows is a compelling guide for those embarking on or furthering their journey into the realm of witchcraft, Wicca, or other pagan paths. This book serves not just as an introduction to aspects of these spiritual paths, but as an interactive tool, encouraging readers to actively engage with their practice by creating their own Book of Shadows. Greenleaf skillfully demystifies the process of starting a Book of Shadows, presenting it in a way that is both inviting and profound, providing all the essential guidance and spellwork readers need to take this step of connecting with their magical practice on a deeper level.

Magic for Change, by Cerridwen Greenleaf

Magic for Change: Spells and Rituals for Social Transformation, by Cerridwen Greenleaf
CICO Books, 1800652623, 144 pages, October 2023

When I first started reading Cerridwen Greenleaf’s Magic for Change: Spells and Rituals for Social Transformation, I wasn’t fully sure what to expect. I had read other books with similar themes in the past, so I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with the concepts that were going to be introduced; however, I know that there are some methods of discussing social justice and social change from a (very) narrow perspective, so I didn’t necessarily have high hopes that this book would be different.

I was pleasantly surprised. Greenleaf discussed several different manners and topics for activism, including chapters on climate change; peace, which featured not only country-level conflicts but also gun violence as a whole; ending hunger, not only in the world, but also in your local community; witchcraft for feminists; and ways to manifest money and other material gains for the benefit of all. According to Greenleaf:

“This book stems from my years of activism and is based on the magical intention to provide practitioners with the tools, ideas, and inspiration to make this a better world.”1

Out of everything in their book, I was particularly interested in some of the concepts and practices that Greenleaf discusses in their chapter about feminist witchcraft. Their section on Solidarity Shrines was especially interesting to me because I can’t always have an obvious shrine set up in my space; their suggestions for small things to use in place of a full altar that will still attract like minded people motivated me to set up a small Solidarity Shrine of my own! (And if you’re curious, I think it has worked so far; I’ve met several more writer friends both in-person and online, and have even found a local group to go play trivia at bars, which is something I’ve never been able to do before!)

Greenleaf’s discussions about tea were also some of my favorite parts of Magic for Change. I’m a huge tea drinker, so it seemed natural that I would gravitate toward these recipes, especially since I could very easily translate them into my morning or nighttime rituals. Most of the herbal teas that they discussed were equal parts magical and delicious, with their herbal money brew being one of my favorite new recipes that I tried. As to whether I’ve been able to manifest more money, that remains to be seen… but I have found money in unexpected places that I must’ve stored away and forgotten about, so if that counts, then the herbal money brew works quite well!

Throughout the book, Greenleaf’s writing style was very approachable and accessible for all levels of practitioner, from beginners to those who are more advanced in their craft; the content seems to be more geared toward beginners and early-intermediate practitioners, though. If you’ve been practicing witchcraft for years, you most likely will know a lot of the information that they discuss already, though you may not know exactly how to apply it in the context of creating social change, which could make this book an interesting addition to any witch’s bookshelf.

Another aspect of Magic for Change that made the book very accessible to read was the fact that it wasn’t all simply blocks of text; rather, there were a lot of illustrations included, many in what would be considered the borders or margins of the page, but that served to break the text into easily digestible pages.

It seems that they have a very strong understanding of kitchen and home/hearth styles of witchcraft, which is what a majority of this book focuses on; I would have appreciated if they included some material on more diverse forms of magic that could also be used for change, protest, and resistance, but it did not impact my enjoyment of the book in any way. It’s probably just a personal preference, but if you’re like me and something like divination or ancestor worship are at the forefront of your practice, you might find it a little difficult to fully immerse yourself .

I also would not recommend this book for anyone who is unable to practice openly or who doesn’t have any safe spaces to practice, also known as being “in the broom closet.” A lot of the rituals Greenleaf suggests will leave physical evidence or will require the practitioner to acquire supplies that may raise some red flags for nosy individuals in their life.

However, if you’re looking to expand your knowledge of magical practices that can very easily be adapted to activism, Magic for Change would be a good choice. There were a lot of examples of rituals that I had never thought to apply to the context of activism; if you have a coven, this book will give you ideas of how you can all work together to manifest change, but there are also plenty of rituals and ideas for a solo practitioner to develop their craft.

Walking with the Seasons, by Alice Peck

Walking with the Seasons: The Wonder of Being in Step with Nature, by Alice Peck
CICO Books, 9781800652958, 128 pages, February 2024

Now that spring is here, I was really interested in learning more about how to get in tune with the cycles of nature. In her book Walking with the Seasons, Alice Peck provides lots of activities and suggestions for getting out in nature. As I flipped through the book and saw the beautiful photographs and different practices that she shares, I was excited to learn more!

Peck is a writer and editor, having written more than six books on herbs, trees, and meditation, including Tree Wisdom.  She has also edited numerous books on various metaphysical and meditation topics. She lives with her husband in Brooklyn, New York, and photos of New York City figure prominently in this work. You may follow her on Instagram @BeMoreTree.

What I love most about Walking with the Seasons is the structure, which makes it easy to navigate. It’s like a calendar to a year of walking. She starts the book in the Spring, which is the beginning of the astrological New Year and devotes a chapter to each season. The Table of Contents shares the nuggets in each chapter, making it easy to retrace your steps and find the practices or activities that you might want to enjoy later.

I decided to jump right into the chapter on Spring–both the verbiage and the photos had me craving more of the green in nature that is starting to bud and bloom in my area. Peck reminds us that we don’t have to find anything special in nature to benefit from a walk:

“A green space doesn’t have to be a forest or a hiking trail. Seek out the unexpected–even in cities you can find “secret” green spaces like church yards, botanic gardens, or areas near train stations.”1

Did you know that walking in nature for about an hour and a half can lessen depression, stress, and anxiety, as well as quieting negative mind chatter? She goes on to share that a research team from Stanford University confirmed this, as well as stating that spending the same amount of time in areas with concrete and traffic had no impact on depression.2

For one of the exercises in this chapter, Peck invites the reader to walk outdoors for at least 15 minutes a day “in the greenest place you have access to.”3 Do this every day for a week and monitor the changes in your mood.

She also includes what she calls a “Joyful Walking Meditation” and the value of walking with your dog. I particularly enjoyed how she shared the “5 ways of liberation” from the Buddhist path and how dogs embody these qualities: perfect faith, energy or persistence, mindfulness or memory, stillness or concentration, and wisdom. She invites us to “walk with your dog, just as you walk with the seasons.”4

Peck weaves beautiful quotes from thought leaders, athletes, and other dignitaries into the prose and photos, such as this one on trees:

“Trees are literally greater than ourselves … trees connect us directly to the life of more than human nature. -Rupert Sheldrake, Science and Spiritual Practices”5 

Eager to learn more about walking in nature, I turned to the next chapter on Summer. Here I was treated to beautiful photos of beaches, rivers, lakes and ponds, in addition to hiking trails and mountain vistas. The practice that caught my eye utilized the concept of “nowscape.”

“Everything then unfolds, unfolds now and so might be said to unfold in the nowscape. Psychologist Jon Kabat-Zinn incorporates the nowscape into a practice he teaches called choiceless awareness or the state of unpremeditated, complete presence without preference, judgment, effort, or compulsion. We can apply this understanding of the nowscape to walking with the seasons. As you wander do not just be with the place you are walking –be the walk itself…. Abide fully in the nowscape.”6

In the chapter on Autumn, I found what may be my favorite story or passage, which was one on grief.  A woman had lost her lover and best friend of 18 years. She was encouraged to go on a hike in the Catskills with a group of people and a grief doula. She shared this about her experience:

“The biggest tragedy of my life had led me to one of the most beautiful days I’d ever experienced. It felt healing, it felt like something positive. Gave me the strength to go on. The forest and the mountains welcome you; they hear you and if you let them in, they can help to heal you, too. – Danielle Davis”7

I was so encouraged by this story and the healing power of nature that I plan to add the suggestion of this practice to my grief work with clients. In fact, this book contains many helpful and healing exercises that I plan to incorporate in my coaching practice.

I love great bibliographies and Peck does not disappoint! She includes four full pages of her reference material for everything from “How much sunshine do I need for enough Vitamin D?” to “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know.”8 She follows the bibliography with a two-page index, which further helps the reader to find information, such as a passage on calorie burning, forest bathing or wishing stones.

She also includes photo credits for all of the beautiful images in the book. I love the flaps she included in this paperback version. The flaps make it easy to mark your place, as you read the prose or peruse the beautiful photos. The book is a nice size to tuck into a handbag or backpack and I can see myself keeping it in the car to re-read while waiting for my granddaughter to get out of school.  Here’s another one of my favorite passages, where she talks about the meaning of walking a labyrinth:

“The labyrinth is a metaphor for the journey of life… a path of self-discovery, a journey into the center of our own hearts. – John Mitchell, Sacred England”

Walking with the Seasons would be enjoyed by just about everyone. I can see someone who is new to meditation benefiting from the practices and tips, as well as a more seasoned meditator.  I can also envision someone who is a gardener or hiker or birdwatcher picking up this book. By utilizing the tips and practices, this person may add another layer to their enjoyment of the great outdoors.

Natural Beauty Recipes, by Karen Gilbert

Natural Beauty Recipes: 35 Step-by-step Projects for Homemade Beauty, by Karen Gilbert
CICO Books, 1800653085, 145 pages, January 2024

This year during my annual holiday shopping at Lush, I decided in 2024 I want to learn how to create my own beauty and skin care products, most especially massage bars. Just a few days after that, I saw the newly released Natural Beauty Recipes: 35 Step-by-step Projects for Homemade Beauty by Karen Gilbert, which I soon discovered is the perfect book to support my new year initiative! This beautifully crafted book has all the information I need to get started, and after reading it, I feel confident and excited about my first projects I’ve planned out.

Gilbert is an expert in the field of natural skincare and fragrance, creating award-winning formulas for Neal Yard Remedies. She currently runs artisan perfumery workshops both locally in the UK and online and has previously published Perfume: The Art and Craft of Fragrance, teaching readers how to train their noses and layer scents to create body products and home fragrance sprays.

Before delving into the projects in Natural Beauty Recipes, Gilbert gives an overview about beauty and skincare overall, sharing the different skin types and a three-step skincare routine to follow and the “do” and “don’ts” of diet necessary to maintain a good complexion. She writes, “You would be surprised how many people with skin problems do not even think about changing their lifestyle, and try to fix them with cosmetic products instead.”1

With this in mind, Gilbert turns towards setting readers up with all they need to know about creating their own recipes, starting with the equipment required, ingredients, preservatives and antioxidants, and information on shelf life. I really enjoyed reading this section because often when I look at the back of a bottle, I have no idea what the ingredients are or why they are necessary, but now I understand better how different parts of the recipe work together.

And, oh my, all the things these ingredients can create is incredible! The recipes are divided into three different chapters, focusing on the face, body, and, finally, bath and shower. For every recipe, Gilbert neatly lists the ingredients and equipment required and provides a full description about the recipe, explaining why the ingredients are used, expected shelf-life, and other alternatives to ingredients or things that can be removed/added, depending upon one’s intended outcome.

She also includes a textbox on how to use the recipe, which, depending on the recipe, makes suggestions such as how long to leave on one’s face, how to prepare the skin for application (cleaning face, dampening skin, etc), or amounts to use (ex. 2 cups of bath salt). Gilbert wants you to have the best outcomes, and it’s clear she’s giving you every little detail to ensure you know not only how your product is created but its most efficient use too.

But do you want to know the absolute best part of this book? The pictures of every step! It is so incredibly helpful to be able to see pictures of each step to make sure I’m doing things correctly. Alongside the photographs, are Gilbert’s step-by-step instructions, which are thorough and fully convey what to expect/what is happening at each increment in the process. There’s also always a picture of the final product too, so you know what you’re making from the get-go.

Other very nifty and useful parts of this book are the glossary and resource section. The glossary defines terms used–the words I’m grateful to now understand when reading product labels! For instance, cocamidopropyl betaine is defined as follows:

“A mild surfactant derived from coconut oil. It is often used to make the product foam more and to improve the viscosity (thickness) in shampoo or shower gel formulations.”2

Then the resource section has lists of virtual workshops and tutorials, further reading (websites and books), website for a lye calculator, and what I find to be most valuable, lists of ingredient suppliers for both the UK and USA. I’m so grateful for Gilbert including these resources because finding reputable ingredients was on the forefront of my mind as I am preparing to start creating my own natural beauty recipes.

Here’s a list of the recipes that I’m most excited to try, which showcase the range of projects Gilbert teaches readers in this book: Rose & red clay cleanser, Lavender & witch hazel skin freshener, Rosehip treatment balm, Argan eye mask, lip balms, Vetiver & vanilla body cream, Shea butter & lemongrass hand softener, Pumice & peppermint foot scrub, Geranium & orange massage bars, Dead Sea detox bathing salts, Skin-softening milk bath, Herbal bath bags, and most of all, Mint-choc bath melts! I can already envision feeling luxurious, fresh, and radiant in 2024 when using these products. (I’ll just have to get my husband to share the excitement, as I have no doubt these ingredients add up quickly in cost! 😀)

All in all, Natural Beauty Recipes is a marvelous resource for those interested in getting started with making their own products. Gilbert gives readers her all; her expertise in fragrance and natural beauty shine through. Whether you’re a novice like me, beginning from step one, or someone who has some experience under their belt, Gilbert’s carefully curated set of recipes is such to delight the senses. I’m really looking forward to doing my first batch of a few of these as soon as my ingredients come in the mail. Until then, I’ll just keep doing my research and referring to this beautiful book for inspiration.

Your Tarot Guide, by Melinda Lee Holm

Your Tarot Guide: Learn to Navigate Life With the Help of the Cards, by Melinda Lee Holm and illustrated by Rohan Daniel Eason
CICO Books, 1800652607, 160 pages, October 2023

Does the world really need another guide to reading tarot? Well, if it’s Melinda Lee Holm’s Your Tarot Guide: Learn to Navigate Life With the Help of the Cards, then the answer is absolutely yes! This book is a fresh approach on helping novice and experienced readers use the cards to literally navigate life–imagine a guide to help you through the rough times, the murky times, the times when the path seems unclear.

Holm views the tarot as a “language and a tool,” and guides the reader into using it to navigate “life using tarot as a compass.”1 While applicable to all tarot decks, she uses her two decks, Elemental Power Tarot and Tarot of Tales, as the illustrations in this book. They were both illustrated by Rohan Daniel Eason, the illustrator of this book too! What I found interesting is that the imagery in these decks do not include human figures as Holm believes that tarot is for everyone.

Holms reminds the reader that the cards do not foretell the future but rather offer a way to move through your life toward the life you desire. There are no bad cards, she explains, there is only information and conversation, thus removing the fear of using tarot the wrong way or receiving bad messages. Phew! That is a weight off my shoulders, giving me more room to open up and discern the card’s symbolism and meaning instead of becoming bogged down with worry.

The start of the book provides a comprehensive section on tarot basics, where it comes from, how the cards function as a whole, and how to choose and care for your deck. There are accompanying exercises to help you “get acquainted with your new best friend.”2 I loved the friend description of the deck. Yes, a good friend will help guide you through the challenging times, celebrate the good times, be honest without being judgmental and always have your best interests at heart!

For those new to tarot, the descriptions of the major and minor arcana are easy to understand. There is a big, wonderful table that makes it easy to understand correspondences. The major arcana overview includes astrological associations, crystal connections, apothecary associations in the form of essences, herbs, and flowers, and also affirmations. The minor arcana descriptions have association with card numbers as well as elemental correspondences for example, swords/air.

I did the exercises in the beginning section and found them to be a fun, non-intimidating way to connect with the cards. Although I’ve been using tarot for over three decades I enjoyed taking the time to do the exercises such as associating people I knew or famous people, characters from books, etc. with each of the major arcana cards.

I agree with Holm’s recommendations for how to choose a tarot deck, namely use the one you’re drawn to and make sure it has a “tone” that resonates with you. Ensure the images are ones that you welcome into your life. And, use the same deck for a year to allow yourself to open to its messages. She provides marvelous rituals to opening up and caring for the deck as well as keeping a tarot journal – all things that I do. And I love anyone who recommends keeping selenite, one of my favorite mineral cleansers, with the deck. I wish I had this book when I first started using tarot as a guide. 

Also, of particular help to the tarot reader is the questions that she answers that most of us have probably asked at some time or another while using tarot, such as what if someone touches my deck, what if I don’t get the answer I want, why am I getting bad news?

As a good guide, Melinda offers different tarot spreads ranging from a single card to an ambitious twelve card spread. For each spread she posed a different general question and the detailed question that each card would answer. The twelve-card spread was on the year ahead which is one that I have never done. For each group of three cards she referenced them to equinoxes and solstices. I will definitely put some quiet time aside at the end of December to do this spread. 

The majority of the book is Holm’s take on the major and minor arcana. Readers can look up the card they’re curious about and find descriptions that are  easily understandable and unintimidating. Both beginners and experienced readers will benefit from her descriptions of each card because Holm’s explanation brings unique insight.

For each of the Major Arcana she offers comments on the meaning of areas such as love and relationships, career and money, and challenge/reversal. She also associates each card with astrology, a Hebrew letter, a crystal, apothecary, and an affirmation. The first couple descriptions of each Major card vary, however. For The Fool she writes about Practicing Presence, for The Hermit about Seeds of Invention, and for The Moon about Reflections on Reflecting. The questions she poses for each card are not static but rather, prompt reflection.

For the Minor Arcana she describes what each of the four suits corresponds to and what they support. She offers general crystal associations and apothecary associations for each suit. The card descriptions are less probing than those of the Major Arcana but very clear and concise.

I’ve been working with Tarot for over three decades, but to be honest, I’ve always had trouble understanding the Court cards. Actually, I disliked it when I pulled one. I had never received a clear understanding in any guide I read about their meanings. Until now. Melinda descriptions were so relatable to me that now I actually want to draw Court cards!

Rohan Daniel Eason’s striking artwork fills the book. As I mentioned, he illustrated Melinda’s two tarot decks, Elemental Power Tarot and Tarot of Tales, and illustrations from each deck are offered for each of the 78 cards. Just like in those decks, illustrations for this book are the perfect companion to Holm’s text.

This book is filled with vivid imagery that keeps the reader visually engaged while flipping through it. The cover is framed by the tentacles of an octopus framing a rough sea with a pirate ship attempting to get through the storm. Birds serenely watch the scene, not phased by the storm, similar to how readers will feel about life when they read Holm’s take on the tarot. It’s wonderful to see how well the imagery and words bolster each on in this book.

Overall, I highly recommend Your Tarot Guide  for all who are interested in tarot, novice and experienced. Holm’s expertise as an author and experience of creating her own tarot decks  comes forth in this book to provide a guiding light for reading the cards. All that you need to navigate the wisdom of the tarot is held within these pages!

The Book of Nordic Self-Care, by Elisabeth Carlsson

The Book of Nordic Self-Care: Find Peace and Balance Through Seasonal Rituals, Connecting with Nature, Mindfulness Practices, and More, by Elisabeth Carlsson
CICO Books, 9781800652668, 144 pages, October 2023

Beauty, peace, balance, nourishment – this and so much more is what you’ll encounter when you hold The Book of Nordic Self-Care: Find Peace and Balance Through Seasonal Rituals, Connecting with Nature, Mindfulness Practices, and More by Elisabeth Carlsson in your hands. I guarantee you that the experience of engaging with the recommendations and inspiring photographs will seep into your heart and your daily experiences.

Carlsson is a master at bringing to life how to engage in self-care the Nordic way. For those geographically challenged as I sometimes am, the Nordic countries include Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Aland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland. These are countries with extreme weather and fluctuations in the amount of sunlight that residents experience annually, yet, “the Nordic countries usually come in the top five happiest countries of the World Happiness Report.”1 

The approach to Nordic self-care moves beyond getting cozy with hygge. Yes, it embraces comfort, serenity, friends, and relaxation. But it expands to a holistic way to find balance in a world that is often out of balance. As Elisabeth writes, “self-care is often about balance…”2. It’s about finding joy in everyday things, nourishing one’s self from the inside out, being mindful about what you put into your body and into your head. The Nordic way of living encourages the individual to feel safe  and if you feel safe, you can thrive.

There are five focuses in the book: natural health and beauty, nourishing food for all seasons, nature and forest, the home and seasonal living, and a balanced life. Encompassed within these sections is all the reader needs to know to embrace the Nordic way of life. There are recipes for food and beauty regimes. There is a knitting pattern for those who are interested in making a Fair Isle pompom hat! Elisabeth writes of nature foraging – and even includes ways to engage in this in the city. Friluftsliv, or free open-air life? There are many ways to experience this.

Carlsson reminds us that balance (lagom in Swedish) is a key. Balance the rat race with encounters with nature, balance the darkness with light, balance the need to do things quickly with a slowed down coffee break with friends. You get the idea.

Choice is another key. Choose to take care of yourself. This is not selfish, it’s life-affirming. Choose to eat seasonally. Choose nature-based products for make-up and lotions. Notice what you feed your body. Be mindful of the habits you do perpetuate. For those who are seeking a simplified way of life, The Book of the Nordic Self becomes a guide.

One of the sections that resonated with me was on dostadning, or the Swedish art of decluttering that has come to be known as Swedish death cleaning. I am learning to embrace dostadning, as I am now “of a certain age” I look around my house and wonder if my daughters will know why I cherish certain items. Do they know the history and significance of these things? At other times I look around and wonder why I still have items in my life that no longer have to do with who I am now. Dostadning encourages one to “imagine someone else having to clear up your house.”3 It’s not really about death and dying but more about you purging your things before it’s left to someone else. You’ll feel lighter and you’ll save friends and loved ones the challenge of a massive clean out. I’ll focus on doing this to feel lighter and uncluttered and table the death part. 

The information in this book is not sugar-coated. Carlsson writes about burnout and the high use of antidepressants in Nordic countries, as well as the Law of Jante, or need to conform or be part of the collective. As she writes, “despite all the benefits of the Nordic countries it’s clear that there are still some things that aren’t perfect, but maybe because of this, we can gain wisdom from how the Nordics manage stress and overwhelm.”4 I appreciate her approach because it introduce readers to the Nordic lifestyle without idealizing it, providing an honest look at the benefits without turning a blind eye to where improvements can be made. 

Additionally, this whole book is very visual, and the photographs are amazing – think Ikea on steroids. I became calm just by looking at them. As someone who has yet to visit the Nordic countries, the photos gave me a better understanding of the area’s aesthetic.

Overall, The Book of Nordic Self-Care is a treasure. I highly recommend that you read this book if you are on a self-care. Exploring the practices of another culture is a great way to gain insight into your own life, bringing inspiration about how you might cultivate more self-care in your life. Allow the messages to seep into your life and I’m certain you’ll feel the warmth of the Nordic culture infusing your soul.

Lunar Tarot, by Jayne Wallace

Lunar Tarot: Manifest your dreams with the energy of the moon and wisdom of the tarot, by Jayne Wallace
CICO books, 1800652658, 64 pages, 78 cards, October 2023

The gentle energy of the moon always soothes and calms me, especially when I’m feeling unsettled or anxious, as it reminds me of the cyclical nature of life. Often while stargazing, I find myself wishing I could bottle up the sense of peace and tranquility of the moon’s lights. While I’ve yet to capture the moon’s rays in a jar, Lunar Tarot by Jayne Wallace has done quite a wonderful job channeling the energy of the moon for me to draw upon for guidance and advice when in need.

Wallace is a naturally-gifted clairvoyant who specializes in intuitive counseling, angel cards, psychometry, and tarot cards. She’s previously published tarot decks, including The Angel Tarot, The Moon & Stars Tarot, The Mythic Goddess Tarot, and The Magical Nordic Tarot.

This deck is similar in design to her others with the name of the card at the top and a keyword or two at the bottom. But the images are unique and fitting for the theme of lunar energy. Wallace writes in the guidebook, “I teach you how to tap into your lunar intuition and capture the power of the Moon when you read the cards.”1

In the colorful guidebook, Wallace offers three spreads: Moon Cycle, Crescent Moon, and The Lunar Clock. Each spread draws upon the divine wisdom of the moon, and Wallace shares the best time in the moon cycle to do the reading. My favorite part of her offered spreads is that she provides a short incarnation for each one to begin the reading.

Wallace provides keywords, meaning, insight into the imagery, a lunar message, and moon mantra for every major arcana card. She provides lots of information about the moon phase featured in the card, often going into the astrological correspondence of the card too. The cards all have the traditional tarot meaning, but Wallace frames her interpretation of the card’s meaning with a gentle, self-reflective energy, prompting readers to question deeper or take necessary action.

For the minor arcana, Wallace goes into detail about the suits and moon phases, describing the relationship between each one. Wands have New Moon energy; Swords have First Quarter Moon energy; Cups have Full Moon Energy, and Pentacles have Third Quarter Moon Energy. Though I am a seasoned tarot reader, seeing the cards through this lens provided new understanding and an opportunity to expand my perception of the cards. Wallace also provides a reference table for the theme of card numbers, regardless of suit, and a helpful paragraph on the significance of court cards.

While the minor arcana cards only have keywords, meaning, and a paragraph-long description of the card’s meaning, with the extra layers of the moon phase and numerology to reflect on too, there’s more than enough to draw upon for insight.

The major arcana cards all have a color palette of blue, greys, and whites, making them feel mysterious like the Moon. Meanwhile, the minor arcana cards are color-coded by suit and simply have the number of symbols representing the suit (i.e. five cups for the Five of Cups). The court cards feature characters with a mixture of skin tones and facial features, making this deck feel very inclusive to all people.

My favorite major arcana card is the Empress. The Empress has a crown of stars above her head, while her stomach is the ripe full moon, which she cradles protectively. The keyword on the card is “Rebirth” and the guidebook reads:

“Look and you will see the evidence and benefits of your recent efforts. New life, beauty, and abundance should abound. You will also want to nurture yourself to try to reclaim your equilibrium.”2

Meanwhile, my favorite minor arcana imagery is Pentacles. The pentacles look like big gold saucers with a star in the middle and jewels around the edges. A big, bright full moon shines in the background of these eye-catching yellow cards.

One thing I really like about this deck is the balance of masculine and feminine energy. The Moon is typically associated with feminine energy, but Wallace does a wonderful job of bringing a soft energy to the traditional masculine cards, such as the Emperor, Hanged Man, and Hermit, which makes them more approachable. For those who have found these energies a bit foreboding, this deck offers a chance to discover a more relatable bond with these cards.

Overall, this beautiful and mesmerizing deck yields readings that feel open-hearted and intuitive. I highly recommend Lunar Tarot for my fellow selenophiles that want to further connect with the spiritual wisdom of the moon. This deck is a good way for those who enjoy tarot to get better acquainted with the moon cycles and tune into guidance that each phase holds. Wallace helps readers to find balance in the ever-changing flow of life, creating opportunities to discover the magic through it all.