Do You Window Swap?

window sill

About a week or so ago, I saw a tweet about a website called Window Swap. Have you seen it?

The simplicity is addictive. You see views out the windows of other people. That’s it. But those views let you travel around the world in an instant and catch a glimpse into their lives. Like a short film.

Over the last several days, I looked out about two dozen windows, but didn’t stay on many for long. However, this window pictured above is different. It belongs to Justin in Rochester, New York.

The view is calming. A real moment of zen — with trees gently swaying in the breeze outside, part of a sofa or chair cushion in front of the window sill, with a watering can to the right. The window sill has a vase of colorful fake flowers, a tiny potted evergreen tree with a cat seated in the middle. The cat turns around and looks at you, walks a bit, then turns around and sits again. Music plays in the background and you can hear people talking, the sound of food sizzling, the microwave timer, and dishes clanking.

Above all else, music always grabs me, so the songs cinched it and I decided to blog this scene. Further, I downloaded Shazam so I could find the music. I couldn’t find all the songs, but found four. The music is perfection — all mellow grooves. I wonder what they’re cooking? For a moment you can see slight reflections as they walk around the kitchen.

The scene is on a 10 minute loop, so the same music plays over and over. The cat moves around the same way and the bits of conversation repeat as well. She asks him to write down something they need and then asks him to subtract 88 grams from (the lentils?), then thanks him. What a beautiful simple moment.

It makes me wonder more about this video and these people. What was the day and time? Just a normal day or a special one? I guess I’ll never know. Maybe that’s part of the intrigue. The mystery of the mundane bits and pieces of other people’s lives.

I haven’t closed the scene yet, because as I write I want to capture the feel of it. Once you open a new window, you can’t go back. And I haven’t seen that you can search for a particular place or scene. When I close it, it will be gone.

There’s also a place on the website where you can submit your own window and learn more about the project. It’s in response to the pandemic with everyone being stuck at home. This is a way for us to travel.

Below are songs from Justin’s window. Hope you enjoy them as well. Lifted by DAO is my new favorite song that I have on repeat!

Playlist – Justin’s Window

El Camino – Ganzo

lōland – taiyō

The Calm – DAO

Lifted – DAO

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Image: WindowSwap

Make Your Own Reed Diffuser

reed diffuser

Being someone who appreciates food and an abundance of flavors, it’s no surprise that I have a strong sense of smell. I enjoy scented soaps, lotions, perfumes and often burn incense and scented candles.

A few months ago, I remember seeing some very pretty reed diffusers at a small pop-up shop. They were somewhat pricey and I wondered how well they actually worked. Would the scent really permeate my whole apartment like a candle or incense?

Then a few days ago, I saw an Instagram post with some simple instructions on how to make my own reed diffuser. I realized that I already had all the items necessary to make one. So why not give it a go?

About an hour ago, I made my own. It took about 15 minutes, which includes the time it took to empty a spice bottle and remove the label.

I probably used a little more than the recommended 25 drops of essential oil. Don’t! I shouldn’t have. I had removed the stopper from one of the bottles, so it spilled out. The smell is actually a bit too strong now.

Next time I’ll be more careful with measuring and will play around with the different scents. It does smell good though and will fade over time. Plus, I like the look of it.

This cost me nothing to make, because I already had everything at home, so I’m glad that I didn’t spend money buying one. The markup is incredible.

So if you like making things and already have most of the ingredients at home, do it yourself and save the $25 or more for something else. Below is what I used, based on the post from Wandering Wild Home.

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DIY Reed Diffuser

Small glass bottle with a smaller opening at the top – spice bottles work perfectly.
7  bamboo skewers
1/4 cup grape seed oil
2 T vodka – I only had vanilla vodka, but it worked fine.
25 drops of essential oil – I used 5 drops eucalyptus, 10 drops orange, about 12 drops vanilla.

Mix the oil and vodka in a tiny bowl. Then mix in the essential oils. Use a funnel to pour the mixture into the bottle. Put the skewers in and you’re done! Flip the reeds when you want a stronger smell.

Starting a Home Yoga Practice

home yoga

Most of us in the United States are home now in some sort of self-quarantine or self-isolation due to COVID-19. If we go out, we are practicing social distancing. All of this in order to flatten the curve and not overwhelm the health system.

Right now, things are quite dire in New York and cases of coronavirus illness and related deaths are growing all over the country. It’s one of the scariest times that many of us have ever experienced.

Most brick and mortar businesses are currently closed. Yoga studios have gone virtual in order to continue teaching students. Following along with online yoga classes is a great way to continue your yoga practice. During this uncertain moment in time, we especially need to find ways to practice self-care.

Yoga has been shown to help fight stress, so if you’ve never practiced before, this is a great time to try. If you normally attend yoga classes, continuing your practice at home may be helpful. If you haven’t been active at all recently, before starting a new exercise regimen, take due care and you may want to consult a doctor.

So once you decide to start a home yoga practice, how do you actually do it? I emailed and spoke with six Boston area yoga instructors to give us some tips. Hopefully you can takeaway a few of these suggestions and put them to good use!

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Ali Singer, Founder: Yoga Hub  (Boston, MA)

Make sure you’re doing something that you want to do. That it’s not a chore.

Pick a time of day that you can commit to so you won’t skip it.

Do the exact same postures or sequences every time. It gives you a framework for measurement. Otherwise you have no means of measuring yourself on a day to day basis. This way you can see how you change. Ashtanga yoga is the same series of poses over and over. Some people stay on this same series their whole life.

You can use a mirror to see that you’re stacking your joints correctly, but it can become a distraction if you’re looking for validation. It’s better to use video, so you can see if you are where you think you are in space.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Connect with yoga teachers that you may follow online. If you notice something on their social media feed and have a question, reach out and comment.

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For more yoga pointers from Ali, check out her free online course, which will be happening soon and will be updated here.

Ginette Mayas Samwel (Framingham, MA)

Clear space, clear mind. You need to project clarity in your thoughts, actions and space. It doesn’t have to be a big space at all, just clear.

Margie Kirstein, Founder: Yoga For The Spine (Dedham, MA)

I think people still need personal attention when starting a home yoga practice. One recommendation is to reach out to the studio where they were practicing to find out what style of yoga they were doing, if they want to keep doing that style. They could ask for suggestions if they want to try something different.

Also consider asking a yoga teacher to make up a sequence for them, taking into account their preferences. I sent my students a Yoga for the Spine home sequence that would be familiar and not too challenging. I also included links to yoga pose dictionaries.

Yogic Way of Life Yoga Asanas

Pocket Yoga Poses

Yoga Journal Pose Finder

Finally, if they can have a yoga buddy, that’s so helpful.

Malaika Bonafide of Ms. Bonafide Creations & Yoga with Malaika (Cambridge, MA)

Some of the tools I find helpful in my home practice are yoga blocks, which offer support. Think of the blocks as an extension of your reach. They can be used in downward facing dog under your hands or feet to bring the ground closer to you.

I also use a yoga strap, but an old tie will do the trick as well. You can use the tie in a seated forward fold as an extension of your hands as you reach for your feet/foot. Lasso the strap around your feet/foot pulling you closer.

Two face cloths or hand towels are helpful for padding under your knees if you tend to have knee pain or discomfort in your knees.

Be sure to listen to your body and know that everyday is different. And most importantly that yoga is a practice and most helpful if you practice as often as possible.

If you’re able to dedicate a space in your home to your practice, that’s awesome. If not, make sure that whatever space you do end up using for that moment is clean and free of clutter and work related items.

Turn off or silence distractions. Really dedicate this time to your self and your practice.

Meghan “Meg” Gaucher, Founder: Sweet Squeeze Events (Boston, MA)

There IS a home practice for everyone. Routine is important. The time you get on your mat matters. It will set you up for a good behavior to find your mat.

The space you set up is important. Find a quiet place where you can roll out your mat. Nothing fancy — just quiet and big enough to move up, down and around on your mat.

Susan Lovett, Founder: Hands To Heart Center (Boston, MA)

Don’t feel as if you have to do a daily 75-minute yoga class.

Maybe you’ll find 30 minutes or 20 or even 10 to move your body and breathe intentionally. Even a few minutes a day makes a difference, especially if you’re currently doing a lot of sitting or lying down. Sometimes, you’ll find that, once you start, you have more energy than you initially thought and you’ll want to keep going. Or not, Just do what you can.

Forget about setting up a perfect home yoga studio.

If you can clear a place on the floor and stand on something that’s not slippery, you’re good to go. It’s also a possibility to do some chair yoga. So, instead of stressing about having an immaculate, lovely setting,  just get started. Of course, you’ll want to make sure that you’re not bumping into any furniture – or anyone else’s body – but if you have some room to move, you’ll be fine.

Find an online teacher who’s a good fit for you.

There’s so much free, online yoga right now that you’ll have a lot of choices. If you start with one teacher and don’t feel inspired, you can choose someone else. You might not find your perfect match, but you’re likely to find someone whose voice and teaching style are appealing to you. I like Yoga with Adrienne and she has free online classes!

You can be your own teacher.

You might start seated with some breathing and grounding. Then, you could choose any ways to move your body that are useful and/or interesting to you. Don’t worry if you’re not doing “classical yoga poses” or seamless sequences. The essence of yoga is breath, movement and stillness, focused attention and deep rest. Be curious about what sensations you may feel in your body. Know that it doesn’t matter what your yoga looks like and focus, instead, on what you’re able to notice.

Don’t judge yourself.

In a home practice, you may feel less self-conscious than you might in a studio. Take advantage of making any sounds that would feel right to you. Give yourself permission to be goofy awkward, messy. Wear your most comfortable pajamas, if that’s your mood. It’s YOUR yoga, do what works for you.

Free Yoga Boston ~ Virtual Yoga Classes

*UPDATED: June 17, 2020*

Some of these classes may have ended or changed. As more places open up, some live classes, especially outdoor classes may take place. My focus won’t be updating this list. Instead. I’m researching a new summer list of free outdoor classes in the Boston area. virtual yoga class listing

When I first started blogging about free yoga classes in Boston back in 2009, I could never have imagined that 11 years later, I’d be writing about free virtual yoga classes because we would be in the middle of a worldwide pandemic that would prohibit us from going outdoors.

Whew. Take a breath. We probably all need to take a breath.

But here we are. It’s 2020 and the spread of coronavirus has taken over every single aspect of all of our lives. Collectively, the world has been required to take a pause. We’ve had to stop life as normal and learn to exist in a whole different way.

Social distancing and self-quarantine is now a thing. Working from home is way more accepted now. Gatherings have been put on hold. Like my dinner club, that had just started up again! Schools are all closed. Businesses are closed. Sports have stopped. The Boston Marathon was postponed. The Olympics were postponed. No more dining in restaurants. Only take-out and delivery.

Life has been transformed. Everyday I still wonder how this is all real. But we humans are resilient.  The “Rona” is here for now and we have no choice but to accept it and get on with living our lives.

Free Yoga Boston – A Collaboration

Soooo, on the Free Yoga Boston Facebook page, there was a comment from Sophie Besl asking if there was an online specific list on my blog. I didn’t have one.

I’ve been sharing free online classes since COVID-19 took hold — because most yoga classes were forced out of the studios and have gone virtual. It was a good question and I thought it was an excellent idea too. But to be honest, I needed help. I’ve found that people are often willing if I ask.

I asked Sophie if she’d do the research and she did. She created a Google spreadsheet and made it so that if anyone would like to add additional virtual yoga classes to the list, they can submit them here. Thank you Sophie!

Even thought most classes are free, if you have the means to offer a donation, I’m sure it would be greatly appreciated.

Most of these classes are for a limited period of time. Since things change swiftly in this new reality, the classes are not listed by day of the week like the other FYB list.

Please click on the links and find the dates and times that work for you. Hopefully this list will be helpful. Stay healthy!

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Pilgrimage Yoga Online

India in USA (Embassy of India)

Afro Flow Yoga

Friday Unwind: Gentle Yoga

Lunch Break Yoga

Linda Wellness Warrior

4 Corners Yoga + Wellness

Seana Mac

Jess Livin’ The Dream

YogaHub – Lemonade

The Phoenix

NamaStay Connected

Third Space Chi Yoga

Setu (live + on-demand)

Peace Through Yoga LIVE

YEG Boss Babes

Camile Thai

Sri Sri Yoga

Laundry Day: Calm Between Storms

What a week! My mom lost electricity for several days due to the first storm, on March 2nd, so she stayed with me for a few days.

I’m so glad that I had power! Especially living in Quincy, where there was crazy rain, flooding, wind damage and dozens of people had to be rescued by the National Guard. While I’ve often been jealous of those who live closer to the beach, I’ve recently been very appreciative of living on a hill.

Then we had another storm this week. I walked to and from the train for work during both storms and luckily wasn’t hit by any falling trees, wires or debris. I saw a piece of siding ripped off a house and go flying into the air. I’ve already barely missed being hit by a tree and hope my luck continues.

With all the chaos, my laundry has piled up. So today is the day.

While sipping my coffee this morning, I found an article about modernizing your laundry routine. Two sisters from Germany moved to Brooklyn and opened a really cool eco-friendly and sustainable laundromat with a cafe and backyard space. Wish there were a place like that in Quincy!

The sisters are interviewed about laundry and one of their suggestions is to use dryer balls instead of dryer sheets. They are cheaper overall, less wasteful and healthier. Seems like a great idea, so I found a DIY blog post and might make make my own felted wool dryer balls. We’ll see.

Have you tried dryer balls? What do you think?

Well, last I heard, we’re supposed to have another storm on Monday or Tuesday. I haven’t checked again, because it’s too exhausting at this point. I’ll just enjoy the calm between the storms. Have a good weekend!