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Treasures For The Holidays 2016



It was not until my friend Susan Lustenberger mentioned her wonderful Blissful Box project that the idea popped into my head that you might enjoy them, too. Then I remembered how so many of you appreciated my Treasures for the Holiday Season post from last year, where I shared some of my favorite things, and thought that maybe I should put together another similarly curated list. So here I am, sharing with you some of the treasures I have discovered and enjoyed, some for a long time, some more recently. They can be wonderful gift ideas for yourself, your family and your friends, and not just for the Holidays.


Like last year, this is not a sponsored post. I am only sharing these products because I love them, and I think you might as well. Given that the Blissful Box was the trigger, I will start with that.




The Blissful Box, or I should say boxes, as there are four in the set, is a treasure chest of carefully selected products intended to help you restore the energy of bliss into your life. Each item in each box is a ritual of wellbeing that will help you bring the focus back on you, feed your soul, and help you rebalance your energy.

There is a Blissful Box for every season, following the solstices and equinox. Each box is created for that particular time of the year, and intended to arrive the week of December 18th, March 13th, June 18th, and September 13th, just in time for you to mark the transition into a new season. The first one is the Winter Box.




In each box you will find 9 beautiful items personally handpicked by Susan: journals, candles, guided meditation CDs, white sage spray to clear the energy in your home, a mini deck of Prosperity pulling cards to give you guidance along your path, personal beauty products, and products to create a sacred space in your home and honor the amazing woman that you are.

I say woman because it is usually us women who particularly enjoy these rituals, but, by all means, men, don’t be shy! You can enjoy these boxes, too!




Did I mention that Susan is an amazing shining being, and an incredibly talented life coach that focuses on prosperity? Not only that, but she is also both clairvoyant and claircognizant, talents she has been born with, and then developed throughout her life.

I have been working with Susan for the past six months, and with her help I have been able to achieve the kind of shift I had been longing for for a long time, but which kept eluding me, as alone, I was going around in circles and not really getting anywhere. Susan has been for me the perfect balance between my two worlds: the visible, and the temporarily not so visible; the practical, day-to-day life and work, and the quantum field of creative power.




The subscription to the four Blissful Boxes is $275 for one year. But an extra $75 upgrade will get you 52 weeks of prosperity mentoring via videos delivered into your inbox every Friday morning. During these videos Susan will guide, mentor and teach you how to bring intuition, positive energy and abundance into your life.

You can find all information about the Blissful Boxes and about Susan at this link.

Images courtesy of Susan Lustenberger.




Next up is The Big Picture Planner. Created by the brilliant people at Design Aglow, this is a planner like no other, and intended especially for creative people like photographers, bloggers, writers, designers, crafters, bakers, chefs… the list could just keep going.

I have been using and loving the customizable and self-print version of this planner for almost three years now. I have also been wanting to share about it with you, but I was a little reticent because I know not all of you can work in Photoshop or InDesign, which would be needed to customize the self-print planner.

Then, Design Aglow announced the printed and bound version of the planner, and I knew you would love it! If it made any sense I would buy one for myself, too. Except that the customization possibilities of the printable one work really well for me.




This beautiful planner contains the most complete system for creatives anywhere, with more then 430 pages of content, worksheets, and guided success planning. Among other things, the planner features quarterly action plans, client workflow assist, marketing planning, weekly goals, reminders, to-do essentials, connections and mileage tracking, as well as a month-at-a-glance section, and a daily overview with goals, to-do and accomplishments.

And just like its print-at-home cousin, you can start using this planner on any day of the year.




The Big Picture planner, priced at $50 + shipping, measures 7 x 9.5″ (outside dimensions), with 6 x 9″ inside pages. It features a sturdy hardcover with gold foil embossing, thick paper to ensure ballpoint ink will not bleed through, 430+ pages with 12 tabs, and quality gold coil binding.




Find out all the details about The Big Picture Planner at this link. If you are a photographer, you will also love all the other products created by Design Aglow.

Images courtesy of Design Aglow.




A few days ago, while picking up lunch at the fantastic Carmel Belle (more on this later on), I browsed their shop section, which is rich in locally produced goodies. Among them, what really caught my eye were the Elderflower Cordial and Elderberry Syrup you see in the image below. Consider that I love elder everything, and you know that I had to buy a bottle of each. Oh blissful concoctions! So far I have enjoyed them in sweet lassis (recipes for several lassis coming soon, too), and if I had a full kitchen, I would be creating desserts with them.




The cordial and syrup are made by Katie and Ben Reneker of Carmel Berry Co. in Carmel Valley, California. So yes, just in the hills above where I am right now. Katie and Ben are both enthusiasts of gourmet food, nutrition and sustainable agriculture, and they handcraft their small batch syrups and cordials using the highest quality, locally sourced ingredients.

The Elderflower Cordial is a golden, simple syrup infusion of elderflowers and lemon. It is refreshing and lightly floral in flavor, and is perfect in cocktails, champagne, and desserts.

The Elderberry Syrup is a ruby colored syrup, rich in antioxidant and vitamins. It is traditionally taken to ward off colds and flus, but it is also delicious sipped straight or mixed into drinks and desserts.



Images courtesy of Carmel Berry.


If you live locally (to Carmel), you can find the cordial and syrup in several local shops (click here for list), otherwise you can order on line through The Quail and Olive. Due to administrative logistics, Katie and Ben cannot ship orders directly for the time being. It seems you need a different license for that.

The cordial and syrup come in 200 ml. bottles priced at $21 each (plus tax and shipping as applicable).

Find out more about Carmel Berry, and find recipes that use their cordial and syrup at this link.




About a year ago, one night I was browsing iTunes for some new music. I enjoy almost every genre, but so much of the pop selection of the past few years has been leaving me rather blah, as to me it all sounds like rinse and repeat 80s music – save for exceptions, of course. What really attracts me now are new sounds, or at least different, which are not very easy to come by these days, given that, musically speaking, everything seems to have been ‘invented’. I sincerely hope to be wrong on that, by the way, though I doubt that we will ever see other major shifts in sound like when the world finally transitioned from classical music (in Europe) available only to the select few, and traditional folk regional music for everyone else, to when jazz in various forms became mainstream (thanks to the wireless), then big band, then rock’n’roll, and finally the Beatles and all that flowed from there.




As I browsed that night, I kept thinking of this video I had seen some months before on Facebook (and shared, of course), wondering if that music was available in downloadable form. Yet, try as I might, I could not remember the title of the song, or the group, and I could not even find it as I scoured my Facebook stream, where things have a tendency to disappear. I just remembered the style, for which I did not really have a name, but I went on Youtube and started looking under jazz, bluegrass, dixieland and so forth. And I found everything!


Here they are, Scott Bradlee’s Post Modern Jukebox ensemble, with a sound that is uniquely their own, and has become so popular that their concerts are sold out all over the world, and other performers are starting to PMJ (this may soon become a verb) their own songs.

Started by Scott Bradlee, the group features a rotating series of incredible talented vocalists and musicians (most are actually multi-instrumental). What PMJ essentially does is take modern songs and turn them vintage by giving them a jazzy 1920s sound, or a rockabilly sound, or a doo-wop sound and so forth as suits the song best. It’s brilliant! You can view some of their videos on their website, where you can also find their story, but they are also all available on Youtube. I love both versions of the songs, the original and the PMJ one, but of quite a few songs I think the PMJ version is so much better.




The song that I had been looking for that night is All About That Bass – and you may have heard about it. Another super favorite is Creep, featuring Haley Reinhart on vocals. Honestly, I could go on and on about favorites, because the list is long, and they are releasing new songs all the time.


As a new song is released, it is posted in video form on their website, and announced through social media. I have PMJ on notification so I do not miss any. Each song is also made available through iTunes as a single, and as more songs are released, they are collected into albums. The two covers below only represent two albums, but there are several more.

PMJ is also constantly on tour, and constantly sold out. I attended one of two sold out concerts last December at the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco. It was quite an experience on so many levels. It was not just a fantastic concert, but an all around entertaining show which also includes tap dancers, and in which everyone is dressed in vintage style, including, I might add, a lot of the people in the San Francisco audience. But then people San Francisco are so cool!




You can find the dates and purchase tickets for PMJ’s upcoming performances at this page, and purchase their music at this one (iTunes).

Image credits – Photographs by Braverijah Gregg. Album covers: Historical Misappropriation by Cesar Rodriguez; The Essentials by Concord Music Group.




Yes indeed, another planner, but another unique one, as GardenKeepr is intended for gardeners and farmers. And here I have to admit that I am neither, at least not at this time, but when I saw this I thought it was brilliant, and that maybe some of you might indeed be gardeners or farmers and could use it.


GardenKeepr was created by a family who, in 2004, started a vegetable garden with the goal of growing as much of their own food as they could. As things progressed, they realized the importance of keeping a good record of the various aspects of growing their garden, but could only find blank journals and generic organizers. So they created their own, and soon their gardening friends were asking if they could have one, too, and they decided to make them available to the world.




Gardenkeepr is structured like a traditional calendar planner, but includes space for all your garden records; things like design and planning, daily/monthly entries, planting and seed saving, moon phases, rainfall and irrigation data, expenditures, important dates, soil health, weather notes, crop yields, general field and pest notes and more.

Seriously, if I had a garden, and eventually I will again, I would want one.




The Gardenkeepr planner is available in three versions. The hard copy you see in the image above ($24.99) is printed on high quality French Butcher Block 80# text stock with heavy (5opt) chipboard covers screen printed by hand (by them) one at a time. It is bound with dual-loop metal wire coil so it opens fully, lays flat, and allows easy access tool pages. Each one is made to order just for you.


However it is also available in two more formats. The digital format ($14.99), available as a downloadable and interactive PDF, which can be opened by both Mac and Pc computers with free Adobe Acrobat Reader. Included is a ‘read me’ document with detailed instruction for using the e-gardenkeepr.




Then there is the print-at-home edition ($5.99) as a print-ready, downloadable PDF file. Pages are set up in greyscale for ink conservation, and have standard margins for easy printing and hole punching/binding.




Is this brilliant or what?

Find out more about Gardenkeepr and purchase on their website, where you will also find From Zero to Garden, a downloadable e-book to help you get started with your vegetable garden.




Last but not least, this is dedicated to all those of you who need to bake gluten-free. I found this gluten-free flour called Cup4Cup about a year ago, and have been meaning to get baking more with it just to test it out. However, given my nomadic and sans-kitchen lifestyle, well, that has been a tad challenging. I did, however, buy a bag, which my friend Valerie used to make fresh pasta as her daughter is gluten intolerant. It worked like a charm and the pasta tasted wonderful. Which is why I am sharing it with you.

What she did was essentially what you would do: substitute this flour for regular wheat flour cup for cup, as this gluten-free flour is fine tuned for use in any preparation that does not use yeast.




It all started at The French Laundry, when chef Lena Kwak developed a flour that would provide the restaurant’s gluten-free guests the same dining experience as the other guests. The outcome was Cup4Cup, the first 1:1 gluten-free flour that eliminated complicated conversions, while delivering on taste, texture and performance.


Now Cup4Cup, which is certified gluten-free and also GMO-free, is available also in its Wholesome variation, as well as several mixes, of which the Pie Crust Mix is the latest. We only tested the original multipurpose flour, but it was so good that I am sure the wholesome one and the mixes will be as well. If you do use them, let me know about your experience. One thing: the pizza crust mix by necessity contains baking powder, as yeast is not a possibility. So know that you will probably get a reasonably good pizza, but nothing like what it really is. Kind of like bread make with baking soda and powder vs/yeast. Two different worlds. But if I were gluten intolerant, a gluten-free, baking powder pizza would be better than no pizza!



Image above courtesy of Cup4Cup



You can find out all the nutritional and performance details of these flours and mixes on the Cup4Cup website, as well as a store locator.

So far I have seen Cup4Cup in several grocery stores, including Whole Foods, and also specialty stores like Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table and Finesse. It is also available through Amazon.


I hope you have enjoyed my selection of treasures. And of course, the ones in my post from last year are still wonderful and available. Again, when you purchase from these businesses, you are not contributing to making a rich corporation richer, but support small and really small businesses.

Also, if you enjoy my way of finding treasures, and would like to see a few more of these posts throughout the year, let me know in the comments.



If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy these:



“May You be Happy

May You be Blessed

May You Prosper in All Things”


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