Valentine’s Day: 7 Unique Gifts for a Wellness and Self-Care Lifestyle

In a sea of chocolates and roses, it can be hard to choose a Valentine’s Day gift the speaks to the unique passions of your chosen recipient. When your significant other, friend, or family member craves green smoothies rather than a box of chocolates or prefers essential oils over roses, try one of these gifts targeted toward their wellness lifestyle.


Goodnight Darling Starter Set

Goodnight Darling Co. Starter Set

The mission of beauty and wellness company Goodnight Darling Co. is to “bring sleep back.” This four-piece starter set comprised of vegan and cruelty-free products includes the Deep Detox Bath Soak, which blends Pink Himalayan and Dead Sea salts with rose petals, eucalyptus and lavender essential oils, and Fade to Black Herbal Tea, which is made of stress-relieving clove, catnip, passionflower, lavender, pink rose petals, and Valerian root, and is designed to promote a good night’s sleep. $75

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Varietal Honey Flight

Bee Raw 04 Wildflower Varietal Honey Flight

What better gift for your honey than a flight of wildflower varietal honey? Bee Raw, which also supports a foundation to help save the bees, offers this set that comes with four hand-corked vials of either Maine Raspberry, Colorado Star Thistle, Colorado Sweet Yellow Clover, California Wild Black Sage, or New York Basswood honey. $40

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Pocket Farmacy Black 704165 A01

Pocket Farmacy

Husband and wife team Jean-Pierre LeBlanc and Kate Ross LeBlanc founded Saje Natural Wellness almost 30 years ago after Jean-Pierre was faced with a series of health challenges and chronic pain following a serious car accident. Seeking a more effective and natural solution to aid his recovery, he leveraged his background in chemistry to formulate his first essential oil blends. The Pocket Farmacy is their most popular set and includes roll-ons of essential oil blends to ease your headache, joint pain, cough, digestive issues, and stress. You can also buy individual blends to customize your own pocket pharmacy. $20-$65

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Birch Love Cuff

Personalized Love Birch Cuff

Birch trees traditionally represent protection and resilience. This personalized cuff was cast from real birch bark and is designed to “evoke the romantic tradition of carving lovers’ names into a tree,” according to Nancy Nelson, the jewelry artist who created the bracelet. $100

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Tease Tea Calming Tea Set

Tease Tea Self-Care Elixir

Give a gift that your beloved can incorporate into a daily wellness routine. This calming tea set includes an herbal tisane that blends moringa with other Ayurvedic medicinal herbs to promote a calm focus, and includes a tea strainer. $30

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Satya Lotus Necklace

Enchanted Beginnings Necklace

This charming lotus pendant can be a symbol of new beginnings and full potential for a recent love. Satya, the company that sells this necklace, donates a percentage of all sales to its Satya Foundation, which has raised more than $1 million for children’s charities across the world. $119

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Eco Herbal Garden

Modern Sprout Eco Planter Herb Kit

If your beloved likes to use herbs both in the kitchen and for medicinal purposes, gift this four-piece herb planter kit. It includes basil, cilantro, mint, and parsley, and the best part is that the frosted glass jars comes with a clever self-watering system so you can’t over- or under-water your indoor herb garden. $25-$100

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Image: Bruno /Germany/Pixabay

Originally published at Spirituality & Health

20 Creative (and Shame-Free) New Year’s Resolutions

The New Year fills us with both excitement and dread. Though it can be a time of new beginnings and clean slates, the New Year can also foster shame and guilt—big time. We sometimes set ourselves up for failure by making promises we can’t keep by initiating resolutions steeped in self-blame.

Break that yearly cycle by focusing on New Year’s resolutions that make you feel good rather than stressed. Try these 20 small—but mighty—resolutions to foster positivity and growth in your life rather than shame and failure.

  1. Buy a new houseplant. The power of plants for both emotional and physical healing is often underestimated. Research shows that plants provide many therapeutic benefits, including helping us bounce back from stress, purifying the air in our environment, and boosting focus and concentration.
  2. Incorporate more color into your wardrobe. Adding a pop of color to your outfit can make you feel happier. Ayurvedic color therapy posits that the seven colors of the rainbow balances and heals both the mind and body. Vata doshas thrive in orange, red, and gold; Pitta doshas can balance their hot tendencies with cooling, soothing colors, such as blues and greens; and Kapha doshas should choose bold colors like purple.
  3. Eat more colorful food. According to the American Heart Association, we can get all of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients we need by adding a variety of colorful fruits and veggies to our plates each day.
  4. Prioritize getting more sleep. Establishing good sleep hygiene practices is essential to your health and wellbeing, according to Dr. Nicole Moshfegh, author of The Book of Sleep: 75 Strategies to Relieve Insomnia. Sleep hygiene refers to a set of practices and habits that set the stage for a good night’s sleep, including for example, creating a sleep sanctuary in your completely dark and quiet bedroom, establishing a bedtime ritual, or relying on stress-relief tools like meditation. Check out more advice from Dr. Moshfegh on avoiding insomnia.
  5. Keep a gratitude list. It is worth remembering what we are grateful for each day to help us cope when things don’t seem so great. Just keeping a simple list of things we’re happy about will help us appreciate them more.
  6. Compliment yourself and another person at least once a day. Most people (including you!)  like getting compliments. However, don’t be fake or crude; being genuine, positive, and respectful is a must.
  7. Dedicate self-care time each day. Carve out five to 10 minutes a day to just sit with yourself. Establishing both a morning routine and nighttime ritual to practice self-care is a good start. You deserve it.
  8. Read a book once a month. Stimulate your intellectual curiosity by picking up a new book each month. Reading has a ton of benefits, including improving vocabulary, memory, and analytical and writing skills. Subscribers can begin by browsing our book reviews.
  9. Drink more water. In addition to keeping you hydrated, drinking water can help fight fatigue, balance digestion, and control your appetite. To help you get the requisite eight, 8 oz cups a day, try adding herbal tea to boost your intake.
  10. Make sure you go to bed happy each night. Repeat this affirmation before going to bed: “I am in control of my happiness. I forgive myself and others for the sake my wellbeing.”
  11. Go on a social media detox for at least a week. The University of Pennsylvania released a study last year that revealed that social media is bad for our mental health. According to the study, to be less lonely and depressed, we should limit social media usage to just 30 minutes a day. Also try these four ways to stress less with social media.
  12. Experiment with a new recipe each week. Be adventurous and try new recipes that you would not normally consider. You might discover you love a dish you would have never tried. Sean Sherman’s Sautéed Corn Mushrooms with Fresh Corn and Fried Sage fits the bill perfectly and can be your inaugural recipe.
  13. Spend more time with people you like. Studies have shown that more support systems you have in place, the happier you are. Rather than building your world around work and obligation, focus on spending more time with the people you enjoy. Doing so can even help you reconnect with old friends and family.
  14. Make a new friend. Sometimes, we get so set in our ways that we don’t consider the possibilities of new ventures. Establishing a fresh relationship with a new friend takes work, but it is usually worth it in the end.
  15. Practice listening more. Listening can help us be more mindful and live more in the moment. Try these eight ways to be a more mindful listener.
  16. Turn off your phone at meals. Americans spend more than 3 hours a day on their smartphones. Smartphone usage has become so habitual that using them is as natural as brushing our teeth. Stop the continual interruptions by setting your device to “do not disturb” while you’re eating and enjoy your meal in peace.
  17. Say no more often. Stop being a people-pleaser and putting other people’s needs before your own. Putting pressure on yourself to accomplish tasks you don’t actually like or that are too difficult ramps up anxiety. It is OK to say no and practice more self-care.
  18. Declutter your home, car, and workspace. Dr. Kira Bobinet says that Marie Kondo’s KonMari method is popular because it “taps into our innate desire for order, minimalism, and, most notably, mindfulness. It encourages us to be thoughtful, as well as to create structure and systems in our homes that support the lives we want for ourselves.” Check out Dr. Bobinet’s kitchen decluttering tips.
  19. Explore intuitive eating. Rather than focusing on unattainable weight loss goals, try intuitive eating. Intuitive eating encourages people to follow internal cues to guide when and what foods to consume. In other words, to eat what you want when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Read Emma Green’s take on the benefits of intuitive eating.
  20. Go on a vacation. According to the U.S. Travel Association, fewer than half of Americans go on vacation annually. However, if it is financially feasible, plan a vaca this year. Traveling can reduce stress, strengthen familial bonds, and provide opportunities to learn about new places and cultures.

Image: Gerd Altmann /Pixabay

Originally published at Spirituality & Health.

Urban Gardeners Can Save the World, One Butterfly Garden at a Time

You may have heard as a child that old saw that a butterfly landing on you brings good fortune. A symbol of metamorphosis and transformation throughout the ages, butterflies hold deep spiritual significance across many cultures; there is a good chance that children worldwide have heard the equivalent of that saying.

For Christians, butterflies represent resurrection. In North American Native mythology, butterflies symbolize the soul or human spirit. In the Jewish community, butterfly imagery is profoundly connected to remembrance of the Holocaust.

The Monarch is especially prized, particularly in Mexico. Each year, hundreds of millions of Monarch butterflies make their way to Mexico to overwinter in the oyamel fir forest in the mountains of Central Mexico. Residents believe the butterflies hold the spirits of their deceased loved ones returning home and are celebrated during the multiday holiday Día de los Muertos, or The Day of the Dead, which takes place Oct. 31 to Nov. 2.

Butterflies are not just spiritually important, however—they are significant contributors to the health of our planet. Not only are these butterflies an essential source of food for other insects, birds, and small animals, but Monarchs are also pollinators. The same kinds of habitats that support them support other pollinators such as bees, which are critical for creating and maintaining the ecosystem that we and other animals rely on for food and shelter.

But populations of Monarch butterflies have declined more than 80 percent over the past 20 years. The massive decline can be attributed mainly to climate change and the deforestation of natural habitats, but another big reason for the plummet is the steady loss of milkweed, the only plant on which Monarchs lay their eggs.

Since 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been assessing whether to add the Monarch butterfly to the endangered species list. So, the agency approached ecologists at Chicago’s Field Museum to estimate the amount of habitat available to Monarchs and other pollinators.

The loss of milkweed in urban areas, where the plants are often treated as weeds, has been particularly devastating, according to Conservation Ecologist Erika Hasle, one of the study’s lead researchers. The results, which were released in June 2019, show that one of the most important things we can do to save the Monarchs is to plant milkweed in cities.

“We know that people in cities need nature, but does nature needs cities? Our findings say the answer is yes,” says Hasle, who works in the museum’s Keller Science Action Center. “As a country, 90 percent of us live in urban areas, so having habitat there that can support pollinators is really very important. This is particularly important for Midwestern cities like Chicago, Minneapolis, and Kansas City. As agriculture has become more monoculture, we’ve lost vital habitat to bigger and bigger cornfields.”

For city-dwelling gardeners like me, the answer is obvious: Plant a butterfly garden and save the world! (And boost my yield with more pollinators buzzing in the garden.)

I use my garden to help center, calm, and inspire me. But I also try to get my kids, 9-year-old Caleb and 7-year-old Molly, excited about gardening because it helps me show them the value of sustainability and of living your values. Now that it’s fall, leaves have withered and my garden is spent; there’s not much to do in terms of planting. But it is the perfect time to plant a butterfly garden with the kids. Milkweed seeds need a period of freezing and unthawing to be viable so fall—and even winter—planting is ideal.

During March and April, Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed plants, which then, after about four days, hatch into caterpillars. The milkweed nourishes and feeds the baby caterpillar for about two weeks until it transforms into a chrysalis. After 10 days, the Monarch emerges from the chrysalis, a beautiful butterfly.

I have a raised bed in the back corner of my yard, right next to the alley and garbage cans—a great spot for milkweed and other native wildflowers. You don’t need to live out on the prairie to grow wildflowers like milkweed—a large container or raised bed will do just fine. Most people tend to think of milkweed as an unattractive weed but there are 12 native species of milkweed on which Monarchs thrive, and most are quite lovely.

I know that planting a little butterfly garden in my backyard victory patch won’t actually save the world. But it helps me know that I am doing my part.

“People who live in cities think we are so far removed from nature that there’s not a lot we can do to help our planet,” says the Field Museum’s Hasle. “But this is one way that cities can make a really meaningful contribution to protecting wildlife that’s on the brink of being listed as an endangered species.”

Photo credit: The Field Mueseum, Abigail Derby Lewis
Originally published at Spirituality & Health.

<span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Tequia Burt</span>
Tequia Burt

Tequia Burt is a Chicago-based editor, writer, content creator, and brand storyteller with 20 years of experience. In addition to being the Editor in Chief of Backyard Chicago Garden, she is the Founder-CEO of Content[ed.], which provides custom content and strategy to businesses.

4 DIY Gifts for the Skincare Junkie in Your Life

I’ll admit it—I have a problem. I am a skincare junkie.

I was a pimply teenager, so I established a skincare routine at a young age; I’ve put in a lot of effort over the years when it comes to taking care of my skin.

So how do I get my fix? I also discovered early on that I could save a bundle by making my own creams, balms, serums, and potions.

Do you have skincare junkies in your life, too? If so, they’ll love you forever if you tuck these simple but luxurious homemade products into their stockings this year. To make them look extra fancy, use bows, ribbons, and tags to dress up your bottles.

Refreshing Toner

Rosewater is relatively inexpensive, easy to find, and makes a great base for a toner. In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, rosewater also helps balance the skin’s PH level and control excess oil. This easy recipe provides a great foundation for a good skincare routine.

Rosewater Toner (makes 4 oz)

  • 1/4 cup Rosewater
  • 1/4 cup Witch Hazel
  • A few drops of preferred essential oils
  • 4 oz glass spray bottle

Combine rose water and witch hazel in spray bottle. Add up to 10 drops of your favorite essential oil for skincare. Lavender, Roman chamomile, carrot, and geranium are good choices.

Super-Power Serum

Adding the right oils to your skincare routine can provide moisturizing and anti-aging benefits—and even help repair acne-prone skin! One of the biggest heroes in my skincare routine is the sumptuous oil-based serum I make from scratch. Since you probably won’t know the skin profile of the person you’re making it for, this general-purpose recipe uses oils that are beneficial for all sorts of skin types.

Sumptuous Serum (makes 1 oz)

  • 1/2 oz. Jojoba oil
  • 1/2 oz. Rosehip seed oil
  • 5 drops Roman Chamomile essential oil
  • 5 drops Helichrysum essential oil
  • 5 drops Rose essential oil
  • 5 drops Frankincense essential oil
  • 1 oz glass pump bottle

Combine jojoba and rosehip seed oil in pump bottle. Add 5 drops each of Roman chamomile, helichrysum, rose, and frankincense essential oils.

Bountiful Body Scrub

Dry winter days can be rough on your skin. I like to use body scrubs to both moisturize and exfoliate, two important ways to combat excessive dryness. This recipe employs the humectant honey along with heavier carrier oils, like coconut or avocado, to help your skin glow, even in wintertime.

Honey-Sugar Body Scrub (makes about 1 1/2 cups)

  • 3/4 cup Sugar in the Raw
  • 1/2 cup raw honey
  • 1/4 cup avocado or coconut oil
  • 1 vitamin E capsule
  • Essential oils (optional)
  • Decorative jar

If you’re using solid coconut oil rather than avocado oil, melt in the microwave first. Same goes for raw honey, which is often in solid rather than liquid form. Mix sugar, honey, coconut or avocado oil, and vitamin E thoroughly. Though it already smells heavenly, feel free to add a few drops of your favorite scented essential oil.

Winter Lip Balm

As the winter season approaches, so do chapped lips. These peppermint lip balms are sure to put smiles on the faces of the people you give them to.

Mint Lip Balm (makes 10-12 tins)

  • 2 tablespoons beeswax
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons shea butter
  • 10 drops peppermint essential oil
  • Tin lip balm containers or BPA-free plastic tubes

Gently melt beeswax, coconut oil, and shea butter in double-boiler over medium-low heat. If you don’t have a double boiler, use a heatproof glass bowl over a pot of boiling water. Once the carrier oils and waxes are melted, add 10 drops of peppermint essential oil. You can add up to 15 drops, but I find peppermint oil to be rather strong-tasting. Pour into containers; you may need a mini funnel to avoid mess. You can use plastic lip balm tubes, but I prefer these tin containers because they’re easier to fill.

Originally published at Spirituality & Health.

Photo credit: Marina Pershina/Pixabay

Survey Says Meditation Eases Chronic Pain for Prescription Opioid Users

The United States is experiencing an opioid crisis—each day at least 130 people die from an overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s even more sobering to realize that 46 of those people die from overdosing on opioids prescribed by their doctors.

There are still millions of people suffering from chronic pain, however, and they are still prescribed opioids such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, and methadone to treat their pain. The problem is that roughly a quarter of them end up misusing their prescriptions.

A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine is giving those people with chronic pain new hope. Research from the University of Utah found that mind-body interventions like meditation can help reduce pain in people who’ve been taking prescription opioids as well as lead to overall reductions in the drug’s use.

“A study published earlier this year projected that by 2025, some 82,000 Americans will die each year from opioid overdose,” says Eric Garland, lead author on the study and associate dean for research at the University of Utah College of Social Work. “Our research suggests that mind-body therapies might help alleviate this crisis by reducing the amount of opioids patients need to take to cope with pain. If all of us—doctors, nurses, social workers, policymakers, insurance companies and patients—use this evidence as we make decisions, we can help stem the tide of the opioid epidemic.”

The researchers evaluated a range of mind-body strategies, including meditationguided imageryhypnosis, and cognitive behavioral therapy. They concluded that two of the mind-body therapies examined—meditation/mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy—might have the highest clinical impact since they are so widely accessible and affordable.

As doctors have prescribed fewer opioids to help address the epidemic, people who live with chronic pain have had to find alternative treatments. Garland, who is also the director of the University of Utah’s Center on Mindfulness and Integrative Health Intervention Development, says that doctors who use mind-body therapies focus on changing behavior and the function of the brain with the goal of improving quality of life and health.

“These findings are critical for medical and behavioral health professionals as they work with patients to determine the best and most effective treatments for pain,” he says.

Image by Shahariar Lenin from Pixabay

Originally published on Spirituality & Health.

Tell the Real Story of Thanksgiving with Indigenous Food

Thanksgiving is one of the most widely celebrated and beloved holidays in the U.S. For most Americans, Thanksgiving means food—more than 90 percent of the country partakes of a Thanksgiving meal with friends and family.

But for many Native Americans, Thanksgiving symbolizes theft, cultural appropriation, and genocide. Since 1970, some have gathered on Cole’s Hill, overlooking Plymouth Rock, to commemorate Thanksgiving as a National Day of Mourning.

“Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture,” according to the United American Indians of New England, which established the National Day of Mourning. “Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience.”

While acknowledging that painful history, some Native Americans do celebrate Thanksgiving and make the day their own. In his James Beard award-winning cookbook “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen,” Chef Sean Sherman, a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe, writes:

“[Many Native Americans] gather in a ritual giving of thanks for the harvest and to honor their ancestors. Our family and friends cook a meal of squash, wild rice, and turkey all seasoned with indigenous flavors.”

Sherman, who was chosen as one of S&H’s 10 spiritual leaders for the next 20 years, runs the Sioux Chef, a catering company with an ulterior motive—he makes it a priority to educate people across the country about Native food and techniques to revitalize indigenous cuisine.

Sherman has extensively studied Native American farming techniques, wild food usage and harvesting, land stewardship, salt and sugar making, hunting and fishing, food preservation, migrational histories, elemental cooking techniques, and Native culture and history in general to reintroduce indigenous cuisine to today’s world. His vision is to restore a more authentic and wildly varied concept of precolonial foods, sharing ancestral wisdom while also creating contemporary, bold-flavored dishes.

The core of Sherman’s work addresses racism, food insecurity, conservation and sustainability, and our growing disconnectedness from each other and the earth. For all of us to truly celebrate Thanksgiving, we have to tell the truth about what really happened, he says.

“To me, the myth of Natives and colonists happily sharing a feast ignores the true story of the atrocities, genocide, and forced migration our people suffered at the hands of Europeans. This is why so few Native Americans celebrate the holiday.”

So, this Thanksgiving while spending time with your friends and family, acknowledge that painful history by telling the true story of the Wampanoag, the tribe referenced in the Thanksgiving story we all learned as children. (The Manataka American Indian Counsel provides a good version.)

And honor Native history and culture by offering a few of Sherman’s indigenous dishes below at your Thanksgiving table.

Maple-Brined Smoked Turkey

The traditional American Thanksgiving meal showcases the bounty of indigenous foods and the influence Native Americans have had on U.S. cuisine. Try Chef Sean’s delicious turkey recipe.

PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Squash and Apple Soup with Fresh Cranberry Sauce

This rich, flavorful soup has a creamy texture without cream. The cranberry sauce can also be drizzled over roasted squash or turkey.

Squash And Apple Soup
Photo by Mette Nielsen

Wild Rice Cakes

The recipe for these couldn’t be simpler and can be easily re-crisped as leftovers. Try Chef Sean’s tasty cakes.


Sioux Kitchen
Photo by Mette Nielsen

Sautéed Corn Mushrooms with Fresh Corn and Fried Sage

Corn smut or maize mushrooms are considered a delicacy and it’s no wonder. They impart a sweet, earthy corn flavor to soups, stews, and sautés and are especially delicious cooked with corn. Try Chef Sean’s sautéed corn mushrooms.


Corn Mushrooms
Photo by Mette Nielsen


Featured Image by Sabrina Ripke from Pixabay

Story originally published on Spirituality & Health.

3 Ways to Use the Healing Power of Comfrey

In the past five or six years, gardening has become one of my most treasured hobbies, an escape from the stressful hustle-and-bustle of city living. Not only does my backyard victory patch imbue me with a sense of wonder and calm, it also provides sustenance for my family and encourages more sustainable living in our household.

It also offers a profoundly deep spiritual bond with nature—with just a little bit of water and seeds, life begins. With a little bit more nourishment and care, that seed grows into a plant that not only survives but thrives despite long droughts, nasty pests, and deadly diseases. Each weed pulled, flower smelled, and tomato harvested gets me closer to the deepest part of myself. Using gardening as a healing, secular spiritual practice may be the way to bring you home—to yourself.

Now that fall is here, my thoughts turn to my garden and I start to panic. How can I keep that healing connection going under two feet of snow and in zero-degree weather? I looked to the plants themselves to help me answer that question.

Benefits of Comfrey

One of my garden’s most resilient and beneficial perennial plants is comfrey. Long dismissed as an invasive weed, gardeners are giving it a second look because of its powerful fertilizing and healing capabilities. According to clinical herbalist Kathleen Wildwood, who founded the Verona, Wisc.-based Wildwood Institute, comfrey leaves, and especially the roots, contain a hefty amount of allantoin, a phytochemical, or plant chemical, that speeds up cell repair.

“Comfrey is so good at repairing bones that it is known as ‘knitbone,’ so the bone needs to be set correctly before you start using it,” she says. “Comfrey also has uses for the respiratory system, and can treat, for example, bronchitis and sore throats; colitis, stomach inflammation, and ulcers; and interstitial cystitis and overactive bladder.”

It spreads vigorously and can grow almost anywhere—prolifically, so I keep it controlled in a pot. Gardeners primarily grow the container friendly cultivar Russian Bocking 14, which can be identified by its purple flowers. Often, it is used as a green mulch to feed other plants; I plan to till the leaves and flowers into the soil to enrich it for next year’s crop. I also intend to use comfrey to help me extend my garden’s vitality well into the winter by drying the herb and then using it make a salve for cuts and scrapes, as well as for long infusions to drink throughout the season.

Comfrey can be applied externally as a salve, ointment, compress—or even just its leaves—to treat, for example, joint inflammatory disorders, wounds, bone fractures, and gout, according to Wildwood.

“An infused oil or ointment made of comfrey leaves or root speeds healing of wounds so effectively that one caution is that you cannot use it on a deep cut, because it will heal the top over so quickly that you can end up with an infection underneath,” she says. “But if it is not a deep wound, it will heal wounds and strengthen skin. You can even just rehydrate a large leaf with hot water, wrap it around a twisted ankle, then cover with plastic wrap or a towel.”

Wildwoods cautions that before you make any kind of infusion, however, you should be sure you’re using the correct species of comfrey, Symphytum uplandica x. She says the best way to identify safe comfrey is by the color of the flowers. “The one with the purple or blue flowers is safe internally or externally because they have been bred to eliminate toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids,” Wildwood explains, which can damage the liver.

Internally, Wildwood says comfrey can be ingested as an herbal tea or infusion to treat, for example, gastric ulcers, rheumatic pain, arthritis, bronchitis, and colitis, and it’s her favorite way to use the dried leaves.

“Clients who have torn muscles, popped tendons, twisted ankles or who have fragile skin are all helped by using comfrey leaf long infusion internally for several months, allowing those body parts to be less fragile, more-stretchy, and resilient,” she says. “For this reason, it is also helpful for women older than 40 who want to become pregnant. In addition, the amino acids in comfrey are useful for brain development in a fetus.”

Are you ready to make your own ointment and long infusions? Check out the following recipes.

Recipe: How to Make a Long Herbal Oil Infusion

  1. Fill a one-pint jar with a tight-fitting lid about halfway to two-thirds full with dried comfrey leaves. Cover leaves with preferred carrier oil (such as olive, avocado, coconut, or grapeseed).
  2. To make a long oil infusion, leave for six weeks and shake the jar a couple of times a day. After six weeks, strain the oil through cheesecloth.
  3. Add a 1/2 teaspoon of vitamin E to help preserve the oil. You can also add a few drops of essential oils like rosemary, lavender, or chamomile to make your oil even more beneficial.

Recipe: How to Make an Herbal Salve

  1. Melt 1/3 cup beeswax pastilles in a double-boiler.
  2. Add about 1 1/2 cups of infused comfrey oil to the melted beeswax.
  3. Pour into jar or metal tins and cool.

Recipe: How to Make a Long Herbal Infusion

  1. Take one ounce of chosen dried herb, such as comfrey.
  2. Place in a canning jar. Use a one-quart jar for leaves (such as comfrey), or hardy flowers (such as red clover), one-pint jar for roots, barks, or berries (such as burdock root or rose hips).
  3. Cover completely with boiling water, stir with chopstick or knife and add more water until full.
  4. Place lid on and let sit four-to-eight hours for leaves or hardy flowers, eight hours for roots. Many people make their infusions in the evening and then strain them in the morning.
  5. When done brewing, strain and refrigerate. Infusion will keep for 48 hours in the refrigerator. (After that, the proteins start to break down and the brew will taste off.)
  6. Infusions may be reheated (preferably do not boil, but it is still OK to drink if it does), iced, sweetened, milk added, etc. Some do well with salt or tamari, such as nettle.


Recipe courtesy Kathleen Raven Wildwood, © 2015.

Image by moni08 from Pixabay

Story originally published at Spirituality & Health.

The serious side of entertainment

By Tequia Burt
ASU W.P. Carey magazine

We’re living in a golden age of entertainment. No matter how you spend your off-hours — in a sports stadium suite, sitting in front of the silver screen, or even just scrolling through your smartphone — there’s no shortage of captivating options available to help you fill every moment.

And behind the magical storytelling, highlight-reel-worthy athletic accomplishments, and can’t-miss viral moments, you might just find a W. P. Carey grad. From crunching numbers to calling the shots from the C-suite, these alumni are helping make the entertainment we love more accessible and irresistible.

Here, they share some of their favorite stories and a few tricks of the trade.

Capturing consumers’ attention with cutting-edge technology

Matt Michalowski (BS Finance ’09), the founder and president of digital marketing agency PXL, admits that there is a glut of imperfect advertising online.

“As a consumer, I don’t love being bombarded with bad ads. If you make advertising that is creative and fun, you will engage consumers,” he says. “When you’re working in entertainment and you’re making ads for products that bring enjoyment and escape to people’s lives, it’s a lot of fun.”

PXL, which is based in Los Angeles and works with television networks and movie studios to market their upcoming theatrical, home entertainment, and television series online, was recently awarded a prestigious Silver Clio for its work on Paramount’s 2018 home entertainment release Sherlock Gnomes.

The campaign featured a Facebook Live Q&A with the animated Sherlock character from the movie. The agency used real-time face-mapping technology to translate an improv actor’s performance into a digital character who interacted with movie fans.

“It basically looked like the animated Sherlock character was talking, gesturing, and making facial expressions; it felt authentic,” Michalowski says. “When have you ever seen a character animated in real time like that? Nobody had ever seen an animated character talking and answering questions in a live stream before. It’s a new technology, and it got people to stop when they were scrolling through their feeds.”

Beyond garnering a big award for PXL, the campaign resonated with consumers. It reached more than 10,000 fans and managed to get them to interact with Sherlock.

“My favorite part of the job is bringing new ideas to our clients and their customers and solving problems in creative ways,” Michalowski says. “It’s fun when you come up with a new idea, can run with it, and it’s effective.”

Trick of the trade

“The best advertising doesn’t feel like advertising to the person on the other end,” he says. “Content that people want to watch, share, and engage with because it’s authentically interesting, funny, or inspiring goes so much further toward building excitement in the product you are selling.”

Reaching the right customers at the right time

Joel McFadden (MBA ’06) has been on the team at Fan Interactive Marketing in LA since it was founded 10 years ago.

“We focus on one-to-one marketing in the sports and entertainment world,” says McFadden, who is currently the chief operations officer. “We provide services to clients, whether it’s venues like the Barclays Center in Brooklyn or sports teams like the Memphis Grizzlies or Kansas City Chiefs. We essentially help them better optimize their data to target customers or prospects. Ultimately, the end goal is to sell more tickets or increase sponsorship values.”

McFadden originally became interested in sports marketing while working as an accountant. He chose the W. P. Carey School to help him transition into a career he could be passionate about. “I didn’t necessarily love the industry I was in, and I didn’t necessarily love some of the work that I was doing,” he says. “Then I looked around and said, ‘Hey, I’ve always loved sports. Since I’m not going to be competing in professional sports anytime soon, if I build my career around the business of sports, something that I love, I’d be much happier.’”

McFadden says the sports marketing agency’s main goal is to provide multichannel marketing campaigns to clients — via email marketing, digital advertising, and data analysis — to give them a better understanding of their own customers, which in turn helps them create stronger relationships.

Trick of the trade

“We try to leverage their data to figure out things like, for example, who’s buying season tickets, memberships, or suites, whatever it may be,” he says. “Then we create strategies and campaigns to help our clients target the right individuals at the right time with the right offer.”

Thinking outside the box drives success for Lionsgate

It’s a turbulent time in the movie business, according to Michael Burns (BS Political Science ’80), the vice chairman of Lionsgate, a global media and entertainment company. “Right now, you have disruptors like Netflix that have taken the world by storm,” he says. “And then you have more traditional companies like Disney, which has made some terrific acquisitions including Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Pixar. It’s a new world.”

To distinguish itself and make its studio more competitive, Burns says that Lionsgate emphasizes underserved markets, and its approach to unconventional movie making has yielded great success for the studio.

“You have to be able to zig when everybody else is zagging; that’s what we’re doing on the movie front,” he says. “There are these giant multinationals that are putting out giant superhero movies, so we’ll do movies that we think are fresh, like “Wonder” or “La La Land.” We’ve invented franchises out of thin air, like “John Wick.” Those are all different genres, but with targeted audiences. And, in many ways, underserved markets.”

Burns says Lionsgate’s strategy for success in such a competitive landscape is to continue to evolve as a company and push boundaries. “The speed with which this industry is changing means you have to be nimble,” Burns says. “When we did a musical with ‘La La Land,’ people thought we were crazy. But it worked out pretty well!” The movie won six Oscars and topped $400 million at the box office.

Trick of the trade

“The best business schools expose their students to new disciplines and fresh ideas, helping them to become agile, nimble, and a little more innovative in their thinking. And by bringing them together with a diverse and multicultural group of students and faculty, they’re able to see the world through others’ eyes, enabling them to identify emerging and underserved markets and other opportunities that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.”

Data is at the heart of Hulu’s business

Working as an engineer on Hulu’s data team enables Irfan Khanmohamed(MS Information Management ’14) to blend both art and science to help develop compelling content for viewers.

“Data is at the center of everything Hulu does,” he says. “We’re in such a competitive space. We’re trying to grow our subscriber base, figure out what content people like, and figure out how we can keep our subscribers happy. You can’t do any of that without going through the data.”

Khanmohamed’s job is to help the business side of the streaming video company assess its data using various tools. “My day-to-day is either solving problems for our analysts looking to access our data, or working on and maintaining the tools they use to access this data,” he says.

His work at Hulu represents a major shift from his previous role. “I was looking to change — I was working in programmatic advertising,” he says. “I loved working in tech, but I was tired of the advertising industry. I wanted to work for a company that created something people enjoyed. I submitted my resume online to their portal, they called me, and I got lucky.”

Working at Hulu means that Khanmohamed gets to work in what he calls a “big data playground.” “We have millions of subscribers and just a ton of content. We get to use any data analytics tool to examine the enormous amount of data we have. That’s exciting,” he says.

Trick of the trade

“We spend a lot of time looking at what content is being watched the most, and some of the top shows that people watch definitely surprised me when I first joined. The piece of information that I found most interesting was the top three shows sports fans were watching when they weren’t watching sports: ‘Big Bang Theory,’ ‘Family Guy,’ and ‘Fixer Upper.’”

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Originally published on March 13, 2019, in Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey Business School magazine

Split decisions

Federal, state changes to maintenance shake up family law

Federal, state changes to maintenance shake up family law

By Tequia Burt
Chicago Lawyer correspondent

New legislation on both the federal and state level is affecting how family lawyers in the Chicago area conduct business.

“All the new legislative changes, both in Illinois maintenance and child support laws and in the federal tax laws and understanding how they all impact each other financially is one of the most important issues facing family lawyers today,” said Janet E. Boyle of Boyle Feinberg Sharma. “So many things that we’ve historically done and have been part of our way of doing things for many years have all of a sudden kind of been turned on their ear.”

Tremors from the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 continue to be felt across the legal field. On Jan. 1, 2019, federal tax law permanently eliminated the ability of the spouse paying spousal maintenance, or alimony, to deduct the maintenance payments from gross income in their federal taxes.

Now, alimony payments are no longer tax-deductible for the maintenance payor and no longer included in the taxable income of the maintenance recipient.

“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act at the federal level fundamentally sort of altered the landscape of maintenance,” said Brendan Hammer, a partner at Berger Schatz. “Maintenance going forward in new judgments is no longer tax-deductible. That has had an enormous impact on a lawyer’s ability to craft a creative settlement. Maintenance used to be deductible to the payor and includable in income to the payee, but now it is sort of tax-neutral. From a cash flow perspective, that sort of takes pieces off the table in terms of playing with tax treatment to arrive at a mutually advantageous figure.”

Previously, the tax deduction helped soften the blow to spouses reluctant to pay out huge alimony payments. The payor could deduct the payments, and the recipient got more money.

“Before the tax law took effect, high earners especially benefited — if you were taking maintenance dollars and making them tax-deductible at a high tax rate and then making them taxable at a lower tax rate for the payee, then both people ended up with more money because you were taxing the dollars that were being paid at alimony at a lower tax rate than they would be taxed at if the person paying maintenance were paying the tax,” explained Meighan Harmon, managing partner at Schiller Ducanto & Fleck. “For some families, it created a little bit of a tax arbitrage where you could end up with a little bit more net cash to give, to allocate between ex-spouses. Now we have to do the calculations based upon net income as opposed to looking at growth income and taking advantage of that tax arbitrage.”

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Originally published in August 2019 in Chicago Lawyer


The new legal eagles

In-house counsel step out of the back office and into the boardroom

In-house counsel step out of the back office and into the boardroom

By Tequia Burt
Chicago Lawyer correspondent

In the not so distant past, general counsels were thought of as strictly the “company lawyer,” largely responsible for litigation and doling out reactive legal advice. But in today’s ever more complex and sophisticated regulatory, technological, global and social landscapes, corporate legal leaders, including chief legal officers and general counsel, have leveraged their skills beyond the legal department into the C-suite and boardroom.

“The general counsel today versus the general counsel of 20 years ago is very, very different,” said Alan Tse, global general counsel and corporate secretary at Chicago Fortune 500 commercial real estate services company Jones Lang LaSalle, who serves on the board of the Association for Corporate Counsel.

“Now, we’re called upon to be business strategists and to be the gatekeeper of ethics. To lead compliance for the company, to lead, for the most part, a legal department as well as be part of the executive management team,” he said.

According the Association for Corporate Counsel’s annual 2019 survey of more than 1,600 legal leaders across the globe, chief legal officers and general counsels have more power than ever in their companies, finding that 93% of Fortune 500 chief legal officers report directly to the CEO.

In addition, almost 70% of chief legal officers indicated that the executive team seeks out their advice for business decisions, up 11 percentage points from last year. That means that general counsels are increasingly seen as top-level decision-makers charged not just with protecting the company from legal disaster but also for growing its business and leading its strategic direction.

“When my CEO looks over to me in a meeting and asks, ‘What do you think we should do?’ often that’s not asking me to make just a strictly legal analysis,” said Shelbie Luna, general counsel and vice president of administration at Bickerdike Redevelopment Corp., a nonprofit community development corporation concentrating its current efforts on Chicago’s Northwest Side.

“They are coming to me to make a pragmatic business decision. That decision-making certainly takes into account my legal knowledge, but also what I know that we’re trying to accomplish for the business — a means to an end,” she said.

Melvin Williams Jr., chief legal officer at Chicago Trading Co., stressed it’s of tantamount importance that today’s legal leaders really understand the ins and outs of their company’s business to be able to advise strategic direction.

“Sure, I’m giving legal advice all the time, but I’m also seeing, more and more, that I’m giving judgment advice when the issue isn’t so much a legal concern as much as a strategic business concern,” he said.

“And the better a lawyer understands the business, the better position they are in to advise the business, not just on the legal issues, but also beyond. Even though the law says you can do something doesn’t mean it’s in the best interest of the company’s business. What are the economic and reputational repercussions? What are the consequences?” he said.

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Originally published in July 2019 in Chicago Lawyer