Dec 232010

"Blogging -- What Jolly Fun!" By Mike Licht, From the Flickr Creative Commons.

There have been so many wonderful blog posts this year celebrating the holidays.  I could probably make a list of 100 or more ideas but the following half-dozen were the ones I kept coming back to for inspiration.

1. Wreath ideas from The Nesting Place. The Nesting Place compiled dozens of front door wreath decorating ideas here.  If you are looking for a way to festively welcome guests at your front door throughout the year, you can’t help but be inspired by these suggestions.

2. Sweet Paul’s holiday countdown has been beautiful and wonderful with a tip each day for crafts, cooking or decorating.  Some of my favorites include this family photo wrapping paper idea and these candy and popcorn wreaths.

3. The Reluctant Entertainer’s ingenious remembrance to a departed loved one by preserving their handwriting in ceramics. You could either use the stenciling technique she suggests or hire a potter (here in Fredericksburg there are plenty of potters to choose from at Liberty Town Arts Workshop) to make you a custom piece with engraved writing.

4.  June Cleaver Nirvana’s Hilarious Post about Holiday Photos with Children.  Anyone who has ever had to stage a family portrait with small children knows how fidgety and unpredictable this can be.  This post about a traumatic experience with a mall photographer will guarantee a laugh.

5.  Fun French-inspired Holiday Outfits from Les Chateau des Fleurs by Frenchy. This blog is a really fun read with many great ideas for adding a little French sophistication to your life.  There are many posts I could choose from this month but I thought her adorable holiday photo outfits were just charming and original.  Here is the one she wore for her own family holiday card. And this cute 1950’s inspired photo shoot, complete with some sort of Photoshop manipulation of the finished photos to give them an antique look was Vogue-worthy. There was also this incredible Parisian snowy day outfit.

6.  Relaxing Yoga Routine from Esther Ekhart at Esther Ekhart is one of my favorite yoga instructors.  In addition to being beautiful to watch, she has a lovely, soothing voice.  She posts regular videos on her website at that you can view for free.  She offered up the simple one for holiday stress below that I love.  The beauty of this routine, is that if you are too stressed to actually sit quietly and do it yourself, just stream it in the background while you do something else and it still has a calming, relaxing effect on you!

This will be my last post for the week. To those who celebrate, have a very Merry Christmas filled with love and joy!

 Posted by on December 23, 2010 General Tagged with: , , ,
May 212010

Danny Stewart-Smith.

Danny Stewart-Smith is back this month with another great Ruly Mix! This month’s free download, “The Flow,” is designed to help you relax in your outdoor oasis.

Tell us about the sound in “The Flow.”

The Flow was composed with relaxation and spiritual healing in mind. My mother is an alternative therapist and practices Whole Body Focusing, a method of de-stressing and attuning with oneself for physical, mental, and spiritual well being. I wrote the music to kind of reflect the inner journey one might experience when focusing, and also to reflect the fact that as human beings we are all deeply rooted in nature and the cycles of the planet and that these are things we should not forget, hence the natural sounds featured in it. One part features Shinto Monks chanting and also a Japanese singing bowl which is a large metal bowl that is gently banged during Shinto prayer to resonate with all natural entities and call the attention of all the gods. It is very beautiful, and when I experienced it I just had to get a recording of it! That part of the music to me symbolizes breathing, an unconscious act that all living entities do, a prerequisite and innate function of life. The piano part is kind of just improvised, hence it is organic, and the timing of the chord changes and the percussion and beat is not uniform, again like many things in nature. It changes as it bubbles along and evolves with each twist or turn much like a stream…at least that is what I was aiming at! But whether it means all that to you or not does not matter so much, most importantly the music is there for you to enjoy, to relax and think deeper thoughts to, away from the daily grind and beyond the confines of modern working life.

I also asked Danny if he could give us any insight into unique Japanese garden features, like rock gardens or bonsai. His honest answer was “No.” but he did have these wonderful pictures of a beautiful public park in Tokyo to share with us.

This park is located about 15 minutes from central Tokyo and is only a 20 minute walk from my house. It’s centered around a dual level pond of median size which features a single step fall the spans the breadth of the pond. It boasts many Koi, and is overlooked by a traditional Kominkan style building. The building itself which was built only a couple of decades back, is open to public, and may be reserved for private parties. On occasion traditional tea ceremonies can be attended there.

To one side of the pond is a small water fall that feeds it, as far as I understand a network of pumps cycle the water around the pond and back through the fall. The pond as the centerpiece, is flanked with white and pink azalea, maple and crocus studded paths that create a rich array of colors in spring and summer, and rich shocks of red and orange (from the maples) in autumn.

I don’t know the name of this style of landscaping, but as far as I understand it, the ponds are meant to represent ocean and the stones, rolling hills and mountains. There is also another style of Japanese garden which instead employs white gravel to represent the ocean.

It is an excellent place to relax and what’s more it is free to enter. As you can see from the photos hardly a building can be seen from within the park. There are many other parks like this in suburban Tokyo, and I really appreciate having such parks within walking distance of my home.

As an example of the rock garden landscaping Danny mentions, I will share these photos of the rock garden at the Japanese embassy here in Washington.

Rock garden at the Japanese embassy in Washington.

A rock pathway at the Japanese embassy garden.

Whether your garden is as lovely as the Japanese gardens above or is little more than a patch of weeds, Danny’s music is sure to help you enjoy your greenspace.  Click the picture below to play or right-click to download. (If the picture is not working for you, you can also download by clicking here.)

To respect the rights of the musician, please comply with the simple Ruly License terms below.

Ruly License: You may download and play any Ruly Mix song for your own personal use so long as you keep the voiceover tags intact indicating the name of the artist and that the song came from Businesses may also download this song to play as background music in their establishments so long as the voiceover tags remain intact. Any other uses of the song (such as in videos, etc.) must be pre-approved by the musician. Questions about license permissions can be addressed to

If you enjoy this mix, please comment, give a “like” on Facebook or share this link with others!

Have a great weekend!

Previous Ruly Mix artists: Danny Stewart-Smith (“Insights”)Danny Stewart-Smith feat. Evin Gibson, Joe Hanley, Jamie Smith, Rajiv Agarwal

 Posted by on May 21, 2010 Ruly Mix Tagged with: , ,