Welcome to our Winter e-Newsletter, in which our talented and knowledgeable spa experts will help you examine the topic of "un-cluttering" in different aspects of your life. They will share simple tips on meditation, personal care, cooking and housekeeping. Winter is a good time to re-focus on what's important in your life and eliminate the clutter on the margins.

Topics covered this month include:

 
 
 
 

chocolateSPA

What does it mean to un-clutter your mind? In our style of daily meditation, it means to have a quiet and peaceful mind. Just how to do that is a challenge, but it's well worth a good try. The first step is to relax the body. For us, as fitness instructors, the choice involves movement, and any kind of movement counts: yoga, dancing, walking, cardio machines or exercise classes that get the circulation moving and thus decrease tension. Finishing with a great stretch will set up the internal relaxation response. Get into a comfortable position, eliminate distractions, particularly from electronic devices, and tune into your own vibrations.

The next step is to shut off the constant chatter of the critical mind. We all know what this is: random, disconnected thoughts, anxieties, and information overloads that bubble up from our subconscious mind and displace the clarity that we need for consciousness. It takes some practice to bring your mind under your own control, but that, too, is worth the effort. Take a breath, then another, and then take a nice long breath, followed by a slow, relaxed exhalation. Repeat for several more breaths, bringing all of your attention to feeling and observing where the breath goes. Potentially it can go all the way to your lower ribs, and even into your upper back. Can you feel and observe that? This exercise can be very useful to starting a meditation practice.

This relaxation and breathing practice by itself is also very beneficial for stress reduction. It also opens one's exploration into more healthful options: for example, yoga, mindful eating and lifestyle choices. A regular yoga practice can be great preventative medicine - improving health while reducing stress reactions, food binges and unhelpful, excessive behaviors. Yoga and meditation both boost the immune system and lower both the heart rate and blood pressure. Yoga also enhances flexibility, muscle tone and core strength, increasing body awareness and self-acceptance.

We also recommend breath awareness breaks throughout your day. They will quiet your mind, un-cluttter your thoughts, release your tensions and open your pathways to calm the "critic" in your mind that is always nagging at you about many things - so many of which are unimportant.

These practices, you may well find, allow you to escape from mind-clutter. You'll find yourself mentally and physically refreshed and notice a renewed perspective. Additionally, this absence of mind-clutter will allow you to focus on the more important thoughts that you will now be able to perceive.

 
 

BOUTIQUE

Have you ever seen a magazine feature in which a celebrity is asked, "What's in your Bag?" For the answer, the magazine proceeds to photograph the predictably trendy, stylish designer bag and all the designer contents. The bag normally includes several of the latest and greatest advancements in makeup and accessories, a designer leather passport case, an Evian water atomizer and the latest bestseller.

I have a friend who has become somewhat obsessed with these photo-features, always hoping that someday, someone like her will show up with a TJ Maxx bag filled with an unholy clutter of lipstick and lip glosses, doctors' appointment cards, loose mints, a long lost permission slip for a field trip already gone by, a banana, the assorted makeup she didn't have time to apply on her mad dash to the train - and maybe the case for her daughter's retainer? The closest I have come to this is a photo of Joan Rivers' snakeskin wallet held together with a rubber band!

This season I have resolved to clean up what clutter there is in my own reasonably organized bag. I will replace accumulated collections of lip-glosses and chap-sticks with our super-conditioning Spa at Norwich Inn Lip Treatment, which has multiple benefits from natural avocado oil, glycopeptides and vitamin blends that are smoothing, nourishing and strengthening. I will add a tube of our Hand Revitalizing Treatment to make better use of time when I'm stuck in traffic, giving my hands the benefits of shea and mango butters, jojoba oil, vitamins A, C and E, and skin brighteners. My body will thank me for the new products, and my mind will admire the result -- via that little self-judging voice that comes and goes -- and reward me with a well-deserved message of "Congratulations."

 
 

FROM OUR KITCHEN TO YOURS

What's not to like about a hearty winter soup that has only five ingredients, plus seasonings? Simple recipe, simply delicious!

Tuscan Potato and Kale Soup. Serves 4

3 cups chicken broth
1/4-cup heavy cream
1 cup chopped kale
6 red potatoes, diced
3 links Italian sausage
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper

  1. Cook Italian sausage in 350-degree oven for 10 minutes
  2. Bring chicken broth to a boil and add potatoes
  3. Cut sausage into slices, approximately 1/4" thick, and add to broth.
  4. Simmer until potatoes are soft
  5. Stir in heavy cream, kale and red pepper flakes
  6. Simmer an additional five minutes
  7. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper
  8. Serve
 
 

HOUSEKEEPING

Do you ever notice "possession creep" around your home? You shopped at a holiday bazaar and brought a few things home. You visited an outlet mall on last year's vacation and picked up a few more things. Your mother downsized her living arrangements and you've "inherited".... more than you really expected. Then one day you walk through your home, glance at the tabletops, mantelpieces, shelves and counters and realize that you have unwittingly transitioned from "tastefully decorated" to "cluttered."

If that is your diagnosis, here is our prescription: A good place to start to un-clutter is the kitchen, the hub of your home. Go through the cabinets and check for all the dishes and glassware that you hardly ever use or to not use at all, and remove those that are cracked or chipped. Sort the miss-matched items that have nested in your cabinets.

Then do the same in your cookware area. A good idea when stacking pots and pans is to put a piece of mesh shelf liner between the pans to eliminate scratching. This works for glass baking dishes as well.

Move on to your pantry and refrigerator and toss items that have expired. Go through the letter holder on the countertop and remove what you don't need.

In living areas, attack magazine racks and toss out old issues. Take a look at your tables and shelving and remove a few items if you see "possession creep." If you love them, store them with other seasonal items and rotate them in and out. If you are bored with them, donate them to a charity sale. Go through your CDs, DVDs and VHS tapes and toss out or give away what you no longer want.

If you are having trouble finding items in your bedroom closet, un-clutter it! Take out the items that no longer fit or look too "dated" to wear and give them away. Old towels and sheets from the linen closet in the hall can be re-purposed as cleaning cloths.

You get the idea. Do this, and then when the time comes for a thorough spring cleaning, you'll already have a head-start because you've made un-cluttering a separate step.