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I’ve been inspired by The Thief of Baghdad lately-a 1924 cinematic masterpiece given to me by a dear friend at Christmas and loosely based on A Thousand and One Nights.  Like the book, the film is a transformative, meditative spectacle–it blends dance, music and stunning costumes sets into a dreamy, pitch-perfect cocktail. It’s got everything: love, adventure, and fantasy–serpents, enchanted trees and magic carpets–with the underlying theme that “happiness must be earned.”

The new year starts off with lots of energy for many of us, with a renewed enthusiasm to do more and better. We also want to take care of ourselves: be calm, healthy, more present with loved ones. This seems like an almost impossible task at times in the face of modern, urban life. The manic (if well-intentioned) energy of January 1 can start to fizzle in the weeks that follow, leaving us feeling a little disillusioned. In moments like this, I try to ask myself how I can conserve energy and better take care of myself. I like to think of it as building my own little Shangri-La.

Perhaps you’ll also find some beauty in these everyday luxuries to help keep that magical spark alive as the winter days roll on.

Tauer L’air du desert marocain (with coriander, cumin, cedarwood, rose, jasmine, cedar and vetiver.) You can probably tell just by reading the list of ingredients that this scent unfolds like a gorgeous adventure. Note the description from this Swiss-based natural perfumer: “powerful, sensual and pure. Like laying on the bed, watching the moon raising over the sandy hills of the Saharan desert, he dreamt the fragrance of a Moroccan night.” I also love this quote from the founder, Andy Tauer: “You need absolute freedom to create beautiful fragrances. And you need time. And the best ingredients you can get. That is the true mystery how to create thrilling fragrances.” To me, this is also a reminder to carve out a bit of time every day to experience this kind of beauty. https://www.tauerperfumes.com/air-du-desert-marocain.html

Vosges Matcha Super Dark Chocolate. Matcha seems to be all the rage this month in tea and food circles–not only does it add flavor and intensity to everything–it’s packed with antioxidants and ridiculously good for you. Even my local Polish grocery in Greenpoint is selling this haut-chocolate brand now. I love everything about this rich and delicious bar. A little bit goes a long way! http://www.vosgeschocolate.com/product/vosges-super-dark-chocolate-candy-bar-matcha-green-tea-spirulina/vosges-super-dark-chocolate-candy-bars

American Tea Room Earl Grey Lavender. Winter strikes me as the ideal time to sink into earl greys–they’re such a lovely marriage of dark black tea and bright, citrusy bergamot (expect to hear more from me about earl greys in next month’s Scents and Sensibilitea http://www.sensibilitea.co) This blend from the highly creative L.A.-based American Tea Room takes classic earl grey to the next level with the addition of high-quality lavender. One could dream up a fantastic Victorian tea party fit for Queen Victoria herself by drinking this tea alone. http://www.americantearoom.com/earl-grey-lavender-organic-tea.html

Fawn Lily Botanica Mustard Ginger Bath Salts. Years and years of being obsessed with health and beauty products have made me pretty sparing about what I buy, how it makes me feel and how it’s made. I’ve become very fond of the Oregon-based Fawn Lily Botanica, which makes natural products inspired by ancient medicine and offers packages of hand-selected seasonal luxuries (some of their products are also sold via the terrific Mountainrose Herbs.) Mustard and ginger are both time-honored cures for all manner of ailments; these salts combine their mysterious powers beautifully. Also look out for Fawn Lily’s surprisingly delicious fiery tonic–with raw honey, apple cider vinegar and horesradish–to help ward off colds. http://www.fawnlilybotanica.com/store/p49/Mustard_%26_Ginger_Root_Warming_Bath_Salts.html