Enchantment Learning & Living Blog

Welcome to Enchantment Learning & Living, inspirational blog about the simple pleasures, radical self-care, and everyday magic that make life delicious.

Celebrate Naked Gardening Day

Yeah, it’s a thing, at least according to the World Naked Gardening Day official website. Established fifteen years ago, WNGD (for short) is celebrated on the first Saturday of every May. Why, you ask? It’s a pretty wonderful concept: to move towards a healthier acceptance of our bodies that isn’t always in a sexualized context and to recognize that we are, in fact, animals, deeply connected to the natural world. It also strikes me as a wonderful and playful way to enjoy Beltane, get in touch with nature, and our natural cycles…even if you don’t want to actually garden in the nude.

It’s about shedding our fear of naked bodies, tuning into our corporeal needs, and celebrating this divine season of fertility and new beginnings. Some people dance around May poles. Others hunt for dyed eggs, gifts from a magical bunny. Others garden naked. Personally, I’m kind of a fan of all three and any other spring celebration that asks us to go outside and find joy in this new season. Spring reminds us to be playful, silly, casting off our heavy winter thoughts and turning to the more immediate pleasures of this passionate season.

Full disclosure, however: I have a lovely patio garden and am nowhere near a place where I could plant seeds in the nude without the threat of photos ending up on the internet! Still, I love the concept of shedding our cool-weather skins, letting our bodies be kissed by the sun, and getting a little dirty. So if you’re like me—not ready to give your neighbors an eyeful, but want to celebrate the essence of this day—here are five simple ways to honor the spirit of Naked Gardening Day without the threat of itchy plant matter getting into your tender bits.

  1. Garden without gloves. Sure, there are times when you need your heavy duty gloves to pull weeds and turn soil. But then there comes the seed planting, which is actually easier to do with your gloves off. I love the feel of fat fava and thorny beet seeds in my hands as I bury them in the soil. My direct connection to the earth and the seeds that will later become delicious produce remind me that each intention, soul seed, and thought I plant now will eventually bear fruit. It’s tangible proof that magic is real.

  2. Garden barefoot. Again, there are times when shoes come in handy, especially when you’re doing the heavy duty work of prepping your garden. But then there are the times where it is lovely to go barefoot in newly turned soil as you plant your tender shoots and young plants. The technical hippy metaphysical term for walking barefoot is called earthing. Literally putting your bare soles on the earth grounds, relaxes, and maybe even boosts your immunity. Let your toes wriggle in soft soil and your heels sink into the compost-enriched dirt under your feet. There’s no better way to reconnect with nature.

  3. Simply spend time in nature…in as few clothes as possible. Don’t tell me you don’t love the sun’s first warm kiss of spring on your back. Don’t tell me you’ve never been tempted to skinny dip or sunbath nude—or that you’ve never done either. If you’re in a position where naked isn’t comfortable or possible, just get as naked as you can—think short shorts, bikini-tops or even a bathing suit. Trust me. You will love the way the sun caresses your skin and how the breeze tickles your bare arms and legs. Just don’t forget the SPF—as a desert woman, I know all about wearing protection so I can enjoy the great outdoors without the sunburn souvenir!

  4. Make a conscious effort to feel comfortable in your own skin. Even if you can’t get naked or wear a filmy dress and ribbons in your hair as you dance around a May pole, take this day to simply love your body and all that it does for you. Garden. Go for a nature walk. Do yoga. Forget about your perceived flaws and take your cues from nature—after all, the butterfly doesn’t compare itself to the dragonfly or the ladybug. It merely goes about its business. Take this day to marvel at what a beautiful animal you are.

  5. Relish the sensuality of gardening. It doesn’t matter if you’re coated in sunscreen, jeans and a t-shirt, or merely a daisy crown and a smile, gardening is sexy work. We get to strip things down to basics—planting seeds, getting dirty, relying on sunlight, water and hard work to produce nourishment. Gardening is a sensory experience, from feeling the soil and seeds in your hands, to hearing the birds sing and the bees buzz around with their enthusiastic pollination duties. We get sweaty. We relax. We forget to check the clock and instead rely on the passing clouds and shifting sun to let us know a full day has passed among our plants. We remember our powerful connection to the earth and our profound capacity to live in harmony with it.

So here’s to spring. Here’s to honoring our powerful connection to nature. Here’s to enjoying our bodies. Happy gardening!

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on InstagramFacebookPinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

Homemade Doggie Treats

When I say I like to make gifts for everyone in my family, I mean everyone, including the pups. (Okay, okay, lest that last statement sound too Martha Stewart-y, I should say that I’ve got a small family and we’re all pretty chill about the gift thing—but it’s still fun to treat them to some creature comforts!). I’m auntie to several cute doggies and friends with many a lovely dog owner and I love to spoil our four-legged friends with some easy and healthy treats this time of year. Bonus: making my own treats means not purchasing things with wasteful packaging, yay!

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I modeled my recipe from one by Bitz & Giggles because I loved how adaptable versatile it was (also easy, because…you know me). The pumpkin puree can easily be swapped out for apple sauce, as my experiments have proved, and I’ve incorporated many a batch of apple-studded and chia-seed smattered oatmeal that I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish into these treats. I’ve even added yogurt in a pinch. I omitted the nutmeg and cinnamon, because, as their recipe states, those spices can be harmful to dogs in large amounts, so I didn’t want to mess with it. I also added a mix of white and wheat flour—enough to soak up the extra moisture from the cook oatmeal I mixed in.

You are not required to buy a doggie bone cookie cutter to make them. I did just because I think it’s cute and because I once tried to use festive holiday cookie cutters…but everyone kept mistake the doggie teats for human cookies. Ooops! You can slice the dough into squares if you want or use less human-being-y cookie cutters (or just be prepared for people to gobble a few of these healthy treats too).

You'll notice my recipe is a little iffy on the ingredients because I’m all for using what you have on hand. I make a bigger batch so I have plenty to give out, but you could always cut it in half. See what I mean about versatile? I would still cook them for a solid 40 minutes so they harden like a traditional doggie biscuit. I only did 30 minutes for the first round and they came out cookie-soft. Play with it and see what works best for you. All in all, these are fun to make and share with you furry friends. Plus it is super easy to whip up before the holiday celebrations and pop into the freezer for later gift-giving.

Ingredients:

1 cup canned pumpkin (or apple sauce)

1 cup water (or yogurt)

1/4 cup olive oil or coconut oil

1 cup oatmeal

4 cups white or wheat flour

Preheat oven 375. Pour wet ingredients in bowl and stir until combined. Then slowly add flour and oats until dough forms. If you’re trying to use up already cooked oatmeal like I did, then just mix it in with the wet ingredients, and add the flour after. Roll out to 1/4 inch thickness on floured surface and use your cookie cutter or knife to create shapes. Place on baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes. Serves an entire pack of wolves. Enjoy!

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on InstagramFacebookPinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

Welcoming in Eros Energy

I've experienced a swirl of synchronous happenings these past few weeks all of which were centered on the myth of Psyche and Eros. There was the Facebook post about walking through our private underworlds in order to find our way to Eros and, ultimately, the hard work it takes to cultivate happiness. Then there were the articles I stumbled across on the Divine Eros and freeing our Eros energy. That's not every getting into the daily signs that crossed my path, from candles and cupids to seeds and golden thread.

Most of these signs might be easily dismissed by the simple fact that Valentine's Day is around the corner (when scented candles and cupid-shaped chocolates abound), if not for the fact that I saw these things in unexpected places, not in a holiday store display. The seeds came to me from an unlikely place: a random gift of my favorite popcorn, lovingly stored in a mason jar and a forgotten bag of seeds I'd harvested the previous summer tucked into my the junk drawer (Psyche sorting seeds in the first of many trials set by Aphrodite). The glittery sweater that I found in the back of my closet was reminiscent of the golden wool Psyche had to collect to prove her love for Eros. There was even more than one dream about navigating hell or wading through choppy waters (two more trials Psyche endured). It seemed after I read that Facebook post, all I could see were signs of this Eros energy.

Clearly, the universe was trying to tell me something. And when the universe speaks, I listen.

My task, it would seem, would be to reconnect to Eros. So what is Eros energy? A simple answer would involve invoking this God of Love to find romance, sex, and all the things we come to associate with Cupid and Valentine's Day. But it's a bit more complicated than that. For one, archetypes and gods are rarely so "copy-paste" in their answers, any more so than a tarot card can be read literally. Eros isn't just about romantic love or eroticism, it's about reconnecting to the passionate energy within ourselves, trusting the joy we inhabit rather than doubting it, as Psyche did when she was at first convinced her love Eros was a monster in her bed. 

Eros energy is the life-blood of our daily lives, the healthy relationality with ourselves and others that makes life, well, delicious. We are all like Psyche, in one way or another, doing the hard work to reclaim our private Edens, traveling through our proverbial hells and completing seemingly endless trials to reclaim our natural passionate essence, unblemished by experience, outside voices (which caused Psyche to doubt her love in the first place), and our own uncertainty.

So life was telling me something: I had to work my way back to the earthy hedonism, the everyday eroticism you feel when you are at one with yourself, in union with the things that make you feel happy, healthy, whole. I'd lately felt disconnected from myself, operating more out a sense of obligation than actual enjoyment, fearful of turning down social obligations because I didn't want to offend anyone. In truth, I wanted to be home; I needed to be quiet. I needed to slow down after feeling like I was moving increasingly faster and faster. I didn't feel joyful, nor lusty for life. I felt tired--and it was only the first of the year. Somewhere between holiday break and beginning teaching again, I stopped listening to myself, stopped connecting to Eros.

In order to find my way back to my Eros energy, I had to ask myself hard questions--what really brings me joy?--and be honest about my answers, which were, frankly, counter to the social norm. I thought of Psyche as I worked on opening up myself to the love vibes. I thought of her separating seeds: What intentions do I want to plant? What do I need to feel nourished? How can I find my golden moments without climbing an uphill battled to get to them? Again, I looked to Psyche, as she gathered golden fleece left on the reeds the rams brushed against, rather than confront these dangerous animals head-on. There are gentler ways of doing things.

Then we must not forget the waters of forgetfulness. Psyche bringing a jug of those waters back to Aphrodite is not to erase the past but to let go of the petty details and small grievances that only weight you down. You can't hold on to everything, otherwise, you've no room for present happiness. Her journey to the underworld reminds me that I can't give energy to things that drain me, just as Psyche must remain focused on the road ahead of her and not be distracted by the lost souls that call to her. 

All well and good. But what does finding your way back to Eros look like when you are an ordinary human? Much the same as Psyche's journey, truthfully. I saturated my senses with things that made me feel inordinately happy. I conjured Eros's fire to illuminate my path. I sorted seeds and gathered golden threads. I stopped giving energy to things that drained me as I move into a new phase of my life. I gave myself more quiet time, so I could listen to myself, my needs. And yes, there may have been one or two heart-shaped chocolates and lighted candles. 

Lest this seem all too easy, consider how we, as a culture, shy away from what we really want (hello people pleasing) and unadulterated pleasure (surely we must be always working). It can be a difficult journey to find our way to joy, to passionate pleasure in all things. But so worth it.

So I leave you with this soul seed to gather: What brings you ecstasy? What are you afraid of enjoying? What makes your life delicious?

Find it. Gaurd it. Nourish it.

That is Eros energy.

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

5 Ways to Celebrate Imbolc

I love winter. The season creates space for quiet and contemplation. And while many see January and February as the cold season's doldrums after the vibrant festivities of December, I find the calm, clean energy of the first two months of the new year to be refreshing. I liken these months as the moments right before something exciting is about to happen. The pause of your pen before committing words to paper. The intake of breath before a kiss. The soft awareness before drifting off to sleep. That liminal space has always been a fruitful territory for me because it is so full of possibility.

There is no day better suited to this pregnant fluid space than Imbolc. Traditionally, this holiday, celebrated every February 2nd, represents the halfway point between winter and spring. It is meant to celebrate the coming abundance of the new season, often represented by Brigid, goddess of the dawn and fertility. Pausing to acknowledge Imbolc allows you to gather the soul seeds--intentions, hopes, dreams--you hope to plant in the spring and compost things from the previous year that no longer serve you. Below, I've listed five ways to celebrate this dawn-like holiday and honor the power of liminal spaces.

1. Spring clean--inside and out. So I know I write a lot about cleaning the home on the equinoxes and solstices, but you should never underestimate the power of a good scrub-down. It sweeps away stagnant and negative energies that might have built up over the season and allows you to take a good hard look at what you allow into your sanctuary. Lately, I've been getting rid of the clutter in my home and making sure everything I have is used or has a purpose (including enjoyment). If it doesn't, it gets donated. Through this, I've also decluttered my mind, saying goodbye to old, unfruitful conceptions of myself in the same way I got rid of wasteful one-use plastics from my kitchen. Take this time to consider what brings you joy and what doesn't. Then cleanse accordingly.

2. Collect seeds. This could be a literal gathering of daffodil bulbs and hollyhock disks for your garden, along with the harvested seeds of last year's lettuces, radishes, and tomatoes. It could also be your soul seeds. What do you want to manifest? What do you want to make fertile and plant come spring? you'll notice here that I said "collect" and not "plant" them. There is much magic, much medicine in allowing things to incubate before you take action. Imbolc is the embodiment of that pregnant pause before birthing your new dreams. So take a pause. Hold your seeds close. Let them speak to you. They will tell you when they are ready to be planted. 

3. Take a radical self-care day. Okay, so realistically we can't necessarily take off work for Imbolc, but it's a good idea to schedule in some TLC on the 2nd. Just as seed-gathering is important to mark the coming spring, so too is relaxation and hibernation essential to honor the passing winter. Pause. Recharge. Nourish your soul and reconnect to yourself. 

4. Feed your garden. When we think of gardening, we think of planting seeds in the spring, tending it in the summer, and enjoying the fruits of our labor in the fall. It is equally important, however, to tend our garden during its dormant season: cleaning up the debris that settled over it during the winter, pruning and tending the hearty cold weather plants, and turning your compost. Get dirt in your fingernails and dried leaves in your hair. Breath in the scent of rosemary and freshly turned earth. Your garden--and soul--will thank you.

5. Cook a seasonal feast. It would be remiss of me to not to mention feasting for any nature-based celebration. They are all, in one way or another, about honoring the abundance in our lives! For Imbolc, in particular, it's a good idea to make a feast using dark greens and other produce that is in season now. I'm a fan of making dishes that use burdock root or dandelion leaves for their powerful detoxifying properties. This is a season of energetic cleansing, after all.

How do you celebrate Imbolc?

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

5 Ways to Make Self-Care a Priority During the Holidays

As I wrap up my year of radical self-care, I find myself needing to recommit to those important practices I started last new year.  In fact, it feels even more important to nurture wellness during the holiday season.  Let's face it, sometimes life gets busy and it is tempting to let self-care rituals get put on the back burner while we take care of business. The holidays can magnify this with the increased demands to socialize, consume, and otherwise do more. 

Don't get me wrong--I'm not a grinch! But I do think the dark side of the holidays is a sense of enforced cheer and manic consumerism. Think about all the times you are asked to buy more, commit to one more social activity, or overwork to get things done by the end of the year. Wouldn't it be great if we allowed ourselves to do less this season--and all year round?

And while things are merry and bright this time of year, there is also the shadow side of the solstice that asks us to turn inward and recharge for the new year: a facet of the holiday that often gets overlooked.  At its best, this time of year is about celebrating the abundance around us and celebrating the renewal of light on the darkest day of the year; at worst, it can numb us out with overstimulation.  By turning back to our self-care needs, we can better enjoy the season and all it has to offer.  In honor of this, I give you five ways to make-self-care a priority this month.

1. Buy less.  The holidays, whichever ones you celebrate, aren't about things or buying more stuff.  They are about enjoying time with the ones you love and appreciating the fruits of your labor.  My family and I decided a while ago not to stress about buying people gifts and instead often give homemade treats, thoughtful tokens, and generally focus on good food and good cheer. We also avoid going out on Black Friday aka Manic Consumerism Day and instead promote Buy Nothing Day

Buying less is not only more environmentally and economically friendly, but also a great way to remove yourself from the fray of frantic shoppers. Take time to make your own gifts, if you have a crafty side, or buy local to support small businesses. Your neighborhood shops will have unique gift options in a more relaxed atmosphere conducive to a low and slow weekend afternoon of gift hunting.  Any way you do it, give yourself permission to buy less and invest more time in relishing the simple pleasures of the season.  It's where the magic is at.

2. Embrace hygge.  This Danish word for coziness is the perfect term for this time of year.  Light candles.  Enjoy a quiet night by the fireside. Cook a hearty healthy meal. Remember that some of the most joyful times of the season are the quietest. My fondest solstice memories are those where I literally did nothing: gazed into the fire, sipped a cup of homemade holiday chai, took a nap on the couch.  It's rare that we get this kind of time to rest, so why not make it a priority this season?

3. Pencil in quiet time.  I love a good party and this season can make a get-together even more festive with glittery lights, fizzy drinks, and bright spirits all around. But I always make sure to leave some time for me.  A lot of time.  I need quiet as an introvert, time to unwind and space to lollygag, otherwise I never completely recharge.  This season, give yourself permission to say no to social engagements.  Block out an afternoon that's just for you.  Gift yourself an evening at home doing nothing in particular.  Give yourself lots of these things, often and with wild abandon.

4. Feel what you need to feel.  Let's be real: the holidays can be utterly and completely sentimental and the Norman Rockwellesque depictions of heavenly happiness can be overwhelming...especially if you don't enjoy the holidays much yourself or have bad holiday memories.  Even if you do enjoy the season, you don't have to be merry and bright 24/7. .Just be honest with yourself about what you are feeling.  The solstice is about honoring the sun on the darkest night of the year, embracing the shadows as well as the light.

5. Stick to your self-care routine...including working out and eating right.  This is perhaps the hardest, and most important, tip of all.  I'm not saying give up your holiday treats, just make sure you carve out time for healthy meals and solid exercise.  And don't get down on yourself for indulging, either.  Enjoy yourself!  But in a season that can feel overwhelming in its excess (more of that consumption for the sake of consumption), your self-care routine can be a delicious luxury that keeps you connected to yourself. It also prevents mindless overindulgence where you consume food and drink without thought or appreciation. Feast and be merry, then take a long walk in nature or sink into a quiet evening yoga with festive twinkle lights as a soothing background to your flow.

Remember that this season is about winter, about following the patterns of nature, including moving into a more introverted state while the land rests.  We can find joy in the simple delights of the season that help us tune into the everyday magic around us. So this year, instead of getting caught up in the whirlwind of high consumerism, opt instead for a genuinely relaxing and festive holiday focused on renewal.

How do you make sure that you keep your self-care routine during this busy season?  However you do it, I hope your season is full of much rest, relaxation, and love. 

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

Bury the Dead in Marigolds

I am tired of wrapping my lips around the past. It is a dead thing kept alive only by my attention and my tongue.  I cannot tell why I keep worrying it, like the frayed edges of a beloved scarf or a fuzzy memory.  Habit, maybe.  I don't even like the taste of it anymore.  All charcoal and regrets and bitter seeds that make my mouth feel chalky--nothing like the fat marigold head I hold in my hand.

This orange-feathered sun tickles my lifeline and the small little rivers and deviations carved into my palm. The bud smells of clean earth and the naked joy of growing things.  This, I want.  The smell, the taste, the everything covering my body as if it were my second skin.  I want to make my home in this honeyed sweetness when once I never dared to think it possible to hold a living flower without crushing it. 

I know what must be done: I dig a six-foot deep hole in my backyard and go about the business of burying the dead.  Mason jars will make the perfect coffins.  There are too many of them anyway as if I must preserve and hold onto everything I taste in this world. They belong in the earth now, as does the past.

I unscrew each lid of every jar I own until there is a mass of open mouths waiting to be fed.  So I set about stuffing those holes.  I spit the gritty black sludge that has formed between my lips into one jar and the bitter seeds into another.  It feels like the purge will never end, but I keep at it until my mouth is dry but clean and I can taste sunshine in the back of my throat.  

And while I am at it, I comb dead leaves and ugly thoughts from my hair and stuff it into another hungry jar. The dead skin I slough off finds its resting place in yet another jar, though I was afraid not all of it would fit. Nail clippings and self-doubts go next, along with the brittle bones of my ancestors (may they never rise) and the fragments of ghosts they wish I would inherit.  The last three jars are filled with the worn husks of dreams that have outlived their usefulness. 

No more jars, but still so much left to bury.

Prayers for saints—those poems I could never speak for those things I could never be—are cast into the grave along with a bag of sugar and the moth larvae that made their home in the saccharine crystals.  I do not have an altar on which to place sweet skulls and lighted candles—just the earth.  Ofrendas—I don’t have any of those either.  Just things that need to go.  I have no wish to give offerings to spirits that would make me one of them—sad things, unfulfilled things, things that were dead while living.  And here I am breathing.  Here I am changing the story.  I doubt they would ever wish me well, so don’t ask me to beg for their attention.  Don’t ask me to bow down and hold them close—or worse, build an altar in their names.

I’ve never been much for anything that asks me to get down on my knees.

I only trust the marigolds, and so I collect each and every head from my garden and the stash of dried petals from my pantry.  Here is the sunshine that will cleanse my soul.  Here is the heartbeat that will banish the flatline.  But first—I dig.  And dig.  And dig so many other little holes surrounding the grave.  So many other tiny graves for my Mason jars that would not fit in the six-foot-deep abyss where I planted all the things that need forgetting.  My backyard is a cemetery.  It’s full to bursting by the time I’m done with it.  Who knew Mason jars could take up so much space?  Who knew I held on to too much for too long?

Part of me is afraid to fully commit these things to the ground.  I don’t know what I am without my dead skins or my tangled hair or fragments of stories written on scraps of paper which now line the bottom of my dirty tombs. 

Then the marigolds whisper: perhaps you should find outPerhaps you should fill your graves with dirt and life and let those dead things feed the earthGive them to the worms who will be better nourished by the decaying and the dying.  In turn, they will gift you with fertile ground for better things.

The flowers are right, of course.  These things are of no use to me above ground—

—so down they go, into the underworld.

The shovel is my only companion.  Not even a lantern or candle graces my presence.  Some things are best done in the dark.  I make quick work of it, tossing dirt and more regrets on top of the scars I cut into my yard until I can no longer see Mason jar caps or heaps of sugar.  Until there is nothing left but freshly covered graves.

Here I stand with no last rites or final words.  Just a handful of dirt and another of marigolds.  I scattered the dry petals first so that they make a thin veil between the living and the dead.  Then I heap fresh buds upon fresh buds, open flowers upon open flowers, until the disturbed earth is no longer a series of scars but open seams that let the light through.  

I let the golden petals coat my backyard until my hands ache with the letting go and the holding on.  There is only one small flower left (the one I started with), barely emerging from the bud, sitting in the dry-bed of my palm.  The lifelines seem deeper now, but perhaps that is just dark soil bringing them to life.  In any case, I lean against the shovel and admire my work.  

Already, new shoots are emerging from the worm-rot.  Healthy green tendrils spread across the raw landscape like one long hearty Goodbye:

Goodbye to ghosts.  Goodbye to the past.  Goodbye to dead and gone things.  The golden flower is a sweet Hello in my hand, sweeping away any lingering regrets in my final Goodbyes.  My mouth is clean.  My scarred earth is healing.  I have no more energy for bitter seeds or sugared skulls.  Only the feathery seeds of a marigold’s heart. 

Much better to savor the fat orange fruit on the inside of a calendula bud.

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

A Year of Radical Self-Care

I've come to see busy as just another four letter word.  It's the sludge we hide behind when we don't want to (or feel like we can't) listen to our own needs.  The world wants us to be constantly plugged in, constantly expending energy, constantly making noise.  Moreover, we live in a society that values extroversion, overwork, and excess over the softer virtues of introversion, meaningful productivity, and mindful consumption.  Even our New Year's resolutions must be loud, extreme, and quantifiable in some tangible way (I've certainly been guilty of imposing arbitrary and often unachievable markers of personal growth on myself over the years).

So what about our needs?  What about the importance of self-care?  Since January is the month of clean slates and New Year's resolutions, it seems like the perfect time to pour this transformative energy into a vow I can keep: a year of radical self-care.  

Think about it: Radical.  Self.  Care.  Not do more.  Not be more.  Not checking off arbitrary boxes of self-fulfillment.  Not imposing unrealistic ideals on myself.  Just take better care of myself.  This is more challenging than it seems because it requires me to truly to listen to myself, my body, my mind, my soul.  No small task in a world that can demand too much of us and make us forget what genuine self-care looks like.  To help chart my self-care progress year, I came up with two guiding questions:

What will bring me joy? 

What is sustainable?

First, if something doesn't contribute to my overall happiness and health, I let it go.  It's as simple--and as hard--as that.  We live in a world that tells us more is better, so I must relearn the joys of less.  I must also be honest with myself about what brings me joy (hint: it's often not what society says will make me happy).  Second, I have to think about the long-term substantiality of any new self-care routine I want to incorporate into my life. Working out an hour a day is not realistic for me with my teaching and writing schedule, and neither is cooking an elaborate meal from scratch every night. But exercising five days a week for a half an hour is, as is whipping up a simple soup or salad to enjoy in the evening.  If the goal starts making me feel spread thin, I ditch it. 

The irony of committing to self-care is that you rarely have tangible evidence of your growth--not like with traditional New Year's resolutions.  Only the fullness in my chest that tells me I am living well.  It is so deeply personal that only my bones and heart whispering their contentment tell me that I am truly listening to my needs.  And if I get off track, I won't berate myself over it.  I'll simply root out the culprit that kept me from tending to wellness--usually overwork--and get rid of it.  If I can't greet each day excited for the potential it offers, then I need to examine how I've been living and work my way back to happy (and yes, self-care is hard work!).  With all this in mind, I've come up with a few guidelines to help me in my radical self-care journey:

1. Eat whole foods.  Subtext: avoid processed and packaged foods.  I don't eat processed foods, but want to push this further and avoid anything that comes in too much packaging.  Bonus: it's much better for the environment too.  Bottom line, I want to go back to buying bulk ingredients, whole organic foods, and (mostly) cooking my own meals.  Grabbing a quick take-out or indulging in more carbs than are good for me might seem soothing short-term, but it does nothing to nourish my body or soul long-term.  Cooking at the end of the day helps me unwind and tune into self-care.

2. Exercise regularly.  Dance.  Walk.  Cardio.  Strength.  Doesn't matter what it is except that I commit to it at least four to five days a week.  This one I've actually been working on this past month after seeing how tired and cranky my body felt after a month of infrequent exercising (darn mid-semester!).  Even when I felt at my busiest, I found that ending the day with at least 30 minutes of exercise transformed me.  I went from tired to rejuvenated.  Totally worth it! 

3. Do yoga every day--even if it is just five minutes.  I keep this separate from my exercise plan (although it can be sweaty business!) because nourishing the mind-body connection is such an integral part of self-care.  And I'll be honest: I used to be good at doing yoga every day first thing in the morning, as editing my blog reminded me...but not so much anymore.  It's time to get back to that quiet me time in the morning before the day takes over.  I find I'm much more settled at the end of the day if I make the effort to do my morning yoga rather than hit the snooze button.

4.  Rest...without guilt.  Get 8 hours of sleep every night.  Takes naps.  Spend an afternoon reading or otherwise losing track of time.  I know this sounds like a tough one for teachers--especially during our heavy grading time--but I can't function without a full eight hours of sleep or regular downtime.  At the end of the day, it is more important that I get a full night's rest or spend some time knitting than try to finish everything on the day's to-do list.  It all eventually gets done anyway.  This goes double for having playtime on the weekend.   

5. Keep it hygge.  This Danish term for cozy is all about enjoying the simple pleasures that make life delicious: the scent of burning beeswax candles that waft through my home as I type this; the joys of a hot cup of tea; even the bliss of wearing your favorite pair of fuzzy socks.  You'll notice these are tranquil, calm joys.  Part of living hygge, at least for an introvert like me, is to give myself permission to indulge in the quieter joys of life even when the world is asking me to be louder than I want to be.  That's what I'm all about!  Still when stress hits, it's easy to stop paying attention to the happies we get when tuning into the day-to-day pleasures life can afford.  I say less stress, more hygge! 

...and a bonus self-care goal: leave more time to talk with the Universe.  I know what you're thinking.  What does this have to do with self-care?  It's simple.  We forget that we are part of a big, beautiful world when deadlines loom and that our lives are more than just pushing papers around (even though I do love my work routine!).  We need time to have conversations with the stars, ask the moon questions, and share our deepest wishes with the Universe--and hear them respond in turn. When we forget to nourish everyday magic, we forget to live.  

So that's my goal this year.  Radical self-care.  Radical enjoyment.  Radical magic making.  If you want to rediscover what those things mean, join me for another year as I continue to explore the dreams and delights that make life delicious. 

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

Conversation with a Zombie

He said he would love to have me for dinner--but I was careful.

I made sure that I wasn't on the menu for one.  And I took particular effort to choose a location full of breathing bodies.  A restaurant for the living.  It wouldn't do to surround myself with a host of these purgatory-like creatures, else my limbs become stiff and my skin turn as gray and rotten as a cadaver's.  You become who you hang around, they say.  

Still, I was curious.  

We sat across from each other at the dinner table.  The white tablecloth was as smooth and unblemished as his collared shirt.  He had dressed for the occasion, taking care to hide the evidence of his affliction as best he could (though truly there was only so much he could do, with a missing ear and half a brain).  Still, the tuxedo and carefully applied makeup was enough to create the illusion of pumping blood beneath his pallid, blush stained cheeks--in the right light. Which was another reason why I chose this place.  Candlelight can hide a multitude of sins.

He studied me as much as I did him as if he was trying to remember what it was like to be alive. When I reached for my wine glass, so did he--only his thick decaying fingers almost crushed the stem, whereas my nimble live ones carefully brought the dark red to my mouth.  I tried not to notice how he stared at my lips--stained now from the wine--wondering, perhaps, how I tasted.

That could have been me, of course.  If I had enough in me to make my heart stop beating and my brain stop questioning.

They're always the first to go: the ones that want to be lead.  Then the tired.  Then the hopeless.  I could never be any of these things, though I have at times been weary and known the company of despair.  No, I could never be any of these things.  Not with the fire burning in my belly.  I could feel the heat in my cheeks as if to remind me that blood still pumped through my veins.  Perhaps it was just the wine.

I couldn't even call what we had a proper conversation.  For one thing, it was hard to make out his words as he struggled to form sentences around a fat and full tongue without lips to soften the vowels and only a few teeth to slide against the crisp edges of constants.  For another, we were both frequently lost in our own thoughts, wondering how things might have been different if I had just a little less heart and he a little more.

In the end, we let the darkness beyond our candlelit table swallow any of the taboo questions: do you miss the taste of buttered toast or pickles?  Or is gray matter your only desire now?  And then the ones he refrained from asking me:  Can you describe the way your filet tastes--and the mashed potatoes?  Will you remind me what it is like to wake in the morning after a full night's rest, ready to greet the day?  

We both politely ignored the blood pooling around my rare steak and the ring of red our wine glasses left after a nervous waiter overfilled our cups.  The poor man didn't know that the infection wasn't contagious.  Well, not like in the movies.  It was the thoughts that did it. Or, really, the lack of them.  

So much easier to silences your questions.  So much easier to allow yourself to be swept up in the collective undertow and drowned in mindless oblivion.  So much easier--if it weren't for the fire in your belly.  The light in your veins.

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

5 More Ways to Green Your Routine

Every year I get a little better at greening my routine.  As I read more about the impact we have on our environment and the little but important changes we can make to our lifestyles to leave a greener footprint, I become inspired to live in better harmony with nature.  Surprisingly, as I've gotten greener over the years, I've found that it hasn't just improved the planet, but my overall sense of well-being.  I use less.  I buy less.  I enjoy what I have more.  My home is clutter-free, as is my mind. 

More and more, I cannot escape the intrinsic link between the planet's health and my own. Where once I was stressed or anxious, I found healing in de-cluttering my life and simplifying my needs. I unplugged from what mainstream society says will make me happy (buy more, do more, move faster, burn hotter) and found, in creating space to connect with myself and nature, that my happiness comes from slowing down, doing less, and enjoying life's simple pleasures.  

The changes I've made have been radical in their own small way, from giving up conventional makeup, which was causing severe skin irritation, to using only the organic kind, and now, beginning the adventure of making all my own products.  I've switched from conventional groceries and the traditional food pyramid of health to organic, local produce and a whole foods diet.  I've even terminated one-use items like paper towels and plastic wrap in favor of reusable mason jars for storage and old towels for rags to reduce waste.  

Each step to a sustainable lifestyle was challenging at first, but then became a delicious expression of a balanced life.  Now I could never, ever imagine eating fast food or buying drugstore mascara.  What's more, the transition to a better-quality lifestyle was easier than I thought it would be once I got past the mental block of thinking that going green was difficult, expensive, or labor intensive.  The eco-friendlier I get, the more addictive it is.  I am healthier, happier, and more in balance with myself and the world around me.  Want to feel these good vibes too?  Check out these easy ways to green your routine.

1.  Say goodbye to junk mail.  Not only is it a nuisance, but it wastes so many trees, not to mention huge amounts of water and energy to produce what essentially goes directly into our trash cans, or if we are more conscious, our recycling bins or compost.  Luckily, opting out of junk mail is easier than you think.  Simply sign up for a free account at DMAChoice.org to stop receiving catalogs, credit card offers, and other miscellanea.  Not only will this one small change make a huge difference in the environment, but it will also make sorting your mail easier.  Want to know more about the environmental impact of junk mail?  Check out what Sustainable Baby Steps has to say.

2. Reduce plastic use.   Part of moving towards a zero-waste lifestyle is saying goodbye to one-use items like plastic bags, wrap, and other conveniences like bottled water.  The energy, water, and materials it takes to produce these items are nothing compared to the resources it takes to actually recycle them...when they can be recycled.  Too often these disposable items can't be reused or recycled because they are made of the cheapest (and most chemical-laden) forms of plastics that have no life beyond covering your leftovers.   Even worse, these items end up in the ocean, destroying marine habitats and harming sea life.  Check out the Earth Resource Foundation to learn more about how harmful plastics are to the environment.

The good news is that reduced plastic use is WAY easier--and addictive!--than I thought it would be. First and foremost, I eliminated bottled water, including my favorite, sparkling water (I got a fizzy water maker instead and love it!  It lets me get my bubble fix, is more cost-effective than buying bottled water, and easier to store).  I also don't buy plastic bags or saran wrap anymore.  I admit, it was hard to give up the convenient plastic bags at first, since I used them for so many things.  Now, though, I could never go back to using them.  I use what I have (I won't buy more wasteful products) and then get creative about how I store my food....hello mason jars!  Turns out, they are just as convenient as plastic (and bonus, more aesthetically pleasing!).  I still haven't gotten rid of my Tupperware, but I'm not buying more of it either.  I'll use what I've got, then invest in glass and silicon storage containers when the time comes.  The funny thing is that thought doesn't seem so intimidating as it once did before I gave up plastic bags and bottled water.

3. ...and paper towels.  I just use old cotton dishtowels that no longer look pretty in place of paper towels as rags.  I love never having to remember to buy paper towels.  I keep a set of old towels as bathroom and house cleaning rags and another set of towels strictly for kitchen use.  If part of living a green life is reducing what we consume, then giving new life to old items is a smart way to limit the production of unnecessary disposable goods.   Did you know you could also compost towels made from natural fibers like cotton, silk, and hemp?

4. Recycle your clothes.  Every few years, I clean out my closet and donate anything I haven't worn in the past year.  That's recycling in its most basic form: passing along usable items to someone who needs them.  But what about those wardrobe staples you've worn to death?  For a long time, I never knew what to do with these items and often threw them away, for lack of better options.  Now I give those items to Goodwill or your local Thrift Town because I learned from Earth 911 and some strategic web searches that these places collect unusable textiles and sell them out to other companies to recycle or reuse them.  To make it easy on them, I keep my wearable clothes and well-used ones in separate containers.  

5.  Conserve water. This is another simple yet important part of green living.  Most of the water we use day to day is actually wasted--the time people leave the faucet running on high while washing dishes, for example, or taking a super-long shower.  Take shorter showers (and if/when you are shaving your legs, turn the water off!). Same goes for tooth brushing and dish washing: clean first, then, rinse, keeping the faucet on low.  Sustainable Baby Steps has even more ways to reduce water use that are easy enough to incorporate into your everyday routine.  

Bottom line: with a little extra care and a few tweaks to our lifestyle, we can make substantial positive changes to our environment and improve our overall quality of life.  

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

Leap Year: Or the Magpie and the Time Thief

It can't help itself.  There are so many shiny little seconds, like copper pennies, buried in the sand. And all those fat marbled minutes that roll downhill and find themselves half-submerged in a puddle.  Then there are the hours, glittering gears forever moving forward one plodding step at a time.  The magpie must have them all, plucking them from their gutters and trash bins and other places time goes to be forgotten.  

The thrifty bird plucks a lost second from the bottom of your pocket--a strand of silver tinsel in its black beak.  Broken-down minutes are trapped in its wings as if stardust were woven into each feather.  It greedily clutches and grabs for the heaviest and most elusive of treasures: the hour that slipped away from you, frittered away or just lost when you forgot to look for it.  The bird hooks its claws through the gear's hollow center, careful not to let the teeth bite into its scaled bones.  

Back to the nest.

The scavenger's home becomes a museum of so many beautiful moments.  So many grains of sand that escaped the hour glass.  So many sparkling instants that could have sprouted another story, a different path.  They all belong to the magpie.  It wants to gloat over its hoarded treasure buried between rounded twigs and moss, revel in the delicious possibility of lost time.  

But the temptation of finding more--bigger--gems lure it from its nest. 

That is when the time thief strikes.  She waits and she watches the magpie fondle discarded clock faces and rusty numbers that used to mean something.  She hides in the shadows cast by the brilliant light of those silver timepieces and memories swept away with the seconds between blinks.  And when the magpie shakes the last of the stardust from its wings and flits off in search of more sparkling tick-tocks, she makes her move.

Gathers all the dazzling lost instants and stuffs them into one day so that she may bask in the warm promise of extra time.  (She knows too, that this borrowed time will always fetch a high price at the market.)  Like the magpie, she cannot resist the glittering cogs that insist there is a past and a present and a future.  Who can withstand the rotation of two hands on a circular face?

Certainly not the magpie who returns to its nest, drawn by the luminous day built from its hard-scavenged treasure.  It will take back its precious collection, drive its sharp claws into the thief's spine--but the thief knows better than to turn her back to the nest.  She instead hides in the shadows of the waning light, attempting to pull her stolen loot along in her wake.  The bird tugs back, wrapping tinseled seconds around its beak and claws for better purchase; the thief refuses to let go, holding fast to a handful of minutes.  

Push-pull, push-pull, until the moments and hours and seconds and minutes shake loose and scatter themselves over the earth, once again disappearing into gutters and drainpipes, under rocks and tree roots.  The magpie has no choice but to start its work once more.  The thief returns to the shadows, waiting until the bird's nest is once again full of lost time so that she may feast upon it herself.

The earth circles four times around the sun.  Four sets of four seasons sweep through the land. And the cycle begins anew. 

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

What Love Looks Like

You find it in the small hand, no bigger than a silver dollar, pressed against your forearm as your niece finds her balance.  Each finger, barely larger than a thick blade of grass, has left its mark on your skin though nobody could tell by looking at it.  You find it too, in the fuchsia baby blanket that cannot possibly hold all the tenderness you feel for this little creature that has made her way into your life; this blanket gets bigger and bigger with each passing day so that you can loop happiness and abundance into each shelled stitch.  You want her to remember that her palms were once wrapped around your thick thumbs as she learned to hold herself upright--you want her to know that she has always been strong, always been eager to experience this world.  She only has to look at this blanket, or wrap it around her slight shoulders, to feel the support of her auntie and know that she, like her mother, is a force to be reckoned with.

This four letter word people bend into two kissing curves that pucker into a point looks nothing like a real heart.  A real heart is messy, made up of pumping blood and so many veins and memories that keep it going.  And something else that you cannot fully name but know it is sweeter, more life-affirming than the oxygen that this organ provides.  It is that moment (years ago now, a recollection tattooed into your artery walls) when you said everything was fine, and your parents knew what you really meant was that you were slowly being swallowed by fog, and so sent you a care package full of sunlight, red chile pods, and pinon coffee.  Yes, that kept your blood pumping and chased away the darkness.  You were not alone.

It is on the journey home with your older sister and the promises you made each other to live as extraordinary beings (and the bottles of wine and long conversations that prompted those promises, now like so many matches lit and thrown into your enteral fires).  Then when she found her roots and wings, you found another brother.  Here is the solid earth-forged spirit that grounds, ready to remind you that you don't need to carry so much weight on you shoulders--shouldn't.  But there is more.  You find this ephemeral warmth in the taste of kimchi and oysters on the half-shell chased down with a dirty martini.  This is always somehow accompanied by images of your brother arranging all your boxes, most of them books, into your travel pod so you could bring your life home.  Or of him and wife walking through the park that was once your refuge on their wedding day. There was so much sunlight that afternoon.

And still, you find this thing--this beating, pumping thing--woven into each breath.  You can't even look at the inside of an orange peel without thinking of long full fingers scraping away pith one orange quarter at a time to transform this fruity carcass into leathery hugs, a reminder that your younger sister is always close though an ocean separates you.  Close enough that you can never simply tear a banana open with a quick tug of its gnarled stem but must carefully slice the skin apart from stem to nubby bottom so as to better preserve that yellowed husk; she would know somehow if you took a shortcut.  And you think of the man that loves her.  Here you know a kindred spirit, one who understands instinctively that the internal life is just as important than the external one--perhaps more so. There is much to be found on the page and the inward-turning gaze.

You don't have to be anything other than yourself with these people; you can be the quiet wildling with bare feet and kinky hair happy to get lost (found?) in a book or a garden--or a kitchen.  And when you can't always give yourself permission to be this elusive creature, they remind you that your soul was forged from ink and summers playing outside with your siblings and always, always from feeding the wonder and delight that makes each day worth getting up for.

That's the day-in-day-out of it: the barely contained smile from your sisters because they know you are all thinking the same thing...and probably shouldn't say it out loud.  We are surrounded by strangers, after all, and the thought is not fit for polite company.  Even the frantic lick of puppy tongues on your hands and pawing of your furry charges when you haven't seen them for some time tells you that your life is full. Or the smell of green chile stew and the pure pleasure of a tortilla fresh from the griddle in the kitchen you grew up in that reminds you at the end of the week that you are surrounded by love.

That's it.  That's the word.  Such a small one for an awful lot of feeling.

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

On Januarys

January.

A paradox of thirty-one days.  One month.  One word.  Too many resolutions and too little time to turn our attention from the previous year to the one already underway, pulling us along before we are completely done with our past.  

Always divided with itself, torn between what was and what will be, just like the god it was named after.  Janus, that divine soul is one whose features are split in two for she must forever keep her gaze on the river of time that overlaps and circles itself so that a person may be at once here and there, both moving forward and stuck at a fixed point in the past.   

Let its divisive nature be January's strength.  When it tears itself from the strain of living the paradox of inward-looking winter and the promise of spring's emergence, let those ripped and ragged edges be filled with light.  Let the gap that has emerged from the tensions between your reclusive nature and your desire to experience this world be a passageway, a doorway to another universe in which your contradictions are the stars that illuminate your path, not the stones in your pocket that weigh you down.

And if you are lucky, you might even find nourishment in the space between one close door and another just waiting for your gaze to fall upon it so that it may wink into existence. Pomegranates, fat and full with garnet seeds, will sustain you as you travel down this new road. Each fiery drop you slip between your lips is a soul-seed sown deep within your belly to birth new intentions, sparks of light to guide you back to the eternal flame within yourself when the nights seem darkest and the path split in two.

january.jpg

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

Biscochito Coffee

Nothing says the holidays in New Mexico like a fresh batch of biscochitos.  I look forward to those anise dotted sugar cookies every year.  In fact, it's pretty much the only time I eat those treats, so each bite seems laced with memories of unwrapping presents and lingering over cups of tea by the fireside. 

Another way to enjoy that biscochito flavor throughout the holiday season is to lace your coffee with the anise seeds, something my family has been doing for years to add to the festive quotient of our morning cup of cheer. The fun in making you own holiday coffee blends is that you can create your own flavors (hello pumpkin spice and Aztec mocha coffees) and control the quality of ingredient.  Most commercial flavored coffees are made with artificial ingredients and poor quality beans--yuck!   You can also play with the strength of your flavors, from just a kiss of anise flavor in each sip to tasting the equivalent of one biscochito in each cup.

Don't forget to use good quality coffee here. I go for the Santa Fe-based Aroma Coffee's organic Black Lighting dark roast.  Seriously, it has ruined me for other coffee.  Once you try the good stuff, you can't go back to the so-so.  This is an excellent last-minute gift as well since the prep work is virtually nada (you can keep the beans whole or grind them) and everyone appreciates a tasty beverage high on the festive quotient, but a welcome break from the heavier eggnogs and hot chocolates.

Ingredients:

12 oz quality coffee

2 oz anise seeds

Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container.  You can grind your coffee right away before mixing, or grind as you go with each pot you brew.  Just make sure to get some anise in each batch you grind as it might settle to the bottom of your container.  Don't hesitate to play with the proportions to find the perfect balance between coffee and spice for you.  Brew as you normally would.  Enjoy!

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

Lavender Blue Corn Soap

For my latest entry in my kitchen gifts series, I decided to whip up a batch of lavender blue corn soap.  This is the perfect gift for anyone who is not necessarily a big fan of the more seasonal soaps like my orange spice, peppermint hot chocolate, or pine and charcoal soaps (as if such a person actually existed...seriously, who doesn't love the warming scents of winter?).  It's also an ideal gift for people to enjoy long after the holiday is gone; once all the other festive treats have been used, they can turn to this soap and the promise of spring.

Okay, I admit it: I got the idea for this soap after my favorite doughnut, a sinful blend of lavender and blue corn made by a local bakery.  Blue corn has always struck me as a very New Mexican ingredient, so this soap always makes me feel like I'm gifting a little bit of the Southwest magic I live in.  You can, of course, always substitute regular cornmeal if you can't find the blue kind.  You don't have to get fancy with molds, either.  You can simply use a muffin tin unless you want to get playful with your molds like I did with the soaps pictured.

For this recipe, I use a natural shea butter melt and pour soap base which I got here (remember how I like to keep my crafting simple?  Well, a melt and pour solution gives you the fun factor of making your own soap without the more labor intensive and tricky ingredients like lye to work with).  Make sure to buy the suspension formula for your soap base so that the blue corn is evenly spread out in your soap rather than sinking to the bottom.  The lavender oil is an excellent antibacterial agent and nerve tonic, while the blue corn acts as a gentle exfoliate perfect for everyday use.

Ingredients:

16 ounces (1 lb) shea butter soap base

1/2 cup blue corn

100 drops lavender essential oil

Chop shea butter soap base into half-inch chunks and place in a microwave-safe bowl.  Heat for one minute and stir.  Then continue to melt base in the microwave in 20-second increments, stirring between each heating until liquefied, about 5 minutes.  Once the soap is melted stir in essential oils and blue corn.  Pour into muffin tins (or other molds) and allow to set, about an hour.  (You can speed this up by placing them in the fridge for about 20 minutes.)  Remove soap from molds by gently inserting a butter knife around the edges of the muffin tin until the soap pops out.  Wrap individually in parchment paper or tuck multiples in an airtight container.  Store in a cool, dry place indefinitely.  Makes about 6 small soaps or 4 medium sized ones.  Enjoy!

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Today I have another entry in what is becoming my annual holiday kitchen gifts series (aka gifts from the heart).  This is the time of year when we can become over-saturated with marketing ploys trying to convince us to buy! buy! buy! To which I say: no thanks. 

I've never been one for malls or big shopping extravaganzas (with the exception of grocery shopping and some fond memories of girl days with my sisters when we were teens).  This is also the time of year when we should be indulging in the gentle rejuvenation and restoration that the winter months invite, but instead are all too often pulled into the frazzled energy that can be the holiday buzz.

My anecdote to this frenetic energy has always been in making gifts, particularly ones that people can enjoy long after the last holiday cookie has been eaten and the final decoration has been packed away.  Time in the kitchen soothes and relaxes while slowing down and making gifts is a wonderful way to meditate on all the love in your life.  

Of course, you also want to make sure that whatever you are making isn't too complicated, otherwise you defeat the purpose of simplifying your holiday.  I personally only make things that allow plenty of time for tea drinking and playing with my niece, so I don't I lose all the fun of hanging out in the kitchen.

This recipe for homemade vanilla extract fits the bill for easiness and deliciousness; it's a gift you can whip up in no time and that your friends and family with love receiving.  The flavor of a homemade vanilla extract is so much richer and smoother than the store bought kind--and surprisingly less expensive.  Genuine vanilla extract can be pricey and the imitation stuff is no good (just think of all the artificial flavors and coloring they use).

The only difference between making my Vanilla Bourbon and vanilla extract is the dose.  One vanilla bean is strong enough to gently infuse a few cups of spirits with its flavor.  More vanilla beans in less alcohol offer a concentrated flavor perfect for baking.  I used organic Prairie vodka in this recipe, but you can play with the flavor of your extract by using rum or bourbon instead. 

Ingredients:

1 vanilla bean per 1 oz vodka

Slice vanilla beans almost completely in half lengthwise.  This ensures that the vodka can soak up the flavor from the little seeds on the beans' inside and makes it easier to remove the vanilla from the alcohol once it has done soaking (as opposed to slicing it completely in half).  Place beans in mason jar and pour vodka over it (I used four beans for four ounces of vodka pictured below).  Seal jar and let sit for a week, making sure to shake jar periodically.  Then strain the vodka by pouring it through cheesecloth draped funnel into a clean jar.  Store in a cool, dry place.  Lasts indefinitely (though I doubt you will be able to keep it around that long!). 

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

Vanilla Infused Bourbon

We've had glorious weather this week, from a lush snowstorm that swept over the city, creating an air of frivolity and lightness (let's just say there was more than one pool going to see if we would get a snow day--we didn't, but the blissful fat flakes seemed to cool the minds of everyone burning too hot at the end of the semester), to the gentle windy days that tickled fiery autumn leaves from their branches.  It has been nothing short of mystic!

This cold weather has made me want to curl up by the fire and enjoy the hush that seems to settle over the earth when autumn transitions to winter--something we too seldom indulge in as we get swept up in the flurry of the work week and the upcoming holiday season.  It goes without saying that a book and a delicious beverage would make fireside snuggling nothing short of epic.  Tea works well here (you know how much I love those cups akin to a warm hug for the soul), but if you are looking for something a little more festive, look no further than this vanilla bourbon.

It is super easy to make and tastes of the season, full of the lush caramel and vanilla flavors we crave in our holiday desserts.  You can make a sinfully vanilla old fashioned or give my cinnamon-apple cocktail an extra dash of yum with this vanilla bourbon. Of course, it is equally delicious on its own. 

As with all my recipes, the trick is getting good quality ingredients.  I used Maker's Mark bourbon (nice, but not so nice that you wouldn't want to infuse it with anything) and organic vanilla beans which I got here.  Make sure the vanilla bean is soft and plump.  A brittle bean is a sign that it has gone stale and the flavor won't be as strong.  The rest is easy: simply forget about the bourbon for a week while it soaks up all the lovely vanilla flavor.  My advice?  Mix up a double batch so you have some for yourself and another for a friend.  This bourbon is so good, you'll want to gift it to friends and family this holiday season.

Ingredients:

2 cups bourbon

1 vanilla bean

Slice vanilla bean almost completely in half lengthwise.  This ensures that the bourbon can soak up the flavor from the little seeds on the bean's inside and makes it easier to remove the vanilla from the bourbon once it has done soaking (as opposed to slicing it completely in half).  Place in mason jar and pour bourbon over it.  Seal jar and let sit for a week, making sure to shake jar periodically.  Then strain the bourbon by pouring it through cheesecloth draped funnel into a clean bottle.  Store in a cool, dry place.  Lasts indefinitely (though I doubt you will be able to keep it around that long!).  Makes two cups.

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

On Turning Thirty

Thank sweet baby Jesus. 

You're thirty.  Or better put, your twenties--that hellish brutal decade--is over.  No longer living hand to mouth.  No longer surviving off of hope and credit or talking yourself into stupid or dangerous or stupidly dangerous situations because "that's what people your age do."  Maybe they do--and maybe they shouldn't--you really don't care anymore.  Just like you don't care about trying to prove you have nothing to prove.

You don't want to save the world anymore either.  Or give yourself over to A Cause.  You have learned that your happiness stems from tending your own little corner of the world and nourishing the relationships within it.  Let others find their own path because the only one who can save them is them--just as only you were the one who could pull yourself up from the muck of your twenties into the bliss of the here and now.

At thirty, you simply do not have the energy to be anything other than who you are.  And now that you know the delicious power of self-respect, you can't talk yourself into trying on those other identities like so many cheap, ill-fitting dresses.  So you now wear your loud colors and your wild hair and too many rings stacked upon your fingers--and polka dot dresses because why not? You dance and you read books indiscriminately (what's a canon except for a collection of books that at one time or another were considered trash?).  And you celebrate the fact that your life is made up of listening to your jazz records and cooking marvelous family dinners and star gazing and writing things people read and always, always being open to the unexpected. 

So you will light your birthday candles (all 30 of them) and make your birthday wish and eat your birthday cake and with each bite, relish that you have found it: that ephemeral thing called Happiness. Day in, day out--that's where the magic is at.

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

On Living Soulfully in the New Year

This time of year is always full to bursting with new year's resolutions--most of them overwhelming and along the lines of do more, be more, work harder, push harder in order to feel like we are Living Well or Growing.

This is probably why most of these resolutions get tossed out the window by the end of January.  They're too much pressure!  I can't just eat mung beans and green smoothies morning, noon, and night or pump iron two hours a day to prove my commitment to my health, nor can I glue myself to my writing desk or force myself fill every bit of free time I have in an effort to nourish my intellectual growth. 

In fact, I'm convinced that these goals are as detrimental to us as eating fast food, never exercising, and giving up on learning new things in our day to day lives.  Why? Because they don't allow us to truly find the fullest expression of ourselves but merely perform our desire for change to others.  And in performance lies pressure--we want to show the world that we can be the best of the best, whatever that means to each of us individually.

As I've been mulling this over the past few weeks, I've decided to shape my own new year's resolution on this simple concept: Living Soulfully.  This ephemeral idea cannot be measured in terms of how many hours spent at the gym nor how many words I commit to a page, but in how I feel when I wake up in the morning.  Am I full?  Do I feel like I am living authentically?  Do I feel like my soul is nourished or am I, as Bilbo Baggins once stated, "like butter scraped over too much bread"? 

In essence, this resolution deviates from its do more, be more cousin and insists on the value of doing less, listening more.  And so I will.  I will tune out the white noise that says I must be this or that in order to be considered a successful, healthy woman and instead listen to what brings me joy each moment of each day.

That is a resolution worth keeping.

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

Join Me for Another Year of Blogging Adventures!

Well, I'm back in the saddle after a few days off of writing--which, to be honest, felt a little strange since I was so used to writing every. Single. Day.  Yep, I did it!  Last year I committed to writing a blog a day--that's 365 inspirational posts!--on the little things in life that give us pleasure like an afternoon cup of tea or reading in bed.  I even sprinkled my posts with healthy recipes (Chickpea & Mushroom Salad anyone?) and DIY beauty treats (hello Easy Peasy Baking Soda Face Scrub!) to celebrate the small acts of self-care we can fold into our everyday life which makes it all the more enjoyable.

Whew!  What a year it was!  If you want to look back on that journey we took together or read some of the posts that you didn't get to the first time around, you check out my Blog and Recipe Indexes.  

Fear not, however--a new year does not mean I'm giving up on my blogging.  In fact, it means the opposite: I'm looking forward to more writing adventures!  Instead of daily posts, I'll be blogging bi-weekly, typically on Tuesday and Friday.  There will still be plenty of flash essays on everyday magic and new recipes to enjoy throughout this year, just a little more spread out.  Now is also a good time to subscribe to my blog (simply enter your email address in the box provided below or click here and enter your email address) to get each new post delivered to your inbox. 

As always, thank you for your support and for following me last year as I embarked on this wild journey of blogging and savoring the everyday magic that surrounds us if only we take the time to look for it.  Here's to another year of enchanted living and learning!

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

Happy New Year!

Thanks to all my readers for following me on my wondrous year of daily blogging! I look forward to another blissful 365 days of writing about everyday magic and simple pleasures--more on that next week.  In the meantime, be well!

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!