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.

The Occult Detective...with a Cocktail Recipe!

Each November, I love to write about stories that inspire, nourish, and delight.  I think this is the perfect month for setting aside more time for reading.  Autumn is well under way.  The days are colder and shorter.  The sanctuary of our homes calls to us as we settle into this contemplative month.  We are drawn to quieter past times that give us space to reflect and heal.

Over the years, I’ve written about the important comfort good stories and other simple pleasures can offer us and the power various genres have to impart wisdom.  This year, I’m waxing poetic about the Occult Detective…with a cocktail recipe thrown in, because I’m a big ol’ nerd like that.  

Introducing the Occult Detective 

So what are occult detectives?  They are usually rough and tumble characters dealing with the darker side of life.  Ghost hunters, if you will.  Vampire slayers.  Paranormal investigators.  Monster fighters.  And those drawn to the arcane knowledge of the occult and mystical. 

This archetype is found in everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all other monster of the week TV shows, to urban fantasy like the Dresden Files and the Bone Street Rumba series.  But what most people don’t know (unless you are a diehard occult detective fan like me!) is that this genre has a long history dating back to the Victorian Era. The 19th century saw not only the birth of the detective genre, but also the fad of Spiritualism.  Popular culture at the time was obsessed with understanding, studying, and experiencing the otherworldly via séances, spirit photography, and extensive research into the occult…much like we are today.

The Age of Spiritualism brought us the likes of Thomas Carnaki, inventor of the electric pentacle; Flaxman Low, a self-proclaimed supernatural detective; and, Diana Marburg, a palmist who solves murders.  Then there’s Dr. John Silence, the first Victorian occult detective I ever read about, who will always have a place in my heart for introducing me to the genre.  He has a mysterious past, training in the occult, and cool animal helpers like his cat Smoke and his dog Flame. 

At their best, these stories explored our relationship to the otherworldly and our curiosity about things outside ourselves.  They show how we grapple with the mysterious, unseen forces in this world (and beyond!), the things that often reach out in touch us in our life but that we can’t always explain away or even logically process…at their worst, we get ugly things like sexism, xenophobia, and racism.  The supernatural becomes a catch-all terms for anything that isn’t white, hetero, middle-class, or male, and thus, to be feared.  Yikes!  

A Genre of Transformation

My favorite part about this genre is that is has transformed over the centuries from a genre of xenophobia to one of hope and empowering explorations of otherness. Women, people of color, LGTBQ+ communities, people with disabilities, and, yes, supernatural beings are front and center in contemporary additions to the genre.  We’ve got Maggie Hoaskie, a Navajo monster hunter in Trail of Lighting; Tony Foster, a gay wizard in Smoke and Mirrors; Kate Daniels, a magical mercenary and woman of color in a post-apocalyptic world; the canonical bi-sexual John Constantine; and many stories out of Occult Detective Quarterly that aims to make the genre more inclusive by representing both diverse characters and authors….just to name a few.  And that’s barely scratched the surface.  I mean, I haven’t even gotten into TV shows yet (I’m talking to you, Sleepy Hollow, Wynona Erp, Supernatural, Lucifer and. So. Many. Others).

Perhaps what I love most about this genre is that it’s all about how magic is a hard, gritty thing.  In one way or another, these stories are about what it takes to be true to yourself in a worlds that doesn’t like marginalized bodies, otherness, and those living on the social periphery.  Better still, these stories teach us that living within liminal spaces—not just a human but a werewolf (Kitty Norville), not just a woman but a witch (Persephone Alcmedi), or a half-dead resurrected inbetweener (Carlos Delacruz)—is empowering, transformational even.  This liminal space we occupy is the crack where the light seeps in.

In the end, this genre, and the occult detective archetype, doesn’t just grapple with the paranormal, but perhaps the even more inscrutable concept of what it means to be human…even when you’re a ghost, werewolf, or technically undead. 

The Recipe

All which means that this genre deserves a drink and so do you!  I thought about pairing various stories with treats and drinks, but really, there are so many manifestations of this archetype, from cozy mysteries like the Juliet Blackwell’s Witchcraft series to dark horror like Mike Carey’s Felix Castor books.  I even thought of making a cocktail called the Hellblazer…before I realized that would just be a bottle of Jack and a pack of cigarettes. 

So I came up with a cocktail that captured the spirit (pun intended) of the genre instead. This is a riff on the Manhattan, using Amaro liquor instead of vermouth.  Amor is an intensely herbaceous, bitter Italian liquor, there perfect nod to hellfire and brimstone, two things any occult detective worth their salt should know how to handle.  Then add a dash of burnt orange bitters for a touch of the ghostly (though regular orange bitters would do just a well), and another dash of cinnamon bitters as the sin that warms your bones and promises a slew of bad—but delicious—decisions.  Bourbon holds it all together, balancing the punch of Amaro and bitters with the fullness of vanilla and earth—the underlying hope and hard-earned sweetness inherent in the genre.

This drink is perfect after a hard day of proverbial monster hunting or an even longer night of literal vampire slaying. 

Ingredients:

.5 oz Amaro liquor 

2 oz bourbon

2 dashes burnt orange bitters

2 dashes cinnamon bitters

ice

Mix ingredients in a shaker and shake for one minute.  Pour into a martini glass.  Garnish with a cinnamon stick, orange peel slice, .and the ashes of the demons you’ve slayed—cinnamon stick and orange peel slice optional.  Pair with a dark and stormy night and any of the occult detective stories mentioned here or pictured below.  Serves one.  Enjoy!

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational collection of musings touching on life’s simple pleasures, everyday fantasy, and absolutely delectable recipes that will guarantee to stir the kitchen witch in you.  If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is the everyday, subscribe here.

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Everyday Enchantments ~ Release Day!

It’s official! Everyday Enchantments is out in the world!  I can now legitimately call myself a Published Author.  I’ll be honest and say that I can’t quite believe that I’ve birthed my first book.  

All I know is that this book never would have been possible without my incredibly supportive communities, from family and friends, to my long-time readers and fellow bloggers and writers.  Of course, no manuscript achieves polish without the hard work of editors—of which I had many.  I am eternally grateful for their insights and thoughtful feedback that pushed my writing to the next level.  My book would not be as magical without their help! Last but certainly not least, I am forever in awe that Moon Books took a risk on a first-time author who wrote a different kind of read.  

Okay, enough gushing.  

Here’s to my first book (okay, maybe a little more gushing), here’s to my communities that inspired and supported it, and here’s to a magical life!

Get your copy of Everyday Enchantments here and see what reviewers have to say…

Everyday Enchantments “brought the art of mindfulness alive for me, much more so than any mindfulness textbook ever has.” ~ Eva on Goodreads

“This is magical poetry to meditate upon.” ~ C. R. Elliot on Goodreads

“A very good read for those who want to live enchanted on a daily basis.” ~ Christina on Goodreads

“This was a completely different read for me, in fact, I haven't quite finished it yet as I'm taking my time with this. It should not be read in one sitting, but taken in small doses and digested fully before continuing on. The author has a way of tapping into the beauty of the small moments that make life such a blessing to live and takes the reader on a journey by awakening the senses through each detailed account.” ~ Jaclyn on Goodreads

“This book simply screams to find JOY in your life.” ~ N.N. Light’s Book Heaven

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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!

Everyday Enchantments Cover Reveal!

In just one short month, my first book, Everyday Enchantments, will be released through Moon Books.  October 26 is the official release date, but you can pre-order your copy here. In anticipation of this release date, I thought I’d share the official book cover and story behind it.  

When I first started compiling the manuscript for what would become Everyday Enchantments, I always knew what I wanted the book cover to be: a cup of coffee with the hint of magic.  It was the epitome of everyday mysticism in my mind.  A cup of coffee (or tea, as is your preference), is one of the most ordinary objects of our day-to-day lives…and also one of the most universal simple pleasures.  I wanted the image to suggest that quiet moments—like a coffee break—are fertile grounds for ordinary mysticism.

So I got a wonderful designer to take my musings and turn it into this lovely cover.  Then a miracle happened: Moon Books approved my dream cover—something practically unheard of in the publishing world.  

Isn’t it lovely?

I couldn’t be more proud or elated for this cover reveal!   In other exciting news, the reviews are in and readers are loving this collection of mediations on everyday magic.  Read what they have to say:

“This book is truly beautiful. When I read 'Everyday Enchantments is a love letter to the magic of everyday life'. I knew that this was a book I'd fall in love with and I wasn't wrong. The book consists of a collection of short writings providing an alternative perspective on the everyday. Beautifully written and thought provoking, everyone should have a copy of this, or read it at least once! This is a book I will go back to over and over again. Highly recommended.”  ~ Margaret Leonard, NetGalley

“This book appealed to me on my levels. and I felt the stirring in my being with the way the words just flowed from the author. A very good read for those who want to live enchanted on a daily basis.” ~  Christina Blake, NetGalley 

“A lovely thoughtful book with an invitation to step into the magic of somebody else's life.  All the experiences are very personal and culturally related to the authors own life.  However it was a pleasure to dream up all the sights, sounds, and smells of another place and another life.  I especially loved the trip to the herb store and found it all a sensory delight.  Hopefully it will encourage you to see the magic in your own life and what is special and sacred to you.  A delightful read.” ~ Jc. C, NetGalley 

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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!

La Vie en Rose Cocktail

Ahhhh summer...the season when we are most likely to experience the world through rose-colored glasses and savor the sweeter things in life.  Lately, I've been working on cultivating a little more sweetness and a little more softness to my every day--which is, frankly, a lot harder than it sounds.  As much as I love simple pleasures and self-care, I am inherently a creature of discipline, focus, and routine which is great...up to a point.  

It makes me highly productive and able to relish the day-in-day-out of my teaching and writing life.  There's so much to be excited about, especially in my writing world (but I'm not telling about what yet, winky face).  And yet when summer comes, I am always reminded of the importance of cultivating my life beyond the page and the classroom, much as I love both.  Too much routine and you risk its dark side: stagnation.  

Summer keeps me playful, adventurous, and bold.  Summer is for saying yes to new experiences and keeping your heart open to adventures.  It is a season for relearning the value of being deliciously unproductive--or rather, recognizing that staying out all night dancing is just as important for your soul as your weekly workout routine is for your health.  Of course, summer is also for those sweep-you-off-your-feet novels that encourage you to find the romance in every situation.  

Laura Florand's Once Upon a Rose (which, you'll remember, I recommended back in April) is the perfect example of this kind of breezy, warm read that asks us--no, demands that we acknowledge the healing power of pleasure.  It's not a perk in this book but a necessity for the well-being and creative life of the heroine, a burned out indie musician, and the overly responsible hero, heir to a family business in Provance (cultivating--you guessed it!--roses for high-end perfume companies).  Their romance unfolds in a series of delicious scenes that saturate the senses and leave the lingering scent of roses in its wake.  In short, it's a story about the sweetness of finding your happily ever after--and the work it takes, especially for the more work-focused among us--to allow yourself to enjoy it.

Long after I finished the book, in fact, I thought of roses.  Big bold bouquets of them.  The gentle kiss of rose water splashed on the inside of my wrists.  The bushes lining neighborhood homes begging to me to stop and take in their splendor.  And the desire to indulge in all things rosy...including cocktails.  

Thus my La Vie en Rose Cocktail was born.  It was inspired by three things: Florand's book, a bottle of rose liquor I stumbled upon, and Smart Bitches Trashy Books' Covers & Cocktails, in which readers concoct adult beverages based on various books they've read.  The results are always yummy and not unlike imbibing the liquid essence of the stories they are based on (how's that for everyday magic and kitchen conjuring?).  The drink is tart like a gimlet, soft like rose perfume, and sweet like a long summer night.  Gin adds a nice herbacous boquet, but if you prefure vodka, by all means, follow your heart.  And--who knows?--drinking this heady elixir just might make you bold enough to seek out your rose-colored happily ever after. 

Ingredients:

2 oz gin (or vodka)

3/4 oz fresh lime juice

1 oz rose liquor

ice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake vigorously for thirty seconds.  Pour into martini glass.  Serves one, so find someone who makes you see the world through rose-colored glasses, double the recipe, and make a night of it.

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!

April in Paris

Somehow the arrival of April always ushers in the delicious promise of new adventures along with the gentle kiss of spring rain and the season's first batch of lettuce.   What can I say?  There's something about the heady perfume of lilac blossoms and longer days that lure me from my home in search of...whatever delights life wants to send my way.  I can never fully explain this feeling, except to say that it is like a cross between spring fever and the giddy carefree youthfulness that makes you rise before the sun, ready to taste the day.  

It also has me dreaming of travel and faraway places, mostly because this is also the time of (the school) year that I am most in need of rest and play time.  This fall I wrote about how every November I feel like becoming more introverted in Comfort Me with Books...and Other Simple Pleasures; I find I still turn to books and other simple pleasure in the spring to revive my soul and get myself adventure-ready.  The only difference?  Fall is for introversion and spring is for...mischief!

Growing up, I always thought of Paris as the place to travel to, mostly because I was reading Henry Miller and Anais Nin, those literary Parisian icons--that is, when I wasn't watching every Audrey Hepburn movie I could get my hands on (many of which happened to take place in or are inspired by this city of lights).  My imagination was further inflamed by reading about French culinary delights in the pages of Gourmet magazine.  Naturally, I developed quite the fantasy world to escape into when I got tired of homework and the little things that begin to wear on a young woman when spring hits and all she wants to do is kick off her shoes and walk barefoot in the grass.  

And when I finally went to Paris two years ago, well, it was lovely.  From kir royales and escargot before dinner, to long strolls along the Seine and full days viewing art, there was much to enjoy in this city.  But (and I almost hesitate to confess this, because Paris is Paris) part of me knew that what made my visit so absolutely beautiful was the years I'd spent daydreaming about this place and imbuing it with my own rose-colored vision.  

...all this by way of saying that spring always makes me feel like that kid again, dreaming of travel and Paris, wanting to be of the world and in the world, as Hepburn's Sabrina would say. So if you, too, are looking to dust off your soul and emerge from hibernation, here's my list of books, movies, and treats to help you feel expansive, delighted, and ready for a trip to Paris--even if it's just from the comfort of your favorite reading nook.

While I haven't read it yet, I can't wait to dive into Laura Florand's Amour et Chocolat Series, starting with The Chocolate Thief.  There's chocolate.  There's Paris.  There's romance...need I say more?  I'm totally loving her La Vie en Roses series, starting with Once Upon a Rose, about perfumers in the Provence.  So while it's not quite Paris, the fields of roses and heady descriptions of the lush French countryside (not to mention rich internal lives of the main characters) make you want to linger within this book.  And wear perfume.  And...visit the French countryside (wink wink).  

If you're looking for something about the history and daily life of Parisians, not to mention a touch of mystery and a dash of romance, look no further than the Paris Key by Juliet Blackwell. She is one of my all-time favorite auto-buy authors and this is the first of many Paris-themed reads from her.  Be warned: you will be prone to sipping wine and taking long walks through your own city while under the influence of this book.

And if words on a page are too much for you at the end of the week (I'm talking to you, essay graders!), then consider watching some of the Audrey Hepburn classics like Funny Face (1957) & Sabrina (1954), both of which are about finding yourself in Paris and bringing that magic home with you.  If you want to go farther afield, Alfred Hitchcock depicts the French Riveria in all its glamor in his thriller To Catch a Thief (1955), starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in one of the best cat and mouse games you'll ever see.  Feeling a little extra saucy?  Try Henry & June (1990), a film about Anais Nin and Henry Miller in 1930s Paris...need I say more?  For a more contemporary look at Paris, you might want to try another of my favorite odes to this magical city and the Jazz Age, Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris (2011).  It's about romanticizing history...and learning to find romance in your daily life.  

Whatever you decide to dive into--a movie or a book--feast on this literary journey.  Make yourself a kir royal, put on that Django Reinhardt record, and spend the day cooking beef bourguignon or coq au vin.  Can't quite focus for that long in the kitchen?  Forget the more complicated recipes and whip up a simple aioli to dip garden-fresh crudites or let yourself get swept up in M. F. K. Fisher's culinary recollections of her time in France and make whatever inspires you.

However you choose to spend your proverbial April in Paris, enjoy the ability to travel from the comfort of your own home.   

Audrey Hepburn in  Funny Face , walking along the Seine.  

Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face, walking along the Seine.  

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!

Reading Romances: 10 Life Lessons I've Learned from Reading Trashy Novels

Confession:  I am addicted--and I mean ADDICTED--to trashy book covers.  Vintage pulp.  Over-the-top fantasy.  Macho westerns.  And of course, most especially, romance novels.  Those covers are a particular weakness with their half-naked heroes with rock-hard abs and the heroines with uncooperative dresses that practically fall from their bodies.  The lusty gazes.  The idyllic background.  It all promises, well...you know.  And if there's a lusty pirate on the cover, I'm done for (what can I say? I love a good story about swash-buckling social transgression!).

I've been collecting trashy book covers for as long as I can remember.  But it hasn't been until recently that I've started reading romance books in earnest, thanks to my new addiction, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, which has guided me through the delicious world of these novels.  Don't get me wrong, I've read plenty of paranormal stories, cozy mysteries, and fantasies with strong romantic elements, and studied courtship novels almost exclusively while earning my degree...but I'd never fully immersed myself in this genre.  

Sure I've read Nora Roberts here and there or thumbed through the books I'd bought for their covers, but I hadn't completely committed to the romance. One of the big reasons is that I found it so overwhelming!  There are so many books and so many authors, I didn't know where to start. And (she says shamefully), there was the whole romance novel stigma.  You know, the whole, "you read THAT?!"  Why yes, yes I do.

And love every minute of it.  I've become partial to historical romances.  They are, as Sara Wendell from Smart Bitches would say, my catnip.  One of the reasons I've fallen in love with the genre is that it is about hope and all the soft, gushy feelings our society doesn't value in the way it should. Naturally, I would turn to this genre during my year of radical self-care because it reminds me how powerful pleasure is.  

This is also a genre of reinvention (these stories have come so far from the early years of Fabio heroes foisting themselves upon virtuous maidens!).  It encourages us to sweep off the dust of experience, heal the scrapes inflicted by a hard world, and remember what it is like to feel hope and other giddy, luscious things.  And the heroines!   Let's just say each and every one of them is epic in her own way but they all teach you how to cultivate romance in your own life.  

When I say romance, sure, I mean chocolates and flowers and orgasms as that comes into your life; but I also mean remembering what it is like to see the world through rose-colored glasses.  To know yourself and what brings you joy.  To take pride in owning your capacity for pleasure in all things.  And to work hard for your happiness.  So without further ado, I offer you 10 life lessons I've learned from reading trashy novels.

1.  It's important to nourish--and value--your internal life.  We live in a world that values extroversion and concrete achievements, so much so that I often come home tired of this out-there energy and in desperate need of emotional sustenance, the kind that honors the rich nuances of the human spirit that goes beyond material accomplishments. What a treat it is then to crack open a book and read about the deep internal lives of fictional characters.  Romances are delicious character-driven stories.  They offer insight into how our thoughts and past experiences shape who we are now.  Most of all, they show us the often intangible, but no less important value of taking the time to process the world around us.  Sometimes the most profound changes and experiences are revelations that burst upon us when we create space to reflect.  

2. Happy endings are real.  Seriously, who doesn't need this reminder right now?  Not only are they real but you have the power to make them happen.  What you choose to give time and energy to can determine the quality of your life, so let go of toxic people and situations and thoughts.  So yeah, happy endings real, but it takes a lot of hard work to get there!  Which takes us to lesson number three...

3.  Happiness is hard work. The conflict resolution never falls into the heroine's lap and true love doesn't just happen to her--she works at it, to understand herself, to resolve her situation, and to open herself up to love (of life, of herself, of the hero(ione)).  Guess that whole stereotype of the hero fixing things for her is busted! In all the romance novels I've been gobbling up, never once do I see a fainting damsel in distress looking for a knight in shining armor to whisk her away from danger.  She always meets trouble head on and eventually enjoys the perks of a capable hero by her side (or under or on top of her...wink wink).  

4.  Hope can take you a long way.  Romances are about hope and letting go of a jaded worldview that limits your potential and capacity for happiness.  Hope is one of those soft, gushy feelings made out of rainbows and wishes.  Because it is light as a feather, it is often overlooked as unimportant or not as enlightening as darker emotions.  But these stories refresh and revive and inspire hope.  They remind us to dream and wonder and always, always look for the joy in the day.

5.  Pleasure is powerful.  Okay so I've been reading a lot about multiple orgasms and endless sweaty nights and more sexual positions than I can properly name, but...what's wrong with that? Again, just because it feels good doesn't mean we should dismiss it as not important or serious. In fact, pleasure in any form (not just the mattress-breaking kind) is one of the most profound ways we experience life and learn about the kind of life we want to cultivate. 

6. Leave plenty fo room for sexy times!  (See number 5.) Light beeswax candles.  Wear clothes that make you feel beautiful.  Cook a sumptuous dinner.  Kiss.  A lot.  Or enjoy some quality solo time (wink wink).  Watch the sun set.  Watch the sun rise.  Paint your nails.  Walk naked around the house (wait, you don't do that?).  Read a book.  Do anything and everything that makes you feel sexy and vibrant.  

7. A good heroine takes action. Every book I've read has a dynamic heroine who takes charge of her life.  Personal chef business failing?  Move to your hometown for the summer to figure out your next move.  Crushing on the rakish duke?  Seduce him at the masquerade.  Captured by pirates?  Join the crew!  Even if she starts out as a doormat, she grows into an empowered woman.  

8.  It's never too late to reinvent yourself.   This goes back to hope.  Sometimes we get stuck.  Sometimes we get a lot stuck. Sometimes we worry that we've gone so far down a road that we can't turn back, pull over, or blaze a new trail.  We become afraid. Our vision narrows.  We begin to resign ourselves to an unfulfilled life.  Trashy books tell us that is the exact moment when the universe needs to shake things up.  Get accidentally snowed in with an unrequited love (make sure there's plenty if mistletoe!) or win the lottery and finally live a life free from the social constraints of the marriage market. When the universe intervenes or you take matters into your own hand by quitting your terrible job to travel the world, these books remind us that we don't have to stay on the tracks we--or others--have laid out for us.  We can reinvent ourselves at any time.  

9. Emotions matter--trust your instincts.  Ahhhhh, the whole he-should-be-perfect-for-me-but-there's-no-spark plot.  Or the seems-like-a-good-guy-but-really-is-evil.  It's easy to succumb to social pressures or our own convoluted ideas about what might make us happy; but if we actually stop and listen to what will bring us joy, we will find it's often not in the generic socially acceptable picture-perfect version of our life we tell ourselves we want.  Real life is gritty (even in a romance novel); real life asks you to question the status quo; real life asks you to be true to yourself.  The only way to do that: be brutally honest about your feelings.  Not what logic tells you make sense.  Your feelings.  Those hard-to-quantify-oh-so-magical things that let you know when you're moving in the right direction (hint: it is towards the gentleman thief with a shadowy past and a mullet that would make any 80s rockstar envious...or whatever).

10.  Value yourself. This is another important lesson.  Either the heroine already understands the value of self-respect or she grows into it by the end of the story.  In either case, romance novels are powerful vehicles for showing that strong women--vulnerable, emotional, capable women--have to value themselves first and foremost.  Everything else comes out of this.

Bottom line: if reading romances is wrong, I don't want to be right!  (Cut to me sweeping out of the ballroom--bedroom?--in my disheveled fuschia regency gown and running after said pirate...book.) We could all use a little romance in our lives.  A little tenderness and hope.  And if my laptop background now features scantily-clad Victorian lovers mid-tryst or a Fabio-like hunk wrapped in pink satin sheets with a woman rocking 80s bed head, then so be it.

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!

Comfort Me with Books...& Other Simple Pleasures

I'm always drawn to the quieter domestic pastimes come November.  I want to cook and read and daydream and find healing in the realm of the imagination and kitchen conjuring.  This is, after all, a season for introverts when the changing weather calls us indoors and our gaze inward.  A seriously always want to hibernate come November! But I feel this urge to withdraw is twice as strong this year as I grapple with the implications of the recent election results.  I find myself in need of self-care, simple pleasures, and everyday magic more than ever.  

As it turns out, I'm not the only book-loving foodie introvert searching for a little soul mending. What is fast becoming one of my favorite book blogs, Smart Bitches, Trashy Novels, wrote the much-needed Books & Comfort Food Pairings to sooth and heal after shocking news.  This post spoke to my soul: I needed to read.  A lot.  I needed to cook.  And eat.  And slather myself in self-care rituals that would allow me to mend.  I needed to surround myself with beautiful things. Hopeful things.  Delicious things.  Inspired by Smart Bitches, I've put together my own book and food pairings (and let us not forget the power of a good cocktail or body butter) to find our way back to joy...and thoughtful progress as we once again go back into the world.  These pairings are in no particular order, just what I instinctually reached for this past weekend.  

Also, keep in mind that these aren't necessarily highbrow stories (it's rare that I read anything like that!), but real sweep-you-off-your-feet mysteries, romances, fantasies that have a way of putting our world into perspective, when I'm not reading inspirational non-fiction.  Most notably, I found myself turning to fairy tales and stories inspired by them.  Maybe it is because I've been teaching fairy tales in one of my courses or maybe it is because fairytales, as my students and I found, have a way of reminding us that darkness does exist in this in this world--and that we can defeat it.

Whatever the genre, these are all stories of hope.  They feature strong characters living on the social margins and, ultimately, finding ways to triumph over injustice and build a better world. The nonfiction pieces remind us to look for pleasure in unexpected places and relish the power of pleasure to transform.  

I keep of copy of We Could Almost Eat Outside on my writing desk; this book, in so many ways, has inspired the whole concept of my blog.  It's a delicious look at the simple pleasures that are too easy to overlook in our daily hustle and bustle, but so worth the time to stop and enjoy.  It's grounding.  It's earthy.  It's about routine.  Pair with a quiet evening at home, a calabacitas tart and a giant mug of oatstraw tea to feel the full effect of this soothing read.

If you want more earthy goodness, check out the award-winning Uprooted, a fairy tale story about wild woods, dragon-wizards who kidnapped damsels (or so the village thinks), and one woman's journey into her own magic.  Pair with a lazy afternoon and cozy blanket on the couch, dried apples and a pot of autumn harvest tea.  

More fired up than that?  Try Mercedes Lackey's The Fire Rose, a gorgeous retelling of Beauty & the Beast that takes place in 1905 San Francisco.  There is elemental magic.  There is a slow-budding romance that appeals to any book lover.  And there is the breathing-taking plot about redemption and hope and, once again, a woman coming into her own.  Pair with vanilla bourbon and cinnamon-orange chocolate cups, to match the lush setting. 

For those who don't feel like cooking would be soothing, try putting together a collection of appetizers to graze on, like in my Italian apertivo, and whip up a gimlet made with orange-rosemary infused gin.  Pair with jazz records, your favorite pajamas, and this total escapist steampunk read, The Watchmaker's Daughter, about a woman cast into the fringes of society and forced to fend for herself, only to find herself swept up into a world of mystery, intrigue, and magic.  

Sometimes we just need to indulge in a rich bubble bath, for which I would recommend bringing along a cup of Everything's Coming up Roses Tea (or let's be real, a glass of wine!).  And while you're at it, commit to a hedonistic read.  There's no time like the present to remind ourselves that pleasure is oh-so-powerful, which is why I would recommend reading The Ultimate Guide to a Multi-Orgasmic Life, a delicious book about living life with more joy and, yes, more orgasms! Seems to me a full-bodied orgasm is a lofty goal to end the year well.  Pair with Aphrodite's bath salts & sugar scrub.  Finish with a slathering of Winter Solstice body butter and a long nap.

After a long weekend resting and rejuvenating, I was reminded how important creature comforts. They heal.  They soothe.  And they allow us to conjure good energy to carry into our day.

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 Reclaiming My Writer's Roar: Visiting the Argosy, the Morgan, & the New York Public Library

One of the New York Library Lions, though I don't know if it is Patience or Fortitude...

One of the New York Library Lions, though I don't know if it is Patience or Fortitude...

My first visit to New York was at a pivotal time in my life.  I was all of fifteen years old, and like most teens, desperate to be a cultured adult.  I had just decided I wanted to be a writer and had committed to a serious daily writing practice.  Heavy stuff for someone still in braces.  I got drunk on words and the worlds they allowed me to build, worlds that took me far, far away from the study in human misery that was high school.  So when the opportunity arose to visit my brother in New York--and miss school to do it--I was bursting with excitement to taste what to me was the artistic and literary life of The Adult Writer. I will always love the city for what it was and what it continues to be for me: a distilled memory of a young woman first finding her words, her stories, and her roar.

One of the most influential stops that trip was to the New York Public Libary, which in the mind of a budding writer, was like a bibliophile's haven in the midst of a world full of chaos and uncertainty (hey, I was a teen and so allowed to be a touch melodramatic).  I fell in love with the various reading rooms and the romance of so many shelves dedicated to so many books.  A small figurine of a Literary Lion, like the ones flanking either side of the library's main entrance, accompanied me home and became a fixture on my writing desk, a symbol of the literary life I would devote myself to...

...and then came graduate school.  It felt like no small cosmic coincidence that I lost my lion figurine within the first quarter of my advanced studies.  I've since learned that those library lions are named Patience and Fortitude, which somehow seems the perfect metaphor for the unfolding nightmare that was grad school.  Don't get me wrong: I'm glad I have my doctorate degree, yet I also found that I wasn't the traditional academic scholar I had once dreamed of being (it was, in retrospect, a mere detour in my development as a creative writer).  Never had I felt so silenced. Never had I struggled so hard to keep my natural exuberance alive.  Never had I struggled more to keep my free spirit independent from the hive mind.

By the time I finished my dissertation, that enthusiasm for the written word had dwindled to a small half-dead spark.  Then came those purgatory-like years in which I identified as a Recovering Academic, thirsting for a time when I unabashedly loved big books and knew who I was as a writer.  It took some time--years--to painstakingly relearn the joys of storytelling and even longer to find my Writer's Roar again.  This blog, in fact, started out as a daily exercise in reclaiming that wild woman writer with a lust for life buried under bureaucratic dust.  Patience and Fortitude, indeed. 

All by way of saying, I found myself taking a similar sojourn to this city fifteen years after my first life-changing experience there to celebrate the return of My Writer's Roar.  The dwindling spark I nourished for so long had suddenly burst into an unquenchable internal fire.  I had done it.  The realization hit me at my writing desk one morning after tending my blog. I was literally living The Writer's Life teen-me dreamt of for so long.  I was a teacher, a writer, a healthy yogini with a home (okay apartment) of her own.  And I was one with my stories again.

It seemed only fitting to return to this literary mecca after recently finding that I had, in fact, found my words again.  I must pay homage to the city that fueled me as a young writer. And so began my pilgrimage to the place that marked the beginning of my writing life. 

Argosy storefront.

Argosy storefront.

One of the beauties of traveling is being open to the synchronous moments where you stumble upon the exact thing you didn't know you needed.  Like those magical instants in our daily lives that push us in the right direction, an impulsive decision to get off the New York subway blocks earlier than you intend can lead you to marvelous places.  Such was how I found the Argosy Bookstore, New York's oldest indie bookstore and my first (unexpected) stop on my day-long feast of books.  

Interior shot of the Argosy Bookstore's first floor. 

Interior shot of the Argosy Bookstore's first floor. 

Here I was wandering the streets of Manhattan in search of a good cup of coffee on my way to the Morgan Library when all at once I was in front of this magical store.  It was like walking into the inside of a story or some literary alchemist's den where only the most potent tales were spun. Old and rare books lined the shelves, stacks of antique prints teased the eye, and, my personal favorite, rare books and first editions on the occult promised otherworldly insights on the turn-of-the-century "new sciences" like astrology and clairvoyance.  I drooled over rare prints and first editions of fairy tales, novels I'd grown up reading, and older than sin Shakespeare folios.  What more could a woman ask for?

My splurges: first edition occult texts circa 1920s from the Argosy.

My splurges: first edition occult texts circa 1920s from the Argosy.

The books were alive here.  Breathing living things made up of leather stretched across book board and handstitched pages smattered with inky words.  Needless to say, I could have spent a whole day there.  There was splurging.  There was a rekindled love of old books and the rich vanilla-like smell of stories that have had time to marinate on their shelves.   And there was also that fantastic cup of coffee I was looking for from a food cart on the corner of Park and 59th, thanks to the recommendation of the bookstore's employees.  The day was off to a good start.

The Morgan Library...I could live here!

The Morgan Library...I could live here!

My next stop was the Morgan Library, a must for any bibliophile.  Once the home of famous financier and avid collector Pierpont Morgan, this museum, according to the website, houses "illuminated, literary, and historical manuscripts, early printed books, and old master drawings and prints."  What does this mean in layman's terms?  Only the first edition of Jane Austen's Emma, in the original three separate volumes; or the remains of the earliest known tarot card set, circa 1450; or a 15-year old Mozart's attempts at a symphony; not to mention preserved hand-written letters of Samuel Johnson to his publisher and Victorian-era musings on magical flying machines (hello airplanes!) and early discussions of what we now know to be computer coding. But perhaps the most breathtaking piece on display was a first edition of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, which he wrote, designed, published, and marketed himself.  Now there was a free-spirited writer if there ever was one.  

First edition of Jane Austen's  Emma  (1816).

First edition of Jane Austen's Emma (1816).

Four Italian tarot cards from before the deck became associated with occult practices (1450).

Four Italian tarot cards from before the deck became associated with occult practices (1450).

First edition of Walt Whitman's  Leaves of Grass  (1855).

First edition of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (1855).

Hemingway's three martini lunch.

Hemingway's three martini lunch.

This is to say nothing of Morgan's fabulous library where you feel you could while away an afternoon reading selections from this marvelous collection or spend an evening in thoughtful conversation with the man who so passionately hoarded these treasures.  And even if all those manuscripts aren't enough to stir up writing inspiration, then there's always a Hemingway three-martini lunch (featuring three 2 oz martinis) to top off your visit.  Writer's fuel never tasted so good. 

Morgan's desk.

Morgan's desk.

Reading nook in the Morgan Library.

Reading nook in the Morgan Library.

The secret vault where Morgan kept the most prized pieces of his collection.

The secret vault where Morgan kept the most prized pieces of his collection.

My final stop that day (but by no means my last literary adventure in the city) was the New York Public Library, naturally, and just a few short block away from the Morgan.  I wanted to see how good 'ol Patience and Fortitude were doing.  It had been a long time, but they were just as majestic as I remembered them.  I spent some time wandering the library, through the various reading rooms and up and down the wide, imposing staircases, remember how big it all seemed to me at fifteen.  Okay, how big it still seems to me.  

Like your favorite novel, you never get over your first time reading it.  Each successive rereading is enriched and informed by that initial experience.  This is the only way I can seem to describe what it was like to revisit this literary landmark.  Walking through those halls I was fifteen again, awed by my first exposure to the bigger world--bigger possibilities--outside my own small teen life, and I was also thirty-one, seeing the library through the eyes of a woman with a little more seasoning under her belt.  I'd done things.  Gone through stuff.  Made mistakes and made things right.  Had adventures and even written some of them down.  Experienced the plot twists that make life--and stories--and people--interesting.  

Best of all, walking these halls, sitting in these reading rooms, and reclaiming those literary lions (I just had to get a magnet of them for my fridge!), I realized I always had it: that spark. The internal joy of living and reading and writing deeply had never left me.  Not really.  All I had to do was reclaim my Roar.  Own it.  Because there is no room in this world for anyone who thinks they can silence you. There is no room in your stories to submit to being silenced.  I owe this lesson to Patience and Fortitude.  As with many of my travels, I went a long way away to find that I what I needed was right in the palm of my hands.

Patience and Fortitude manning their posts in front of the New York Public Library.

Patience and Fortitude manning their posts in front of the New York Public Library.

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!

The Story Eater

That is all you want to do lately: gobble them up, each story as they unfold, slurping up sentences like a strand of spaghetti, feel the tang of so many words sharp and full on your tongue.

Some you want to savor as you would an artichoke, tearing off each page and running your teeth along its fleshy insides until you reach the heart of the story, one part thorns, the other ripe flesh.  It is the process of tasting your way through its earthy labyrinth as much as it is finding the tender center that fills your soul.  Others you would nibble at, like a wedge of fine cheese or a square of dark chocolate, loath to rush through the velvety decadence--and some you have no patience for, tossing their thick words and empty plots aside like so much wilted lettuce for the compost, nourishing (you know not how, only that all composted things must) your future words if not yourself. 

Then there are the ones you must devour in one sitting--those ripe peaches whose early blush make you unable to suffer through the tender courtship of each chapter parceled out over a series of days that they might require to fully digest.  These you must bite into and greedily consume their fruit, thinking only after, when you are left with a listless paperback, that you should have taken your time, knowing full well you couldn't--only it would be something to read this part or that again with virgin eyes.

Still others you turn to time and again, the familiar comfort of a well-trod plot as with the perfume of crushed garlic and rosemary staining your hands, the sharp scent of things simmering on your stove, an invisible ink absorbed from the pages of those stories, to flow from your own pen.

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational collection of musings touching on life’s simple pleasures, everyday enchantments, and delectable recipes that will guarantee to stir the kitchen witch in you.  If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe here.

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On My Bookshelf

You find yourself gazing at this six-tiered monster, three cases wide, stuffed full of stories with no plan, no pattern.  You used to be so careful with your books and their placement.  Once they were arranged alphabetically; another time by theme (here the epic fantasy series all the books stacked together in one fat row; there the collection of poems next to your Victorian women authors); and yet another by height.  You went so far as to separate your hardbacks from your paperbacks once, but that formality didn't last long.

Now they sit squished together, Victorian authors with the sword and sorcery, the poems mixed in with your cozy mysteries amidst knick-knacks and treasures, just as your sister haphazardly placed them when she unpacked them from their moving boxes.  You cannot look upon your shelves now without seeing them as another sister-memory sewn into each book spine.  These precious books, collected over the years, are stuffed into each shelf like paper sardines--you almost do not have enough room so your books must shed their modesty and take up house with a kaleidoscope of other words.  Yet you cannot make yourself bring order to this joyful chaos.

You wonder what they have to talk about, the Collete novels that kiss your collection of fairy tales and hold up your cheesy romances written in Spanish.  You wonder, too, if those stories begin to bleed into one another with their covers pressed so tightly against themselves.  Your bookshelf seems to sign and settle, breathing in the weight of so many stories upon its back, within its skeleton.

It is a map, in many ways, of the stories you will write, a tangled ball of words that you un-knot from your writing desk to spin into new beginnings.

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!

I Live in Stories

I live in stories.

They frame my world so that each turn of the corner is the prospect of a new adventure, each long-held gaze, a mystery to uncover.  I hold on to the power of narrative in the hopes that it will shape my life, guide it along the path of the heroines that have come before me.  It is never enough to simply do but to record each action, shape them into some semblance of a plot, that tenuous thread that turns ordinary moments into synchronous events.

I live in stories because I am uncomfortable anywhere else. 

I am made up of the words and books I devoured as a child, and later still, as an adult.  In my veins are the ink and pulp that shape the worlds I carry into my own.  The spine of the leather-bound book on my desk is my spine, holding together pages upon pages of written memory with glue and vertebrae.  I do not know how to be anything other than imagination and so flail, often wordlessly, hopelessly when I brush up against the literal--that heavy brick that does not know the meaning of wings.

I live in stories because I know that my life is a mercurial entity, always twining its way through this world in a curious expression of abundance and experience bound by the layers of what could be.

I live in stories because I know that I am a story.

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!

Best Hits: Reading & Writing

I am a woman of words as well as flesh and blood; I write because I have to.  Too long away from the words and I turn as parched and fragile as old paper.  The same with stories.  I need novels and books to sooth me to sleep at night, to guide me during the day, to disappear into when I need a respite from this world--and when I need fresh eyes to look at my life and then dive in and enjoy it!

All that's missing is a fat mug of tea to drink as you read through these short essays on the divine power of reading, writing, and a good story:

1.  On Writing in the Second Person

2.  On Thunderstorms & Gothic Novels

3.  On Being the Heroine of Your Own Life

4.  On the Hunt for a New Read

5.  5 Things I've Learned from Miss Phryne Fisher, Lady Detective

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 Why I Read Fantasy Novels

Because dragons are awesome.  And, let's face it, so are wizards.  And epic adventures.

They remind me that life is one sweeping adventure, that foes can be conquered, that hope wins out against the darkness.  They remind me that the deepest magic is belief in our own abilities to take charge of our lives.

They are a waking dream transcribed to the page, pure inspiration, and imagination--a promise of other worlds and other times that exist alongside our own if only we take the time to pick up a book.

Even when these novels take place on the urban streets of today--dragons and other creatures no longer hidden in deep caves or dark forests, but in the subways and alleys of our industrialized lands--they show us the many layers that make up the world, the importance of seeing beyond brick and mortar and into the soul of a city.

Fantasy novels are, and always will be, books of hope and adventure, dreams and bottled magic, inspiration, and dragon scales.

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!

Why I Read Cozy Mysteries

Because the town is like its own character.  You look forward to strolling down the main street and seeing the local cafe or the favorite watering hole, the lovely neighborhoods lined with historic houses.  Or, in the case of your well-loved Coffee House Mysteries, how the author turns a place as big as New York City into tiny little villages.  You favorite of these villages, of course, is the ever inviting coffee house, The Village Blend. It's like a little town in its own right, a familiar place you long to linger in, to savor a rich espresso and people watch.

You even love how particular spaces, like the coffee house, become their own entities, none more so than the kitchen in the Domestic Diva Series.  When you are tired after a long day of work or are looking forward to a lazy weekend afternoon, you can snuggle into your own home, fat mug of tea in hand, and read about the gorgeous kitchen and imagine yourself sitting before its fireplace, cooking and chatting with the characters.

The mystery matters, sure, but more than that you look forward to the small cast of characters you can return to again and again, that sooth you with their everydayness.  These small glimpses of lives that revolve around family and close friends help wash away the noise of the outside world and remind you that life is in the kitchen, enjoying cooking and conversation with family.  Life is the stroll through your neighborhood where you unexpectedly run into loved ones.  Life is in the time spent with the small cast of characters in your own corner of the world.

The recipes at the back of the books don't hurt either.  They court me with their very focus on creature comforts and the little things in life that make it delicious.  Therein lies the magic of the cozy mystery.

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 Fairy Tales

Of course, there are the well-known ones: no one can open up an old book of fairy tales without reading about Snow White or Cinderella.  Then there are the ones you will find if you venture deep enough into that realm--the original stories not meant for children, the grim gothic tales later made more palatable to a wider audience. 

And yet what you love most about these stories is their timelessness, how you can pick up a collection, open it to a random page and once again be immersed in a world of magic and mystery and possibility.  You grew up on these stories and turn to them still for comfort and wisdom. 

Even now, when you think of these tales, memories of reading "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" or "The Brave Little Tailor" with your parents flood your heart.  You can remember you and your siblings piled into their bed for stories before sleep so that these tales would inform your dreams--a tradition no doubt that your little nice will carry on with her parents. 

You couldn't get enough of those two stories--the splendor of the glittering dance hall the princesses spirited off to night after night, the ever-changing gowns and silks shoes they wore to dance with princes in another land.  And then there was your ultimately favorite about the brave little tailor who embarked on an adventure, defeated a giant, won a princess and all manner of riches, simply by being clever.  Not the loudest.  Not the fiercest.  Not the strongest.  Just the cleverest.  It makes sense now, where your love of dancing and finery and wit come from.  Those stories seeped into your dreams and made their home in your blood.

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 Henry Miller and How I Learned to Write

He taught me that living was more important than writing, that, after a certain point, the thought of gluing myself to my writing desk would be an act of violence, rather than one of love.  Two hours, he said.  Two hours a day are all you need.  The rest of your time must be spent walking and visiting with friends in cafes and making love.  Seemed like the ideal schedule for a full-time writer or, in my case, a full time burgeoning writer.  Not yet out of braces, I was determined to learn everything and anything about this elusive art (and, admittedly, I was more than a little titillated by reading Henry Miller in my math class, feeling oh-so-sophisticated and adult in the face of algebra problems).

Over the years I have adapted his prescription to suit my own needs--twenty minutes a day when I teach; just enough to feel my fingers glide along my keyboard, enough to tickle the words.  Then on those long glorious days of summer or sweet, lush weekends, I can indulge in my two hours just as I can indulge in my long walks and life living.

Writing should be an act of joyfulness, an expression of the fullness of your life, not a ball and chain that keeps you from this world.  Thank you, Henry Miller, thank you for this lesson.

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 Things I've Learned from Miss Phryne Fisher, Lady Detective

One of my new favorite book (and TV) series is the Phryne Fisher Mysteries, about a saucy well-dressed 1920s lady out to enjoy the world and try her hand at sleuthing.  She's smart; she's glamorous; she's always ready for her next adventure. She knows her way around the dance floor and a crime scene and isn't afraid to do a little undercover work or ruffle some feathers, especially if it means making sure justice is done--with tons of style no less!  As I've been making my way through the books and the show, I find myself looking to this thoroughly modern woman for a little life inspiration.  Here are the top 5 things I've learned from this wickedly wonderful lady detective:

1.  Always pack the heat.  Miss Fisher knows that you should be prepared for anything (or anyone) to happen, whether you are actively working on a case or not.  You never know when you'll walk into the middle of an opium war in Chinatown or find yourself in a compromising position by the docks--or who you might meet there.  Whether it's Detective Inspector Jack Robinson on the same hunch you are or dashing but dangerous Russian dancer, it pays to pack the heat.

fisher 1.jpg

2.  When in doubt, dance.  This one is important.  Sometimes there is nothing but a twirl around the dance floor to turn a boring night into a magical one or use the tango as a pretext for grilling your next suspect.  Either way, you'll look good doing it.

fisher 3.jpg

3. "A woman should dress first and foremost for her own pleasure," so say this lady detective to her maid and good friend, Dot, in season two.  And she's right.  There is something so empowering and satisfying about dawning a perfectly cut dress and your favorite pair of heels--the fact that they might appeal to others is beside the point!

fisher 5.jpg

4. A good man is one who knows how to use his weapon.  As great as Miss Fisher is, she is nothing without the strong and capable Inspector Jack Robinson at her side--and she knows it.  Sure, she's seen her fair share of men (and their weaponry), but at the end of the day, she knows Jack is one of the good ones.

5.  Always dress for success.  Whether you are posing as an exotic dancer for your latest sting operation or simply hoping to endure lunch with your stuffy Aunt Prudence, dressing well is living well--and makes life just a little more 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!

On Louis L'Amour

He was responsible for my first and only pair of cowboy boots--a rich purple-brown leather found at Dan's Boots and Saddles on 4th street, picked out with my father on my 16th birthday.  I'd spent the past six months filling my head with stories of cowboys and rogue frontiersmen, dreamers and entrepreneurs making their way in the Wild West, natives forever masters of the mysteries of their land. 

My clearest memory of reading novels like Flint and Lonesome Gods was underneath the desk in the back row of my high school English class.  I thought I was clever, getting lost in land grant feuds and railroad robberies as my teacher droned on about parallelism.  Occasionally I would raise my hand and answer a question or make a comment, keeping up the illusion of being an attentive, good little student.  I thought I was so clever, sticking it to the system reading what amounted to western dime novels in the heart of the Institution.

Now, of course, I know the dangers in romanticizing the Wild West and glossing over the history of the marginalized. And I also know that there was no way my teacher didn't see me reading my battered paperbacks under the desk while we should have been reading Brave New World (I had already read that the first week he assigned it, but I kept it open on top of my desk all the same).  He saw me all right, but as a teacher myself now, I realize that my high school self was the least of his classroom worries.  I did my work and, after that, I was my own keeper.

Still, every time I wear those boots--almost fifteen years of history worn into their soles--I feel the thrill of that subversive reader, intoxicated on popular novels about her beloved Southwest, the heady promise of being one such a writer fictionalizing her own future adventures still fresh in her heart.

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!

Stories I Want to Read to My Niece

There are so many really, each of them full of their own wisdom.  First, I must fill her full of fairy tales for they are the foundation of any good reader. She will know the grim originals as well as the various retellings.  They will teach her that there is more to this world than what we can see and that the unseen is often more powerful, more beautiful. 

Of course, she cannot go through her life without reading The Hobbit (and, if I had my way, the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy--but I will settle for its prequel).  This will be a joint effort between me, her father, and my mother--the devout hobbit lovers in her daily life.  This story will teach her the value of bravery and adventuring and a well-tended hobbit hole.  She will discover that true heroes are often the people we least expect them to be.

And let us not forget the power of the Witchcraft Mysteries so that she may understand that she creates her own magic, that no matter what comes her way in this wild and wonderful world, she is more than capable of handling it--with style and zest, no less.  The lessons found within the pages of this series will reinforce those found in the Nancy Drew books her mother and I will read to her. 

Ah, the Nancy Drew series, it is like a young woman's guidebook for negotiating the world.  They will teach her to be quick on her feet and sharp of mind, always thinking critically and thoughtfully about what she sees.  She will learn to be independent and strong--and well dressed in the vintage inspired fashion of Miss Drew.  She will learn to love penny loafers and Peter Pan collared dresses.  She will discover the importance of curiosity and caring for others, of relishing the mysteries of life.

Sure, there are other books, other stories I want her to read--no childhood is complete with Dr. Seuss nor Gaiman's Coraline, no woman's education finished without the Brontes or Austen.  Then there are the stories she will find all on her own and want to share with her family, with me.  Like her mother, she will be a woman of words; her stories tattooed on her heart and body.

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 Why I Love Steampunk Heroines

I will never say no to a book that includes swashbuckling adventure, some imagination, and more than a little magic. That goes double for one that features a heroine who uses her intellect, her strength, her powers (or all three) to fight the forces of darkness and still be home in time for tea, impeccably dressed, and ready to attend to the shortbread and potential suitors.

They reflect the two parts of me: the first, a woman who loves a good cup of tea and a spin around the dance floor.  The other, a woman more at home between the covers of a book (or manning a dirigible inside its pages) than within the confines of her proverbial corset (no matter how good she knows it makes her look).

 

They find their way through this clockwork world one gear at a time, unwilling to be stuffed into stories without magic, without imagination. For they are made up of enchantments and emotion, science and rational thought, each piece making the other whole. 

 

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!