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.

On Mini-Holidays & Trips to Santa Fe

I love a good mini-holiday.  Especially when said holiday is in the middle of the week.  You throw caution to the wind, pack a bag, and hit the road in pursuit of a carefree adventure.  In fact, nothing says sweet sweet summertime like taking an impromptu trip with no real agenda, set plans, or heaven forbid, those atrocious specimens schedules.  

All by way of saying, I felt the road calling my name when I wrapped up spring semester.  I wanted an adventure.  I wanted to lose track of time.  I wanted to goof around and dress up and eat good food and enjoy art.  I wanted to cruise down my New Mexico highways blasting Spanish pop and later get dolled up for a night at the theater.  Which is how I found myself in Santa Fe last week for no other reason than to see a fabulous play and enjoy the luxury of sleeping in a hotel for the night.  

Let me be clear before I continue: the places I went and the things I did in no way represent all the things you must see if you visit Santa Fe.  In fact, you'll find this is a hodge-podge assortment of places and things to enjoy born out of off-the-cuff recommendations from friends, aimless walks down side streets, and a shameless Google search to find the best chocolate makers in the city (hey, wine only takes a woman so far).  

Having grown up in New Mexico and visiting Santa Fe more times than I can count, I skipped a lot of the museums and historical sites the town is famous for because I've seen them a hundred times--and would happily see them again, but that wasn't in the cards for this trip!  I love being a tourist in my own backyard.  Go see them.  Enjoy them...then maybe try a few of the places I discovered on my recent trip.  

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I stayed at the Lodge (pictured above) because I found a killer deal online (hello off-season).  It sat on top of a hill, making it feel removed from the city and yet, in reality, it was only a two-minute drive to the plaza area.  Personally, I like to go to Santa Fe during the off-season to avoid the crowds.  If I were staying longer than a night, I would have taken advantage of the hotel's beautiful outdoor area to sunbathe and write.  As it was, I enjoyed the view from my window while sipping a morning cup of coffee and getting in a little writing before heading to Clafoutis for breakfast after a lovely night at the theater.  

Two words: French Bakery.  Here's another word: Delicious.  A friend of mine recommended it for breakfast and, boy, was I glad she did!  I indulged in coffee and chocolate croissant for breakfast (alas, my beloved almond croissants were sold out by the time I got there).  I also took a souvenir home in the form of an apricot clafoutis or custard pastry for which the bakery is named (pictured here with my breakfast croissant).  

But I'm getting ahead of myself: I originally went to Santa Fe to see one of my friend's plays, In the Other Room (Or the Vibrator Play) at the Santa Fe Playhouse, which, according to its website, is the "oldest continuing running theater west of the Mississippi."  It's a quaint theater with a rich history and the play was a saucy and surprisingly poignant story about Victorian-Era gender and sexual norms...that has surprising relevance today. 

Pre-theater, I dined with an old friend at 315, a delightful wine bar and restaurant. We sat on the patio and drank rose while soaking in the intoxicating spring mountain air.  We split the fava bean and artichoke falafel, truffle fries, and the asparagus and mushroom strudel (all pictured below). Each dish was as tasty as it was visually stunning!  This place is built for leisurely dinners where conversation, wine, and food are savored with equal fervor.  After the play, several of us (including the director), went for drinks at Del Charro, voted one of the best bars in Santa Fe.  My chile-mango margarita and I agree!

Funny how most of my travel blogs revolve around good food...which brings me to my farewell lunch at Jambo Cafe before I cruised back to Burque.   This award winning African-Carribean restaurant is a favorite of the locals and I can see why.  I ordered the Jamaican hibiscus tea and a tofu jerk sandwich with cumin fries.  You can tell a lot about a place by what they can do with tofu; it's either bland as all get out or melt-in-your-mouth delicious.  Jambo Cafe knows how to make tofu tasty and the portions were so big I easily got two meals out of it.  Yum!

Since I had no set agenda for this trip, I also took some time to window shop and peruse some of my favorite stores.  I can never go to Santa Fe without peeking into Act 2, a woman's consignment boutique with unique affordable clothes.  Having recently gone to the mall on an errand, I remembered two things: 1. I hate malls and 2. I love small shops like Act 2 where I can find funky clothes.  Bonus: it's more eco-friendly to shop consignment.  That's what I call win-win. Last but not least (and here I am circling back to food again), I went to Chocolate Smith where I got some delectable lavender-lemon white chocolate, cherries dipped in dark chocolate, and caramels, for which they are famous for, with flavors like peanut butter and jelly, thyme-lemon, cardamom-orange, and pomegranate-fig (pictured below).  It's like a mini-holiday in my mouth whenever I indulge in these little treats.

Wherever the road takes you--to Santa Fe or another destination--allow yourself to lose track of time, discover new places--or redsicover old ones--and enjoy the simple pleasures the unfolding day brings.

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!

Brooklyn

Too often considered the refuge for Manhattanites in search of lower rent, Brooklyn is actually a wonderful community all its own.  Devoted Brooklynites will tell you that, given all the money in the world, they would still rather live in this borough than the city proper.  And I can see why.  It's got a lot to recommend it, like many of the best restaurants and neighborhood hot-spots I got to enjoy on my recent visit, along with some of the friendliest people in New York.  

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Coffee & lox bagel from Baked in Brooklyn...the perfect way to start my vacation!

Coffee & lox bagel from Baked in Brooklyn...the perfect way to start my vacation!

I confess that one of the primary reasons I went to New York--other than to indulge in museum hopping, martini drinking, & book feasting in Manhattan--was to learn more about Brooklyn, especially since my brother and his wife call it home.  I have heard so many stories about it but have never had the chance to truly immerse myself in this neighborhood on previous trips.  It was a total treat to see this borough as a local would. Without any particular order or hierarchy, I present to you the best way (in my humble opinion) to get the best outta Brooklyn.  

The imposing Gothic entrance to Green-Wood Cemetery.  

The imposing Gothic entrance to Green-Wood Cemetery.  

If you are taking a red-eye flight like I did, and getting into the city in the wee hours of the morning, then the only thing for you to do is to make your first stop Baked in Brooklyn, where you can fortify yourself with an excellent cup of coffee and delicious morning grub like luscious lox bagels and sinful cinnamon rolls.  There was nothing like walking into this mainstay in the Sunset Park, in desperate need of a cup of coffee after a sleepless flight, to the smell of freshly baked bread and the sound of bachata on the radio! I felt right at home hearing the music I'd just left on the dance floor in Albuquerque and enjoying my restorative bagel while people watching--both the living and the spectral, as the bakery is across from Green-Wood Cemetery, the surprisingly lovely national historic landmark that brings softness to a neighborhood built on grit and concrete.

Rose and strawberries 'n cream donuts from Donut Plant.

Rose and strawberries 'n cream donuts from Donut Plant.

If the idea of strolling through a cemetery isn't your idea of a good time, try roaming Prospect Park, where it seems like everyone in Brooklyn goes on a sunny Sunday afternoon to escape the hustle and bustle of the workweek.  Pick up some sustenance at Donut Plant on the way over. Trust me, your rose and strawberries 'n cream donuts will taste divine washed down with a glass of iced tea on the sprawling park lawn.

Bailey Fountain at the entrance to Prospect Park.

Bailey Fountain at the entrance to Prospect Park.

A lazy Sunday in Prospect Park.

A lazy Sunday in Prospect Park.

Emily Dickinson's place setting at the Dinner Party.

Emily Dickinson's place setting at the Dinner Party.

I decided to extend my Manhattan museum hopping to the Brooklyn Museum, home of the iconic Dinner Party by Judy Chicago. Artists get into some pretty heady debate about her authenticity since she designed the elaborate sculpture featuring a triangle dinner table where famous women all have their own setting but did not actually make any of it; she commissioned other artists and designers.  Whatever your stance is, it's worth taking the time to view this canonical work--and enjoy the lively conversation it ignites! Although I appreciated seeing figures at the table like Mary Wollstonecraft (considered the mother of feminism and an 18th-century philosopher and writer I spent many years studying), Georgia O-Keefe (the east-coast artist who put Abuqui, New Mexico on the art-world map), my personal favorite was the frilly place setting for Emily Dickinson which was inspired by one her poems.  

Gimlets and Oysters at Mayfield.

Gimlets and Oysters at Mayfield.

There were many other wonderful shows and collections to view at the museum, including Arts of the Americas featuring many wonderful native New Mexican artists.  But perhaps the most interesting show (if it could be called that) was the open storage where items collected but not currently on display were placed in glass and steel for museum-goers to peruse informally.  It was like peeking inside someone's closet! 

The fried chicken at Sidecar...a thing of beauty.

The fried chicken at Sidecar...a thing of beauty.

Museum viewing is thirsty work so you should probably head to Mayfield restaurant for cocktails, oysters, and, for the culinary adventures, steak tartar, like we did once you've had your fill of art. Or you could swing by Sidecar for a drink of the same name and a plate of their (in)famous fried chicken. I'll be honest: fried chicken never really appealed to me all that much, but they've made me a convert.  My brother and sister were at Sidecar the very first day they opened and became regulars.  My sister would wax poetic about their kale sautéed with bacon, so much so that I tried to replicate it at home.  I did okay, but the chicken, kale, and smashed root veggies of my dish were the perfect balance of comfort food and gourmet delight.

Dim sum magic in Brooklyn's Chinatown.

Dim sum magic in Brooklyn's Chinatown.

At the risk of turning this into a mostly-culinary tour of Brooklyn--aww, who am I kidding?  Eating good food is one of the highlights of traveling!  With that in mind, you should work in some time to visit Brooklyn's Chinatown, which, according to many, is WAY better than Manhattan's.  While you're there go ahead and try some dim sum and what I only assume was the Chinese equivalent of a soap opera playing on strategically placed TVs at East Village Harbor Seafood Restaurant. Take a nice long stroll through the Brooklyn Bridge Park (gorgeous waterfront stroll through Brooklyn with an absolutely gorgeous view of Manhattan and the statue of liberty, not to mention the bridge this park was named after) when you're ready to walk off all that food and work up a healthy thirst to be quenched at one of the many micro-breweries like Threes

View from the Brooklyn Bridge Park.

View from the Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Enjoying a delicious cinnamon roll from Baked in Brooklyn on the stoop.

Enjoying a delicious cinnamon roll from Baked in Brooklyn on the stoop.

The last place you should try to visit for an authentic Brooklyn experience might sound a little surprising--and could be elusive if you don't have friends in the neighborhood--but it is an essential part of this community: the stoop.  You absolutely have to do some stoop sitting if you get the chance.  What is that, you might ask?  Simple: you kick back on the steps outside your (brother's) apartment and just be.  I found it's their equivalent of sitting on my porch with a morning cup of coffee or an evening glass of wine, pausing to take in the world around me.  So find a stoop.  People watch.  Nod to neighbors doing the same thing.  Engage in some small talk.  But most of all, enjoy the stoop.  That is the heart of Brooklyn.

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!

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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!

Honoring the White Rose: A Tribute to the 9/11 Memorial

Those of you following me on social media will have noticed that I did not post any photos of the 9/11 Memorial during my recent trip to New York.  It was, in fact, one of my first visits to the city and never have I been so moved or awed by melancholy as I was watching dark rivers of water cascade into and even darker, endless abyss that made up the tribute to those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks.

And yet the saddest thing to me was not the memorial itself, but the number of people taking selfies--complete with big smiles and thumbs up--using this place of tragedy as their backdrop. Don't get me wrong, I love a good selfie as much as the next person, along with the joys of documenting travels and adventures.  But all I could think when I saw throngs of people mindlessly snapping photos was that they have already forgotten the terror of that day.  They must have, or why would they so carelessly pollute this landmark with elbow-shoving and photo-snapping?  

This is a place where countless people lost their lives, a place where the American psyche has been irrevocably scarred.  There is no room for selfies here, only solemnity and gravitas for the fallen, as touchingly expressed by the single white rose left in one name inscribed into the dark marble of the memorial--one of many victims.  I later learned that survivors place these roses in victims' names on the day of what would have been their birthday. 

So I could not take a picture here (the one you see in this blog has been lifted from the 9/11 memorial website).  I could not devalue that pain and suffering this day caused, and continues to cause, for so many people.  To this day, the 9/11 Memorial will remain one of the most profound studies in grief for me and, likewise, one of the most touching memorials for this overwhelming loss--for those who took the time to truly engage with it.

I have clear memories of visiting the Twin Towers during my first visit to New York over fifteen years ago.  I was a teenager, happily playing hooky from school with my dad to visit my brother in this grand city.  We spent the evening walking through the financial district after dinner, seeing the famous bull of Wall Street, among other sights.  I recall clearly how my imprudent strappy high heels clacked on uneven streets; I was still under the illusion that women could somehow walk miles in strappy heels without pain or blisters.  We had gotten it into our heads to go for a nightcap at a restaurant located at the top of one of the towers.  It was when we entered the ground floor of one of the towers that I gave up on my dreams of effortless glamour and took off my high heels.  

I walked, at fifteen, still in braces and wearing a too-tight dress (I had yet to outgrow that conception of glamour), walked barefoot through the twin towers, my utterly gorgeous but impractical heels swinging from my crooked fingers.  We never got to the rooftop restaurant that night for one reason or another.  Next time, we said.

A year later, my brother called from a rooftop in Manhattan, saying planes were crashing into the towers.  My sisters and I were on our way to school.  We turned on the news.  We watched as the second one fell.  The rest of the year was spent in a stupor, worried for my brother's safety, crushed by the immensity of what had happened.  The was numbness.  There was crying.  There was scarring.  Terrible, terrible scarring.  And we were the least affected by this horrific tragedy. 

So no, I did not take a photo of this memorial.  I wouldn't smile for a selfie behind the white rose, a token that somebody with a still-beating heart mourns for another burried beneath this city.  I will honor the white rose and the souls, like each drop of water in the memorial, that forever fall into the abyss.  

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 Hot Air Balloons

The sun has barely peeked over the purple mountains as if spraying its golden tendrils across the rocky shoulders of its lover.  The air is redolent with the scent of burning cedar from nearby fireplaces, mulched leaves, and the promise of frost--in a word, the morning smells like autumn.

There in the distant horizon, on the other side of town where the sky meets the volcanic earth, you see it: a hot air balloon, the first of many releasing themselves into the sky, happy to be rid of the weighty ropes that tethered them to the earth.

This one is full and fat with yellow and red stripes like those of a circus tent.  It looks so small from your vantage point near the mountains as if it were an ornament or earring dangling on a hook from a stray cloud.  Yet you know they can be bumbling monsters up close as they coast too near your car on your commute to work or fall apart in your backyard, all heaps of unruly silk and coils of rope.  But that is only because their home is in the sky, and like any winged creature, they do not know quite what to do with themselves when they touch the ground. 

Still, you admire these tributes to whimsy, kept afloat by nothing more than invention and imagination.  You have often wondered what it would be like floating across the earth in a four by four wicker basket (or so you always presume the dimensions to be), guided by the changing winds and a desire to see the world from a new perspective--not much different from your life on land then.   

Even so, it would be something to sail from horizon to horizon--or, as you often dream, to another world (one of wonder and imagination, you hope) waiting just beyond the seam where the sky and earth meet in the distance.

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!

Mango Chile Lime Popsicles

As you know, I've been trying to beat the heat this week in a number of ways: avoiding the outdoors during the hottest midday hours, sipping cooling beverages, nixing cooking on the stove, sticking my undies in the freezer...you name it!  Okay, maybe not the last one...although I did see Marilyn Monroe do it in The Seven Year Itch to beat the sweltering heat of a New York City summer.  Fortunately for me, things are not quite so dire in the arid Southwest. 

I am, however, more than happy to indulge in these healthy mango chile lime popsicles to keep cool.  Like my pina colada popsicles, I use quality organic ingredients to whip up a tasty frozen treat that has way less sugars than your average store-bought popsicle--and those only natural at that.  All you need is your own popsicle molds to get started.  

These popsicles are a riff on the popular Mexican snack featuring mangoes sprinkled with chile, salt, and lime.  I remember eating mango chile suckers as a child too; there is something perfect about that blend of sweet fruit dusted with spicy chile powder that makes my mouth water just thinking about it.  (And yes, I write 'chile' with an 'e' and not an 'i' because I'm a New Mexican and that's how we spell it...but that's another story for another time!)

I've added an extra twist to this union by using Korean chile paste instead of chile powder.  The result is a sweet, smokey kick at the back of your throat--but be careful, because the heat of this chile sneaks up on you.  I put a little too much chile in my first batch, thinking it would be more sweet than hot.  Wow were we surprised at the spiciness!  With a little tinkering, I finally found the right balance of heat and sweet.  That said, if you like it hot, make it hotter...just go a little at time and sample frequently until you find your right balance.

Ingredients:

2 cups frozen mango chunks

1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice

3/4 cup water

1 tsp Korean chile paste

Puree ingredients in a blender until smooth.  Pour mixture into popsicle molds and let sit in freezer for at least two hours or until frozen.  I usually make them a day ahead and let them set overnight.  Let the treats sit on the counter for five to ten minutes and then remove them from the mold.  Eat immediately, with gusto!  Makes about 6 with a little left over for a mango smoothie, tequila optional.

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!

Things that Make Me a Burquena

Soy de Burque.  Me.  I am of these streets and this sky.

It's in my love of big earrings and cruising down Central--though my car, much as I love her, will never be pimped out quite like those classic trucks, ragtops, and other vintage rides lovingly restored and paraded up and down that old main street on Sundays like a row of chrome peacocks. 

I can feel the magical and mystical permeating these streets as if the land were infused with an otherworldly essence completely at home in this off the map desert town.  The people, too, are a little off the map--valuing good food as much as good karma, chakra-opening yoga, and mind-opening microbrews.

Yes, my favorite big small town where the best places to eat are usually in some old adobe or restored historical building and you can pretty much find someplace to salsa dance every night of the week.  It is because I cannot live without freshly baked bread from the panaderia on Mountain Road (yes, the panaderia, because really there is only one worthy of the name).  Or because I could never stay long in a place that doesn't understand that I go both ways--red and green--and never in a city, never with a person that doesn't know what that means.

I need to feel the beating heart of this city as I wake every morning and go to sleep at night, feel the raw power of Mother Nature--the river, the mountains, the cottonwoods--just as part of this town as our adobes and streets, keeping us rooted to our desert land.  I take pride in the fact that my freeway can touch the heavens as it bends and curves over the city in a blaze of turquoise and concrete.

It is in my love of the people warm as the sun that bronzes our skin.  We live with an unapologetic ferocity, wearing our passions--those messy, violent things--like badges of honor, refusing to be silenced, refusing to be anything other than loud, open, dancing, breathing bundles of humanity.

Me.  This city is me.  Soy, soy de Burque.

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!

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Things that Make Me a New Mexican

Your bones seem to be made up of sun and clay, formed out of days curing in the desert heat.  The landscape is made up of infinite colors--ochre, mica, taupe, sienna, layered together to form hills, plateaus, and muddy river beds.  The colors are never still, never just brown, never just layers of settled dust (regardless of what those outsiders say).

It is the smell of pinto beans cooking on the stove and the necessity of homemade tortillas (are those store-bought discs really worthy of the name?).  It is knowing the difference between "chile" and "chili"--the former in your blood, the latter, a sacrilege. It is knowing that tequila and tamales are the best medicine, though you know your way around the herbs in your garden, a gift from the curandera magic running through your veins. 

And then there's the turquoise. It has taken over the sky, filling up the city corner to corner like the dry desert air fills up your lungs, chasing out the soul sickness that settled between your ribs when you lived--briefly, the desert always called you back--in a damp, dark place.  Plus the sun.  Always the sun.  Always the sky that goes on forever making it impossible for you to hide from yourself. 

It is your collection of rocks and crystals, each stone a link in your connection to the land, and the faint smell of burning sage in the air to cleanse your home of stale energies.  In the bright colors you scatter across your home and the big earrings that will always call to you.  In the different colors that make up you--brown, red, white--never quite at ease with each other and yet part of the same soil that birthed you.

Yes, it is the sun you must have, and the wide open sky above you, and the desert earth beneath your feet.  Only then are you 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!

Chile Olive Oil

Chile.  It's a way of life here in New Mexico.  We put it in pretty much anything--so why not use it as a base for a spicy olive oil?  I love the idea of infusing your own olive oils for the same reason I love to infuse my own alcohol: you can make it just the way you like it!

This recipe is a riff off of "chili" olive oil (yes, there is a difference between chil-i and chil-e, but don't get me started!).  I simply add dried red chile pods and a few teaspoons of dried red pepper flakes to the olive oil, and I get a nice finishing oil filled with multiple layers of spice.  The heat comes from the chili seeds while a smokey sweetness is added from the chile pods.  I like to use red chile from Sichler's Farm, but feel free to use and dried chile you can find at your local store.

This is an ideal gift for the spice lover in your life.  It goes great drizzled over pizza or salad, or even as a quick appetizer with crusty bread and a sharp cheddar cheese.  Use your imagination!

Ingredients:

2 cups extra virgin olive oil

3 red chile pods

4 heaping teaspoons dried red pepper flakes

Heat ingredients on stove on medium-low heat until little bubbles start to form around the chile pods (this lets you know it's getting hot), about 5-7 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and let simmer for another 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool completely.  Using a cheese cloth draped over a strainer, strain oil, and its contents into a clean, dry container.  Store in fridge for up to a year.  Makes about 2 cups.  Enjoy!

Add first three ingredients in a food processor until roughly chopped and blended.   Then add oil and mix until combined.  Finally, add in nutritional yeast (and salt if using) and combine.  Transfer to bowl or mason jar.  Store in fridge for 2-3 days or up to three months in freezer using ice cube trays.  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!

 

 

On Peeling Chile

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It is a yearly ritual, one that closes out summer and ushers in fall; it's as synonymous with your beloved New Mexico as red chile ristras and open turquoises skies: chile peeling.  That art of gathering, roasting and then peeling giant sackfuls of your native fruit to store for the rest of the year.  Every family has their own way; every family knows that their way is the best.

For you, chile peeling is always done on a series of Fridays, when you can devote a few hours to talking, drinking beer or tea--or tequila, and peeling, always peeling the hot, charred skin off the flesh of the roasted chiles and separating them into two bowls: the broken chiles for stews and salsas, and the unblemished whole peppers for rellenos (that dish perfect in the way it stuffs your chiles with cheese, smothers them in blue corn batter, and fries them up).  The waiting-to-be-peeled chile sits in sacks, cooling on your kitchen counter.

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Chile peeling.  Your hands tingle from the heat of the peppers long after you've stored your last bag in the freezer.  The pot of beans cooks on the stove top as you work, the promise of celebratory homemade tortillas and rellenos to feast on afterward.  The cool splash of a micro-brew on your tongue, the taste of your homeland.  It is a mediation and an art, flooding you with memories of working with your mother in this very kitchen peeling, planning, preparing a year's worth of chile, a year's worth of countless family dinners, a year's worth of new history laid into the grooves of your lives.

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 Burning Old Man Gloom

Zozobra. 

Old Man Gloom.  The giant effigy of darkness and despair that gets eaten up by flames once a year--when the sun begins to turn its light from this earth, and we descend into the depths of the inward-turning months--since 1926 they say. 

But I know better.  Though I've never been to the iconic burning in my homeland nor stuffed the gloom boxes scattered around Santa Fe with my burnable past, I know better.  Yes, I know better.  Each and every day I burn Old Man Gloom with my own fire, my own light that fuels me and cleanses my spirit from the shades and whispers of doubt that seek to make their home in me.

It is not enough to sit and wait and watch someone burn Old Man Gloom for you, for he can return at any time---and can, with your flame, be sent back to the ashes of his existence.  This burning is a tribute to the fire we must keep within ourselves year round the better to chase away the daily dreads that seek to turn us from our path.  To turn from the shadows that seduce us with their gloom like a cloudy blanket--comforting in how it keeps us in our familiar past. (Though move on we must, for some, it is easier to embrace the gloom than venture into the unknown.)

But not for me.

So goodbye, Old Man Gloom, today and every day.  With my light, I banish you.  With my light, I banish stagnate energies.  With my light, I banish old-selves that no longer serve me.  With my light, I banish the woe others cast my way.  I let the flames of my soul burn them alive until they are nothing but ash and charred bits of history good for nothing but fuel for my cosmic compost.

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 Italian Apertivo at Home

 

One of my favorite customs while traveling in Italy last summer was the evening apertivo, the Italian equivalent of our happy hour usually held between the hours of 6pm-8pm, with dinner not starting until later that night (8 pm being super early for dinner there!).  When I returned home from this trip, I found myself still lusting over their way of closing the day and enjoying a luxurious moment of pure enjoyment.  So I decided to continue this lovely ritual on my own--one of the many things I took back from that trip.  Now I find that there is no better way to enjoy that Italian lust for life and good food than to indulge in a little apertivo of my own at home.

Maybe I am romanticizing Italy (yes, yes I am), but the apertivo there is more than just throwing back a drink to unwind from the day or hitting the bar before you head home.  It is more of a ritual, a transition from work to dinner.  It is where people slow down and pause to close out the end of the day.  There is a softness to it that a happy hour (at least in my experience) doesn't have.

Apertivo consists of a drink, like a spritz or other refreshing cocktail, and a few light snacks, ranging from simple potato chips and nuts to more elaborate treats like crostini. 

Amazing apertivo at a small local restaurant in the Spanish Quarter of Naples featuring an assortment of fish, buffalo mozzarella, arugula, and bread.

Amazing apertivo at a small local restaurant in the Spanish Quarter of Naples featuring an assortment of fish, buffalo mozzarella, arugula, and bread.

An assortment of crostini at a magical restaurant in Florence!

An assortment of crostini at a magical restaurant in Florence!

I usually have apertivo on a Saturday, when I can really enjoy it.  I make a cocktail and put together a few little nibbles to hold me over until dinner.  The trick is to use what you have on hand already--olives, a good cheese, some sun dried tomatoes.  It is about waking up the palette before dinner, not filling up on appetizers.  It's also a great time to catch up with your loved ones.  Nothing creates the fun weekend vibe like playing jazz records over a few easy treats and a special drink to ease into the evening festivities. 

Here are a few ideas to get you started--and help you keep your fridge stocked:

1. Aged Gouda and preserved lemons. Both can be found at your local health food or gourmet store.  The caramel of the Gouda balances nicely with the salty citrus pop of the quintessentially Italian lemon preserved in olive oil and salt.

A gin gimlet with, going clockwise, mixed olives, pickled veggies, aged gouda, and salt cured lemons--perfect for some patio apertivo!  The small apertivo plates are from an amazing ceramicist in a small town in the heart of Tuscany, called Certaldo.

A gin gimlet with, going clockwise, mixed olives, pickled veggies, aged gouda, and salt cured lemons--perfect for some patio apertivo!  The small apertivo plates are from an amazing ceramicist in a small town in the heart of Tuscany, called Certaldo.

2. Olives.  Use apertivo hour to try new olives beyond the Calamata or the cocktail olive.  Lately, I've been in love with the green, buttery Castelvetrano olive and the fat avocado-like Luques olive.

3.  Veggies.  It's easy to use some of the perfect farmers' market produce as crudites to dip in some aioli or pesto as a quick apertivo. Or you could put out a little platter of pickled veggies.  Like the preserved lemon, quick pickled veggies add a refreshing pop of flavor to pair with rich cheeses or an equally bright cocktail, like my lavender gin gimlet.

Aioli with cherry tomatoes, purple beans, radishes, and okra fries.

Aioli with cherry tomatoes, purple beans, radishes, and okra fries.

4.  Fruits.  If you want to dress up your fruit options, you can try my prosciutto wrapped apricots or pair them with a nice cheese like an easy homemade ricotta or cured meat.  Of course, summer-ripe fruit is perfect on its own! 

5. A good cocktail.  The Italians are fond of sparkling wine-based cocktails, so you could whip up my limoncello spritz or, if you prefer a drink with the bubble but not the wine, try your hand at a gin & tonic or a gin fizz.  You can also never go wrong with a nice glass of wine.

...the list of apertivo options can go on and on.  The trick is to have fun experimenting with different treats and drinks that make your night extra special, turning it into a weekend ritual rather than just another evening.  So the next time you want to elevate your evening meal or simply transition from work to play, consider starting your own apertivo hour with a good cocktail and a few treats scavenged from your fridge!

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 Chile Roasting in New Mexico

It is that time of year again.  Not quite summer anymore, nor completely fall, but some season in between.  School is just around the corner and markets are full to bursting with summer's bounty.  You find that you, too, are beginning to wind down from the limitless summer of late nights reading and long days writing, into the solid routine of teaching.  It is that transient month of living up your free time and getting ready for the fall. 

But nothing tells you that the season is changing more than the smell of green chile being roasted.  In all the places you've traveled, the things you've seen, nowhere on earth is there chile roasting like in your home, New Mexico.  You watch as they pile a sack full of ripe chile into the caged roasted and fire it up.  Soon, the chiles are cracking, their tender skin peeling and charred.  The air is perfumed with the smell of this roasting fruit, a smell akin to burning sage or hot spices.  This is the smell of your land.

All at once, this smell alone brings back a flood of memories: family Friday night green chile stew with fresh tortillas and beans, a micro-brew and good conversation; the soothing fall ritual of peeling sacks of roasted chiles to freeze and put by for the year, hands tingling from the spiciness; the bouts of homesickness when you lived away, cured only by your makeshift attempts to roast chiles in your oven.  It is the smell of pure comfort and nourishment, of home and self, the spice of the earth buried in the veins of the chile and your skin.

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!

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Limoncello Spritz Cocktail

Most of last week was spent waxing poetic about the glories of limoncello--making it, drinking it, allowing it to flood me with the golden memories of my trip to Italy.  I also promised you a recipe for the alluring elixir, assuming you don't always want to drinking it as is, perfectly chilled in a small sipping cup.  This cocktail is a variation of the Italian spritz, which uses a bitter orange liquor, Aperol, as a sparkling wine enhancer.  Here I swap out the Aperol with my limoncello for a light lemony bubbly drink perfect for your next celebration.  As a bonus, this drink tastes marvelous in any cup, including this plastic cup pictured here used when toasting to my sister and her husband's new house.  There was no furniture or even proper dishes in yet, only some takeout lunch, a few blankets for a makeshift indoor picnic on the wood floors of their living room, and of course, this bubbly drink to welcome them to their new home.

 

Ingredients:

1.5 oz (1 shot glass full) limoncello

5 oz (about 3-4 shots) of a dry sparking white wine

1.5 oz (1 shot) sparkling water

Ice (optional)

Pour limoncello into the bottom of a glass.  Add sparkling wine and sparkling water.  Add ice if desired--sometimes I put it in, sometimes I don't.  Serves one (so double the recipe and invite another limoncello lovin' friend to join you!).  Pairs well with a sunny Capri state of mind and a lovely patio garden.  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!

On Making Limoncello

It is your way of distilling sunshine in a bottle, of capturing the salty, bright air of Capri and the golden light of Tuscany.  It will forever be your first time in Florence, savoring the sweet lemony digestif at midnight on the Palazzo Vecchio, only half-believing that there you were in the heart of a city you had only ever read about.

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Now, as you peel your lemons, you think back to that first night and how smoothly that limoncello went down, a cool, clean tonic on your throat, the perfect antidote to a year of uphill climbs and dead ends.  The heaviness in you had lifted, carried away by the soft midnight breeze and kept away with the lively conversation of your late-night companions and the music floating across the piazza.  It took the bitter peel of a tart fruit and a long year and turned it into something soft, gentle, enjoyable. 

You do this now too--taking those seemingly unusable pieces and shaping them into something beautiful.  You work your way carefully around the lemon, making sure to shave off the outer skin but leave the too-bitter white flesh untouched; it will not do to let a pith-soured rind steep in your brew.  This elixir must be made up of light and fresh starts.

As the weeks pass and your mason jar, full of lemon peels and spirits, darkens to a rich golden hue, you consider the time it takes to make something worthwhile, to let it cure until it is ready to be finished off with sugar and water.  Remove the peels too soon, and you are left with a weak drink, more sugar than citrus; too long, and the fruit's oils overtake everything else, saturating your drink with the sharp taste of harsh moonshine.  No, the timing is everything and only the golden color of the concoction tells you it is ready.  It does not listen to fixed days or firm dates but arrives at perfection in its own time.

You admire your first batch of limoncello when it is complete, almost hesitant to take that first sip. But when you do, overlooking the quiet evening from the comfort of your patio, it is perfectly chilled and reminiscent of those long, slow nights in Italy, unrushed, unfettered, the taste of sweet lemon on your tongue.  The taste of present sweetness birthed from past bitter harvests.  

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 Thunderstorms & Gothic Novels

It is a dark and stormy night--both in and out of your book. 

Safely burrowed under the covers of your bed, you jump as the thunder rumbles outside your bedroom window and lightning lights up the pages of your book in a bright blue sizzle. Rain tears at your plants outside and the wind howls, whipping around trees and slapping against your sliding doors. 

All the while you are turning page after page of your latest read, a novel rife with Gothic drama--evil power-hungry villains, wild magic, breathtaking adventure, and a heroine who seems to handle it all in stride, even the thunder and lightning.  The storm outside your window only serves to punctuate the plots twists in your book.  Boom!  says the thunder: your heroine is in grave danger.  Flash! goes the lightning, illuminating a mystery long buried under history and subterfuge. Tap, tap nudges the rain on the roof: don't forget that small detail for it will be her salvation and the villain's undoing.

You pause from your page turning only long enough to glance about the room when the lamplight flickers...but you drag your thoughts quickly away from potential power outages and back to your book.  After all, you have candles nearby.  And matches.  They will be enough light to finish your story by.

And when you do finally drift off to sleep, serenaded by the storm, your mind still reeling with the shocking ending, speculating as to what might happen in the next installment, you dream of Gothic plots and magic and thunder--an intoxicating potion of cathartic experience. 

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 Hollyhocks

They are your blowsy desert flowers with no self-control--they don't need it, for it doesn't do their petals and stems any good. Only the breeze and the sun and the expansive turquoise sky do, filling their open faces with light they collect and send snaking down to their roots where they can store it.  They take pleasure in their plot of earth held in place only by the thin, strong threads of life that gather dirt and minerals and water around themselves in a protective nest.

That is these hollyhocks below--the roots and stems that allow them to stretch to the sky and fearlessly blossom into fat, joyful flowers one on top of the other in a noisy cluster.  They are not your coy primroses nor your restless impatiens--sounding too much like 'impatience'--that bloom time and time again, already eager to start the cycle once more even as they have not yet made it through their first bloom.  They don't care about covering the ground, as does your flowering thyme, more than happy to crawl across the earth in a slow bid for more territory.  Nor do they need to make a point of their beauty like the rose, always looking to be the object of everyone's affection. 

No, hollyhocks simply are.  They are happy in themselves, firmly planted in their nourishing nest of roots, water, soil.  These brassy flowers want light and sun around them, growing strong in the heat of the desert, thriving on the kisses of bees and the caresses of dry air.  They stretch tall to touch the sky, gifting it with their jewel-toned petals of pink, purple, red.  They return the bees' love by offering up their fat stamen coated in pollen.  Eat, they tell the bees.  Eat.  Even when their flowers fade, they still hold strong; it is as if they cannot contain themselves, wantonly spreading their thick black seeds everywhere, letting them spill over flagstone and dirt, peppering flower beds and getting carried away in the wind to find new homes, new nests.  They cannot help but multiply.  They are living proof that lush, blowsy flowers can blossom--thrive--in any desert.

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 Summer Thunderstorms

It is one of the reasons you love your desert so much. It has no room for demure little trembles in its sky nor the constant damp of the drizzly northern climates. When it rains--truly rains--it does so with wild abandon.

You feel it in the air today, the way the wind slowly gathers the clouds together, fashioning them into a thick blanket to cover the sky, wraps itself around the sun until the desert brightness is dimmed for the afternoon.  Then as you tend your plants, the wind licking your hair and coiling itself around your body, you hear it: the thick rumble of thunder.

There will be rain soon, falling hard and fast and all at once from the sky just as it should in the summer; it will calm the city even as it continues to crack and groan and whip the air around street lamps, throw rain down from the sky to soak the earth.  But for now, the thunder teases you, making you hold out your open palm in anticipation, hoping for some fat drops to kiss it.  You sniff the air, searching for that ephemeral smell of clouds breaking, drops hitting dry land.

And when the rain does come, you will watch from your window even as you would rather be out dancing it in--if it weren't for the thunder and its companion lightning, never far behind it.  You will admire the way the rain hits your window, falls against your upturned plants, washes the city free of dust and heat.  You will curl up and fall asleep to the crackling of thunder, the wild patter of rain--and you will relish sneaking outside when the rain has subsided, the land hushed as if under some sort of spell. You will marvel at the puddles and sweet air, the quiet after the hard rain. 

Already it begins. You hear the first flutters of rain hitting the trees.  Another roar of thunder rolls through the clouds.  You head indoors, almost unwilling to leave your perfect perch for an afternoon rain, but another peel of thunder reminds you that it is time to close the windows--which you do, just as the rain being to fall in earnest.

This is your kind of thunderstorm.

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!

Italian Grilled Veggies

One of my absolute favorite dishes, when I traveled through Italy last summer, was grilled vegetables.  I know what you're thinking: not pasta?  Not pizza?  Not better-than-ice-cream gelato? Yes, I loved those too--and I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy them every second I could!  But these Italian grilled vegetables were such a nice break from carbs.  My mom and I would often split a plate of grilled veggies and a salad or pasta for lunch--pure heaven!  What makes this dish so good is that it is light and tasty, using only the bare minimum of ingredients and super fresh produce.  Every place had its own take on the dish, too.  Some used bell peppers and onions with the eggplant, while others kept it more zucchini based, while still others loaded on the garlic and basil.  In all cases, it was a divine dish, so much so that I found myself craving it when I got back home. 

Naturally, this led to kitchen experiments.  It didn't take much to get it right: just some organic veggies (usually from my local farmers' market), extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.  Oh yes, it was amazing!  It's also super easy, just the way I like my recipes.  Feel free to play around with the types of veggies and keep in mind that the longer they marinate, the tastier this dish will be.

Grilled veggies ready for the table, yum!

Grilled veggies ready for the table, yum!

Ingredients:

1 medium eggplant

2 medium zucchinis

2 medium yellow squashes

1 cup extra virgin olive oil (approximately)

1 cup balsamic vinegar (approximately, I used white balsamic vinegar in these photos)

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

Drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil onto the bottom inside of a shallow baking dish.  Thinly slice all the vegetables.  Line the baking dish with the yellow squash until the bottom is more or less covered.  Drizzle another tablespoon of olive oil across this layer and about a tablespoon of vinegar.  Dust the top with a little salt and pepper.

Layer one in glass baking dish.

Layer one in glass baking dish.

Then layer the zucchini on top of that, making sure to then drizzle it with oil, vinegar, and seasoning.  Do the same with the eggplant and repeat, alternating veggies, until all the veggies are layered on and the dish is full.  Pour on any remaining olive oil and vinegar.  Cover and let sit for at least one hour. It can be stored overnight in the fridge as well.  If you do store it in the fridge, be sure to take it at and get to room temp before grilling.

Layer two...you get the idea.

Layer two...you get the idea.

Once the vegetables have marinated, fire up your grill (or grill skillet on your stove) until it is medium hot.  Drizzle surface with olive oil if using a grill skillet or brush more olive oil on your veggies before placing them on your outdoor grill.  Cook each side until it has grill marks, about 1-2 minutes per side.  It may take two or more batches to grill all the veggies, depending on how big your grill is. 

Veggies on the grill.

Veggies on the grill.

Once your veggies are ready, you can place them back in your baking dish for serving.  If you have another round of veggies to grill, you can put your baking dish in the oven on low (250) to keep your cooked veggies warm.  Serve these on their own as a light meal, or as a side to pasta or salad.  They also make a great veggie sandwich the next day.  Serve approximately 4-6.  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!