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 Valentines

You grew up collecting uniform valentines each February.  Most of them were cartoon cardboard cut-outs and, if you were lucky, kissed with candy kisses.  You organized them in to hierarchies of sweetness: chocolates got top prize, soft sugared hearts near the bottom (they were pretty, but tasteless, like sweet chalk or, you later learned, a dinner date that doesn’t read). 

You took pity on the sentiment-studded cards without candy and put them near the middle.  They weren’t the ones you really wanted though you were vain enough to appreciate how many there were.  No, you saved the prized place for the homemade ones—diollied and sequined-kissed hearts on pink and red and purple construction paper.  Those were the ones from the people who taught you that love is a loud, garish thing.  When you have it, you need the world to know that there is glitter in your heart and honey in your veins.  There is so much of it, this feeling, that you want to hold it close like a secret and release it into the sky like a wild bird at the same time. 

You don’t even need a special day in winter to quantify this sense—this awareness—that you are love and love is you.  It was in the white blush-stained flowers so many years after those childhood cards, when adulthood lay heavy in your bones and you had begun to forget the feel of simple pleasures, those sweet things like feathers tickling your palm or the crackle of pink foil wrappers revealing candied promises.  Frivolous little things.  Unnecessary, yet muscling their way into your heart all the same.

Then there is the gift given to you just because on a forgettable weekday from someone who wants you to know that you are valued, that they notice the long hours in which you quietly go about your work.  And the one you give them, to let them know that they are seen.  These secret valentines are just as sweet as the one-inch by one-inch chocolate squares, edible care that fit perfectly in the palm of your hand or the truffles you make at home, dipped in love and infused with rose petals and sweet dreams to cure broken hearts and remind you that love is something that grows bigger the more you feed it.

Lately, you’ve come to appreciate the love that’s like a seed.  Ready to bloom, ready to set down roots, ready to have garden-toughened hands coax sleeping stories into the light.  The only thing that comes close to this are the rocks collected from a patch of earth and poured into your hands so that you don’t float away or the passed-around dog-earned pages of paperbacks because you have tales to share and discuss.  Or the paper moons that keep you company as you make beeswax candles so that they may soften and sweeten a long day for those you love.  Or better yet, the lovers in the tarot always reminding you that the heart behind your ribcage is whole and happy, a beating song to the universe.

Still, nothing is as sweet as that seed-love, which is why you always keep seeds in your pocket.  You never know when someone will invite you to bloom. 

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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!

5 Ways to Green Your Holiday

The holidays are here which for me means more quiet time drinking holiday chai and making homemade presents like my peppermint hot chocolate body scrub, orange spice body butter, and pine and charcoal soap.

Why do I bother making homemade gifts? A valid question, considering most people look at it as more work. For me though spending time in the kitchen is part of my self-care routine, helping me to unplug from the frantic pace of the holiday season and the mindless consumerism that contributes to so much waste. According to the National Environmental Education Foundation, our trash production increases by 25% around the holidays, meaning we produce an additional one millions tons of garbage per week this time of year. Yikes! That data, combined with the realities of climate change now facing us, should put all that holiday excess into perspective if you haven’t already unplugged from the mindless consumerism bandwagon.

Here’s another reality: At the risk of sounding like a cheesy holiday special, the holidays aren’t about buying needless items (studies also show that we only keep around 1% of what we end up purchasing this time of year!), but about celebrating loved-ones and taking time to rest and reflect at the close of the year. It’s also the celebration of the Winter Solstice, where we honor our intrinsic connection to the natural world and our own natural cycles.

Now I’m not asking you to go full-Grinch and give up gift giving or insist that every gift you give is homemade (I know not everyone has the time of interest in that!), but with a few low maintenance tweaks, you can enjoy a more eco-friendly holiday that’s good for the planet, your wallet, and your soul—seriously! Unplugging from the culture of buy buy buy has made me slow down and take in the soul-nourishing simple pleasure of the season. I look forward to quiet nights at home knitting and enjoying the twinkling lights of my tree, reading holiday romances with a glass of wine fireside, and taking long nature walks to relish the heady winter air.

So how do we honor the festive spirit of the season without giving into wasteful consumerism? Here are five ways to green your holiday routine.

  1. Reuse that wrapping paper—and ribbons. I can’t remember when it started, but for as long as I can remember, my family always reused our wrapping paper. Well-preserved festive bags, tissue and wrapping paper, and fancy ribbons became part of a beloved holiday tradition where, as kids, we eagerly looked to see who got the snowman bag that year or the reindeer wrapping paper or the red polka-dotted tissue paper. Our growing collection of ribbons lead to outlandish present wrapping with over-the-top bows, each one more outrageous than the last. I’ve added to this tradition by purchasing beautifully patterned cloth and festive cotton ribbon that can be reused indefinitely, long after our tissue paper collection has become unusable. It’s fun, festive, and, just like unwrapping tree ornaments, we look forward to seeing our favorite present wrappings come back every season.

  2. Omit one-use items. I know, I know, I say this constantly and put it on every “Green” list I make, but that’s because it is such an important part of protecting our planet and reducing waste. Many stocking stuffers, fun little toys, and those iconic Christmas crackers are only ever briefly enjoyed than quickly discarded. All those trinkets can’t be recycled so the end up in landfills. No thanks! Instead, focus on quality items that you know your loved-ones will really enjoy. You’ll spend less and have the satisfaction of knowing your gifts will be enjoyed long after the holiday season has gone.

  3. Make your own gifts. Let me first say that, while I LOVE making homemade gifts, I only make the easy things. It’s no fun if you’re slaving away on complicated projects after all! And these gifts don’t just have to be cookies, which can feel less-than-celebratory when you’ve received your ump-teenth cookie tin and can only eat so much sugar. In fact, I love surprising people with unexpected edible treats, like my all-purposing seasoning or chile-infused olive oil. I also like to give them practical indulgences like beeswax candles or, if I’m feeling extra fancy and want to up my body-butter and soap game, a homemade bronzer for my make-up loving peeps wanting more eco-friendly cosmetics. These are all things people can use and enjoy for a long while. better still, since I’m making them, I can be sure that they are packaged in zero-waste containers (hello mason jars, my old friends!). Want more easy DIY gift ideas? Check out my recipe index for inspiration.

  4. …and buy local if homemade gifts aren’t your jam. There are so many great local stores in Albuquerque, and no doubt in your neck of the woods too. Local gifts have the added benefit of being unique—not everyone will have it—and, best of all, support the local economy. I personally love taking time to shop at holiday pop-up markets and shop and strolls this time of year. It’s nice to see the community enjoying themselves and even better to stumble upon one-of-a-kind treats. If you don’t want to give more things, consider gifting local experiences like yoga or gym classes, a crafting session, tea tasting or other fun activities people can enjoy throughout the year. One year, I got dance classes from my sister and it was so fun to try something new. These gifts could also be more personalized, as when my sister and I do a yearly deep cleaning of my parents house top to bottom, inside and out, as a special birthday treat for my mom. Sometimes the best gifts are ones that lighten your loved-ones to-do list so they can kick up their feet and relax! Real talk: we’ve also gotten to a point in my family where we don’t want more stuff or for anyone to feel pressured to purchase gifts. At the end of the day, all we care about is spending time with one another…I know, cue holiday after school special music, but it’s true!

  5. Last but not least, limit spending, aka buy less. Yes, this is another go-green list perennial because living a more sustainable lifestyle is all about buying less in general. Use what you have and, when you need to purchase something, consider opting for second-hand and antiques stores, then local, before purchasing elsewhere. This includes keeping that fake tree instead of sending it to the landfills and resting the temptation to buy Griswold-style lights for your house. Enjoy what you have and think twice about buying more just to have more. Since I’ve done this, I’ve found that I look forward to decorating my house with well-loved decor I’ve collected over the years, each one infused with lovely memories. My home feels cozy and special, not another cookie-cutter made-for-TV-movie Christmas explosion.

How do you green your holiday?

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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!

Witch's Brew Cocktail

It’s been awhile since I’ve concocted a cocktail recipe, and even longer since I’ve come up with one for Halloween.  I love a good cocktail because they’ve always struck me as one of the most basic kind of potions.  Think about it: a good cocktail can give us liquid courage, exorcise a hard work week, or even act as a temporary love spell.  And as will all potions and spells, the medicine is in the dosage.  Too much and it’s poison, too little and you’re Friday night is perhaps a little less adventurous (wink wink).  

It bears repeating that I like to avoid syrupy or excessively sugary ingredients and stick to clean tastes modeled after the classics when it comes to cocktail making.  I do this because most novelty cocktail—a la Halloween drinks—are sugar bombs.  Not my idea of a good time or a tasty drink. Although I call these Halloween-inspired concoctions, I have been known to drink the throughout the year, especially the green fairy, a tasty absinthe-kissed cocktail perfect for ending the workweek and stirring up some writing inspiration for the weekend.

Lately, come Saturday night, I’ve been experimenting with this new drink: Witch’s Brew.  It was inspired by my garden and all the herbs I cultivate there: rosemary, lavender, sage…all delicious, all medicinal, all typically associated with healers and witches because of their various magical and healing properties. I started wondering how I could fold those flavors into a tasty magical brew.

I used gin as the base because of herbaciousness and went for a bold choice of mixer: chartreuse.  It’s what gives this drink the verdant green color we typically associate with potions.  It’s also an ancient healing tincture made from over 130 herbs. It tastes fresh, like mint and fennel, with the other herbs as a strong supporting cast.  Yum! I paired this refreshing taste with lime because I love a good gimlet and its variants.

The real kicker to this is what I do with the gin. I infuse it with green apples—who doesn’t think of witches without thinking of forbidden fruit?—along with rosemary and a few juniper berries to make the herbaciousness of the gin really pop. Also because I love rosemary, the natural protector of the herb world. Juniper berries are also fast becoming a kitchen witch staple in my home. Did you know juniper both protects good energy and repels the negative? If that’s not magical, I don’t know what is! Add a dash of bay leaf bitters, for the leaf’s powers of divination.

As with all spells (and drinks), feel free to play with the recipe. Chartreuse might be a bit pricy for some (though a little goes a long way so it will last a while!), try swapping it would with rosemary or ginger simple syrup or apple schnapps (or both!)—it will change the flavor, but will no doubt be equally festive, if with more sugar. The infused gin makes about two-cups of yum—plenty to experiment with or to whip up a magical batch of this brew.

All good spells require a little time, a little love, and quality ingredients. While this cocktail is a touch more labor intensive than my others in that you first need a week to infuse the gin, it’s worth it. Plus, while you wait, you can prepare the right kind of energy you want to infuse into this brew. Do you need a little more magic in your life? A little more mischief? A dash of hope or a heading dose of healing? Whatever you need, let it brew until you’re ready to infuse it into a batch of this tasty elixir.

Ingredients:

For infused gin:

2 cups gin

1 Granny smith apple

2-4 juniper berries (depending on how strong you want the juniper flavor to be)

1 large spring of rosemary

For cocktail:

2 oz apple and herb infused gin

2 dashes bay leaf bitters

.75 oz chartrues

.5 to .75 oz freshly squeezed lime juice (depending on how dart you like it)

In infuse gin, slice green apple and place in clean mason jar. Squeeze juniper berries so they crack a little—this will help the alcohol absorb their flavor more—and place in jar. Pour gin over ingredients and let sit for a week, shaking when you remember to. A day or two before you want to enjoy your cocktail, throw in a sprig of rosemary that has been slightly bruised, again, to help the alcohol better absorb its flavor. I wait a little on the rosemary because the fresh stuff takes less time to be extracted in alcohol and letting it sit too long in the gin muddies the flavor. To use, pour gin through strainer into clean mason jar.

For cocktail, mix gin, chartreuse, lime juice and dash of bitters in a shaker. Add ice and shake until container is frosty. Serves one—so double or triple the batch and invite your coven over. Pair with a chilly autumn night, a full moon, and a handful of spells. Cauldron optional.

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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!