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.

Healthy & Happy Face Toner

One of the joys of a year of sacred simple pleasures has been retooling my beauty routine. I got a fancy new hair cut that makes me feel fabulous. I’ve been doing bi-weekly honey facials (homemade of course!). And I’ve been giving myself regular DIY mani-pedis, without the nail polish since I’ve discovered that I don’t like it as much as I think I do. An earth woman like me spends a lot of time getting her hands dirty and walking around barefoot—not great for polished nails! Still, I like the time and energy I’ve been giving to pampering myself.

In what seems like a self-care cliche at this point, I light a candle, turn on an audiobook, and proceed to indulge in some of the more luxurious forms of taking care of myself. I’m no stranger to the harder forms of self-care—eating right, exercising, limiting stress—but I’ve begun to learn that the softer forms are important too.

I get to feel pretty. And, I’ve found, I like to feel pretty! Like reading romance novels, doing these little seemingly vain self-care things makes me feel like I’m more than a to-do list or a job. I get to be a woman with her own desires and hopes and dreams…corny, I know! But it’s nice to feel like I’m taking care of a part of myself that has nothing to do with my day job (much as I love it). It’s my time for me and me alone, with no outcome except that it makes me feel good.

One of my favorite part of this new beauty regimen has been this Healthy & Happy Face Toner that uses Vitamin C to brighten and tighten skin. I started concocting this new toner after reading an article about how important it is for us bronze-skinned women to include Vitamin C in our skin routine as it helps with sunspots and evening skin tone. It also reduces signs of aging and can stimulate collagen production. I wish I could remember where I read this, so I could provide a ink, but, as one of the delights of this new beauty routine includes reading more beauty magazines (the more natural the better!), I can’t recall where or when I got this information. Ops!

Still, since I’ve incorporated Vitamin C into my toner, my skin has been brighter and softer. Once again, I got inspiration from Wellness Mama, but instead of using witch hazel, I opted for apple cider vinegar, since I find using it in its watered down form has always worked well as a gentle face toner. The vinegar helps balance the ph of your skin and is anti-bacterial. Notice I said watered down, however. Both apple cider vinegar and Vitamin C are acids, which means a little goes a long way. You never want to put undiluted forms of these on your skin as it will be WAY too harsh. So be gentle with yourself and use only watered down versions of each.

I learned from Wellness Mama that Vitamin C (see link below for where to get it) degrades over time so small batches and refrigeration tend to be better. I make a bigger batch myself, since I typically share it with the women in my family. I also sometimes add clove oil for it’s anti-bacterial priorities and to soften the smell of the vinegar. That said, the essential oils are entirely optional—just be sure not to use more than 10 drops, because again, they can agitate the face if they are not properly diluted.

The best part about this toner? It takes less than ten active minutes to make!

Ingredients:

1 tsp Vitamin C powder

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

10 drops clove oil (optional)

Heat water in microwave until almost boiling, about two minutes. Stir Vitamin C power into hot water until dissolved. Allow to cool, approximately 20 minutes. Then add the apple cider vinegar and stir. Store in small mason jar or petite spray bottle.

To use, wash face thoroughly then dip (ideally reusable!) cotton swab in liquid or spray toner onto swab into moist but not overly wet. Wipe face with cotton, spending a little extra time on oily or problem spots. Let dry then apply moisturizer of choice.

Makes 3/4 cup. Use within the month or keep in fridge to extend the shelf life. Enjoy!

….just add water!

….just add water!

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!

Beet Carpaccio

I love beets. They are second only to the humble radish, whose peppery bite will always be my first love…in terms of root vegetables, that is. But what the radish has in spring spice, the beet makes up for in earthy, meaty sweetness. And like the radish, the humble beet is best when you don’t do too much to it.

This recipe for beet carpaccio came about because I had purchased the most beautiful beets and meyer lemons from my local store. I swear, the lemons looked so big and juicy I thought they were small oranges! The eye-popping color of both produce items had me thinking of a tasty jewel-toned dish that would work as a Saturday night salad or starter.

…and you all know I’m always working on making my lifestyle more and more green, including in my cooking. Eating little or no meat is one of the best ways to cheaply and effortlessly help the planet. While I’m not a complete vegetarian, dishes like this, a play on the classic beef carpaccio, make me love being a veggie eater.

Meyer lemons are only in season so long, so if you can’t get them, regular lemons will do, as will oranges, if you want to play around with other citruses to get different flavors for your carpaccio. Just make sure you use organic produce (as always), especially because you will be using the zest. Non-organic citrus means you’ll be sprinkling pesticides in your salad as well as zest, yuck! I used pistachios in place of capers found in the traditional carpaccio, both to mimic the color of the brined berries and to add a touch of nuttiness. The homemade salt combo is what really ties the flavors together, however. The mustard, orange, and onion act as a savory sweet balance to the tart citrus.

Did I mention I love the colors of this salad? The dark red of the beets, the pop of green from the pistachios, and the sprinkle of yellow from the lemon zest…it’s a work of edible art, perfect for a fancy Saturday night dinner (in your jammies, natch).

Ingredients:

For salt:

1 tablespoon himalayan rock salt

1 tablespoon mustard seeds

1 tablespoon dried onion

1 tablespoon dried orange peel

For Salad:

1 medium beet

1/4 cup chopped pistachios

1 tablespoon lemon zest

Juice of 1 lemon

olive oil

1. Heat water in two quart sauce pan until boiling.

2. While water boils, wash and peel beet. Place in hot water and boil until soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from water and let cool, at least an hour. Then place beet in the fridge and let chill for a few hours. I like to cook my beet in the morning and then pop it in the fridge until dinnertime.

3. While you let the beet chill, combine ingredients for salt and place in salt mill or use a mortar and pestle to grind. Note: You will have more of this salt than is necessary for the recipe. Trust me, this is a good thing. It stores indefinitely and is great on all sorts of dishes, from a tangy citrus chicken to summery roasted veggies.

4. When beet is fully chilled, use a mandoline or sharp knife to cut paper thin slices of the beets. The mandoline is a little easier for this. If yo use the knife, the slices won’t be uniform (unless, of course, your knife skills are better than my so-so ones!).

5. Arrange slices in circle formation on two plates and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.

6. Then sprinkle a smattering of your fancy salt, to taste (I like it easy on the salt, myself).

7. Finally, add the lemon zest and pistachio pieces to each plate.

Eat immediately. Serves two. Enjoy!

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

Butternut Squash Steaks

I don’t know what it is about January and February, but I always find myself tinkering more in the kitchen this time of year, trying new healthy recipes.  Maybe it’s the cold winter nights, maybe it’s the promise of spring and new things on the horizon, or maybe it’s just because I love the idea of trying something that shakes up my routine.  In any case, I find that there’s nothing better come Saturday night than an old jazz record, a beautiful cocktail, and a crisp apron as I go about trying something new.  

One such evening produced this lovely recipe for butternut squash steaks.  Like my cabbage steaks, this dish is warm, hearty, and healthy—for you and the planet (one of the easiest ways to be eco-friendly is to eat less meat).  It’s also incredibly versatile and relatively low-maintenance, once you get past the peeling and slicing part. For this recipe, I went old school and seasoned it with garlic and rosemary, but I have plans to try other more adventurous combos, like tarragon and shallots. 

You will mostly be using the longer top part of the squash for this to get the “steaks,” but I recommend dicing up the remainder of the veggie and cooking them for a future quick lunch with tossed with lettuce and garbanzo beans or boiling to use as a puree for soup.  You can do a quick roast of the seeds in a frying pan—no cleaning needed, just let the pulpy matter get nice and crispy.  Yum!  Go ahead and toss the remaining scraps in your compost—your worms will thank you and so will your garden.  I’m all about reducing kitchen waste!

This squash is great on its own on a bed of lettuce (pictured here) or paired with a more elaborate meal for date night, with a side of green beans and mashed potatoes if you want to mimic the full steak dinner.  

Ingredients:

1 medium butternut squash, washed

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

salt to taste

olive oil

  1. To prepare, cut off the top and bottom parts of the squash, no more than a quarter of an inch.  Using a vegetable peeler, peel off the hard outer skin.   Then cut bottom rounded part off and set aside (see above for ways to use those remaining pieces).

  2. Lay butternut squash on its side and carefully slice it into 1/3 to 1/2 in slices, depending on how thick you want your steaks to be. 

  3. Rub steaks in olive oil, garlic, rosemary, and salt tot taste and let sit for twenty minutes.

  4. While steaks marinate, heat olive oil in saucepan on medium.

  5. Place 2-3 steaks in sauce pan (the number depends on how big your squash and pan are).  Let cook on one side for 5-7 minutes, until browned and softened.  Flip steaks and do the same for the second side.  Repeat until all steaks are cooked.  

  6. Serve on a bed of lettuce and drizzle with olive oil.  Makes 4-6, depending on how thick your steaks are.  Enjoy!

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

Homemade Doggie Treats

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

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

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

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

Ingredients:

1 cup canned pumpkin (or apple sauce)

1 cup water (or yogurt)

1/4 cup olive oil or coconut oil

1 cup oatmeal

4 cups white or wheat flour

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

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

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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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!