Enchantment Learning & Living Blog

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

The Occult Detective...with a Cocktail Recipe!

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

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

Introducing the Occult Detective 

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

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

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

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

A Genre of Transformation

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

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

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

The Recipe

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

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

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

Ingredients:

.5 oz Amaro liquor 

2 oz bourbon

2 dashes burnt orange bitters

2 dashes cinnamon bitters

ice

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

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

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Everyday Enchantments ~ Release Day!

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

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

Okay, enough gushing.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Everyday Enchantments Cover Reveal!

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

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

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

Isn’t it lovely?

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

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

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

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

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

Magic is a Hard, Gritty Thing (Part II)

I asked for a new life. In return, I had to bury my seed so deep in the earth it kissed Hell.  It was important that this black disk holding the heart of a hollyhock be warmed by morningstars and forced to carve its way out of the darkness.  This, so that I could know the value of my transformation.

Now, I am uncomfortable with tight spaces and have trouble breathing in the dark, damp underground.  That is the price I paid for freedom.

I dreamed of a book once, too.  One with my name on it and my thoughts in it.  All the Universe expected in return was blood and heartache, time and tears, and that long stretch of purgatory where no one knew what I was doing--or cared--except for the emerging words on the page.  They knew.  They understood.  Felt the relief of stories so long contained finally spilling across naked sheets.

I'm about a pint of blood short now and so have less energy for things that don't understand that my heart is buried inside an herb garden, in a constant state of becoming. I get tired if I'm away from my stories for too long, worn out when I'm asked to ignore the poetry of a Monday or the grace of a slammed door. 

That was what the magic required of me to see my hope eternally bloom.  And I paid the price willingly.  That garden?  It has rosemary and words and ink and lavender in it--but no weeds and no room for nonsense.  I worked hard to make it so.  

I picked out each and every weed and each and every shade with my own hands until my fingernails were cracked and rimmed with black dirt and my hands were bloody from the nicks and scratches of angry ghosts that didn't want to leave such a cozy home.  I have a few crooked fingers now and a predisposition toward dry hands.  But no weeds.  No shades secretly living inside the sunflower's underbelly.  Just an abundant harvest to look forward to.

Magic is a hard thing and doesn't take wishes lightly.  This I know, which is why I hold up deleted pages and crossed-out passages like offerings for another manuscript, another birthing. These tattered narratives will never see the light of day.  They are the willing sacrifices for a better story.  I bind them up and surround them with twigs for kindling.  I press flame to their feet and watch the fire gobble them up because that is what the magic needs if I am to write something that is honest and potent.

Magic is a gritty thing, asking for you to give until it hurts.  That's the only way it knows you're serious and not just looking for a topical solution to soul sickness.  That kind of healing requires long journeys down dark roads and through the caves of memory until all your pains are excorcised and your hair smells vaguely of brimstone and forgetting. 

After all that, it lets you taste the first ripe peach of summer, speckled with morning dew.  Your tongue is coated in sunshine and hard-earned deliciousness.  Juice dribbles down your chin.  Your fingers are sticky with fuzz and nectar.  And in your hand is another hard seed waiting to be kissed by morningstars.

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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 Mineral Foundation

I don’t wear a lot of makeup and lately, I’ve been going more and more natural.  When I do wear makeup, I want it to be as organic as possible.  The only issue with that, of course, is that organic makeup can be super expensive and still full of yucky ingredients. It’s better than the drug-store makeup but when I learned that many brands sneak in various preservatives and no-no additives to products that are supposed to be cleaner than your average makeup. 

That got me thinking: why am a paying a small fortune for “organic” makeup if it isn’t as pure as I thought?  I’ve also become more aware of the waste involved in buying tiny one-ounce products and then having to throw away the used compact or jar once I’ve used up the foundation.  I am trying to buy, use, and waste less this year, after all.  

Sure, I could go makeup free, but sometimes I need a little coverage.  It’s akin to putting on armor for a workday or adding a touch of glamour when I want to go out and feel pretty.  Then it hit me: I’ve gone full-on hippy homemaker in the past and made my own mascara and bronzer, so why not make my own foundation?  It would be cheaper, less wasteful, and I would always be sure I got the right tint.

Let me tell you right now that this journey has been a process.  I started with recipes I found online that said you could make your own foundation using only arrowroot powder and kitchen spices.  Sold!  How much more natural could a woman get?  Alas, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.  I tried various recipes, various amounts of cinnamon, nutmeg and arrowroot powder, and it still always came out looking like I had dusted spices on my face.  At least I smelled like freshly baked goods!

That’s when I turned to mineral makeup.  Technically, you can’t call anything like minerals that are pulled from the earth organic, because we can’t control the elements. It’s kind of like the same way you can’t call fish organic, only line-caught, because, as they swim around in the ocean, they can come into contact with all sorts of matter.  Still, it’s as natural as you can get—like the bronzer I made. 

Some people worry about using titanium dioxide in this mix, but I figure if it’s in the store-bought mineral products I buy and wear, I should be fine.  It’s the unpronounceable things on the list of ingredients that worry me. From what I found on my research, the only danger in titanium dioxide is in using the nanoparticles version where the particles are so small you can absorb more than is good for you, similar to how you should always use non-nano zinc oxide for your homemade sunscreen.  

Okay, enough of the technical talk!  Let’s get to the recipe.  I love it!  It took me all of ten minutes to make and looks and feels wonderful.  There’s an initial investment in buying bulk supplies (I spent roughly $60 on ingredients).  But once you have them, you’ll never have to get more for a VERY long time (and FYI, the ingredients never go bad).  I adapted my recipe from Natural Organic Products & Recipes and The Humble Homemaker.

I cut my portions in half because I like working in small batches until I know how something will work out.  Even with my half-batch, I used a few dollars worth of the ingredients and ended up with several ounces of makeup—at least ten times the amount of the small jars and compacts that you shell out $25-$40 for.  What?!  I know.  Totally worth the investment.  At this rate, my half batch will cover me for a few years and then I have plenty of raw ingredients for when I need more.  Dare I say that my $60 investment will last a lifetime?  Maybe not that long, but it sure beats shelling out half that every six months for an ounce of makeup in a container I ultimately have to throw away.  

The last thing I’ll say about this is that, of course, not all skin tones are the same.  My recipe is for olive skin tones, but this fabulous website has the list of ingredients and measurements you’ll need for other skin tones.  Play with it to see what works for you.  I ended up leaving out the clay in their instructions as well as a few other ingredients from The Humble Homemaker because they didn’t feel necessary to me.  Do make sure to purchase a coffee grinder that you use ONLY for makeup and similar DIY products and be careful not to breathe in the ingredients while you mix them (I like to tie a damp cloth around my nose and mouth to be safe).  

Ingredients:

5 tsp titanium dioxide

1/2 tbsp serecite mica

2 tsp zinc oxide

1/2 tsp magnesium stearate

3/4 tsp brown iron oxide

1/8 tsp deep red oxide

5 tsp yellow iron oxide

Mix ingredients in bowl reserved only for makeup and similar DIY projects.  Stir until combined.  Then, in small batches, blend in coffee grinder (again, making sure that this is one you use only for these types of projects).  As you finish each batch, pour into reusable container like a mason jar.  Shake jar to combine each batch you’ve run through the coffee grinder.  Store in a cool, dry place. 

To use, place a small amount in an old cosmetic container and, using your blusher, dust your face with desired amount.  If you don’t have a small container that you can reuse, simply keep in the foundation in the larger jar and be sure to shake the blusher before applying to remove any excess powder.  

Note: If foundation looks too dark, add more titanium dioxide in small amounts.  

Makes roughly 8 oz

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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!

Magic Is a Hard, Gritty Thing (Part I)

With my book coming out in just a few short months, I’ve decided to write a few blog posts exploring the heart and soul of Everyday Enchantments, my writing life, and my life life: Everyday Magic. This is the term I use to explore the mysticism inherent in our daily lives, the sacred simple pleasures that heal the soul, and the radical self-care that keeps us vital.  

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

And it is.  But magic is also a hard, gritty thing.  It takes its own time and works in its own way.  You ask the Universe for something and it waits and watches and looks to see if you are, in fact, doing your part to make that desire come to fruition.  It asks for blood and sweat, time and tears, focus and energy.  So that when you ask for your Heart's Desire, the Universe first considers whether it is a wise wishing or an unhealthy infatuation.  In time, if it's the right thing for you, then the wish whispered on a dandelion head will make its way back to you.  Just as soon as it pleases and no sooner.

Let's face it, if magic were easy, more people would be doing it.

The hardest part about magic is that you have to let go of any notion that you can control all the variables in your life.  Surrender.  Listen to the Universe and your heart of hearts.  They will tell you where you need to go--and it's often not where you think you should be headed.  Magic is tricky that way.  Revealing its wisdom only when you're committed not to a specific outcome but to the art of learning yourself and the cosmic world around you.

It works kind of like this:  When you ask for light, you might expect fireworks to go off in the night sky immediately.  In reality, after hard labor, constant focus, and everyday conjuring, you get a small spark which you then nourish into a healthy fire to warm your home.  Still, you get the light, but in order not to take that conjuring for granted, you have to continue to work to keep it alive. 

Magic is a lot like self-care in that way.  When we taking about taking care of ourselves it’s often about pampering—lighting scented candles, sinking into bubble baths, taking afternoon naps.  Rarely do we talk about the hard work that goes into actual self-care, like waking up before sunrise to workout because that’s the only time you know you can realistically get it in, or swearing off processed sugar because you know that as good as it might taste, it’s no good for you.  Self-care is letting go of toxic situations and people regardless of what outsiders might think of your actions so that you can feel at peace.  It asks you to prioritize yourself without guilt in a world that sees that as a selfish act.  In short, self-care requires some serious adulting! 

As does magic.  You walk the fine line between infinite belief and hard labor.  As the common saying with writing goes, inspiration will never find you unless you're working.   Neither does magic.  It doesn't give anything away for free or shower you with unearned gifts.  There's always a price and the best magic, your own conjured magic, tastes all the better because it was birthed from your own sweat. 

So you plant your soul seeds and you tend them without rigid expectations.  Then one day those seeds sprout, blossom, ripen into delicious fruit if that is what is meant to happen.  Those that don't, find their purpose in feeding the worms in your compost bin.  But the fruit you do harvest is nothing short of divinity.  It tastes of your backyard, kissed by your sunlight.  Fed by your dirt and watered by your sweat.  It is summer in your mouth, the promise of eternal sweetness.

You get the idea. 

Magic is a hard, gritty, beautiful thing. 

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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 Shampoo & Facial Cleanser

It’s official, I’ve gone off the hippy-DIY deep-end.  Actually, it happened a long time ago when I started making my own shampoo and facial cleanser!   I know, every time you think I couldn’t possibly be any more tree-huggery, I confess that I’ve been doing something like making my own shower products for years.

I started for a multitude of reasons, the biggest being that I have thick crazy hair that doesn’t respond well to most conventional shampoo products and sensitive skin that gets easily irritated with the various chemicals used in most facial cleansers and soaps.  Even when the organic specialty products promised extra-hydration for dry locks or gentle formulas for sensitive skin, none of it worked.  I ended up spending a small fortune on organic products that did nothing for me but give me brittle hair and dry skin.

I’ve learned over the years that simpler truly is better.  Tired of expensive, useless products, I finally tried this very simple recipe from who knows where (it’s been long enough that I can’t actually remember how I got started on this, probably from a magazine or book):  Diluted castile soap with your choice of essential oils. 

What?! That’s it? Yup.

I tried it over five years ago and have never gone back.  Gone are the pile of shampoo bottles and jars of face soaps clogging my shower caddie and putting a dent in my wallet.  Instead, I have two repurposed honey-bear bottles—the large one for shampoo and the smaller for my facial cleanser. 

Since I’ve switched to using castile soap as the foundation for both my shampoo and face soap, my skin is happier and my hair more hydrated.  The trick is to make sure that you are, in fact, properly diluting castile soap.  One of the things that can make Dr. Bronner’s soap seem expensive is that it is highly concentrated, which means it should never be used without diluting it.  Once you do that, you understand that while it can seem pricey, a little goes a very long way! 

Another perk to this recipe is that is reduced the amount of packaging you buy then throw out—so say goodbye to the wasteful packaging of all those shampoo bottles!  Repurposing old bottles and purchasing castile soap in bulk from your local co-op, using your own container to fill up, lets you go that extra mile in waste reduction.  When all is said and done, you end up spending mere pennies on shampoo and face wash.  

The only real difference between the shampoo and face wash is the amount of essential oils you put in.  Because the skin on your face can be very sensitive, only use 5-10 drops in your mixture.  That’s enough to get the healing benefits of the oils without an irritation.  For your shampoo, you can use more.  When in doubt, use less essential oils than you think you need.  Like the soap, a little essential oil goes a long way!

Last but not least, I have a few optional ingredients you can throw in for an added boost of nourshiment and cleansing, but they aren't necessary.  Experiment and see what works for you.  That's half the fun of DIY-ing your beauty routine, after all! 

Basic Ingredients:

Castile soap

Water

Optional Ingredients: 

Essential oils of choice

Honey

Activated Charcoal (for facial cleanser only)

Olive Oil (for shampoo only)

For Shampoo: 

Combine 1/4 cup castile soap with 1 cup water.  Add 15-20 drops essential oil of choice.  I like to use rosemary because it makes your hair shinier, peppermint, or cinnamon to boost growth (it also smells really nice!).  If that said, if you have sensitivities to scents, you can always omit the oils.

Other things you can add to your shampoo are honey (approximately 1/4 cup) or olive oil (1/4 cup) to hydrate your locks and help them retain moisture.  (If your hair is very dry, consider using my Goddess Hair Mask once a week.)

Combine ingredients in your repurposed container and shake until combined.  To use, pour desired amount on wet hair, lather, rinse, and repeat.

Makes approximately 1-1 1/2 cups.

For Facial Cleanser:

Combine 1/4 castile soap with 1 cup water.  Add 5-10 drops essential oil of choice.  I love clove oil because it is anti-bacterial.  You can add a teaspoon of honey to lock in moisture and provide additional anti-bacterial help.  Or you can mix in a teaspoon of activated charcoal to clean pores and purify skin. 

Combine ingredients in your repurposed container and shake until combined.  To use, pour a dime sized amount into your hand and gently massage into wet face.  Rinse.  

Makes approximately 1 cup.

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 Beeswax Candles

I love beeswax.  I use it in everything, from my body butters and lip balms to salves and mascara.  It acts as a sealant in my beauty goodies, locking in moisture and providing a protective layer against the elements. Plus it smells divine!  Like honey and warm earth. Best of all, buying local beeswax supports the bees which we need for a thriving planet and happy garden.

Homemade Beeswax Candles

I've fallen in love with beeswax all over again, recently, after I began making these homemade candles.  I adore candles.  Their dancing light turns dinner into a celebration or nighttime reading into a cozy retreat from the world.  Their open flames seem made for whispering wishes into and their warm glow chases away the darkness like no lamplight can. In short, they are one of my sacred simple pleasures.  I enjoy the homey task of making them, especially last week, as I cleaned and prepared my home for the coming summer solstice and enjoyed a candlelit night once the sun set on the longest day of the year.

Beeswax candles are one of the purest candles out there, free from yucky chemicals and artificial ingredients of mainstream candles. They have the added benefit of purifying your home.  While most candles actually release toxins into the air while they burn, beeswax candles release negative ions as they melt which neutralizes the positive ions create by allergies and other pollutants.  Bonus: It makes your home smell like amber, soft and sweet, like the honey it comes from.

These homemade candles are ridiculously easy to make, as are all my recipes, natch.  I prefer to use old toilet paper rolls for pillar candles and egg cartons for tea lights, rather than pouring them into jars.  The jars are nice, but I hate the build-up of candle containers; plus, I just love the look of pillar candles. Feel free to use jars if you prefer them (or reuse old candle tins).

These candles make wonderful gifts.  I like to make a big batch since they are so easy to make, to have on hand for last-minute gifts or give to my family.  Once the wick on your candle has burned down, don't throw the wax out! Use it to make new candles.  Beeswax is super durable and long-lasting, so you can just keep reusing what doesn't get burned up.  This recipe also works well for any candle wax you've got lying around.  I melted down one of my favorite chakra candles and refashioned it into a new one.  It beats spending a small fortune on new candles!

I've made my beeswax candles two ways: with just the beeswax and with a little coconut oil thrown it.  The pure beeswax candles emit a softer, lighter glow, while the ones with coconut oil burn brighter and faster.  If you use a jar, you will for sure want to use coconut oil so that you can more easily remove leftover wax once the candle is done burning.

Ingredients:

Beeswax, preferably local

Coconut oil (optional, using only 1 part oil to 4 parts beeswax for best consistency)

Special Tools:

Toilet paper or paper towel rolls

Egg cartons

Large tin can

Old saucepan

Organic candle wicks

Parchment or wax paper

Baking sheet

Skewers or string (to keep wicks straight)

To make, roughly chop wax and place in the large tin can.  Fill saucepan halfway with water and place on stove.  Put can in saucepan.  Burner should be on medium heat.  Stir occasionally until wax melts. The time on this varies, depending on how much beeswax you use and how small the wax pieces are. It will take at least twenty minutes. I typically put it on when writing so it can melt while I work.  

If you are using coconut oil, melt it in a separate tin can only once your beeswax is melted, as the coconut oil melts more quickly.  Once it's melted, combine with the wax and stir. 

Remove melted wax from heat and let sit about five minutes to cool.  While your wax (and coconut oil, if you are using it) is cooling, spread parchment paper across a baking sheet and line up your paper rolls.  You can also use the bottom of an egg carton if you want smaller candles. 

To make candles, pour a dime-sized bit of wax into the bottom of the rolls sitting on parchment paper or in the egg cartons.  Then place the metal bottom of your wicks into the wax.  This will serve as a solid base. Once you've done it for all your candle molds, line one or two skewers or other straight objects across the middle of your rolls (or carton) so that your wicks are neatly sandwiched between them.  This will ensure that they stay centered.  For smaller candles, simply cut the desired wick size and place it in the cooling wax. 

Candle Making Process

Pour wax slowly into molds.  Note: If the wax isn't cool enough, it may leak out of bottom rolls, so make sure it has enough time to cool.  I forgot to the first time I made these and had wax puddles forming outside the molds--luckily I could just let it harden, scrape it off, and remelt it!  

Wax in Egg Carton

Once the beeswax is poured into the molds, let them sit until hardened, usually an hour or two.  I keep them on the baking sheet so that I can move them someplace where they won't be in the way.  Once they've hardened and cooled, simply peel away the carton or roll and you've got yourself a lovely collection of beeswax candles!

Finished Candles

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

A Summer of Sacred Simple Pleasures

At the start of last summer, I'd just completed the major edits on my first book, Everyday Enchantments, and needed time to goof around and recharge after such a big accomplishment. Needless to say, I wasn't doing much writing! This summer, however, I find myself longing for unstructured time and, frankly, more quiet time. It was a lively action-packed teaching year, to say the least, and it has taken me time to decompress from the excitement.

I find myself indulging in long afternoons writing to the soundtrack of lazy birdsong and late nights reading juicy novels...and mornings? They've been spent losing track of time. In the garden. At the writing desk. In the kitchen. You name it. I'm an introvert at heart and find I've needed to nourish that aspect of myself more. My quiet soul needs time to talk to the ladybugs that find their way into my lap and dance under the moon.  Not that I don't love my adventures--I've had plenty of those too and look forward to more over the summer.

This time away from the work desk has made me realize how structured my life is--happily so, I'm a creature of routine after all! But I realized my life had been more than structured: every minute, every second seemed like it had been taken up with one task or another. Yuck! I love my routine, but an integral part of making your routine a ritual is in allowing space, time, light to flow throughout your day.

That's why this summer, I've decided to embrace the gentler pace the season promises and relish anything and everything that makes me slow down and tune into myself. I want to linger over a glass of wine while watching the sunset and greet the morning birds with songs of my own--and a cup of coffee, natch.

I want to spend time in the kitchen playing with recipes and spells I don't normally have time to make and conjure. I want to wear flowers in my hair and feel blades of grass between my toes.  I want to prioritize delicious living and tiny daily delights. Why? Because I'm coming to see simple pleasures as something sacred.

And we should make more time for sacred things. We need to in order for our souls to grow and flourish. So unleash yourself. Let go of heavy mundane things that make it impossible for you to sleep in on a Sunday or linger over a cup of tea. Resist the temptation to fill up your calendar with one thing after another.

Slow down. Give up schedules--at least for a day or a few hours here and there (I know we all aren't off for the summer!). Remember what it was like to be the kid running around in the backyard, blowing bubbles and twirling for no reason except that it's fun. Get lost on a long walk. Find yourself in a good book. Listen--just listen and nothing else--to an old record because you haven't done it in forever. Whisper secrets into a candle and let it whisper back.

Treasure these moments. Honor them. They are sacred. Pleasure is sacred. And simple pleasures are one of the most profound experiences of all.

Here's to a summer of sacred simple pleasures!

A Summer of Sacred Simple Pleasures

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!

Vegan Bacon Recipe

I know, I know. Vegan bacon is a total oxymoron! Strange name aside, I can promise you that it tastes delicious. I began my quest for healthier breakfast sides after I realized this past winter that I was eating more and more bacon come the weekend which was bad for my waistline and health. Then I realized what I really loved about bacon is that it made me feel fancy. Breakfast could be a decadent diner plate with scrambled eggs, buttery toast, and yes, bacon. 

So then the quest began. How do I make a healthier weekend breakfast side? I was inspired by these recipes from Minimalist Baker and Veganosity, but as always, modified them so that I didn't have to buy any special ingredients--those things that usually end up getting used once and then thrown out (yet another attempt for me to waste less is to buy only condiments and ingredients I know I'll use). An added bonus to this recipe? Eating less meat is better for the environment all around, not just for your health.

Typically I avoid most things called vegan because they end up being highly processed. I would also rather eat something that tastes like what it is, like tofu for example, rather than beef flavored tofu. I mean, how many gross additives and artificial ingredients go into making fake meat? Yuck! All that artificial stuff is hardly good for the environment either. There are, of course, a few exceptions, like this bacon and my vegan fudge, both of which use only natural ingredients and only foodstuff that I already have in my pantry: maple syrup, amino acids, garlic, and chipotle chile powder. Together these ingredients make for a sweet smokey flavor akin to bacon. If you have never used amino acids before, give them a try! I started using Braggs liquid amino acids as a healthier substitute for soy sauce and haven’t looked back since. 

This recipe works well with eggplant (pictured here) as well as mushrooms. I have even seen people use carrots and turnips, though I have yet to try those options. You can slice these longways or, as I prefer, in circular discs. The big thing you need to make sure you do is to use a mandolin or other sharp cutting tool to produce thin, even slices so your pieces cook evenly. If they are too thick, they won’t have that crispy bacon feel.  

All in all, this vegan bacon is the perfect blend of crispy, salty, and smokey--and it goes great with scrambled eggs and toast! 

ingredients: 

1 eggplant, thinly sliced  

1/4 cup Braggs liquid amino acids

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/2 tablespoon smoke chipotle powder

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

Combine all ingredients, except the eggplant, in a shallow pan or bowl. Then place eggplant slices in mixture and let marinate at least 30 minutes. I usually let them marinate overnight for best flavor. To cook, squeeze the moisture from eggplant piece so they are as dry as possible. This will ensure that they get crispy while cooking, not soggy. Heat oil in frying pan on medium. Once the pan is hot, place first round of eggplant on pan’s surface and cook without flipping for 1-2 minutes, watching carefully so that pieces crisp up, not burn. Flip pieces and repeat on the second side until browned. These are best eaten hot with scrambled eggs and toast. Serves 4-6. Enjoy!

Eggplant Dish

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

Join Me for #TarotTuesdays

This time last year, I was finishing the final manuscript (minus several rounds of edits) of Everyday Enchantments. It marked the beginning fo the end of what had become a six-year project. What followed was a year of editing, blogging, and dreaming about my next writing projects. I could finally return to fiction, my first love, and explore everyday magic in a whole new way. I could also experiment with new writing forms, like the 55-word story format that I'm using for my new EcoErotica series on Instagram, which I kicked off with the piece Seeds

My next project came to me at the end of the school year in a synchronous flash involving the tarot, 55-word stories, and a conversation with the universe.  I love the tarot and have often wanted to learn more about it. My own tarot practice is fairly simple--a basic question, a shuffle of the deck, and a card chosen from the pack. I don't do the elaborate readings or the layouts. As much as I appreciated them, I'd rather leave them to the professional mystics. 

Much of the work I do, on the other hand, is dependent on synchronicity--those meaningful coincidences--and the daily routine that speaks to me through the deck. I have to keep it simple, otherwise, the cards won't speak to me.  Not even my magic will speak to me if I make life too complicated. Believe me, it's an ongoing, ever-evolving art-form for me to learn how to keep things simple!

Another integral part of tarot to me is storytelling...which leads me to the second synchronous event that me to my latest writing project: #TarotTeuesdays on Instagram. I was at my favorite herb store, thinking about how much I wanted to learn more about the most famous tarot deck, the Rider-Waite, and remembering the centuries-old tarot cards I saw at the Morgan Library a few years back when I visited New York. Then I saw it: A Radiant Rider-Waite tarot deck sitting almost out of eyesight on the top of the bookshelf I was perusing. 

It was a sign. Time to learn more about the tarot.  I bought the deck, saged it when I got home and spent the next week getting to know it by repeatedly shuffling through it and examining each card. I decided that I would develop my emerging love of the 55-word story, a fun exercise I often work on with my creative writing students, into a 78-word story for each of the cards in the tarot deck. 78 words for the 78 cards that make up the tarot.

My plan is to draw a new card every Tuesday and write a 78-word story based on its meaning and the synchronicity inherent in each draw of a card.  Although there is no official tarot deck, I'm using the Rider-Waite edition because it is considered one of the oldest and most popular decks. I use another type for my own personal use, which I automatically knew I didn't want to use for this writing project because they are so sacred to me. So I needed a new deck just for the purposes of writing and exploring.  I love that this is the radiant edition because, well, so much of what I write about is bringing light to dark places and nourishing the synchronicities that illuminate our path. This is a cheerful deck, a hopeful collection of cards perfectly in line with the type of magic I seek to conjure.

In short, I'll be writing weekly 78-word stories based on the tarot. I draw a new card every week and let it tell me its story. Look for #TarotTuesdays on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to read them as they are posted each week.

Here's to new writing projects and the meaningful coniencedences that led me to them!

Tarot Card Deck

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!

They Say Write What You Know...

They say write what you know. But it’s a hard thing to do. First, we rarely know what we know. Or rather, there’s so much we think we know but don’t. And second…how do you explain the flutter in your ribcage when you start a new story? How do you describe the taste of a memory so old you don’t remember when you first acquired it?

Sometimes you do write what you know, though no one believes you’ve fought dragons. You have. Several of them. Seems there’s one knocking on your door every few years or you stumble across them as you canvas uncharted territories. You made friends with a few of them, too. No one trusts that you hear the whispered stories of trees. It must only be the breeze you’re talking about. Never mind that trees have the best stories—the oldest stories—and dearly love to gossip. Fewer still understand that when you write of mixing hot water with rosemary slivers and chamomile heads, you aren’t just brewing a cup of tea, but concocting a healing spell to mend bruised hearts and tired bodies. 

Once in a while, someone hears your truth, like a distant moonlit howl. So that when you say a pair of cowboy boots—over 15 years old and thrice mended—are the living history of a woman learning to stand on her own, they see pieces of your soul woven into the leather soles. Others will bend and distort this and see only that you have a pair of shoes or that perhaps you like to two-step. In the end, it hardly matters. You can’t anticipate what others might see when you tear off a piece of yourself as if from a loaf of bread, and invite them to taste it.

Sunday, I read a book (which means: Sunday, I read a book).

When I talk about the stories locked in my veins—some passed on to me, some all my own—it will show up as a smattering of words on a page. They may not know the press of these stories, like so many microscopic seeds, against my arteries. And when I say I’ve taken a long walk through my neighborhood, I’ve really just returned from a long journey in which I fought my way through an ancient labyrinth in a faraway land so as to find answers to secret questions only the spirit in the middle of the maze can answer.

Yesterday I bargained for some extra luck from a wood sprite who was in dire need of a handful of acorns. (Loosely translated: I was the one in a pinch and borrowed some magic from someone who owed me a favor...and wasn't opposed to my sweetening the deal with some hard-to-find nuts. Real magic, conjured magic—your own magic—takes time to build and I was at a deficit from one too many blows to the spirit.) 

So this is my truth. More or less. I once had high tea with a giant. We dined across a large slab of granite in a wide open field, as was the custom in his land. Although when I write this, many will only see a young student clutching a cardboard coffee cup, sitting next to a future mentor on a cold bench near a duck pond between classes.

Tonight, I'll dream. Or live. Depending on how you want to read it. Who's to say we can tell the difference between one or the other? Half the time people think I'm dancing through life, when really my footsteps are meticulous, carefully kissing the earth in slow, dramatic presses of heel to toes, heel to toes. That's the only way to walk. The only way to taste things growing just under the surface.

This I write. This I know. Mostly. Kind of.

Ink Quill and Paper

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!

Sustainability as Spiritual Practice

This year, I’m focusing on building a more sustainable lifestyle by using, wasting, and buying less.  That said, I’ve actually been working on a more eco-friendly path over the past few years and have had a few revelations in the process. As someone who practices a nature-based spirituality, in particular, a cultivation of the divine feminine in all of us, I’ve found that actively become more sustainable is essential to healing the relationship between mother nature and human beings—and our relationship to ourselves.

Think about it: if it’s bad for nature, it’s bad for us.  I’ve come to think of mindless consumption and waste as akin to eating fast food, a substance of little to no nutritional value and made from low quality, dubious ingredients (I’m looking at you, pink slime!). Why would we put something like this into our bodies? It certainly doesn’t nourish us. And if it doesn’t nourish our bodies, it certainly won’t fuel or minds or spirits, all of which are interconnected.  There’s no soul to the food, just like there is no soul to thoughtless waste.

I’ve also found that when I’m most disconnected from myself—overworked, stressed, or around toxic people—I’m equally disconnected from nature and my own natural rhythms. Numbness sets in.  I forget to be mindful. I look to external things for soothing and replenishment, rather than inward.  I spend more money on things I don’t need. I consume more unnecessary products or ignore the wasteful packaging on others because I “really” need something, like takeout or a one-use beauty product, to sooth.

In reality, what I need is to disconnect from the soulless fast-paced lifestyle I’d inadvertently plugged into and reconnect with myself.  When I slow down, I’m better able to care for myself, mind, body, soul—and earth. I can tend my garden and turn my compost. I can relish shopping at my local co-op or farmers market. I can enjoy a healthy home-cooked meal. I can see how my yoga practices return my natural vibrancy better than any store-bought beauty product.  I can dream and hear my own voice. I can speak to the earth and listen to her stories. 

I feel full. Abundant. At one with myself. At one with nature. The deeper I go on this path, the more I remember that the mother nature is infinite in her wisdom. She reminds us not to deplete our valuable resources, both of the land and of the spirit, to cultivate what is healthy, omit what is destructive, and to listen to the natural cycle of our daily lives. 

In short, I’ve found that being eco-conscious is about being conscious. Period.

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

5 Ways to Quit Fast Fashion

As part of my year of buying, using, and wasting less, I've given up fast fashion, that seemingly harmless trend built on cheap, trendy clothing from places like H&M that change every season (I mean micro-season) and encourage mindless consumerism.  In truth, I've stopped shopping at those places some time ago because the reality of fast fashion is that the clothes don't last long. They aren't designed to. You're supposed to wear them for one season then throw them out...into landfills. I got tired of throwing away money on super trendy clothes that didn't feel right on my body and weren't truly my style. These things often got donated within the year. The items I kept around were higher quality from niche brands I'd purchased on sale that had a timeless look and made me feel both comfortable and beautiful, the mercurial balance we're forever searching for in our clothing.

So I gave up throwing away my money on clothes that didn't fit or feel right on me. Then I learned more about how truly terrible fast fashion is, and not just because so much of it ends up in landfills. Fash fashion wreaks havoc on the environment, creating terrible water waste (it takes 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton shirt, for example). It also pollutes the earth with toxic chemicals used to make bright, colorful patterns. In fact, dyes are the second largest water polluter globally. And order to keep up with the demand of seasonal, disposable pieces, companies exploit cheap labor, so that the women working in these factories don't even earn a living wage.

Perhaps the scariest part of all this is the fact that we don't often see the devastating destruction of fast fashion; many of these factories are in China, Vietnam, and other countries.  If we don't see it, it somehow seems less real and we can pretend that our shopping spree is harmless fun. Naturally, once I learned all this, I lost my taste for retail therapy and just-for-fun shopping.

I'm still learning how to be responsible in my clothing choices, but the more I learn, the more I realize I made a good choice in becoming a green fashionista. It's not only good for the environment but also my wallet.  I've also found that I self-sooth in different ways. I'm no longer looking for the perfect purse to ease stress, but a long walk or good book instead. If you too are working towards a more sustainable and ethical wardrobe, check out my five tips for quitting fast fashion below.

1. Use what you have. This is the easy one. Too often we look in the closet and say, "I have nothing to wear!" In reality, our closets are stuffed with clothes we hardly wear. Get creative. Enjoy the things you've purchased. And be honest with yourself: If you've never worn that one dress you keep thinking you will one day like, donate it. Clean your closet of anything you haven't worn in a year and then DON'T BUY MORE CLOTHES. You'll be surprised how often we buy more things and really only wear a few staples.

2. Buy less, but better. Make it hurt a little.  When I do buy something new, I save up, aiming for quality over quantity. I want shoes and clothes that will last forever, or close to it, rather than things that will fall apart by the end of the season. I try to buy local, or USA-made, and sustainable when possible. I take all the money I would have spent of fast fashion splurges and set it aside for when I need to invest in a quality item. 

3. Shop vintage and secondhand stores.  There are still times when I do need to purchase a new something or other, so lately I've been going to vintage and second-hand stores.  I find cool pieces at great prices.  This also appeals to the fashionista in me who likes vintage-inspired styles and funky one-of-a-kind items. 

4. Take good care what you have.  I wash most of my clothes on the delicates cycle and either hang dry them or put them on little to no heat in the dryer. This extends the life of your clothes exponentially.  I also mend and repair my clothes and shoes.  I find that I truly love the staples I have and want to enjoy wearing them. 

5. Wait ten days...and then see if you still want that dress. I can't tell you how much this one rule has helped me curbed my impulses to stress shop. Retail therapy is real, and it feels good when you buy something that makes you feel pretty, polished, or playful...for about five minutes. Then you realize you didn't really need another dress and that you would have rather saved that money. Now I use the ten-day rule. If I spy something online or in a store and fall in love with it, I give it ten days before deciding to buy it. The truth is that in a few days, I'm no longer thinking about that outfit I had to have. In fact, I usually end up going home and seeing how many clothes I have in my closet and am grateful that I didn't buy another thing to get lost in there. Bonus: my wallet feels pretty happy too!

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

5 Easy Ways to Conserve Water

Water conservation is an important practice when it comes to fighting climate change. We can no longer deny that we waste a significant amount of this non-renewable resource, especially in light of the Cape Town water crisis.  So much of water waste stems from our mindless consumerism--we take what we want without any thought as to how it impacts the environment. 

We waste 1.7 trillion gallons of water every year simply because we don't treat it like the precious resource that it is. It seems ironic that we would waste so much water in light of the severe droughts much of the country is facing. Clearly, we need to rethink our relationship with our natural resources!

The good news is that with a little effort and more mindfulness, we can stop water waste and develop a more sustainable way of living. Below are five easy ways to conserve water.

1. Stop buying fast fashion. It not only takes a significant amount of water to produce cheap, disposable clothes but many of the toxic dyes used in their production go on to pollute our waters. Don't enable irresponsible environmental practices or the businesses that profit from them.

2. Reuse your water. I keep a large bowl in my sink to collect the water I used to rinse off my dishes and use it to water my plants. As an apartment dweller, it's an easy way to make sure I'm limiting water waste. If I had my own home, I'd set money aside to invest in one of the many increasingly affordable greywater systems that enable you to reuse "dirty" water from your kitchen, bathroom, and washing room, in your garden. While you wouldn't want to drink this water, it is perfect for nourishing your plants.

3. SImply use less.  Since I've become more eco-conscious, I've lost my love of a good long bubble bath. I still take them once in a while, usually on a cold wintery day, when I know I can really soak and enjoy it. But indulging regularly, particularly knowing that my native desert is suffering from a terrible drought, has lost its appeal and healing factor for me. I've found other ways to unwind at the end of the day, like tending my garden or doing yoga.  I also take shorter showers and turn the water off while I shave and soap down. Put in low-flow showerheads while you're at it and only use the washer when you have a full load of clothes. These are all easy ways to reduce our water consumption. All it takes is a little extra mindfulness and we can have a huge positive environmental impact. 

4. Fix house leaks and make sure all household appliances are water efficient. Again, a little leak is something that seems like no big deal, but in reality, you are wasting gallons of fresh water. Regularly check your faucets, pipes, and appliances to make sure they are in working order. It's a good idea to purchase only water-efficient appliances as well. As with all things eco-friendly, this helps not just the environment, but your bank account as well. 

5. Don't leave the water running! This is a super easy one, but one that is so often overlooked. Don't leave the faucet on while you brush your teeth or rinse the dishes. Wet your toothbrush, brush, and then quickly rinse.  The faucet doesn't need to be on while you care for your pearly whites. Same goes for dishwashing. I like to stack the ready-to-be-rinsed dishes on one side of the sink and quickly rinse them at one time with the faucet on low. You'd be surprised how much water this saves!

How do you conserve water?

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

Cabbage Steaks Recipe

One of the ways we can reduce our carbon footprint is to simply eat less meat (and when we do eat it, to make sure it is grassfed, organic, and local). I don’t eat a whole lot of meat to begin with which means I’m always on the lookout for a delicious veggie-based meal, especially when it comes to dinner.  So when I came across this recipe for cabbage steaks, I was excited to try them. Now, it should come as no surprise that grilling cabbage will not make it taste like steak. That said, I love this dish. It’s earthy, tasty, and super healthy for you and the planet. 

I tweaked the original recipes to include a splash of red chile to the mustard sauce and swapped the rosemary for tarragon to the marinade. You can make this either by roasting whole slices of cabbage or sear them individually in a hot pan. I like to pare these steaks with cannelloni beans or a simple salad. The recipe is easy enough to make and tasty enough to feel like a decadent dinner. Yum!

Ingredients:

For steaks:

whole red cabbage

olive oil 

1 tbs fresh tarragon, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

salt to taste

For sauce:

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tsp red chile powder

1 tsp pepper

2 tbs mustard

1 small shallot, minced

salt to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut cabbage into one-inch thick slices. You can cut the tip of the stem off, but do not completely core it or the steak will be unable hold together. Lay cabbage steaks flat on an oven pan, making sure to rub top side with olive oil, tarragon, garlic, and salt, then flip over and do the same to the second side. Place pan in oven and roast for twenty minutes. Alternatively, slice desired amount of cabbage, rub in olive oil, tarragon, and garlic, then let sit for 15 minutes. Heat frying pan medium hot. Add oil and cabbage steak slice. Let sear for 2 minutes, flip, and sear another two minutes. 

For the sauce, let minced shallots marinate in vinegar for 15 minutes in jar, then add all other ingredients and shake. Serve steaks immediately, with a simple salad or a side of cannelloni beans sauteed in ghee and garnished with shredded kale, or (pictured here) with some parmesan-crusted snowpeas.

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

Spring Clean Your Mind, Body, Soul

Spring is almost here. I can feel it in the way my skin itches to be kissed by the thin gold strands of sunlight or in the tightening excitement in the pit of my belly when I realize it is almost 7pm...and still light out. I might just get to have a glass of wine and watch the sunset on my patio. Most of all, however, I can feel spring in the way I seem to shake off my intense wintery introversion (most of it, anyway) like I would a fleece jacket. I find myself longing for adventures, new experiences, and friendly visits to old haunts. 

Spring ushers in its own invigorating and rejuvenating energy, and with that, a desire to clean. I am a big proponent of cleaning as a form of cleansing. Stressed? Scrub down your bathtub. Overworked? Do laundry. Seriously! It's a great way to practice self-care without having to think too hard about what you're doing. Unable to focus on that next page needing to be written? Dust--sweep--vacuum--hell, reorganize that junk drawer. Then the answers come. Cleaning, in other words, has become my oracle or crystal ball of wellness. Somewhere between hanging clothes to dry and washing those floors, wisdom is found. You're not thinking so hard so you can actually listen to yourself...which is all by way of saying that come spring, I am all about spring cleaning!

It's a great opportunity to dust off the cobwebs from your window sills and thoughts. Lately, I've been marinating on that old witchy-hippy-new-age adage, "as within, so without," which basically says what's going inside your mind, body, and soul, is mirrored in your day-to-day external life. While I believe in this concept on a number of levels, it seems particularly true when it comes to spring cleaning. If my house is messy, my mind is in disarray. If I don't have time to water my plants, my soul becomes parched. If I can't dance to salsa and merengue music while clearing out the dishwasher, my body aches.

So while you plan your own spring cleaning routine for your home, consider adding a little tune-up for your mind, body, and soul. We could all use a little a cleaning and rebooting at the start of each new season, most especially come spring, the time of renewal, rebirth, and new possibilities. 

Spring Cleaning the Mind

To spring clean your mind, first check in with your thoughts. What dust and debris have settled in the corners of your mind? 

Lately, I've become more aware of the old negative patterns I've allowed my mind to fall back into like stressing about things I have no control over in the middle of the night, operating from a flight-or-fight response in mundane happenings, or negative self-talk that can slip in when I'm overworked (overwork being a bad habit in and of itself, one I am still getting better at curbing).

These things serve no purpose. In fact, they are remnants of a time when I wasn't very good at taking care of myself, a time when I was strictly surviving rather than living. Still, I find I have to make a conscious effort to remind myself that I am no longer the overworked graduate student (yes, even after five years of being on the other side of it all!), but an empowered writer and educator who has the time, resources, and intention to live well

Once you've found the old habits and dirty corners in your mind, clean them up, dust them off, and say goodbye to those worn and ugly things.

This spring, I'm making a point of letting these things go, both internally and externally. I'm making a conscious effort to stop negative thoughts before they fully manifest. I'm getting rid of old notebooks full of graduate school work I will never look at again and saying goodbye to the straight-laced clothes of a young woman desperate to keep her head above water and hold her own in her profession. I'm acknowledging unhealthy habits (constantly apologizing for no reason, for example) and decluttering my home of things that don't bring me joy. I'm allowing myself to be more. More of what, I can't yet say. All I know is that in decluttering my home of past selves and my mind of old habits, I create space for this new energy. I set my intention for a healthy way of thinking, being. I manifest positive energy.

How will you spring clean your mind?

Spring Cleaning Your Body

To spring clean your mind, listen to your body. Its aches and pains and the things that make it feel delicious.

I love being up before the sun, enjoying a few stolen hours of exercise, yoga, or mediation before the rest of the world is awake. I like time to see the morning stars before the sun eclipses their sparkle and time to kiss the moon goodnight before she descends into the mesa's embrace. 

Then winter hits. And it kinda hurts to be outside when it is so cold and dark out. And you're super tired because...life happened. We've all been there. In my case, quite recently. Sleeping in becomes routine, healthy habits slip away in favor of extra time hugging that pillow or flopping in front of the TV screen and mindlessly eating. Once you fall into this stasis it can be a habit that is So. Hard. To. Break.

But spring is the perfect time to revive your wellness practice. Clear your fridge and pantry of unhealthy tempting nibbles, reboot your healthy diet, and get back to the yoga mat, exercise regimen--all of it. 

Remind yourself that when your body feels good, so does everything else.

It sounds corny, but when I workout, do yoga and eat right, I'm happier, less stressed, and feel, for lack of a better word, juicy. My energy is clean and abundant, not thin and gray. So I'm starting slowly, getting back on track with simple goals like finding new fun and healthy recipes to cook, and upping my exercise a little each week to get back to my 5-6 days of exercise a week. I'm even working on being more active around the office, reviving my quick walks around the campus and stopping for energy-boosting tea breaks. I also make it a point not to beat up on myself if I slip up here and there (which goes back to letting go of negative self-talk for my mental spring cleaning). Life happens. What matters is that I'm taking care of myself and making progress. All these little baby steps are bringing me back to a feel-good body and a feel good-life.

How will you spring clean your body?

Spring Cleaning Your Soul

Collect, nourish, tend your soul seeds.

This is perhaps the most ephemeral aspect of the mind-body-soul wellness trifecta. After all, how do you explain the utter excitement of knowing you get to spend a quiet weekend at home after a week of intense extroversion?  How do you describe the little thrill you get when you settle in to start a new book or what a sweet soothing balm it is to see a bouquet of daffodils on your nightstand?

Nourishing your soul is as much about a solid wellness routine as it is about consciously removing toxicity from your life, be it in the form of people, old selves, or negative spaces. But once you've made the necessary changes to your lifestyle--welcoming in the abundant and letting go of the stifling--your next task is to discover what it means to greet the day with joy, with fullness in your heart, with the awareness that you are connected to your Eros Energy.

One easy way to do that? Treat simple pleasures as sacred. Seriously. The perfect cup of tea from your favorite mug isn't just an afternoon pick-me-up, it's a healing potion.  The beeswax candles you light at night aren't just a nice touch to the dinner table, but an expression of the luminous softness you hope to bring to the end of the day. So relish these moments, and be willing to discover new pleasures.

One of the things that can be most difficult when we spring clean our soul, is remembering to actively cultivate and seek out things that bring us bliss after we remove the stagnant energies that have built up over time...which brings us back to our soul seeds, those clear intentions for better living that we plant in the hopes of cultivating our private Edens. 

Maybe it's mediation. Maybe it's reading trashy novels. (For me, it's kind of both!) Or taking a long walk in nature. Or making homemade pasta on a Sunday night...or another of simple pleasure you have yet to taste. What matters is that you make a conscious effort to find and nourish what makes you happy. Stay playful and stay curious. You'll be surprised what delightful things come your way and how full your soul feels when you give it time to just be.

What are your sacred simple pleasures?

Happy spring cleaning!

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

Soul Seeds

While writing my past few blogs, I’ve found myself coming back to one phrase: soul seeds.

I have no idea where this phrase came from or when it first appeared on my blogs, let alone how long it has been secretly burrowed in my unconscious. It is safe to say, however, that this phrase—this seed—was ready to sprout, grow, bloom at the start of the year. I wrote about harvesting soul seeds in my post on Imbolc, speaking about the importance of collecting dreams, thoughts, hopes, and intentions as you would seeds to plant later in the spring. This term came up again in Welcoming in Eros Energy and was likewise used there to explore the intentions and inspirations we must cultivate in order to reignite our zest for life.

Hmmm….so soul seeds are kernels of wisdom and insights that help us grow, flourish, and tend our inner landscape. And with enough tending, that internal world will speak to us, as mine did when soul seeds popped into my vocabulary. 

And yet, haven’t I been talking about soul seeds all along, every time I mention seeds or thoughts? Every time I write of releasing negative energy and nourishing the transformative? Haven’t I once referred to myself as a seed or even full of seeds waiting to burst open and experience their potential? My blog and stories are pepped with the wisdom of growing things. Only now, I have a phrase for the exquisite experience of holding sheer possibility in your palm.

So here’s something to consider planting in fertile ground, as the sun warms the earth, and winter turns to spring: your soul seeds. Your whispers of inspiration. Your hopes for the future. The small daily changes that improve the quality of your life. The unvoiced longings and the spoken desires. Plant them in your heart. Plant them in your garden. Swallow them. Or cover them in soil. Water them or hold them in your belly.

Let them sprout when they are ready. Let them sing to you in their own time, there own way, and when you are open enough to listen. Let them surprise you with these morsels of insight. Let yourself hold these seeds and cast them to the wind and find a crack of concrete or a narrow gap in your ribcage to make their home in.

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

Mushroom Pate Recipe

I’m a sucker for a good appetizer. Come Saturday, all I want is a beautiful cocktail and a luxurious nibble for happy hour. What can I say, it makes me feel fancy!

One of my favorite go-to recipes, especially in the winter, is this mushroom pate. It’s rich, decadent and…healthy. Real talk: sometimes this *is* my dinner come Saturday night. Paired with some delicately bitter endive and a few slices of crostini, it’s a light meal that still makes you feel ritzy, even if you are eating this dish in your jammies (winky face). 

I especially love this pate because it is so versatile. To make it vegan, omit the milk. The dairy makes it taste a little creamier, but the dish is equally delicious without it. You can also swap out the milk for a tablespoon of goat cheese or even nutritional yeast. See what I mean? Versatile! Likewise, you can use any kind of mushrooms, from simple button or crimini to more exotic portobello, oyster, or chanterelle mushrooms. The type of mushrooms you choose of course affects the flavor. I’ve made this dish with all mushroom types and found them all just plain tasty.

Another perk of this recipe is that you can make as much or as little as you want. Below, I’ve given you the measurements for about one pound of mushrooms, but you can make more or less, depending on your needs.

Ingredients:

1 lb mushrooms, diced 

2 tbs fresh sage, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp milk or cream (optional)

salt, to taste

olive oil

Heat oil on medium. Add garlic and sage, then cook on low for a minute or so. Add more oil and diced mushrooms, turning heat up to medium-low. Let mushroom sit, only turning every few minutes, for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat. Let cool.

Once mushrooms have cooled, place them in blender and mix them together until mixture resembles a thick paste, but still has bits of bigger mushroom pieces in it. To make this a more authentic pate, you can chill it for an hour and then serve. It is, however, equally delicious warm. Plate with crostini, radicchio, endive, or other crudite. Top with chives or more sage. Serves 4.

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 Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!