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.

Cleansing Spell

Ingredients:

Burdens of others—as many as you have

3 quarts unspeakable heartache 

1 heaping tablespoon of ugly thoughts such as

   doubts, fears, and regrets 

101 compost worms

Purified tears, enough to fill a small vial

Renewed hope—all that you can muster

2 ounces lemon oil 

1 bundle of sage 

Skin scraped from an old scar until it bleeds

Tools:

1 laundry basket you don’t mind losing

3 matches 

1 gallon mason jar

1 durable vacuum ready for the afterlife

1 spray bottle

Directions:

Step One: Neatly fold burdens from others and place in a laundry basket you don’t mind losing. Light the first match. Set burdens on fire.  

Step Two: As the laundry basket burns, combine three quarts unspeakable heartache and one tablespoon of ugly thoughts into a one gallon mason jar. Let it stew until bitterness wafts from the container, approximately a lifetime.  No wait—that’s too long. Give it a minute or two.

Step Three: Pour the 101 worms into jar and let them feast until jar is full of compost. 

Step Four: At this point, your laundry basket full of burdens should be ash. Vacuum up the remains of the things you wish people hadn’t asked you to carry. Let vacuum sit.

Note the First: In some cases, those burdens try to reform themselves and reattach to you. If that is the case, you need to release the guilt you feel when you give yourself permission to prioritize your wellness. There’s plenty of room in the vacuum for guilt too.  

Note the Second: If you don’t feel guilt then good for you. You probably weren’t raised Catholic.

Step Five: Cry. A lot. Shed enough tears to fill a small vial and then put a stopper on it. You don’t want to go overboard. Get it out of your system and move on. When you’re done and have slept it off, combine the tears purified under the unconditional love of a full moon with lemon oil and the renewed hope you gained while dreaming. Pour elixir into a spray bottle. Shake well. And shake again.

 Note the Third: You might use regular hope but renewed hope is stronger, more potent. It has survived brutal heartache and terrible blows to the soul. If you want the spell to work, use the thing that won’t die. 

Step Six: Spray that shit everywhere until all you can smell is lemons and unblemished possibility.

Step Seven: Remember the vacuum bag of burned burdens and burgeoning guilt? Throw them in the gallon jar of what is now compost and worms.  

Step Eight: Take the second match and use it to light the vacuum on fire. It has held too much for too long and is ready for the afterlife.

Step Nine: Once everything has burned to a crisp and your mason jar is full of nothing but worms and reincarnated regrets (they are better for being dirt), take the remains—to be clear: worms, dirt, ashes—out to your garden. Fold them into the heap that is your compost. Turn widdershins twenty-one times or in whatever direction you want however many times you want.

Step Ten: Watch as the worms find their home in the earth and the dust settles.

Step Eleven: Take the last match and the bundle of sage. Light that bitch on fire. Lick the flame. Absolve yourself. You are only responsible for you. Taste the flame again to remember how good it feels to let things go.  Swallow the match and commit the sage to the compost. 

Step Twelve: Walk into your home. Smell lemon oil and the small green shoots of new life. 

Step Thirteen: Close the door to any unwanted burdens that come knocking. 

Step Fourteen: Scrape the skin of old scars across the threshold to remind yourself why you did the cleansing spell in the first place. 

Step Fifteen: Repeat as necessary.

Final Note: If you have to repeat this spell more often than you brush your teeth, ask yourself why you need to suffer. Then stop. Do you really want to spend your life crying into vials to make more purification spray? I mean, do what you have to do, but you’ve done this enough times that you know how things inevitably turn out. Better not to take on the burdens in the first place. You’ll keep more laundry baskets that way. Vacuums, too. 

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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!

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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!

Bury the Dead in Marigolds

I am tired of wrapping my lips around the past. It is a dead thing kept alive only by my attention and my tongue.  I cannot tell why I keep worrying it, like the frayed edges of a beloved scarf or a fuzzy memory.  Habit, maybe.  I don't even like the taste of it anymore.  All charcoal and regrets and bitter seeds that make my mouth feel chalky--nothing like the fat marigold head I hold in my hand.

This orange-feathered sun tickles my lifeline and the small little rivers and deviations carved into my palm. The bud smells of clean earth and the naked joy of growing things.  This, I want.  The smell, the taste, the everything covering my body as if it were my second skin.  I want to make my home in this honeyed sweetness when once I never dared to think it possible to hold a living flower without crushing it. 

I know what must be done: I dig a six-foot deep hole in my backyard and go about the business of burying the dead.  Mason jars will make the perfect coffins.  There are too many of them anyway as if I must preserve and hold onto everything I taste in this world. They belong in the earth now, as does the past.

I unscrew each lid of every jar I own until there is a mass of open mouths waiting to be fed.  So I set about stuffing those holes.  I spit the gritty black sludge that has formed between my lips into one jar and the bitter seeds into another.  It feels like the purge will never end, but I keep at it until my mouth is dry but clean and I can taste sunshine in the back of my throat.  

And while I am at it, I comb dead leaves and ugly thoughts from my hair and stuff it into another hungry jar. The dead skin I slough off finds its resting place in yet another jar, though I was afraid not all of it would fit. Nail clippings and self-doubts go next, along with the brittle bones of my ancestors (may they never rise) and the fragments of ghosts they wish I would inherit.  The last three jars are filled with the worn husks of dreams that have outlived their usefulness. 

No more jars, but still so much left to bury.

Prayers for saints—those poems I could never speak for those things I could never be—are cast into the grave along with a bag of sugar and the moth larvae that made their home in the saccharine crystals.  I do not have an altar on which to place sweet skulls and lighted candles—just the earth.  Ofrendas—I don’t have any of those either.  Just things that need to go.  I have no wish to give offerings to spirits that would make me one of them—sad things, unfulfilled things, things that were dead while living.  And here I am breathing.  Here I am changing the story.  I doubt they would ever wish me well, so don’t ask me to beg for their attention.  Don’t ask me to bow down and hold them close—or worse, build an altar in their names.

I’ve never been much for anything that asks me to get down on my knees.

I only trust the marigolds, and so I collect each and every head from my garden and the stash of dried petals from my pantry.  Here is the sunshine that will cleanse my soul.  Here is the heartbeat that will banish the flatline.  But first—I dig.  And dig.  And dig so many other little holes surrounding the grave.  So many other tiny graves for my Mason jars that would not fit in the six-foot-deep abyss where I planted all the things that need forgetting.  My backyard is a cemetery.  It’s full to bursting by the time I’m done with it.  Who knew Mason jars could take up so much space?  Who knew I held on to too much for too long?

Part of me is afraid to fully commit these things to the ground.  I don’t know what I am without my dead skins or my tangled hair or fragments of stories written on scraps of paper which now line the bottom of my dirty tombs. 

Then the marigolds whisper: perhaps you should find outPerhaps you should fill your graves with dirt and life and let those dead things feed the earthGive them to the worms who will be better nourished by the decaying and the dying.  In turn, they will gift you with fertile ground for better things.

The flowers are right, of course.  These things are of no use to me above ground—

—so down they go, into the underworld.

The shovel is my only companion.  Not even a lantern or candle graces my presence.  Some things are best done in the dark.  I make quick work of it, tossing dirt and more regrets on top of the scars I cut into my yard until I can no longer see Mason jar caps or heaps of sugar.  Until there is nothing left but freshly covered graves.

Here I stand with no last rites or final words.  Just a handful of dirt and another of marigolds.  I scattered the dry petals first so that they make a thin veil between the living and the dead.  Then I heap fresh buds upon fresh buds, open flowers upon open flowers, until the disturbed earth is no longer a series of scars but open seams that let the light through.  

I let the golden petals coat my backyard until my hands ache with the letting go and the holding on.  There is only one small flower left (the one I started with), barely emerging from the bud, sitting in the dry-bed of my palm.  The lifelines seem deeper now, but perhaps that is just dark soil bringing them to life.  In any case, I lean against the shovel and admire my work.  

Already, new shoots are emerging from the worm-rot.  Healthy green tendrils spread across the raw landscape like one long hearty Goodbye:

Goodbye to ghosts.  Goodbye to the past.  Goodbye to dead and gone things.  The golden flower is a sweet Hello in my hand, sweeping away any lingering regrets in my final Goodbyes.  My mouth is clean.  My scarred earth is healing.  I have no more energy for bitter seeds or sugared skulls.  Only the feathery seeds of a marigold’s heart. 

Much better to savor the fat orange fruit on the inside of a calendula bud.

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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!

A Summer of New Literacies

The glories of summer are fading into the delicious settledness of fall.  School is starting.  The harvest season is upon us.  A regular routine is taking the place of those seemingly long unstructured hours of summer (though granted, my summer hours were still fairly structured since I happily taught for most of it).  Yet I still feel pretty adventurous and ready to ease into a full course load while continuing to carve out time for fun, play, and the little things that make life, well, lively!

Why?  I'll let you in on a little secret: this summer was my summer of new literacies.  Spring was the season of epiphanies, as it so often is.  An extra-full workload made me realize that there is such a thing as loving your routine too much.  I know!  This coming from the woman who champions her routines as rituals, but hear me out.  

I had a short break from springs semester before diving into summer and in that space, I realized something: all the adventures I wanted to have and all the things I wanted to try ended up getting shoved aside in an attempt to get stuff done.  And when I did have down time, I devoted it to the introverted hobbies that nourished me--not a bad thing in and of itself, mind you, it's just that my comfort zone became...too, well, comfortable to the point of feeling suffocating.  I needed to dust off the stagnant energy and remember what it was like to play.

And so I played.  I was inspired by Shonda Rhimes's Year of Yes which tracks the year she said yes to everything that scared her.  I, too, took the summer to say yes to things outside my comfort zone, with one caveat: they had to bring me joy, pleasure, excitement--all the things we think of when we think of summer.  Now that didn't mean I wasn't afraid or nervous when I tried new things; it just meant that my interest in them outweighed my skittishness.  I also allowed myself to say no to things that did not inspire me.  I'm a woman who loves the power of her no as much as her yes.  Saying no to one thing allows you the space to say yes to another, often something you are far more excited about.  And if something didn't end up being as fun as I'd hoped, that was okay too.  What was important was that I tried something new and allowed myself to experience life outside of my work.

I'd come to think of this experiment as developing new literacies.  I was fluent in books and stories, family life and introvert life.  But what other languages might I learn?  What other ways to communicate?  It was hard at first. So. So. Hard.  Like trying to rebuild shoulder strength after an injury when you can barely remember you have shoulder muscles (this was part of my summer plan too: heal thy shoulder, heal thyself). Or like when I studied French and could never quite wrap my mouth around nasaly consonants and reedy vowels, let alone remember how to spell the words that didn't always pronounce certain letters.  But even in the midst of the struggle, I also found myself looking forward to saying yes and yes and yes to more and more things. 

The results: I found myself dreaming more and acting on those dreams.  I took different dance classes and tried new workouts, I went on weekly adventures and challenged myself to shake up my routine.  I took better care of myself and found that in making time for fun things, I felt happier, healthier, and surprisingly more productive when I wasn't just teaching and writing all the time.  An important revelation during my year of radical self-care.

I also had to become more aware of how I think of myself.  Let's face it: words are my safe space. I'm a writer and a teacher and an introvert, confident in those identities.  But who was I beyond that?  A dancer, as it turns out.  And a lover of cucumber beer after yoga with friends and a farmers' market lush who has to have her shot of freshly pressed wheatgrass before she can even think about filling her bag with produce.  I'd found I was someone who liked TRX (although, let's be real, is still very much learning how to do it!).  And I was someone who looked forward to dancing to the gods and goddesses in her Afro-Cuban Folkloric class and spending Sunday night at a baseball game.  

I even dusted off my bike--in storage for over ten years--and started riding it again.  It was like remembering an old part of myself, reviving that dormant piece, fearless in her joy, with a little bit of light and air and relaxation--and a super sore body after that first trip out!  I painted and drank wine.  I took mini road trips so that I could remember what it was like to cruise across open land. I allowed myself to take in theater performances and nourish the relationships that make my life richer.  I let myself relearn the pleasure of not being an expert, not know what I'm doing, letting go of the need to always be productive.

I even found grace and enjoyment from the uncertainty and inevitable social anxiety that comes from exposing yourself to new things.  It meant I was outside my comfort zone and that was a very, very good thing.  Most of all, I found how important it is for me to cultivate the daily adventures that shake up my routine and relish the company of other wild and wonderful dreamers, livers, and adventurers.  Now that the summer is almost over, I find I have developed a new literacy: bravery.  I am no longer afraid to taste new things, to learn new languages, to experience the world one yes at a time.  And the cucumber beer? Trust me.  It's a thing.  And it's delicious. 

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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!

On Mini-Holidays & Trips to Santa Fe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April in Paris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Audrey Hepburn in  Funny Face , walking along the Seine.  

Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face, walking along the Seine.  

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

Brooklyn

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

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

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

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

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

The imposing Gothic entrance to Green-Wood Cemetery.  

The imposing Gothic entrance to Green-Wood Cemetery.  

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

Rose and strawberries 'n cream donuts from Donut Plant.

Rose and strawberries 'n cream donuts from Donut Plant.

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

Bailey Fountain at the entrance to Prospect Park.

Bailey Fountain at the entrance to Prospect Park.

A lazy Sunday in Prospect Park.

A lazy Sunday in Prospect Park.

Emily Dickinson's place setting at the Dinner Party.

Emily Dickinson's place setting at the Dinner Party.

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

Gimlets and Oysters at Mayfield.

Gimlets and Oysters at Mayfield.

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

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

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

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

Dim sum magic in Brooklyn's Chinatown.

Dim sum magic in Brooklyn's Chinatown.

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

View from the Brooklyn Bridge Park.

View from the Brooklyn Bridge Park.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Argosy storefront.

Argosy storefront.

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

Interior shot of the Argosy Bookstore's first floor. 

Interior shot of the Argosy Bookstore's first floor. 

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

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

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

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

The Morgan Library...I could live here!

The Morgan Library...I could live here!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hemingway's three martini lunch.

Hemingway's three martini lunch.

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

Morgan's desk.

Morgan's desk.

Reading nook in the Morgan Library.

Reading nook in the Morgan Library.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Hot Air Balloons

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Tips for a Magical Staycation

This year I decided to forgo distant travels and enjoy my hometown for vacation.  There is something sort of romantic about seeing your city through the rose colored glasses of a visitor--no day-to-day worries, just pure unadulterated fun!  I'll admit that one of the draws of a staycation is the idea of sleeping in my own bed and never having to worry about whether or not I packed the right wardrobe (picture me freezing in my summer dress in still wintery Rome!).  You have all the fun of traveling with none of the hassle. 

A staycation is a great way to indulge in the simple pleasures you can't always enjoy when you travel--like sleeping in or spending an afternoon dallying on the porch.  When you travel, you want to maximize your time enjoying the magic of the destination you find yourself in--getting the most out of museums, restaurants, nature walks...and so forth.  Of course, the excitement of being in a new place and saturating your senses with new experiences is awesome, but sometimes what you really need out of a vacation is a little R&R.  A staycation allows you to truly rest and enjoy the comfort of your own home. 

I also love that it encourages you to see your city in a new light--and hopefully take some of that carefree magic into your everyday life.  After my staycation, I felt more motivated to enjoy the events and places of my town on a weekly basis.  So if you want to try a staycation this year--or just add a little more fun to your summer, check out my tips for a magical staycation below.

1.  No schedules! While it's true you'll want to make sure you catch that museum show or work in that trip to the mountains, you want to avoid penciling in all your free time.  In fact, you should start each day with no real plans, only a handful of suggestions of what you might do.  I learned this from one of my favorite Audrey Hepburn movies, Roman Holiday, in which the heroine insists on no schedules while she takes a day out of her princess-ing duties to simply enjoy herself--just one of the few travel tips I've learned from Miss Hepburn

2.  Sleep in.  Have a lazy breakfast.  Linger over your cup of coffee.  This will help you avoid the temptation to over-schedule yourself.  It's also pretty delicious to sleep in on a weekday when you know the rest of the world is at work. 

3.  Indulge.  You know if you were on vacation, you'd be having that glass of wine with lunch or that afternoon gelato...so why not do it while you're staycationing?  Have your ice cream cone.  Savor that decadent lunch.  Splurge on that dress.  Go out to your favorite restaurant dressed to the nines.  Take a long nap under a shady tree.   

4.  Make time for the things you love--but don't always have the energy for.  I personally love looking at art, going to festivals, and yes, dancing (as you well know).  That said, I don't always feel like doing any of these things after a busy work week (the allure of wearing pajamas all day is just too much to resist).  During my staycation, I went to a local wine festival, several dance events, and even a film screening (after a martini at my favorite bar). 

5.  Be a tourist in your own city--minus the fanny pack and frumpy tennis shoes.  I know this might sound super obvious, but it's important to point out that a staycation is a time to see the important stuff in your city that you wouldn't otherwise check out, like that historical monument or gorgeous nature reserve--or the host of seasonal activities and events that you say you will go to each year but never do. 

What do you enjoy most about staycationing?

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

On Bravery

Bravery. 

The act of planting a small seed in soil you aren't sure is fertile enough--but hope, desperately hope--that it is. And the seed, a small husk holding only a new possibility, that fragile little flicker of promise--of what, you might not even know.  Yet you still dare to image another way of being.

Bravery, vulnerability's bold lover.  Not in donning armor but consciously, when the moment is right, casting off that thick chainmail and exposing the tender skin underneath to wonder, to the simple chance that there is life beyond the mundane.  It is in that tentative first step into a new way of living.  Pushing past the fear, the little whispers that try to keep you tethered to the safety of the un-evolving. 

It's in taking the risk to believe that you are on your path even as you wonder if it is a path at all (you only see a faint ribbon of dirt half-buried in bramble).  No matter.  You will make it one.  You have made it one.  Your feet moving forward--first one, then the other--do so in response to the prompting of the loose earth beneath your feet--it calls to your soles--soul--as your soul calls to it.  And that is enough.

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

Things that Make Me a Burquena

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Things that Make Me a New Mexican

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Everyday Enchantment

Enchantment.  A spell wrapped in a noun.  Three syllables.  One state of being.

To live with Enchantment is to see beyond the brick and mortar that make up your home and into the magic infused within its frame.  It is to peel back the layers of your day-to-day and search for that elusive energy that winds its way up your spine and outward into your life.

To learn from Enchantment is to listen to Coyote's call when he plays his tricks.   He is a messenger really--there to make you listen.  To trust in the power that is you, that is the earth; the power that is the beating of your heart, a rhythmic tattoo that forever pounds out your path regardless of how many times you try to stray from it.  It is to absorb the wisdom of the moon and the stars, and the prophesying of the seeds burrowed deep in the dirt.

It is to conjure.  To create.  To believe that the bulk of your day--the most important parts--occurs in the moments and spaces others can too easily overlook.  Because when you are looking for everyday enchantment, it finds you.  Always.  It nourishes you.  It makes its home inside your skin and feeds your soul. 

Yes.  That's Enchantment.  A spell wrapped in a noun, planted in the earth and nourished with moonlight, roots stretching to the underworld and leaves unfurling towards the heavens, creating a waking dream in the here and now if only you are open to it.

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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!

On Why I Read Fantasy Novels

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the First Kiss of Autumn

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Yesterday the wind whipped through your land, chasing out the heat of summer and bringing with it the first kiss of fall.  The day had started out warm, hot almost, but slowly cooled as the wind pulled clouds down from the mountains and over the city.  You had been out in the bluster long enough yesterday to feel the chill in your bones that only a bubble bath and cup of tea could cure.

This morning, the wind is gone and in its place is the heady aroma of autumn. You linger on your porch, enjoying the cool air and the gentle cloud cover.  You inhale that almost undefinable smell synonymous with this time of year: crisp air tinged with the bright green of leaves and the dusky overripe scent of your garden about ready to curl in and retire for the year.  

The weather promises a day of delicious slowness.  Autumn is slowly snaking its fingers through the earth and your heart, pulling you inward, deeper into the quiet of the season.

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

On Peeling Chile

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

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

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

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

On Burning Old Man Gloom

Zozobra. 

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

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

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

But not for me.

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

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

On Italian Apertivo at Home

 

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

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

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

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

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

An assortment of crostini at a magical restaurant in Florence!

An assortment of crostini at a magical restaurant in Florence!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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