Carolina to Colorado, Part Deux

We did it. We moved across the country from Asheville, North Carolina to Colorado Springs, Colorado. From the Smokies to the Rockies. 1500 miles of driving, music, laughter, and anticipation. We are currently falling in love with our new home.

Change is good; growth is amazing. I can’t wait to show you (and myself) what is yet to come.

Stay tuned for more adventures out west.

Morning Coffee Alternatives

Physical health is a big part of my own self-care. That includes what I decide to put in my body. A warm cup of coffee is usually a go-to when it comes to early mornings and busy schedules, but caffeine doesn’t always match with our self-care routines or health goals. Luckily, I just found an awesome place in Asheville called Alchemy, a tea room/ apothecary that serves all natural, caffeine-free coffee alternatives. Alchemy brews their own root blend that has an amazing coffee flavor. They can even add cacao to create a mocha if you’re looking for something on the sweeter side.

If you’re not local to Asheville, there are also other alternatives to morning caffeine rituals. Personally, I’ve been starting to drink warm lemon water in the mornings. Adding lemon to warm water to start the morning off seems to benefit me throughout the rest of the day. However, if you’re still longing for that coffee aroma, brewing ground chicory root can also be a great alternative to coffee without losing the taste. Kick the caffeine, keep the flavor!

Here’s to beautiful, intentional, nourishing mornings.

Retreat

“You gave me a forever within the numbered days…”

-John Green

 I recently experienced the loss of a loved one. As many resources as I have for clients experiencing grief and loss, I personally found myself unprepared for the impact. I have so many memories that I cherish with this person, and I needed time to reflect on them and to process this experience. I decided to take some time apart from everyone and everything on a personal retreat. I found a beautiful retreat center in the middle of the Pisgah National Forest called Mountain Light Sanctuary. The sanctuary offers multiple overnight accommodations including some that are open to the elements, and even a four post bed placed directly under the stars. Since the comfort of my home and the support of my partner have been so healing through this process, I simply chose to participate in a personal day retreat. I spent a lot of time reflecting, journaling, and meditating by the river. As I was longing to feel grounded and connected to the natural world, I walked around the property barefoot, rooting myself to the earth beneath me. It was a beautiful experience to reflect on loss while surrounded by the awakened life of blooming flowers and singing birds, as well as the company of a friendly little resident cat…

 Unplugging, connecting with nature, and temporarily retreating in such a way can be so revitalizing, and I would love to hear about any retreats you have visited or would recommend!

Express Yourself

Expressive arts can be an amazing method of self-care. What it is? It’s basically creating art, in any form of your choosing, to express feelings, promote mindfulness, and encourage personal growth. There are lots of resources available for expressive arts, as well as practitioners who facilitate Expressive Arts Therapy. I learned about expressive arts during a retreat, and it was such a powerful, meditative experience. Ever since, I have utilized expressive painting, music, writing, movement, and dance in my own self-care practices. There is something so freeing about creating art in a nonjudgmental way, to focus on the process of creating rather than on the finished product. Whenever I am feeling stuck, I combine expressive painting with music and rhythm. The process is simple.

First, try to clear your head using mindfulness/ meditation and breathing techniques: breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, breathe out for four counts, hold for four counts, and repeat. This always helps to silence my busy mind. Once you’re in a calming place, you can then paint, color, or draw to the rhythm of your breath, to the melody of music (if you have some playing in the background), or simply let the paintbrush guide you. So grab your favorite medium, or even combine them, and express yourself!

What other forms of expressive arts are you curious about? Comment below!

Blues

It’s inevitable. No matter how much we enjoy the snow, towards the end of the season, the winter blues are bound to set in. We start to long for warm sunshine and lush greenery, and the constant windchill and bare branches start to seem monotonous. This week, on a particularly cold and cloudy day, I decided to offset my winter blues with the blue hues of the Blue Ridge Mountains, as if to seek out my own pathetic fallacy. I grabbed our pup, Molly, and headed out toward Tennessee to a magical place called Roan Mountain. As luck would have it, the clouds slowly dissipated as we made our way up the winding mountain roads. One thing I’ve learned while living in the mountains is that gazing out at the endless ridges and visualizing how small we are compared to the earth  around us can really help shift our perspective, and, in some cases, even brighten our mood. Exploring the snowy forests and hiking the various balds of Roan Mountain was an amazing counterbalance for the winter blues. Molly seemed to be in good spirits as well, rolling around in the residual patches of snow and gazing out at the breathtaking views.

   

Of course, we are often stuck inside during these cold winter days, but even indoor comforts may offer an escape from the frigidity, like creating a cozy atmosphere inside to compliment the cold weather, or experimenting with different herbal tea concoctions to warm up during those particularly chilly mornings. Here is one recipe I’ve been loving lately:

  • Black tea leaves
  • Dried rose petals
  • Lavender
  • Cloves (optional)
  • Cinnamon bark (optional)

Simply blend ingredients, add one tsp to a loose leaf tea strainer, and steep in hot water for 5 minutes.

Salt Therapy

 Ever since I moved to Asheville, I’ve heard mention of the Asheville Salt Cave, a spa and gift shop in downtown Asheville, including a cave made completely of crystal salt. I love using my Himalayan salt lamp at home, and have been hearing so much about the benefits of crystal salt, so I finally decided to check out the cave. From the moment you walk in, the atmosphere feels completely calming and inviting. The cave experience starts with a guided meditation, followed by a gentle dimming of the lights and an invitation to silently meditate.
Using meditation and quieting my mind has always been a challenge for me, but recently I have been practicing both guided and silent meditation, gradually learning to let go, slow down, and just be. After some patience and determination, meditation has now become a magical part of my life. That magic was truly intensified in the salt cave. I could feel the expansion of my breathing, the calming of my mind, and the immediate relief of my tension. Following my 45 minute session in the cave, I felt completely at ease throughout the rest of my day. All of my stress was melted away. I wish I had visited the salt cave months ago to experience the wonderful benefits, and I will definitely be back.
What helps you with meditation? What are your thoughts on salt therapy? I would love to hear from you!
Best Wishes,
Emily

Contrast

Waking up to a blanket of snow feels like a dream when you live in Asheville. We usually only get a handful of snow days every year, and last week, we woke up to one of those days. Within the same week, we were greeted by 70 degree weather. Mother natures offers lots of contrast, as does day to day life. Major changes can happen overnight, and we can either try to resist such contrast, or we can embrace it. The idea of contrast and change has been coming up a lot in recent meetings with my colleagues and supervisors. One of my fellow counselors always tells me: “roll with resistance”. When unexpected changes come up, roll with it rather than push against it. The capability to roll with resistance can depend greatly on our ability to give up perceived control over our environment. In many cases, the only true control we have is over our own reactions and responses, which can be used to create flexibility and balance when we are faced with difficult or unusual situations. Additionally, my supervisor recently advised me to let go of my expectations of certain situations, and challenged me to find ways to change my perspective and create my own ‘silver linings’, which is something I have been working on. Even when we are faced with darkness, we can bring our own light into it.
Truthfully, I was hoping that the snow would last longer. I definitely appeased my inner child: sledding, playing, and just taking in the scenery. When my toes were nearly frozen, I warmed up inside with hot tea and spent some time wrapping crystals. I was enjoying the quiet, vast energy of such a short-lived wonderland, only to see it melted away so quickly. It was then that I reminded myself of my ability to take control over my own reaction to the contrasting weather patterns. Rather than ruminate over the loss of the beautiful snow, I took advantage of the unexpected warm weather. I visited some of the same areas that were covered in snow just days before to capture the contrast (pictures below). In the end, I know that I feel happiest when I am living in the moment; when I let go of my expectations and constant planning, and embrace the contrast that life, and nature, offer to me.

& what a difference a day makes…

Winter Glow

A new year is upon us. The perfect time for a clean slate, a fresh start, or renewed resolutions. One of my resolutions is to continue to improve my self-care practices, including my skin care routine. As much as I love the winter, snow and all, my skin definitely does not. A lot of us suffer from dry, wintery skin this time of year, and for me, exfoliation is the answer. My homemade body scrubs, both sugar and salt based, helped me ring in the New Year with hydrated, glowing skin.

I mentioned this Yule Oil sugar scrub (above) in my last post. It smells incredible and is the perfect way to pamper rough skin during the winter season. Here is the recipe:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup olive or avocado oil
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 10 drops Yule Oil

Mix ingredients until well combined and use as an exfoliant in the bath or shower.

My lavender and tea tree oil salt scrub (above) is my go-to this time of year. It saves my skin so I can enjoy the winter weather, especially the occasional snow day (which we are anticipating this weekend!). Tea tree oil is great for dry skin and lots of other conditions. Here is the salt scrub recipe:

  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 1/4 cup olive or avocado oil
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 5 drops tea tree oil
  • 5 drops lavender oil

Mix ingredients until well combined and use as an exfoliant in the bath or shower.

Happy New Year, lovelies!

Yuletide

The Winter Solstice falls on the shortest day and longest night of the year. The ground begins to freeze, the earth below protecting the seeds and roots as they sleep until the spring. Snow falls, ice crystals form, and all is quiet, calm, and contemplative. Today, December 21st, marks the 2016 solstice. Winter has begun, and it is beautiful. Many cultures and religions acknowledge the winter solstice and celebrate the changing of the seasons. As the idea of winter can be disheartening for so many people who are in need of warmth, safety, and love in the cold weather, some of these celebrations might include lights, candles, warm spices, or evergreen plants that symbolize life, hope, and comfort throughout the winter months.

This year, I want to welcome the winter solstice and create small comforts for myself and my loved ones. Although I am looking forward to celebrating the solstice, I remind myself that the holidays can be lonely and difficult for many people, and even small gestures of warmth and love can go a long way as the winter and holiday season approaches. As the pine trees, twinkling lights, and hot cocoa surround us this season, we are reminded of comfort, warmth, and of hope to last us through the colder months. This year, I want to offer comforting gifts, and reminders of such hope to myself and to those around me as we celebrate the changing of the seasons. A local metaphysical shop, Raven and Crone (located in Asheville, NC) makes wonderful essential oil, incense, and other products meant for Solstice and Yule celebrations. I am always greeted by the friendly, magical energy of this shop as well as the resident black cat purring on the counter.

In preparation for the Winter Solstice, I am using a few treasures from Asheville Raven and Crone, including their Yule Oil, Yule Incense, and Wassail Mulling Spices. I added the Yule Oil to a comforting homemade sugar body scrub that I am making for my friends and family, which is perfect for dry, wintery skin. I also concocted a hot mulled Wassail cider for my partner and I to enjoy as we welcome the Solstice, surrounded by aromas of pine, cinnamon, and clove in our cozy little home.

I hope that comfort and love will surround you this winter.

Leaves are Falling

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We all experience valleys and peaks in life (both figuratively and literally), including the changing of the seasons. The autumnal equinox can be symbolic of both high’s and low’s. The days are shorter, the weather cooler, yet at the same time everything feels warm, cozy and colorful. As trees fall asleep, the leaves get more and more intense as it gets darker. Colder. Luckily Luke and I, along with our pup Molly, had a chance to catch the peak leaf colors of the fall season at one of my favorite and most beautiful areas of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Max Patch Mountain. One night in October, before the wildfires, before the burn ban, and after what seemed like hours of searching for the perfect campsite, we ended up in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night. We set up our tent in the darkness together. Cold and cozy. We awoke to the most beautiful sight of colorful changing leaves all around us. It had been too dark to really see where we had decided to set up camp, but it truly was picture perfect. After a campfire-cooked breakfast (part of which was stolen by an easily distracted hunting dog who wandered into our campsite), we headed down the windy roads to behold the the panoramic views of the red, yellow, and orange covered mountains at Max Patch. I was longing for a chance to unplug, to cleanse, reconnect with nature and with my partner, to feel the earth on my feet. Since quartz and calcite are both stones that have cleansing properties, I thought they would be perfect to accompany us on our weekend adventure. In somewhat of meditative state among the leaves, I got a chance to wire wrap them, a hobby and self-care technique that I often lose myself in. After a beautiful couple of days adjusting to the rapidly cooling weather, we finally warmed our fingers up with some local coffee on our way home, recharged and revitalized.

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