Handmade Herbal Soap Bars

The herb garden is still flourishing, and I’ve been using and saving as much as I can. Today I’m making a bunch of herbal soaps.  They’re great to have around for guests, and perfect for little homemade gifts. I just use a basic soap base and add essential oils, herbs, and moisturizers. Each recipe makes 1 bar.

Thymely Rose

  • 1 cup Soap Base
  • 1 tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 10 drops Rose Essential Oil
  • Dried Thyme and Dried Rose Petals

Melt the soap base using a double boiler. Stir in oils and pour into soap mold. Drop in thyme and rose petals as desired, and let cool completely.

Citrus Spice

  • 1 cup Soap Base
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 10 drops Tangerine Essential Oil
  • Fresh Rosemary & Cloves

Melt the soap base using a double boiler. Stir in oils and pour into soap mold. Drop in rosemary and cloves as desired, and let cool completely.

Lavender Oats

  • 1 cup Soap Base
  • 1 tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 10 drops Lavender Essential Oil
  • Dried Lavender and Oats

Melt the soap base using a double boiler. Stir in oils and pour into soap mold. Drop in lavender and oats as desired, and let cool completely.

Mintea Tree

  • 1 cup Soap Base
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 10 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil
  • Fresh Mint Leaves

Melt the soap base using a double boiler. Stir in oils and pour into soap mold. Drop in mint leaves as desired, and let cool completely.

Lemon Verbena

  • 1 cup Soap Base
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 10 drops Lemon Essential Oil
  • Fresh Lemon Verbena

Melt the soap base using a double boiler. Stir in oils and pour into soap mold. Drop in lemon verbena as desired, and let cool completely.

Harvest

I was awakened by the golden glow from the Harvest Moon early this morning, sleepily gazing at the ghostly orange orb shedding its soft light on our blossoming garden. Along with celebrating the harvest moon, harvest has been our top priority so far this month, picking and eating fresh garden produce daily by the basket full. It’s so rewarding and humbling simultaneously, living off of the land, giving constant attention to our thriving plants, doting on those who prefer rainy days, exclaiming over a newly red tomato or a perfectly ripe zucchini. The nights into morning are beginning to cool off, and we will continue to harvest as much as we possibly can until the first frost kisses our garden. We pick more than we can eat, but what we don’t eat ourselves or give away, well, we have big plans…

Pickling and Canning

You can get one of my favorite pickle recipes here. I’ve been pickling our cucumbers, banana peppers, and green beans nonstop lately. I toss in garlic, peppers, and spices depending on the taste I’m going for with each batch.

I started using my new canner, a gift from my mom, on our plethora of produce from the garden. I’m still experimenting with it to perfect the technique. By the end of the season, we should be stocked up on homemade canned goods. If you decide you want to try canning, ALWAYS follow directions exactly according to the specific canner and recipes you’re using. Botulism is no joke.

Tomatoes

Fresh salsa with tomatoes, onions, and peppers from the garden? Hell yes. Here’s the recipe:

  • 4 Large Tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup Diced Poblano Pepper
  • 1/3 cup Diced Banana Pepper
  • 1/3 cup Diced Jalepeno Pepper
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 tbsp Salt
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • 1/4 cup White Vinegar

Core and dice tomatoes. Add tomatoes to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil gently for 10 minutes. Add peppers, garlic, salt, lime juice, and vinegar. Bring back to boil and boil gently for 10 additional minutes. Serve chilled.

Drying

With cooler nights and mornings here in the Springs, I’ve been clipping my herbs and hanging them upside down to dry. We’ve also been drying out a lot of the peppers from the garden. 

As for Everything Else…

We plan to produce flour from the red corn once it’s ready, and the quinoa and root veggies will be harvested in the fall. Plus, the pumpkins are starting to ripen just in time for the autumn equinox. The squash is picked and eaten daily, and everything else will be pickled, canned, or dried for use throughout the year. 

How have you celebrated the Harvest Moon?

Moon Journal

The moon. La luna. It influences the tides, our bodies, agriculture, sleep cycles. I find the moon presenting itself in a lot of my expressive artwork, and I want to document how it affects me personally.  Last night was the Leo New Moon. I noticed how much it was affecting me, so I started looking more into its meaning, and realized that next month, at the end of this moon cycle, holds a solar eclipse. This is an important lunar cycle to pay attention to. Today, I created a moon journal to document my mind, body, spirit, and sleep for each day and night from the Leo New Moon, through the Full Corn Moon on Monday, August 7th, 2017 until the solar eclipse on Monday, August 21st, 2017.

I would love to hear from and share this experience with anyone wishing to join me on this lunar journey!

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.

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!

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…

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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Carolina to Colorado

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Sometimes there are days that demand change, and then there are days that suggest the perfection of the present. The deep descent and the foamy whitecaps of the waves that life offers can be beautiful, sad, and exciting, and they seem to either come all at once, or few and far between. Change, although often necessary to promote growth, can feel daunting. Change often means the abandonment of comfort, security, familiarity. It also offers a promise of renewal, happiness, and adventure. But what happens when that promise goes unfulfilled? Maybe to elicit successful change and growth, the beauty of the current situation must be acknowledged and appreciated.
Change has been on my mind lately, particularly regarding change of scenery. I have lived in North Carolina my entire life. When I visited Colorado last month for the first time, it stole my heart. It was my first time off of work in six months, and it was much needed. Taking time away, away from stress, routines, morning commutes, is so good for my spirit. Traveling keeps me from feeling stagnant and opens my eyes and mind to different customs, places, and ideas. I have traveled to a few places, such as Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, England, Mexico, New York, Key West, and now, Colorado. I would love to continue to travel the world and explore new places. I dream of traveling to places like Thailand, France, Egypt, Prague, as well as the west coast of the US, which I have somehow never managed to see in my 25 years of life. Colorado is as close as I have come to the west coast. It was just what I needed to promote my own self-care, something you hear a lot about in the counseling world. It felt amazing to get away for awhile, to be with loved ones, to meet new people, to see new, beautiful places, and to contemplate the idea of change. In 9 short days, my partner, Luke, and I managed to visit Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, and Buena Vista. We spent most of our time wandering around town(s), reconnecting with friends and family,  exploring mountain tops, and praising the gripping ability of our hiking boots. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn new things about ourselves and about each other. The feeling of renewal I gained from our trip inspired me to begin documenting my personal methods of self-care and wellness, and to become more contemplative about different practices I might try.

Boulder, Colorado

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Colorado Springs Farmers Market

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Maybe to elicit successful change and growth, the beauty of the current situation must be acknowledged and appreciated.

My situation is beautiful.