art · culture · relaxation

Flowers At The Museum

Hi friends! I know that I missed the Writers Wednesday post yesterday, but since it’s the first couple of days of NaNoWriMo, I don’t have much to say. I’m still figuring out exactly what I want to write, so an entire update post was sort of unnecessary. I figured this paragraph would be more than enough to explain what’s going on. Now, back to the topic at hand …

Recently, I went to Virginia Museum of Fine Art (VMFA) with a group of brand new friends. After enjoying tea in the museum’s garden, we checked out the Fine Art and Flowers exhibition. This was a 5-day long exhibition that featured fresh flower arrangements inspired by some of the museum’s current art installations.

I only wish I had more time to see all of the arrangements (it would take at least two visits to make sure that I saw all of the flowers). But what I saw, I enjoyed immensely. Here are some pictures from the exhibition:

Display in the atrium
Close up of the atrium display
Arrangement influenced by Dragon-Shaped Pendant (artist unknown) by Laura Brooks and Lisa Vawter of the Garden Club of Middle Peninsula, King William County, VA
Arrangement inspired by Deer in Landscapes of Summer and Winter (Mori Kansai) by Helena Arouca and Julie Madden of Ikebana of Richmond, Sangetsu School, Waynesboro VA
Arrangement inspired by Queen Anne of Denmark, Wife of James I (Workshop of Marcus Gheeraerts) by Diane Burgess, River Road Garden Club, Crozier, Richmond Designers’ Guild
Arrangement inspired by Piazza San Marco (Francesco Guardi) by Gladys Lewis and June Hambrick, Leesburg Garden Club, Leesburg VA
Another angle of the arrangement inspired by Piazza San Marco

I saw a few more arrangements but didn’t have the chance to photograph them. The flowers were such a bright, welcome addition to the museum. I didn’t bother getting the map of the locations of all of the arrangements: I preferred to discover them on my own. I loved how it was almost like a scavenger hunt to locate the arrangements! If this year is any indication, then I can comfortably say that the creativity of the floral artists will wow us for years to come. I can’t wait to see the floral arrangements next year!

life curation · relaxation · style

Making a House a Home

Happy Monday, friends! I trust that your weekend was safe, happy, and relaxing. It was another hot weekend in Virginia (my favorite type of weather!) so the weekend started and ended on a great note, as far as I’m concerned.

Today’s post is the first domestic one that I’ve done in quite some time. There would have been far more of these sort of posts this summer, but I ended up not planting my garden, so there were no flower or herb pictures to share. Also, a lot of my time during the pandemic was spent care for my grandmother and great-aunt. For that reason, I didn’t have much time to focus on the “fun” domestic activities that I’ll be talking about today.

That being said, my life is returning to normal. My grandmother and my great-aunt returned to their home, my health started to improve, and I finally had more free time to explore my creativity leanings. This newfound time freedom gave me the space to play around with craft ideas that, at one time, I didn’t think I’d have the time or energy to do.

So, in the upcoming weeks and months, I’ll be sharing all sorts of domestic posts and videos. I have an upcoming video where I feature a do-it-yourself autumn wreath that is beautiful, easy and inexpensive. I’ve also been tinkering with some foraging and wildcrafting recipes that I’m eager to share with you all. Today, however, I’m going to share a super-simple autumn-inspired tea recipe that I filmed last year, that will be perfect once the air starts to cool and the leaves start turning to red and gold.

I hope you all enjoy the video! I’ll talk to you all tomorrow. Take care!

health · life curation · luxury · relaxation

Luxury Is Your Birthright

After spending some time listening to those amazing audiobooks last month (you can see my June book list here), I felt like I was buzzing. It’s been quite some time since I felt limitless and excited about the possibilities that lay before me. Perhaps it’s the thrill of the pandemic easing up and life getting back to some semblance of normal. Or, maybe it’s because my fibromyalgia hasn’t been giving me any major issues recently (yay for being flare-free!). On the other hand, it could be the fact that it’s starting to consistently feel like summertime here in Virginia, and the sunny days and warm temps do wonders for my mood.

Whatever the reason, I was already feeling pretty good. But these books absolutely upleveled my mood from good to great. In addition to general mood-lifting, the audiobooks I enjoyed reminded me of the power of my conscious and subconscious mind, as well as the fact that I am entitled to live a beautiful life, and that can include luxuries that enhance my experience here on earth.

However, listening to these books also made me think about an incident that occurred earlier this year, which I will regale you with in a moment. To preface, a few months ago, I was thinking about living luxuriously and how to create a more opulent home environment, but I was plagued with a lot of guilt. I love nice things, but in the middle of a global health crisis, it felt silly to desire my normal luxury purchases. And, when I did shop, my purchased amounted to nothing more than retail therapy, because I was under a lot of stress and needed pretty, shiny distractions.

The source of my stress was directly connected to my home environment. Two of my elderly relatives started living in my home during the pandemic, and, despite having adequate space, an abundance of food, and all of the electronics needed to keep us occupied, the environment still felt tense and unhappy. The spirit of discontent was heavy in my home, and it was weighing on me.

My relatives were ready to go back to their home. And they were being unpleasant in my home, in order to communicate their desire to leave. However, their home needed several repairs, as well as fumigation and deep cleaning, before they could moved. I was unsure how long it would take until all of those tasks could be accomplished, so I couldn’t provide them with a definite return date. That uncertainty stressed me out even more than the unpleasant behavior that I was witnessing daily.

Now, on to the incident that the books brought to mind: in the midst of this extremely stressful home situation, my good friend Kalifia mentioned to me that I should get away for a couple of days. But, on short notice, I figured that I couldn’t go very far. This part was true – going far wasn’t really an option – but it was only one side of what she proposed. She emphasized to me that, even if I couldn’t go very far away from home, I could still take a few days to get away.

I couldn’t argue with her logic. I needed a break, and it was within my budget. But I felt bad about taking a mini-break: I could have used the money for something else, I could have stayed at home in order to help take care of my elderly family members, I could have used the time to clean up a bit more and catch up on chores, etc.,. The reasons to say “no” were numerous. But there was only one reason to say “yes”, and, fortunately for me, it was louder than all of the “no”s combined. The “yes” simply said,

You need this.

Despite my guilt and hesitance, I decided to book a room at a lovely hotel about 20 minutes from my home. I checked in a few days later, and I laid around in the room and enjoyed the silence. The following day, I shopped at an upscale mall near the hotel, then I returned back to my room. I ordered food delivery each day, and I ate whatever I wanted. It felt ridiculous, self-indulgent, and positively unnecessary. Except, I needed every moment of it. Those days away from home restored me. It was a luxury, but it was crucial to helping me feel like myself again.

Do you ever feel that you don’t deserve the best that life has to offer? Does it ever feel like you need to EARN the luxurious parts of life? Do you feel foolish whenever you reach out for luxury? If you have, then let me assure you: luxury is your right. Actually, it’s your birthright: when you were born, you came entitled to the best that life has to offer. You are entitled to live a life that feels good to you, leaving you with beautiful, satisfying memories to comfort you as you age and eventually expire.

It took me reaching the end of my rope before I reconnected to my entitlement to happiness, peace, joy, and, yes, luxury. The beautiful thing about luxury is that we get to define it for ourselves. My definition doesn’t have to fit anyone else’s, and that’s fine. What isn’t fine is forgetting that I’m always entitled to feeling luxurious based on my definition.

I’m thankful for remembering who I am and what I deserve. I’m even more thankful that I can use my birthright to inform the decisions that I make, and I am determined to consistently make choices that honor this.

How do you define luxury? I’d love to hear it in the comments below!

beauty · hollywood glamour · life curation · luxury · relaxation

Review: The Harlem Candle Company

Happy Tuesday!

I love candles. I’ve never reviewed candles here on this blog, but I have quite a collection. It’s funny: something that is such a BIG part of my daily relaxation routine has never been featured here before. But, then again, I didn’t have any candles that completely resonated with my essence.

Until now. Recently, I came across some candles on the page of one of my Facebook friends. I’d intended to invest in more luxury candles, but other than Diptyque and The Clean Candle Company (I did a review of their candles here), I was stumped over which candle to purchase next. I’d planned to try Trudon’s Josephine candle, but the company has consistently sold out of the size I wanted to purchase. And so it goes: fate conspired to make me amenable to other suggestions.

Enter the Harlem Candle Company.

This company crafts candles themed after literary and cultural figures from the Harlem Renaissance period. And the candle that most intrigued me was Josephine, named after the bronzed goddess herself, Ms. Josephine Baker. I also purchased two other candles – Speakeasy and Ellington – in both the regular and travel sizes (respectively).

These candles are lush, complex and timelessly elegant. I love the fragrances that the company offers, as well as the charming backstories that explain the inspiration behind the scents. The company also ships their products quickly: it took me only a few days after purchasing to have my candles in hand. I enjoyed these candles so well that I made a YouTube video about it! Please check out the video, and give it a thumbs up if you enjoy it.

That’s all for today. I’ll talk to you all tomorrow. Take care!

life curation · relaxation

The Latest Garden Blooms

I haven’t posted any new garden pictures this year, due to my hectic schedule (no time to plant as many flowers as I intended) and the intense heat that we had. Sadly, my peony blooms have all fallen off, and my roses are budding more slowly. But this is the natural evolution of things, no? Spring comes, the blooms arrive, the blooms fall, and then the summer blooms take over. It’s a lovely natural process that I can appreciate. Here are some of the pictures that I took right before we got the rain that gave us some relief (LOL!) and a few from the days right after the rain. Enjoy!

The first rose of the season
My azaleas showed off this year! So gorgeous.
I love my peonies. They never stay long enough.
This is the first year that my dogwood bloomed!
A closeup of my dogwood blooms.
A new crepe myrtle that my father gifted me for Mother’s Day: I haven’t transplanted it to my garden yet.

life curation · relaxation

Garden Planning – The First Steps

As if I’m not already busy enough . . . I have started working on my garden plan for this year. You see, last year, spring caught me quite by surprise (probably because I was starting to tutor more and COVID became an issue when I should have been doing my garden planning). So while I did grow a few things, I didn’t have nearly as many flowers and herbs as I would have wanted. I believe that a failure to plan properly is why my garden was so unimpressive.

Last year, I also completed a course in herbalism and became a certified herbalist. As part of my continuing study, I knew that I wanted to grow herbs, veggies, fruits and flowers that I can use in my practice. Also, part of herbalism involves studying plants throughout the four seasons, so that you can become intimately familiar with them. The best way to do that is to grow them from seeds/seedlings and observe them for a full year or two. I can best do that by growing them myself as opposed to trying to find certain plants “in the wild” and trying to keep up with them that way.

This year, I’m going to do better. I’ve already read a book about lunar and biodynamic gardening (book review posted here) as well as a book about how to group your plants in your garden. I’ve purchased some seeds, some seedling trays, and I have some soil left over from last year. I have my supplies, but now I have to actually work out a schedule for what to do and when to do it.

My seed stash

For assistance with scheduling my garden activities, I’ve been relying heavily on the Farmer’s Almanac website. There is a great, easy-to-read guide on when and how to start seeds indoors, as well as a guide for vegetable gardening for absolute beginners. Now, I’m growing herbs as well as flowers, fruit and a few vegetables, so I will have to check some other websites to get a good schedule for my non-veggie plants. But the Farmer’s Almanac website has a handy calendar to help you plan your vegetables based on your zip code, so I’m glad that they have made it so easy!

In the weeks to come, I’ll share my list of veggies, herbs and flowers that I’m growing, as well as any tools or resources that I’m using to help me with the gardening process.

Do any of you have a garden? If so, when do you start planning your garden? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

life curation · relaxation

How to Do a Tea Meditation

Happy Tuesday friends! I hope you all are enjoying a comfortable and happy day wherever you are.

In light of the recent events in the United States, I thought about how I could contribute to the collective energy of peace and kindness. It may sound a little simplistic, but I truly believe that good intentions, prayer, and self-mastery are foundational to creating a more peaceful world. Indeed, if I can create peace within my personal world, I can radiate this out to others, and eventually this energy can start to encourage a peaceful attitude around the world.

I looked around my home to see if I had anything that would create an immediate mood lift. I reached for what has always worked for me: a cup of hot tea. But, instead of simply drinking the tea, I decided to do something a little different. I created a tea meditation around my ritual of enjoying hot tea. After I finished my cup, I felt so much more relaxed and grounded. I figure, if this process can have that effect on me, perhaps it will be of use to you, too.

So here are the steps involved in my tea meditation. If you prefer to watch a video on it, you can see a video demonstration below. Also, if you’re interested in reading more about the rich history of tea and the culture behind the tea ceremony, you should check out The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura. I found the book unexpectedly enlightening and thoroughly inspiring.

  • Pay close attention to every step that you take in preparing your tea: select your tea carefully, listen to the sound of the water as it goes from simmering to boiling, feel the weight of the cup in your hand before and after adding water.
  • Select your sweetener carefully (if you choose to indulge). If you’re inclined. do a taste test of the different sweeteners available and see which one makes your taste buds dance.
  • Gently, slowly and intentionally pour the hot water over your tea. Look intently as the water changes from clear to colored. Look closely to see if the herbs or tea leaves make swirls in the water as it infuses. Get lost in the slow transformation from clear liquid to flavorful beverage.
  • Add your sweetener a little at a time. Taste the difference between levels of sweetness. Connect those levels of sweetness to emotions or actions (perhaps you can compare lightly sweetened to a mild happiness, and the perfect level of sweetness to bliss [maybe like a passionate kiss]).
  • Stir the tea gently with a spoon, to ensure that the flavors are evenly distributed. Immerse all of your senses into the process.
  • Allow the tea to cool a bit before drinking. Take deep, cleansing breaths while you wait, and concentrate on what you want to experience as a result of drinking your tea (happiness, peace, satisfaction, etc.,).
  • Bring the cup up to your lips but, before sipping, deeply inhale the aroma. Try to identify each of the components of the tea by smell.
  • Take a sip, noting the feel of the cup against your lip, the weight of the cup in your hand, and the smell of the tea.
  • Allow the tea to gently swish in your mouth, coming into contact with all of your taste buds. Try to pick up notes of sweetness, bitterness, sourness, or saltiness (an exquisite tea can have elements of each). As you swallow, concentrate once more on what you want to experience.
  • With every sip, engage all of your senses and focus on what you desire.
  • Upon finishing your tea, speak a few words of gratitude, and complete a few more deep, cleansing breaths.

That’s it for today. I hope that this meditation blesses you and helps you tap into a feeling of peace and relaxation, as it has done for me. Take care, and I’ll talk to you all tomorrow.

*This post contains affiliate links.

life curation · relaxation · words of wisdom

Review of Archewell Audio

Even though I adore ClubHouse and all sorts of webinars that are designed to be instructional, I am always looking for podcasts that offer something different and enlightening to me. In my recent search, I found something truly special.

My latest obsession right now is Archewell Audio, hosted by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan Markle. I didn’t know how this would go, since I was unfamiliar with the couple outside of what has been presented by the media. The media in the US has been pretty kind to the couple, especially during 2020. Here are my thoughts on this first episode of the show.

Simple. Tasteful. Focused on others. HUMAN and HUMANE. I loved it. This initial podcast offers a platform to a variety of people that offered their reflections on 2020 and the pain, joy, and resilience they felt during the year. I love that the Sussexes served as kindhearted moderators, gently steering the conversation without “overtalking” the individuals interviewed. I love how the couple interjected extra praise for the more modest guests, taking every opportunity to elevate the individuals interviewed.

This podcast is, simply put, beautiful. I cannot wait until the next episode, so I can listen to it while taking a walk on my treadmill. This is wonderful and so well done. Great job, Harry and Meghan!

health · life curation · relaxation

Take a Moment to Feel the Sun

The sun is such a blessing. I feel very connected with sun energy, and I embrace the times where I can go outside and simply feel the sun on my skin. My good friend Diana mentioned more than once that I need to intentionally connect with sun energy, and that’s why I’m devoting this post to her. I’m listening, chica. I’m choosing to regularly connect with this incredible energy source.

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Enjoy the sunshine

This life-sustaining ball of fire continues to remind me of all of the good things about life. Delicious fresh fruit and vegetables grow because THE SUN IS. My skin grows to a deeper chocolate hue every summer because THE SUN IS. Time and all things that we use to measure the span of our lives is possible because THE SUN IS.

So, if you can, take a moment, step outside and feel the sun. Let the rays kiss your skin and serve as a reminder that every day is magical. And then, embrace the other magic that shows up for you: it surrounds you, and it is waiting for you to see it.

art · life curation · reading list · relaxation

What I’ve Been Working On. . .

Let’s just take a moment to smile at the fact that we’ve made it to April. How blessed are we to see a new month and to know that things will only get better from here!

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I know that I’ve taken a couple of mini-hiatuses from the blog. As you all know, I’ve been nurturing my body after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia last year, but I haven’t allowed my diagnosis to stop me from pursuing my passions. At the beginning, this diagnosis felt like a hard stop: I had to relearn so many things and find a new normal.

I’ve had to adjust the pace at which I work toward my goals, but I am happy to report that, as I get better, I have more energy to work on the things that delight me. I still struggle with chronic pain, fatigue, and the mental fog that comes along with fibro, but those symptoms are not as pronounced as they used to be, which is such a blessing!

One of the biggest projects that has given me joy in the past year has been my publishing company, Bronze Butterfly Books. This precious project has allowed me to channel my creativity into designing beautiful notebooks and journals. I would love if you check out my website and let me know what you think.

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The bookstore is open!

I’ll have more special things coming from the book shop in the weeks to come. Thank you all for your continued love, support, and good vibes. Have a great day!