My Favorite Smoothies

From the Nutribullet cookbook

I’ve really stepped up my smoothie game since I got a NutriBullet for Christmas. Not only is it the best thing since sliced gluten free vegan bread, it comes with a cookbook packed with delicious smoothie recipes. They’re not paying me to write this, I just love it a lot. (If they’re reading this and want to pay me, I’m on board.)

The cookbook is hilarious. It’s full of photos of smiling, active, elderly, white, straight couples enjoying life. It’s divided into sections based on medical or health conditions, with recipes designed to be nutritive and healing. My favorites are the anti-inflammation, digestion and detox sections, since I am plagued by tummy troubles and inflammation (damn you, leaky gut syndrome!).

Below are recipes for 3 of my favorite smoothies (or “blasts,” as NutriBullet calls them). Just add all the ingredients to your blending machine of choice and pulverize them into delicious health food beverages. I didn’t include amounts of liquid. If you want thicker smoothies, use less liquid, and vice versa. I usually drink mine in the car on the way to work and prefer them to be less viscous, so I add max liquid. Enjoy!

Pink Detox Blast, My Favorite Smoothies | Whisper & HowlPink Detox Blast

Beets and celery are great for a gently detoxing the digestive system, the avocado adds healthy fats and creaminess, and coconut oil is great for your gut. The apple gives you a nice dose of fiber and strawberries are healthy and delicious. This drink’s gorgeous pink color puts a smile on my face, making this my current favorite smoothie. 

1/4 Medium Avocado

1 Stalk Celery

1/2 Strawberries (Cherries are also great)

1/2 Beet

2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice

1 teaspoon Coconut Oil

1/2 Apple (Granny Smith is my favorite)

3 Ice Cubes

Coconut Water (I often use water instead)

Belly Bloat Blast, My Favorite Smoothies | Whisper & Howl

Belly Bloat Blast

The bromelain in pineapple and curcumin in turmeric help to fight inflammation, while the celery and ginger aid in digestion. This “blast” is light and bright and wakes me right up. 

1 Handful Kale (or Spinach)

1 Cup Pineapple

1/2 Inch Ginger

1/2 Stalk Celery

1/2 Lemon, juiced

1/2 Inch Turmeric (dried also works but fresh tastes better!)

Coconut Water (again, I almost always use water)

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Blast, My Favorite Smoothies | Whisper & Howl

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries (or Cherries) Blast

This one is delicious and feels like having dessert for breakfast. Instead of the protein blend in the recipe, I use Orgain Chocolate Protein Powder. 

1 Handful Spinach

6 Strawberries (or cherries)

2 teaspoons Raw Cacao Powder (or nibs)

1/4 Beet

1 Tablespoon SuperFood Protein Blend

1 1/2 Cups Unsweetened Almond Milk

 

You can find a ton of recipes on the NutriLiving website…or wait for me to pare it down for you. 😉

 

 

Capsule Wardrobe Tips

One Year later…

Capsule Wardrobe Tips

Looking busy and important at work in my Laurel Tunic (handmade by me!)

It’s been a year since I learned about capsule wardrobes. My first capsule wardrobe was Spring 2015, and I still love doing it. I enjoy the seasonal ritual of planning a wardrobe, switching out my clothes, and having a new look. In honor of my anniversary, I’m sharing some things I’ve learned that can help you in creating capsule wardrobes that you love.

Capsule Tip #1: Know your climate

It’s all well and good to plan a wardrobe to last a whole 3-month season, but what if that season has drastically varying temperatures? I was about halfway through spring last year when I realized that it was getting HOT. I actually kept at it until the Summer Solstice, but I was very uncomfortable for several weeks. This year, I will have to put more thought into planning a wardrobe with pieces that can carry me from chilly March through scorching June. I’m thinking of versatile pieces that can be layered and worn with or without tights, leggings, jackets, and sweatshirts, as well as including some items like shorts that I won’t wear for the first half of the season, but will need later on.

Capsule Tip #2: transition slowly

Along the same lines, in December I learned that a slow transition in the Winter Capsule was more comfortable than switching everything out immediately. December is mild in North Carolina, much more like fall than winter. I spent a few weeks switching lighter items out for warmer ones as the weather cooled off. We have actually had a pretty mild winter here and I could probably have gotten away with my Fall Capsule plus warm socks and layers, but I was ready for an aesthetic change, too.

Capsule Tip #3: Utilize versatile pieces and accessories

I don’t at all mind wearing the same dress once a week now that I have a more cohesive wardrobe. I can mix it up by wearing different tights/leggings/shoes/jewelry and layering pieces and make a whole new outfit. Having layering pieces, basics and accessories really extends a wardrobe. For instance, I sewed up a cropped sweatshirt to go over my dresses and suddenly it’s like I have 4 new skirts! I can also wear a cardigan or blazer over the same dresses, which creates new looks that have different vibes (work or weekend, for example). Of course, I mostly just wear jeans and sweaters but the options are there!

I’m starting to think about my Spring 2016 capsule now and will be sharing more about my process in the next few weeks. Have you started a capsule? Does it seem daunting, or wonderful? What would you like help with?

Give Your Leather Some Love

How to Clean and Polish leather shoes

As an aspiring minimalist, poor-ish person and collector of boots, I have learned to take care of my leather shoes. Otherwise, they will fall apart. Think about it: leather is skin, too. It needs to be cleaned, moisturized and protected in order to stay supple and flexible and to retain its luster. Without regular care, shoes will dry out and crack. I’ve brought dusty, dull shooties back to life with a flannel cloth and some Kiwi soap. I’ve rescued Frye boots from eBay and made them shine with clear polish, and extended their life with a trip to the cobbler. I intend to extend the life of my favorite ankle boots until I can afford an upgrade, and I’d love to show you how.

Before

Before – The clogs wanted some nurturing and the booties were in dire shape.

YOu will need:

  • A soft cloth
  • Kiwi saddle soap
  • A shoe brush (optional)
  • Clear shoe polish (optional)
  • Weatherproofing spray (optional)

instructions:

  1. Clean shoes with a damp cloth.
  2. Pop open the Kiwi soap. Rub the surface of the soap with a wet cloth to create a lather.
  3. Rub this delightful rich later all over your shoes with the cloth. The leather will get darker since it’s wet. Don’t worry, it will lighten back up as it dries. Of course, if the leather is dried out then it will take on a deeper, richer color due to the moisturizing agents in the soap.
  4. Let shoes dry. Repeat the above if you’d like.
  5. Buff dry shoes with a dry, soft cloth. They will start to look buttery and have a delightful sheen.
  6. Optional: protect shoes with weatherproofing spray and/or polish them up. I like to use a clear polish.
  7. Enjoy your beautiful “new” shoes!
Give Your Leather Some Love! How to take care of your shoes to extend their life and make them glow | Whisper & Howl #leather #kiwisoap #saddle #whisperandhowl #whisper&howl #cleaning #shoes

After – Can you tell how much better the clogs look? The booties didn’t really change but the oiled nubuck of the clogs is so much richer! I also scraped off the labels, which had shifted and left sticky residue under my heels.

This process can be done on any of your leather goods. My favorite bag desperately needs some attention.

Do you have any tips for taking care of clothing? 

 

DIY Miracle Grains

Treat Yourself to this DIY for soft, radiant skin

Oh, December! I have never had holiday stress until this year, and it is hitting me HARD. This is the first holiday season I’ve had without my Dad. It’s a huge time for my close, loving family, with Thanksgiving (traditionally a feast at our homestead, prepared by Dad), and Dad’s and my littlest sister’s birthdays book-ending Christmas. This season has deepened my sense of loss and heartache even as I am grateful for my family, friends, and the long nights that provide time for the rest I so badly need. It’s also a time when I have spent loads of money on gifts for others and myself as well as on going out with visiting friends. This year, however, I am especially money-poor. I’ve decided to do a Spending Fast at least for December, meaning I spend money on absolutely nothing that isn’t a need (as defined by me–details in a later post).

What this all means is that I am desperate for rest and rejuvenation, preferably of the spa treatment type, and that I must use the resources I already have and be creative with gifts and everything else this month.

So it is a very good thing that I have a cabinet full of ingredients for DIY skincare! I recently had some ladies over to make our own bath products and tried making and using Miracle Grains for the first time. This weekend, treat yourself to an easy at-home facial using this wonderful DIY beauty product. Miracle Grains has only 6 ingredients, is simple to make, and keeps well. It smells wonderful and feels delightfully different. Whip up a big batch and package it in little jars as gifts for friends–or keep it all for yourself!

Miracle Grains DIY | Whisper & Howl #diybeauty #naturalbeauty #diy #spa #whisperandhowl

This recipe will create a batch of dry “grains” that can be mixed with water, honey and/or rosewater to create a facial scrub/cleanser, or left on for several minutes as a face mask. I’ve used it both ways and love it. I recommend mixing the paste in a small bowl, as it is hard to do it in your hands! For an extra luxurious treatment, paint the mixture on your face and leave it to dry. The brush on your face feels magical. As a mask, this would be lovely to use after a steam facial!

Miracle Grains 

(Recipe from Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health by Rosemary Gladstar)

Ingredients

• 1 cup oats, finely ground
• 2 cups white clay
• 1/4 cup almonds, finely ground
• 1/8 cup lavender flowers, finely ground
• 1/8 cup rose petals, finely ground

1. Combine all the ingredients and mix well. An electric spice or coffee grinder works well for the oats, lavender and rose petals. I had almond meal on hand from Trader Joe’s. For convenience, store a weeks’ worth of the grains in a container next to the sink, but keep the remainder in the refrigerator or other cool place to preserve their freshness.  A spice jar with a shaker top also works well as a storage container.

2. To use, mix 1–2 teaspoons of the cleansing grains with enough water to make a paste. Gently massage onto your face. Rinse off with warm water after washing, or leave on as a mask until dry and then rinse. Follow up with a toner and face cream or moisturizer for radiant, healthy skin.

I’m going on a mini-silent retreat this weekend while I undertake Advanced Yoga Teacher Training. What are your plans for this first weekend in December?

Have a Full Witch Weekend: 3 Things To Try

What makes a full witch weekend? How about a seasonal adventure, making glorious noise, and embracing your own natural beauty? Here are 3 suggestions to add some witch to your weekend.
Take a Mini Road Trip | Have a Full Witch Weekend: 3 Things to Try, from Whisper & Howl

take a Mini road trip

When I lived in Indiana, my friend and I decided to take a little seasonal drive out into the country. We found a small town that was having their annual autumnal Apple Butter Festival and headed off. The festival was really just some arts-and-crafts tents set up around the courthouse and a few trucks selling funnel cakes and soda, but it looked like the whole town was out there enjoying the warmish Fall day. We sampled a lot of apple butter, then stopped by the tiny historical museum in the old Carnegie library, grabbed free coffee in styrofoam cups and looked at old photos of local life.

On our drive home, we passed another festival and decided to stop. This one was in the evening, more of a county fair with the same low-end crafts and fried food, with the addition of a hot air balloon and some high school dudes playing covers of old rock songs. It was a little slice of Indiana life.

Every year, when I see signs popping up to advertise Fall Festivals and county fairs, I ache to get in the car and see what’s happening in all the little towns. This is a great time of year for mini road trips. Every corner of every county seems to have some type of local celebration. This weekend, do a little research, grab a friend and set off on a tiny adventure to see the leaves and ingest some local flavor. Chances are good that you’ll find an apple cider donut or two on your travels, and that makes everything worthwhile.

 

Lift Up Your Voice

Choose howl over whisper this weekend! Head into the woods and raise a ruckus with your instrument! Scream in the car, sing in the shower! Make some noise!

Sound is powerful. Feel your power.

Want to share your voice with others? There are so many ways to sing in a group. Check out a kirtan at your local yoga school or ashram, or gather friends for chanting. Go to church and hear your collective voices echoing through the nave. Check out a pop-up chorus. Have some friends over and jam. Visit an Irish pub and join in on the chorus.

 

Treat Your Skin

It’s hard work being a face. You get smothered with makeup, scrubbed with drying soaps, touched with greasy fingers and subjected to all of the many toxins of our modern world. This weekend, give your face a break! Try going make-up free for a few days and let your skin breathe. Give yourself a DIY Steam Facial or try double-cleansing. Brew up some tea, slather on a mask and stick some cucumber slices on your eyes. Be the decadent human you know you can be–all in the name of healthy, beautiful skin. Trust me, your face will thank you.

 

I hope you have a wonderfully witchy weekend!

Already have plans? Let me know what they are and perhaps I’ll include them on another full witch weekend!

 

Double-Cleansing Skin Magic

I love beauty products.  LOVE.  Luxuriate in.  Collect.  Make great use of.  Research.  Buy.  Create.

I particularly love natural beauty, by which I mean products made with all-natural ingredients.  I have a nice stash of essential oils, waxes, carrier oils, butters and herbs that I use to mix my own balms and creams using recipes from herbal magician Rosemary Gladstar, author Julia Gabriel, and various bloggers.  In my effort to reduce my spending and promote personal minimalism, I’ve cut way down on purchasing products and instead invest more in ingredients and in finding what methods work for me and sticking to them, rather than switching brands and methods just to try something new.  This brings me to my absolute favorite, most-effective, miracle skin-care routine, which I learned about from The Green Beauty Guide (and which, as a bonus, is big in Japan).  Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to…

The Double-Cleansing Method For Radiant, Healthy Skin!

Double-Cleansing Skin Care | Whisper & Howl This process has 4 steps, but requires minimal investment.  You can easily make most of the products at home using simple recipes, or can use products you already have.

Products

  1. Cleansing Oil.  Sound fancy?  It doesn’t have to be!  There are plenty of cleansing oils on the market that contain nourishing botanicals, but you can also get by just fine with coconut, almond, grapeseed, sesame, olive oil…you get the idea.  The secret’s out: your skin loves oil!  Feed it.
  2. Soap.  Soap for your face.  I use lots of different fancy, handmade soaps, but that’s because I’m an addict and cannot pass by a soapmaker’s stall at a market or craft fair without making a purchase.  You can also use a cleansing milk if your skin is sensitive, or whatever non-drying soap you are already using on your beautiful face.
  3. Toner.  Your toner should not include alcohol!  Alcohol will dry out your skin, making it overproduce oil, and you do not want that (do you?).  You can easily make your own toner with a mixture of easy-to-find witch hazel or apple cider vinegar and distilled water.  I often use a simple spritz of rosewater.
  4. Moisturizer.  Any moisturizer will do.  I feel like the more fresh and natural this product is, the better, since preservatives and synthetic chemicals can break down over time and through processing, generating toxic byproducts that will be absorbed into your body through your skin.  I generally use more oil to moisturize before bed, and in the morning I use a CC cream with sunscreen.

PROCESS

  1. Cleanse with oil.  Really.  Get some of your cleansing oil in your clean hands, rub together to get it nice and warm and mobile, and massage it all over your gorgeous face.  Using oil will dissolve sebum, remove makeup, and wipe away dirt.  When you’re satisfied with your lovely face massage, use a clean cloth to wipe the oil off your face.  Look at all the stuff that’s collected on your face over the day!  Be glad that it is on the cloth and not clogging your sweet pores.
  2. Wash with soap.  That’s all.  Just wash with soap like you normally would, to deep-clean the pores and remove leftover oil, dirt, everything else that’s collected over the day.  If you want to use an exfoliating cleanser, now is the time.
  3. Spritz with toner. After gently drying your face, spray some of that refreshing toner on your clean face, or wipe it on delicately with a cotton pad.
  4. Moisturize.  Apply moisturizer, night cream, oil, sunscreen…whatever you’d normally use to moisturize.  During the day, moisturizer (with sunscreen!) protects skin and provides a surface for makeup; at night, moisturizer nourishes skin.

That’s it!  This routine is so simple that it’s hard to find an excuse not to do it.  Sometimes I fall off the double-cleansing wagon, but I always kick myself for doing so.  My skin feels softer and looks clearer and more radiant when I stick to this routine.  The oil cleansing step is especially relaxing, as it really is like giving yourself a little face massage.

Let me know if you have any questions about this routine or if you’d like any product recommendations–or if you have a beauty routine that you swear by!  I will post my recipes in the coming weeks.

How to Create an Altar

Creating an Altar | Whisper & Howl

My altar is the most important place in my home.  It’s the place I go to in the evening before bed, to do my yoga sadhana (practice) including asana, meditation, mantra, pranayama (breath work), and sometimes to read books or Tarot cards.  My altar defines my sacred space, a personal corner that is the outward manifestation of my inner spiritual life.  It helps to calm and focus my energy at the end of the day or any time I need a little peace.

How To Create an Altar or Sacred Space in Your Home

Getting Started

  • Choose a space.  Any space will work, but it should be a place you feel comfortable taking time out to reflect, meditate, etc.  This depends on what your purposes are.  I do yoga in front of my altar so I need space for a yoga mat.  Your altar can be any size that works for your space and your needs.  Currently, my altar takes up about 3 feet in the corner of my room, and extends right up the wall!
  • Choose a base.  Again, this depends on your space and needs.  I prefer to have my altar at sitting eye-level.  I’ve had altars on small stools, large bookshelves and in the alcove of a makeshift dresser/bookshelf combo.  Last year, I invested in a beautiful, handmade cedar table to use as my altar.  It’s a slice of tree trunk and retains its natural shape.  I like to turn it to mix things up periodically.  I also have “wings” on either side of my altar where I have laid down scarves to keep other items such as books, my Tarot cards, extra candles and my mala beads.

What should I put on my altar?

Your altar should be a space for contemplation, love, and peace.  It should bring you joy! Whether or not the items you choose for your altar have religious significance, they should have personal meaning for you.

Some things you might consider for your altar:

  • Figures or icons.  I focus on animals for my own sacred space.  I have a strong connection to nature and I love looking at my little animals, many of which I’ve had since childhood.  Some other figures to consider are icons of gods and goddesses, saints, or any other figures that bring you joy.
  • Crystals.  While I do not believe that crystals have any magical healing powers, I’m also not discounting the possibility.  Mostly though, I find them beautiful.  I’ve always loved rocks and gems and my great-grandfather was a jeweler who tumbled gemstones in his garage.  I do choose my crystals based on their “meaning” and give places of prominence to those with qualities I’d like to attract.  I use these a focal point for my thoughts, so that I can think about the qualities when I look at the stones.  Should they also happen to be magical, I’ll take it.
  • Images.  Many people keep photos of saints, gods and goddesses, etc on their altars.  I don’t do this but I do have images from magazines, collages, photos of calming places, quotations, postcards and other meaningful or beautiful images posted on the wall behind my altar.  I also keep a lovely drawing of a horse that a friend made for me in a frame on the floor beside my altar.
  • Candles or lamps.  I love candles and I keep several of them in my sacred space.  Lighting the candle on my altar reminds me that it is time to gather and focus my energy inward.  I often light the candle before I go to brush my teeth and wash my face, so that when I return to my room I know it is time to do my sadhana.  I have candles in many different colors and scents, mostly homemade.  A salt lamp can also be a wonderful addition to an altar.  Salt lamps have air-cleansing properties and create a gorgeous, warm glow that can be very soothing.
  • Incense or essential oils.  Aromatherapy can be a great way to help you get into the mood for meditation and other sacred-space activities.  Herbs and their essences have different evocative properties.  My acupuncturist just recommended I add frankincense to my routine as it is both grounding and uplifting, and sets the mood for spiritual communion.
  • Flowers, fruit, and other objects from nature.  If you place food on your altar, it will become sweet–metaphorically if not physically–and blessed.  I have a found butterfly wing on mine, and today I came across a perfect cicada to add to the collection.  I recently added a small vase to hold herbs and flowers from my garden, because these things bring me joy.

In addition, you might consider adding a prayer rug, yoga mat, meditation cushion or bench, or small table to add comfort to your sacred space.   You’re creating a space that will welcome you, a place that will draw you to it and hold your attention.  If you don’t love the space, you won’t want to spend time in it, so take your time gathering items and arranging your altar.  It can be a growing, organic process.  I am always adding new items to my altar, and every couple of months I will change up the placement of objects.

There are special rituals for cleaning your altar and I will address these in another post, but the most important thing is to keep your sacred objects from directly touching the floor–which is why I place scarves under the books and things I have on the floor beside my cedar table.

Creating an altar can be a wonderful step toward creating more intention and joy in your life. If you’ve been thinking of creating a sacred, personal space in your home, I highly recommend going for it!  If you have one already, what are your favorite objects to keep on your altar?  

Treat Yourself: DIY Steam Facial

You know when your vacation is over and you realize you need another vacation just to relax from the first one?  My recent trip to Asheville was supposed to be full of hiking, reading and getting in touch with my inner Goddess but…nope.  I crashed with my awesome friend Kara and it quickly became apparent that this would be more of a drinking, eating, shopping, non-sleeping kind of vacation.  Suffice it to say that my body is still recovering.

Fortunately, I have learned over the years to build in time post-vacation to gently ease back into regular life, and yesterday I took full advantage of this by performing one of my favorite, simple self-care rituals: the steam facial.

DIY Steam Facial | Whisper & Howl

This easy practice is relaxing and great for your skin.  Facial steaming has several benefits:

  • Increases circulation in the face
  • Increases perspiration, which helps to release toxins from the skin
  • Softens debris in pores and lifts it to the surface of the skin, where it can be more easily removed
  • Feels really indulgent
  • Can also help loosen up gunk in your sinuses and lungs

Do-It-Yourself Steam Facial INSTRUCTIONS

The hardest part about this is gathering the ingredients.

DIY Steam Facial | Whisper & Howl

Ingredients

3 parts comfrey

2 parts rose petals

2 parts chamomile 

2 parts calendula

1 part lavender

I have most of these things laying around the house or in my garden, but if you’re not a secret witch then you may need to buy them.  I collected mine from various health and/or whole foods stores and co-ops.  Mountain Rose Herbs is an amazing resource for all things natural.  I like to keep a jar of steam facial herbs on hand for emergency self-care sessions.

Water

Cooking Pot

Large Towel

Something to listen to

Comfortable place to sit with your face over a pot for 15 minutes

DIY Steam Facial | Whisper & Howl

Instructions

  1. Set water to boil in a medium pot, something large enough to put your face over comfortably.
  2.  Mix steam facial ingredients.  You can mix a small amount for one batch, or a larger amount for future use. Store in an air tight glass jar.
  3. Find a good playlist, mantra or podcast.  I highly recommend Jordan, Jesse, Go!, a comedy podcast with which I am obsessed.
  4. Once the water has come to a boil, remove it from the heat, add herbs and cover for a few minutes so they can steep.
  5. Bring the pot over to your comfortable sitting place.  Sit.  Turn on music.  Place your head over the pot and a towel over your face and let that sweet, hot steam dissolve all your problems for the next 15 minutes.
  6. It can get really hot under there, so you may need to come up for some cool air or lift the towel every now and then.  That’s cool.  Don’t burn your face!
  7. When you’re finished, splash your face with cold water or apply a face mask of your choice.

DIY Steam Facial | Whisper & Howl

Feel great?  I hope so!  I know I do.

What is your favorite way to recharge when you need a vacation from your vacation?