A Little Soul Nourishment: 5 Ideas For You

Sedum in Fall

“There is no one like anyone else, ever…For it is the fate – the genetic and neural fate – of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.”

~ Oliver Sacks, Gratitude

Yesterday, I went to the funeral of my grandmother – my Oma – who was my last remaining grandparent. My Oma was a complex and intelligent woman, who experienced many struggles in her life, and who had a deep enjoyment of reading, especially poetry, essays, and books that made her think. She was also a talented and accomplished writer, and when I look out across my family – thinkers, writers, readers, linguists, teachers, wordsmiths – the shared history makes itself clear.

Funerals, like no other life event, confront with you thoughts of mortality and the meaning of life, and take you through this unique realm of family you don’t regularly get to see, people from your past, stories you’d forgotten, and the joys, sorrows, struggles, adventures, and mundane everydays that make up each individual life. It’s a liminal time where contemplation and reflection – soul work – feels important and necessary.

I spend so much time thinking and reading about nourishing the body (right now I’m reading No Grain, No Pain, by Peter Osborne – a useful read if you have any digestive diseases or discomforts, or think that gluten might be a problem for you) that I often forget to make space for nourishing the soul.

fall sedum 2

What nourishes your soul? I love poetry, photography (hence the fall sedum photographs, all from my front yard), reading beautiful nature essays, engrossing novels, making soup, chocolate chip cookies, playing pianoblog posts that give me perspective on life, books on happiness, and tea. Oh, and writing. I suppose that’s what this blog post is – a bit of a Tuesday outlet for my soul.

So here are five of the soul-nourishing options that I’ve been thinking about lately. Consider putting a book option on hold and giving it a read before bed (an excellent soul-nourishing time), or take this blog post and use it as a reminder to incorporate a little of your own soul-food this week, whatever that is for you.

  • Wait But Why: Life is a Picture, But You Live in a Pixel: Great title, no? What a cool concept. I’ll let the post speak for itself, and it’s a hugely worthwhile read, but the main point is: life is a series of Todays. Thinking about life only as exciting Tomorrows that are going to be so much better than our regular Todays is missing out on being present, and is ultimately missing the point. This wonderful post reminds us that thinking about life as a movie montage or a big picture with sweeping music, an overall theme and story arch, and whizzing frames that just blur past the hard, disappointing, or boring bits, just sets us up for regrets and unhappiness. We may find those epic stories in looking back on our lives, but the reality to make peace with is that no matter what, our lives are built brick by brick, Today by Today. And, our Todays might often just be “mundane Wednesdays.” What we can hope to do is make the best of our “mundane Wednesdays”, and so the post concludes with some tips for the scientifically proven things that actually improve our Todays over the long-run: gratitude, good health, satisfying and loving relationships, good sleep, and kindness/giving to others.
  • Gratitude, by Oliver Sacks. This short, small book contains four essays written by Oliver Sacks in the last two years of his life. I read it cover to cover in under an hour and felt my soul had been warmed. Oliver Sacks writes so positively about aging (in the first two essays, before he receives his terminal cancer diagnosis) and then so beautifully, bravely, and honestly about the remainder of his life in his final two essays. It’s also a marvellous book to marvel about writing, and the power of words to reach out across the ethos and capture emotions you felt but weren’t satisfactorily able to express. This little book gave me new ways to think about the beauties in life, the gifts that we’re given (even those that don’t seem like gifts), and the magic of a dialogue with a good book.
  • Upstream, by Mary Oliver. I love Mary Oliver’s poetry, and even though this is a book of essays, I can’t deny that reading it is like reading poetry – a luxurious pool of words that you spend time swimming around in. The book includes a wonderful essay called My Friend Walt Whitman, where Mary Oliver writes about poetry – and the experience of poetry – with such tenderness: “But first and foremost, I learned from Whitman that the poem is a temple – or a green field – a place to enter and in which to feel…I learned that the poem was made not to just exist, but to speak – to be company.” If this makes you wish to read poetry, try a few favourites: Whitman, for sure, and Mary Oliver, but also Wendell Berry, John Keats, Tennyson, and Shakespeare. All good and satisfying.
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies. I’ve been trying to incorporate more grain-free options, to see how that sits with me, and today I’m trying these Real Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies from Against All Grain. I’m all for nourishing my soul by also nourishing my senses (and stomach). *grin*
  • Herbal Tea: Lastly, if you’re looking for a new tea to try, consider fennel! It’s great for digestion, very soothing if you have any digestive issues, and it may also be anti-inflammatory, immune-supporting, and helpful for managing PMS symptoms. Plus, I love the licorice/anise flavour.

If you’re looking for other soul-nourishing and happiness-boosting posts, consider:

Thank you for allowing me to write about what’s on my mind, and for taking the time to read, even though this diverts from usual content. I’ll be back with more recipes soon. Until then, happy soul-nourishing!

“I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercouse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”

~Oliver Sacks, Gratitude


© Eat Well, Live Vibrantly

5 MORE Rockin’ Songs to Boost Your Mood and Make you Smile, PLUS Tips for Managing Stress

Clearly not my image – all credit to the amazing Bill Watterson!

So I have to tell you, I believe this post comes at a critical time. I was going to post a recipe for superfood chocolate chip cookies (look for those coming soon), but in a sudden moment of deep reflection, I realized that right now a list of cheerful, energy-boosting, drab-crushing music was what I wanted to put together for you, my dear readers. For you, of course, but also more importantly, for me.

So why not a moment too soon?

I asked my sister, a music guru, for her suggestions and she said, “I haven’t been listening to much upbeat music right now.”

I asked my boyfriend, and he said, “Hmm, I’ll have to think about it.”

People, we should all have a few songs at the very tip of our tongues that are surefire bets for making us feel better. Country, celtic, classical, pop, it doesn’t matter. If it makes you feel great, you should be listening to it on a regular basis. And that’s a fact.

I have been stressed lately. There it is. I’m trying to incorporate more self-care – reading my novel before bed, taking an epsom salt bath, watching a Sex and the City episode after supper – but when I get stressed, most things start to feel like tasks on my list, even the nice things. It all becomes one big checklist and I end up living in my head, thinking about the next ‘task’ as I’m ‘accomplishing’ the current task. And considering your relaxing lavender bath a task isn’t really the way you want it to be.

I know I need to manage my stress better. I know it. But it’s really hard, and doubly so because I tend to get stressed about being stressed. No solution seems perfect at the moment for me, but music helps. Music seems to remind me I also have a body, and that body enjoys singing, dancing, laughing, and smiling, AND TAKING A BREAK FROM THINKING.

Sorry for shouting. I got worked up there.

My cats help me with my stress. Isn’t this boy a beauty?

When we’re in the thralls of a stress time, we often forget the power of laughter and smiling. We forget to make a plan to find the upbeat music that brings us joy, to dance a little bit, and to take a moment to think about what really brings us the most pleasure and then to make sure we do it.

A few other things I’m trying right now to help with stress:

  • Kris Carr’s Self-Care for Busy People meditation album
  • romance novels (don’t knock these – if you find a gem, you’ve found excellent writing, compelling storytelling, and some good lusty sexual tension – it’s stress-busting gold, people, gold!). I particularly like Meredith Duran and Sherry Thomas.
  • walks outside (my sister and I made a rule that you could only talk about the present on our shared walk – anyone caught worrying, stressing, or future-planning got a big upper arm pinch)
  • morning affirmations – I like these ones for anxiety from The Anxiety Guy
  • an episode here or there of a favourite TV show. For me, it’s Sex and the City, The Mindy Project, Grace and Frankie, or (can I admit it?) the 90s Star Trek (c’mon! it’s kind of gentle and fun and imaginative. I find it calming.).

But anyways, below is my current list of mood-boosting songs. For other options, try my previous lists: Ten Songs to Boost Your Mood NOW and Ten MORE songs to Boost your Mood and Make you Feel Alive. Or, try 5 Songs and 8 Ways to Start Your Morning with Joy and Movement.

Music all over the place! The hills are ALIVE with the sound of music.


5 MORE Rockin’ Songs to Boost Your Mood and Make You Smile

  1. Can’t Stop the Feeling byJustin Timberlake (the video is full of fun dancing)
  2. Can’t Stop the Feeling – The Piano Guys version (watch the video – it made me smile big time – it’s full of MORE fun dancing)
  3. Wasted Time – Keith Urban (reminds you that not everything has to be productive! sometimes the joy is in the wasted time. And as with all country music, you are reminded of the importance of wearing shorts and letting your hair be free).
  4. Hymn for the Weekend – Coldplay (Seeb Remix). (this jam is chill, and inspires you to sway around your home and maybe also throw an arm or two in the air to the sound of the beat. This song also reminds us to be grateful for the weekend. I certainly am. Please disregard all messages of being drunk and high, though I assume Chris Martin means, on life itself.)
  5. Bom Bom by Sam and the Womp. (while the lyrics are basically nonsensical, I defy you to stand still during this song. Those silver trumpets in the back? So fun! Especially if you pretend to play them in the air during the song.)


© Eat Well, Live Vibrantly


Homemade Lavender and Peppermint Salt Scrub

lavender and peppermint epsom salt scrub

Ah, nothing says it’s festive season time quite like peppermint. Except maybe cinnamon. Or that unique smell of pine trees. Or even woodstove fire smell! They’re all pretty awesome too and I guess that means actually a great number of things say that it’s festive time. For today, though, let’s just talk about peppermint. And lavender.

I’ve made scrubs before (oatmeal sugar scrub)  and I’ve used peppermint before (body butter, anyone?), but this is my first foray into a peppermint scrub. I’ve seen a few different scrub recipes out there, and I thought it was a lovely idea to use epsom salts (provided you can find a particle size you like) as the scrub base.

lavender and peppermint epsom salt scrub

For one, salt has antiseptic/antibacterial qualities (salt water rinses for colds and sore throats are a wonderful use of salt), making it great for areas like, say, your bikini line where you want to both exfoliate and keep the area free from infection or other inflammation after a wax (IMMEDIATELY post-wax a salt scrub might sting, though, so perhaps hold off there).

As a second benefit, epsom salts are mineral compounds that contain high levels of magnesium – apparently epsom salt is a combination of magnesium and sulfate. (I’m not shilling for any specific brand, but this website has a nice list of the benefits of epsom salts). Magnesium is great for your body as a muscle relaxer, which is why people use it in baths – magnesium helps alleviate muscle cramps and pain. Epsom salts are also supposed to have detoxification capabilities, helping to draw wastes and flush toxins from the body.

Now, while I recognize that your body won’t take in as many of the benefits of epsom salts from this external, brief use (compared to say, bathing in an epsom salt solution), it’s a nice potential fringe benefit. And of course, another coarse quality sea salt will do too, if that’s what you have in supply.

lavender and peppermint epsom salt scrub

Another benefit? Peppermint and lavender essential oils are stress-relieving and help you avoid the use of chemical or synthetic fragrances, found in so many other conventional skin-care products.

So scrub on! I love using this scrub in the shower. It smells wonderful and the warm water in the shower swirls the peppermint smell around. The lavender buds are optional – they look pretty, but quite frankly they mostly just make a mess in the shower before bee-lining straight down the drain. So, your option.

Happy pepperminting. Let this scrub help you be merry and bright!

Homemade Lavender and Peppermint Salt Scrub

  • Author: Emily Joldersma, R.H.N.
  • Recipe Notes: gluten-free, depending on your choice of oils and salts; delicious-smelling


  • 3/4 -1 cup epsom salts, or a mix of coarse and fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup skincare oil, like sweet almond, apricot kernel, jojoba
  • 4-6 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 6-8 drops lavender essential oil


  1. Mix salt and oil together in a small bowl until all salt is well incorporated and appears wet and sand-like.
  2. Add essential oils.
  3. Scoop into your favourite little mason jars or other containers. I like glass jars best – most sanitary and also you can see your scrub through the jar.
  4. NOTE: Unlike with sugar scrubs, I find the oil kind of sinks to the bottom after a while of sitting in the jar. So, after a few uses you might notice you’re able to add a bit more salt to equalize the salt-to-oil ratio.

© Eat Well, Live Vibrantly

Make Chickpea Flour Shine With These 5 Awesome Recipes

chewy chocolate chip chickpea cookies - vegan & gluten-free

Sometimes after buying a large bag of chickpea/teff/sorghum/coconut/almond/etc. flour, you make the recipe you intended to make and then think, ‘huh. Well, that still leaves me 95% of this flour. What do I do with it now?’

It’s handy to have a back-pocket repertoire of recipes that feature whatever flour you have in mind. And chickpea flour is a great place to start building that repertoire.

There are a number of amazingly delicious and healthy things that you can do with chickpea flour, and that you can really ONLY do with chickpea flour. As in, the recipes require chickpea flour to work. When you’re into gluten-free baking, it’s really great to find a recipe that showcases your gluten-free flour for the beauty that it is.

For the recipes below, you don’t need any other flours or blends. Nope, you scoop out the chickpea flour and you’re off to the races. I like that kind of simplicity.

savoury chickpea flour crackers with onion and sesame seeds

Now, I’m sure I’ve talked about the nutrition of chickpea flour before, but I’m going to do it again because it helps it stick in my brain and because it’s worthwhile information to share.

In addition to being a beautiful golden yellow colour, chickpea flour has fibre, protein, iron, and it is, of course, naturally gluten-free. It also has B vitamins and trace minerals, and is most infinitely better for you than bleached all-purpose flour (which should really be limited to special occasion baking, or eliminated completely).

Below are five amazing recipes below that I have vetted personally for awesomeness.  The process was rigorous and scientific, let me tell you. I am 99.6% confident you’ll agree with my findings that the below recipes are both delicious and nutritious.

Enjoy those golden halycon chickpea flour days.

Make Chickpea Flour Shine With These 5 Awesome Recipes

  1. ONE BOWL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES: chewy, healthy, chocolatey, easy to make, and full of protein and fibre. You can’t beat that for a chocolate chip cookie.
  2. ITALIAN SOCCA: an amazing crepe-like flatbread that you can cook up in a skillet, and use for pizza crusts, wraps, and more. Like a chickpea flour pancake, socca is totally delicious, especially with caramelized onions.
  3. VEGAN FRENCH TOAST: chickpea flour makes the most perfect vegan french toast ever. Or, if you want to call it by its chickpea flour name, you can use “fronch” toast, which helps distinguish it from regular french toast and quite frankly is way more fun to say.
  4. SAVOURY CHICKPEA FLOUR CRACKERS: you can make these crackers any way you want. They’re really quick to make and very hearty for those of you that like a substantial cracker with a good crunch. The flavour options are extensive.
  5. QUICHE a la CHICKPEA: if you haven’t already guessed, chickpea flour is a perfect stand-in for the custardy, savoury protein of eggs. These mini quiches are awesome. Make them crustless or with a gluten-free crust if you are looking for something a little more luxury. Then, add some caramelized onions or sundried tomatoes. Ooh la la!

© Backyard Owl

What Clean Eating Can Do For You – And What It Can’t: Reflections on the EAT WELL, LIVE VIBRANTLY Challenge

green juice2

The April EAT WELL, LIVE VIBRANTLY clean eating challenge is coming to an end. The official challenge part of it, I mean. Or the month part of it? Either way, the April of refined sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, alcohol-free, caffeine-free eating is reaching its official end. Except, I really like eating this way – so while it might look a little different, much of how I ate for April will be how I eat in the coming months.

So how was it? And do I feel better? Let me think about how to answer this. It isn’t as though I’ve gone from a haggard, fatigue-filled sack to a vibrant and entirely new person. Clean eating is a huge step in the right direction but it isn’t everything. That said, I do feel better. I feel like my eating has been re-set in a healthier way. I feel like I’m excited again about what food can be and how much fun and health and deliciousness it can offer.

Simple and Refreshing Iced Herbal Tea with Fruit and Mint Leaves

Below are a few more of my reflections about my month of clean eating, and what clean eating can do (or can’t do) for you too.

What Clean Eating Can Do:

  • Reset your Mind and Tastebuds: I found that by about two weeks in, I had already dropped some of the eating/food habits that weren’t serving me well and was really starting to appreciate the tastes, foods, and feelings that came from the foods I was eating instead. If you feel like your diet is getting a bit looser than you want, and not in a way that makes you feel good, setting up a challenge like this for two or three weeks can really help you re-set your thinking about food and bring things back to the healthy, fresh, interesting, clean way of eating that feels more positive and more vibrant.
  • Make You Feel Better: This is kind of an obvious one, but it needs to be said. It’s hard to describe, but my body feels calmer. My skin is clearer, my mind a little less foggy, and I just feel that my body is (sorry, this is kind of new age-y) happier. There is still a lot of room to grow (see the entire section below) but as a start, I feel like I’m slowly offering my body and mind the healing and supportive foods that they want and need.
  • Help You to Glow: Eating clean helps increase your nutrient intake, which supports the functioning of your body and skin, which can give you greater energy and a more vibrant glow. Plus, sticking with foods that are good for you gives you the positive energy that comes with making choices for your health and wellbeing. That makes you glow, too.
  • Help you Figure Out what Makes you feel Worse: After eating this way for several weeks, there is almost a natural knowledge that emerges in your body that looks at certain foods and says, that could taste good but it will not make you feel good. And that little bit of mindfulness and awareness is enough to make you not want to eat that specific food because when you realize how much is out there that tastes good AND feels good, the foods that makes you feel like shit actually don’t seem that appealing anymore.

What Clean Eating Can’t Do:

  • Fix all of your digestive ailments: Healthy, optimal digestion is the result of several things: good food, proper chewing, and eating in a calm, non-hurried way so that your digestive system gets a chance to turn on and get to work. Clean food, I’m sorry to say, can be wolfed down just like any other food. So, eating healthfully is a piece of the puzzle but the puzzle really starts to look like something good when you add the right digestive habits to it as well.
  • Bring you food joy: the point of a food challenge like this isn’t to think restrictively. That’s the mistake I made at the beginning and it brought me and my eating no joy. Food is a pleasure and a fuel source and it should be thought of as both. And finding recipes that excite you, remaking your favourite dishes with healthier options, recreating restaurant meals that delighted your senses – these are the joys of eating, and they should be part of your lifestyle. Don’t remove the joy. Just shopping off a list of “eat this, don’t eat this” isn’t going to make you feel better if you don’t also find the spark of excitement, delight, and real pleasure that comes from eating foods you know are good for you but that you also enjoy.
  • Nix the Sugar: Maple syrup, blackstrap molasses, brown rice syrup, raw honey. You can make delicious cookies and sweets and chocolate using natural sugars, and while this is SO much better than refined sugar, it ain’t exactly like eating a cucumber, you know? I ate plenty of no-bake puffed quinoa bars during this challenge and that’s not entirely the point. Now, see above about food joy – I’m not saying remove all of this stuff entirely. I’m just saying you still need to make a choice to opt for fruits and vegetables as much as you can.
  • Control your portions: Nuts, coconut oil, almond butter, amazing sweet potatoes, smoked tofu – all clean, all delicious, all awesome. But also still all a bit hard for the ol’ digesto system if consumed in excess. Any food is. Clean eating helps to ensure the foods you consume are great, good, or at least better for you, but there’s still something to be said for thinking about how much of those foods you’re eating. Eating healthy foods can help make you feel lighter, more energetic. Supporting that with appropriate meal sizes also helps in a big way.

radiant turmeric and ginger tea

Overall, I’d say that clean eating is an important and awesome part of living a healthy vibrant lifestyle. But it goes hand in hand with other habits that are also vital and that are part of a whole package of intaking foods into your body in the optimal form, setting, and pace that are right for you and your digestion.

And more than that, clean eating goes hand it hand with an understanding that no eating pattern has to be PERFECT all of the time. Perfection is not the goal. Health, vibrancy, and happiness are the goal, and they come when you approach your eating with determination but also gentleness.

So eat clean, my friends! Start with one challenge, and then add another, and another, until you feel your food habits are really serving you and supporting you as the energetic, vibrant, creative, happy, and glowing individual you wish to be.

© Backyard Owl

The EAT WELL, LIVE VIBRANTLY Spring Clean-Eating Challenge!


Spring is in the air! I can feel the energy seeping into my bones. I have a pep in my step, there is sunshine for longer hours, the birds are chirping, and I feel the world start to come alive with possibilities again.

Spring is a great time for positive transitions. We feel energetic and open to new things and we have the energy to try them. Some folks in the health world consider spring a good time for a cleanse – re-booting the body and the diet, as it were, from heavier winter foods and preparing for the new lighter energies of spring.

I personally struggle with the idea of restrictive cleanses, like week-long or month-long juice fasts. They work wonders for some people, but for others, they might be too much and too hard on the mind/body. That said, I do love a good personal challenge (like no TV for a week, no food packaging for a month) and something in the universe called to me in recent weeks and said, Emily, it’s time for another challenge.

So I am proposing a food challenge that has a cleanse-like intent to it, but really comes down to this simple concept:

Super clean eating for all of April.

green juice2

In recent months I’ve been feeling tired, run-down, and kind of like crap. Yes, part of that is winter. God love it, but those early dark mornings really put the boots to my state of mind and energy reserves. So with spring on the horizon, and my little energy cups filling up again, I really want to see what happens in my life, energetically and physically, if I optimize my diet and focus on healing foods. This is a challenge that anybody could do – it’s not overly restrictive, there are lots of food options, and I’ll be posting recipes over the month that give you some guidance about what you can eat and how. Most of them will likely be about raw chocolate (going without store-bought dark chocolate will be my greatest feat!), but hey.

Overall, the way I’ll be eating for the month is anti-inflammatory and generous on the fruits, vegetables, nutrients, antioxidants, unprocessed foods, and healthy proteins front.

You’re all like, okay, great Emily – but let’s cut to the chase. What CAN’T I eat?

Here’s a summary:

What you CAN eat on the challenge:

  • Fruits (fresh; limit dried, no canned)
  • Vegetables (all)
  • Whole Grains & Healthy Complex Carbs (specifically and exclusively, quinoa, brown rice, and sweet potatoes)
  • Spices and Herbs (organic & unprocessed)
  • Healthy Proteins (organic tofu, organic tempeh, protein powder)
  • Natural Sweeteners (brown rice syrup, raw honey, stevia, blackstrap molasses, or maple syrup)
  • Healthy Condiments/Seasonings (ACV, wheat-free tamari, lime juice, lemon juice, cocoa powder, etc)
  • Nuts & Seeds (not peanuts)
  • Nut & Seeds Butters (almond, sunflower, hazelnut, pumpkin)
  • Healthy Fats & Oils (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, walnut oil)
  • Occasional Indulgences (quality dark chocolate)

What is NOT INCLUDED in the challenge:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Wheat
  • Gluten
  • Refined sugars
  • Refined grains/flours
  • Poor quality fats (vegetable oils, hydrogenated oils, rancid oils)
  • Processed foods (and with them, additives, preservatives, food dyes, etc – with the exception of packaged tofu, etc)

What else I’m throwing in to remain sane:

  • Cocoa Butter
  • Cashews
  • Dates
  • Figs
  • Goji Berries
  • Gluten-free Crackers
  • Organic Peanut Butter

If there is something you need to include that you know will help you stick with it for the month, include it as an occasional indulgence. My birthday is in April and I know I want to make a raw dessert that will use cashews and dates. So I’m putting ’em on the list, goldarnit.

For my readers that consume animals products, there is space for fermented dairy, organic and pastured eggs, wild-caught fish, or organic and pastured meats. Check out this Healing Foods Shopping List from Dr. Josh Axe if you want more guidance on what types of animal products you should or shouldn’t include, as well as more details into the types of foods to consume during your clean eating challenge.

I used The Healing Foods Shopping List as my inspiration for the April Eat Well, Live Vibrantly Challenge and it’s great.

So let’s do this! My aim is to make a few tweaks here and there and see what my body can do when it’s being given only the best. I’m really excited about it, actually. And when you think about it, it shows you how simple healthy eating can be – organic, whole, real, natural, good quality foods. That’s it!

Now time to go cook up some homemade dark chocolate….


Some recipes to get you started! Plus, check out this post on reducing inflammation.

homemade chocolate with nuts, seeds, and goji berries

© Backyard Owl 2016

5 Songs and 8 Ways to Start Your Morning with Joy and Movement

scotland morning

Morning in Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, Scotland. Bliss.

Morning: the first or early part; the beginning.

Dance: to leap, skip, etc., as from excitement or emotion; move nimbly or quickly.

Mornings can be really tough, especially in the winter. I read somewhere, a few weeks back (and I can’t remember where), about a women who had survived cancer and who decided she was going to dance each morning to the Pharrell song “Happy.” Funny how there are those little moments that spark a brain change in our lives – for me, that was one such moment. I suddenly thought: if I could start off every day dancing, why wouldn’t I?

And so I’ve tested it out.  Instead of listening to my usual radio station (which, admittedly tends to play more wah-wah sad music), I’ve danced around each morning for the last three weeks, and here’s what I’ll tell you: dancing in the morning makes you feel approximately 8-15% happier (all calculations are approximate and extremely un-scientific). When I wake up, it’s often still dark outside. Truth be told, here in Ontario, it’s dark, and it’s also cold. Talk about a recipe for depression and lethargy.

scotland morning 2

But, dancing in the morning is like a little happiness multivitamin. It wakes up your body and opens up your joints and hips and heart. It makes whipping up your breakfast smoothie more fun. It gets your energy flowing and reminds you that you are, indeed, alive (easy to forget on a tired, dark, cold Monday morning).

So here are my Monday to Friday recommended dance songs. Each one offers you an uplifting message for your day:

  1. Happy – Pharrell Williams, Neus Remix  OR Happy – Pharrell Williams, Vaux & Rivera Remix (message: dancing and happy go together)
  2. Sexual Healing – Marvin Gaye, Kygo Remix (message: sexual energy is life energy, and, remixes of Marvin Gaye songs are fabulous and make you happy)
  3. Got to Give It Up – Marvin Gaye (skip to 16:20 for the song) (message: moving and grooving leads to life possibilities)
  4. I Wanna Dance with Somebody – Whitney Houston (message: it’s awesome to dance with people who love you)
  5. Shining Star – Earth, Wind, and Fire (message: you are a shining star, no matter who you are).

If you’re looking for other excellent morning habits, here are a few more:

  • drinking a tall glass of water in the first few minutes of getting up to replace any fluids lost overnight;
  • eating a healthy breakfast;
  • taking your multivitamin and/or vitamins (vitamins are best taken in the morning; minerals best in the evening)
  • getting some natural light or exercise outside in natural light;
  • saying something positive to yourself about the day ahead or about yourself and your capabilities (rumour has it Christie Brinkley throws open the curtains every morning and shouts “thank you!” to the universe. I read it on the internet).
  • enjoying a mug of your favourite tea while you are still and calm;
  • engaging in some gentle wake-up type stretches.
hawthorne sunshine

Hawthorne indulging in a morning sunshine stretch.

We don’t always have a lot of time in life to carry out everything in the manner we’d like. Sometimes, it’s the snippets that we can grab that help us achieve great things. On a sunny morning, I watch my cats bask. They find a patch of sunlight, roll around on the floor, stretch, open up their bodies to the light, and embrace the bliss. When that patch of sun disappears, they move and find another one. They maximize the opportunities for joy that are available to them, right now, in the present.

So, think again about the definitions of morning and dance. If you could spend the beginning or early part of your day leaping, skipping, as from excitement or emotion, moving quickly or nimbly, what kind of energetic changes might that create in your life? How might that change your day?

Happy Dancing!

© Backyard Owl 2016


Refresh and Relax Peppermint Body Butter

peppermint body butter


“An extremely good kind of mint which takes the depressing and uber-confusing world you are living in, and transforms it into happy swirls of red and white goodness. You can’t be sad eating one unless you choke.” – Urban Dictionary

Wise words indeed.

Friends, the festive season has come and gone, but it’s still winter, and that means there is still time for apple cider, fireplaces, steaming cups of cocoa, snow, and, of course,  peppermint. Peppermint smells like winter and it smells like happiness. That’s all the convincing I need to work it into my life.

And what better way to enjoy peppermint than with a self-care gift that’s good for the body AND good for the senses: peppermint body butter! Peppermint essential oil is wonderfully stimulating – it’s crisp, familiar, sharpens the mind, brings clarity, and yet it’s also kind of soothing and calming. When you are getting a deep whiff of peppermint, there isn’t room for anything else except you and the delicious refreshing smell. Like the Urban Dictionary says – peppermint makes you happy. And there’s no arguing with the Urban Dictionary (well, sometimes there is).

peppermint body body

And there’s also no arguing with quality. This body butter is made with simple, straightforward ingredients that generally one might have at home (okay, you might have to order/purchase an item or two, but outside of that, the ingredients are straightforward from a healthy/quality perspective). Something we can all commit to, as a powerful act of self-love for 2016, is to choose beauty products that support our bodies and contribute to our health and well-being. Most commercial products contain questionable ingredients, are intended to last on the shelf for months and months, and are a source of toxins for your body (which is ordinarily trying to get all of the toxins OUT). If you can, supply your body with beauty care products that don’t compromise your overall health and vitality.

peppermint body body 3

So get yourself some luxurious quality fats and craft up some body butter for your hardworking feet, hands, and other parts – you’ll make them happy. Add peppermint essential oil and you’ll make yourself happy, too.

Refresh and Relax Peppermint Body Butter


  • 1/2 cup cocoa butter
  • 1/2 cup shea butter (or, more cocoa butter)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup liquid oil (like grape seed, jojoba, sunflower, etc).
  • 20-30 drops peppermint essential oil

*organic is best for all of these ingredients; even better, organic and fair-trade (particularly for the cocoa butter and shea butter).


  1. Create a double boiler system. By this, I mean: heat water to boiling in a pot or saucepan, and then put another heat-proof bowl over top – the ingredients melt in the heat proof bowl from the heat of the boiling water, but without coming into contact WITH the water.
  2. Next, into the heat proof bowl add your cocoa butter, shea butter, and coconut oil and stir occasionally until all are melted and mixed together.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the liquid oil.
  4. Put the whole mix in the fridge and set your timer for 30 minute intervals – you want it to firm up but not become a rock. The 30 minute marker allows you to gauge how far along it is. If it’s really cold, I suppose you could put it outside.
  5. Once firm, remove from fridge and grab your hand mixer/whatever mixer and start to whip it. Whip it good. Add your peppermint essential oil as you go. If you want to really fire up your nose, add more peppermint oil.
  6. Whip until you’ve reached your desired state of whippiness, then scoop into jars and voila! Body butter a la peppermint. Ooh la la.

© Backyard Owl 2016


Turmeric and Vitamin C ‘New Year Best Self’ Creamsicle Smoothie

turmeric and C smoothie with banana and mango

2016 is here and every blog and its brother will be inundating you with ways to be healthier, more relaxed, more positive, lighter, smarter, faster, more focussed, and a generally more awesome version of yourself. More dubiously, you’ll also have information pushed at you about how to lose weight or become better looking.

Let’s just say this now: wanting to grow, heal, and embrace more joy in your life in 2016 is wonderful. Restricting, dieting, confining, squishing, or otherwise attempting to punish or hate your body or self into being something that fits a very (very!) narrow definition of attractive is not helpful. In fact, it’s harmful. Don’t fall prey to the new year thinking that somehow you aren’t good enough and changing your outside is what needs to happen.

turmeric and C smoothie with banana and mango

Ideally, your resolutions, goals, or priorities for the new year elevate and excite you, and they serve to boost your spirit, not depress you about how much you need to fix, improve, or change. That’s where I think the ‘new year, new you’ concept really falls off the rails. Each year shouldn’t start with a vow to rehaul your entire self. What kind of message does that send to your internal esteem? The idea is to bring more joy, more pleasure, more fun, more laughter, and more healing and growth into our lives to become the best version of ourselves in the process. That’s how to start the new year.

This smoothie is something I’ve been tinkering with over the holidays, and it represents some of these ideals in food-form: it’s boosting, light, energizing, healthy, and is just the kind of the tasty and tangy re-set your tastebuds might need after a more indulgent festive season.

turmeric and C smoothie with banana and mango

The turmeric adds a nice cheerful boost of yellow colour and is a powerful anti-inflammatory, and adding a healthy fat (I like NutraVege Citrus omega oil) helps with absorption and is good support for your brain and skin (every cell in your body needs and benefits from healthy fats – and you have trillions of cells all performing some little but necessary function at every moment. Give them some support!). Orange juice and mango add lots of Vitamin C, which is helpful for your immune system and your skin collagen, and the banana adds potassium and fibre. A scoop of protein powder adds some protein so that your smoothie can keep you full longer.

I typically measure out the juice, almond milk, and powders the night before, and then in the morning just add the mango and banana. Blend it up, and Bob’s your uncle.

Happy New Year to you all! May 2016 bring you joy, peace, love, and laughter, and may you feel that you lived it all in the presence of your best self.

Turmeric and Vitamin C ‘New Year Best Self’ Creamsicle Smoothie


  • 1/2 cup almond or coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup orange juice (essentially equal parts juice to almond milk)
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1 cup frozen mango chunks
  • 1/2 of a frozen banana
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons (or 1 scoop) vanilla vegan protein powder
  • 1-2 teaspoons your favourite omega oil (fruit/citrus flavoured works well)
  • OPTIONAL: 2 teaspoons sunflower lecithin; 1-2 teaspoons maca powder


  1. Measure out all ingredients into a blender or NutriBullet-type device.
  2. Blend ’em up!
  3. Sip and enjoy.

(C) Backyard Owl 2016

Happy Holidays and 10 Favourite Festive Posts

happy holidays 2015

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Happy holidays, friends!

Even if it isn’t your favourite season of festivity, Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate) is a wonderful time to remember the joys of family and friends, to savour delicious and healthy food, to feel gratitude for life’s blessings and gifts, and to celebrate the contentment of another year drawing to close, hopefully spent with love, laughter, and joy.

So let me share my 10 favourite festive-themed posts from yesteryear. This list covers clean baking, delicious treats, self-care (very important this year of year – give the gift of love to yourself as well!), and the art (and pleasure!) of giving meaningful gifts:

And BONUS, for when you feel the need to refresh and revive:

Happy Holidays! Enjoy this time with your friends and family.