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

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

Radiant Anti-Inflammatory Turmeric and Ginger Tea

radiant turmeric and ginger tea

“Yellow is the ‘lightest’ of all of the warm-spectrum colors and the color which most resembles the sun. It brings with it hope, and the feeling that everything will be all right. It has an air of radiance, brightness, cheerfulness, and gaiety. Yellow is open-minded and inspiring; it glows and illuminates, and at is most positive vibration it corresponds with knowledge and wisdom.”

~ excerpted from Color Your Life, by Howard & Dorothy Sun

So many of us want to find ways to reduce inflammation in our bodies, seeing as, you know, inflammation is possibly at the root of all disease. That’s a super scary idea, and it makes me want to leap into action. It makes me want to find some kind of superhero to help me fight back. And, the super hero that I have in mind just happens to be a ugly and sort of weird looking, but powerful nevertheless. My super hero wears a yellow cape and goes by the name Turmeric.

Turmeric is one of these superfoods we keep hearing about over and over and for good reason – it’s one powerful little root. And, it’s been proven to be anti-inflammatory, to be a powerful antioxidant (protecting the body from the regular ongoing damage that occurs as a result of breathing, exposure to toxins, aging, just existing, etc), and to have promising potential in treating arthritis and joint pain, preventing some cancers, and possibly even preventing and treating Alzheimers.

And ginger! Ginger is great for digestion and/or indigestion, for nausea, and it’s also known to be anti-inflammatory.

radiant turmeric and ginger tea

And can we talk about the colour of this tea? We don’t often pay attention to colour in our lives but I’m learning that colour has a tremendous influence on us in all sorts of physical, mental, and spiritual ways.

We know we’re supposed to eat the colours of the rainbow; here is a way to boost YELLOW. Colours mean antioxidants, which in turn means protection for your cells, radiant health, and high levels of nutrients. Turmeric is a lovely brilliant yellow when dried and when fresh, it kind of looks like a carrot – bright orange and juicy (under the peel, that is. When it has a peel on, it basically looks like ginger, to which it is related).

And as noted above, the colour yellow links to radiance, glow, illumination, cheerfulness, vitality, and all of the other elements of health that we want and that antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods can help us obtain. Coincidence? I think not.

radiant turmeric and ginger tea

Yellow is also the colour that represents the Solar Plexus Chakra, one of the seven energy centres of the body according to Ayurvedic traditions. In this school of thought, the Solar Plexus Chakra governs personal power, energy, and self-confidence. It’s all about purpose and your inner fire. The colour yellow supports and represents this chakra by encouraging radiance and stability and happiness and confidence.

Fire, pep, energy, radiance, yellow. Sound a lot like turmeric? I think so.

All that’s not bad for one little mug of tea.

radiant turmeric and ginger tea

And if you’re worried about this being too spicy, don’t be. I found it delightfully ‘awakening’ in my mouth but not at all burny or uncomfortable (read a description of turmeric’s taste here if you’re curious for more detail). It’s like a nice spicy chai: peppy and peppery, but not painful.

You can drink this straight as a steeped tea, or incorporate some non-dairy milk as I have done. The ground pepper and coconut oil are to enhance the absorption of the good stuff from the turmeric. I like making my tea into a latte because it mellows things into a more comforting mug and adds a nice smoothness. Plus, if you wanted to go crazy and add some coconut milk, you’re incorporating the healthy fats required to aid with turmeric absorption. Hey now!

Radiant Anti-Inflammatory Turmeric and Ginger Tea

  • Author: Backyard Owl (and everyone else on the internet who has ever made this kind of tea)
  • Recipe Notes: gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free or nut-free (depending on your milk), naturally-sweetened


  • fresh ginger root
  • fresh turmeric root
  • ground black pepper
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk
  • (optional) stevia for sweetening


  1. Measure out 1 cup of filtered water and place in a saucepan on low heat.
  2. Grate about 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger and 1 teaspoon of fresh turmeric and add to your water.
  3. Simmer for about 10 minutes (you should notice the water becoming, well, orange coloured).
  4. Pour the tea into your mug and strain out the spice pulp.
  5. Add a few shakes of ground black pepper and the coconut oil.
  6. Sir in 1/4 cup of your favourite non-dairy milk. If required, sweeten with stevia.
  7. Sip and enjoy!

Serves 1.

NOTE: Turmeric will stain anything it touches yellow. Just be warned. Your fingers, your counter, the knife you use to peel it, and so on. So I recommend paying attention while preparing this tea so that you don’t discover you’ve accidentally dyed your face, your clothes, or something else you would prefer NOT to become yellow.

© Backyard Owl

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


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.



For the End of Summer: 7 Ways to Take Care of Yourself

Friends, I am going through a bit of dry spell for blog creativity. I have no shortage of recipes to try, but I haven’t found anything of late that just really says “I’m a success and I need to be shared with the world.” I made some cantaloupe limeade the other day (basically you juice a cantaloupe and two whole limes, dilute with water, and add maple syrup to taste) and as excited I was about making an beautiful peach-coloured drink, it didn’t taste quite as good as I’d hoped.

dandelion fluff

So now, as I sip cantaloupe limeade (just because it wasn’t amazing, doesn’t mean I’m going to just waste it), I ponder what I should do next. After all, the summer is a time when fresh, seasonal, local fruits and vegetables are so available! I should be swimming in recipes to try. But, I don’t know what it is.

Did I mention my plum jam this afternoon burned and was ruined?

So, yeah, a tough month for ol’ Emily. But, instead of beating myself up, I’m trying to remember that a) summer is a busy time, and b) sometimes recipes and schedules just don’t go according to plan, and c) sometimes the answer to the blahs is taking the time to RECHARGE.

summer sunflowers

Summer is often an active time, with hot weather, long days, and lots we feel we should be doing/attending. Are you feeling drained, dull, or low on the creative juices? Peruse a few of these articles, try a recipe or two, and treat yourself well at the end of this beautiful, hot, gorgeous summer. Enter the Autumn feeling strong and vital, and give yourself that much needed boost as you transition to a new season and a new phase of the year.

  1. For Your Soul: Recharge with the power of a super moon! Who doesn’t love the idea of letting Nature help fill up our spiritual and emotional cups?
  2. For Your Body: Make yourself an easy, natural brown sugar scrub and indulge in the shower for smooth skin, exfoliation, and a circulation boost.
  3. For Your Baking Side: Use up some zucchini (which is always ubiquitous this timesimple and refreshing iced herbal tea with fruit and mint leaves of year) and make zucchini chocolate chip muffins, then enjoy with a cup of tea (or iced herbal tea!) and your favourite novel for a few stolen moments on your porch, in your favourite chair, or just sprawled out on your bed (with the fan blowing, if it’s hot where you live).
  4. For Your Spirit: If you’re in the mood for singing, take 20 minutes to sing along to your favourites. Singing is something so few of us do anymore in any real way (yes, the shower counts, except not really) and it’s so restorative and so, well, pleasant! Embrace your folk side with John Denver “Take Me Home, Country Roads” or maybe your country side with Tim McGraw “Sick of Me.” Or, go mellow and strummy with Pink and Dallas Green, “You and Me.” Sway around. Get into it.
  5. For Your Inner Child: In this hot weather, don’t forget about swimming! It gets your core temperature down and, if done before bed, can cool you down enough for a reasonable night’s sleep. Find your nearest local pool and try it! My friend Liz and I have been swimming several times this summer and it’s so fun! I forgot how delightful it is to just lounge in a pool and see the blue sky.
  6. For Your Tastebuds: Make strawberry summer sherbert or avocado lime ice cream. ‘Nuff said.
  7. For Your Heart: Be kind to yourself. Be your own best friend. Take some time at the gratitudeend of summer to reflect, journal, and think about what you’re looking forward to as Autumn approaches. Forgive yourself for anything you feel wasn’t perfect this summer, or make a commitment to yourself to try again at something that really matters to you. And, as always, take stock of the good things in your life. Sometimes a few moments spent reflecting on what we love about our lives can boost our feelings of harmony and joy, and bring us to a place of peace and connection again.

Happy Last Days of Summer!

avocado lime ice cream with coconut milk

(C) Backyard Owl



Cherish Yourself: 4 Tips to Cultivate Self-Love and Stop Negative Self-Talk

you yourself deserve loveI’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about self-love and what it means to be your own best friend. How many of you would say you smile when you see your own face in the mirror because that’s what you do when you’re greeting a friend? Because you are pleased to be you?

Not many, I suspect. And that’s a shame.  Because there is only one person that you will truly spend every moment of every day with, through good times and bad, for the entirety of your life, and that’s yourself.

Self-love isn’t about putting yourself above others, though; instead, it’s about each of us doing the work and taking some accountability for cherishing ourselves. Self-love means respecting and taking delight in your strengths and unique skills, appreciating your weaknesses and trying to grow or improve where appropriate, and loving your body for its power, health, and intricacy.

dare to love

Sadly, for a variety of reasons, most of us go through our lives berating ourselves, hating our looks or our bodies, feeling shameful, ugly, unattractive, undesirable, or unloved. If you pay attention, you might notice that you say mean things to yourself that you would never DREAM of saying to a friend.

This is what we call negative self-talk.

And negative self-talk:

  • decreases our self-esteem
  • decreases our capacity to create positive change
  • decreases our energy to go after our dreams
  • decreases our ability to believe in our own possibilities and potential successes, and
  • decreases our resilience to overcome failures, setbacks, and unforeseen bumps in the road.

And what’s worse, this kind of negative self-talk is reinforcing. The more you let it run wild, the more it will run wild. The brain creates pathways for efficiency. The more you think a certain kind of thought, the easier it becomes to think that thought again in the future, and the faster your brain knows to jump down that pathway.

In the beginning, retraining your brain to counter negative self-talk and to cultivate self-love can seem like really hard work, and it is – you are literally carving out new brain pathways and creating new default behaviours. That ain’t easy.

love is the great cure

But the reason I think it’s worth the work is is that I’ve become increasingly convinced that self-love is THE KEY TO IT ALL.

Imagine, for a moment, what your life would be like if the voice in your head (the one that is always talking – the Buddhists call it “monkey brain”) said the following to you:

  • yes, you can achieve what you want
  • yes, you can have your dreams
  • yes, you are talented, unique, and marvellous
  • yes, you have what it takes
  • yes, you can recover from a setback or a failure
  • yes, your body is beautiful and powerful
  • yes, your self and your individuality are precious
  • yes, you can do good in the world

If this was the voice in your ear, wouldn’t you feel happier, lighter, more joyful, and more powerful? You’d be unstoppable! So, how can you get started bringing more self-love into your life?


1. Affirmations: these might work for you or they might not, but they are worth trying. Try repeating them in the morning when you wake up and at night before bed. Or, try repeating them every time you see yourself in the mirror, or, every time you observe yourself being critical. If you use a mirror, look yourself in the eye and repeat the phrases out loud. Enjoy it. Use different dramatic emphasis. Speak with meaning.

A few examples:

  • I accept myself unconditionally right now.
  • I am glowing, healthy, and strong
  • I am beautiful just the way I am
  • I am clever, competent, and capable, and I will find a way
  • I am happy and loved
  • I love who I have become

2. Self-love goes hand in hand with self-care. Eat well, exercise, and take time to do the things that make you feel most like you: reading, writing, walking, socializing, listening to music, painting, cooking, dancing, whatever. Create space for relaxation but also for positive energization. Take a bath. Go to bed early. Stay up late watching your favourite movie. Do more of what makes you feel good.

3. Gratitude lists. I love gratitude lists. If you want to cherish yourself, make a list about yourself. What do you like about you? Your taste in sofas? Your ability to make people laugh until their beverage comes out of their nose? Your diligence at work? How your favourite colour is periwinkle? Identify what makes you YOU, and then take a moment (or many) to feel grateful about it.

4. Admire your life for 5 minutes every day: Take 5 minutes every day to be present. That could mean meditating for 5 minutes, if that’s helpful to you, or simply taking 5 minutes in which you do your best to be quiet and still, and just look around at your world. Look at your home and admire it with fresh eyes. Look at your pets, your children, your spouse or partner, your flowerpot, the soup you just made, your computer screensaver, whatever. Take 5 minutes and deeply appreciate the unique life you have and how pivotal you are in it! Thank yourself for building this life and feel appreciation for what you have achieved, and what you can do.

celebrate myself


© Backyard Owl

6 Fabulous Articles to Make Your 2015 the Best Ever!

tree buds 30x30.2Ah, the fresh new year is here! A beautiful stretch of 365 days packed with opportunities for adventure, growth, friendship, laughter, joy, beauty, curiosity, personal development, and love. Sounds pretty good to me.

What I love to do at the beginning of a new year is seek out articles that inspire me, give me food for thought, prompts questions that I can journal about, give me guidance about positive self-care practices, and help me form my goals for the new year in new ways.

I don’t typically set ‘resolutions,’ or if I do, they aren’t conventional. I set goals for the year ahead, goals that encompass both specific milestones I’d like to accomplish (create a will, take a trip, etc) and personal development goals I have, based on areas I’ve identified as those that have the most meaning to me.

For me, 2015 will be about self-love, believing in myself and the opportunities I can pursue, and becoming my own biggest supporter.

What will 2015 be about for you?

coffee table books

To help guide you, I’ve put together a series of amazing articles – encountered in the last few days – that I’ve found really helpful. Think of it as assigned reading for starting the year off right. Pick and choose as you please, or read them all.

Happy New Year!

Backyard Owl’s Reading List for the New Year – Get Vibrant and Happy in 2015!


Peruse these articles and share any others below that you find helpful. I think goals and aims and resolutions are an awesome way to articulate the personal development plans we have for the year ahead. So take a moment to prioritize the kinds of growth that are important to you.

And in the end, the optimal resolution is made in kindness to yourself, with nothing but the goal of loving who you are now, and figuring out where to go to continue to be your best self. For more reading, check out my post from 2014 on resolutions, and thinking about how you want to feel.

All the best for 2015!

© Backyard Owl

My top 10 favourite FREE e-books – happiness, health, and creativity

top 10 favourite ebooksThe internet is an amazing place. So many neat people out there, writing about what matters to them, and sharing thoughts, advice, and tips for the rest of us to help us live our best lives.  And all, or at least most, of this fabulous information is free. Free for our enjoyment and consumption.

Which brings me to free e-books. I love a good free e-book. And believe you me, there are free e-books on basically every kind of topic under the sun. Blogging, health, confidence, happiness, creativity, cooking, stress management, pets, you name it.

I mean, are most free e-books a means of advertising for a specific blog, website, product, or service? Yes. Do many free e-books require you to sign up for a blog or website before you receive the book? Yes. Are free e-books in general meant to bring you back to a website and make you a loyal reader? Well, sure.

fall grapesBut none of this is criminal stuff by any means, and regardless of this advertising angle, free e-books have a lot of value. They are often packed with information, extremely digestible, just the right number of pages, and focused on very specific issues, with straight-forward tips for moving forward.

They are little gems, really. And I love them (did I say that already?).

So take a look at the choices below. Remember, I’m not trying to advertise for specific blogs or products or coaches or approaches. I’m simply passing along some of the little treasures I’ve found in my searches of the wonderful world of the internet.

Note that some links below are to PDFs, while some will take you to places where you can download the e-book.

My top ten FREE e-books on health, happiness, and living the good life:

  1. Heathy Kitchen Guidebook: Accelerate Your Path to Nutritional Excellence – John Robbins and Ocean Robbins
  2. An Adventure Every Day: How to Live An Adventurous Life – Heather E. Wilson.
  3. How to Be Happy: No Fairy Dust or Moonbeams Required – Cara Stein
  4. How to Be the Most Attractive, Irresistible Version of Yourself – Shelly Bullard
  5. Mastering Creativity: Break Through Mental Blocks, Uncover Your Creative Genius, and Make Brilliance a Habit – James Clear
  6. The Magnetics of Feelings – Danielle La Porte
  7. The Bold Living Guide – Barrie Davenport
  8. The 5 Most Common Blocks to Authenticity…and How to Overcome Them – Hannah Braime
  9. Insider Secrets for New Coaches & Creatives: 23 Brilliant Bloggers Share It All – from YourSuperAwesomeLife.com
  10. CrazySexyManifesto: Guidelines for Dazzling Wellness Warriors – Kris Carr

Happy Reading!


© 2014 Backyard Owl

Simple and Refreshing – Iced Herbal Tea with Fruit and Mint

easy herbal iced tea

I love mason jars. Anything stored in a mason jar just seems so much more special – beans, lentils, soup, chocolate chips, compost tea, whatever. A mason jar makes its contents look homey, rustic, quaint, and beautiful. So when I was thinking about making iced tea the other day, the only vessel I considered was, of course, the humble mason jar.

This iced tea isn’t called simple for nothing. You basically throw all of the stuff in the mason jar and that’s it. And I know a lot of people talk about sun tea. I think this could more appropriately be called a ‘counter tea’ or a ‘fridge tea’. You are more than welcome to stick it outside to warm in the sun, but you are equally welcome to just put it anywhere – it works just as well.

I’ve flavoured my iced tea with mint leaves (from my plant on the deck – another benefit to container gardening!) because I like the taste and I like the bit of cheery green colour, and because the tea is steeping very gently in the fridge, the flavour of the mint is really very mild. I also like to throw in a few berries – blueberries, in this case, because I’d gone picking the day before, but really whatever berries you have – for colour, flavour, and well, just all-around cuteness.

easy herbal iced tea with mint and blueberriesSo here’s what you’ll need to make the easiest iced herbal tea with fruit and mint:

  • a mason jar and lid
  • 2 bags of your favourite herbal tea (if it is a very mild flavour, try three bags – I think fruity flavours work best)
  • a handful of mint leaves, washed
  • a handful of blueberries, also washed
  • enough water to fill the mason jar
  • OPTIONAL: 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice; 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup

Instructions: Fill the mason jar with water, and dangle the tea bags in, with the label of the bags hanging over the edge of the mason jar on the outside. Toss in the mint leaves, put on the lid, and then give the whole thing a good shake. Take off the lid, toss in the berries, and put in the fridge for about 24 hours.

That’s it!

Now pour yourself a tall glass of iced herbal tea, go sit on the veranda, listen to some fabulous folk music with banjo pickin’ (like CBC Radio 2’s Deep Roots show), and enjoy something akin to simple country living.

NOTE 1: If you decide to omit the berries until serving, you can keep this on the counter. With the berries, the fridge is the safest home and one that will guarantee the longevity of your tea.

NOTE 2: If you like tea with a little more zip and zing, add the lemon juice and the maple syrup. They’ll serve to both tart up and sweeten the tea, giving it a little more flavour.

© 2014 Backyard Owl

easy iced herbal tea with fruit and mint