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Recently, my husband Andy and I were jolted out of deep sleep at 5 am by a huge CRASH. We jumped out of bed to investigate (with me grabbing slippers and a flashlight). I assumed a bear had climbed onto the front porch table to get at the bird suet (not the first time).
As the only humans living on a two-thousand-acre estate, we are surrounded by wildlife and are accustomed to myriad nature sounds. Many nights we listen to the primal howls of coyotes, which I love. (Sometimes I even howl along with them!) We know our seasonal birds by their calls and occasionally hear an owl in the night whoo-whoo-whooing.
As an auditory person and lifelong environmentalist, this is heaven for me. It was just a short time ago I needed a sound machine (of nature!) to help me sleep in New York City, with all of its jarring, man-made sounds. (I swear the garbage trucks have amplifier speakers.)
It’s no wonder the number-one complaint of city dwellers is noise. Chronic, debilitating noise is more than just an annoyance — it plays a huge factor in our quality of life. Studies confirm that noise and stress are closely related to our health, and I am always surprised that more people don’t plug their ears (like I do) when a subway car rambles by.
What we hear transforms our brains and our lives. That’s why it’s critical to take control over your ‘personal soundscape.’ Customize your home environment as you would a beautiful soundtrack to create a haven of soothing sounds (and sights and smells). Here are a few tips to do that:
It’s hard to believe that it was only a few weeks ago that we were contemplating the end of the world. Not only did we survive the apocalypse, we survived the holidays!
Now the conversation is all about ‘New Year = New You!’ and making huge life changes now!
I prefer to work with the earth’s gentle cycles as my guide. For me, the winter season is for hibernation and quiet contemplation … a time to go deep ‘inside.’ It is a time for rest (with so many hours of darkness) and for reflection, a perfect time to tap into dreams and journal.
When we attune ourselves with the seasons, we allow our inherent natural rhythms to flow, which are easy to follow and feel good about.
The holiday season is upon us, with many of our thoughts turning to food. The popular adage “you are what you eat” is literally true, according to new research that claims a person’s diet has a profound influence on their brain function and overall health.
Just as our eating style reflects and affects who we are, I believe how and where we live reflect ‘us’ even more. Our homes are intimate expressions of ourselves. Similar to the correlation between poor diet and disease, living in a toxic environment — in any sense, physical or emotional — also impacts our health in a negative way. Luckily, the opposite is also true. By creating an environment that supports our well-being, health and happiness, our bodies and minds will respond in positive ways.
The holiday season inundates us with recipes galore (as well as stress and temptations to overindulge). To balance that, choose an ingredient (or two, or three!) from my “healthy-self’ holiday recipe below, and treat yourself to a generous helping of grounding — whatever that means to you.
I’m sure you can feel it — the change that’s in the air all around us.
It’s been a spectacular autumn so far, and I’ve been spending as much time as possible going on long hikes. Perhaps I should feel guilty about the chores I’m neglecting, but I cannot resist the spectacular display beckoning outside my window. The smell of cool, crisp air and sound of rustling leaves instantly put me in a good mood.
I have always felt the healing energy of nature, and lately I have connected even more deeply with the cycles of each beautiful and fleeting season. I used to dread the end of summer, but with age (and lots of yoga), I am now grateful to live in a place that has four distinct seasons. I embrace change — after all, it is inevitable.
Being in balance with our outer world brings more harmony to our inner world, both psychically and physically. As the colder weather sets in, we transform our habits as well as wardrobes and, hopefully, our home environment.
Here are a few easy ways to welcome the fall season in your home:
With only a couple days to go until Earth Day, prepare to get inundated with a billion things we can do — should do — to save our planet. Although there will likely be plenty of events to attend and planet-themed parties to enjoy, one of the best places you can celebrate Earth Day is in your own home!
If our homes are a reflection and expression of our lifestyles and values, then it makes sense that we start making conscious (i.e. green) choices at home. The issues affecting the Earth — from the oil crisis to water shortages to disappearing species — are complex, and can seem distant and insurmountable, but it is essential to understand the correlation between our everyday environments and our larger ecosystem. Everything and everyone is interconnected, and even the simplest act, such as turning the water off when we brush our teeth, creates positive change.
My mom’s house burned to the ground a little over a year ago. She lost everything … but it was a hidden blessing. Since my dad died a few years ago, my brother, sister and I had been trying to get Mom to move to a smaller house in a less-isolated community. She would not budge, saying, “Everything I know is here: my home, my neighbors, my life.” The fire, though tragic, took care of that.
Hurray, we made it! With the vernal equinox today, spring is finally here — and I’m in my element! I adore a big spring clean in every sense of the word … breathing fresh new life into everything from my bedroom to my outlook.
People have recognized the vernal equinox for thousands of years with cultural rituals and traditions surrounding the coming of spring. The early Egyptians oriented the Sphinx so that it points directly toward the rising sun on the day of the vernal equinox. While I can’t top that, I am quite happy to bid farewell to winter; I feel like one of the little buds on the trees aching for the sun! So I usher it in very consciously with my own spring equinox rituals …
I find color fascinating. The light frequencies we experience as color define our world in wondrous ways. Visualize an azure ocean, a verdant forest or a crimson sunset — these are all examples of color environments, which positively influence our emotions and restore our health.
As an interior designer, I know the power color has in defining a space and ‘creating a mood.’ We have all experienced that instant chill when entering
a ‘cold room,’ which has nothing to do with its temperature. Conversely, we automatically feel more relaxed and engaged in a warm-hued environment.
Think of a dining room painted a luscious burnt umber (dark red orange), such as Pantone’s color of 2012: Tangerine Tango.
I’m also mesmerized by the blue winter hues that abound right now and their accompanying reflections in snow — so dreamlike and otherworldly. This is the time of year we ‘go inside,’ both physically and figuratively. It is a wonderful time to do what the earth does: retreat deep within and cultivate inner renewal (hence, the perfect time for resolutions).
Unfortunately, it is also during these short days when many of us experience the ‘winter blues.’ Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is now recognized as a common
disorder, affecting some people severely. But there are ways, other than jetting off to a tropical island (which I also recommend), to make these cold days
The recent snowstorm caught me by surprise. I was just gearing up for Halloween festivities (also my birthday!) and was unprepared for the power outage, bitter cold and dangerous ice everywhere. It certainly wasn’t like any Hallows Eve I can remember! All I wanted to do was to stay home (which isn’t like me) and keep warm. I must be getting old, I thought. But hey, it happens to all of us, and birthdays are a perfect time to remember what matters most … and this year what mattered was to be home, warm, with my man, snuggled in bed.
This summer I’ve spent a good deal of time upstate in the Catskills where my boyfriend manages a 2,000-acre estate. (Two and a half times the size of Central Park!) This Gilded Age estate includes a once grand 20,000-sq-ft mansion and riding stables. Needless to say, it’s paradise for me, Nature Gal. The abundant wildlife (including bobcat and bear), fresh air, pure spring water and total lack of light pollution has me ‘blissed out in the boonies.’ I believe nature is our ultimate healer, which is the reason I incorporate all things natural into my design work. And I have never felt healthier or happier in my whole life than I have this summer, enveloped in this magical kingdom.