The Holistic Home

"Find your heart, and you will find your way home."

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Happy Mud Season from Magick Mountain

Mud Season: Although the pastures are still mostly covered in snow, every spring day shows larger patches of grass. The mountain streams are flowing briskly with snow melt and our road is a three-mile muddy mess.

Most folks hate mud season up here but after this long snowy winter I am relishing it. I am, always have been OK with getting dirty. Growing up a tomboy some of my favorite playthings were frogs and polliwogs. I use a Fango mud mask regularly and even traveled to Calistoga Springs to take a mud bath. There is something wonderfully primal about the rich loamy smell of the earth.

We are supposed to get dirty! The links between our immune system and dirt cannot be denied. 

This year, trade over-sanitizing Spring Cleaning for a Spring Ritual of Renewal for body, mind and soul. Go for a muddy hike and perhaps introduce yourself to a few ‘healthy bugs’ like Kombucha, or any of the myriad probiotics out there. Nature in all of her glorious messiness is waiting! (Funny anecdote, I actually got stuck in the mud on the ATV today!)

As I am still a moonshiner (l brew kombucha on New and Full moons), I am not able to sell yet in any stores, but please come up to Magick Mountain for brews (with a view)! And/or let me know how many you’d like. As you know, I happily deliver!

Current offerings:


Keemun Panda (black tea) with concord grape + ginger
Ontario Breakfast (black tea) with blueberries + lime

Lucky Dragon (green tea) with grapefruit + lemon/lime
Sencha Akaike (green tea) with Matcha + lavender

$7 for 750ml (wine bottle size) 3 for $20, 4 for $25
(suggested donation, barter, etc. 😉

Please save your screw top wine bottles for more brews.

Thank you for loving my small batch kombucha – I brew for you!
“Our girls have learned that sweat is sexy, brawn is beautiful and a little dirt never hurt anyone.”  ~ Louise Slaughter 

 It takes Guts to be Healthy & Happy!



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Wake up to Nature

Imagine, waking at sunrise, completely refreshed from the best nights sleep in your life. As you close your eyes to deeply inhale the crisp cool mountain air your ears fill with a symphony of birdsong. You stretch and realize the tension your body has been carrying for so long has somehow disappeared. You feel wonderfully alive, connected to something indescribably magical. What IS this place?

Nature. Mother Nature is our ultimate healer. Her constant and calming rhythm provides the perfect escape from our insanely chaotic world and reconnects us to our primordial life force.

Growing up camping exposed me to a wild natural world at an early age. A skinny scraped knee’d tomboy I could climb trees faster and higher than any kid and played with wild creatures instead of dolls. I am still happiest when I am in nature; be it forest, ocean, mountains or a park.

Andy and I are incredibly fortunate to live on two thousand wild acres. We love living in these gorgeous hills where the True Luxuries of pure air, clean mountain water, crystal clear starry nights are the way of life. We enjoy sharing the spectacular property with nature loving friends.

Enter Tentrr. The concept is similar to ‘airbnb’ but for camping. Tentrr provides a turn key (more like lift flap) camping experience with large safari tents on raised platforms equipped with air mattresses on a bed frames, tables, chairs, fire-pits, and supplies, all set up on beautiful grounds, like ours. I call it ‘try on camping’ because it is camping without the cost of buying tents, supplies or dealing with storage – perfect for citifolks (or anyone) who want to rediscover their natural vibrant selves.

(Our four Tentrr sites are in Andes, NY; Eagles Nest, Big Sky, Bears Den, Turtle Creek)

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We all know that home is more than the physical connection to human and building. That said, I propose a question: what kind of relationship are you having with your space?

Are you having a romance?  And in turn, is your place treating you well? If we treat our homes as we would a wonderful lover we seek a deeper connection to our dwellings and ultimately, ourselves. In a good relationship there is kindness, acceptance and humor. We embrace the idiosyncrasies that present themselves and even if we bicker at one another there is an underlying feeling of trust.  Certainly we’ve all had infatuations with appearances and, most certainly, they were short lived.  It is not about the contents of the place – the perfect table, a pristine bathroom, after all, do you love someone just for the color of their eyes?  It is more about the entire package, the smell, the touch, the look that you give one another that says you completely understand and accept one another.

Sharing a space also includes vulnerability, letting your guard down to be completely naked, knowing that you are loved in spite of your imperfections. That wonderful feeling of acceptance of our well-worn habits is akin to wabi sabi – an imperfection completing perfection. The antique sideboard with all of the signs of usage or the chair that has paint peeling off in just the right way that give us instant comfort.

There is an ad that says “In the well lived home, more than cooking goes on in the kitchen. It’s an art studio, a quiet table for two, a clubhouse.”  I believe in the well LOVED home, more than living goes on…

It’s a haven, a sanctuary, an oasis.

I believe in taking the concept of home to a higher level by incorporating a holistic mindset into every aspect of the design process, referring to it as mindful design or conscious design because it goes well beyond ‘green’.

Vital Design includes all economic levels, all styles and does not have any eco guilt attached. It is all about coming from a place of love. I believe the most successful spaces express the inhabitant’s personality (not the designers); I act as a conduit to help one feel confident in his or her ability to create a unique expression of themselves in their home. The result is always a beautiful, safe, non-toxic, happy and healthy environment that lifts the spirit!

We have all experienced spaces that made our hearts soar, why shouldn’t your home be one of them? I encourage you to engage in a loving dialog with your home and see your home in a wonderful new light. Whether you’ve been wed to the same space for eons or in a brand new home relationship, there are many wonderful ways to transform the mundane into the magical, creating a Healthier Happier Home, and You!


Home is where the heart is, this old carriage certainly has ours…

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Farm Market Madness

Andy and I are blaming it on the polar vortex. We sat around, eating (and drinking) huddled by the wood stove, discussing ideas great and small. One of them was transforming an old warehouse on Main Street into an indoor Farmers Market. I am a meat neophyte (Andy says meat illiterate because I still don’t understand the difference between breakfast and dinner sausages). As a lifelong vegetarian I agreed to eat meat when I met Andy over five years ago with certain conditions. It needs to be purchased from a neighborhood farm, humanely raised, grass-fed, and more. But, even though this is farm country, it is not always easy to find. Andy has driven all over Delaware county to find a chicken (or lamb, beef) that I would eat, and is probably why this market was appealing to him the most. And so, the farm market project began.

Cleaning out the five thousand foot warehouse was perhaps the easiest part. The hundreds (or so it seemed) wooden pallets were left outside in batches, with a big wooden sign that read FREE. Miraculously, the pallets (and Sign!) would disappear. Other items were not as easy such as thousands of painted wooden pens. My directive was to not take anything that could be up-cycled to the dump (at this point, Andy understands or at least obliges me in my eco ways). I wanted rough cut posts and beams placed through out the space to give it a barn-like-vibe. (Our contractor also no longer questions my radical ways.) We needed to cover the oil tanks and create stairs to the bathrooms that would meet code, which I had fabricated with straw looking particle board. I hung industrial string lights and set up a killer sound system. Andy made large chalkboard signs for each vendor framed with old horse fencing on our property. We placed lots of ads for vendors and crossed our fingers..

The market has been open since May and is an overwhelming success!

Not only do we have fantastic farmers with fresh meats, there are cheeses (including an artisanal vegan cheeze that is delicious), organic produce galore, breads, a winery, a gluten free baker (in addition to the famous ‘farmers wife’ pies) and more! In the beginning we had a phenomenal chef create sumptuous tastings from our vendors products (who has since been hired to cook in a charming restaurant because of her exposure). We keep growing organically (a pun) with various farmers seasonal produce. The most gratifying aspect of this market is the community response. The feel-good energy is felt by everyone who comes in (or so I’ve been told numerous times while hugging them..)

It was important for me (always going a bit further in green and heartfelt ways) to also make this a ‘mission market’. Folks have donated real mugs for coffee and mason jars for lemonade as a response to my request to keep trash (and plastic) to a minimum. I am having a huge wall created (when we have enough money) with a sign that reads ‘All The Dirt‘  as an information board for all farm food related resources. I have lecturers lined up to speak about the importance of supporting our local farm community. We can host square dances, ho-downs and movies. I am making ‘Farm. Food. Fun.’ carry bags.

Andy and I are thrilled (and exhausted) from taking on this project, and sometimes look at one another and say ‘what a long winter it was’ (smiling).

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Catskill Farmers, our Unsung Heroes

I was supposed to be on the radio today, ‘The Farm Hour’ with the wonderful Madalyn on WIOX, talking about the new, indoor farmers market Andy and I are creating in the center of Andes. But it’s been postponed, so I decided to write about what I wanted to say!

I believe our small farmers are our (unsung) heroes. On a daily basis they endure mother nature at her moodiest, along with cold nasty weather much of the year and have to contend with some of the rockiest of soils. But, the most important thing.. They Grow Our Food. Think about that.. actually everything comes down to really ‘thinking about it’.

As an environmentally friendly interior designer, I help my clients facilitate make super conscious choices; non-toxic, fair trade, sustainable, thoughtFUL decisions on how to create authentically healthy home environments. Food, for many of us, follows these same guidelines. I’ve always been hyper aware of my food choices. As a teenager I stopped eating all meat after reading Animal Liberation by Pete Singer. While many of my friends were reading romance novels I was reading Fit for Life, Eat Right for Your Type and perfecting Deborah Madison’s delicious vegetarian recipes. I still enjoy reading foodie books – anything written by Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser and other real food folks. I was pretty entrenched in my vegetarian (and overly informed) lifestyle.. until I met Andy. Meeting (and meating) him on his turf (UP here) was earth shattering (well, maybe quivering..). We agreed from our first date that I would eat meat – only IF it were raised by a farmer we know (supporting them), grass fed and humanely raised. I now cannot imagine my life without the smell and taste of a roasting chicken with rosemary and lemon, along with so many other meat delights! 

Making super conscious choices as to how we feed ourselves (and our families and friends) is a LUXURY. I appreciate having that luxury and also consider it a responsibility. Food is our first medicine; eating real nutrient dense food that is not processed is one of best ways we can maintain our health and vitality. A Pretty Big Deal. 

Everyone I know LOVES living among these beautiful rolling mountains. Not only seeing them, but being part of these abundant rural farmlands. 

I am also proudly one of the ‘anti-fracking’ folks who would hate to see these spectacular lands destroyed. This is another (really important) reason we need to support our farmers. It’s all about making informed conscious choices!  

This is what we want to create with the Indoor Andes Farmers Market, a place where our farmers are supported and celebrated.. our hardworking unsung heroes! 

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5 ways to Bring More LOVE Home ( sex

Valentines Day 2014. Get ready to get gob-smacked by sentiments of love.

For me (and probably a few others Yoginis who cultivate authentic love on a daily basis), it would be fun to create a Valentine’s Day equivalent of Festivus..(.Jello Twister contests in sticky syrup, doused in Victoria’s-not-so-Secret-super-cloying PINK perfume, schmaltzy music playing..♥♥♥’s overload, ‘I love you more!’..)

Not to be snarky, (ok, maybe a little), but most of this holiday stuff is really nasty. There are better ways to bring love home, everyday. Practicing Yoga is just one of them.

– Flowers. Anyone who is familiar with the book Flower Confidential , or movie Maria Full of Grace knows how ugly those cheap roses really are. One better alternative is The Bouqs, a responsible way to send flowers. Even better, buy a plant.

– Wine. There is lots of good (cheap) wine readily available, and no one (that I know of) is being exploited, but why not support some small independent vintners and increase your feel-good-factor to the wine buzz?… and the name is perfect for VD: NakedWines.

– Chocolate. I love ♡ dark chocolate (and indulge in some everyday) Happily there lots of organic fair trade brands to chose from (and I know most of them), but this new New York company really has it going on: Cocao Prieto (small batch liquors too!)

– Perfume. As beautiful and sexy as the ads look, most perfumes have toxic chemicals in their formulas.  Luckily, there are some amazing all natural perfumes. Even better is mixing some essential oils to create your own signature, pure scent.

– Diamonds. Hopefully, (and because of awareness leading to pressure this industry) Blood Diamonds will become a thing of the past. Still, it’s best to buy ‘conflict -free’ stones..who needs terrible energy imbedded in something that is supposed to be about ‘eternal love’?

Sex. Good Clean LOVE, Inc. is one of my very favorite companies (and newsletters).

ImageThere are lots of ways to incorporate mindfulness into your love life (and home environment). It just takes looking beyond our Drishdi, and expanding our Metta!

Happy Valentines Day.. Happy ~ Loving ~ Everyday! ~ Cheryl

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Take a walk on the wild side..

Last week, (while Andy & I were in Mexico escaping New York’s Bitter cold), I received a nice email from Mike, asking me to to participate in Gogobot’s Dream Getaway Challenge as a ‘Green Tribe’ member. It inspired me to write this:

Over twenty years ago, I moved to New York City without knowing anyone there. It was both frightening and exhilarating. Having my own apartment (albeit a small noisy studio) was the perfect place to start over after my divorce (and a huge change from my large house in the suburbs). I went to design school and landed a dream job as design director for a top name designer (after crashing a very fancy party; introducing myself as ‘Looking for a job’ when asked ‘who I was’). I traveled first class to many places, including Japan and South Africa. My life was a combination of  “Sex and the City” and ‘The Devil wears Prada’…Story-Book-Exciting (and exhausting at times).

Wonderful, glamorous, and yet, there was something missing. I had a longing for something that I could not put my finger on. One day, I remember thinking, “I live in a concrete jungle and NEED to go to a real jungle. I HAVE to see a monkey!” Everyone thought

ImageI was crazy, this was years before Costa Rica was a destination. I finally convinced a former lover (who lives in California) to meet me in Florida and off we went on an Eco Adventure. Carl spoke a bit of spanish, and had no fear of driving a jeep to remote areas of a country with horrendous dirt roads. We flew on a tiny plane to the Eco Lodge Lapa Rios where we slept in a jungle bungalow, swam in the ocean, hiked along a river to climb a spectacular waterfall (without any gear). I saw giant butterflies, scarlet macaws, toucans…and monkeys! I felt incredibly alive and loved being so close to wildlife.

I have since traveled in eco-fashion (somewhat of an oxymoron) to the Yucatan Peninsula for yoga (before it was the ‘Riviera Maya’), Oaxaca, Puerto Escondido and other more remote places in Mexico, Peru, Alaska and lots of many other places where nature usurps nurture (at least in the pampering sense).

I founded VITAL DESIGN as an Eco-Design Firm in 1997 (pre-the-green-mania) because I truly believe honoring our natural world is the healthiest – and happiest – way to live. At that time, not many people understood ‘green design’ and I was told numerous times to abandon my lofty ideals, but it’s impossible for me not to connect the dots in order to create a healthier (holistic) home. I am glad I persevered because I now have fantastic, kind, conscious clients who ‘get it’.

I still adore New York City with all of its wonderfully diverse aspects. My apartment is one block from Central Park – ‘my backyard’ (and my salvation) for many years.

I now spend most of my time upstate in the Western Catskills, where I live with my boyfriend on a two thousand acre gilded age estate (coincidentally designed by Olmsted). A lot of my friends think I am crazy to live on a mountain so isolated, but for me it is heaven to be surrounded by this much wildlife, breathe pure air, drink mountain spring water and see the stars at night ..(the things I would go ECO-Trekking for!).

I truly am ‘Blissed out in the boonies with my Catskill Rascal’, and encourage everyone to follow their dream, take a chance and …walk on the wild side.

(Which is much easier to do these days, with loads of information on the internet, and Uber-Cool-Travel-Sites like Gogobot.)

~ Happy Home Blessings ~ Cheryl

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My Wild-Crafted Life

I have always been a bit wild. Considered a ‘tomboy’ growing up, I loved climbing trees and preferred playing with lizards and frogs (or anything I could catch) instead of dolls. I used to get in trouble for bringing my pet mouse Pete to school in my pocket. My blond hair was always a tangled mess and my skinny knees bore constant scabs. Dirt was my friend. 

Some things don’t change much. Even living in New York City for the last twenty years with all of the pampering amenities I prefer to be in nature. Sitting in a nail salon is torture for me and I re-rout my appointments so that I am able to walk through a park. I know almost every square inch of Central Park and frequent it day and night, in all seasons. 

No surprise I would fall in love with a man who manages over two thousand acres of undeveloped land. (Hurray for online dating!) My first introduction to Broadlands came in the middle of an extremely snowy winter. After numerous New York City dinner dates our first planned weekend was delayed because of an extreme snowstorm. (At first I thought he was making excuses not to ‘take it to the next level’). He said, ‘It could be really rough’ not knowing how tough I was. Disappointedly, I stayed in my (overly) warm apartment while he showed me pictures of his truck stuck in snow and snow drifts covering half the windows of the old carriage house he lives in (again, thank goodness for internet!)

When I finally did make it upstate we had a (shall we say) wild weekend. and I fell in love, not only with Andy, but with this beautiful un-tamed area. The raw unspoiled quality of the Catskills spoke to my heart from day one. The only kind of vacation I ever knew growing up was camping, to which I am now extremely grateful for my parents exposing me to; fecund forests, sparkling streams, dark night skies filled with a billion stars, and all of the myriad natural world offerings which are deeply embedded in my heart of happy childhood memories. I am over-joyed that everyday I am able to continue to create similar memories in these purple mountains where our only neighbors are bears and bobcats (and many other wonderful wild creatures).  

I have now been living full time Upstate (I always call it UP!state) for a few years, loving every moment with Andy (ok, almost every). As I greet each new day, climbing out of our warm bed pre-dawn to feed the wood stove (and cats), make my tea, watch the sky brighten, I meditate in gratitude. I am in constant awe by the bucolic bounty of ever changing colors, smells, textures and temperatures that is right outside my door, where my messy hair fits in perfectly.  

… Blissed out in the boonies with my catskill rascal. 

~ Home Brewed Blessings, ~ Cheryl  

“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting,

So… get on your way!” 

Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!Image

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Talking Trash

Happy 2014! A time of New Beginnings, Resolutions, and detoxing from all of the festive food of the holidays. It’s also a good time to take stock of what has value, not just your bank account, but what people, places or things you value the most. Are you spending time nurturing what matters most? (Yourself.)

Andy and I attended a friends newly renovated mansion for a grand (and super fun) ‘Downton Abbey’ New Years party. We all dressed in period edwardian garb (Andy in a proper scottish kilt) and met many new people. When I complimented a woman on her black lace dress she exclaimed, ‘Oh I’ve gained weight,  this is supposed to drape not cling!’  Even though she looked great to me (and everyone else), her inner critic was ruining her evening. 

As the eco designer (and eco everything) I often consider the ‘trash quotient’. The fact that those stupid baby wipes do not break down and are causing a huge problem to the astounding amount of trash that we create in New York City alone, is something I actually think about! I also consider ‘trash talk’ – those unkind words we often use on ourselves. It is all toxic rubbish (spoken in a ‘Downton Abbey’ accent).  All of our actions, words and deeds (as well as thoughts) matter. When we start making thoughtful kind choices we create healthier more loving environments,  with ourselves,  at home and everywhere. 

Global Climate Disasters such as Haiyan Typhoon (and many others predicted) should be a wake up call. For the sake of our planet, for our own sakes, we are being called to pay attention to our roles as responsible ‘care-takers’, as opposed to selfish mean consumers. 

So, go ahead and detox, but allow 2014 to be a year of Conscious Connection, a year to cultivate an awareness of your ‘self’ – as the perfect radiant light self you already are.