The Holistic Home

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

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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.

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Exchange your RUSH for HUSH

Andy and I were jolted out of deep sleep at 5am to a HUGE CRASH, jumping 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). Living on a two thousand acre estate (as the only humans) 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 (and howl along with them). We know our seasonal birds by their calls and occasionally hear an owl in the night who-who-who-ing. 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 the 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, and 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 with soothing sounds (and sights and smells). Turn the TV off (internet ‘noise’ also). Pay attention to the tone (and volume) of your voice. Carve out quiet time with meditation and yoga to rediscover the sacred life-affirming sound of your breath. 

 When we cultivate an authentic peaceful demeanor, our optimal health responds; body, mind and spirit. Even when the world explodes in chaos – or an attic window gets blown in by the wind as in our morning crash – we are truly able to Keep Calm & Carry On. 

 So, instead of having uproar as your only music. (Keats), ... invite some solitude.

 ~ Warm (Hushed) Home Blessings ~ Cheryl

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Another New Year, and New Beginnings ~

It feels like only a few weeks ago we were contemplating the end of the world.

Not only did we survive the apocalypse, we survived the holidays!

The current conversation is all about ‘New Year = New You!’ with more media hype about ‘How to Be/ What to Do’ – 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 the time for rest (with so many hours of darkness) and 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. In winter my body craves warmth, which I honor (I cannot juice cleanse in cold weather). Warm soups and fires nourish me inside and out. Lots of layering in soft flannels and cashmere create a feel-good-cozy-comfort in both myself and my home…even the dining table is outfitted in an extra layer with a beautiful textured runner. Welcoming warm energy is abundant, in my home…and heart.

Whatever New Year you celebrate; (gregorian, chinese, lunar, solar or other) there are many opportunities to Renew, Refresh and Re-VITALIZE.  Listen to your inner wisdom to create your personal winter wellness recipe, one that you’ll stick!

You’ll see yourself, and your home, in a whole new extraordinary and loving light.

Positive intention is key to manifesting change. My ‘Earth Renewal Program’ begins every day at dawn. Every morning I begin again, sit to meditate, with gratitude, and set my intentions..fleeting as they may be – it’s OK – I get a chance to restart again tomorrow. Love and happiness are so much more powerful than guilt and remorse.

Attune instead of Atone.

Here’s to Your Best Year!

~ WARM Home Blessings, ~ Cheryl 

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Winter Solstice, and the Return of the Light

 I have always been a sky gazer. Some of my earliest memories are of lying flat in the back of my parents old station wagon closely watching the moon, believing it was my friend coming along for the long ride to comfort me as the family journeyed throughout almost every state in search of the best campsites.  

This past year I’ve had the extreme fortune to live on a mountain surrounded by thousands of acres of wildlife (cultivating a loving relationship, which is another story). Being so immersed in the natural world has myriad benefits, among the best is experiencing the magnificence of our dark skies…without any light pollution. Besides the nightly show of stars – including the milky way! – I have become intimately connected with the moon and planet phases with all of their ritual mythologies. I truly believe being aligned with celestial energies help guide us and often work with clients to release ‘stuff’ with the waning moon as well as create intentions with the new. Friday’s ‘longest night’ will usher in a growing light every day (until summer solstice in June) and is the perfect time to tend to our own sacred light. The winter solstice and the ‘rebirth’ of the sun is a magical time in many cultures. Whatever your spiritual slant, no one can deny we are all ‘in this together’, sharing our planet along with the heavenly bodies above. This New Year offers an opportunity to honor our interconnectedness, invoke peace and join together in a world turned upside down. Open the door when a stranger knocks, and bring the symbolic lump of coal that encourages us all to light our way into a new dawn. 

  “When Buddha was on his death bed he noticed his young disciple Anan was weeping. ‘Why are you weeping, Anan?’ he asked.  ‘Because the light of the world is about to be extinguished and we will be in darkness.’ The Buddha summoned up all his remaining energy and spoke what were to be his final words on earth:  

 ‘Anan, Anan, be a light unto yourself.'”

 Remember, the greatest gift you can give, is not your presents, but your PRESENCE (your ‘light’). 

 Happy Holidays! 

Warm Home Blessings, ~ Cheryl 

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Returning to the light, our true home

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 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 had 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) – All around YUM (even without any food)! 
I am currently mesmerized by the blue winter hues and their accompanying reflections in snow, so dreamlike and otherworldly. This is the time of year we ‘go inside’ 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).
It is also during these short days many of us experience the ‘winter blues’. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is now recognized as a common disorder, affecting some people severely. There are ways, other than jetting off to a tropical island (which I also recommend), to make these cold days more bearable.
Light therapy, using ‘light boxes’ is a proven treatment for S.A.D. There is even a beautifully designed one in production.
 Many studies show that most of the US population lack Vitamin D, known as the sunlight vitamin. This nutrient is needed at proper levels for almost every tissue in the body, including the brain, heart, muscles and immune system. Supplements are an easy way to get the correct amount., and feel better.  
Light a fire. Few things trigger passionate, primordial feelings in human beings the way fire does. We symbolically honor the return of the light and new beginnings with candles and fireplaces in our homes. Easy and romantic!
Another great way to lighten up, both figuratively and literally, is to do more Yoga! I incorporate a few extra Sun Salutations in the winter, which creates body heat and expresses reverence for the life-giving solar energy. It is impossible to feel cold with an open (warm) heart, which is what yoga is all about. The gesture/salutation NAMASTE means ‘I bow to the light in you, which is also in me’, ~ a beautiful truth that we are all one when we live from the heart. 
It maybe hard to believe, with this being the coldest month of the year, but sunlight is growing stronger day by day. The more we connect and honor the natural rhythms of the seasons the more we increase the light within us.
 Let this winter be an extraordinary time to listen to your heart-fire, and tend your own sacred light. Remember, everything begins at home.  
Warm Home Blessings, ~ Cheryl Terrace