Simple Ways To “Ground” Yourself In Your Home

As an “armchair psychologist of the home” I believe that everything begins in the home – so much so that my design philosophy grew from this belief and so I approach each and every decorating job with this key premise.  No matter what we do or where we go in life, I believe how we act, react and interact in the outside world takes root from how we live in our homes.  To put it simply, how we live in our homes should “ground” us, giving us the foundation to make us emotionally and mentally stable to go out into the world.  This means your homespace is vital to your essence.

I have always been a lover of Nature.  Hiking, biking, camping, kayaking, horseback riding, spending time at the beach, boating, white water rafting or gardening – no matter what the venue, my most favorite times have been spent outdoors.  For me being outdoors was a pleasurable experience.  Only after some trauma-drama infiltrated my life several years ago did I understand the healing powers of Nature.  Nature is flat-out the best tonic out there.  Period.  With this revelation I consciously decided to bring nature into my home in every way that I could knowing that if it worked for me outdoors by golly, it would work indoors, too.

This newfound revelation also became an integral component to my design philosophy and ever since, I have incorporated elements of Nature into all my jobs albeit often in really subtle ways that are only picked up on subconscious levels.  This allows for “grounding” to occur.  I also share with my clients’ ways to infuse Nature in their homes themselves (after I leave their nests) and on a larger scale to audiences such as the readers of my blog as in my post, Two Colors Every Homespace Needs.

Think of bringing Nature into your homespace as being part of getting back to the basics of what the earth has given us, literally.  Call it “grass roots” decorating.  Or call it simplifying your décor.  Heck, you can even look at it as a version of what is called “earthing”, a fascinating concept of connecting with the earth in order to become more balanced.  Ironically, just the other day Susan Weems Muehl, LIPH’s Nature Photographer emailed me a bevy of new nature images (thank you dear friend) and also mentioned that she was practicing the concepts of earthing.  No doubt about it, Susan and I are birds of a feather flocking together!  Both of us absolutely positively get the importance of nature and the earth’s connection to our bodies.  (With all due respect, “earthing” is more about physically being grounded; I am merely relating it to your home and how to bring Nature into your space.  To learn more about “earthing,” read the book, Earthing-The most important health discovery ever? Or go to www.earthing.com as well. )  Whatever you choose to call bringing Nature indoors, just do it.  Here are some simple, sure fire ways:

  • Decorate your home with found things in nature
  • Open up the windows and let fresh air into your home
  • Decorate with live plants, wildflowers and aromatic herbs
  • Pay attention to the seasons and honor them in your décor
  • When building, purchasing or moving into a new home, choose a home that offers you plenty of natural light (sunshine is healing)

Like many of us, I have times I’m in a real funk. I was in one recently for more days than I’d care to admit to.  Focusing too much attention on issues I had no control over and magnifying issues tenfold in my mind had gotten the better of me and quite frankly, I didn’t even find myself good company.  It’s a darn good thing my David had been traveling during this funk or he would have been rolling his eyes at me constantly, ignoring me or worst yet, pulling out his gorgeous silver hair over my attitude.  While in my funk my niece, Marli called me to chat and just my tone of voice when I answered her call made her aware that something was amiss.  I ended up telling her about my seemingly endless days of funk and she listened attentively.  Then she disrupted my pity party by saying, “Aunt Jamie, do what you always say to do.  Go to the woods.  Go to Nature.  Let it restore you.”  Whoa, was she preaching to me what I always preach?  Yep, she sure was.  And guess what?  I took her up on it.  I got off the phone and headed to the woods.  I simply needed an extra large dose of Nature’s medicine – more than my usual daily amount!  I walked and I walked, breathing in all the wonderful smells of Nature as I viewed the changing fall scenery.  So long funk. So long pity pot.  Nature restoreth my soul and I returned home more in tune with the earth.  I filled my lungs with the scent of fresh lavender on the counter.  I enjoyed watering all my plants.  I paid attention to the breeze coming through my opened windows and reveled in the sounds of nature I could hear coming into my home.  Later, as I readied for bed, I felt free of much of my recent anxiety and internally thanked Marli for her advice.

I believe that we all must singly as well as collectively connect or reconnect with Nature in order to truly be balanced and healthy. Infusing elements of the natural world in your home helps to accomplish this and is the single best way to ground yourself.  Remember to bring Nature indoors.  It might seem simple but simple’s good right?  And it might be a small step compared to the “barefoot steps” of earthing but by doing this you will give yourself gifts of healing that only Nature can provide.

To Nature…

A Chef in the Garden

Some of my fondest childhood memories took place in and around our garden.  The 20 x 30 foot fenced in plot behind our house served as our personal farmers market when we were cooking at home.  Tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini, eggplant, peas, beans, yellow squash, corn and a variety of peppers were the staples each year.  I remember checking the garden each day to search for ripe cherry tomatoes and sweet peas, which I would usually just eat off the vine.  Our garden salads were true to the word and the experience of watching the veggies grow and picking them at their peak of ripeness was something that I will always carry with me.  These days the garden is smaller, but it’s still a part of my life.  I am lucky enough to have a nice 10 x 10 garden where I grow my cooking essentials.  It consists of a blend of herbs and vegetables that I use on a daily or weekly basis.  It is truly a pleasure to harvest and share homegrown produce with friends and family.  And starting a small garden is easier than you may think.

Black raspberries ripening

Black raspberries. Photo credit: Ryan Kalooky

A Practical Herb Garden

Many of us simply do not have the time to maintain a garden at home.  If this sounds like you, I encourage you to start a basic herb garden.  Many herbs are easy to grow, add great flavor to dishes and are expensive to buy on a regular basis.  You can plant them in the ground if you have space, in pots on your deck or balcony, or even indoors on a windowsill that gets some good sun.  You don’t have to plant a little bit of everything – my advice would be to plant what you like and what you will use regularly. The table below lists some of my favorite herbs that are very simple to grow.

Basil A must for fans of Italian food.  An annual, but easy start from seed and to root from cuttings.
Chives Add to scrambled eggs or accent a seafood dish.  Be sure to use the blossoms, which are a great garnish for soup!
Dill Add small sprigs to your salad or add to a buerre blanc for a salmon or trout dish.
Mint Excellent for summer drinks, spring rolls, or combined with garlic, ginger and cilantro for a unique salad dressing.  Once you establish your plants they will come back each year.  Also very simple to root from cuttings.
Oregano A versatile herb that I use throughout the year in sauces, seafood dishes, and in salads.  Easy to grow and root from cuttings.
Parsley The flatleaf or curley varieties are excellent for adding a “green” flavor to any dish.  Use the entire unchopped top of the sprigs in salads for a refreshing, clean change of pace.
Rosemary A powerful, “piney” herb that compliments pork, beef and chicken.  Chop up and add to roasted potatoes or use the leftover woody stems as skewers for chicken kebobs.
Sage Use this excellent, unique herb with scallops or roasted chicken.  Try frying whole sage leaves for an inspiring garnish.  It’s not just for Thanksgiving time!
Thyme My favorite perennial herb – add to eggs, pan sauces, stock, and marinades.  Pairs well with garlic, onions, and potatoes.  Incorporate into compound butter.

Tips for Cooking with Herbs

So you’ve planted your herbs, allowed them to grow and mature, but simply can’t find the time or enough occasions to use them?  Below are three simple suggestions to help stretch your herbs throughout the year:

Aromatic oils – add a tablespoon of your favorite chopped herbs, 5 or 6 black peppercorns and a bay leaf to about a cup or two of olive oil. Heat until simmering, strain, and allow to cool to room temperature.  Once cool, you can put the oil in a small container, label it and pop it in the fridge.  Use a spoonful to sauté veggies or to enhance a salad dressing.  Allow a few tablespoons to come to room temperature and add a pinch of salt for a fast, simple and tasty dip for fresh bread.

Compound butters– let two sticks of unsalted butter come to room temperature.  Fold in fresh herbs, garlic and freshly ground pepper (or any combination).  Roll up in plastic wrap (in the shape of a dowel – about the diameter of a half dollar or quarter) and place in the freezer.  When needed, you can cut “coins” off the roll and use for cooking.  This is a great method for inserting butter under the skin of poultry since it will hold its shape and not melt immediately in your hands like refrigerated butter.  The compound butter will keep for months and is great for finishing pan sauces or for a quick and tasty topping for a baked potato or steamed veggies.

Stock – don’t throw away those herb stems!  If you have leftover thyme, sage, or a few cloves of garlic, you can make a quick vegetable stock using a few scraps of onion, carrots, and celery as a flavor base.  After you simmer the veggies and herbs for 30 or 40 minutes, strain, cool, package and freeze.  You can easily make a few pints of stock for future use – most importantly, you won’t have to buy expensive stock from the grocery store next time you make soup.  I routinely make chicken stock and vegetable stock.  Make sure to label (name and date) your stock, as it will lessen in flavor the longer it’s left frozen.

Rosemary plant

Rosemary. Photo credit: Sean Kalooky

Happy cooking,

Chef Ryan

The Smell Test

How our homes smell is vital to creating a homespace that exudes good feelings, or what I call “warm fuzzies”.

This is important for you and all that dwell in your homespace.  It is also important for those that enter your home to get these same “warm fuzzies” from the smell of your home.

The Science of Smell

The olfactory nerves in the nose send information about the smell (scent) to the primary cortex of the brain.  The cortex is linked to the amygdala and the hippocampus of the limbic system.  The amygdala processes emotion.  The hippocampus is responsible for associative learning.  So, your brain forges a link between smell and memory.

When you first smell a new scent, you connect it to something such as a person, place or thing like an event.  Thus, the perception of smell consists of not only the sensation of the odors themselves but also of the experiences and emotions associated with these sensations.

Feel Good Memories of Smell

Think back to your childhood.  Do you have certain smells that bring back memories of childhood or days gone by?

Here’s an example.  My grandmother had holly bushes that grew outside her home.  I loved my grandmother dearly and looked forward to visiting her every summer.  Every visit began with the smell of those holly bushes as they were at the steps to her front door.  To this day whenever I smell hollies, I smile in memory of my dear grandmother, Nana.  Always.

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

Take the Smell Test

Here is how you can test your homespace.

Leave your home for a while, preferably several hours.  Upon re-entering your home, stand in the foyer or entryway of your home with your eyes closed.  Breathe in.  Do you smell anything?  Does it smell good, bad, or indifferent?  Continue this test in other areas of your home.  Obviously, you hope for good test results.  If you have something that smells distasteful, you know what to do- find it and remove it!

Do this test regularly.  If you are comfortable with asking a close friend to take the smell test in your home for you, do that as well.   Just make sure to ask them to do it with their eyes closed- it makes all the difference. Just be prepared for their response, as you might be surprised!

Creating wondrous smells in your homespace

Smell can bring a flood of memories, influence people’s moods, and even affect productivity.  This is why you want your homespace to have a pleasing smell.

If your homespace can use some help in the good smell department, there are numerous ways to achieve this.  Here are a few:

  • Open your windows regularly to let out stale odors.
  • Clean more often.
  • Remove trash and animal litter regularly.
  • Bring fragrant flowers indoors and place them all over the house.
  • Make bundles of dried lavender to use in your home.
  • Keep herbs such as fresh rosemary in your kitchen/home.
  • Use candles (safely of course) that are earth friendly.  I love having one lit in my kitchen at all times as even the flicker is soothing to the atmosphere.
  • Use diffusers with 100% essential oils.
  • Use odor eliminators (again, earth friendly).  My all time favorite is Fresh Wave.

Remember:  The smell of your homespace is the first thing that greets you (besides the family pet) and all that enter.  It sets the tone immediately.

Begin now to understand the importance of your homespace’s smell.  It doesn’t just affect the day-to-day living.  Your homespace’s smell has the power to create memories for you, the members of your family and all who enter.  Make sure they are warm fuzzy memories.

Also, look for upcoming articles on aromatherapy for the homespace!

One thought…

Beauty is not just viewed with the eyes.

Keep decorating…

Photo credit: Susan Muehl