Hasn’t it been an incredibly beautiful autumn? Watching the leaves turn their magnificent shades of russet and gold puts me in the mood for fires, feasts and long evenings spent with my family, eating comforting foods and quietly enjoying each others companionship. Because the holiday season is soon to be upon us I’m already planning my menus and of course trying to decide how to set my tables, which is for me always the most fun of all!
I’ve been thinking for quite sometime now about family gatherings, and what they mean to us. As I was growing up, there were beautiful things that my mother always used on her table, seasonal items that made each celebration unique. When I was very young, she taught me to fill her traditional wicker cornucopia at Thanksgiving with an overflowing abundance of fruits, nuts and flowers, a centerpiece that I still create today. This beautiful symbol of harvest abundance has long been associated with the turning of the wheel of the year towards autumn.
For many years, traditional woven cornucopias were difficult to find, but thankfully almost any craft store sells them year round. It is also possible to create the same effect with a lovely basket, made from wicker or any other material. Don’t limit yourself to using the cornucopia for only Thanksgiving though. I’ve filled them with Christmas balls, candy canes, holly and ivy and lots of pine boughs for a festive look on the sideboard.
Many of us have beautiful pieces of antique silver, gorgeous family pieces, stashed away and rarely used. I encourage you to examine those long forgotten treasures for a suitable vessel to create your holiday centerpiece.
Many pieces of silver can be used as centerpieces, even if this was not their original purpose. I’ve even used a tea service as a beautiful seasonal arrangement by filling each piece with flowers and surrounding them with gourds, fruit and nuts.
Single salt cellars or antique cordial glasses each filled with a small bouquet can be used as individual centerpieces on your table, making each guest feel very special. Once you’ve chosen the pieces to work with, the fun begins! Have fun arranging it so that all of the lusciousness and sensuality of the season spills out everywhere!
A simple trip to the grocery store will provide you with lots of inspiration! Mini pumpkins that you can paint and/or gild, bunches of grapes, French chestnuts, pears and apples, squashes and gourds, the choices are endless! Don’t forget some lovely mums, sunflowers or even roses to poke in and out of the abundance of fruit. If you use roses, don’t forget the florist’s tubes so that they stay fresh.
For Thanksgiving If you have children, don’t forget to add some lovely foil wrapped chocolate turkeys and pilgrims! Until my mother died, my son still looked for them as soon as we walked into her house Thanksgiving eve! After Thanksgiving, out came her Christmas Carolers and her collections of angels and bells. If you have young children, bundle them up and send them outside for acorns, rosehips, seed pods and beautiful leaves to bring a bit of wildness into your holiday arrangements.
For many years while I was setting tables at my store the most commonly asked question was “ My dishes always look the same, no matter what I do , so how can I make my table look festive and seasonal?”
Color and texture will make the difference between the same old thing and a look for your table that’s fresh and new!
Accents of strong color that you personally love will always do great things for your holiday spirits. For example, even a plain gold and white dinnerware pattern can be turned into an elegant holiday expression with the addition of a different salad ,soup or charger plate.
For a smaller investment than an entirely new set of dishes, you can create a table that is uniquely yours. If your dinnerware is heavily patterned, why not use a lovely colored wine or water glass that matches your plate!
I love to play with fabrics this time of year, in jewel toned hues of flecked with lots of silver and gold; anything that evokes the peace of the season and remember, Christmas does not have to be red and green!
A floral or toile tablecloth will completely change the look of any dinnerware that you own, dressing up a casual dish, or warming up a very formal setting. One of my favorite tables mixes velvet and tapestry, to create a look that is very rich and warm.
A velvety tablecloth cloth in a deep shade of burgundy, with the top draped in tapestry changes the look of the simplest dish. Add an oversized napkin in a colorful crepe fabric and stuff it you’re your water glass, or tie it with a beautiful fabric ribbon and you have a table that everyone wants to linger at.
Lots of candlesticks, always in odd numbers will finish the setting. Don’t be afraid to mix pewter, silver, brass and copper. Anything goes as long as you love the way that it looks. Choose one color for the candles and enjoy the lovely glow!
I love serving soup in many different ways, but a beautiful soup tureen is always closest to my heart. I’ve often said that if I had a serving piece that I would refuse to part with; it would be my Herend soup tureen in the Poisson pattern. Covered with beautiful handpainted fish, and bordered in deep sage green and gold, it moves through all of the seasons effortlessly. If I’m not using it for soup, it turns into a grand centerpiece for my table with the addition of about three small pots of flowers and masses of fresh herbs and ivy! At Christmas I surround it with a beautiful wreath and mound pretty little gilded birds and pine cones all around it.
A smaller soup tureen like the one shown above is portable, and you can use it in the living room with all of your demitasse cups for an elegant start to the evening. No one ever uses demitasse cups for their intended purpose ( coffee) and almost everyone that I know has inherited huge collections of them. Because they have handles, and a place to rest the spoon, soup is a fabulous way to use these often overlooked pieces!
I've also served many different soups in a large hollowed out pumpkin that has been placed in a wreath of gilded greens and fruits, yet another easy and gorgeous centerpiece!
A small glass of wine and a bit of cheese and /or pate served with the soup while you’re putting the finishing touches on the rest of the meal makes waiting for dinner a celebration in itself and a delightful way to begin the family evening.
Those same demitasse cups could be filled with a creamy mousse for dessert (with chocolate shavings and whipped cream of course!) alongside of all of the traditional pies and cakes that my family loves to consume during the holidays.
For me, satisfying entertaining has everything to do with keeping the evening warm and personal, even if you’ve got a real crowd on your hands!
On Thanksgiving and Christmas, one of our favorite family traditions is to go around the table and have each person share what they are grateful for that year.
Another holiday tradition that I love is to have everyone who joins us bring something to share that they ate with their families, in a serving piece that is special to them.
Don’t leave the table without letting everyone sitting there know just how much they mean to you.
Take a pear, a gold or silver marker from the craft store and handwrite your guest’s names on each one for a quick and easy place card so they know just how much they belong! My mother always buys little tin pans from the grocery store, so that everyone takes home a bit of the meal for their lunch the next day. Why not share your family recipes, perhaps copied onto pretty paper or recipe cards so that you can give them out. (Don’t be modest; you know they’re going to ask!) This year, teach your children or grandchildren to cook with you, or let them help you set the table, and arrange the flowers so that they’ll always know what to do when they have families of their own. We can all discover new ways of connecting the old with the new, ways of creating traditions that are personal and related in a world that is quickly losing its sense of peace and security.
Those are a few of mine; I’d love to know some of yours!
Pumpkin soup tureen nor the colored glassware pictures are not mine but i have no idea who to attribute them to.
Bide The Wiccan Law Ye Must,
In Perfect Love, In Perfect Trust.
Eight Words The Wiccan Rede Fulfill:
An Ye Harm None, Do As Ye Will.
And Ever Mind The Rule Of Three:
What Ye Send Out, Comes Back To Thee.
Follow This With Mind And Heart,
And Merry Ye Meet, And Merry Ye Part.
Oh… there you are , come gather around the fire with me. Don’t be afraid, just notice all of the little things, the sounds, the smells..all of the things that you can’t quite put your finger on…breathe them and this luxurious feral night in deeply. It's time...they are all around us.
Just know that on this night, we are not alone and it’s okay..it’s as it should be. Tonight is the night when the veils between the worlds are thin..tonight is the night when all souls can meet once again.
These flames smell absolutely wonderful, burning brightly with the woods of apple, oak and ash and scented with fresh branches of lavender , wild sage and rosemary. It’s a beautiful evening , cool and crisp and I’ve laid bales of fragrant fresh hay all around where we can sit. The moon is hanging by a silvery thread in the sky and the woods are quiet, except for the disconcerting sense that we are not alone.
I’ve brought homemade ale which is laced with cardamom, cloves , fresh honey, single malt and apples. I’ve carved a pumpkin to be used as a tureen and it’s filled with steaming hot butternut squash soup, laced with sage leaves and browned butter. There are the crispy, German sausages that my father loved, the ones that burst open when you sink your teeth into them, and Swiss cheese dipped in cornbread, deep fried and served melting and hot with mustard. I have briny raw oysters, my maternal grandfathers favorite, on a bed of ice with fresh lemons and horseradish. The last of the season’s sweet corn is roasting by the edges of the fire waiting to be drenched in the melted butter that has been laced with the disarmingly sensual flavor of black truffles, smoky chipotle and salt.
Because it’s Halloween, I have to have candy corn , roasted chestnuts laced with honey and butter and homemade spicy caramel apples.
The winds are stirring tonight and if you listen carefully they will tell you anything that you need to know. Take a deep breath, notice the smells that come to you. Yes, we are in the deep woods and there are the familiar sounds of animals curling in the brush and the smells of wet leaves, rutting deer and apples .
Tonight I am painfully aware of almost too many scents, too many sounds. Sweet smells that I don’t recognize, strange skin scents and pungent , decaying smells that make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck . An owl flies past silently as they are prone to do, wings strong and the shriek of its prey breaks the still night. My sweet cats are curled up and purring all around me…they are never afraid of the dark.
I have an almost unnatural love of cats, black or otherwise. Lions,Tigers, Panthers and Jaguars...all cats. The spirit animal I was born with. My ancestral name is Von Lowenstern, which translates to Lionstar. Until I was about 8, the only Halloween costume I would wear was of a lion. A couple of members of my family began to get concerned that I was taking it a little too seriously. Could it have been all of the roaring? They took it away and I cried for days...imagine my joy as an adult when I discovered leopard print velvet....
So , tonight is All Hallows Eve and the veil between the worlds is so very thin. It is all part of the great dance among the strands of the web of life. It’s true, you are closer to the dead tonight than at any other time of the year.
All of your dead. Dead loves, Dead ancestors, dead dreams.
I know that for many the mysterious end to that which we call life is truly frightening, but I’ve always thought the latter to be much scarier. My mother whose memory I always honor tonight used to tell me that those who are afraid to die are instead truly terrified to live.
I remember once kissing a man and knowing immediately that his very soul was dead. His cruel lips pulled the very air from my lungs, and in that instant I knew. I ran away fast, scared for my very life. There is no smell on earth more putrid than the scent of the living dead. It’s not a scent I’ve ever forgotten. Sometimes by the time you’ve figured it out it’s too late. Sometimes you have to die a bit yourself before you learn the whole lesson of how to come fully alive, and become fully alive I did.
Samhain is a special time for me....it’s the time of year that I simply stop and remember everything and especially in this year which has been filled with unexpected endings I feel the need for pause.
Samhain or as you’ll know it , “Halloween”, is the Wiccan New Year and I am a witch.
I really do believe in magic.
The Witches creed is to harm none, we are the keepers of the earths secrets. For years we’ve been the healers, the herbalists, and the perfumers who walk unnoticed among you. We tend the gardens. We watch the moon. We mix the potions that make life just a bit more interesting and spontaneous. For years we’ve lived cloaked in secrecy, afraid to be known.
Samhain is my time for deep reflection and divination, the time to honor endings and a time for us all to cast our spells for powerful new beginnings.
Be filled with the knowing that there is no magic without love and don’t be fooled. We are all capable of bewitching, some of us just come by it a bit more naturally then others. The very nature of magic is enchanting. The true nature of enchantment is sweet fun. Yes, we witches are mischievous, but it’s born from a deep need to celebrate life. This is the one time of year when the beginning and end of the wheel of life meet, so you can hardly blame us for wanting to have a bit of fun! We love to dress up, all that black is simply good for a bit of mysterious, good-natured fun but we like to frolic skyclad too!
I for one cannot resist a flowing cape of any kind or deep rich lip rouge and I have to wear velvet as much as possible. I love to use makeup to cast a spell of seduction and power or sometimes to be invisible. I adore talismans of all kinds, crystals and gems and I stuff my pockets with acorns and pennies, rocks and feathers that I cannot resist picking up for unexplained reasons.
In the playful words of my favorite movie “Practical Magic” lies what I believe to be a simple truth, ” that there is a little witch in every woman”. I believe that there’s a little witch in every man too, because I’m married to one. I found the only man in the world that I couldn’t control and then I married him. He enchanted me the instant I saw him, I’ve been spellbound by him for almost 30 years. He lets me tempt him over and over again with the most delightfully fragrant potions, he in turn enchants me and makes me believe that I am the most beautiful woman alive.
He buys me perfume, glorious, beautiful bottles of magic and begs me to wear it. How can you not love a man like that?
By now all of you know just how much I love perfume and I use it abundantly like we all do, to bring about a mood, to cast a spell, to enchant, to allure, to weave a story.
Tonight I’m wearing Papillon Perfumery’s very sexy , very witchy Bengale Rouge , a scent which my husband adores. I love it’s exotically warm, pelt like blend of Turkish Rose, Indian Sandalwood , Benzoin and Vanilla layered with orris butter , labdanum , oak moss, honey and sweet myrhh. The musky , sexual allure of Bengale Rouge comes from the alchemical presence of the Tonka bean which has been used for centuries as a powerful narcotic and an aphrodisiac, as well as to promote fertility and cure impotence. It’s perfect for an evening such as this one where we are playing with all of our senses. My love of Bengale Rouge has eclipsed my all time favorite fragrance, Lancome’s Magie Noire. This gorgeous and lusty perfume was inspired by Liz Moore’s beautiful Bengal cats and wearing it I feel as if I’m wrapped languidly in a soft blanket of sun warmed, velvety and dappled fur…The creator of this remarkable magic Liz Moores is one of my favorite people, a very witchy and wonderful English woman who is passionate about perfume, horses, cats, owls and would probably live in the woods if she could...and the fact that she has created some of the loveliest perfumes on the planet is the frosting on the cake for me. Bengale Rouge is beautiful and but its not for the faint of heart. Wear it and be prepared for amazing things to happen. Wear it for someone who deserves it, for someone who appreciates all of your passion…..It's a cozy, comforting scent, but make no mistake...it's absolutely fecund and bewitching. It has the flavor of warm breasts and honey.
This witch absolutely adores it.
Yes, sometimes I think that people are afraid of witches simply because our very nature is exotically feral, sensual and earthy. No, I will not steal your husband or seduce your son. I may flirt with them a bit and I’ll probably flirt with you too..I love the game of enchantment.
I can’t help myself… I love to tease and provoke using inspiration as my wand and love as my muse.
I hope that you’ll be tempted to try a sample of Bengale Rouge…It’s a glorious , glamourous, throwback of a fragrance. Think late 40’s movie star glamour…or even earlier…think of Hedy Lamar swimming naked and orgasmic in her (shocking at the time!) movie “Ecstacy” or Catherine Deneuve in almost any movie that she ever made.
You can find a sample of it at my favorite local perfume boutique in Cleveland, Indigo Perfumery and you can also find out more about Liz at Papillon Perfumery. I also suggest that you follow Liz on Instagram at @papillon_artisan_perfumes.
You will be absolutely enchanted by her and isn’t that just perfect way to spend your Samhain eve?
My wish for you is unbridled passion and joy. Magic for me is happiness, playfulness and tenderness. It’s about knowing that there are some things that you can control and many things that you can’t. It’s about acceptance and taking care of others as you would want to be cared for yourself.
It’s about living powerfully with all in the world , not being afraid to see all that the world has to offer. It’s about being at peace with the dualistic nature of creativity and destruction. It’s about creating your own reality, not waiting for it or someone else to create you.
With that in mind I’ve brought you one last bit of magic… a sterling mug filled with my favorite brew. Be careful because it’s very very hot. It’s made from steaming cream, fragrant dark chocolate, a touch of vanilla for passion, honey and a lusty splash of my mothers favorite port to relax and inspire you.
Sip it slowly and savor its deep chocolaty flavor. Shut your eyes and take a deep breath, make a wish and tell me, Who or what do you see coming towards you through the parting veils?
Pictures of Liz Moores and Bengale Rouge from Papillon Perfumery
I stumbled upon this review of Magie Noire that I wrote in 2007. It is as true for me today as it was when I wrote it...No perfume has ever made me as hungry as this one, at least not until recently when I discovered Liz Moores amazing new ode to passion and seduction, a bewitching little perfume called Bengale Rouge which I will write about on Samhain, the only day of the year where I could possibly do it as much justice as it deserves. (BSG)
I am a woman with a past. I won’t say anymore than that to protect the innocent who may be reading this, but I have lived life hungrily at times, too often with little or no restraint. My spiritual nature is way more heathen than religious.
I really do believe in magic.
Magie Noire came into my life in my very early twenties, and I know now that I was far too ignorant of its potency to wear it wisely. It was first given to me by a mysterious Scorpio woman, with cat-like green eyes, who was the CEO of the only woman owned steel brokerage in Cleveland. She gifted me with the perfume and a warning, that men adore it and to be very careful wearing it because it was the smell of abandonment and passion, not love. Wearing Magie Noire is a bit like unleashing a wild elemental spirit, something of the past but strangely disquieting in the fragrant autumn wind or a shiver of the spine so erotic that it’s not so easily understood. Initially there is the scent of honey and tuberose, bergamot and raspberry and according to Osmoz, blackcurrant, hyacinth and oriental rose. The delirium comes as the base of civet, patchouli , castoreum and vetiver are unleashed while your skin warms to their touch. Worn with suede it becomes a totally bewitching potion. Mixed with the breath of a gorgeous thoroughbred horse it is beguiling and animalistic to the point of wanton intoxication.
Think of Kim Novak in “Bell, Book and Candle”, Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman made wiser by their journey through “Practical Magic” and Catherine Deneuve in almost anything. This is not a fragrance for an ingénue, but for a sensual and independent woman who understands and desires the spell it will conjure. My husband who unabashedly loves it and I usually only wear it for him, yet it is the time of the Autumnal Equinox, the moon is almost full and I decided to go for a ride yesterday in the woods around dusk. It was a beautiful evening and I sprayed some on before I went. The light was dappled , the trail fragrant with wind-fallen apples and it was simply breathtaking. As we moved through the hunt field, my horse Henry pulled up short with a quiver that ran all of the way down his elegant sorrel neck. Out of the hedgerow came a cat I’d never seen before, black as midnight and just as quiet. We turned and followed her down the path.
None of these photos are mine..obviously:)
“And still after all this time the Sun has never said to the Earth, “You owe me”
Look what happens with love like that.
It lights up the sky”
Memory of a Cosmic Heart
It is a wonderful time to be alive. I know that this may sound strange but I truly believe it. We are living through a time of unprecedented change and chaos. On our beautiful planet and possibly so many others yet unseen and unknown, life as we know it is shifting, evolving at an unprecedented pace. The natural elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water are no longer satisfied to be used as a pretty setting for a picnic or a painting…they’ve suddenly become as alive to us as the movies we watch for our entertainment.
We have consistently ignored the laws of quantum physics, preferring instead to deal with nature in a most ordinary way. The human suffering and natural catastrophes that seem to be unfolding around us every day can no longer be ignored by even the most insulated around us. We’re suddenly immersed in our natural world in a way that is demanding us to be peaceful, reflective and instantly responsive.
Our perceptions of what it means to be alive must shift and evolve as well. What does it mean to be alive in this moment…right now? What do we need to thrive in this moment right now? Many forgone conclusions and illusions about what it means to create a life well lived have been recently shattered.
There is one other natural element that is rarely spoken of and the Vedas called it Shunya…the fifth element, the space between… the known and the unknown. Shunya is all around us and yet we rarely enter it willingly, in fact if the simple truth be told, we get thrown into it kicking and screaming. It usually takes a moment of existential crisis or a physical moment that shatters our bodies, egos and forces us to our knees in supplication. The human ego generally doesn’t look past what it thinks that it can see, until we are suddenly, knowingly beyond all hope.
Shunya is the space between, where if we simply let go and move beyond the illusory limits of the known and our false perceptions of safety, that real magic can happen.
All around the world, right now in this moment of common people are witnessed doing the uncommon. It’s not an accident. We are being called to move into the void, the cauldron…we are literally being forced to create a new meaning for what it means to live an extraordinary life.
I say all of the time to my clients, ”Live with intention. Things are always going to happen, but living with intention allows them to be created, molded and accepted by you regardless of the outcome. If you live with intention instead of by default, you’ll create the end result that you desire, regardless of the twists and turns that it takes to get there. “
Enter into my life Greg Spalenka and Rob Jacobs nearly miraculous musical odyssey of human and planetary redemption, The Memory of a Cosmic Heart.
This is a musical and artistic collaboration that is stunning, sweeping, potent and ultimately so relevant for the moment that we find ourselves in right now that I wept openly as I listened to it even though I had no images to look at nor poetry to sway me. I waited to look at Greg’s glorious paintings until I had listened to it. I wanted my own perceptions of the music to move me and they definitely did.
The story is so simple, reverent and beautiful. A daughter of the Sun finds herself falling to Earth and discovers that her reason for being is to show all of humanity that we each carry the magic, mystery and delight of the sun within our hearts. Imagine for a moment how we would treat each other if this was so, if we chose to see each other as keepers of such a great light, radiance and individual mystery instead of separated by what we think that we know ourselves to be? How differently would we treat our mother Earth?
In today’s world of 24/7 news and endless political intrigue, environmental challenge and drama it is easily to feel as though you are being slowly sucked dry by that energy. It is easy to feel despair. It is easy to give in to the anger we see and more importantly feel all around us. It is easy to forget who we are, who we can be for ourselves and each other.
There is a primeval and indigenous heartbeat that runs through this music that is so real and soulful, that I felt grounded, truly enlivened and hopeful as I listened to it. Nestled within the beautiful melodies, voices and rhythms of this glorious Cosmic Heart is a deep, luscious and ever flowing well of a sacred violet flame that I can return to over and over again that truly slakes my thirst for kindness and compassion.
I think that’s one of the things that I love the most about this amazing piece of musical and multimedia magic. For me it was multi-purpose. Listening to it, meditating to it and dancing with it allowed me to turn inward to my own creative and mystical center for the first time in months. I shed my clothes and danced freely around my room, falling madly in love with the mystery of what it could mean for all of us to move forward with the light and power of the sun in our hearts. It was just like the first time that I ever heard Gabrielle Roth’s glorious “5 Rhythms of the Soul” so many decades ago. I had to get up and move and I had no choice in the matter. It was time to get naked and shed some skin.
I encourage any and all of you to support this magnificent project. To know Greg Spalenka is to know that he means every word, every musical note, every stroke he puts to canvas. The musicians and collaborations on this work are amazing and show his commitment to creating a masterpiece of fierce and unyielding beauty. It is his desire to truly create a space for us all to find radiance, peace and to remember what it means to love ourselves and each other, no matter our race, color or creed.
Memory of a Cosmic Heart is a love story of powerful intentional choices. It is a welcoming and homecoming for all of us who long to return to each other. Listen to it, be moved by it and please share it. Like a beautiful spiral dance, the mystical, magical daughter of the Sun cannot help but affect any and all she touches.
Dance with her and remember how to live.
-Beth Schreibman Gehring is a writer and author of “Stirring the Senses, Seasonal Celebrations of Love, Life & Food.” She is also a lifestyle blogger, who uses an ever-changing seasonal palette of love, life and food to help her readers and clients fall madly in love with their lives.