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Filtering by Tag: creative self-care

a morning ritual (how to smudge)

liz lamoreux

They walk out the door in a rush, in a flurry of "Please hurry and brush your teeth. You're going to be late. Daddy is waiting."

Some mornings I head to the kitchen window and watch them walk down the twisty steps, him carrying all the things, her chatting and chatting as she gets distracted by the colors of the sky or a tiny insect or the lines the fog makes against the trees.

Other mornings I sink to my knees in the living room and put my hands on the floor, stretching my back into chakravakasana. Breathing. Being. Coming home to me.

And then there are the mornings I plant myself on the red couch and dive right into emails and analytics and holding my heart out in my hand in a virtual invitation.

Lately, I've been adding in a simple clearing ritual to bring me back to center. Some days it's my practice. Other days it closes my longer practice. Always it feels like a prayer.

I stand at our often dusty sprawling family altar and begin to chat to Ganesh. As the words swirl in our little house, as Millie snores in her spot on the rug behind me, I light the sage. Watching the smoke begin to swirl, my voice gets louder. I gently move my hand, enveloping the smoke, and let it encircle me.

And then I begin to walk. Chanting. Clearing the space with my voice, with the sage. 

It's a whisper. It's a roar. It's one woman in her little home asking all that is greater than her to support her in this day, to clear space for all that is to come, to clasp us gently in its grasp.



How to Smudge

If you're new to working with sage or smudging, here are some simply steps to follow. I've included some links to supplies as well:

1. Light your bundle or smudge stick until it flames. It will usually burn out and begin to smoke. If needed, you can blow out the flame, but it should still be smoking. This smoke is what you'll use to smudge.

2. Smudge yourself by wafting the smoke toward you, getting your whole body and then step through the smoke. You can use your hand or a feather or feather wand. If you're smudging another person, make sure they turn around so you smudge both their front and back.

3. If you're smudging a space or your home, begin to walk around slowly, wafting the smoke into the space, being sure to direct it in all four directions in each room. Some traditions say you should walk around your space or home in a clockwise manner. As you're walking, be sure to also carry a small bowl or an abalone shell to catch any ashes. (Lately, I've been using my favorite heart bowls.)

4. As you're walking, think positive thoughts, even say a prayer, or sing or chant. The intention is to invite in what you most want to come into this space. You might even want to write a blessing that you say in each room (or to each person if you're smudging yourself and others).

5. When you're done, remember to gently put out the smoking smudge stick/wand. Do this by pressing it into your abalone shell or a fire-proof ceramic bowl. You'll want to make sure that it is no longer smoking and then leave it in the shell or bowl for a while.


There are so many great sources for sage and other smudge sticks on Etsy. You can often find it at Whole Foods and other natural food shops too. Moorea Seal (one of my favorite Seattle shops/sites) also carries some sage and other good things. The sage wand in the photo is from the wondrous Jennette Nielsen.

Using sage is something I first learned about from my teacher Laura Yon. She also taught me the Ganesha chant I sing daily (if you'd like to listen to it and learn it, here's a short audio of me chanting). Additionally, Pixie Lighthorse's teachings have invited me to deepen my experience with the smudging practice.

As always, if you have questions, share them in the comments.

With love and light,

All photos by Lauren Oliver Photography

10 ways to practice self-care at the holidays

liz lamoreux

Dear beautiful soul,

We're in it aren't we? This beautiful, hard, spirit-full time of year. The Holidays.

Today, I want to reach out and invite you to think about shifting your self-care a bit to support you right now. It still needs to be on your list - your "this is non-negotiable" list - even as you wrap presents and bake cookies and run to the store yet again and how the list goes on and on.

Here are a few ideas to help you think about ways to practice self-care right now. Choose just one from this list to try. Or let these ideas be a springboard for your own.

The important thing: Take time to slow down and notice. Let yourself just breathe within the present moment instead of rushing toward expectations and stuff or whatever else your schedule holds. 

Create space to enjoy the simple things you love about the holidays

Make a quick list of things you love this time of year. Pretend that there isn't a to-do list connected to this and let go of thinking about what your family members love. What do you love? Look over your list and choose one or two and create space to make them happen.

Here's an example: There’s something about the lights of our Christmas tree at night that invite in a sense of stillness for me. I love to simply sit in our family room with just the lights of the tree on while I drink a cup of tea. I just breathe and try to let my thoughts rest as much as I can. When my thoughts are really restless, I’ll stand at the tree and look at the ornaments that represent the childhoods of my husband, myself, and now our daughter. My favorite is the popsicle stick sled from my first grade teacher that I’m holding together with tape after all these years.

Light candles

I've been mentioning this one often lately, and that's because it is such an important practice to me and my family. When it starts to get dark so early in December, I begin to light candles at dusk. Lately, I've been going back to this practice: When I light them, I often whisper a little blessing of gratitude for something that happened during my day. This pushes me to really notice the positives from the day. Then when I blow the candles out before heading to bed, I say blessings of protection and love for my loved ones. 

My current favorites candles are these from Moorea Seal and these amber candles.


I’m one of those people who loves most holiday music, but even if you aren’t a huge fan, there is probably at least one album out there that makes you smile. Maybe it’s Bing singing "White Christmas" or Elvis or Johnny Mathis or Kenny & Dolly. I love just about any version of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," but the one sung by John Denver and Rolfe from The Muppets always brings a wave of nostalgia that feels like home to me. Create a holiday playlist for yourself. 

Creating an altar with photos

Getting out a few photos of the people I miss this time of year helps me to keep them in my mind and heart. It feels good to have them around me instead of letting missing or distant memories get me down. I like to gather a candle and a few small things that remind me of that person, like the shells shown in the example of me walking with my grandpa on the beach, and create a little remembrance altar.

Find stillness

As your mind swirls with all that must get done, you've got to slow down and get recentered honey. Even just taking those five deep breaths several times a day can be supportive first-aid self-care this time of year. Create some reminders for yourself to pause and breathe. This might mean setting a reminder on your phone every few hours. Find a way to just get still. And if you need ideas, check out this post.


There are so many parties and gatherings that we can feel we "must" attend, and then in contrast, so many of us can feel lonely at the holidays (whether we have these gatherings or not). As you figure out your schedule over the next few weeks, make the choice to connect with the friends and family who most support you too. This might mean a coffee date, a phone call or getting on Skype, or even texting with a loved one. Make time for those deeper connections. And remember, you don't have to say yes to everything. You really don't dear one.



A cup of tea

I bring up drinking tea often in my self-care suggestions because I really believe that making and then drinking tea (or coffee or hot cocoa) engages all of our senses. This act of slowing down and noticing the smells and taste and even the feel of the warm mug in our hands helps create space for quietness and calm. You can even turn making and drinking a cup of tea into a ritual that grounds you daily and gives you some time just for you.

And this is the part where I say: You can even make your stop at Starbucks this ritual. Skip the drive through. Go inside and order. Then sit and just breathe and take five minutes for you while you drink your latte. Try not to look at your phone for those five minutes.

Get outside

I know it might be really cold where you live, but get outside anyway. If you don't, you're going to go stir crazy. You need the fresh air. You need the sun. You need to remember that there is a big world out there. You need to remember that the birds will keep singing and the trees will keep reaching up toward the sun no matter what this time of year brings you. Go for a walk even if it's just for a block or down your driveway and back.

Let yourself feel all the feelings

This time of year can bring up so much. From expectations to past hurts to hopes that this year your family won't talk about {fill in your own family's story here} to wishing your kids would all smile for the photo to missing loved ones...there's a lot of feelings swirling. Try not to judge the feelings that are coming up for you. Let yourself feel them. Yes, you are allowed to feel sad. And yes, honey, you are allowed to feel happy! And all the other things in between. In fact, you can even feel conflicting things at the same time. You get to choose. (You also get to choose what you do with these feelings. You can dwell. Or you can create your own experience this year. It might be hard to see that, but the choice is there for all of us.)

And remember that those around you have swirling feelings too (even those who might be hurting yours). Tread gently.

Think about how your self-care might have to change this time of year

Maybe you're visiting family or a whole crew is headed your way. Maybe you have to work on Christmas Day. Maybe you're alone for the first time. As you look at what's ahead, think about how your self-care might have to shift. Do you need to get up a little bit earlier because the kids are on break? Do you need to ask your spouse for different kind of support? Do you need to set a boundary around how much you're cooking? Do you need to let go of some pieces of your daily self-care practice due to time and travel?

Think about what pieces of self-care are non-negotiable for you and brainstorm some ways that you can still make them happen.

Then ask yourself this question: What could shift so there could be more ease, more space to really enjoy my loved ones and what I love about this time of year?

I'm cheering you on over here. We really can hold the beauty of the holidays in one hand and the truth that sometimes they are hard in the other.

Give yourself the gift of coming back to center several times a day over these next few weeks.

You deserve to feel the love, and those you love do too.



PS Feel free to share your own self-care ideas and tips in the comments. I love when we can learn from one another.

photo credits: top photo Lauren Oliver Photography, third photo Vanessa Simpson of Focus in Photography 

creativeGIRL by danielle donaldson

liz lamoreux

Over the 10 years I've been blogging and the years I've been hosting art retreats, I've gathered up quite a few art + craft books. The topics range from art journaling to knitting to jewelry making to inspiration to sewing and how the list goes on. 

I love looking through them and dreaming about the afternoons I'll spend creating. But the reality is that these days I seldom actually dive into creating something from or inspired by the books.

So when Danielle Donaldson contacted me asking if I'd review her new book CreativeGIRL: Mixed-Media Techniques for an Artful Life, I was of course delighted as she's one of my favorite people, but I also planned to just read it and share some thoughts.

I didn't plan to actually pull out watercolor paper and my journal and watercolors and a pencil and dive into the book.

But I was so inspired by her accessible and fun exercises that I couldn't stop myself.

The exercises and inspiration pushed me to curl up on the couch in the evenings (which Danielle encourages with her "couch creative" section of the book) and have some fun. Ellie even joined in! The exercises are totally accessible for kids too.

Danielle's style is really not like anything else out there, which is so refreshing. When you flip through the pages of this book, you're invited into her world. But most importantly, you'll feel a pull to start creating your own world with pencil and strips of paper and watercolors.

I highly recommend CreativeGIRL even if you've never picked up a watercolor set. Danielle holds your hand and guides you through getting comfortable with this creative medium. And because it really is a medium you can do just about anywhere, if you aren't already playing with watercolors, I really encourage you to begin. It can actually become a tool in your mindfulness toolbox. The same is true with simple sketching like the kind Danielle encourages you to do to help you become more comfortable with drawing and creating illustrations.

I've learned so much already from the book, and I'm lucky enough to be taking a workshop with Danielle this weekend on Bainbridge Island. She's coming out here for the Nurture Your Creative Seed Retreat, and Serena let me know there are a few spots left if you want to come along. We gather Friday evening! 

PS Please note Danielle's publisher sent me a copy of this book in exchange for a review, but all words and opinions are my own. Affiliate links are used, which means I receive a small commission if you buy Creative Girl through my links. Thanks for supporting my blog and business. So deeply grateful for you.

PPS Writing this review made me feel a little like those kids at the end of "Reading Rainbow" who do book reviews. I LOVE THAT! And did you know that "Reading Rainbow" is now on Netflix? It holds up. It really really does. Ellie and I are loving it over here.

and then there's laughter

liz lamoreux

Over here I'm in that space of climbing a somewhat steep learning curve with a few aspects of my business while trying to find a rhythm now that Jon and Ellie are back to school while also processing the news we received earlier this month that we don't have a lot of time left with our sweet golden Millie. And, you know, just being human in the midst of it all. Diving into these topics isn't actually what I want to talk about today (that will come); rather, I want to talk about one huge self-care move I'm making that's helping me right now. 

And that self-care move? Laughter.

If you've been around here a while, you know I'm a bit obsessed with lip syncing. As in there was that one time I recorded myself lip syncing "Jolene" by Dolly Parton and put the video up on the internet. As in having lip sync parties is something we do at my retreats now. For real. As in watching videos of Jimmy Fallon and guests lip syncing delight me to the tips of my toes.

And last week, while I was navigating this stuff over here, a dear frind texted me the link to Ellen Degeneres and Jimmy Fallon's lip sync battle first thing in the morning. After I finished up a few phone calls, I pressed play and in a few moments, I noticed that I was smiling so big my cheeks were starting to hurt.

When it was over, it was like I'd relaxed into myself again. I felt a lightness inside and around me. And laughter and connection and joy were the cause.

So I settled in for more. And over the last week I've been taking a little time each day to get my laugh on.

I watched Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. The Trevor Noah episode was brilliant - I laughed and my world view was flipped on it's head. (Seriously.) 

I watched clips from Stephen Colbert's new show.

I watched Kevin Hart on The Tonight Show and laughed until I cried over his Jay Z story. (You might not, but something about the way he tells that story just made me laugh. I'm. Still. Laughing.)

I rewatched Amy Schumer doing just about anything.

I watched Stevie Wonder sing (and maybe teared up while laughing).

And each day, for just a little while at least, I was grounded in the awesome that is deep, real laughter.

Sometimes when you're standing on an edge in your life, when you're deep in the learning or even in the grief, it helps to invite in laughter to remind yourself that the light is always there. 

Maybe call up that friend who always has the best stories to tell. Or ask your dad to tell you that one story that makes you laugh every time. Or invite that friend for coffee who is the person you can be your most ridiculous self with. 

Or spend your lunch break, like I've been doing lately, with Jerry Seinfeld or Stephen Colbert or Amy Schumer.

Laughter can bring you back to center honey. Choosing to laugh isn't about not acknowledging the tough stuff. No. It's about inviting in the light so the tough stuff doesn't feel so lonely. It's about standing with others on the common ground that laughter gives us.

What I find again and again is that comedians are the truth tellers of our time. They have their finger on the pulse of the absurd, of the challenging, and even of the truth of grief. I actually think that there's a real chance you'll feel deeply seen in the midst of whatever you find yourself experiencing when you take a few moments to spend some time with a comedian or two.

An invitation: Now tell me, what makes you laugh in your corner of the world? An author, a show, a person in your life? I'd love to know. Please share in the comments.

7 favorite coloring books for adults {screen-free time together}

liz lamoreux

While I was planning June's One Move Retreat, I began to think about the Bold Moves I wanted to make in my own life. One move that fell into the "everyday life" bold move category was "Making Dinner and Eating Every Night at the Table." As I took that Bold Move through the process that I taught the women at the retreat and began to feel the weight of somehow figuring out how to make that happen, I realized the feelings and desires under this declaration were summed up better by "More Screen-Free Time Together." 

And when I say "screen-free," I'm usually talking about me. Ellie's only five and we haven't yet had a problem with her wanting to be on an iPad more than wanting to do things with us. She does watch TV, but often says, "I'm ready to turn this off now." This doesn't mean that we don't have issues with it all from time to time, but I'm the one who is running several aspects of my business from (almost) every device in the house and I'm the one who has trouble implementing "business hours" when it comes to my Facebook groups and customer emails. So sometimes I have to be pushed to set aside time without the phone. Jon's on his phone more and more these days, so it is good for him to put it away too.

As parents of a little one, it is so easy to feel like we're taking a few moments "for ourselves" when we look at our phones while they are busy playing, but sometimes, not always but sometimes, we are disconnecting from our lives, from the beauty in our homes, from noticing the little nuances in our child's and family's life when we just quickly check to see if anyone has liked our cute photo of our kid on Instagram.

So a few months ago, I began gathering a few "go-to" moves that we could do during some screen-free time together. I'm going to share them in a series of posts in the hopes that they inspire you to take some screen-free time for yourself whether you have kids or not.

First up: Coloring!

You might have noticed that coloring is in. And by in, I mean it is EVERYWHERE! You can't walk into any bookstore or even a gift shop without seeing coloring books for adults and kids. 

A few months back I wrote about the mindfulness of coloring, and since then, it's gotten even bigger.

Coloring has become one of my family's current favorite activities. In the summer, we're spending time outside on quilts in the backyard and coloring and doing other crafts, and we're using coloring as a way to quiet down in the evenings. Bed time has been a struggle some evenings. I find that it we turn off the tv and say no to a special movie night even though it's summer and it sometimes feels like every night could become movie night because no one has to get up early for school the next day, we all feel a bit more centered and less grumpy the next day. Having a family activity before bed seems to be helping this. (Of course we don't do this every night. But the ease that we find when we do is something I'm noticing.)

Usually we each choose a coloring book and then take our plastic tub of colored pencils to the table or backporch and play some music and quietly color. And again, of course it isn't always full of ease. But we are getting into a groove with this one.

Here are my current seven favorite coloring books for adults that we're having fun with over here. Ellie sometimes colors in these books and sometimes colors in her other books. We find that the books with more details, like most of these, are better suited for colored pencils or a very fresh box of crayons. 

1. Creative Coloring Inspirations by Valentina Harper

We just call this one the "Today is going to be awesome" book because of the image on the cover. I love Valentina's artwork and was completely delighted to find her series of coloring books. I highly recommend them especially if you want to color really intricate designs. With this specific book there are encouraging and inspirational phrases throughout that you can hang on your wall when you finish. We're also sending some in the mail to friends and family. The pages are easy to tear out, which is another awesome feature.

2. Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book by Johanna Basford

This book is so gorgeous inside. It has quite a few details but they aren't super small, so I found it really relaxing. I also like that the pages are cream, which makes me feel like I don't have to color in every bit of white space. It includes a little treasure hunt inside, like a Look and Find book, and Ellie loves this part.

Note that this one is temporarily out of stock on Amazon but it looks like you can still order it. I found mine at our local Barnes and Noble. And it looks like you can find it at Paper Source and Urban Outfitters has the Enchanted Forest edition.

3. Just about any mandala coloring book

Jon loves coloring mandalas, and his current favorites are Mandala Designs from Peter Pauper Press, Creative Coloring Mandala Expressions also by Valentina Harper, and Mandala Design Coloring Book by Jenean Morrison. Next on his list is 

4. Just Add Color Botanicals by Lisa Congdon

This coloring book is gorgeous. The pages are nice and thick so you could easily use fine point markers or even watercolors to color the pages. The designs are detailed but not tiny. And you can easily tear out the pages. This is one I'd take with me to a coffee shop to color for a while before picking Ellie up from school and sit there with a few colors and just have fun. It's temporarily out of stock at Amazon, but available at Barnes and Noble online.

5. Calming Colouring: Patterns by Graham Leslie McCallum

This one is great for all ages. Ellie has claimed it as hers, and the repeat patterns actually do seem to center her as she chooses her colors and gets into a rhythm. Some of the patterns aren't as intricate as other coloring books out there, and I think that will appeal to those who want to finish a complete page in one sitting. The designs are a bit more streamlined too. I also like the Nature Patterns edition in this series.

6. Flow Magazine's Coloring Book by Helen Dardik and Carolyn Gavin

I stumbled across this one in the magazine section of Barnes and Noble. It's published by Flow Magazine. It's a very sweet coloring book full of images that just make me smile. Ellie loves it too. You can order it from Flow Magazine here (and see examples of pages).

7. Dapper Animals by Thaneeya McArdle

This one is our newest coloring book and it just makes me so happy. From an octopus playing a guitar to a llama in a winter hat, it is full of so many delightful characters to color and make your own. Fun for all ages because while there are a lot of details, the patters aren't too intricate.

Of course you do not need this many coloring books to get started. Just choose one! And have fun! I'll be bringing these to my next retreat so that the ladies can enjoy diving into this world of coloring and learn first hand how it becomes a really beautiful self-care pracitce.

Note: Most of these links are to Amazon, but I've also had a lot of luck finding several of these on sale at Zulily from time to time. Most of these links are affiliate, which means I receive a small commission if you purchase through the site. 

permission granted

liz lamoreux

A few weeks ago, I snapped this photo and shared it on Instagram with these words: Permission to "sit on the floor of the kitchen and drink a cider and read while lasagna cooks and your family watches videos of the cast of Frozen singing in the other room" granted.

Such a simple self-care move to help me find my way back to myself. 

And capturing this moment with my phone + writing down a few words becomes evidence of how I'm finding my way.

Your homework: Get into the picture this week + give yourself permission to take care of you.



In my book Inner Excavation: Explore Your Self Through Photography, Poetry, and Mixed Media, I gathered up many of my favorite ways to unearth pieces of our stories using the mediums of poetry, photography, and mixed media.

Through the prompts and examples in this book, you will be inspired to take photos of the everyday beauty around you (and even turn the camera on yourself), find the poet inside you, play with the art supplies you probably already have in your home, and take time to seek stillness in your daily life.

It's available right here in my shop.


could i really paint?

liz lamoreux

Over here I'm sifting through ideas for my own creative practice to play with during the Chickadee Road :: Studio Sessions. As I mentioned in our Chickadee Road Chat last week, it seems like I'm not really in a place to do the same practice at the same time every day. It is summer and Ellie and Jon are home every single day, so I'm squeezing in bits of creative play here and there, and often in my moments alone I'm either working or trying to rest a bit. 

This is why I'm so excited about the Studio Sessions. I want to be surrounded with kindred spirits who are finding their way to make room for creative play even when the day is full, even when it seems hard. I want to practice what I know and gently push myself to make time for what I know I need.

And I keep coming back to a strong desire to paint more. 

The truth is I always want to paint but there are so many reasons I don't...I'm not very good. I don't know how. I really can only paint when Kelly is here. It makes too much of a mess. I have too much work to do and not enough time to get the supplies out. And how the list goes on.

I'm pretty good at excuses. (Can you relate?)

But still, I keep coming back to this question: Could I really paint?

We're heading to my mom's for a few days soon and I'm thinking about taking my watercolors + Moleskine and just playing. Just putting color to the page and seeing what happens. Watercolors are so easy to travel with, and Kelly's taught me some pretty fun techniques at the retreats this year. Why not?

And then just maybe I will be in a bit of a groove and can continue to play in August. Or maybe I'll decide that I want to try something else.

This is the fun thing about creative practices: You get to create your own adventure.

If you've been longing to play, just PLAY, in your corner of the world - from art journaling to cooking to taking a photo walk each day - consider coming along with Kelly and me for the August Studio Sessions. We are going to have so much fun!

An incredible group of women is already gathering and we'd love to have you come along

why i *still* watch grey's anatomy (because this is self-care)

liz lamoreux


versions of this list have been rolling around my brain for weeks now, so i thought i would just get it down...because sometimes (not all the time but sometimes) self-care can be in the form of a date in front of the television and i'm not afraid to say it.

why i watch "grey's anatomy"

because it helps me grieve some of the stuck stuff

because i remember walking through hospital corridors and imagining a force field of love around us

because a four-month-old heart really is that small

because talking about death is okay

because i am so thankful our teaching hospital experience didn't involve drama quite like that

because my baby lived (and yours didn't and i think about that too. often.) 

because life and death really are part of our everyday (even though that scares us)

because Patrick Dempsey is even better looking than when the series began

because I love the music

because the voice over at the beginning and end gets me every single time

because my birth experience was more traumatic than some of the storylines and it helps me to know I'm not crazy to be feeling all that I feel

because it really is okay to grieve the parts when things weren't okay even if they are mostly okay now

because sometimes fiction gives our brain and heart just the space they need to be still enough to notice the feelings underneath