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Jan 19, 2016

My Experience at Elements Float Spa

Maybe you've heard about Floating AKA reduced environmental stimulant therapy (REST) or sensory deprivation. I'll admit I didn't know much about the therapy other than vague images of 1960s sci-fi iron lungs and a loose memory of an episode of The Simpsons where Homer and Lisa go into pods and trip out in the darkness. That said, I keep hearing about Floating and all the amazing physical and mental benefits it offers, and BOOM Birmingham has the only float spa in the state (and region, I believe), Elements Float Spa. When they invited me to come experience my first float I jumped at the opportunity. 

The main entrance to Elements. Really pretty and serene.

Me before my float. I seem a little uptight, right? I wasn't afterwards!

What is floating? So there's this amazing space age pod filled with 10 inches of water and 1000 pounds of medical grade Epsom salts, creating an environment where you absolutely float (think like the Dead Sea). At 93.5 degrees F, the water perfectly maintains your body temp, allowing your body and muscles to fully relax, and within 15-20 minutes you're in a really profound state of relaxation. 

What does that mean? So our brains operate of various wavelengths. Floating gives us the unique opportunity and environment to subtly change our body and brain's chemistry, switching to the parasympathetic nervous system and Theta brainwave frequency. It's in these states that the body fast tracks healing on a cellular level and the mind becomes quiet and still without falling asleep. It's a meditative state. You're not going to be hypnotized or be thrown into some deep state, unless you want and allow yourself to go there. 

What does it feel like and is it clean? Elements Float Spa is immaculately clean with all the vibes of a therapeutic spa. There are two rooms for floating, each room with a shower, a pod and any amenities you may need. You shower prior to your float, you get in the pod and you push a button to begin and the lights turn off, the filtration system stops and it is perfectly quiet and still. If you have issues with being enclosed in the dark, you can leave the pod door open or crack it and you can float in darkness or with a gently colored light that you can control. There's also the opportunity to plug in your own music if silence isn't your thing. Also, they offer you petroleum jelly if you need to cover any open scratches, cuts or sensitive skin that you don't want exposed to the salt. (I have a couple patches of eczema that I did not cover and while it burned pretty intensely for about 60 seconds, the salt was ultimately good for it.) They also give you standard earplugs if you worry about allowing your head to fully relax and be submerged in the salt water, and there's a mini foam roller to place behind your neck if you need some neck support. 

Each float room has earplugs, water barrier for sensitive skin, towels, flipflops, a foam roller for the neck and more.

Cleanliness is a top priority there. The salt content of the water itself is 30% and pathogenic organisms cannot survive higher than 10% salinity. And when you're not in the pod, there's a 24 hr/day UV and ozone filtration system at work. Firsthand experience, everything there is spotless and I feel super safe. 

When you get in the pod, the water feels dense and warm. In one hour I never became chilly or too hot, though the air does get a little thick with the door completely closed. You can always crack it if you need to, but I really enjoyed the door down and the air heavy. When you pull yourself out of the water, it feels almost gel like on your skin, though still being liquid. Your skin feels slippery and super hydrated. Your skin and hair do not get dried out or pruney! After my float was over, I simply rinsed off in the shower, not using soap or shampoo. And my hair looked freaking awesome for DAYS.

There is a relaxation lounge for use before and after your session. It's really peaceful and serene.

What was the float experience like? I was nervous at first because I went in there with these expectations that I should slip into a deep meditative state ASAP, and I actually struggled to fully relax once I was simply left with myself in the stillness. This speaks so much more to my own stuff that needs the therapy of floating: I am constantly in fight or flight/stress mode. I struggle to turn off because of being overstimulated in my day to day life. My first several minutes in the float pod were marked by recognizing this and accepting it. I also noticed that with the weightlessness of floating, I could pinpoint where actual physical pain exists. It's a little freaky at first because without all your other senses turned on, your thinking mind rushes to the place where there is sensation. Once I gave up trying to adjust myself and accepted myself, fidgety minded and a little achey in the neck, I started to relax. I focused on my breath. I fidgeted occasionally. I reminded myself that this was my time to accept rest, to accept peace and quiet and the benefits of the salt water. At a certain point I even sat up in the tub and just let my limbs move around and I had this memory of being a little kid and pretending to be a mermaid in anybody of water I could get in, and the words "sacred bath" popped into my head and I smiled and felt myself actually relax. This is not a New Age experience, but it was a deeply personal moment for me and speaks to the fact that each float is unique to the individual.

When I got out of the float, I felt lighter. My joints and the weight of my body felt lighter. I felt pretty radiant and man, my skin and hair looked radiant! And I felt those effects for three or four days afterwards. I noticed I handled stress better, that my baseline was less stressed, that I slept better and that I didn't have the body aches I normally do. That's the minerals at work on a cellular level! Magnesium is a mineral that we ALL NEED SO BADLY but are frequently deficient in. The float gave me a superdose in it that lasted for days!

The relaxation lounge has couches, info on floating, materials for journaling and a beautiful offering of teas and waters. 

What are the health benefits? There are SUCH EXTENSIVE benefits. Here are just a few that have some science behind them:

  • Help reduce the pain associated with Fibromyalgia and MS
  • Lowers cortisol levels, reduces stress, increases endorphins and dopamine production
  • Improves focus and concentration
  • Expediates rehabilitation and recovery
  • Improves circulation, oxygen levels in the blood, lowers BP and heart rate
  • Increases creativity and problem solving when brainwaves shift from Beta to Alpha to Theta (relaxation state)
  • Can promote greater emotional wellbeing from hormone balancing, Theta state, lowering cortisol and any meditation/inner work you may do in your Float

***If you have acute health conditions, talk to your doc and let the Spa know ahead of time. Floating is beneficial to pregnant women after the first trimester. 

In summary, I get it. I totally get why this is such a phenomenal healing modality whether you're looking at it from a purely medical/ physically therapeutic POV or if you're wanting some of the mental/emotional/spiritual benefits, too. And I fully believe that regular floats (weekly or 2/month) could mutually compliment other healing modalities (physical therapy, exercise, meditation, energy work). I have heard some really amazing testimonies of long-term float benefits in the improvement of depression and anxiety and chronic pain. It isn't cheap, but there are packages where you get good price breaks. 

Additionally, Elements Float Spa offers an infrared sauna and you can also book an energy session, wellness coaching appointment or Reiki with Sheri Bagwell. I met Sheri a while back, and she has become someone I cherish very deeply. I recently experienced one of her energy healing sessions to address some adrenal fatigue and some deep rooted energy blocks going back to my childhood and it has ROCKED MY WORLD in the best way possible. I will be having quarterly sessions with her as part of my Sacred Self Care regimen. But I will write more about that next week.

To book a session at Elements Float Spa, click here. It's a super easy process. And be sure to tell them that Rugged and Fancy sent you!

So Much Love,

Morgan

CommentsCategories health and wellbeing Tags elements float spa sheri bagwell floating sensory deprivation rest fight or flight theta brainwaves rugged and fancy holistic wellness

Jan 13, 2016

2016: it's the year to THRIVE

Painting by Morgan Jones Johnston @ruggedandfancy. From the collection of Jana and Miller Mobley.

I don't believe in resolutions, but I do believe in setting intentions. At the end of every year, I like to make a list of the milestones that transpired in that 12 months. I use that list to take a look at my path, the course I am on and to start setting goals, intentions, shaping my dreams. It doesn't necessarily have to be January 1st. 

It begins the moment you turn down the noise and turn inward to hear and see what it is you really want for your life. 

For me, this is the year that I confidently plow forward in my dreams for Rugged and Fancy and for my family. I'm letting go of fear, and I am joyfully doing the hard work to see my wild dreams come to fruition. Here's the thing, we can spend hours on Pinterest and Instagram "liking" and "repinning" the life of our dreams. But it's just that-- a dream. Until you start doing the thing you love, it is not quite YOUR reality. 

This year I am going deep and doing the work. 

So what's up with Rugged and Fancy? I am thrilled and so grateful to say that I have very successfully been growing my art. I ended last year with many commissioned paintings, a near sell out show at West Elm and I am prop/lifestyle styling A LOT for some amazing brands like Food & Wine, Real Simple, Cooking Light, Southern Living and more. 

I have taken a step back from the blogging here, which simply means I am going to be posting once a week-ish versus every single day. It takes a lot of work, a lot of time that I would prefer to spend making art or being with my family. BUT- I love sharing things here and that'll never change. 

The look of this space will be changing as I start shifting, but it'll be something that really well captures the spirit and intention of me and this space. 

And as always, you can still find me in these places...

Follow me on Instagram, where I post most everything that I am doing and loving.

Follow me on Snapchat (username is ruggedandfancy), where you get the real behind the scenes of day to day life (it can be mundane, but it is very, very real).

And there's Facebook and Pinterest, too if that's your POC (platform of choice).

How are you feeling about 2016? Can you feel the good energy building for this year?? Here are a few photos of life lately. 

So much love,

Morgan

Mise en place for a video shoot for Time Inc.

I affectionately refer to this as the "Hanging Tree." It's where I let my indigo oxidize. So much more indigo goodness coming soon.

I am also really excited to be adding MOON CARDS to the web site too!

Part of the gallery wall of my paintings at West Elm. Also, THAT LAMP. I want and need that lamp in a dozen ways. And the driftwood is so pretty next to it, right? You know I styled that mess, haha. 

My amazing husband, Duquette Johnston. Man. We just make each other shine brighter in the world. I know that's rare and spectacularly beautiful. 

I started 2016 with friends and teachers in a 2 hour intention setting asana (practice). It was amazing. I AM STARTING TEACHER TRAINING IN TWO MONTHS AND AM SO EXCITED. That's my teacher Kim beside me of Here Now Yoga. She is currently in Ecuador, leading a yoga retreat in the Galapagos Islands. Follow her Instagram right now. 

Serious color inspiration for Spring, from a shoot last week for MyRecipes.com

CommentsTags ruggedandfancy birmingham art time inc freelance stylist here now yoga

Nov 24, 2015

Creating space to create

We are really fortunate to have a home that is large enough to give both me and Duquette the space to create our art. Doing your work at home can be really difficult at times, hello resistance!, but if you can be disciplined and passionate about what you do, it's kind of an ideal situation. 

Duquette recently surprised me by turning our never used sunporch into my painting studio, which was simply the most loving gesture EVER. It's my most sacred space in our home. And I really wanted him to feel that same love, encouragement and sacred space for him to record from home. With some very creative rearranging of a junky bedroom, we created a space that has that hidden feeling. You know, a space that seems to transport you somewhere else, outside of the home vibe. And it's just what he needed. 

Duquette is someone who really appreciates having natural elements around him. It may be a rock he found twenty years ago in the Southwest. It could be a wild, curling branch that will bloom over time in a vase. There's palo santo sticks, fresh cut flowers from our garden, a piece of Alabama quartz. Having grown up in the mountains of Wyoming, my husband is part wild. It's in his blood. So it's something he needs to feel around him to create most naturally. 

A big part of transforming a space is, without a doubt, the art you surround yourself with. I get that! I'm an artist after all! As this space is all Duquette, I really wanted to get some art that really captured and captivated him in a meaningful way. So when Minted.com reached out to see if I would like to order something from them, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to find something special just for my man. 

I selected two large photo prints by designer Lisa Cersovsky, based in Oakland, California. 

The first image, Lake Louise, is above Duquette's desk, pictured above. I love the color tone and the dream-like landscape. If you've ever seen a place like this in person, all it takes is a beautiful image to transport you back to that sensation of being so small compared the vastness of God's nature. 

The second photographic print I ordered is a companion piece, also taken by Lisa Cersovsky. I ordered a HUGE print of it sized 60"x44". It is STUNNING. It's also a pretty penny to get framed, so we will be building a custom frame for it. 

Duquette loves his space so much, and it is evolving and changing as if it's a living thing. You need life in a space to really feel connected to it. These photographs really have helped shape the space, the vibe, the intentions for Duquette to walk into the room, shut the door, be transported and to create. 

We really want to thank Minted for so generously allowing us to bring these prints into our home and for being a part of creating a sacred space. Their web site can be a little overwhelming with all the services and products they offer, so here's my shortcut: if you want a photographic print, click here. And if you want to see the next print I want to purchase myself in a HUGE size, click here. (I'm an ocean girl, through and through!)

While Minted.com hooked us up with two amazing photographic prints, we did not receive any monetary compensation for this post. All opinions are totally ours and we are just thankful to have been gifted such beautiful art and opportunities! xo Morgan and Duquette

CommentsCategories art Tags minted.com minted large photographs large art duquette johnston recording studio lisa cersovsky

Oct 22, 2015

My Fall Fashion Inspiration: Those Parisian Vibes

Gah, I am such a Francophile, especially once Fall rolls around. Give me smooth jazz and Francoise Hardy records. Give me trop coffee and novels set in Paris. It literally happens every Fall as the leaves begin to turn colors and the breeze gets chilly. And without fail, I start dressing like a French girl. Not ashamed. 

THE INSPIRATION:

(these images via Pinterest.)

(This is a tear sheet from Vogue, I believe, that I have held onto for like five years. Because this seriously happens EVERY FALL.)

GET THE LOOK:

Paris girl vibes

THE SOUNDS:

 

 

CommentsCategories style Tags french style parisian style paris street style francophile

Oct 19, 2015

ESSENTIALS: Stylist & Traveler Kirby Cox

Kirby Cox is a stylist, writer, blogger and traveler from Birmingham, Alabama. She's also lived in London, New York City and Atlanta. "I feel very connected to the South, but I also feel very much connected to England and the UK. It's my second home," she says. 

"I grew up traveling, painting, dressing up, rescuing animals, dancing and putting on shows for anyone who would watch. I don't feel like much has changed in that way since I was little. I still hold that sense of wonder even though at times the world feels heavy."

ESSENTIALS: KIRBY COX

DRINKING// In the words of Auntie Mame, "...bring me a light breakfast-- black coffee and a side car." Auntie Mame is one of my all time favorite movies and I kind of want to be Auntie Mame when I grow up. But other than those two drinks... lots of Earl Grey, red wine & sparkling water. 

READING// I'm an obsessive reader. I'm currently reading Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain. But up next I have a few CS Lewis books, Willie Nelson's Autobiography, Grace Jones' Memoir & Patti Smith's new book M Train. I can't get enough of biographies and autobiographies. 

LISTENING// Right now I have Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Prince & Serge Gainsbourg on heavy rotation. And every Sunday I listen to Jarvis Cocker's Sunday Service on BBC Radio 6. It is my favorite radio show ever. 

MASTERING// French. I'm hoping to become fluent in the next few years. I'm also trying to master my writing skills. Writing is a passion of mine. I write short stories as well as the blurbs on my blog. I want to master my communication skills so I can go deeper in certain subjects. 

LEARNING// How to take time off. 

WORKING// All the time! I work full time as a Senior Stylist at Free People and I work on my blog when I'm not at work. I'm always planning or photographing something. I'm constantly gathering inspiration as well. I feel like I never turn off. 

TRAVELING// I'm going back to Ireland in November and Spain in the Spring. I'm hoping to go to Asia sometime in the near future. I want to go everywhere!

DREAMING// Always. 

PLAYING// Dress up. I never grew out of my dress up phase. 

WANTING// Roger Vivier Polly Suede Side-Buckle Ankle Boot, available here

x Kirby

You can find Kirby on Instagram and on her blog, here

CommentsCategories ESSENTIALS style Tags kirbyjoanna joanna kirby kirby cox free people senior stylist free people fpme

Oct 14, 2015

On VISION. Schaeffer Eye Center and SALT Optics

The first time I saw the man that would become my husband was magical. His band was opening for The Strokes at this old dive bar. I remember the way his jeans and t-shirt hung on him as he threw himself around the stage, spitting lyrics into the microphone. I can still see the way the lights played across his face, moving across the faces in the crowd. It was beautiful.

The first time I saw my son was equally beautiful and potentially equally rock and roll. I was laid out on a table, numb from neck to toe for an emergency c-section, and as the doctors joked about putting Humpty Dumpty together again, someone brought me my baby. They laid that little purpley bundle so high on my chest that my eyes struggled to focus on the little life changer in my grasp, and I remember looking over at my husband, Duquette as he took a dozen photos with three different cameras while entirely covered in surgical garments. 

These memories will stay with me forever. And they're so vivid because of the powerful images I took in with my eyes, my vision. I often think about the power of the senses and which sense I would struggle with the most to lose. Hands down, as an artist, photographer, stylist, wife, mother and general human being, my vision is my highest prized sense. I can't fathom an existence without looking into the eyes of my man or my son, without seeing the change in a landscape as the seasons turn, without being able to sit and apply colors, gestures, strokes of paint to surfaces. My vision makes life more dimensional, more meaningful.

And here's the horrible irony to all of it. I have not had an eye exam in eight years despite feeling a general decline in my quality of vision. I made up all sorts of reasons as to why I didn't have time or money or a need to go to the eye doctor. I was scared, and I was making up excuses without any good reason. So when Duquette needed a new pair of glasses, I knew I needed an eye exam. 

A couple of our friends from Schaeffer Eye Center heard that we were in need of some quality care, and they invited us to come down so I could finally get my eyes checked and so Duquette could be custom styled for a pair of glasses.

They're an amazing family focused company and they put the highest priority on providing the highest quality of care and education for their patients. And here's the crazy thing-- I grew up with Dr. Jack Schaeffer's kids, and now all three of those kids have grown up to be optometrists in the family practice. Moreover, our dear friend, Lynn Boone (who was my senior prom date in high school) is their director of operations who facilitated this whole experience. That's Lynn pictured below in SALT Optics "Lynn" frame (yes, named after her), and she's among the most insanely talented opticians who can pick out your PERFECT frames in about thirty seconds after first laying eyes on you. The frames she selected for Duquette to try are also below.

Lynn was really excited to tell us all about SALT, because they not only make really stunning and high quality, durable frames, they're a company with a story and a mission and a lot of love behind them. And you know that's what Rugged & Fancy is all about.

SALT: Sea Air Land Timeless, these guys understand the importance of VISION, the connection between sight and your art, your experiences, your memories, your impact in the world. I love that products are being made with real love that becomes not only an extension and mission of your brand, but is something vibrational that carries on to clients, fans, friends and family. 

If you're in NYC next week, check out this SALT event, a photography show featuring the work of three amazing artists. Proceeds from sales benefit Charity Water

As for my eye exam, it was entirely painless and not even that much of a hassle with cutting edge technology and technicians and doctors who seriously answered all of my crazy questions, including "Are you sure my retina isn't about to detach?" 

Dr. Brooke Kaplan confidently answered that question, NO with a gentle demeaner and a 3D image of my entire eye ball and nerves that's part of standard testing now, that she explained in terms I could totally understand. Below is both the machine and the 3D image of my eyeball. RAD.

While my eyes dilated for the final vision exam, Duquette settled on these really timeless frames.

Duq's glasses have always been an evening necessity slash afterthought, the things he wears between putting on pajamas and going to sleep or in the time between waking and putting in contacts. They've always been cheap frames or cool old, old frames that we have picked up over the years at estate sales for a quarter or two. The old frames have done their job, but they've never been an accessory. They've never quite fit. Until now. 

The following are photos of Duquette in our home, in the morning, wearing his SALT Novak frames. 

The turnaround time on getting special lenses for the frame was exactly two weeks, and the folks at Schaeffer Eye Center had us come in when they arrived so they could custom shape the frames to Duq's head. And anytime we might need them to be tightened or adjusted slightly, we can just take them in. That's awesome. And it lends itself to the whole family vibe they've got going on. You know, when people are so good and such a good hang that you just want to pop in and visit them. That's a little bit of what they've got going on there. 

As for my vision? I've got a very slight astigmatism, but other than that I am in goooood shape. They did mention that we both have Blonde Fundus. That basically means we have less pigment in our retina than others and need to wear sunglasses more often. Good to know we have a reason to wear sunglasses at any time. 

We deeply want to thank our friends at Schaeffer Eye Center and SALT Optics for their incredible generosity. Your sight matters. Please, please take care of yours. Get your annual eye exam and see a good doctor! 

***DISCLAIMER: While we did receive a free eye exam and a pair of frames, we did not receive any monetary compensation for this post. All words, images, thoughts and witty comments are entirely our own. xo

CommentsTags schaeffer eye center eye doctors birmingham salt salt optics charity water eye exam blonde fundus salt novak best eyeglasses stylish eyewear

Oct 8, 2015

SECRET SOURCE: Healthy Hair, Healthy You: An Organic Salon Experience with Sheri Bagwell

This is me on a good hair day. And lately I am having day after day after day's worth of good hair. 

Here's a little background info... I have ALWAYS been borderline obsessive about my hair. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the first time I radically cut it off, my eccentric mother made me sign a contract promising to work in the potato fields if I didn't like it. (That's a real story and you can see the contract here.) I want it long. And I want it blonde. (Again, for the record, I am a natural blonde, but just not quite as blonde as I prefer.)

Here's the irony of my hair obsession: I only go to a salon maybe once a year, and it's mostly on account of the fact that the chemicals are SO HARSH for me. To get a really good blonde, I have traditionally ended up with actual blisters on my scalp and a migraine from the fumes. Yeah, that's actually what happens to me. 

Without options, it's just something I was willing to forgo because the end result, pretty and fresh hair that boosts my self-confidence and helps me feel a little more like me, was worth more than the detriment it caused to my body.

So that's the back story... Right out of the gate, I am just going to tell you that the beautiful hair pictured above was created without use of harsh chemicals, without blistering, burning or pain. And I have to thank Sheri Bagwell for it. 

Birmingham's wellness community is just beginning to grow, so right now you could call it a close community with only a couple degrees of separation between holistic practitioners, yogis, nutritionists, therapists, energy workers, meditation guides, etc. Sheri and I were actually Facebook friends before meeting over coffee one day. I LOVE her blog and had been reading it for several months before realizing that she had moved to Birmingham from Atlanta. She's a wellness coach, meditation guide, Reiki master AND SHE DOES HAIR AT THE ONLY ORGANIC SALON IN BIRMINGHAM!

After having a long coffee and talking about all sorts of things, Sheri and Studio Red Salon invited me to experience their services at a generously discounted rate. (I share that detail in the spirit of full disclosure.) While the decor and clientele read a little older, the results I got were phenomenal and worthy of being called a Secret Source. 

Here's the deal, the salon products have zero ammonia, zero parabens, are 100% vegan and the colors have no PPD, a seriously toxic chemical found in tons of hair products and cosmetics. What struck me immediately is that there was NO ODOR WHATSOEVER. Furthermore, once we got started, there was no tingling, burning, itching at any point in the entire experience before, during or after. WHOA.

I was super nervous about how the color would be and how I would like Sheri. I had this wave of anxiety come over me with the realization that I previously ahd only known this woman for a hot minute and I was trusting her with something really, really important to me, my hair. And let me tell you, Sheri was AWESOME. She totally put my mind at ease, recognizing how nervous I was and gently redirecting my thought pattern with some really awesome conversation about family, nutrition, wellness journeys and so much more. Let's be honest, a great hairstylist does great hair and great conversation.

Sheri's got it all. 

I also want to mention the salon uses two product lines called Neuma and Soma. I have been using Giovanni shampoo and conditioner in an effort to eliminate chemicals (though I do still use some Oribe Dry Texturizing spray because, DUH), but Giovanni has really sucked. And it made me wonder if natural hair care products just suck in general. NEWS FLASH: Neuma products are amazing. They get my hair clean. They give me moisture and incredible body. There's no weird smells and no bad chemicals, and it may be another thing worthy of calling a Secret Source. 

I mean, look at that. The cut is so good that she didn't even have to use a brush or curling iron to style it. This literally came from blow drying with her fingers. No burns, no blisters, no migraine. I walked out the door with a giant smile, my head a little higher with a great boost in confidence and one of the best cuts and colors I have ever had. At no expense to my health.

BOOM.

I highly, highly recommend Sheri on a lot of levels.

To book a consult or appointment, you can call Studio Red at 205.991.2099

To follow Sheri's blog, Living Well in the South, just click here. And to read her take on hair care, click here

CommentsCategories health and wellbeing style Tags sheri bagwell birmingham wellness living well in the south organic hair care birmingham organic salon studio red salon edenton secret source

Oct 7, 2015

Four Instagrams to Follow Right Now

1// @waynepate- Wayne Pate is an amazing artist with a really special illustrative style that captures 3D scenes and people in a beautiful flat and linear way. There's a softness and magical quality to it that reminds me a little of Monet's late work in the South of France. I don't know Wayne personally, but I also love that his name is Wayne and he seems to lack pretense. Check out his web site here

@thefamilyacid- This is such a rad story. This is a family, and the patriach, photographer Roger Steffens has been documenting his atypical life since the early 60s. His kids have been scanning all of his slides he has accumulated over the years, and it's this. The images are so striking, filled with beautiful colors, trippy scenes and a slice of life you're never going to see again. 

@dredrea- I am really fortunate to call this woman a soul sister of mine. Andrea Behrends is one of the most real, sensitively astute and crazy tough people I know. She documents EVERYTHING in film and manages to capture the soul of people, places, even the food in the front of her. She has a show up in Nashville right now that you should definitely check out. 

@melinahammer- I was fortunate enough to meet Melina and her husband, photographer Jim Lafferty in Birmingham, Alabama, where fate placed them for a brief period. I feel a deep connection to this really, truly unique woman though we only were able to spend quality time together on a couple occasions. She practices Iyengar yoga very devoutly. She takes walks and urban forages. She isn't afraid to talk about the depp recesses of the human experience in a way that bonds you to her. And she prepares and photographs and shares the most exquisite food on her blog Licking the Plate

CommentsTags instagrams to follow wayne pate andrea behrends the family acid melina hammer licking the plate roger steffens

Sep 28, 2015

FOOD FOR THE SEOUL: Celebrating Korean Thanksgiving

words by Tonia Trotter / photos by Rugged and Fancy

I am and have always been a girls' girl to the core. Nothing makes me feel more in my element than a good old fashioned girls' night. True friends aren't always easy to come by, especially as you grow older and your schedules tend to revolve around your families... and especially if you relocate to a city that is anywhere other than where your girls are. 

Two years ago I packed up and moved my little family from Nashville, Tennessee to Birmingham, Alabama. I felt isolated and desperate to recreate the close female friendships I had cultivated in my twenties in Music City. It took some work and going out on a limb to find my people here, but I am now incredibly happy and thankful for the women who I have come to call my friends here. They're smart, interesting, funny, genuinely kind and authentic. 

Julia Child famously proclaimed, "People who love to eat are always the best people." 

Since I always insist on being friends with the best people, it goes without saying that a passion for good food is definitely a common interest within my crew. I love to cook for my friends and family, and I often get requests for Korean dishes since they aren't exactly common in the land of cornbread and fried chicken. Don't misunderstand, I really love those things, too. This past Sunday marked not only a significant lunar event (so I have heard) but also Chuseok, or Korean Thanksgiving and, most importantly, a rare evening that all my girlfriends had a free night without their babies and husbands. 

THIS fact alone warranted a celebration.  And since I am especially grateful for these friends this year, it was the perfect opportunity to host a Korean-themed girls' night in! 

Traditionally, you'd eat rice cakes on Chuseok, but since I am only half Korean and was raised in the land of fried okra and sweet potato pie, I decided to prepare some of my personal favorite foods that I know are beyond foolproof. 

I'm a firm believer that all celebrations call for champagne, so we ladies kicked the party off with some "YEOWANGS." Korean for QUEEN, the Yeowang signature cocktail is a lychee-orange libation topped with a little bubbly. 

Following cocktails and chatting, we gathered around the table.  The tablescape was a gold and soft blue theme with an eclectic contemporary vibe and key Korean details. I combined some tradition from my own Vera Wang china and cut crystal and everyday glasses with some of the amazing new pieces from West Elm

I made my mom's Yaki-Mandu, a pork and veggie dumpling that is pan-fried and steamed, sauteed Bulgogi, thin strips of steak marinated in a sweet, savory and slightly spicy marinade. As a Southern nod, I served a cooked seaweed and spinach salad to serve as a bed of greens. 

For the second course I prepared my all-time favorite Korean dish Naengmyeon, a chilled buckwheat noodle soup. I set up a DIY bar of noodle bowl toppings, including daikon radish kimchi (made by mother and tightly sealed and double bagged until serving on account of the, ahem, strong odor), hard boiled eggs, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, chopped green onions, red pepper and sesame seeds. Chopsticks optional.

For dessert, red bean popsicles were a hit. Popsicles can absolutely be a grown up treat when served alongside a stemless wine glass. You don't have to worry about slurps and drips when you can simply place the pop in your glass. The final touch was a cup of hot ginger and rosebud tea that paired beautifully with the red bean popsicles and served as that final moment to relax with my girls and pour over funny stories, in-depth discussions on style, motherhood, new reads and TV indulgences.

Around that table and over that meal, we five women shared bonding moments over personal struggles and achievements, and maybe a couple moments of over-sharing, too. (Of course there was plently of that. We are girlfriends.) 

The night ended later than expected and definitely past all of our bedtimes, and it made me feel like the night was a great success. I cleaned up and floated to bed on a cloud of garlic and wine with a full belly, a full heart and a very thankful spirit. It was indeed a happy Chuseok. 

RECIPE: YAKI-MANDU (PORK DUMPLINGS)

  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 cup chopped Chinese cabbage
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 2 stalks chopped green onions
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 1 T sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 package round Gyoza skins

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Drop a small spoonful of stuffing in gyoza skin. Dampen edge of skin with water, fold and press edges together. 

Pan fry uncovered with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil until golden brown on one side (about five minutes) on medium heat. 

Carefully add 1/2 cup of water to the pan. (CAUTION: the water may pop!) and quickly cover to simmer for  5-10 minutes. 

FOR DIPPING SAUCE:

Mix soy sauce, rice vinegar and ground red pepper to taste. 

To follow Tonia Trotter's adventures in food, fashion, motherhood and more, click here. This was not a sponsored post, though the fine folks at West Elm at the Summit loaned us some beautiful items for the night, including the chargers, votives, table centerpiece, prep bowls, table runner, branches and berries. 

CommentsCategories community food Tags west elm dinner party tonia trotter rugged and fancy korean thanksgiving chuseok yeowang pork dumpling recipe easy korean recipes

Sep 23, 2015

National Yoga Month and Global Mala 2015

This past Saturday was Global Mala, an incredible free community event to bring several hundred people together on top of Vulcan Park to do 108 sun salutations together with a collective spirit of love and peace and community. It was my second Global Mala here in Birmingham and represents one full year of having practiced yoga with sincere intentions of self love, healing, love, peace and change within myself and my impact in the world around me. I think I have struggled my whole life in finding community. I think I fancied myself a lone wolf. What I have learned through connecting with the community here is that we need each other. We need deep connection with people and causes as much as we need simple connection of eye contact and a smile. All these things are equally important. 

While Global Mala is a one time a year event, it is a fundraiser with an impact that goes year round. Sweet Om Alabama is the non profit organization that gives Global Mala to the community and is the organization that provides yoga programs and training to underserved populations around the community. Basically, yoga changes lives, and there are a lot of people who need it and may not have access to it or even know what it is. Sweet Om Alabama is dedicated to changing that. 

Below are some photos from Global Mala 2015. Be sure to check out Sweet Om Alabama and consider making a donation. 

The early comers getting set up in prime spots overlooking our city.

There was a turnout of over 400 people! It ended up looking like a patchwork sea of beautiful bright colored yoga mats. 

Me and my dear friend and teacher Kim Drye of Here Now Yoga. I am doing her teacher training program. I love her so much. 

These two ladies pictured here, Emilie Maynor of Emilie Maynor Living and Annie Damsky of Villager Yoga (and president of Sweet Om Alabama) are HUGE parts of my yoga journey. I am forever grateful to them for the connection we had so early on in this path and for their love and mentorship and direction. They do an AMAZING series called 40 Days to Free that will change your life

Y'all, I can't help but take note of yoga fashion. I am preparing for a year of teacher training, and I preparing to wear yoga clothes basically for a whole year. And y'all know I care about it looking good. There's nothing wrong with that. Yoga wear has come a long, long way since wearing pajama pants to class. 

That's Kim. I love her yoga style. 

I love all the wild strap action you see these days. 

And this woman laughed at me when I asked to take her photo, but this is just gooooood and fun. 

And what did I do after all that action?? I went and got an almond milk Yerba Mate latte from Church Street and came home to the welcoming arms of my husband and bacon he had all ready for me. That's love.

So much love you guys

Morgan

CommentsTags global mala global mala 2015 sweet om alabama birmingham yoga villager yoga emilie maynor living here now yoga

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