Friday, February 26, 2021

Morning Coffee Ritual

Post, photography, and YouTube Video by Rain San Martin

My favorite part of the day has always been the morning coffee, as I peruse lovely quaint magazines. An unrushed slow morning opens my mind to reflection and is a reward for the days work ahead. 

Below are Amazon affiliate links to items I use and love. This helps to support this site at no extra cost to you:

Why I like the French Press - Remembering the Golden Age of Coffee Shops

Reflecting on growing up, like most households, our family started with the ubiquitous drip coffee maker in the 1980s. My mom a coffee connoisseur, eventually replaced this with the French Press. In the early 1990s coffee shops grew in popularity offering gourmet beans, which were not yet accessible in grocery stores. The French Press was made available on these coffee house shelves for purchase. I myself adopted this for our go-to coffee maker. The process is simple: Pour hot water over the ground coffee beans, steep, press down the filter, serve.  

I miss the homey mom and pop shops offering specialty coffee, pastries, and friendly slow-paced customer service. They would remember your name and had no reason to hurry, or be distracted with the not yet invented smartphone. This was before multiple Starbucks appeared in every city, across the nation. Mom would order a Double Cappuccino using very little raw sugar, eventually switching to the stronger Macchiato.  We would sit, chat, and rave over our comforting beverage. Today, I occasionally go to coffee for a date with my husband, or for one of our children's special outings, yet I deeply long for the Golden Age of the coffee shop in America. 


Lighting the Candles

In the darker months of winter I set out natural white pillars on the mantle within the fireplace. I light incense on the gas stove to burn the candles. During this time, lights remain on our tiny tree, along with pine cones and greenery of the season. 


A stack of home living themed magazines are taken out from the Craftsman style built-in dinning room drawer. Victoria, Southern Lady, Southern Living, and Country Living are set beside the vintage rocking chair. This is supplemented with a local Whatz Up (Things to Do In Fort Wayne) weekly publication. These are read from cover to cover. The collection has been deliberately curated, safely away from mainstream news. I greatly encourage you to read physical printed magazines rather than their digital counterparts.

The Hourglass 

I turn the brass 30 minute hour glass over to pace my time. Sands passing through the hour glass sets the mood for a slower pace. After reading and sipping the dark blend on the vintage rocking chair I gaze out the window. A cheerful scene of birds inspire me. Berries that remain from the fall, hang on wintry branches, a treat for Robins, Bluejays, and Cardinals.  Perched they rest in contentment for a short break. They know of no troubles outside their domain habitat. They work and enjoy the daily pleasures of life.

You may also view my Morning Coffee Ritual companion video. 

What's your favorite daily ritual?


Saturday, January 30, 2021

Winter Homemaking

Article, YouTube Video and photography by Rain San Martin 

Holidays have often placed an artificial starting point for the seasons, appearing to truncate them. As soon as Christmas is over, retailers set out spring merchandise! Magazines feature an emphasis on the New Year, Valentine's Day, and spring cleaning. Yet why not focus on the season of winter which has only just begun? This is a time to embrace a quiet cozy season. We'll dive into how lights, natural rustic decor, seasonal treats, and old-fashioned letters, coupled with the practice of simplicity can bring wonderment to the season of winter. 

Winter Lights

Here in America most people take down their festive lights within a week or two after Christmas. Yet you need not celebrate Christmas to display cheerful lights. Because it is the darkest time of year, with the shortest days, there is no more relevant time to display warm outdoor and indoor lighting. Opt for classic white or pair with blue or green. Candles and oil lanterns can also be featured. A hurricane lantern may be placed on the front porch. Pillar candles on your mantle and fireplace. Votives sprinkled on table tops, grouped in a vignette with rustic decor. You may leave up your tree, removing the ornaments. Its gentle glow can brighten your spirit through January and February. 

Rustic Winter Decor

It took me years to develop an awareness of how to incorporate natural elements into our home's decor. As a society we have been conditioned to purchase everything from signs to faux flowers. I love these decorations as much as the next person! Yet gradually throughout the years I have learned how to take advantage of our natural surroundings to create charming seasonal decor, just as our ancestors did in centuries past. Pine cones can be gathered and grouped together in a bowl. Branches with wild berries may be arranged in a vase. Evergreens made into a wreath or draped on the mantle.  

Winter Treats and Cozy Dishes

Peppermint flavored everything is my go-to in the winter. Peppermint Bark and Mint Brownies are two invigorating treats I've made this winter. I also stock hot chocolate, mini candy canes, marshmallows, whipped cream, and sparkling sprinkles for hot chocolate on Sundays. 

One of the best ways to embrace the seasonal changes is to switch up your menu. Expect a bit of overlap. Both fall and winter have cozy vibes.  I keep homemade chili at the ready. Chicken and whole grain rice soup with homemade chicken broth is another wholesome favorite. Sweet potatoes are a staple. You'll always find a batch pre-cooked in our fridge. I like to crisp them up in the oven with olive or coconut oil and a side of roasted green beans with walnuts. Alternatively, for breakfast, I may have sweet potatoes with spinach, eggs, and cheddar. Though the months are chilly I highly recommend airing out your home a couple of times per day. Especially after cooking. The fresh air will make the home smell nice while providing fresh oxygen. 


Winter Stationary 

Rather than mail cards for a specific holiday I write long-form letters by hand.  I aim to write 1-2 per month.  Decorative winter-themed letter-head and matching envelopes can be obtained from an office supply store. You can also buy wintry blank cards, with pictures of snowscapes to be used all season long. Another option is to keep high quality blank letterhead paper with similar multi-purpose envelopes. These you can customize with hand-drawn snowflakes in corners, stamps, or stickers. I just ordered a collection of "Winter Scenes" forever stamps from USPS, and look forward to using these January and February. There's a snow owl, a barn, and a red Cardinal (our National bird in Indiana), among other serene snowy scenes. 


I use to take down our chimes during winter, yet now I keep them up year-round. On one of my evening brisk walks, I noticed the clanging metallic bars from neighboring homes. The ground was covered in snow creating a natural sound absorbent material.  Thereby making a unique mystical sound. I also leave sleigh-bells on our front and side door handles. A cheerful tone upon each entry and exit.  

You may also view the video on this topic on my YouTube channel.

Take your time and enjoy the Slow Winter. 

Rain ⛄

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

My Evening Routine - Fall-Winter 2020

Post, YouTube Audio Podcast, and Photo (self-portrait taken at Lindenwood Nature Preserve in Fort Wayne) by Rain San Martin
A productive Evening Routine involves a series of healthy rituals. Including habits that aid in simplicity of life, long term goals, fitness, preparation for the following morning, and peaceful relaxation. Though your evening routine may be far shorter than mine, I've included daily rituals from the late afternoon through bed-time.

4:00PM: Desk Work

Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I check email, do paperwork, process bills, and do anything clerical related. Whether it's ordering gifts online or filling out a form. Considering these are my least favorite work activities, I find sticking to three set days per week greatly simplifies my life and minimizes stress.

5:00PM:  Passion Project Hour

Homemaking comes first! Yet I have ALWAYS fit in time for my Passion Projects (aka Creative Business Projects). This is the spice of my life. Which adds fuel to my homemaking motivation. The key here is that these projects are optional. During my evening session I do video editing for my YouTube channel, a companion to this blog site, related photography (which may also be posted on Instagram), or misc. passion project tasks.  Clearing out blocks of creative focus time helps to make progress on lifetime goals.  I aim to fit in 2-3 hours per day for this, 5-6 days per week. As the winter months progress, I often switch this evening time block with my Power-Walk block so that I can view the dusk and twilight. 
My first and most important Passion Project Hour is in the morning when I do my blog writing.  When time allows, I work on composing and recording music in the afternoon. My most recent album, Cemetery Closing Time, was creating during brief 1 hour time blocks, two to three days per week, over the course of multiple years. Please note, I am extremely careful of how I spend my time. I keep my schedule as clear as possible to allow for the most important routines and rituals in my life.  Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!

Below are affiliate links to items I use and love. This helps to support this site at no extra cost to you:

6:00PM: Small evening meal, evening power-walk, (work out with weights M/W/F), final straightening. 
Sitting on the front porch, I warm up with a small cup of home-made chili. Taking in the painted dusk-sky, in shades of gray. Melodious chimes in varied sizes and materials play atmospheric tones from house to house.  The evening power-walk is one of my most anticipated rituals, which I do on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. I grab my winter jacket, fluffy hat, scarf, and gloves. Then head out the door for my little adventure. All feels possible during the walk. I search for wintry holiday lights, which add wonderment during the darker months. My favorite decorations during this time of year are the eerie flickering (electric) candles placed in windows. According to legend, it is an old-fashioned tradition, from the old world. During colonial times, before the era of hotels, the candle was lite as a signal of hospitality to those passing through the town. Informing travelers that a safe room was available to stay in. 
7:30PM Prep for Bed.

This includes shower and healthy grooming rituals. Clothes are set out for the following day. And yes, this a wise FlyLady ritual! The days main events are written on the mini-chalk board after reviewing the calendar. My favorite calendar for years has been John Sloane's Country Seasons, which is filled with paintings of quaint life during the 1800s.

8:30PM Read in Bed

Another joy of my daily routine. I have a stack of books which I rotate through each evening. A couple of them include: Houdini!!!, The Career of Ehrich Weiss, and Lightning Man, The Accursed Life of Samuel F.B. Morse, both written by Kenneth Silverman.  I should also mention a couple of books that I've been tremendously enjoying during my breakfasts and lunches: In The Victorian Style by Randolph Delehanty and Richard Sexton, and Winter Living by Selina Lake. My goal is to have lights out by 9:30pm. 

May you enjoy creating an evening routine of your own! Note, you may also enjoy my YouTube Audio Podcast on this topic.


Monday, November 2, 2020

Halloween Treat Decorating Party


Post, YouTube Video, and Photos by Rain San Martin. *Photo's including Rain by Winter San Martin.

For many kids the most fun part of making treats is decorating them. I had hosted a few children's Halloween parties and thought a mini-decorating party could be a fun alternative.  Join me as I share my fun and simple steps.

The guests arrived in costume. Our son invited three buddies who were also brothers. They were dressed as Minecraft video game characters, with the youngest brother dressing as Hot-Rod from Transformers. Our daughter was Jack Skellington, her friend Red-Riding hood.

Below are affiliate links to items I use and love. This helps to support this site at no extra cost to you:

Here is a quick glance at the supplies I used, yet you can customize the list:

Rice Krispy Treats.

1 bag of large Pretzel Rods.

1 bag of Tiny Twists Pretzels from Meijer.

1 bag of Oreo's, any flavor you like. Halloween Oreo's with orange icing are a favorite for many. 

Chocolate candy coating as the base for decorating, which includes:

1 container of white chocolate candy coating. 

1 container of milk chocolate candy coating.  

Food coloring.

Coconut oil to smooth out melted chocolate. 

Decorative toppings, including:

A variety of Halloween sprinkles.

Candy eyes.

Cookie decorating icing in black and orange. 

Rice Krispy Treats. To prepare for the Mini Decorating Party I made a double batch of Rice Krispy Treats the previous day.  They were sliced into 2 x 2 squares and stored in an air-tight container. I followed the directions on the back of the cereal box and doubled the recipe. If you've never made them before, nothing is more simple: Butter and marshmallows melted in a pan, mixed into rice crispy cereal. 

Two bags of plain pretzels and pretzel sticks, along with a bag of Oreos were placed aside for decorating the next day.

I melted candy coating chocolate in a stainless-steel mixing bowl over a simmering pot of water. This is a nice alternative to a double boiler. Mixing regularly with a wooden spoon and a few tablespoons of coconut oil, creating a smooth consistency. I then poured the chocolate into two separate bowls, which I added pumpkin orange and monster green food coloring. Adding a touch of red with the orange for a deeper shade.    

Other toppings include:

A variety of Halloween sprinkles. I bought Wilton Halloween Ghost Mix, which was filled with orange and yellow jimmies, and tiny candy ghosts. 

Candy eyes. I bought a large package of Assorted Candy Eyeballs by Wilton, and was shocked at how fast the kids went through the box creating multi-eyed monsters. One Oreo creature had 10 eyes! I suggest setting out a limited amount of this product, so there will be more leftover for other days of spooky fun.

Cookie decorating icing in black and orange. 

Time to decorate!

The kids primarily made Monster Guys with the Rice Krispy Treat squares. Dipping them into green, orange, or chocolate brown candy coated chocolate. Topping them with Wilton candy eyes. Some characters were turned into larger creations entering pretzel sticks for edible arms and legs.

My decorating plate was primarily of small pretzels. I submerged them into the candy coated chocolate, then quickly poured a variety of sprinkles over the salty and sweet treat. These made for a wonderful treat later in the week. I love flipping through a festive Halloween treats and DIY book as I enjoy my chocolate Halloween pretzels!

My husband Sage even dropped in to make a few treats wearing his new Circus Ringmaster Jacket and Top-hat from Spirit Halloween.  Yet on Halloween night he pulled out all of the stops, putting on full makeup!


Thanks for joining me for this Halloween Treat Decorating Party. I hope you enjoy my video as well. As you can see this sort of gathering could work for many occasions. May you enjoy the rest of the autumn season! 🍂


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Halloween Homemaking

Article, photography, and YouTube Audio Podcast by Rain San Martin
The Halloween season is passionately my favorite time of the year, more so than the holiday itself.  For me October 31st, marks the end of the celebration. The grand finally. And it is the days throughout September and October that I cherish most. These are some of the reasons why: Cool autumn leaves in shades of yellow, orange, red, and brown. Front porches bedecked in pumpkins and mums. Spooky fun decor, with festive lights in orange, yellow, and purple. Inspired Instagram and Pinterest images by fellow content creators, sharing their whimsical treats and spaces. Opportunities to wear my "Boo" scarf with silly ghosts on my belt.

As a keeper of your abode, whether this is part-time or full-time, you can be the seasons Halloween entertainer. Even if you live alone. I'll share with you how I celebrate the entire season of Halloween and give you tips for creating your own fun. So put on your fall apron and lets get to work!

Below are affiliate links to items I use and love. This helps to support this site at no extra cost to you:

Plan and prepare: 

Check out a few Halloween treat and DIY books from you local library. You could also buy a new book for long term reference. My favorite author on the subject is Matthew Mead. Matthew Mead Halloween Tricks and Treats is a classic!

Decide when to decorate and pick a theme.

When the calendar flips to September, I put away the spring-summer decor and transition into the Fall and Halloween spirit. An annual trip to Michaels kicks off the season.

Our year-round Gothic decorations will stay in use however. Rather than changing my decor theme each year, I gravitate towards classics.  A Rustic Vintage Halloween theme has been my go-to style for years. Weaving autumn decorations with spooky whimsical pieces. I create simple vignettes. Few decorations are used as I enjoy a minimalist lifestyle.  I've selected two focal areas, the mantel and the front porch.   


The mantel.  

The first thing I took out this year was the brass candelabra. A staple for Victorian Spooky ambience. Last year I purchased a small gilded mirror from a historic neighborhood garage sale. This adds Victorian mystery to our mantle year-round. I DIYed my own spooky fabric making two shades.  Using painters cheesecloth I dipped the shear fabric in black tea bags for an aged cream shade, resembling moth-worn sheets. Next I soaked the left-over white fabric into black clothing dye, creating a gray spiderweb-like effect.  


My perched crow sculpture is from Michael's. The Fall Bucket List sign,  was joyfully discovered from Bloom'n Things (now located in Shipshewana, IN). Strung across the mantle is a fun Halloween banner which I created during a video tutorial. Here I cut out uniform (double backed) triangles on brown shipping paper. Next I pasted black card-stock as a back drop, painted on letters, then placed each triangle over the twine.

The porch.

The second area I spotlight is the front porch. I make sure to have sprayed off the deck, cleaned the windows, and overhanging near the end of the summer. This makes a clear slate for fall. On a wreath hanger I placed a Treat-Or-Treat sign. This paired well with the Vintage Inspired black cat and jack-o-lantern floor sign bought this year at Michaels. 

Fresh pumpkins are grouped on the porch. Strung orange lights are draped along the perimeter of the door using nails as a guide. Fiery candy corn yellow lights illuminate, just above the steps, creating a mini canopy. This glow greets me each evening I return from a power-walk adventure.   

Optional embellishments.

My husband Sage, and our son Orion made hand-drawn spooky silhouettes using black card stock and white paper. These are placed on windows.  Our kitchen perimeter has a layer of faux autumn leaves garland.  Another black raven is perched on the cabinet tops.


Our family has treat-day twice per week. This is when I pull out pantry sweets, which were safely guarded throughout the week. Sometimes I prepare baked goods for the occasion until needed for treat-day. Our children love to help with baking. This season we prepared a double batch of cookie cutter dough, freezing half for another time. These were cut using Wilton Halloween Cookie Cutters in ghosts, pumpkins, and candy corns. To decorate I melted white chocolate candy coating and mixed in food coloring. Sprinkles, candy corns, and decorative icing were also used. 

Here are a few more ways I enjoy Halloween Homemaking, and so can you:

*Have a family pumpkin carving party.  Put on a spooky Halloween playlist.  I'm always curating mine each year. It has a mix of ambient eerie music paired with upbeat tracks.

*Set out a seasonal puzzle.  We cherish our All Hallows Eve puzzle by Dowdle! Our family loves working on this charming Halloween town puzzle every year. I get lost in the intricate details of trick-or- treaters, the pumpkin patch, Jack-o-lanterns, and more! 

*Make a couple of DIYs. The process can be restful, and you can enjoy your accomplishment in the upcoming years. 

*Host a mini-treat decorating party.  Have guests dress in costume.  Set out pre-made treats to decorate with melted chocolate, icing, and sprinkles.  You can do this alone too! Make yourself an autumn themed beverage and have a party for one. Why not? And no, you do not need to do a virtual Zoom meeting for this. Enjoy the peace of being unplugged.

Most of all keep things simple. Never commit to more than you absolutely feel comfortable with. Don't rush. Savor the moments of life.  

You can also listen to this Audio Podcast on my YouTube Channel.  

May you have a Slow Autumn and magical season!

Rain 🎃

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Morning Routine - Fall 2020

Article and YouTube video by Rain San Martin. *Picture of Rain by Winter San Martin.

The Morning Routine is one of the most impactful habits you can implement. Design one that gives you a peaceful start to your day. Include time cushions for interruptions and straightening. Allocate time spent on relaxation, lifetime goals, and cleaning or decluttering your living space. I will share with you my morning routine as it stands Fall of 2020. Upon reading this you may pick-up a few ideas for yourself. It should be noted that I am a full-time Homemaker and a part-time Blogger and YouTube Creator. I also carve out some creative work-time each week as a Classical Gothic Soundscape Composer.    

5:00am - 5:45am.

Awake to a clean home. 6:30am is the latest, if I have a late night. My clothes have been set out the night before during my evening routine making for a smooth start. The house is made ready by turning on the lights, and opening up curtains on the main floor. I boil water in my tea kettle for coffee prepared in the French Press.

Below are affiliate links to items I own and love. This helps to support this site at no extra cost to you:


My favorite part of the day is when I sit in the rocking chair and sip a mix of Seattle's Best Coffee Post Alley Blend and Peets coffee Sumatra.  Autumn orange pillar candles flicker on the mantel and a few magazines are enjoyed! Three days per week (plugged-in days) I read my favorite blogs and visit Instagram as well as Pinterest on my iPad.  Note I have started a new habit of unplugging for 30 days each quarter.  This is with the exception of my essential computer household work as well as my creative business blogging & YouTube posts. During this time I consume no media. Two weeks per year I abstain from computer work and email during vacation, being 100% unplugged. 


Blog writing or outline-1hour. In the first part of the morning I sit at the dinning room table in our living area facing toward the front porch and mantle. A Thomas Edison desk lamp illuminates my notebook, where I draft content for Vintage Gothic Homemaker.  Alternate mornings are spent transcribing my handwritten content into my Blog Site and sculpting the final draft. 


Make breakfast. I switch up the menu a bit each month and season. For our 10 year old son I make Old Fashioned Blueberry Pie oatmeal with blueberries, brown sugar, butter, and a touch of milk. Sometimes I alternate with my original Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal recipe. For my husband, I toast a couple of pieces of Dave's Famous Bread with coconut oil and butter, served with sunny-side up eggs. A bit later I have yellow corn tortillas toasted on the Lodge Iron Skillet, topped with cheese, eggs, cilantro, and a side of salsa. This is followed up by kitchen cleanup immediately. Our 16 year old daughter makes herself a green smoothie. 


As a keeper of the home, I consider this element of the morning routine to be the most important: De-clutter or deep-clean! I aim for about one hour each day, which includes daily cleaning rituals.  On particularly busy days I will skip this on occasion. Flexibility is good, yet my aim is overall consistency. This, along with regular straightening and kitchen clean-up, keeps the home company ready. 

If you haven't already I encourage you to create an enjoyable morning routine for yourself, and be sure to check out my companion video on this topic.

Rain 🍂

Friday, September 11, 2020

Halloween & Fall Decorations-Michaels & more-2020

Post, YouTube Video and photography by Rain San Martin

At the end of August, I begin the prep work of setting the fall foundation. The porch is sprayed down. Spring / Summer decor is stowed away. Windows washed to make way for DIY Spooky Silhouettes. Come September 1st, I get autumn fever, which puts a spring in my step! This is when my husband and I do our annual pilgrimage to Michaels for an afternoon date-night.

A Pumpkin Spice Latte & Double Cappuccino at Barnes and Nobles officially kick off the season. With anticipation we walk through the outdoor Jefferson Pointe mall to our Halloween Headquarters. Michaels is bustling with customers excited to pick a few well-made spooky and whimsical pieces from this years freshly stocked treasure trove! Because our home is intentionally uncluttered, and we have a budget, we do not over-buy. This makes the trip more freeing. The isle that struck us was the packed 1940's Farmhouse Vintage-Inspired Halloween decor.  We also got a couple of year-round Gothic staples for our home.

This years, 2020, picks from Michaels include:

*A festive mid-century vintage inspired sign that reads, "When black cats prowl and pumpkins glow may luck be yours on Halloween." Upon a closer look, we observed most of the Halloween decor we purchase for our home was by Michael's private label Ashland. 

*Trick or Treat hanging sign.

*Scarecrow from Michaels, 2020

To top it off we drove to an epic sized Spirit Halloween store! There my husband got a high quality Circus Ringmaster jacket, top hat, and cane. This could easily work for a Neo-Victorian Gothic / Halloweenie Circus look.  

Putting Up Decor

The slate has been cleared and cleaned. A few new seasonal decorations are joyfully purchased. Now is the time to put on my mid-century Retro Halloween apron. The fun colors are in black, orange, and white, in a pattern of owls, cats, Jack-o'-lantern, and moons.  From the basement I pull out the autumn bin, along with fall foliage, and additional pieces stored on the basement shelving. In this years video, you'll see our 10 year-old son Orion and I dive into the decor and discuss each piece.

Our favorite decorations from previous years include: 

*2 Raven sculptures. (Michaels)

*Boo pillow from the Johnny Appleseed Festival.

*Fall Bucket List and Fall Gatherings Sign from Bloom'n Things (now in Shipshewana, IN, seasonally in Glenbrook Square, Fort Wayne, Indiana).

Here are Affiliate links to items I own and mention in my video. This helps to support this site at no extra cost to you:

*Bronze Candelabra 

*"Scream" by Ty Beanie Boos, which we named "Boo" (Originally bought in Michaels)

*Spooky, Spooky Little Bat (Finger Puppet Board Book, originally purchased inside Barnes and Nobles)

Black card stock
(for DIY Spooky Silhouettes and back of my DIY Vintage Halloween sign banner)
Darice GX-2200-02, 8.5"x11" (50 Sheets), Black



This Vintage Halloween Banner has gone up for the last few years on our mantel. Here is my DIY Vintage Halloween Banner tutorial:

May you have a magical fall season!

If you haven't seen it already, you can view my video here.

Rain 🎃

Morning Coffee Ritual

Post, photography, and YouTube Video by Rain San Martin My favorite part of the day has always been the morning coffee, as I peruse lovely ...