Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Sensory Word of the Week

Photo by @mariemunthoni
After last week's sensory word of the week post featured incandescent, I was inspired to keep going with language that can describe celestial bodies. According to, a crescent is "a curved shape that is wider in the middle than at its ends, like the shape of the moon during its first and last quarters." Last weekend, the St. Louis area had some unseasonably nice weather that drew many of us outdoors in the evenings, and there were great views of a crescent moon, growing a bit bigger each night in the phases between the new moon and the first quarter.

Crescent comes from the Latin word crescere meaning "grow." While crescent is now commonly used to describe either waxing moons before the first quarter or waning moons after the third quarter, this wasn't always the case. notes that in the past the word was only used in reference to the waxing moons, as their illumination is growing each night, which reflects the Latin meaning. Waning moons are shrinking.  

Ever since the total eclipse on August 21, I've had a heightened awareness and curiosity about what is going on in the sky. So many people, myself included, were completely entranced by the phenomenon of the eclipse, much more than we could have anticipated.

Apparently an eclipse of this magnitude, visible from coast to coast in the US, had not been experienced for the past 99 years. Seeing the moon in front of the sun, creeping closer and closer over time, was such a unique sight to behold. The light got dimmer and dimmer, and then the serenity of totality seeped in. The glowing halo of fire around the sun was simply beautiful. I talked to several friends and family members about their eclipse experiences, and we all seemed to have something in common. For a short period of time in the middle of the day, we all tuned into our senses, stayed in the moment, and took notice of everything going on around us. Some people noticed the sounds—birds got quiet but crickets and locusts sang loudly as if it were the middle of the night. Some saw bats come out. Some noticed the temperature drop. As the moon slowly moved and revealed more and more of the sun, many noticed playful crescent-shaped shadows on the ground, as you can see in the photo at the top of this post. Others celebrated with festive treats like Krispy Kreme Eclipse Doughnuts. 

Photo by @ambremaddock

During the eclipse, everyone tuned into their senses and remained whole-heartedly in the moment. We did so because we knew that we were about to witness something special. The eclipse was a perfect exercise in mindfulness. What if we all tuned into our senses and noticed the world around us more often? What extraordinary things would we notice in the everyday moments?

As always, if you'd like to suggest a sensory word, please pass it along! You can reach me at

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sunday Senspiration: Festival Fever

Summer is a time for festivals, and festivals are always a bottomless buffet for the senses. You soak in sights, sounds, and smells from every direction. You get comfortable in the fresh prickly grass in the shade on a hot sunny day or walk around from booth to booth ogling and touching hand-crafted goods from local vendors. And there’s never a lack of drinks, eats, and treats to sip and savor.  

In the St. Louis area there are tons of great festivals, always more than I can possibly attend. Some of my favorites this summer have been the Fiesta in Florissant in June, presented by Hispanic Festival, Inc., and the International Institute’s Festivalof Nations in Tower Grove Park just this weekend. The Fiesta in Florissant celebrates Hispanic cultures, and the Festival of Nations showcases the traditions of countries all over the world. Both of these festivals feature live music and dance. Within half an hour at the Festival of Nations, I saw Irish dance, salsa, and the incredible all-male teen step group Gentlemen of Vision.

Of course food is a major highlight at these festivals. At the Fiesta in Florissant, a friend from Bolivia suggested I try the salteñas. Bolivian salteñas are slightly sweet pastries filled with a savory chicken stew, a bit like baked empanadas. They were simply delicious, and I was thrilled to find the same vendor at the Festival of Nations yesterday. Perhaps even more exciting than the food, vendor booths at both of these festivals were an almost overstimulating endless rainbow of clothing, jewelry, housewares, instruments, art and more.

I also love traveling for a festival. Last weekend we road-tripped down to Georgia for Wildwood Revival, a 3-day music festival on a farm. Folk musicians performed in an open-air barn lit by thousands of twinkle lights. I finally heard Shakey Graves perform Dearly Departed live, which I’ve been eagerly awaiting since a concert was rained out last summer. Wildwood is such a small intimate festival that we could get right up to the stage to see shows, but it was also fun to listen as we wandered around the farm. We hung out on hay bales when kids weren’t climbing them. We sampled local honey and strawberry habanero soda. One vendor was giving out giant slices of a watermelon he had bought from a roadside stand. We bought some beautiful personalized leather goods from In Blue Handmade. It was a hot weekend in Georgia, so I was excited to see a cart selling Hip Pops, locally made ice pops in a plethora of sassy flavors like Mama Said Choc You Out.

Festival-going in the summer has been fun, and luckily festivals abound in the fall as well. I’m looking forward to more. What are some of your favorite festivals in St. Louis or elsewhere?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Sensory Word of the Week

This week is the 5th post in a mini-series of words ending in -escence or -ecent. The Latin root escent means "beginning, becoming, tending to be," and I'm realizing that several words with that ending describe things and experiences that are wonderfully multi-sensory. Today's word, of course, falls in line, as it describes something that can be felt, seen, and in many cases even sensed through scent or sound (just think of what you smell and hear when you strike a match.)

According to, incandescent means "emitting light as a result of being heated." defines incandescent as "glowing or white with heat." The word can also refer to figurative glowing, such as "masterly; extraordinarily lucid" or "aglow with ardor, purpose, etc." Incandescent comes from the Latin prefix in meaning "within" followed by candere meaning "to glow or shine." Much of the light we experience in our daily lives is produced through incandescence—light from the sun, stars, fire. Some light bulbs are incandescent because they contain a filament, and when  electric current passes through it, the filament produces light. Not all light bulbs are incandescent (many of us now use more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs), but all candles are incandescent, and in fact, the word candle comes from the same Latin root candere.

Do you remember the name of the candlestick in Disney's Beauty and the Beast? Lumière! Most of the supporting characters were named after words that described the inanimate object they embodied and brought to life: Cogsworth the clock, Chip the chipped teacup, Mrs. Potts the teapot. But in fact Lumière the candlestick is a bit of a misnomer. Luminescent, which was last week's sensory word, refers to light emitted by anything EXCEPT heat. Nonetheless, both describing words reference something giving off light.

I mentioned last week on the blog that several escent-ended words were related to luminescent, and there are a slew of them that  are a specific type of luminescence. They all fall under the luminescent umbrella, if you will, describing the emission of light through something other than heat.  Fluorescence is "the property of absorbing light of short wavelength and emitting light of longer wavelength," according to This difference in wavelengths accounts for why fluorescent materials may appear to be different colors when exposed to different kinds of light. Phosphorescence is similar to fluorescence, but it happens over an extended time period (think glow-in-the-dark toys that appear a different color in the dark.)

In addition, I suggest checking out this chemistry website that shares a VERY extensive list, and here are just a few of my favorites:
  • Sonoluminescence - refers to light produced as a result of sound waves
  • Bioluminescence - describes organisms that naturally produce light (many of these are ocean-dwelling, but there are also several species of bioluminescent fungi)
  • Chemiluminescence - light produced by a chemical reaction
  • Thermoluminescence - light emitted when solids and crystals are only mildly heated (seems like a slippery slope, but more than mild would mean they're incandescent)
Next week, the series will continue. If you have a word to share, and perhaps a picture to go with it, please pass it along! You can always reach me at

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Sensory Word of the Week

According to, luminescent is a word that describes something that emits "light by a substance that has not been heated." defines luminescence as "a soft glowing light" or "any cold light." Luminescence is brought on by a number of different processes, including electricity, biology, and chemistry, all taking place at relatively low temperatures. The word is derived from the Latin root lumen, meaning "light." 

A couple weeks ago, I visited the Missouri Botanical Garden at night to see a luminescent display of art in the Climatron, the Garden's vast iconic dome greenhouse. Garden of Glass was an exhibit of larger-than-life fused glass sculptures created by Craig Mitchell Smith. Walking through the lush Climatron that evening felt a little like a scene from a tropical glow-in-the-dark version of Alice in Wonderland, walking through the giant flowers. The glass sculptures embodied blooms of all shapes and sizes, monarch butterflies, dragonflies, birds' nests, trees, cacti, smoke, and even a waterfall. Glowing hues from every shade of the rainbow were illuminated.

The displays were imaginative and exciting, but also there was a sense of serenity and mystery throughout the garden at night. It was so dark that only shadows of the natural vegetation could be seen. Many of the luminescent sculptures slowly changed from one vibrant hue to another. The warm humid air of the Climatron enveloped visitors, with only a cool breeze under the ledge where rushing water falls into a pool. The musky sweet scents of tropical plants permeated the space.

Several words are related to luminescence, and I'll explore some of them next week on the blog as I continue this mini-series of escent or esence-ended words that describe unique sensory experiences or abilities. For now, what awe-inspiring examples of luminescence have you experienced?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sunday Senspiration: Awakening the Senses Under the Big Top

I have loved @CirqueduSoleil for a long time. I did ballet and gymnastics growing up, and more recently, I’ve dabbled in acro yoga, so there is a big piece of me that is in awe of the sheer strength, flexibility, skill, and grace of the performers. However, Cirque du Soleil is so much more than a circus with impressive acts—each show is like a volcano erupting with multi-sensory beauty, and it sweeps up the audience, carrying everyone into a magical world where it’s nearly impossible for your mind to wander back to reality until the show is over. Live original music makes Cirque performances come to life—singers and musicians are often on stage in full costume or creatively tucked into the shadows. The sets and costumes are always bursting with vivid colors, and both are extremely intricate and imaginative, filling up whatever environment they are in. I was once at a show where a giant wisteria flower bloomed on stage, and suddenly the air was filled with a sweet flowery scent.  

I have seen touring Cirque du Soleil shows in local arenas, and I’ve seen shows that have permanent Las Vegas residencies in beautiful custom-made theaters. However, to me, the best place to see Cirque is under the big top. It’s a much more intimate environment, and the stage draws people in from every angle, with performances taking place in nearly 360 degrees. Dramatic shadows and projections onto the walls of the tent add to the immersive environment. Plus, it’s just fun to walk inside a big top circus tent.

When I traveled to Denver earlier this summer, Cirque du Soleil’s LUZIA big top was in town, and I had a seat in the sixth row. LUZIA: A Waking Dream of Mexico was inspired by Mexico—its culture, its traditions, its natural environments. At the beginning of the show as the stage slowly came to life, with animals creeping out and lights getting brighter, as if morning was here, I felt something softly brush across my shoulders—I turned around to see a few performers embodying birds flitting through the aisles. Soon a larger-than-life monarch butterfly took the stage with wings vibrantly fluttering in the wind, perhaps as a visual symbol of this Canadian circus company connecting to Mexico, as monarchs are known for their epic migrations from Canada through cool mountain passes and river valleys in the US, and on further to the high mountains of central Mexico where they roost (and back). Throughout the show numerous performers wore elaborate costumes and moved in ways that embodied a number of plants and animals native to the country—fish, armadillos, hummingbirds, crocodiles, snakes, a jaguar, a horse, bright blooming flowers, cacti.

The show gets its name from a combination of two Spanish words. Luz in Spanish means “light”, and lluvia means “rain.” Throughout the evening, we drifted back and forth through these two elements, light and rain. There were moments when the stage exploded with lively citrus colors, embodying sun and summer itself, and there were also cool, calming moments of rain. Water at times sprinkled, and at other times poured, down from above onto the middle of the stage, and performers went right on with their acts on hoops and trapezes through the showers. When it rained, we heard echoes of thunder and felt a cool breeze coming from the stage.

Just as we went back and forth between light and rain, we went on a sensory journey through a number of different settings, both urban and natural, past and present. We saw soccer, hacky sack, lucha libre, and the filming of a movie; we were transported to a dance salon, a city street, a traditional feast with altars created for Dia de los Muertos, guitar and brass music filling the tent. We plunged under the ocean and into natural swimming holes. We saw both the haze of a semi desert and the tropical lushness of a jungle.

When the show ended and the audience was walking out that night, we experienced yet another surreal sensory moment—although it was a beautiful night when we walked in, it had clearly stormed during the show. Everything in sight was drenched, and there was still lightning and thunder in the not-so-far-off distance. We had all assumed the thunder we heard during the show was part of the special effects, but it seemed quite likely that at least some of it was real.

LUZIA: A Waking Dream of Mexico was a beautiful, multi-sensory performance, but I realize that it was an artistic interpretation—one that inspired me to learn more about the real Mexico, its people and cultures. I am grateful to live and work alongside many Mexican Americans in St. Louis who have shared their music, art, food, stories, and other traditions, and I look forward to learning even more from them in the future.

If you ever have a chance to see Cirque du Soleil, especially under the big top, I highly recommend it. LUZIA is currently in Chicago. What captivating performances, circus or beyond, have engaged your senses?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Sensory Word of the Week

The Cambridge Dictionary defines efflorescence as "the period when flowers start to appear on a plant." According to, the word has Latin roots. Efflorescere means "to bloom," and flor means "flower." The word flourish comes from the same routes. offers broader definitions of this concept of blossoming, definitions that go beyond the garden. Efflorescence is also a chemistry terms that refers to "a process that occurs when something changes to a powder from loss of water or crystallization." Ultimately, efflorescence refers to "fullness of manifestation." It denotes profuse and high-quality production of art, creative ideas, culture, etc. Generally, it's a very positive concept. However, the late great poetry legend Edgar Allan Poe painted efflorescence in a bit of a different light.

Late in his life Poe wrote an essay called "The Poetic Principle" in which he expresses his thoughts on poetry and how it is created. In this essay, Poe spoke of an "efflorescence of language," referring to words and phrases that were "flowery, or overly rich and colorful," according to He apparently thought that the good use of language had gone too far.

Nonetheless, efflorescence in nature is something that engages the senses. Few things make me more content than observing buds slowly open their petals and develop into bright bursts of color.

This Wednesday's Word of the Week is the third in a series of words that end in escent or escence and engage the senses. If there any words you would like to see featured in this series, please share!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sunday Senspiration

I like to have a clean environment. It makes me feel happier or at least a little calmer, and I can think more clearly. I wish my place was sparkly clean all the time, but honestly, I don’t particularly enjoy cleaning. It takes time that I’d rather be using to do something else, as I'm sure you can empathize, but I know the act of cleaning is necessary to reap the benefits.

Because I tend to be process-oriented instead of product-oriented, I have begun to think about cleaning as a multi-sensory experience. There are quite a few little habits I have intentionally created that engage my senses and make my cleaning process a little more pleasant:

-         Listen to good music – I turn on one of my favorite Pandora stations, and that automatically helps me both relax and stay energized even though I know I’m in for a few hours of work.

Product image courtesy of
-         Use products you enjoy – I like to use products that are relatively eco-friendly and have scents that are not overpowering. Mrs.Meyer’s Multi-Surface Everyday Cleaner in basil scent is probably my favorite product to use. It literally says on the bottle, “The cool crisp scent of BASIL is said to revive the senses, clear the head and CALM the nerves. Imagine. All that from a simple herb – and a SPARKLING clean house too!” I never noticed the bottle had that cheeky little description until I wrote this post, but yes, that pretty much sums it up! Mrs. Meyer’s products come in a slew of other pleasant aromas, and the soft-colored labels on the bottles create a muted rainbow in your cleaning cabinet, which I can appreciate. I also like to use the Better Life line of cleaning products, and I especially enjoy the clary sage scent. And bonus: Better Life is a local St. Louis business. Both of these products have a scent right after you spray them, but it doesn't linger long, which is good.

-         Use fun towels and dishcloths – Plenty of dish towels have playful prints and sayings that make me smile. What’s on your towels doesn’t have ANY real effect on cleanliness, but appreciating the simple little things, like the words of pineapple wisdom pictured on the towel above, can make the experience just a tad more enjoyable. I’ve currently got my eye on some tea towels designed by Natterdoodle. Another product worth mentioning: Swedish dishcloths by Three Bluebirds. They are wonderfully absorbent and great for wiping down kitchen counters. Plus, they come in colorful graphics and patterns, and you can throw them in the washer OR the dishwasher when dirty.
Product image courtesy of

-         Bake or slow cook – Especially in the winter, I like to put together some sort of soup or crockpot meal that can be cooking while I clean with minimal attention. Baking something is also a good option, but that usually means taking breaks from cleaning a little more often. Either way, I like the aroma slowing dispersing through my place, and when the work is finished, there’s something delicious to enjoy.

-         Light a candle - I don’t always take the extra time to prepare food while cleaning. In the summer time, it usually seems too warm for that. In that case, I like to light a candle and have a soft summer scent spread through the rooms. Pacifica soy candles are usually my go-to, with my current favorite scent being Waikiki Pikake, which smells light and sweet. Used to make traditional flower necklaces in Hawaii, pikake flowers are small and white, but they’re named after the exotic beauty of peacocks. Why not daydream about an escape to paradise while cleaning?

-         Hydrate – I take time to make a special drink to enjoy while cleaning. Usually it’s hot tea in the winter time, and in the summer time, I like a refreshing iced tea or sparkling water.

-         Strategically order tasks - There are a few cleaning tasks I do enjoy because of their sensory appeal, and I strategically bribe myself with a relatively fun task after I complete a task that I tend to dread. For example, I like vacuuming because I like the crunching sound of dirt being sucked up; I save vacuuming the rugs for after I Swiffer and mop the hardwood floors. I also like cleaning my makeup brushes—swirling the plush brushes around in the palm of my hand with bubbling cleanser and warm water has an almost hypnotizing effect on me. I usually save this task for after scrubbing the whole bathroom.

-         Buy flowers - I like to reward myself with fresh flowers once the place has been cleaned. It’s like tying a beautiful bow onto a carefully wrapped present. 

-         Bask in the clean – Not that it’s always possible, but I like to clean when I have time to unwind in my fresh environment after. I might take a nap, watch a movie, read a book, drink some wine, enjoy the meal that was cooking—nothing special, just relaxing. When I clean and have to go somewhere right afterward, I don’t feel quite as satisfied. Last month I cleaned on the first day of a 4-day weekend, and it was wonderful to be in a tidy space through the rest of the weekend.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Sensory Word of the Week

Last week's Sensory Word of the Week post on iridescent, pearlescent, and opalescent was the first in a mini-series of escent-ended words to be featured on the blog. While iridescent is a highly descriptive word that pertains to visual appearances, this week's word is one that engages sensations that are both seen AND felt.

According to, effervescent is a descriptive word that means "giving off bubbles" or "fizzy." While effervescent typically describes liquids, there is also a second meaning of the word that describes personalities: "vivacious and enthusiastic." cites that the word comes from the roots fervere, a verb that means "to boil" and escent, which means "beginning, becoming, tending to be."

Some liquids that are effervescent may be boiling, but in many cases, fizzy liquids may give off bubbles due to carbonation, not boiling. Carbonated beverages are among my favorite things! Drinking flavored sparkling water feels like miniature fruit fairies are dancing around and setting off the teensiest of fireworks inside my mouth, and I love it.

This summer I discovered a new favorite effervescent beverage. Heirloom Bottling Co. is a local St. Louis company that makes cocktail syrups and shrubs from whole fruits and pure vinegars—check out @heirloombottling on Instagram for some great videos of the production process. A shrub is a concentrated syrup made with fruit, vinegar, and sugar, and sometimes spices or herbs are also incorporated. You can use a small amount of the shrub to mix a drink. I like to keep it simple (and bubbly) and use this shrub with sparkling water. When you pour a carbonated beverage over the shrub, the vinegar has an especially effervescent effect.

On a hot summer day, enjoying a bubbly and tart shrub drink with some fresh fruit is the best; it's simple and refreshing. Heirloom Bottling's shrubs and syrup come in blackberry lemon mint, blueberry sage, lime peppercorn, and grapefruit ginger vanilla. Heirloom Bottling Co. sells their shrubs at farmers markets throughout the city and  also at some local shops, including one of my favorite Maplewood spots, Larder & Cupboard.  

I'm always curious about nature—where can we witness natural effervescence? Lava bubbling up from volcanoes is considered effervescent. Calcite and carbonate minerals have an effervescent reaction when exposed to acid ( You'll also find frothy bubbly water at gushing waterfalls and natural pools or blowholes at high tide. I once climbed down a rocky beach cliff in Maui to see a small blowhole (picture above), and the effervescence was hypnotizing.

What effervescent things do you enjoy? Are there other descriptive escent words you would like to see featured as a Sensory Word of the Week? Feel free to send a picture, and I'll share it on Instagram!