Sunday, 31 July 2011

Blessed Lughnasadh!

Happy and blessed Lughnasadh Eve to you all! This is one of my favourite celebrations on the wheel of the year (along with Samhein and Yule), because it is quite dear to my heart. The main reason is that it was the first celebration that I had truly celebrated, by attending a weekend festival with a friend in 1997 at Lothlorien Nature Sanctuary, in southern Indiana. 

Midsummer Moon Dance is not an event that they hold any more because it wasn't one of the big ones, but it's a weekend that I still remember very clearly. I remember the circles that were held, that were kept open and informal. The amazing feeling of sleeping under the stars...there was no light pollution and the weather was hot, humid, and clear for the entire weekend (too warm to be sleeping in our tent). Everybody going skinny dipping in the creek at the bottom of the hill, to cool off. Getting my head around the concept of 'Skyclad is welcome'. And the Thunderdome. Nothing will ever compare to it...everybody sitting around, people who brought their drums, flutes, and even a home-made didgeridoo, and spinning and dancing around the bonfire (and almost catching my skirt on fire because I semi-tranced and got too close).  The energy over the entire weekend was amazing, and I went home buzzing.

Unfortunately, I've not had the opportunity to do anything similar. Here in the UK, most of my friends don't really acknowledge it because it's not one of the major celebrations. Because so many of us have no real connection to the harvests, we've lost the celebration of the first harvest, and even the second harvest (Mabon, or the Autumnal Equinox). Even Samhein has lost it's entire meaning. Yes, the veil is thinner and we celebrate our ancestors and those that have passed on over the year, but it's also the celebration of the final harvest. Today I will be celebrating by cleaning my house (similar to a spring clean), adding a salad to my lunch with the lettuce harvested from my own garden, baking some zucchini bread with zucchini and eggs gifted from a friend, and taking a bit of that as an offering to Lugh with the Imp to the nearby river.

We'll also be spending time in our back garden, which for my first real attempt at a veg patch, I am really proud of. I'm in a rented house, and the landlord thought that it would be easy maintenance for the tenants to layer the garden in pebbles and peat. Unfortunately, the weeds are a nightmare, on top of it reminding me of a barren wasteland.  So, I used a load of the pots that people had given to me, scraped a few of the stones at the end of the garden away (I wanted to do more, but it's really difficult when doing it with just a spade), and planted seeds in whatever space I could find. I had planned on moving the pumpkins all down to the end of the garden, but I had a plant that had decided to reseed itself from last year's harvest (I only put pumpkin out last year as an experiment) in March, and it now is taking over my path and has a pumpkin the size of your head. I've had lots of kos lettuce that I have been harvesting, as well as beetroot (I dice it and roast it with potatoes, onion, smoked sausage, and herbs...yum). I currently have lots of little green tomatoes that I expect to get bigger and go red within the next fortnight (maybe? This is coming from a complete novice). The sunflowers, as you can tell from the pics, are now almost as tall as I am. The two sweetcorn plants that I randomly bought from the market for 10p a piece and threw into pots now each have a tiny ear of corn with the silk coming over the top forming. The pumpkin plants at the end of the garden are getting big really fast.  We don't have strawberries this year, but the plants that we bought to rescue are finally starting to thrive. As are the herbs in the 'mixed pot'...I've already snipped a few of those for a stew the other day, and it was amazing. I usually use dried herbs, but I'm definitely going to change my ways. I'm currently making arrangements to sort out the bits that we need for the arrival of quails, so we'll have quails eggs of our own, soon.

Next year, I've been offered the assistance of friends and a rototiller, so I'm now starting to plan in my head how to correct the mistakes that I've made this year (not enough compost in the pots of tomatoes, for example), and what more that we can put out. I do have cucumber and radish out this year, but I think they need to be somewhere else, where they're not being shaded by the sunflowers. I still have my fingers crossed for them.  I also want to put out onion, carrots, and possibly cauliflower, along with other veg. 

I can say that it makes pulling all of the weeds a lot easier and more enjoyable. And the bigger the veg (especially the pumpkins) get, the less weeds there are. And the Imp is actually getting really good at helping weed, even if she did accidentally mutilate one of the smaller pumpkin plants the other day (it was an accident...it's in a shady corner, so not as big as the rest of them, and absolute inundated with weeds).
Long view of the garden, trying to capture most of the plants.
My pot of mixed herbs (basil, oregano, sage, thyme, and a little lavender) and one of the lavender that I'm trying to rescue in the other pot


One of the many ladybirds that we've had this year in the sunflowers. Various bees have also been sighted.
View of the sunflowers from the neighbour's garden

One of the tomato plants
The pumpkin that helped itself
Quail chicks at my friend, Raine's, that I am getting prepared to start with.
Mel

Friday, 29 July 2011

I am not, nor will I ever be a Priestess or Warrior...

And I'm honest with myself about that. It's something that I've struggled to understand about some people within rituals and celebrations. Everything seems to have to be done formally with every group ritual, and there's always got to be a High Priest and/or High Priestess.  And everybody seems to have aspirations that they have to obtain that level. It's the same that I see often within Heathenry, as well. I see a lot, especially the men but I've seen women doing it too, that either claim the status of Warrior, and/or invalidate those that don't seem to be esteemed enough to be a warrior.

What these people seem to forget is that the tribes that they aspire to be like were mixed communities. Not everybody could be a warrior...you needed people that could remain home in the village and maintain daily life. Not all men are suited to be warriors, not all women are suited to running a home. It's just like modern day now. Not everybody was a Druid, Priest, or Priestess. In fact, it tended to be one person that travelled amongst a few villages. The same for medicine women/men and herbalists. Most people may have had a basic knowledge of what was good and bad for you, and could recognise the standard plants near their home. But there was likely to have been only one or two people who had intimate knowledge of medicinal plants and what they could do.

When I started my initial path discoveries within Paganism, there was so much pressure to learn everything, to be everything. To a newbie (some people use the term 'fluffy bunny'), it's all sparkly, new information that you're bombarded with, that you think you have to read all of the books available. As I've grown more within myself, and found more clarity, I've found that isn't true. I've seen some impressive book collections. I have an impressive book collection, but I have an excuse for my collection...I used to own a start-up new age shop. I have a few that people have teased me about owning because they tended to be in the 'fluffy bunny newbie' variety. Yes, well actually they can make good doorstops, to be fair, but it actually is worth a read but you must take what's written with a grain of salt. Make your own conclusions and do further research. Also, work out what actually makes sense to you.

What would my place have been within a tribal community? Well, first off, I'm a mother. I have a duty to raise the next generation with common sense and as much knowledge of the world as I can provide.  I can cook and bake, and I have been know to often have food and munchies of varying degrees for my friends and groups that I've worked with.  I don't do anything spectacularly fancy, but I do things that are simple to do for more than two people that's tasty and enjoyed. To be fair, I have three younger brothers and learned to cook at home for six. Even though it's now just the Imp and I, I struggle not to cook for an army so it's not a big deal if somebody pops around unexpectedly...I'm likely to have enough dinner for them and at least two other people.  I'm also a font for useless information. Well, some of it could be good information. I have a really good long term memory, and in the right circumstances can go into a sort of 'storyteller' mode. That does not mean that I'm meant to be a Bard. I don't particularly care for poetry. I do love music and singing, but can't always remember everything. But when the Imp's granddad asked what was going on within the "Twilight" saga, because he was interested in watching the films but not reading the books (he's a film buff and watches everything), I spent over an hour in 'storyteller' mode and managed to tell him the story of all four books, plus the spinoff book, and I had a sense of accomplishment and excitement at the end of it (along with a dry and sore throat). Ok, that may seem silly to be that knowledgeable and like that series at the age of 34, but for me I don't have to think when reading or watching them...it's like brain candy.

If I had a mind to, I probably could be a High Priestess...I have the energy, mental capacity, and empathy to be able to guide a group. I just don't have the will or desire to. I've had people often in the past that have said that I made a good leader. I prefer to be the person aiding the leader, making sure that they have what's needed to lead efficiently. I do have a bit of interest in herbalism, and many years ago I was starting to slowly learn about it, but I honestly have a memory like a sieve and living in the city I've never had much of an opportunity to learn about plants in the wild.   As for being a warrior...yeah, right. I could defend myself at a push, but I've had no training and my health isn't always 100%.

I am still learning on my path, but I know what I don't fit in. I do have a keen interest in being able to help other people, but have never had the opportunity to train properly. At the moment, I'm only qualified for retail or office work. There's nothing wrong with them except that I personally find them mind numbing. I want to do more. So, I'm going to make a second attempt at returning to college in September, now that I have the maturity to actually study. I did go to a few years of university after high school, but it just didn't seem to be the right time in my life, and everything seemed to just go wrong.  You all will probably get a bit of my whinging about homework and papers starting in September, but I'm looking forward to actually getting through the entire course this time (I started last September, but had to drop in March).

I know what my place is on my path, and it isn't to be a High Priestess or Warrior. But I do have an ever-expanding place within my community. We all have something to teach each other, but we must remember that we can't bombard others with our information unless they ask for it. We can't be pushy about it, either. I didn't think that I had a place as a teacher or storyteller, and fought for a long time against it. But now I find myself blogging, and that it's giving me a new sense of desire. Yes, some of it may be a bit of crazy randomness, but I hope that I'm helping with some useful information for other people. I like sharing my cooking, so putting my recipes on here helps me share with everybody. Sharing my craft work is keeping me motivated to keep it going. And posts like this help me through a thought process and get my opinion out in the open.

Mel

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Cross Stitch: Wheel of the Year - Week 3


Not the best pic in the world, but I thought I would actually try to take a daylight photo of the work in process. Again, it might not look like I've done much, but I've gotten quite a bit done this week. At the moment, it seems like a lot of tedious highlighting bits, but I actually added some green in last night, which shook it up from all the variegated browns. And I'm starting to see the individual spokes coming out of the centre. If I really make a concerted effort in the coming evenings, I might be able to finish this first page by next week, the four week mark. A bit slower than I was hoping (we all know about my lack of patience), so I'm looking at this potentially taking a year to complete. Some of the side pages aren't full pages, but I'll be going back to college in September, so that will slow it up a little. I wish that I could be one of the fast stitchers, but that will never happen. Oh well...I'm truly enjoying it, and I'm enjoying sharing my progress.

Mel

Zucchini (Courgette) Bread


Thick sliced Zucchini (Courgette) Bread

Today was the first time that I have attempted my grandmother's zucchini (courgette, for the English) bread as gluten and wheat free...it's turned out as a resounding success. For me, it's some serious comfort food...hot out of the oven (or if I'm having it later, I reheat it in the microwave for a few seconds) with loads of melted butter. LUSH!  I have been known to take it with me to a party, and found that it's better for me to not tell people what's in it until they've tried it first, because you tell them that it's sweet and has courgette in it, and they turn their noses up at it. If I wait to tell them, they end up shocked and really enjoying it. The same goes for when I've made apple butter. It's a little difficult to explain what it is to people that it's not from their culture. They see it being dark brown and gloopy looking, so won't even try it. But I do have converts that I've turned into addicts (hey, Witchy Kitty, I'll probably be doing an apple butter batch sometime within the next month :P ).

The recipe for Zucchini Bread that I have is from my step-grandmother, Jean, and has always been a family favourite. The Imp had it for the first time today and gave it a rating of 'Nom Nom Nom'. To convert it to gluten/wheat free, I didn't have to make any adjustments because the courgette naturally contains a lot of liquid. I'm also sure that yours might rise a little more than mine did, because I've only just realised, as I've typed out the recipe, that I missed out on the baking powder. It probably didn't matter since the liquid part had time to sit because I went to grab the baking soda and realised I had none, and ended up going to all three of the local shops before I found any.  It's dairy free, as there is no butter, margerine, or anything of the like in it.

(Makes 2 loaves)

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (I use sunflower oil, and I have used olive oil in the past)
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups grated zucchini (courgette. And I dumped it through the food processor grater. I had a marrow and two courgettes, and got 6 cups from them. I've separated them into zipper bags, and what remains freezes well.
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract
  • 3 cups plain flour (I used Doves Farm Gluten and Wheat Free Plain Flour)
  • 3 tsps cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (optional...I've never added them, and I can't remember Grandma using them)
Preheat oven to 325F/165C/Gas Mark 3). Grease and flour two 8 inch x 4 inch loaf pans.
In a large bowl, beat eggs until light and frothy.  Mix in oil and sugar. Stir in zucchine and vanilla.
Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and nuts in a separate bowl.  Stir into egg mixture.
Divide batter into prepared pans. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until done (my oven can occasionally take it's merry sweet time, and I had it in for 90 minutes. Basically, until you insert a skewer or knife in the centre and it comes out clean).


Monday, 25 July 2011

Snickerdoodles (Originally posted 22/12/09 on The Alternating Kitchen Witch. Edited 25/07/11)

One from my mom, but this one converts nicely to gluten, wheat, and dairy free without any adjustments.

1 cup soft margerine (dairy free works, as well)
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp cream of tartar
2 3/4 cup sifted flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Mix together margerine, sugar, and eggs. Mix well. Sift together cream of tartar, flour, baking soda, and salt, and stir into other mix. Chill dough. Roll into balls the size of walnuts. Roll into a mixture of 2 tbsp sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon (adjust until it is the balance you want). Place about 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until lightly brown but still soft (these cookies puff up at first, then flatten out), at 400F (I put at just under gas mark 7), for 8 to 10 minutes.

Brightest Blessings
Mel

Joy Pockets (250711)

I have a few Joy Pockets from this last week.


  • Yet more leaps in the Imp's speech. She's gone from being a very quiet child to chattering almost non-stop. And the more that comes out, the funnier and cheekier she is. I had to walk away from her and her Grumpy in a shop on Saturday, because she essentially 'zinged' him. She shouldn't be so much of a smart aleck to her grandfather, but unfortunately I couldn't help but split a side laughing, so had to walk away so she couldn't see me laughing so hard about it.
  • Day out to Rand Farm Park. Nevermind the hayfever after-affect, watching the Imp glued to a woman milking a cow, getting over her nerves of feeding the goats and donkeys, and being so enthralled and gentle with the rabbits was lovely. It was also a shock when we went so she could pet the bunnies that she immediately spotted the girl guide troop there that had been told to sit in a row on a bench to take their turn, and she squidged her bum right in the middle of them, and sat as good as gold (they were older, and I think she sat even better than they did).

The Imp with the Bunny

  • The summer flowers. I think I actually enjoy them more than spring flowers.

Purple wildflowers on our way to the park


Japanese-breed sunflower in our back garden
  • The Imp starting to appreciate then environment around her, and actually enjoying a short trip through the nearby woods.
Walking on a path through the woods

  • Friends that checked on me after injuring myself on Wednesday.
  • Friday Night Girly Night! We had such a fantastic giggle that I've not had for a while. 
  • Being gifted veg, eggs, and quail's eggs fresh from a friend's allotment. We go through loads of veg and eggs, so it's highly appreciated. And we had never tried quails' eggs before, and I think the Imp is now hooked. It was the first time that I've let her peel her own boiled eggs, and she was amazingly quick (and doing a better job than I was).
Our rather pretty quails' eggs



Mel



joy pockets

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Cross Stitch: Wheel of the Year - Week 2




Apologies for the rotten pic this week. I managed to be rather graceful yesterday and sprained my ankle on a pothole. I normally am using my laptop on a wooden tv dinner stand, but it doesn't fit around the lap tray that I'm using as a foot rest, the laptop gets too hot for my lap, and I really need to break in the netbook before starting back at college in September. When I normally take the photo, it's partially leaning on the stand. Nothing like a bit of faff and drama, but self-enforced sitting on my butt is getting more stitching done, when Nurse Imp is really trying to be super helpful (and knocking my foot in the process, bless her. Luckily, I did a house-blitz a few days ago, when I washed the carpets, so I'm not freaking out about it not getting done.

I'm still on the first page of the twelve page chart, but I think I've made quite a bit of progress this week. I've cut it a bit short this evening because I'm just having a lax moment this evening. But even with as little as has been done, I feel so much energy coming off the work, because I'm sharing so much in it. I feel like I'm not getting it done fast enough, because I can see the entire completed project in my head, and where I want it to hang.  Patience, Patience, Patience. Oh, who am I kidding, everybody knows that my patience can be borderline sometimes. :P

Mel

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

I don't want to be some average anybody...

What would be the point if we were all the same? I fully admit to being weird and random. I don't want to be the leader, but I also don't want to follow the crowd. I get a bit fed up of a society that expects individuals to all fit in the same box. I can't even go out to a normal shop to buy a plain women's t shirt because they're too short...I'm 5'8, and the average British woman is 5'4. Granted, if I could get away with it, I'd be in Viking or Celtic traditional day wear, at least similar to what preservationists wear. It looks so much more comfortable that our daily clothes. To not be expected to squeeze into a pair of skinny jeans (seriously, that actually isn't likely to happen for me), yourself to be a super-skinny automatons.

I love to read, but not the 'chick-lit' that seems to be so popular. No, try fantasy and science fiction for me, especially high fantasy. I roleplay Dungeons and Dragons, too. At 34. It allows me to socialise with friends, be creative, and relax. I'm extremely random in my musical tastes, and it depends on my mood as to what I'm listening to. My current music ranges on my MP3 player range from Within Temptation, Loreena McKennitt, Lady Gaga, Michael Buble, Train, a few Glee tracks, Josh Groban, and My Chemical Romance.

Being normal it boring, so I choose not to be :)

Here is one of my favourite songs that truly speaks to my randomness..."Counting Airplanes" by Train. I thought I would share it, to go with my mood.




Mel

Monday, 18 July 2011

Joy Pockets (180711)

This week has had it's moments, and it's quite nice to be able to stop and contemplate on some positives after hearing of some appalling news from a few friends. It truly makes me count my blessings.

  • Mummy Fail turning into a positive. The imp loved dressing up as a pirate and saying 'Yo Ho Ho', and even asked to have her 'pirate put back on her head' on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Role Playing with friends. We had a fab game of D&D Eberron yesterday, and I'm starting to pick up on things more and more.
  • A carpet washer on sale being bought for us. The house now smells rather fluffy and floral, and there's a drastic improvement in how the floor looks
  • Freecycle, and my dining table getting removed out of my way in under two hours of being posted. For those of you that have never done Freecycle, go to www.freecycle.org . There you can find the site for your local area.
  • The gorgeousness of this week's full moon, and the weather in Lincoln clearing in the evenings so it was visible.

joy pockets

A bit of a slow one the last week on my posting, but I do plan on doing more this week. I have a couple of posts in mind, as well as I'll post at least a couple of recipes :)

Mel

Friday, 15 July 2011

Star-Spangled Bites (Gluten/Wheat Free)

Well, as most people on my Facebook and Google+ know, I had a mummy-fail today. Not quite an epic fail, but pretty darn close. The end of the school term is coming up soon, and the Imp's nursery has a Pirate Party planned to celebrate and to say farewell to those that are leaving the nursery and entering primary school (the Imp doesn't start primary until 2012, so she will be returning to the nursery in September). For the party, the kids can go dressed as pirates, and I signed up to take in cupcakes.

Last week with my Baked and Delicious magazine subscription I had a dozen little silicone star cupcake moulds arrive. The Imp was so excited, so I promised that we could use them for the party cakes. I got up early this morning, baked 60 of these tiny cakes because I only put one teaspoon in each mould instead of two. They turned out the size of a 50p coin, but rather cute. I then cut a strip of fabric to turn into a pirate sash for the Imp, and another bit of fabric for a bandana. She looked adorable, and was on cloud 9 because her current favourite program is "Jake and the Neverland Pirates". I had just managed to get the cupcakes safely packed so we could take them on the bus, the Imp all sorted, and out the door to go to nursery.  When we arrived, I was confused as to why the child that was leaving when we arrived was in normal clothing. I shrugged it off thinking that he may have just had a miserable mum. Thinking nothing of it, we went in and up the stairs. The Imp was the only child dressed as a pirate. I quickly glanced at the notice board. Oops, I had screwed up. By a week. The end of the term in this county isn't until next Friday. Mummy fail.

But we managed to turn it around. It's the first time that I've tried a slightly different cupcake recipe, and it made for a good test run. The Imp didn't care how she was dressed, and ran off to play with her friends. The cupcakes were shared amongst the 6 children in the Preschool room, however many in the Baby room, and the staff, to rave reviews. They were actually shocked that they were gluten/wheat free, because they turned out very light and fluffy, and very moreish. I think there was also surprise that I had made them myself. I think most people that have signed up for food on the list have intentions of getting shop-bought.  We'll just have to do it again next week.

And I'm thinking that I need to get a lot better about keeping a calendar. I have a fancy new smartphone that is tied in with my Google+, so maybe I should start having a play with that. Then my phone will start yelling at me to remind me to pay more attention to the date (that I rarely have much of a concept of).

I promised Beth on Facebook that I would share the recipe, so here it is. I have obtained it from "Baked and Delicious" Magazine, Issue 10 (Eaglemoss Publishing), Page 8.

Ingredients
For the Sponges
50g (2oz) butter, at room temperature (I used Flora Buttery margarine)
140g (4 1/2 oz) caster sugar (I never bother with caster sugar, and used granulated)
125g (4oz) plain flour (I used Dove's Farm Gluten and Wheat Free Plain Flour blend)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder (I used Dr Oetker's Gluten Free Baking Powder)
a pinch of salt
125ml (4fl.oz) milk (I used whole milk, and added a small splash more to accommodate for the gf/wf)
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the Buttercream
50g (2oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature (again, I used Flora Buttery)
125g (4oz) icing sugar, sifted
1 tbsp milk
a few drops vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3.  Put the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl and use an electric beater to mix it all to a fine breadcrumb consistency.

Pour in half the milk and beat until it is just combined.  Add the egg and vanilla to the remaining milk and whisk together.  Add the egg and milk mixture to the creamed mix, then whisk until the batter is smooth.

Use a teaspoon to fill the moulds.  There should be enough to make 36 stars, so do them in batches (I only put one teaspoon into each mould, and made 60. The cases produce about the diameter of a 50p coin, just in case you have another shape).  Cook the stars in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes until the tops are golden and springy to the touch (mine weren't golden because they were quite far down in the moulds. But they were springy).  Cool the stars on a wire rack.

Beat the butter until it is creamy and light, and only then gradually beat in the sifted icing sugar, the milk, and the drops of vanilla until the buttercream is really fluffy. Spread a little on the top of each star. Decorate as you please. I used edible red glitter flakes that I found on eBay.


Mel

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Cross Stitch: Wheel of the Year - Week 1



Well, I'm not as far along as I'd like to be, but I had a busy weekend. We had an overnight guest on Saturday night, so it got set in the dining room. Doing that makes it less likely for me to randomly pick my work up and add. But, I am happy with how much I do have done, even amongst some other frustrations.

Frustration 1:  I've realised that I miscounted by 2 inches on my waste canvas, on either side. It could be that I didn't actually miscount or mismeasure. I'm using a cross stitch design program that I've not used before, so I could have easily put a figure in wrong. Not a particularly big deal...I have more waste canvas and I can tack more on to the edges when I'm ready for that bit.

Frustration 2: I could really use with a proper embroidery floor stand. I have a 24 inch frame that I am balancing against my laptop stand and arm. Not a real issue, just annoying. At least it lets me multi-task...watch telly, watch Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, and stitch all at once. Hmm...that may be a touch of the reason why I don't have as much done as I'd like. But, I do most of my stitching in the evening, and the social networks are the majority of my social life.

Frustration 3: Energy saving bulbs suck. Even with having the brightest eco bulb available in my living room light, it's way too dim for me. I'm going quite short-sighted and seriously need more light. I finally clicked and realised this evening that my clip light for my Kindle fits quite nicely on the top of my frame. Shame that I can't find the battery charger, because the batteries are all flat, and I can't find the spare set of non-rechargeables that I keep around for just in case. Granted, they probably landed into a remote or something when I couldn't find the spare rechargeables.

I'd normally work on it until midnight, but my eyes are starting to do funny things, so I'd probably better not. I think I'll probably just go veg and watch "Lady Gaga Presents" that I'm recording. I'm pretty sure I'll find the battery charger tomorrow, and having the clip light will make a huge difference to the work I can do after I lose daylight.

Mel

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Are You Sure?

Most people that know the Imp and I know that at one point she was 6 months behind with her speech. A year ago, we were seeing speech therapists that ended up being a pointless waste of everybody's time because the Imp wasn't interested in them. If they tried to get her to play with what they wanted, she ignored them. If they tried to involve themselves in what she was already playing with, she'd walk off and do something else. She didn't have the vocabulary that was expected for a 2 1/2 year old. But we did realise that her vocabulary did consist of a lot of cooking terms that wouldn't normally be known by a little...we could go shopping and she could point out and say 'garlic' and she also knew that it went into our bolognaisse (she didn't have a word for that, but if I said what we were having she would start getting the ingredients out of the cupboard).

I finally decided to not bother with the speech therapists any more, knowing that she would eventually suss it out. What has actually happened is that she skipped the babbling stage and went straight into clear words, then immediately into sentences when she was ready. In March, it was like a switch had been flicked. She wasn't going to talk until she could say it properly, it seemed. Our relationship has actually improved since she's no longer getting frustrated at me not being able to understand her.

But I think she's skipped another stage...the 'Why' stage. In chatting with her today about dinner, I said 'I think we're going to have eggs for dinner'. The response that I get from her is a phrase that I've heard her say for a couple of days...'Are you sure?'. Well, yes, I am sure that we are going to have eggs for dinner. I forgot to pull meat out of the freezer, and the eggs are sitting on the counter, readily available. Not what you expect your 3 1/2 year old to ask, but I'll go with it. It's a lot easier to answer than 'why?', at least so far.

'Are you sure?' is a question that's commonly asked by a lot of people. 'Are you sure you really want to be doing that?', 'Are you sure that is what you really want?', 'Are you sure that is your final answer?', 'Are you sure that's what you believe?'. Such a broad but simple question, and it can really set you thinking. It reminds you to think things through, to make sure that you're not leaping lightly to a decision.  It's ok to have the occasional snap decision, but most things need to have a bit of contemplation. There are steps that need to be taken in your thought process for bigger decisions. I've had a few of those big decisions in my life, and I thoroughly thought my actions through, and followed through with my processes, only to have outsiders ask me 'Are you sure?'.

One of the things that I was ultimately sure about was my decision about religious beliefs. I was raised Christian, and all of my family still are, which is perfect for them. But I found that I was unhappy and questioning a lot of what was being taught. The more I thought about it, the more of a burden of unhappiness it became. When the opportunity arrived to study and research other paths of faith and enlightenment, it was like a a light at the end of a tunnel. I knew in my heart that faith should not be a burden, it should bring you joy, comfort, and support. Sometimes it is a solitary path, but in all actuality you aren't ever actually alone. For me, I always feel the presences of my goddesses and gods, as well as those of my grandmothers, spirit guides, and spirit friends.

So, when the question is raised 'Are you sure?', well, my answer is yes. By the time that I've been asked that question, I'll have already thought through my options, done any research required, and come to my final conclusion. But it's good to double check, whether it's somebody asking, or you asking yourself. Sometimes, you need to reassure yourself. Regarding my faith, yes, I am absolutely positive, and there will be no changing my mind. A long path opened up when I made that decision, and it is the biggest sureties of my life.

As for dinner, I'm liking the Imp asking me 'are you sure?'. It gives me the chance to ask what her opinion is on it, to give her a say in what we're doing or having. Yes, she may only be 3 1/2, but her opinion is just as valid as mine is, and gives her the confidence that she can help.

Mel

P.S. Don't forget to check out my guest post today over at The Pagan Mom Blog!

(Gluten Free) Cinnamon Rolls (Originally posted 12/02/09 on Alternating Kitchen Witch)

I found this recipe on www.allrecipes.com. I haven't altered it, except the fluid amounts (because of the wheat free flour). I'm posting it, because they turned out to be DIVINE!

  • 250 grams plain flour
  • 20g (4 tsp) baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 tbsp butter or margarine, divided
  • 180 ml (3/4 cup) milk (add a splash more to accommodate for wheat free)
  • 50 grams sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon (I am rather generous with this, and it was a rounded tsp)
Glaze:
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp butter or margarine, melted
  • 5 tsp milk (I added a splash more, to make it drizzleable)
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla
In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. Cut in 4 tbsp of the butter, until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in milk just until moistened (I added a splash more, because of the wheat free flour). Turn on to a lightly floured surface; Knead gently, 8 to 10 times. Roll into 8x11 rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick. Melt remaining butter. Brush over the dough (I misread the recipe, which says to brush 1 tbsp over it. I brushed the whole 2 tbsp, and, had to melt another tbsp for the end). Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over butter. Roll up jelly roll style, starting with the long edge. Cut into 12 equal slices (I think I managed 10...oops). Place with cut side down onto greased cookie sheet. Brush with remaining butter. Bake at 450F (230C) for 18 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes. Combine glaze ingredients; Spread (or, drizzle, in my case) over the warm rolls. Serve immediately.

SleepyKitty Rating: UmmNomNom....

Brightest Blessings
Mel

Monday, 11 July 2011

Joy Pockets (110711)

I've been contemplating a proper post all day, but nothing has been springing up. I'm getting frustrated, because I feel the need to write. Hmm...I never thought I'd say that. I've regularly discussed with The Witchy Kitty that I'm an editor (or, in her words, Wicked Widdy Witch) not a writer. But I'm finding that the more that I blog, the more of a desire that I have to write.

Witchy Kitty regularly posts her Joy Pockets, that are inspired by Monica at Holistic Mama and Bohemian Twilight, and I think that I'll start posting them myself. It's suggested that it's done on Friday or Saturday, but Monday feels just right for me. It gives me the weekend to mull over my previous week and get it into some words.

So, here are my Joy Pockets for the Week :)
Florence 'helping' me tweet
  • My gorgeous little Imp, and being amazed at how she's gone from behind with her speech to being a proper conversationalist, and how much easier it is on our relationship now that she can communicate with me.
  • My lovely two brats...oops, I mean Cats. Loki, who is regularly meowing at me, and Florence, who graces me with a little squeak about once every two months. Last week I was lucky enough to get two of those squeaks.
  • Gluten Free Cupcakes. I will be making 30 for the Imp's end of term Pirate Party at nursery, and there will be six leftover. Did I ever mention that I enjoy my own cooking?
  • Lughnassadh. My favourite Sabbat is coming up soon, and I'm starting to get ideas to actually write a ritual out for it, to share.
  • The calm and relaxation inspired by my crafting, which is currently my Wheel of the Year cross stitch project.
  • Hearing that my mom has managed to talk to my boys, and she forwarded a new pic of them.




joy pockets

Don't forget to have a look at The Pagan Mom Blog tomorrow for my guest blog post in her "31 Days of Deities" series :D

Mel

Friday, 8 July 2011

No, That's Not An Airplane, That's Thunder

This evening we've had some spectacular storms ripping through here. It's one of those things that I miss about Indiana...the regular storms in the summer. They're rare here in England. We get lots of wind and rain, but very rarely thunder and lightening. They're rare enough that it's the first time that the Imp has had to ask what they were. We had several huge hits of thunder, and she asked 'Is that an airplane?' with the most confused expression, like she understood that it wasn't the right sound for the jets that practice over our house. We live near several RAF bases, and last weekend the closest base had their annual air show, so we had a week of the USAF Thunderbirds, the RAF Red Arrows, and others all practising in the airspace over Lincoln. I had two or three afternoons that I struggled to hear anything because of the two hours of sonic booms. Not that I mind, I enjoy watching them.

But because my 3 1/2 year old Imp is now clever enough to distinguish that the sound wasn't right for those sonic booms, she asked. When I was small, we were always told that it was the angels bowling. When the imp asked me, I was in the middle of cooking our dinner and multitasking by thinking of what I was going to put into today's blog post. I was thinking that Thor would be quite fitting, to match the weather. So, the answer off the top of my head to her was that it was Thor throwing Mjollnir. It was obviously the answer she was looking for. She tried the words out a few times until she was happy that she was saying them correctly, then danced off giggling. That's my girl...no need to be afraid of a storm. I actually found her a few minutes later watching out the front window with a smile on her face.

The Norse told their children a very similar thing to what I've told the Imp tonight. They believed that during a thunderstorm, Thor rode in a chariot pulled by a pair of goats, Tanngrisni and Tanngnost. The lightening was Thor throwing his hammer, Mjollnir, that had been made for him by dwarves, and the hammer returning to him. The thunder was Mjollnir actually striking it's target.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem honouring this popular aesir:


The Challenge of Thor


I am the God Thor, 
I am the War God, 
I am the Thunderer! 
Here in my Northland, 
My fastness and fortress, 
Reign I forever! 
Here amid icebergs 
Rule I the nations; 
This is my hammer, 
Miƶlner the mighty; 
Giants and sorcerers 
Cannot withstand it! 

These are the gauntlets 
Wherewith I wield it, 
And hurl it afar off; 
This is my girdle; 
Whenever I brace it, 
Strength is redoubled! 

The light thou beholdest 
Stream through the heavens, 
In flashes of crimson, 
Is but my red beard 
Blown by the night-wind, 
Affrighting the nations! 
Jove is my brother; 
Mine eyes are the lightning; 
The wheels of my chariot 
Roll in the thunder, 
The blows of my hammer 
Ring in the earthquake! 

Force rules the world still, 
Has ruled it, shall rule it; 
Meekness is weakness, 
Strength is triumphant, 
Over the whole earth 
Still is it Thor's Day! 

Thou art a God too, 
O Galilean! 
And thus singled-handed 
Unto the combat, 
Gauntlet or Gospel, 
Here I defy thee!

It really warmed my heart that the Imp found joy in watching a storm. It is something that I've always enjoyed.  There's so much strength and energy that it channels. I was tempted to step outside to watch, but the pea-sized hail took care of that. So, instead I enjoyed the rumpling and sparkling from my kitchen as I finished cooking with the Imp's assistance, and her giggling and pointing out 'That's Shiny!', which has been one of her favourite phrases over the past couple of days. 

Now to find a children's translation of the Eddas, preferably on Kindle. I've not found one yet, but I'll keep searching. I think that she would truly enjoy it.

Mel

References:

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Cross Stitch: Wheel of the Year - Start

Well, I've finally gotten the chance to set up my large cross stitch project: a wall hanging of the Wheel of the year. I'm using a beautiful image that I found via Google, and converted to a cross stitch pattern, so fingers crossed it turns out as stunning as it is in my head.  I'll be doing a weekly update post, because I'm rather interested in watching the progression, myself, and I just really want to share :)


The original image


The planned size of the image is 16.1 inches in diameter. I am using 18 count waist canvas onto unbleached cotton (it was some spare fabric that I bought as 'grey fabric') that I've cut to 23.5 x 23.5 inches. The image in my head is to quilt it together with borders of grapevine fabric (that I haven't found yet, except some pretty prints in fat quarters on eBay that isn't in big enough pieces), and wide ribbons on top to tab over a dowel for hanging.

This is seriously going to take me a while.  It's the biggest project that I've ever taken on, and I figured that if I document it weekly on my blog, it will keep me motivated, and some of you can nag at me to keep going :P

This is what has been accomplished tonight. I know it doesn't look like much, but I did the set up beforehand,, which took a little bit of time...cutting the fabric and aida, ironing the fabric, baste-pinning it together, and stitching the fabric onto my frame.

I am on the lookout on Freecycle and eBay for a floor stand for my frame, because I'm having to currently balance it against my laptop table, which isn't ideal. But, I'll get on with it, and fingers crossed it'll move swiftly.

Mel

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Corn Bread Recipe #1

I actually have a couple of different recipes, but at the moment one of them is missing. It's actually the one I prefer, but I'll still post this alternative one that I've used as well (and still really like). I make it gluten free, and this is the recipe that I use if I've run out of milk, so it's dairy free already.  I find it a touch sharper in taste than the version that I use milk in, and a touch crumblier, but it's still really lovely, especially hot out of the oven with margarine or butter melting on it. I'm actually contemplating trying it with a smear of apple butter, the next time that I make a batch of it.

Ingredients:
1 cup cornmeal (I have found this at Sainsbury's, in with the international foods, i.e. the Asian foods, in a fairly good sized bag)
1 cup flour (normal flour can be used, as well. I use Dove's Farm Gluten and Wheat Free plain flour)
1/4 cup sugar (I'm sure that Splenda could be used)
5 tsp baking powder (I use a gluten free version)
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup plus 2 tbsp water
1/3 cup oil

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 425F/220C/Gas Mark 7.
Combine all of the ingredients and beat well.
Bake in a greased and floured 8-inch cake pan for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. A normal pan can be used, but I use either a round or square silicon pan, so I can just pop it straight out.

Mel

Luxury

I've just spent the last hour catching up on one of the programs that I recorded off the satellite, "Guilty Pleasures: Luxury in the Middle Ages" that was on BBC4 yesterday evening. Last week was an episode on ancient luxuries. Also during my viewing, a discussion started on one of my Facebook groups about what we would do if we were to win the huge £166 million on the Euromillions lottery this coming Friday. I didn't have to actually think about it, because when you're as skint as I am, the 'what-ifs' are regularly circulate in your head.

Granted, I'd have to actually play the lottery to win it, but what would I do with £166million? A lot, actually. There's no question that my debts would be paid in full the moment the money hit the bank. All three of my kids would have a trust fund set up for them, not to be accessed until they are old enough to have been taught the proper responsibility and seriousness that a huge amount of money would require. I'd have a bespoke five or six bedroom home built in some rolling hills, with a huge kitchen, specific craft room, and library, and the open invitation for a couple of my closest friends to join us. On top of that, both sets of my parents, my daughter's grandfather, and my closest friends would be set for life. A huge portion would go to very specific charities. And, finally, I would contemplate carrying on the idea that I had been in a group for in Indianapolis before I emigrated, and that is to open a Pagan community centre dedicated to public education and fellowship. With that amount of money, maybe two of them with a dedicated trust fund that pays to keep them running.

To be honest, I probably wouldn't live in what could be seen as the massive trappings that people would rush in to. Yes, I'd have a new wardrobe of clothing. It would actually be all in the style that I prefer to wear instead of what I have now, which has bits and pieces, but most of my clothes are just what I can barely afford, and beggars can't always be choosers. But I'm not into piles of jewellery and designer labels. I would get my driver's license but probably only have one utilitarian vehicle. I enjoy travelling around the UK, but my serious wanderlust has died down as I've gotten older and I've become a real homebody. Seeming a small amount amongst that huge sum, I would naturalize just so I have the right to vote.

I can definitely say that the Imp will not have everything to her heart's desire. That wouldn't teach her anything. I would still teach her how to keep a budget, just like I keep now. I would still teach her grace, humility, and thankfulness for everything she has. Just as I do now. Yes, we would have better things, but nothing flash. What's the point of advertising? Does that actually do anybody any good? Not really. It's hurtful to those who don't have much, and the pressure would be hard on you with the expectations placed on you.

To be honest, I wouldn't want that much money. I don't need that much. If I were to have a lottery windfall (again, I would have to play to win), I'd be happy with enough to buy us a decent house and enough to put into accounts that would set us up for life of paying our bills and taxes, and keep us comfortable.

Mel

Friday, 1 July 2011

Apple Pie, or Choose Your Filling (originally posted 21/02/11 on Alternating Kitchen Witch. Slightly Altered 01/07/11)

This is a dead simple one. Start with the basic pastry. You then have your choice...you can either do a proper 'top' on the pie, or, a crumble crust. I'll give you the details of that in a bit.

Basically, cube or slice (and, make sure the seeds and core are out) 4 to 7 (or more, if needed) apples. It really depends on what kind you're using. If I use Bramley's, it doesn't take many because they're huge. But, if I'm using diddy little Cox's, it can take 8, 9 or 10. I measure it by placing them in the empty pie dish prior to anything else, then, dumping them into a mixing bowl.

To the apples, add 1/2 cup of sugar or Splenda (both work really well), 1 round teaspoon of cinnamon (I'm always generous with the cinnamon) and 1/8 to 1/2 tsp of ground cloves. Give it all a stir, so the apples are coated.

Sort out your bottom pastry, then, dump your filling in. Sprinkle one tablespoon of water or lemon juice over the top. Put your top crust (or crumble...will get to that) on top, then, bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or, until golden on top.

You can mix and match other fillings. Today, I added blueberries to the apples, and used the cinnamon, cloves, and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of nutmeg. We were discussing using blackberries, when they come into season, or, strawberries, etc. Probably weird of me, but, I even considered using pears.

Now, for if you decide you'd rather have a crumble top. Basically, it's 1/2 cup of sugar (or Splenda), 3/4 cup of flour, and 4 ounces of butter. Place your dry ingredients into a mixing bowl, and rub the butter in until it resembles course breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over the top of your pie, and bake as normal.

It's just deciding which 'topping' you want to use...we love both, in this house.

Brightest Blessings,
Mel

Recipe: Basic Pastry (originally posted 11/02/09 on Alternating Kitchen Witch)

This can be used for sweet or savoury pies, and is highly versatile. But, it can be the bane of my life. It always seems to depend on the weather in the kitchen (whether or not the washing machine is running, and how cold, hot, and/or humid it is, and what my mood is). On a good day for me, it can be really light and crisp. On an off day, it can be a touch hard, but still really nice.

It just takes a bit of practice, and finding what works for you. I'm starting to get my technique sorted, so I'm not having as many mishaps. If you're in a bit of a hurry, make your dough beforehand...it'll store in the fridge for up to three days. But, if you're in a hurry and doing it for the first time...well, I wouldn't particularly advise it. It'll only shoot your nerves.

  • 4 oz of plain flour
  • 2 oz of butter (I prefer butter, but, you can use margerine, if needs must)
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • mug of cold water
  • (This amount will make one layer of a pie. Double it if you need a top to your pie.
Mix together flour and salt. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour, until it resembles fine bread crumbs. Gradually add in the water, one tablespoon at a time, until you have a sticky dough (because of us using wheat/gluten free flour, this does best to be on the rather damp side of sticky). Wrap in cling film (If I've run out of cling film, a plastic grocery bag works just as well), and place in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes, to rest.

When you're ready to use it, pull it out of the fridge, unwrap, and, with floured hands (and, lightly dusting the dough and counter top), knead about 4 or 5 times.

For the bottom layer of a pie, I just press it into my 9" pie plate. I don't even mess with it. I press it in, making sure it's fairly even all over, so it goes up the sides and just goes over the 'lip' of the pie plate.

For a top layer, this is where I tend to loose my temper. I've tried many of the standard techniques...dusting the surface with flour, and flouring the rolling pin, etc. What I have found works best for me is to put the ball of dough in the middle of a good sized piece of cling film, layer another piece of cling film over the top, and roll it out, sandwiched between them. Make sure that you make it circular, and big enough to top your pie. To pick it up and get onto your pie: I don't take the top cling film off straight away...I roll it onto my rolling pin, and roll the pastry up with it, whilst peeling off the bottom layer of cling film. I try to be quite gentle about it, so I don't tear my pastry. Dampen the edges of your bottom pastry, where it will connect to your top pastry. I then take it over to my pie, and roll it over the top of it, then, remove the last of the cling film.

Press the edges together, and, lightly run a knife around the edge to trim off the excess. I then lightly press a fork around the edge to make sure it's sealed, and to give a nice effect.

Make sure to poke some vent holes in the top.

Bake at 180c, for about 35 to 45 minutes, until top is golden.

Brightest Blessings
Mel