Thursday, December 16, 2010

Use it up!

As a person trying to walk a more respectful path with nature, sometimes I do great - and sometimes I fail miserably.  I think our whole life is just one big learning process that we never quite complete- and honestly, would you really *want* to get everything right, all the time? So I compost, I recycle, I line-dry my clothes when the temperature is above freezing, and utilize a rain barrel.  Diapering my kiddos - I would LOVE to exclusively cloth diaper.  However I work 30 hours a week and the Mister will not mess with cloth diapers.  So I do what I can - I cloth diaper as much as I can, and yes, we also use the dreaded disposables.
To balance the things that we throw away, I try and re-purpose and upcycle.  Not only does it save us money, but we minimize how much crap gets dumped in a landfill.  Some things are no brainers, others have been results of making do in a pinch:

Stained or ruined clothing gets re-purposed into rags for cleaning.  Also, strips of cast-off t shirts make durable, free garden ties.
Stale bread gets crumbled up and added to bird feeders.
Twist ties and tab ties from bread bags make good garden ties as well - and the twist ties can also be used for crafts.
Mooch has gotten very into up-cycling from our recycling container.  From our tree topper to an empty huge vinegar jug that she's planning on making into a bird house.  Save yourself a trip to the craft store and always scout around for things that can be re-purposed.
When we rake up our leaves in the fall, we rake them straight into our gardens.  Free mulch!  If we have too many we add them to the compost bin, and if we have tons we bag them up and store them under our deck to be gradually added to the compost bin to balance our kitchen scraps and grass clipping additions.
Fallen branches in your yard - obviously these can be kindling for your fireplace, but they also make great stakes for the garden.  My parents have these gorgeous mountain laurel bushes on their property, and I grabbed some fallen branches to make a  pretty holiday planter.  Arrange branches in a planter filled about halfway with dirt, anchor with some medium sized rocks.  Wrap strings of lights around the branches for a pretty, low-cost addition to your entryway.
Egg cartons make great starters for seed.  Fill with potting soil, drop a seed in each one, and place in a sunny window.  
The gourds that use for decorating in the fall can be dried and used for everything from bird houses to instruments (drill a hole in the bottom, fill with beads, bells, or seeds; plug the whole back up) 
A few summers ago a friend came over with one of those giant buckets of pre-made margaritas.  The next day while nursing a sore head I noticed the girls' crayon bin was overflowing.  Eying the empty margarita bucket (gag) I scrubbed it out and dumped the crayons in there.  We later fancied it up (and covered the Jose Cuervo label) by covering it with construction paper that the girls then painted on. 

Though I sometimes drive the Mister crazy with this ("I can use that again!  Don't throw it away!" is my mantra) it makes me happy that when we haul our trash can out to the curb, it's usually only half-full.  Some weeks we get away with skipping with putting it out, altogether.

We are actually sending out our holiday cards today (wooh-hooo!!) and then I just have to knuckle down and get crafting for everyone's presents.  Luckily the Goodwill gods have been smiling on me and I've found a whole bunch of treasures.  I'm also going to ask the Mister about burning a Yule log this year, and although it always strikes me as disgustingly funny, I may attempt a Yule log cake.  Be well!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Suet Balls

*Resisting ball jokes*
I popped some popcorn for the girls the other day as a snack, and of course we ended up with the majority of the bag left over.  I also have a jar at the back of our fridge that I add fat to (from bacon, roasts, burgers, etc), so I started thinking about mixing up some suet balls for the birds.  Butterbean was napping so Mooch and I made these up - she loved making them but kept complaining "They smell AWFUL, Mama!" :-)

In a medium saucepan melt the fat over medium low heat.  If you're not into keeping fat in your fridge or your a vegetarian, you can substitute Crisco.  Add peanut butter and a good sprinkle of corn meal.

Mooch was very into stirring!

The great part about these is you can use a variety of starchy things to bind these together.  We used a hunk of stale pumpernickel bread shredded into little pieces, the leftover popcorn, some bird seed the birds aren't too crazy about (it's the cheapo supermarket crap), and some raisins.  You could also use dried apples, nuts, or oatmeal.  
Pour the fat/peanut butter mixture over your dry ingredients and mix
Cut some square pieces of wax paper or parchment paper, and scoop about a cup of the mixture in the middle of each one.  Then pull the edges of the wax paper up and twist so the suet forms a ball at the bottom.  Secure the twist with leftover twist ties, string, or clothes pins.

Place them in the freezer until firm.  Then tie a piece of string around it and hang it up for the birds to enjoy.  A great way to take care of the birds, reduce waste, and have a little craft/bonding time with your own ankle biters!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Oh Yule Tree, Oh Yule Tree ....

We got our tree last week!  We went with a live tree this year, which we will plant in my Mom & Dad's forest whenever the ground thaws.  I'm considering moving it in it's planter into our backyard after the holidays, to give the birdies a little refuge.  I'm sure the Mister will just love moving this sucker ... he almost broke his back trying to get it inside!  Word to the wise - if you go with a live tree, they weigh a ton!

Mooch posing.  She's obsessed with these fake Poinsettias I used one year to do a theme tree ... LOL
Butterbean inspecting ...

These are some mice ornaments that Mooch and I made last year.  We strung wire through some giant poof balls we got from the Dollar Store, glued on pinecone scales and buttons for ears and pine needles for whiskers, then added mini poof balls for noses and a curled pipe cleaner for a tail.
Another home crafted ornament, inspired by a Martha Stewart idea - button animals!  I bought a jar of buttons at a thrift store for 50 cents, and we made these little reindeer and some snow men with them.  Also pictured is the beautiful handmade ornament my sister made me last year.  

I *hate* that this won't store well, because I love it!  Mooch wanted to make a tree topper, and she is very into up-cycling (wonder where she gets that from?).  She pulled an empty toilet paper roll out of the recycling and we covered it in scraps of felt from other projects.  Then we lined the inside with glue and stuck in some dried leaves, sweet gum balls, and these pod-things we found on a walk.  It looks like a very abstract angel, and goes with our Mother Earth theme!
  Hope you all are well and not stressing about all the holiday nonsense.  Mooch reminded me the other day how simple it could be ... her Pop-pop asked her what she wanted for Christmas and she told him, "To come to your house and have a candlelight dinner with you in front of the fire".  She's a Pop-pop's girl! 

Butternut Bisque & Rosemary Foccacia

Well hey there!
Our little house has been a hive of activity lately.  Between prepping for the holidays, the general cleaning and organizing, and keeping up with the ankle biters I feel like I haven't had time to cook enough for the fam, which I love to do.  That's my "me" time - I light my candles, pour a glass of wine and kind of zone out.  
The other night the fates aligned just right and by some miracle my husband was home, my kids had napped, and a meager amount of housework had been accomplished - so I had enough time to prepare this little feast. 
I love butternut squash.  When you peel it, it releases this amazing fresh and sweet smell.  I may have to find a way to make a perfume with it ... hmmmm ....
Anyway, this is one of my absolute favorite soups.  And I had been wanting to make rosemary foccacia for a while.

First I chopped up 1/2 of a good-sized onion, and added it to a stock pot with olive oil over medium heat.  I crushed two cloves of garlic into it, then added my seeded, peeled, and chopped up butternut squash.

I let this cook until the onions and garlic were caramelized and the squash had softened slightly.  Then I added 3 cups of chicken stock, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. 

I brought this to a boil, then lowered the heat and simmered for about 10 mins, until I could easily mash the squash with the back of a spoon. 
Then I transferred the whole thing to the food processor.  Every recipe I had looked up for "bisque" called for a whole bunch of heavy cream in it.  So in an attempt to un-Paula Deen this, I just added 2Tb of the Mister's half and half that he puts in his coffee.  Yum!  Creamy without guilt.  Blend in the food processor or blender until smooth.

For the foccacia, I cut some beautiful stalks off my plant, rinsed and dried them, then chopped it up.

I dissolved a packet of yeast plus 1 tsp of sugar in 1/3 c warm water (aim for 120 degrees).  Then added 2 cups of flour and 1 tsp olive oil.  As I kneaded this together I added the rosemary, 

then put it in a lightly oiled bowl and cover.  

I had been heating my oven on low because are kitchen is super drafty, so I turned off the heat and placed the bowl inside so that it could rise.  After an hour I took it out and punched it down, then divided the dough in half.  I kind of pulled and stretched to form an oblong shape out of both and set them on a lightly oiled cookie sheet.  At the advice of the BEST bread making blog ever ( I also placed a pan on the bottom rack of the oven, then pre-heated the oven to 400 degrees.  Right before I put the bread in I brushed the top lightly with oil, then sprinkled with sea salt and more rosemary.  I brought a cup of water to boiling and carefully poured it into the pan in the oven, then put the cookie sheet on the rack above it.  
The cretins in my house opted for grilled cheese to go with their bisque - but I LOVED this combination!
  Also, you can use the stalks of rosemary that have been stripped of their leaves for amazing chicken.  Use them like skewers and they infuse your chicken with rosemary flavor.

Friday, December 10, 2010

DIY - Pinecone Fire Starters

My dad is kind of a pyro.  He is an expert fire builder, and my parent's house always has a fire going.  In the summer we do bonfires in the fire pit he dug himself and lined with rock, and the amazing chiminea they rescued from a dump is being used more often than not.  
He is also not the easiest person to shop for - he pretty much buys anything he likes, and he can be picky.  He was the lone panic attack I experienced when trying to figure out what I could make for him.  I literally googled "crafts for men" and one of the hits I got was for pinecone fire starters.  Woot!  
To start with, gather as many pinecones as you will need.

  Also gather a double boiler, or a cheap saucepan that will fit over another saucepan, waxed wick or twine (I used hemp garden twine for mine), a disposable muffin tin (you will recycle it, right?) and any nubs of candles you can find around your house.  I went to the super-cheapy secondhand store near my parent's house and walked away with a shoebox of candles for $2.  You can also use certain chemicals to produce a colored flame - salt substitute will make a violet flame, Borax makes a yellowy-green flame, and Epsom salts make a white flame.  There are other chemicals that will make more colors, but I stuck to these as they seemed the least likely to make me grow a third nipple.

Set up your muffin tins with a pinecone standing up in each one.  Wind the wick so it settles in between the scales and close to the center.  The website that I originally looked at suggested rolling the pinecones in glue before rolling them in the additive
s, but I said meh and just sprinkled the additives over the pinecones.  It still worked.  Now in your double-boiler melt the wax.  I used an old paint stirrer to make sure it came out somewhat non-lumpy.  I also did my colored wax in layers - I melted red first and drizzled it over the cones, then green over that - then did a few just solid colors.  Get creative.  It kind of felt like getting to be a big kid playing with things I wasn't supposed to.  Then just leave them to set - about an hour or so.  I got a big basket from Goodwill for $1, lined it with some funky paper, piled all the cones inside and tied it up with ribbon.

They kind of came out like this, though not nearly so professional-looking (still haven't put batteries in my camera)

Wait - actually that IS my basket.  Yup.  And that's my fireplace, with no dog hair or beheaded Barbies on it.  And if the camera was turned slightly more to the left you would have seen my spotless living room as well.  That's right bitches- be intimidated!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

DIY Holiday Gifts

I'm going to get better about posting on a daily basis (do you hear that sound?  It sounds like toddlers plotting to destroy a plan.  You will not prevail, ankle-biters!) and I will attempt to provide you all with my take on the easiest, least expensive, and most useful holiday presents that you can make.

My mama started a rule two years ago that all Christmas presents exchanged between family members have to be either homemade or bought at a second hand store.  LOVE THIS.  It forces you to be creative, it is eco-friendly, and I think it makes every gift so much more meaningful.  And do you really need 5 gift bags full of crap that you will probably just re-gift anyway?

The gifts these last few years have been some of my favorite things.  My sister made me a gorgeous vase out of a cheap glass one she found at the Dollar Store, with reeds and shells from the beach in front of her house hot-glued on, and a matching candle holder.  My other sister who is incredibly artistically talented made us all handmade felt ornaments with our initials stitched on, that are so gorgeous I leave them up around the house all year long.  

So if you would like to start a tradition like this, or even just incorporate more handmade, heartfelt goods in your gifts, this is a good place to start.

The Best Cranberry Chutney, Ever.
One year at Thanksgiving I got drafted by my mom to make cranberry sauce.  Ugh - right???  The stuff in the can is always so much better.  Imagine my surprise when this came out so stinkin' good I was eating spoonfuls of it right out of the pot.  I experimented with a couple different recipes for sauce, then came across one for chutney - which is a little sweet and a little savory.  It was so good I finally bit the bullet and taught myself how to can things so I could have some on hand all year - then reluctantly gave out a few to relatives for Christmas presents.  Now I am officially the Chutney Lady - almost every holiday card I get has a scribble on the bottom asking for a jar :-/
So here's the loose sketch of how to make it.  I never measure the spices, and it comes out a bit different every time, which is kind of cool.  Pulling out a jar of this in the middle of summer and putting it alongside some grilled pork loin or chicken is heavenly.

Your ratio is going to be 1 cup of water : 1 cup of brown sugar : 2 cups of fresh cranberries.  I made a huge batch of this last night and tripled it.  
In a big saucepan heat the water with the brown sugar.  When it comes to a boil, add the cranberries and when you hear them start popping lower the heat just a little.  Add about 2 Tb of apple cider vinegar, a few good shakes of cinnamon, ginger, and ground cloves.  Then take two clementines and zest the skin into the chutney.  You will need to progressively turn down the heat to make sure the pan doesn't overflow.  To mine I also add 1 very small shake of cayenne and a few grinds of black pepper.  Keep stirring until the sauce gets thicker and has reduced, about 20 mins.  If you wanted this to be a molded sauce (i.e. "Fancy Pants Chutney") cook it longer.  Basically the longer you cook it the harder it sets.  As soon as you turn the heat off pour it into whatever serving vessel you're using, or can it.  Tie the jar with some raffia and a gift tag, receive praise for your culinary fabulous-ness, etc.

*Stock photo - my camera needs batteries*

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Book Review - The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

I love, love, love Barbara Kingsolver.  If you've never read Prodigal Summer, get up and go to the library and get it NOW.  Poisonwood Bible will break your heart, High Tide In Tucson, Animal Dreams .. this woman has an incredible talent.  

This book follows the life of Harrison Shepherd, starting with his childhood in Mexico where his mother has moved with her lover.  The book opens with Harrison and his mother huddling in bed listening to the howler monkeys, which they fear are bloodthirsty demons.  His mother whispers "write everything down, so when they find only our bones they know what happened to us."

And so starts his life as a writer.  He writes through his tumultuous relationship with his mother, meeting and apprenticing himself to Diego Rivera (and subsequently befriending Frida Kahlo), and working for Leon Trotsky.  The book is written mainly as a collection of letters, journal entries, and articles on Harrison himself and his friends. 

After moving to the US as an adult and getting his first book published, Harrison finds himself a target of scrutiny for his ties to the Communist party.  How he reacts to this witch hunt (pardon the term) is extraordinary.  

It was so easy, reading this, to pity this man.  I think Kingsolver demonstrates beautifully how the trials of our lives ready us for what lies ahead.  You are ready to just sympathize with Harrison throughout, and at the end, he amazes you.

The lacuna refers to a portal Harrison finds as a boy while swimming - he notices an underwater tunnel, the only way of which to enter is by holding your breath and swimming as fast as you can.  The tunnel leads to an oasis for a young curious boy.   You hope all the way to end of this book that he reaches the other side.

And I give it:
(Out of 5)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Fuzzy Child

I'm here to break stereotypes.  All witches do not like cats.  I have two who refuse to die, while spreading kitty litter throughout my house, meowing incessantly at 4:00 am, and scratching shit up.  
When I was pregnant with Mooch I started thinking about dogs.  We were living in this rented farmhouse of 10 acres, and the Mister works nights - I wanted protection.  Big, toothy protection.  Since the cats would not so much as chase the non-stop mice running through the house, I kind of doubted they would have my back should an intruder bust in.
I was at my cousins - and there he was.

He was running around with a group of kids, and though he weighs over 100 pounds, he was sweet as he could be.  He came up and leaned on my leg and looked up with those adoring dog eyes and just melted me.  I jokingly told my cousin I was going to steal him - and she replies "You can have him".  She is not a dog person and her husband had picked him up from a box of abandoned puppies on the side of the road without consulting her.  They kept him locked in a kennel in their garage, their reasoning being "Every time we let him out, he runs away"  Yeah, wonder why??
We dutifully got our American Kennel Society book for new dog owners and worked with him to learn basic commands.  But this animal has the most pure heart - he just wants to be good.  His baseline emotion is completely in love with us and wanting to please.  If anyone gets mad at him (a certain poop explosion all over the carpeted downstairs comes to mind) he is absolutely devastated.
Now, because he is basically a furry marshmallow, I was convinced he wouldn't get the whole "sometimes we need you to be a vicious dog, for security's sake" thing.  When Mooch was about 2 months old, I woke up at about 2:00 am to nurse her.  It was windy but I became aware of a knocking sound, that didn't sound wind-related.  Our bedroom was on the second floor, the kitchen had a small mud room off of it which we had designated as Zac's room (dogs are sometimes more comfortable in a small room).  The door was closed, and all of a sudden Zac starts going ballistic.  Then I hear the door to the screened in porch off the kitchen opening, and footsteps downstairs.  I shook the Mister awake and told him, and he grabbed a flashlight and his pistol and hurried down.  He snuck into the kitchen and opened the door to the mud room, and Zac tears into the porch and pounces on a guy who had "let himself in to use the phone" *snort*  By this time I've called 911 and they've sent a car out.  The Mister had forced the guy outside and had him lay on the ground until the police arrived.  I peeked out of an upstairs window to see the guy face down and Mister holding Zac back as Zac snarls and barks his head off and just generally look like he wants to rip this guy to pieces.
As you can imagine, he got some spoiling the next day, in the form of some bacon made especially for him :-)

He has proven himself time and time again to be super protective of our family, and at the same time, as loving as he could be.  If I sit on the floor he very matter-of-factly comes over and lays all 100+ pounds of himself on my lap, to get his belly rubbed.  The kids when they were teeny lil ankle biters would crawl all over him, pull his ears, poke him in the eyes, take his rawhides away ... and he never once defended himself against them.  They were allowed.  When we tuck them in to bed at night, Zac lays in their rooms while we read stories, then plunks himself down outside their doors.

I honestly can not imagine our lives without him.  We love you so much, Zacky boy.

I'm not dead yet ....

Well hi there ... and no I have not been eaten by a rabid pack of wandering Christians ... yet.  
A few weeks ago the flu hit our household.  Started with Butterbean, then spread to Mooch, then me, then the Mister.  Sick kids I can take, but kids who feel remarkably better while you are still feeling like death - no one should ever have to deal with that!  And of course the Mister is no cakewalk when he's sick.  Imagine an overdramatic Labrador.
After that the Mister took off to training in PA for 4 days, and the pace of my job picked up.  I love that everyone thinks I'm super capable, but adjusting to this after my last job where I was treated like an expensive paperweight is definitely a change.  
To say the least, my whole mojo is thrown off.  The house looks a fright, I have not even sent out thank you cards for Mooch's birthday party which was nearly a month ago (eeek!  must get on this).  My spellwork, meditation time, crafts ... no.  Just trying to get everything back in order again, which makes me feel like a wuss, and have all new respect for people who have actual big issues in their lives.
But I did hit up our natural foods co-op the other day to stock up on fair trade coffee, local organic honey, etc.  and came across some beautiful sugar pumpkins.

Martha Stewart's Everyday Food has a fantastic recipe that I'm making today ... Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins. Here is the link :
Isn't your mouth watering?!?!??
I'm also making some pumpkin bread for Thanksgiving, and mixing up an exfoliating mask with some of the puree.  
I know it can be intimidating to make your own puree, but I literally made this when I was woken up by an unruly 5 year old at 6:00 am, before I had even downed my first cup of coffee.
First, you want to use a vegetable peeler and skin the pumpkin.  I recommend wearing gloves while you do this - I didn't, and my hands were coated with pumpkin goo that took forever to scrub off. (Although it did create a mummy-effect on my hand, kind of like what you used to do with Elmer's glue when bored in elementary school)
Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and goop, reserve.  Then chop that sucker up.  Aim for 1-2" cubes.

 Spread out the cubes in a single layer on a cookie sheet.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  I didn't put anything on them (not even vegetable oil) because I had two pumpkins and was going to be using them for a wide variety of uses, but if you were definitely only going to do pie or cookies with them, you could add cinnamon or ground clove or whatever rocks your socks.
And in to the oven they go ...

I didn't really time this, but I think I roasted the pumpkin for about an hour.  I just kept checking it until it looked fork-tender.

Ta-da!  And now for a close-up

Then pull out your food processor, or blender, or just a really good potato masher (you glutton for punishment) and puree or mash until nice and smooth.

  Store either in a glass snap-lock container, or pour into freezer bags and freeze.

And don't forget to roast those pumpkin seeds and throw all scraps in your compost bin!  We decided to dry some seeds and mix them in with our regular bird food, for a little Thanksgiving treat for our birdy friends.  

Hope everyone has a blessed Thanksgiving ... don't forget to thank Mother Earth for her abundance and blessings throughout the year.  And eat all the pie you want :-)

Friday, October 29, 2010

It's the most witchiest time of the year ....

I now know that my life has more or less always followed Pagan principles, I just didn't have a definition for my beliefs.  It just always felt right to honor and respect nature, to not cause harm to any living thing, to heal with and use natural elements instead of chemicals.  The one sided-ness of Christianity was never anything I could get behind ... even my five year old knows that to create life, you need BOTH a seed and an egg.  Honoring just the Father, with no mention of a Mother?  Except for Mary .... yet she has to be a virgin to be honored?  Paganism celebrates the God as well as the Goddess, acknowledges that they both rule different elements and seasons, and the creed "An it harm none, do as ye will" is the one rule.  The simplicity of that keeps me focused and peaceful.  There is no room for your own interpretation .... you are either harming someone or something or you are not.
I'm challenging myself every day to bring about more understanding of Paganism.  I avoid labels of any kind because I don't like the knee-jerk reactions that they provoke, but I would love to be able to sum up my beliefs without the negative connotations that come with it.
So let's start with Samhain.  

No, not that one.  
Samhain (pronounced sow-en) is a Pagan sabbat (any of eight pagan religious festivals commemorating phases of the changing season) which honors ancestors who have passed, and the Earth's transition from the abundance of summer to the cold of the winter.  The word Samhain in Celtic means "summer's end".  It is also a time when the veil between the spirit world and this world is said to be very thin, which is why skulls, tombstones, skeletons, etc are typical Halloween decorations. On this sabbat, we honor the dead with a "silent supper" - a plate of food set out next to a glass of wine; with telling stories of those who have passed and remembering the time we had with them.  We hope that they will show us a sign that they are with us, but communicating with them is hoped for, never commanded.  Pagans believe disturbance of the dead immoral, as they have earned their rest.
In our house, this is when I also clean and organize as much as possible to make our home comfortable during the winter.  I dread the winter every year, so I start craft projects for me and the kids to keep us occupied, and stock up on birdseed for our birdy friends.  This year I will also be planning my garden (yayyyy!) for next year, and in March I will start a lot of seeds.  And with my sweet new fire pit, I have fires on the patio on cold evenings to look forward to.  
If you are interested in learning more about Samhain or any of the sabbats, I encourage you to educate yourself.  Just typing in Samhain on a search will give you loads of reading material.  
Hope you are well and Blessed Samhain!


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween Hoopla

I really do love Halloween/Samhain, and every year it ends up being lots of fun.  It's the buildup that kills me.  For some reason my alpha mommy comes out and I always feel the need to have the Martha decorations up, my kids perfectly costumed, perfect goodies available, etc.  I find myself waking up in the night thinking "What if someone drives by the house and I *don't* have a Martha carved gourd family out front?  What if I bring store-bought goodies to the pre-k parade and everyone else's is homemade ... and my child has to be ritualistically cast out by her classmates?"
Mooch's birthday is November 3rd ... so we are doing her party the day before Halloween, and asking all the kids to come in costume, and having a Halloween theme.  I went to the Dollar Store today and spent $52.  Witness my obsession.
Will the kids care if there isn't a themed table cloth?  Of course not.  But Alpha Mommy Brain will.  The Brain is also going to buy hay bales tomorrow to decorate accordingly.  Le sigh.
So if you were wondering why a witch's blog doesn't mention Samhain all that much (a traditional day for honoring ancestors who have passed) just know that it's because I'm involved in the more demanding sport of finding the perfect outfit to wear to a FIVE YEAR OLDS birthday party. 
Now to go drown my crazy in cheesecake, that the Mister smartly brought home.  It's alpha mommy's Achille's heel.

Amazing Giveaway!

The ever-so-smart Mrs. B over at Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom is doing a fantastic giveaway today for a bracelet I am completely coveting ... a vintage witch's charm bracelet from Laughing Vixen Lounge. 

I spied this on her Etsy site the other day and immediately bookmarked it - she has gorgeous stuff!  I was already planning for Christmas presents.  Here is the url : 
So go try your luck!  If you don't like it, I'll be happy to take it off your hands ;-)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pan Roasted White Beans with Rosemary

Hello All!
Our little homestead was rocked with a wicked case of the flu, and we are all just recovering, which is why I haven't been active in the last few days.  Hate when regular life gets on the way of my blogging!

Since I'm eating these for lunch today, I wanted to share this fast, easy and delicious recipe.  I am always trying to incorporate a more vegetarian approach to eating in our home, and since the Mister is a die hard meat lover, I have to get creative.  I also have a five year old that doesn't eat anything that's not cereal or fruit these days - but she eats these.

First of all, if you don't have rosemary growing around or in your home - go get a plant and plant one.  I started off with three teensy plants growing in one of our front garden beds, and in our rocky clay-heavy soil, it thrived.  I now have a certified rosemary hedge right next to our front door that smells amazing and provides us with all the fresh rosemary we could possibly want.

Rosemary is known as an aide for memory, and has antiseptic properties as well.  In ancient Greece, students used to braid rosemary into their hair to help them to remember their lessons.  And it is traditionally placed on grave sites for remembrance. 

I came up with this recipe as a protein boost alongside veggie dishes, but it's pretty yummy in its own right.

Rinse and drain 1 large can of cannellini beans in a colander

In a large skillet, heat 2 Tb olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add beans and 2 cloves of crushed garlic, and fresh snipped rosemary to taste (I usually use around 2 Tb).

  Add salt, freshly ground pepper, and 1/3 c good white wine (*Don't forget to thoroughly test the wine beforehand*) :-)  Cook over medium low heat until slightly crispy and brown on the outside, but tender; approximately 5 minutes.  Serve warm.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Falling Leaf Moon

Tonight is one of the most powerful moons of the year ... the Falling Leaf Moon, the full moon before Samhain.  A night for extra potency for your rituals and prayers, and for us - a night for our first fire pit!  I have been wanting one for a while - my parents have a gorgeous chiminea AND a huge fire pit my Dad dug and lined with rocks.  Is there anything better on a crisp fall evening than a fire?  
And, ok - fire pit?  It's actually kind of a fire bowl.  One of these:

I was sure to point out to the Mister this is *not* my "forever fire pit" and reserve the right to upgrade to a fancier one if I come across it and the price is right.  But for now in will serve nicely.

Tonight comes a ritual of my dedication to the Mother.  I have been planning and researching this and I'm excited and for some reason also have that wiggly feeling in my belly.  The closest thing I can match it to is I feel like I'm about to lose my virginity - again.  I'll also be placing some protection around our house as well ... see Mrs. B's article on witch's bottles for more on this.

Moon facts and myths are always fascinating to me.  Butterbean loves saying hi to the moon and will drag me outside after her bath saying, "MOON, Mama!  Hi moon!" then blows a kiss and tells the moon goodnight.  Mooch loves watching the moon "follow us home" when we drive home, and if she gets scared at bedtime we talk about the moon watching over her as she sleeps and chasing bad dreams away.  

Some interesting moon facts for you :
Ocean tug

Tides on Earth are caused mostly by the Moon (the Sun has a smaller effect). Here's how it works:
The Moon's gravity pulls on Earth's oceans. High tide aligns with the Moon as Earth spins underneath. Another high tide occurs on the opposite side of the planet because gravity pulls Earth toward the Moon more than it pulls the water.
At full Moon and new Moon, the Sun, Earth and Moon are lined up, producing the higher than normal tides (called spring tides, for the way they spring up). When the Moon is at first or last quarter, smaller neap tides form. The Moon's 29.5-day orbit around Earth is not quite circular. When the Moon is closest to Earth (called its perigee), spring tides are even higher, and they're called perigean spring tides.
All this tugging has another interesting effect: Some of Earth's rotational energy is stolen by the Moon, causing our planet to slow down by about 1.5 milliseconds every century.
Egghead The Moon is not round (or spherical). Instead, it's shaped like an egg. If you go outside and look up, one of the small ends is pointing right at you. And the Moon's center of mass is not at the geometric center of the satellite; it's about 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) off-center.
Moon trees More than 400 trees on Earth came from the Moon. Well, okay: They came from lunar orbit. Okay, the truth: In 1971, Apollo 14 astronaut Stuart Roosa took a bunch of seeds with him and, while Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell were busy sauntering around on the surface, Roosa guarded his seeds.
Later, the seeds were germinated on Earth, planted at various sites around the country, and came to be called the Moon trees. Most of them are doing just fine.

Full Moon

The point of maximum psychic energy occurs When the full face of the Moon is visible in the clear sky. Many people perform sacred rites and rituals during this time. Sometimes for worship, sometimes for magic and sometimes for both. Healing, divination, dreamwork and practically every other form of magick seems to get a boost if performed during the full Moon.
Just a few facts, but there are oodles of pages out there with everything from suggestions for full moon rituals, to meanings, myths, etc.  
How are you celebrating this gorgeous moon?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Stuff of Nightmares

I've had a recurring nightmare for as long as I can remember.  I'm in a school and go to use the bathroom, and as soon as I'm inside the bathroom becomes a never-ending maze of showers, stalls, and tile.  I start panicking and running, trying to get out, seeing nothing but fluorescent light and feeling alone and scared.  The next day if I have to use a big public restroom anywhere, I have a panic attack.
  A few weeks ago I started a new position (I work at a University) and switched to a building on campus.  The night before I started the nightmare started again - only this time, I was running down a tiled hallway at a school, then I ran down a carpeted staircase.  It led to an old, unused part of the school - dark and full of empty classrooms.  I know I was being chased and had to hide, but was afraid to go into any of the classrooms.  I woke up with my heart pounding.  
So I go to start my first day at work, head to the staircase, and open a door to this :

Hmmm, a closed-off staircase.  I went up the stairs and peeked down to see what I could see :

Now you can't tell because it was removed yesterday - but those stairs?  Yeah, until yesterday they had old beige carpeting on them.
Taking this picture set off a panic attack, but I wanted to show a better view:

So if anyone knows a dream meaning behind schools, bathrooms, stairs, and carpeting - I'd be happy to hear it.  

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Making Your Own Thyme Honey

I started studying homeopathy last year, after the birth of my second child and an awful experience with an IUD.  To be brief, my OBGYN pushed me to get a Mirena IUD, and the thing was horrible.  Cramps that brought tears to my eyes, constant bleeding, mood swings - you name it.  I called and reported the problems, went for check-ups, had the strings trimmed (the Mister swore he could feel them) and the staff at my OBGYN's always said the same thing "It's all normal, you just have to adjust to it"
Bleeding for 3 months straight is not normal.  Having synthetic hormones being routinely released internally is not normal.  My body would cramp and it felt like it was trying to push the stupid thing out.  I had it removed after having to TALK MY OBGYN INTO REMOVING IT <- (let's name all the things wrong with that statement, shall we?)and got fitted for a diaphragm.  Yes, we use spermicide - but I can remove it whenever I want, and I'm not using fake hormones, which scare the hell out of me.  
Anywho, the whole thing, along with Butterbean's birth experience (that's a whole other post) had officially soured me on doctors and hospitals.  (I make a special exception for my kid's pediatrician, who is super pro-breastfeeding, very non-invasive, and open to homeopathic alternatives.)  The kids I nannied for were always on antibiotics and I watched them get sick and suffer with their mom never making the connection that she was not allowing their bodies to use natural defenses.  The antibiotics that they took for a cold would lead to them having digestive issues, yeast infections, you name it.  The cure was worse than the disease.

With Butterbean going through teething, I started using Boiron's Teething Tablets.  The first night we used them I went to bed all edgy and worried she'd be suffering - that child slept straight through the night!  Similar success with Coldcalm and Sabadil for allergies.  I also read a great article on Planet Green's site about using locally produced honey to combat seasonal allergies.  One teaspoonful every morning, and my itchy eyes and tickly throat are gone within an hour.
Thyme has been long used for it's antiseptic properties, and herbalists use it as a natural cold remedyI bought a small plant this year and it grew like wildfire in my garden, so I bought another small plant and put it in a planter so I would have fresh thyme available year-round.  Our local Co-op carries local organic honey, and while you can use commercially produced non-organic honey, it is well worth it to find a local honey producer and get the good stuff.
First, you need to cut  to fill whatever clean jar you are using (make sure it has a tight-fitting cap)  Pack the thyme in and bruise the leaves well with the back of a spoonI also use hyssop in mine for an added healing property.  Pour honey over the herb (or herbs) until there is about 1/4" of space at the top.  Gently tap the bottom of the jar on your counter a few time to release any air bubbles.  Seal and allow to steep for 2-4 weeks.  After this, strain out the herbs and re-jar the honey, and keep in a cool dark spot.  One teaspoon when you feel a cold coming on usually does the trick, but if not take a teaspoon 3x a day.
Here's my jar, sitting on my windowsill among all my other crap stuff:

Extracts post to come soon ...


I won a gorgeous set of carnelian runes from one of my favorite places to visit - Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom!  What a way to start my day!  Wanna see?

 Aren't they purdy?  And what will I use these for ... well first, let's talk about carnelian.  

Carnelian Gemstone meaning

Carnelian (also sometimes referred to as cornelian) is found primarily in India, as well as various sites in South America. It is a variety of chalcedony. The most favorable pieces are a deep red to red-orange hue. Carnelian has a long and storied past, and was once considered strictly the property of the noble class. People holding a high social status were often buried with this gem stone.
Want more pep in your life? Keep a carnelian with you and feel the energy flow to you. Carnelian is used for these benefits:
  • gives energy
  • protects from bad vibrations
  • guards against poverty
  • helps give a sense of humor
  • calms the temper

Healing properties of Carnelian

Carnelian is an energy booster. It helps the insecure person to find strength within them so they can come into their own. It is said to increase the appetite.

So yes to everything except the increase in appetite.  I'm hungry all the time as is.
You can use runes the same way you use tarot cards for readings.  They can also act as a charm or a talisman, depending on the inscriptions.  I have made a few using found rocks on our property and buried them for protection and peace - just inscribe them with whatever rune symbol represents your intent.  As a simple blessing you can collect rainwater and sprinkle a few drops over the runes while meditating on what you would like to accomplish, or saying a simple prayer.  You can either bury them or carry them with you.  This site has a great listing of inscriptions, but there are tons of sites out there so if you don't see what you want just google it!
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