Monday, October 29, 2012

Fall Cleansing

I haven't written here in a while!  It's time to get back to it, I think.  As the first order of business, I wish a blessed Mourning Moon to everyone.  While in general I don't feel like I have much to mourn, my thoughts do turn to my grandfather; and now that I am part of a couple, of course we also honor my partner's parents, and her beloved Guardian Spirit, who kept walking the earth on only three legs just to keep her safe until I could find her.

Over the past month or two, I've done a few things trying to shake a feeling of stagnancy that I've been struggling with.  We've imagined that maybe there is some residual negative energy that is still here from before I came, and so we've done some cleansing things... we've burned incense and candles, I even cast a spell of protection over us and our home.  I got a job working part-time in the same office my partner works, and that has been a source of positive energy, but so far that hasn't translated into any real change in the house.

Finally, I had a thought this morning, and it seemed so obvious when I thought it...  I think if you want to cleanse your home, you're probably doing it wrong if you don't start by actually cleaning the house.  I know, it sounds kind of dumb, but it goes along with the idea of needing to work in the mundane toward what you want to accomplish in the spiritual.

So, to that end, I went to Target this morning and picked up a few things to help me get things done.  I can be a bit of a curmudgeon sometimes about the elegance of using 'traditional' tools, but I'm starting to learn, slowly but surely, that modern conveniences can sometimes just be, well, modern and convenient.  For instance, I tend not to mop often enough, because the rag-mop and bucket, while traditional, can kind of feel like a lot of work for a little result.  I got the Swiffer WetJet because a.) I think the extra convenience will help me actually use it more regularly and b.) I had a coupon and it was on sale.  Same idea with the little pet hair remover thing and the Swiffer dusting kit.  Hopefully I will put these things to good use, and the new implements will be able to earn their keep.  They actually had a ScotchBrite broom-like thing that took disposable cloths too, which was supposed to be really good for picking up dirt and pet hair, but I didn't think I was ready to get rid of my old straw broom just yet.  A witch has to draw the line somewhere. ;)

The other thing I think I need to do, is focus my energies better.  Flowing water doesn't have more energy than stagnant water--it's just all going the same direction.  I think I might have a tendency to try to have too many 'irons in the fire' at once, even though I know I am horrible at "multi-tasking."  I think what I need to do is really focus on what my priority should be, especially now that I am working.  What is important is making sure I take proper care of my partner, our home, and our puppy, and if that means other things like business ventures or hobbies go on the back burner, then that is where they will need to go while I am getting the important things done.
I also think I can have this unfortunate tendency to waste a lot of time trying to decide the best way to spend my time.  I believe in "working smarter, not harder," but I shouldn't let it turn into "thinking harder, not working."  I need to remember that as long as what I'm working on gets me closer to the goal and not further, then it isn't wrong even if things aren't done in the perfect order.  Focus is good, but pinpoint accuracy is probably not required to get the house clean.

I can even let myself feel guilty about the time I've spent writing this, when I could have been cleaning the kitchen.  But, I do think stating goals and setting plans can be important.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cursed Food?

As a footnote to yesterday's story about the restaurant, this morning we had decided we would eat our leftovers from the restaurant (my sweetie had some salmon, I had the rest of my risotto) and I was going to make us more softboiled eggs to have with it.  The eggs were getting going, and I heated the risotto in the microwave.  As I was taking the risotto to the counter, the Corelleware bowl that I was using slipped out of my hand and shattered--no, exploded into hundreds of little shards that shot all over the kitchen and beyond.  I managed to get most of the mess cleaned up without ruining the eggs, at least.  I swear, there was some kind of energy that was just determined to make sure that dish was a negative experience.  Even my sweetie thought my risotto must have been cursed!

This morning, I needed to make sure the kitchen floor was safe for barefoot walking, so I swept again, more thoroughly, and then gave the whole kitchen a good mopping, which was actually long overdue.  It ended up inspiring some more ideas worthy of the telling, but those will be another story.

Monday, September 17, 2012

New Foods, New Resolutions

I imagine myself to be quite the foodie, of course.  A love of food (and more specifically, a love of eating it) almost seems to be a prerequisite for having a love of cooking, you know?  Sometimes, though, I can surprise even myself with how limited my experiences with different cuisines has been.  I attribute it to growing up in the Midwest, whose cuisine consists almost exclusively of bland things with gravy on top.  My partner has German roots and has fond recollections of German and European cuisine, so that has been something I've been keen to explore.

So, earlier in the month, she and I placed an order from for some brötchen {rolls} and some leberwurst and teewurst.  She had told me to expect the flavor to be much different from the braunschweiger that I remembered from the Midwest, but nothing she could have said would have prepared me for the pure food ecstasy that was German leberwurst.  We had brötchen and leberwurst for dinner both Thursday night and Friday night, and Sunday morning we had a traditional German breakfast of softboiled egg with (again) brötchen and leberwurst.  Incidentally, it was also my first-ever softboiled egg-- both cooking one and eating one, even!  Really!  It will certainly not be my last, though.  
As much as I value variety, I think it really shows how much I enjoyed it that we ate basically the same meal three times in four days.  Next, I just need to find a German cookbook so I can make some delicacies of my own...

Changing subject, today I got a call from my sweetie before lunch; she was alone in her office and wanted to let me know that she wouldn't have to watch the clock during her lunch break, if we wanted to do something nice for lunch together.  I imagine she was thinking about how I generally really enjoy being treated to a nice restaurant--that might be my favorite indulgence.  It can really make me feel special to sit in a restaurant, have my order taken, have the food served to the table... I think maybe that's a time I allow myself to open and draw healing energies in.  I guess it makes sense--if I use cooking and serving food to send healing energies out, maybe being served and eating lets me draw them in too.

Anyway, I made reservations for lunch at our favorite really-nice local Italian restaurant--We had a gift card that her boss had given us, and I imagined that if it went over, maybe we'd be out for an hour and ten minutes, something like that, and she had let me know it wouldn't be a big deal.  We ended up being gone for almost two hours!  Even though the restaurant wasn't busy, it took a long time for the waiter to come to take our order.  Then it took a long time for our soups to be served.  Then after we had finished our soup, it took a long time for our entrées to arrive.  Once we were done with our meal, it took another long time for the waiter to bring the check and settle our bill.  I like to think of myself as easy-going, but it rather ruined the experience for me--especially since I had really started stressing on how long I was keeping her away from work, but also just because it gets hard to feel valued, welcomed, and cared for when you're feeling neglected and ignored.

There was some positive, though; I had my first French Onion soup and my first risotto today at the restaurant.  I told you it can be shocking what I haven't tried yet!  I rather enjoyed both of them, despite the disappointing service.  It makes me want to learn to cook them myself.

Also, my partner and I have started watching the movie Julie & Julia, which is where the "new resolution" part comes in.  With the events of the past few days helping to open my eyes to all the amazing foods that must be out there that I haven't experienced yet, and the movie providing an inspiration, I think that I want to start making a point to try more new recipes--I don't know if I'd take on 500-odd recipes in 365 days like Julie does in the movie, but maybe 2-3 a week?  I think it'd be fun.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Heal Thyself

I've always imagined my 'role' to be that of a healer.  I think I might be a little too reserved to make a proper shaman, and while I can read Tarot at something of a beginner level, it certainly doesn't come easy enough that I consider myself a seer.  I think I can have a lot of good insights, but I don't know that I am comfortable enough with imparting the more difficult truths to be a proper sage.  But one thing I do love to do is heal.  I like to make people feel better, I like to make people happy, I like to bring comfort to people.

I imagine that even a machine can create food that has nutritional value, but I like to Craft my food to not only be nourishing but stimulating and comforting, to feed the body, mind, and soul.  Beyond that, I have been told I have 'magic fingers' when I massage.  I like the idea of being a healer, and I like to think maybe I am good at it.

There is a blind spot, however.  I've also been told that, despite how well I like to take care of others, I often neglect myself.  I've been asked why I don't try to heal myself the way I try to heal others.  I've been trying to answer that question for myself recently, and so far the only answer I've come up with is, "it's just different."  I mean, sure, I can give myself comfort food just like I can for anyone else (and I do, on occasion, which is probably why I've gained so much weight).  But even that feels different.

I was doing a reading for my partner this evening, and I think it might have occurred to me.  I think, when I heal, I am using some of my own energy, sending it out to the other person, and channeling Divine energy as it goes.  When I prepare a meal, I am putting some of my own energy into it to try to bring out its nourishing, healing properties.
If I were to do that toward myself, then all of a sudden I'm not sending my energy out anymore, I'm trying to draw energy in.  It's actually totally backwards.  I'm not sure I know how to even do that.

But, maybe I should focus on the "Three-fold Rule," as Wiccans refer to it...  If I send positive, healing energy out, it should come back to me--except magnified, channeling Divine energies as it goes.  Maybe I just need to make sure I'm accepting it when it comes around.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Creeping Negativity

It feels as though I might be battling a miasma of some sort... for the past 24 hours or so it just seems like there is a powerful negativity around that has a mind of its own.  My partner and I both slept fitfully and with unsettling dreams (she dreamed I didn't want to share interests with her anymore, I dreamed my legs were crippled and I couldn't use my kitchen).  Even the puppy was acting up last night--which at the time felt like a source of the negative feelings rather than an effect, but now I am imagining the miasma could have been affecting him too.

I'm doing some minor things to try to protect myself; I'm wearing a strengthening fragrance which helps me envision the Moon and her light, and I decided to cover my head with a green headscarf for light protection.  I'm also wearing a locket for protection, and my Vampire Killer pendant as a ward for negative entities.
For the home's protection, I finished crafting some sandalwood votives that had been on the table; the fragrance should be good protection, and I do think that having them sitting unfinished may not have been good for energy flow.  Once those are ready and their fragrance subsides, I think I should get some oak going on in here.
Of course, all that is just to tide things over until I can Craft a more permanent solution.

As far as the root of things goes, it does occur to me that there might be some lingering negativity in the house related to some of the "clutter" items... I know that before I came here, my partner came into the possession of a large volume of stuff when her parents passed, and that she felt overwhelmed by the task of dealing with it all--and many of those items are still here.  In addition, I brought with me quite a few things that feel as though they are from a former life, or that I may have acquired for the wrong reasons, and having those still bound to me could be a negative force as well.

In any case, I think a good de-cluttering and cleaning--both physical and spiritual--is in order.  It might take a few days (weeks?) but I do think it needs to be done.  It may make a bigger difference than I even imagine!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Divine Gift

May I just say--at the risk of sounding like an obnoxious hopeless lovebird--that I think I have the most perfect partner in the world?

She is always so understanding, so loving, so caring... she makes it very easy to keep the positive energies flowing.  I don't think she even understands what she gives to me.  But that is part of what makes her perfect for me.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Asian Lunch FAIL

There's nothing quite like accidentally dipping one's hair into one's soy sauce, and subsequently painting soy sauce all over one's top with one's hair, to make one feel ungraceful.

Oh well, humility is a virtue that must be nurtured from time to time...

Adventures in Fried Chicken

Holy cow, I overslept this morning!  I did manage to (barely) get up in time to make breakfast for my sweetie before she went off to work, though, so I guess it's not that bad.  She tells me (in reference to our German Shepherd) that a tired dog is a good dog... I wonder what a sleepy witch is?

On to the story, though.  Starting at the beginning, for my birthday I received a Food Network Magazine subscription from a family friend.  I always like to try to appreciate gifts, and I really wanted to like the magazine, but I'm not sure many of the recipes seem like my style, honestly.  I was determined I was going to craft something from the pages of this magazine, though, and I finally settled on a fried chicken recipe, which was billed as the recipe they use at the Red Rooster Harlem restaurant.

So, starting on Saturday evening and continuing in to Sunday evening, I prepared this fried chicken.  I'm not going to go through all the steps (since the recipe you can click on does that already), except to say that I did substitute ancho for the berbere, and I used an electric deep-fryer instead of the stovetop pan of oil.  The chicken turned out well; the breading was thick and crispy and flavorful and I would say it was every bit as good as what you would get at a fried chicken restaurant (like Oprah's favorite, Ezell's Chicken, which happens to be local here).

So why did it seem so wrong?

My 'usual' fried chicken recipe is from my vintage 1969 edition Betty Crocker's Cookbook, which is also (as near as I can tell from the flavor) my grandmother's recipe--except, of course, that instead of cooking oil, she would always fry in saved bacon fat (as do I).  It's a very simple and elegant recipe; other than the chicken itself and the fat to fry it in, the only ingredients are flour, salt, pepper, and paprika.  Almost nothing need get wasted; even the little bit of extra seasoned flour that doesn't stick to the chicken can be used to make a great milk gravy with the pan drippings.  And it's slow-fried, so the chicken is incredibly tender all the way to the bone--it's all about bringing out and complementing the flavor of the meat.

Compare that to the FNM recipe, which calls for a lot of exotic and/or expensive ingredients, at least one of which is ridiculously difficult to find and purchase--there's the berbere spice (or ancho powder, since you can actually find that), coconut milk, and semolina, all of which I bought specifically to make this recipe.  It also seems extremely wasteful as printed; it has us make far more spice mix than the recipe actually uses, it uses an entire quart of buttermilk to make more marinade that seems necessary, and the flour mixture (with the expensive semolina in it) also had a lot left over.  And that's not even mentioning the large quantity of peanut oil that can't be used again after frying this.  What does all this get you?  Basically, a glorified buttermilk batter on some flash-fried chicken.  This recipe is obviously all about the coating--the chicken is hurriedly cooked in the space of less than ten minutes, effectively sacrificing it for the good of the "extra-crispy" batter.

To review:  One recipe feels traditional, elegant, and efficient, and enhances the main ingredient; the other feels industrial, over-complicated, and wasteful, and reduces the main ingredient to a vehicle for its coating.  Is it any wonder that one of them feels much more magical than the other one?

I'm still glad I tried this recipe, despite feeling absolutely no connection to the resulting meal.  I think it taught me a lot about what "my style" of cooking is, and why.  And, it gave me a new appreciation for my simple, elegant recipes.  Maybe there's some magic in that after all.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Electric Mayonnaise

One thing I can be a bit stubborn about is using electric appliances.  Well, not all of them; some electric appliances are my friends, like my oven and glass-top range--here in the Pacific Northwest, where most of the electricity is either hydroelectric or geothermal, an electric stove is probably more eco-friendly than burning propane, although there is something about cooking over an actual flame that would still be hard to say no to.  I'm not even talking about my toaster oven, or single-purpose things like my rice cooker, deep fryer, toaster, or slicer.  Now that I think on it, apparently I actually like using electric appliances a lot.  Maybe I should start again.

One thing I can be rather stubborn about is using powered mixing appliances in my kitchen.  I understand it's a lot easier to dump your ingredients in a food processor and push the button, instead of chopping things with a knife and cutting board.  I understand a hand mixer can whip eggs faster than I can do it with a whisk.  I understand that a bread machine is less effort than hand-kneading.  I understand the appliances make things easier, I just don't like the idea of having a machine do certain things for me.  I like having that connection with the food, turning it from raw ingredients into finished dishes with my own hands.  (Plus, I tend to hate the noise those things make--like fingernails on a chalkboard, if you ask me.)  So whenever a recipe says something like, "Beat for 2 minutes on medium speed," I tend to just pull out my whisk and go to it.  It just seems so much more satisfying and, well, magical to do it that way.

However, one thing that didn't quite turn out by hand was homemade mayonnaise.  I got it in my head that I wanted to try my hand at making my own, fresh, preservative-free mayonnaise, so I found a recipe, and started whisking away.  Over an hour later, I still had nothing but a bowl of oily liquid, and boy, was my arm tired.  I had a determination to try again later, but in the meantime, my sweetie decided to get me a gift, so now I have a lovely pink immersion blender (pictured right).  So, I made another attempt at the same traditional recipe, except using this electric blender instead of my whisk.  At first it thickened up beautifully, but by the time I had finished adding the oil it had collapsed into the same liquidy mess.  Before giving up permanently, though, I decided to give the far-too-easy-sounding recipe in the blender's instruction book a try.  It was the same ingredients, after all, just assembled a bit differently.  Miraculously enough, in less than five minutes start-to-finish, this motorized magic wand turned a cup full of oil with an egg at the bottom into a jar of creamy, delicious mayonnaise.  And the motor wasn't even unreasonably loud while it was doing it!  I may even end up re-thinking my stance on powered food-prep tools; seeing clouds of creamy mayo billow up into existence in the bottom of that cup felt plenty magical to me.

Of course, I am probably not going to be totally happy until I've successfully done it by hand at least once, just so I can say that I can do it.  But, surely a witch is nothing if not practical, so any tool--motorized or not--that can turn an hour's worth of heavy whisking into thirty seconds of "Poof, done!" has earned its keep in my kitchen. :)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Returning to Optimisim

As a preface to this story, I craft my own candles.  It's just one of those things that felt like a natural fit for a kitchen witch; it really is a form of cooking, after all.  The skills are the same--knowing how to follow a recipe, and knowing when to tweak that recipe just like so, to come up with the perfect result.  And just like my homemade bread has spoiled me for store-bought, I would certainly hate to have to go back to mass-produced store-bought candles as well.

And so it happened that my partner and I decided I should try to share my craft, and we got a website going to sell my candles online.  During the month of June, we advertised on Google Adwords, and over 200 people came to see my site!

None of them placed an order.

As you could probably imagine, this was a bit discouraging.  I mean, I know the site is sort of basic, but I didn't think it was that bad.  Either way, I ended up feeling as though this online business thing was just harder than I imagined it would be, and sort of put things on the back burner with it.

However, last week one of my partner's coworkers decided to place an order for some candles, and we found out through her that the payment processor I was using (PayPal) was declining all of her cards.  Someone else had also previously mentioned having issues, but she had thought maybe her prepaid card didn't have enough balance on it.  So this made it seem like the problem was that the website was broken, which actually makes a bit more sense than having 200 people come after searching for candles, and none of them wanting to order any.

That's still not great, of course, since that advertising investment was sort of wasted if the website wouldn't take people's money.  But, more importantly than that, I'm feeling much more optimistic now, imagining that the problem is something I should be able to fix.  I'm getting the positive energy flowing again now, and hoping for the best again--which, of course, is the only proper way for a witch to be.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On being a Lady

I do think that an important part of following the Lady is to be a lady.  I don't mean that in the sense that only females can honor the Goddess, of course.  I'm simply talking about myself here, and how I believe I should choose to comport myself.  My image of the Goddess is elegant, graceful, patient, and serene, and nurturing those traits in myself can only make me feel closer to that ideal.

As an example, I choose to wear skirts or dresses; I simply don't wear pants.  I don't even own any pants.  In the non-summer months, I often wear tights under my skirt, but as is famously pointed out on the internet, tights are not pants, they are undergarments.  When asked about this (and I have been asked), I usually reply, slightly jokingly, that pants are against my religion.  Jokingly, because the "religion" of a Pagan spiritual path certainly doesn't have any Commandment against women wearing pants.  Seriously, because my spiritual path would strongly encourage me to do those things which help me feel more like a spiritual being, and to avoid those things which make me feel less so.

My partner has actually become something of a role-model for me in this area.  She and I were having a discussion in the car the other day, when I pointed out that it seemed like she just simply doesn't use swear words.  Not even like the people who end up saying "Oh fudge!" in such a way that it's obvious which 'f' word they really wanted to use; I mean she really doesn't curse.  She was telling me how, when she was in the Air Force at a time when there were very few women, she had resolved herself not to let herself become "one of the guys" like some of the other women did; she did her best to be ladylike even wearing a flightsuit, making sure she wore perfume and making a conscious choice not to use the 'salty language' that the men tended to.  In contrast, my work history (in the office of a manufacturing facility) brought me in contact with the blue-collar set for several years, and my vocabulary picked up several unfortunate additions along the way--I don't curse like a sailor or anything, but I do use the occasional swear word.  Not that it isn't perfectly acceptable for a woman to speak that way in modern culture, but it just doesn't feel very ladylike.

It does seem like over the past few months as I let my spirituality go to an extent, I also may have let myself go at the same time.  I've gained weight, I often don't put on makeup in the mornings, I let my nails get shabby-looking, and so on.  While that may seem like superficial stuff, the overall effect is that I haven't been feeling as much like an elegant lady as I did at one point.  So, I'm making kind of a mid-year resolution to start undoing some of those changes, and to remember to try to always be a Lady.

Monday, July 16, 2012


It's only proper that one should start a journal off with an introduction, don't you think?

My name is Jessica, and I am a "self-proclaimed" kitchen witch (as if there is any other kind).  More specifically, I consider myself to be an eclectic Pagan, which is more or less the earth-based-spirituality equivalent of saying "non-denominational."  I consider myself a fairly normal person, overall; my broom is for sweeping and not for flying, and my cauldron is far more likely to have stew bubbling in it than any strange potions.  I have "cast a spell" on occasion, but even that is far less arcane and supernatural than most people would imagine.

I was actually raised in a somewhat-fundamental Christian home, right in the middle of the Bible Belt.  Those teachings never really resonated with me, though, and I ended up falling away from the church.  I often felt as though there might be something missing, but I couldn't put a finger on what it was, until a few years ago when I stumbled onto a wonderful website about the modern Wicca faith.  Although Wicca turned out not to be the exact spiritual path I would follow either, it helped to solidify an earth-based spirituality that before that had just been abstract feelings in my mind.  Since then, I've discovered that the place I feel most connected to the World, and the most magical, is in my kitchen; when I open myself up to it, the art of cooking and other domestic things can feel like religious observances.  The phrase "kitchen witch" is also something I found online, when I discovered there were other like-minded Pagans out there.

All passions cool eventually, though, and it seems like the past year or so I haven't been practicing the way I should--I haven't been keeping track of moon phases or even solar holidays, I don't have an altar set up at the moment, and so on.  Which would be fine, except that now that little niggling "something is missing" feeling is creeping up again; this time, though, I know what I need to do to satisfy it.  As part of that, I'm starting this web-journal as a writing project that will hopefully help keep me in touch with my spiritual side.  So, by all means, feel free to follow along if you're interested!