Thursday, December 19, 2013


Or, "How the Holidays were Cancelled this Year."

One bad thing about having an atypical 'religion' is that the world is just not structured to recognize and/or accommodate your observances.  I expect even followers of Judaism, which is really not obscure in the least, run into this... whereas certain Christian holidays (like Christmas) are also national holidays, those "other" winter-solstice holidays like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Yule aren't considered legitimate reasons to miss work.

I was thinking, ever since I started my new job, even though I only work an average of three days a week, I think I have been working on all the Sun holidays and maybe all but one of the Full Moons.  Lughnasadh?  I was at work.  Mabon?  Work.  The Blue Moon we had a while back?  Work.  Same for both the Blood Moon and Samhain.  So when I got my December schedule, I wasn't all that surprised to see I was working on Yule too.  I decided I would just move my celebration a few days earlier and celebrate the Night's Moon, and I was okay with that.  We planned to bake a ham and make the requisite trimmings, and have a nice little observance at home.

At 7:30 that morning, however, I got a call from work; one of my co-workers was in the hospital and I needed to go to work and cover for her.  So instead of the nice holiday in the kitchen that I thought I was going to have, I again had to work.  Oh well.  We'll still cook and eat the ham sometime, of course, but it won't be the same.

On the other hand, the good thing about having non-standard holidays is that your observances can be much more personal; I get invited for Christmas all the time, but I don't often have other people making plans for me for Yule.  I see other people requesting time off here and there all the time; I'm not sure why I don't feel like I can do the same thing.  Maybe if the powers-that-be know which days are special to me, they would try to accommodate them.  I don't even expect all twelve Moons and all eight Solar holidays, but a few of the special ones (like Yule or a Blue Moon) feels reasonable.  I'll never know unless I ask, right?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Well, the long-term forecast for the Pacific Northwest is for more winter storms than usual this year.  I'm still getting used to what a "winter storm" means here--unlike Missouri, where it's just piles and piles of snow, here, because of the geography of being between two mountain ranges it has much more to do with hurricane-force straight-line winds.  Beyond the direct threat of wind damage, more windstorms mean more extended power outages.

The normal state of our home is all-electric, both for heating and in the kitchen, which means that the house is pretty much disabled in the event of a power outage.  For lighting (and a not-insignificant amount of emergency heat), I do have a couple of Aladdin kerosene mantle lamps, and as a holiday gift from-us-to-us, we have a third one on the way, which we think is going to be the prettiest one so far.  I also have one flat-wick kerosene lamp, which if nothing else is nice for enough light to get the Aladdins warmed up by, along with a couple of mostly-decorative 'candle style' oil lights.

When the power went out a few weeks ago, I realized that while the kerosene lighting is nice, I currently have no way to cook without electricity, which is a major oversight to say the least.  I had originally looked at a butane single-burner thing, but the more I looked into it, I didn't like the short life of the butane canisters (only around 1/2 hour of burn time?) and how dangerous storing cans of the stuff around would be, and it started feeling like a highly inelegant solution.  It's the same reasons my sweetie and I are totally disinterested in having a gasoline-powered generator:  It's dangerous to store large quantities of gasoline, and between the engine noise and the limited amount of power produced, a generator is the very definition of inelegance, in our opinion.

Anyway, I finally found a solution that I was happy with--a kerosene cooking stove.  It has two burners of comparable power to my normal kitchen range, and both burners on full power can run for about 12 hours before it needs to be refilled.  Most importantly, the fuel of choice (kerosene) is extremely safe compared to volatiles like butane or gasoline.  I went with the wick-fed version... in a way, it feels like a kerosene lamp that you cook with instead of use for lighting.  I'm actually considering getting the big-burner one to use for canning even when the power isn't out, since it's not recommended to do it on my ceramic-top stove.  There's even an optional oven that would let me bake bread during an outage!  The basic two-burner one is on order and will hopefully be here by the next windstorm.

I don't think we'll actually need to worry about heating, with all those things running, but if it turns out we do, a kerosene radiant heater seems like the obvious choice, just to be using the same fuel for everything.

Next, I might need to think about making sure I have enough dry and canned goods, since in a truly extended outage the stuff in the fridge and freezer will eventually go bad.  A water filter would be smart too... but I feel like this is a good step in the right direction.  It feels nice to know that we are getting prepared to be able to just carry on in an outage, and nicer to know I am doing it in a way that feels simple, elegant, and true to who we are.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Since the first of August, it feels like there has been a bit of a sea change...  I have been working many more days and hours than in July, basically full-time (if not a little over).  September's calendar is even busier!  It has to have been at least two weeks since I've been able to do anything significant in the kitchen, and for the past Full Moon--a Blue Moon, by old world reckoning--I ended up working on both the Eve and the day, so I didn't have much of a chance to honor it the way I would have wanted.  I did at least get a good chance to see the Moon on the drive home from work, which is often hard to do from our heavily-wooded backyard.

Finding a balance has eluded me so far, probably because every time I think I have things worked out, then I have more days added to my schedule (for instance, those two workdays that were on the Moon were late additions).  I haven't given up trying though.  After working tomorrow, I do at least have a four-day weekend for Labor Day.  I'm hoping to be able to focus my energies and do some home cooking at least once during the weekend.  I want to feel like a kitchen witch again!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

You Say Tomato, I Say No Problem

There is one food that I can point to as being the most detested, loathed, dreaded food of my childhood, and it's name is Tomato.  This was a problem for me as a child, because one of my mother's favorite foods was (again) Tomato.  She would serve it, sliced and possibly salted, on our dinner plates, and one of my earliest childhood memories--one that I have never forgiven my mother for--is of being forced to sit in front of said plate until I forced myself to consume said Tomato, despite the fact that the flavor of this raw, salted tomato was so loathesome as to invoke an involuntary gag reflex whenever I put a piece into my mouth.  The way my child mind remembers it, I had to sit there for over four hours--which probably means I was there at least twenty minutes.

So, I think it's a testament to how much my palate has grown that the ingredients for last night's dinner consisted of scarcely more than this:

Almost five pounds of lovely, not-sinister-at-all tomatoes!  They were less than $1 a pound, so I decided it was time to make some homemade Tomato Soup.  (The recipe is from Food Network Magazine, naturally.) I only made the tomato soup part of the recipe this time; I invented my own grilled cheese sandwiches, which ended up being muenster and gouda with bologna, on grilled garlic bread.  

It all turned out so delicious, and smelling so good, that I forgot to take a picture of the meal for the blog, so you all will have to settle for a picture of the leftover servings of soup.  My sweetie thinks I have ruined her for canned tomato soup for life!

As for me, I think I can say I have finally cured my aversion to tomatoes for life.  Though I doubt I will ever choose to serve them sliced and salted as a side dish...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Fire Moon

By my admittedly eclectic reckoning, as the second Moon of the Summer season, last night's sunset was the Fire Moon's Eve.  My sweetie and I did go outside after dark, but at our latitude, actually seeing the Moon in our heavily wooded area was a bit futile--even at midnight She hadn't quite crested the treeline.  It was a clear night and we did see a bit of moonlight through the trees, which was nice enough, since in the Pacific Northwest we often only see the Moon in spirit.

For today's Moon dinner, I couldn't think of anything better for the Fire Moon than to use my new(ish) charcoal grill!  I thawed out some pork chops from the freezer and rubbed them up with some sage-based Pork Rub from our local World Market, and also toasted some ears of corn on the grill, which I served just with butter and salt.  It was a simple meal, but it was very enjoyable.  I had forgotten how good corn-on-the-cob could be; it's been years since I had it, and I don't think I've ever had it off the grill before.

I'm going to try to carry the fire energy from this Moon forward into the coming month, when I have a fuller work schedule and the passion and productivity will certainly come in handy.  And of course, tonight during twilight will be an excellent time for a Full Moon Reading to get some extra insight to take forward with me.

No matter how you name your Moons, I hope you all had a blessed one!  I think I did.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Balancing Act

Whoo!  I'm coming down from a string of long working days--wrapping up with a fourteen-hour day on Thursday.  I'm only now starting to feel like a person today after that.  So now that I'm well rested and have a day off, of course I decided to make an epic shopping/couponing run!  Five stores, three-and-a-half-hours, and a whole car load of good deals.

After the shopping trip, it was a bit late in the afternoon (or is 5:00 considered "prevening"?) so I decided we would have a "convenience dinner" with one of the products I got a good deal on:  I prepared a Velveeta Cheesy Skillets meal (Beef Stroganoff), which I served us half of and put the other half in the freezer, and then I made a side dish out of canned asparagus spears and my Cheaty Cheese Sauce that I just invented tonight:

Jessie's Cheaty Cheese Sauce
Cheez Whiz (around 1 tbsp per person)
Heavy whipping cream

  1. In a small bowl, warm Cheez Whiz in microwave. (Try not to boil it over like I did.) 
  2. Add heavy cream in small amounts, stirring after each addition, until the sauce is the desired consistency. 
  3. Use microwave to warm sauce back up if necessary. 

I know it really wasn't gourmet fare or anything, but my sweetie and I agreed it was really good.  I think this type of "semi-homemade" meal might help me find my new balance between having a job and still enjoying the kitchen; it's the type of thing I could put together even on a work night (assuming I actually got home at a usual hour), and I think it's better and more fulfilling than just bringing home take-out--not to mention significantly less expensive.  As a side bonus, these convenience-food items seem to be the kind of thing you're most likely to find a juicy coupon stack on, which means that shopping for them can be rather fun too.

So, while it still doesn't feel quite the same as a meal where I prep all the produce and ingredients "from scratch", I think it's going to be a good compromise for a lot of occasions--something easy enough to do after a day of work, but where I can still feel like I have a hand in the preparation and a chance to work some of my magic on it, even if it is just a little bit.

Sometimes a little bit of magic can go a long way, right?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Reasonably Extreme Couponing

With the recent changes to the household's employment situation, I feel like it has become even more important for me to save money on groceries and household purchases whenever I can.  However, we have made one major purchase recently:  Due to my new job, it was important for me to quit being a curmudgeon and get with the "digital age" by upgrading to an Android smartphone.  Fortunately, there are available 'apps' that can help save money, and maybe help this phone pay for itself to some extent.

You know, I actually hesitate to write about this type of thing, because one of my absolute least favorite shows on television is "Extreme Couponing".  I find myself becoming completely disgusted by the people whom they feature on the show; to me they are just these completely self-absorbed people who only care about adding to their hoard of stuff in their garage that they're never going to be able to use all of, and don't care who else they affect when they completely clean a store out of inventory on sale items.  It wouldn't even be so bad if they went out and got $1000 worth of stuff for 15¢ if they donated the excess to a food bank or something, but the way it's depicted, I just see them as a different kind of "hoarder."

That being said, I do think there's a middle ground, where I can search for good deals on things we will use, and to that end, I've started to learn the art of "Couponing."  I've been trying to combine sales with coupons for a while, but there are tricks to it that I hadn't quite stumbled on on my own.  I got myself all excited when I learned how to 'coupon stack,' which means I can use a "store" coupon and a "manufacturer" coupon and a bonus deal from an app like Ibotta (which I highly recommend, by the way) all on the same one item.  Very occasionally, there might even be a "Moneymaker" deal where the combination of sale, store coupon, manufacturer coupon, and Ibotta rebate can end up being cheaper than free!  I haven't actually done that just yet, but the possibility gives me a tingly feeling.

So maybe I am an "extreme couponer" at heart after all, then?  I certainly don't ever see myself cleaning out a store of inventory just so it can go bad on expensive-looking shelves in an expensive-looking garage.  But I do have to admit, I've been having a lot of fun finding deals that maybe not everyone else would.  I even joked to my sweetie the other day that I might bring home a receipt and announce that it was a "New High Score!"  I guess, to me the difference between "extreme" (in a bad way) and "reasonable" is whether or not the items go to waste, and whether or not I'm being considerate of other shoppers as I find my amazing deals.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Working Girl

For the past three-and-a-half years or so, I've been mostly unemployed, through no fault of my own.  (Actually, that's probably a story worth telling in its own regard, but that will have to be another time.)  It's been during this time where I've had a lot of time at home that I really ended up developing my skills, talent, and passion for the kitchen.  Sometimes it can actually feel weird to look back and realize that six years ago, I didn't even know how to cook.

Things have changed a bit this past month, though!  I have gotten a part-time job that may be working into a full-time job soon.  The thing is, I only work a few days each week, but on the days I do work, I can be gone from the house for twelve or fourteen hours.  And the first week, I worked four long days out of five, for training, which kept me away from the house (and the kitchen) quite a bit.  Because the job has me working with expert doctors, I don't even get to pack the nice bento lunches like I used to--I'm supposed to buy lunch for myself and the doctors during the clinic (as a reimbursed business expense)!  I understand that this is kind of a perk to have my lunch paid for by the company, but I liked my homemade lunches.  My poor bento boxes are getting neglected now.

For the [U.S.] Independence Day holiday, I have a stretch of seven days off in a row, so I decided to head out shopping on my first day off and get ready to reconnect to the kitchen!  The first thing I made was some wild Alaskan sockeye salmon, grilled and served with curried lentils and an arugula salad.  (The recipe was from my new Food Network Magazine, naturally.)  I hadn't had lentils outside of lentil soup before, and my sweetie was a bit skeptical of what curried ones would taste like, but we both agreed afterwards that it was a delicious dinner.

I've also been using my grill a lot this week, what with the record highs in the Pacific Northwest; I made some really awesome strip steaks, some sausages (with Girl-Scout-style foil-packet potato hash!), and of course hamburgers.  I'm still planning some shrimp on the grill, and maybe some more cedar-planked salmon.

And then on Saturday, it'll be time to go back to work.  I really can't complain, though, I do love my new job.  It's just going to take a little bit of adjustment, as it does for any change, to find a new balance, and not make plans that are too big for the energy level I have left after a thirteen-hour workday.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Out of the Kitchen, To the Fire

In the spirit of broadening my cooking horizons, I decided this year to get in on some of the "summer" cooking that you can only do if you own a grill, so I bought a small (18") Weber charcoal kettle grill a couple of weeks ago.  There's a small part of me that feels a little weird about it, because the more things I read in order to learn to use this grill, the more I get the sense that outdoor grilling is very much considered a "guy thing"--to an extent I'm not sure I realized when I got the thing, although my sweetie had mentioned it as a concern that kept her from buying one for me as a gift.

Of course, I tend to think the "guy thing" business only applies if your household actually includes a guy, which mine doesn't.  At least, not unless you count our German Shepherd, Bodie, and I really don't think I'd trust him to cook anything properly.  And I have to say, any tiny niggling "weird feeling" is rapidly being chased away by the flavor of the food that has come off of my cute little grill so far.  

First, I christened it by making some cedar-planked Copper River salmon, which was absolutely to die for.  It was too rainy for outdoor cooking last weekend, but this weekend I made the entire "Farmer's Market Menu" from the July/August '12 issue of Food Network Magazine, including some brined pork chops off the grill, with a nice chutney.  I think they had to be the best pork chops I have ever had, and the meal really did make me realize that there is no substitute for the grill--you simply don't get that flavor any other way.  I'm already hoping the weather stays nice enough I can fire it back up tomorrow and make some flame-broiled burgers.

So I'm thinking, why should I bother feeling even the least bit weird about enjoying "men's" cooking?  I'm a kitchen witch, which means I like to cook.  Why would cooking with a charcoal fire be any different--or any less magical--than cooking in an oven or on a stovetop?  To me it feels more magical, more in touch with nature.  Besides, we witches have a long history of challenging the status quo of what is or isn't a "ladies' thing."

It would take some planning... but maybe one of these days I'll even have an opportunity to cook something outside under a Full Moon.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Musings on Muses

I think every witch, and indeed, every Pagan, has their muses.  I think that often they take the form of the Gods or Goddesses that we revere--from Cerridwen and Morrighan and Oona of the Fey to Astarte to Isis, Ra, and Osiris.  Maybe it's not even restricted to Pagans; I mean, in today's time, isn't Jesus first and foremost an avatar of what we aspire to be like?

For myself, I do feel connected to the Celtic and British deities, especially the Fey, but then I think I have some other, less deified, muses that might be specific to the kitchen witch.  My first muse, even before I found the Pagan path, had to be Betty Crocker.  When I was first learning to be on my own and finding my place in the kitchen, my most prized possession was an antique copy of Betty Crocker's Cookbook* that my mother gave me, unique among all my cookbooks in that it taught the basics I needed--how to boil eggs, how long to cook things like steaks, roasts, and turkeys, and so much more.  And so I accepted Betty as my muse, with the full understanding that she never actually walked the earth, and is merely a fictional character, created by the imaginations of people to be the perfect 'everywoman' who can unfailingly and unflappably work magic in the kitchen day after day.

Now that I have mastered all the basics, I may have at least partly outgrown what Betty Crocker and her sacred texts can show me (though I still consult the old red Cookbook from time to time).  The next leg of my journey, and my next set of muses, come from the pages of Food Network Magazine.**  I consistently find the recipes in this magazine, especially the ones from the "Weeknight Cooking" section, to be some of the most well-balanced and delicious dishes I have ever experienced, let alone created.  Just tonight, I made some Turkey-Pepperoni Burgers that my sweetie told me had the best flavor of anything she had ever eaten. And while the muses of Food Network differ from Lady Crocker in that they are based on real people, who live and breathe even today, they are also the same in that the images we receive are edited and shaped to transform these everyday people--from Ina Garten, Giada DeLaurentis, and Paula Deen to Bobby Flay and Alton Brown--into unfailing, unflappable avatars of what all of us kitchen folk aspire to be.

I have to wonder, then... could these fictional, or semi-fictional, characters be a type of modern-day mythology, not so far removed from those ancient stories of gods and goddesses, larger-than-life heroes or heroines meant to inspire us to greater things?

*Copyright date 1969!  Not that long before I was born, but still clearly from an earlier, simpler time.

**I am not affiliated with Food Network in any way, and sadly am receiving no compensation for my endorsement.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Accidental Butter

It's possible that an immersion blender may not be the best tool for making whipped cream with.

On the plus side, I now know what to do if I ever want to make homemade sweet-cream butter....

Monday, March 11, 2013


Today's New Moon crept up on me a bit; I think my mind has been elsewhere a bit recently.  Actually, I think I ended up taking the entire Storm Moon "off" a bit, even despite receiving a gift that is certain to be one of my most valued possessions I will ever own:

My sweetie gave to me a very high-quality set of forged German knives from the Wüsthof "Classic" series, including the first proper cook's knife I have ever owned.  I had actually thought my old knives were fairly sharp, until I used one of these for the first time--I'm still finding myself amazed at how easy food preparation is with these.  I've been vigilant about keeping the blades clean, dry, and protected in the block, and have been using the knife steel religiously to make sure they stay in perfect condition--I want these to still be my special knives decades from now.

As it turns out, the gift came at a good time; my sweetie and I received some unhappy health news recently, so something that will help me stay passionate about cooking healthy meals for us is a blessing.  Not that I ever mind cooking--I love to cook--but sometimes I forget to sit down and plan things well enough to have proper ingredients (and proper inspiration for what to cook) on hand.  Fortunately, a New Moon is also the perfect time for planning, so despite the less-than-perfect bills of health, it does seem like everything is coming together at an auspicious time.

Now if only Wüsthof made something that could help me enjoy the cleanup as much as I enjoy the cooking... ;)

Monday, January 14, 2013

It's In the Shoes

I feel good about what I got accomplished in the house today!  My sweetie had the car today so I could stay home and take delivery of our new freezer.  Now I have plenty of room to store leftovers and stock up during sales.  We wanted the freezer to go where our microwave had been, so I got the microwave stand moved to its new home and everything all swept up and dusted in time for the delivery man to arrive.  I also got a bunch of laundry taken care of, and made some good progress in cleaning the living room.

I actually think that part of the reason I feel good about what I did today was that I didn't seem to have to sit down and take breaks to rest my back nearly as often.  I ended up wearing my purple walking shoes today since I wasn't going anywhere; they're really comfortable, but a bit too casual to wear to work or to go out.  I'm honestly not that sure I really got more done than I would have on a typical day, but I felt more capable of doing it.

It makes me realize that on those days where I think I'm feeling dissatisfied with my work in the house, instead it might be that I'm unhappy from feeling impaired--I don't like that things aren't always as easy as they used to be before my back was injured.  So when things come up to remind me that I have an "impairment" that can limit my activity, I think it can make me frustrated with my body, and by extension with myself.

So, it seems like the lesson for today is to wear comfortable and supportive shoes to do housework from now on. :)

Monday, January 7, 2013

New Year's Resolve

No, I know it isn't January 1st.  Yes, that means my "resolutions" post is roughly a week later than everyone else's.  I think I rather prefer it that way; path less traveled and all that, yes?  To me it makes more sense to get past all the holidays and time off and get-togethers and then set things back into some semblance of order, and then take stock of where I am and where I want to be going.

So the 'resolutions' this year, if we're calling them that, are the typical ones that practically everyone does:  We want to be healthier, I want to be more organized, keep the house better, and so on.  (Also, try to write in my blog more than once a quarter this year.)  My sweetie has given me Mondays off from my part-time job at her office for doing errands and stuff or just having extra time in the house, which should help.  Today I used my freedom to take a shopping trip to Bellevue where I went to Uwajimaya--I do love asian cooking.  I stocked up quite a bit, even though I realize I could easily go more often now.

Then I went next door to the new Total Wine and Spirits store, and I was a terribly bad witch while I was in there.  I can't help it, it's kind of a hobby of mine.  The silly part is, we had 'resolved' to partake less, so it sort of feels like I dragged a whole bunch of temptation home with me.  I am hoping to make it last a while, though; I do want to get things back to where a spirited drink feels like something special, maybe even spiritual (please ignore the pun).  And to keep from feeling deprived, I plan to enjoy teas more.  I think we can do it, and my idea was that if we had a selection of nice things to have when we do partake, then it shouldn't feel like we really gave up anything, just maybe traded some quantity for quality.

Well, I'm not going to ramble on; I should get back into the kitchen.  I have rice that needs to start cooking, and laundry that needs put into the dryer.  A kitchen witch's work is never done!