Monday, December 22, 2014

The Wheel Turns Anew

We give thanks, for the dawn has broken!
The newborn Sun has vanquished the horrible night!
And though winter's chill is still to come,
We are strengthened by its light.

We honor the Morrigan in this time of cold
We welcome Bridghid as she is born anew
We honor the Caelleach and her wisdom of old
And give thanks for the skills given us by Lugh.




Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Darkest Longest Night

The moon is new on the Longest Night;
the darkness is complete.
So as we await the Yule morn's light
we retreat to our hearth for heat.

We ask Your blessing on our flame,
that it last till the Night is done,
And we give thanks for the blessings we have
as we await the sun.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Through Passion I Gain Strength

As an aside to yesterday's entry, I was talking to my sweetie about how we feel strongly that even negative things can happen for a reason.

With the tough work schedules (and challenging personalities to work with) that I've had recently, I had very much put spirituality on the back burner as of late, in favor of focusing on just the mundane tasks that need to be done.

It's kind of interesting how, now that someone has disparaged my spiritual path to my face, it suddenly feels much more important to me.  I've talked more about my spirituality to my sweetie in the past two days than I had in the previous six months, I think.

I guess when things can be stagnant, too peaceful, if you will, it can be easy just to set something aside and believe it is safe.
But once that thing is attacked, it can become something that is worth defending, worth being passionate about.  And in using that passion to protect and defend something that you now realize is important enough to be worth defending, I think it can bring great strength to your connection to that thing, where you are no longer content to let it gather dust.

Maybe peace really is a lie....

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

I've been debating with myself about writing about this for the past day and a half, but I do think I need to.

Yesterday I had an unpleasant interaction with a coworker; she was talking about her schedule and how she had made herself an appointment on December 22 and was hoping I could switch with her so she would have the shorter workday.  I replied that the 22nd was actually a holiday for me, so I actually wished I had that day off, and definitely wasn't interested in working even more hours that day.  She then asked what holiday it was, I replied, "Yule," and she responds, "Well, I never heard of that."
Later, she brings it up again, and seems genuinely curious about what the holiday is about, so I give her the brief explanation about how Yule is the day of or after the Solstice, to celebrate having made it through the Longest Night, and that the tradition of the Yule Log comes in because in the Old Days, you would save your biggest log to use on the Longest Night.  She takes this all in, and what she says next is:

"I don't believe you're really a Pagan, though--I think you're too nice to be one of those."

Even though I should have known better, because this person has demonstrated some bigotry before, for some reason this statement hit me like a hammer, and I have to admit, I lost my cool.  What I ended up saying back to her, without even thinking first, is, "I think you are too stupid to know how offensive that was."

Naturally, she decided that she was the injured party after that, and wanted an apology from me for having called her 'stupid.'  I refused to apologize, telling her that it's doesn't matter if she knows what Paganism is or not; if she doesn't understand that telling someone who identifies as Pagan that Pagans aren't nice people is offensive, then stupid is exactly what that is.


So anyway, I felt this interaction was untoward enough that I should report it to my supervisor, so I gave an accurate account.  The response I got was that I really should not have shared, because in doing so I set myself up for comments exactly like that one.

I have to say, the response has also given me a lot of mixed feelings.  On the one hand, I can agree, to the extent that one shouldn't "cast pearls before swine," to use a metaphor that's familiar to 'them', or as the Rede* would say, "With a fool no season spend, nor be counted as [her] friend."

But on the other, it feels a bit chilling, as if I brought it on myself by daring to speak about my "minority" spirituality, even though Christians enjoy the privilege of speaking freely about their spirituality by default.  I don't think I like that, and it makes me wonder where the line would be drawn, if it wasn't drawn right there.  If I mentioned my wife at home, could someone say, "Really? You seem too nice to be a lesbian."  So forth.

Paganwiccan.about.com (a reference I happen to like) seems to both back her up and disagree, which muddles the mixture even more.  In the page I linked, on the one hand, it says that a coworker (as opposed to a supervisor) can basically be as bigoted as they want to be unless it rises to the level of harassment, and my recourse is to put my big girl panties on.  But on the other, it says that if a coworker is "asking you questions in a friendly way, it might be a good way to educate them."  What about a coworker who asks in a friendly way, but apparently does so as a pretext to find out about my beliefs so she can poop on them?

I'm guessing the answer is, I should consider myself 'on notice', to use the Judge-Judyism, that this person has a 'propensity' for bigotry, and be more circumspect around her.
And, more generally, not to cast pearls unless I can handle having a swine step on them.
And then, once I've cast my sphere of protection, to certainly report any unwanted religious overtures as potential harassment, to maintain that protection.

With a fool no season spend,
nor be counted as his friend.
Be soft of eye and light of touch,
speak ye little, listen much.


*: Although I no longer identify as Wiccan, I did 'start' that way, and while I ultimately found all the prescribed ritual to be a bit stuffy, I still have great respect for the Rede of the Wiccae.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Maven

Okay, so the Julep stuff I talked about came last Wednesday!


The Welcome Box itself came with two colors and a base coat; I added on the Plié Wand art system (which attaches to any polish bottle brush to give it a paintbrush handle, and comes with some specialty brushes and a dotting tool), a few of the "Savvy Deals" (aka clearance items) and qualified for a free "Newport" gift set with two more colors and a bracelet.

So I have a total of five colors of polish:  From left to right, there is Beverly and Sera from the welcome kit along with the base coat, then there is Something Blue and Harley from the Newport set, and the last is a special "crackle finish" silver called Glenda.
I also got a couple of lip glosses, a liquid eye shadow, and a mascara, all of which seem to work really well.  I especially like the eye sheen much more than I thought I would; it doesn't take much at all to cover well and it lasted all day even without a base coat or anything.

Naturally, I had to try out my new products as soon as they showed up, so Wednesday afternoon I tried out the Newport set and the crackle silver to do some blue nails with silver tips and a crackle-silver accent nail:
It didn't come out perfect, but I thought it was fine for a first effort.  I wore that for a few days, and then when the weekend hit I decided to try the other colors:

I did this one on Saturday, and it's still looking great with no chips and not much edge wear even this evening.  I'm impressed at how good they still look.

I've actually made a couple more orders already, which probably marks me as an addict.  The "Secret Store" thing happened over the weekend, and I got a good deal on a manicure tool set and a carrying case to put all this stuff in.  Then tonight, I gave in to the "100° OF MYSTERY BOX", so I have another round of surprise products coming after that.  I'm going to see if the Bombshell Dots manicure lasts long enough for some fresh colors to show up. ;)

If you, too, would like to become addicted to fabulous nail polishes that get sent to you every month, you can use my referral link, which will get you a free Welcome Box (and will get me a $15 credit to feed my new addiction with).

Monday, July 28, 2014

Pretty Princess

I firmly believe that all women deserve to feel beautiful.  Makeup, perfume, nail polish, and all those other beauty products aren't for other people--even though the other people are the ones who will be seeing it most of the day--make no mistake, these things are for you, for the feeling you get when you see yourself in the mirror, or smell your own perfume, or look at your hands and smile at your cute nails, and in that moment you feel pretty.

One of my first memories with makeup was with nail polish; my mom would put nail polish on me and I thought my hands looked so pretty that way.  It seems like in the past year I've started to neglect my beauty routine, and especially my nails, though... it seems like it's just too easy to get too busy and let the polish get all chipped up, and then once I take it off but don't have time to re-do it, then I just go around with unpainted nails for a few weeks.

But no more--My sweetie got me inspired by getting me started on Julep!  They have a 'regular' online store, but their primary offering is their "Maven" beauty subscription:  It's $20 a month if you pay 3 months at a time, and each month you get new nail colors and other beauty products shipped to you, default selections are based on your "Style Profile" but are customizable on the site each month.  I am a 'Bombshell', according to their quiz, and I got the little blog badge to prove it. :D

I haven't received anything just yet; after looking for a day or two, I finally splurged yesterday on the $60 3-month sub along with about $60 more in add-ons and sale stuff (you know, to get things kick-started).  I will be getting a "Welcome Box" along with the other stuff I ordered, but I'm going to have to wait until the end of August to do my first customizable "Maven Box."  They're threatening to send me a "Secret Sale" at the first of the month though, which will be hard to resist in my current mindframe.

I am excited!  It's a lovely feeling to feel pretty.  I haven't been having that often enough recently, but I think that is going to change now.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Semi-Homemade Witchery: Freebies!

As much as I prefer to cook from scratch, that isn't always the reality, especially with a full-time job and everything.  In addition, if I pay attention to sales, coupons, and special offers, stores will often just give me things. The main components of tonight's dinner, shown here, were both Free Special Offers from the Just 4 U program at Safeway (my personal favorite grocer); I was all too happy to accept them at this price, naturally.

I know that my Grandmother would never have turned down free ingredients either, just as I'm sure that in the old days, witches made magic with what was available to them, and in that spirit, I couldn't resist trying to put my own mark on the decidedly pedantic (but free) Hamburger Helper.  In addition to the ground beef (from the freezer), I added the rest of the slicer tomato that I had cut for the Mediterranean Turkey Burgers earlier, some frozen peas and corn that had been lingering in the freezer, and some leftover fresh herbs (parsley and thyme).  Also, I reduced the amount of water in the instructions, since I expected there would be some extra moisture from the tomatoes.

And to the free Crescent Rounds, we just added butter. (What did you expect?)


The resulting meal was actually quite good!  It was a nice compromise between being quick and convenient, and at least partially feeling as though I Crafted it myself.  I'm happy with it, and will be just as happy with the leftovers later in the week when I am working overtime.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Kitchen Witchery: Triple Header!

So, we're making up for the invisible (or at least undocumented) Kitchen Witchery of the past week--today I have been in my kitchen for a good portion of the day, and I have pictures to show for everything!

I think I often take breakfast dishes for granted; it's probably because they tend to be simple, as that's what we usually want in the mornings, and since breakfast is the meal I learned to make first when I began my relationship with the kitchen.  This morning I made a new variation of one of my standby weekend breakfasts:
These Corn & Cheddar Pancakes are based on the pancake recipe in my old Betty Crocker Cookbook: Whisk together 1 cup of buttermilk, an egg, 2 tablespoons oil, 3/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup cornmeal, 1 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp each of salt, sugar, and baking soda for the batter, then stir in about 1/4 cup of thawed frozen corn and a small handful of shredded cheddar before frying them up.  Served with sunny-side-up eggs (cooked low and slow) on top, of course.

Today was my first day off that was cool enough to have the oven on since getting a Pullman Loaf Pan and lid for my birthday (Thank you Mom!) so then I just had to try making a loaf of Pain de Mie:
This was a recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Bread Bible, which I won't reproduce since I'm not the copyright owner, but I will certainly recommend the book to those who are serious about wanting to make better-than-bakery-quality breads at home.  I will have to make some tweaks to either the time or temperature on the next loaf, it got just a bit too brown on the outside, but it is still beautiful.

And last, but not least, for dinner I turned to the pages of Food Network Magazine again for some Mediterranean Turkey Burgers:
These were very nice, even if the only thing really 'Mediterranean' about them was the homemade tzatziki that the recipe uses for the condiment.  These were actually the second half of the recipe; on the first round, I layered the sandwich the way the recipe page shows, and the bottom bun got really soggy from the combination of the sauce and the meat juices.  This time, I put the lettuce on the bottom to protect the bun, but then the lettuce caught the meat juice and made it drip a lot, so it seems like in both cases the burger was easiest to eat if I held it upside-down.  For the calorie count (the 540 calories includes the ounce of potato chips), they were very delicious.  They could obviously be served with a different side--like maybe some hummus and pita chips, to play better with the Mediterranean theme.

All in all, it was a great day!  Now the only thing left to do is all the dishes... ;)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Spell of Invisibility

So, I've actually been able to get back in my kitchen this past week!  I've made at least two things that would have been worthy of a Kitchen Witchery post:  First, I turned to the pages of my trusty Food Network Magazine (at the prompting of my sweetie) and made a delicious Lemon-Garlic Tilapia with Spinach, which was great both on the first night and as leftovers*, and then I tried something ambitious from the Serious Eats "Food Lab" and made the pretentiously-but-accurately-titled Best Chinese Sesame Chicken, which was to die for on the first night, and still pretty good as leftovers.

And I didn't take pictures of either of them before we ate it all.  Food is such a fleeting thing, isn't it?  I suppose that is part of the magic. ;)

Oh well, tomorrow night I have some more Kitchen Witchery planned, and I will remember to take photos for the blog this time.


*It should go without saying that the part of the recipe that makes the spinach salad bedding should be halved and tossed together fresh each time.  The fish and pan sauce made it through the microwave just fine, though.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Father Figures

My wife and I were watching The View yesterday morning, which I wasn't paying a ton of attention to, but it caught my attention when the guest host (one of the Wayans brothers?) started waxing on about Father's Day, and how to be healthy children needed to have both a father and a mother.  Needless to say, since the regular cast of The View are basically all single mothers at this point, this perked a lively debate and some backpedalling here and there; the whole thing came to rest just a little west of it's starting point, when they all decided on his behalf that what he really meant was that children need some sort of father figure, who may or may not be that person's actual, factual father.

It actually got my hackles raised a little too (to use a German Shepherd metaphor); as part of a same-gendered couple, I was immediately piling on, saying things like, "Oh, so if two women or two men are raising a child, the child automatically has issues?  That's just buying in to that right-wing business about Christian marriage being between one man and one woman."  The Oppressive Christian Theocracy is acting all oppressed again.  How obnoxious.

The thing of it is, now that I contemplate it, at the core of things he was probably right.

It shouldn't be that hard for me.  Pagans always think of things in terms of male and female.  The Great Divine is the union of the God and the Goddess.  Earth and Water are female, Air and Fire are male.  The Moon is female, the Sun is male.  We revere the dichotomy.

We define those masculine and feminine energies that we see everywhere in terms of parent figures, too.  The Sun is what is, the Moon is what could be.  There's an object in the distance.  Moonlight says, "I don't know, what do you think it could be?  Maybe it's a pirate ship!  Let your imagination take you there!" Sunlight says, "Let's turn on the light and see.  Oh look, it's a row of mailboxes in front of a tree.  Go back to bed."
What do you want to be when you grow up?  Moon says, "You can do anything you put your heart to, sweetie."  Sun says, "But make sure you choose a career with good income and job security."

We all have those masculine and feminine energies within us, and we all need to have both of those energies replenished and nurtured somehow.  I am as girly as they come, but that doesn't mean I can't be the disciplinarian when my dog gets into something he knows he shouldn't.  
As much as I personally find the idea of opposite-sex intimacy off-putting, I don't think men (or opposite-sex relationships) aren't needed.  I highly value the relationships I have or had with both my father and my grandfather, my own personal father figures, and I would be less if I didn't have or hadn't had them in my life.

Happy Father's Day.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Kitchen Witchery: Bratwurst und Spätzle mit Helle Paprikasoße

I've finally had the chance recently to get back in my kitchen and do some cooking!  We had a vacation to Leavenworth, WA to do some touristy-Bavarian stuff, which inspired Sunday's dinner, which was a pork schnitzel and some homemade spätzle, with some pickled red cabbage we got on the trip.  My sweetie made two suggestions following that meal:  One, that I should have taken pictures for my Elegant Cauldron blog and written about it; and two, that the spätzle really should have had some sauce over it to make it like she remembered from her childhood.

That conversation, in turn, inspired today's bit of Kitchen Witchery!  With the leftover spätzle, I decided I would make something that would have a sauce to serve on top.  I also thought it would be great to use the German-style bratwurst that we also bought in Leavenworth.  I decided that this Bratwurst in Sour Cream Sauce recipe from Food on the Table would be the perfect starting point, and the only alteration I made was to replace the black pepper with some onion powder and paprika, to try to turn it more toward a subtle goulash-style flavor.  I served it with some more of the rotkohl, for color, German-ness, and because it's good.
And, of course, this time I took a picture of what I crafted!


We enjoyed this quite a bit!  The cream sauce took a little longer than the recipe stated to thicken up, but it could be that I had the heat a little too low, trying to be sure not to break the sauce.  I just dashed seasonings in to taste, but I'm guessing there was probably about 1/8 teaspoon each of salt, onion powder, and paprika once I was done.
And, despite the appearance of decadence, we can indulge in German delicacy without ruining our wellness goals.  Maybe not exactly what you'd call "diet food," but healthier (and tastier, if I say so myself) than eating out, and besides, I don't remember ever saying I was on a "diet."

I have to say, I've missed being in my Kitchen.  I hope I can make this part of a new trend!

Friday, April 25, 2014

German-Asian Fusion

I feel a tie to Europe, especially Germany, which makes sense, because the largest share of my family heritage descends from that area.  I'm finding out, years later, that many of the things my Grandma would cook were actually German cuisine, and all of the German delicacies my sweetie has shared with me have struck a feeling of nostalgia with me, even though I don't remember having those things before.  We're planning a trip to Leavenworth, Washington with my sister-in-law in a month or so, which is kind of like a "Little Bavaria" tourist town in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, and I'm very much looking forward to the experience.

I also feel a strong tie to northeast Asia--Japan, China, and to a lesser extent Korea.  This is more unusual, since I have (to my knowledge) absolutely no Asian heritage.  I'm not just talking about enjoying sushi and chinese food, either, although I do.  My sweetie and I have talked about how we think I may have been Asian in some of my previous lives; she occasionally mentions to me that she can tell I must be happy because I start moving like a geisha.  There is something about Asian things--and yes, Asian foods--that just feel right to me.  I tend to keep a pair of chopsticks in my purse, for instance.  Many things I hear about Asian culture as opposed to Western, such as the tendency toward collaboration rather than competition, or the valuation of effort instead of the fixation on results, feel like an upgrade from the "dog-eat-dog," "sink-or-swim" mentality I am used to from the US.

I think I've been thinking of this dichotomy as a conflict, although now that I am thinking on it consciously, I don't know why it should have to be.  Who's to say, if I put my mind to it, I could blend the two things, even in the kitchen?  What would a German-Asian fusion dish end up like?  Maybe it will take a German-Asian kitchen witch to find out one of these days. ;)


Friday, January 3, 2014

Seclusion

You know, it occurs to me that there is a reason the "stereotypical" fairy-tale Witch is always depicted as living in a small, hard-to-find cottage way off in the middle of the dark black forest somewhere...
and, as a hint, it's not because we're known as social butterflies.

In fact, I might go as far as to say that part of my definition of what makes a person a Witch is that solitary nature, that desire and longing to go off somewhere private and do our own thing, separate from the group.  If one can find, as I have, that special person who can share in that life without compromise, that can be great, but otherwise, we would be content to live out our lives in solitude (though we would probably refer to it as 'peace and quiet').
It appeals to me to have "my own" holidays (or to omit the contraction, holy days) that I can honor the way I want, rather than having society (and rank commercialism) dictate the way I am supposed to mark the occasion, usually as part of some sort of perilously-stitched familial granfalloon.*
It similarly appeals to me to spend my time off from work in my home, rather than out and about at theaters, restaurants, or other such public places, much as the archetypal Witch might travel into town to trade her potions and produce for needed items but quickly returns to her cottage once her business is done.
Notice, in the stories, the Witch never does business out of her home, but rather travels into the public arena when interaction with people is required.  There are no signposts to a Witch's Cottage and no public address, and a private invitation is spectacularly rare.  The witch's Cottage is her safe place, and she takes pains to keep it that way.

So, if you stumble upon my Cottage-on-the-internet, I hope you will find me a gracious hostess, but please remember you have come into a private space of a private person, and be properly respectful.

*I admit this word borders precariously on actually being a real one, but given it's definition, in this case I think that's part of its charm.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Bright and Festive (belated) New Year

Carrying on from the last entry, the New Year's holiday was similarly pre-empted.  I am really starting to wonder why the World doesn't want us to be able to celebrate any holidays this year!  This time was a little different in that it wasn't my job that interfered... Despite our best efforts to clear the schedule and have the two days off, my sweetie got a rush project that she didn't feel like she could say no to, so the both of us were working on a huge and difficult medical transcription while the rest of the planet was having a party.

(Note:  Despite making for a lovely picture,
a box of chocolate-covered things and a
lamp that thinks it's a space heater aren't
actually compatible at all.  We didn't
leave them together for very long.)
It is done now, though, and we have our eyes on this weekend as a time to belatedly celebrate the New Year.  Tonight, we are enjoying our gifts to ourselves:  We lighted the Aladdin anniversary parlor lamp that was our major gift to ourselves and it is looking pretty on the bar at the moment.  Also, even though we had originally decided we weren't going to spend the money this year, after Christmas we found a clearance sale on the annual Lebkuchen-Schmidt Fettstags-Truhe {Holiday Chest} so I expect we will also be celebrating with either some cocoa or coffee and some delicious German lebkuchen, very soon.

I don't think I'll partake much in the "looking back at the past year" thing this time; there have obviously been many changes since this time last year, many of which we had no real control over.  I do have a few things I'd like to look forward to in the coming year--we could even call them resolutions, I suppose.

The first thing I will mention is to improve health, including losing weight.  As much as I hate to be 'on the bandwagon' with the masses, and as much as it is the most cliché resolution I could possibly make, it is something that I would like for us in the coming year.
After that, I want to try to work on having better focus.  My 'hobby-du-jour' was even more all-over-the-place than usual in the past year, which (now that I am being introspective) probably is an outward sign of being a bit unsettled internally.  I'm very much enjoying the Aladdin lamps right now, and given the fact that they are both beautiful and practical, and that my lovely wife can enjoy them with me, I think I'd like to stick with that for a while.
There are a few things that ended up going by the wayside as I adjusted to being back in the workforce; there is one of them in particular that I want to return to.  I think it's about time to get the wax off the back burner and get back to making candles, even if I never do end up selling any through the website and they are just for gifts and for us.  It occurs to me that the lamps and the candles tie together nicely into a larger "non-electric light" hobby, which feels nice to me.
I have a few other goals in mind to get our 'cottage' in order; there are some rooms that deserve to have their potential realized, and a few other things I'd like to get in better order to improve the flow of the house.  For the most part, though, I just want to keep our lives simple, elegant, and positive.  Here's looking forward to a blessed year!