H is for Handicrafts (Clan Tartan Edition) – Pagan Blog Project 2014

Moving right along, and going for another two-posts-in-one slingshot, we have Handicrafts. I’ve written before about how fibre arts, kitchen craft, and other such things are ways for me to connect with my ancestors, so this is nothing new on that front.
However I wanted to share my latest bit handicrafting, which is adding another layer to that connection.
 
See, my latest weaving project – the reason I wanted to learn to weave in the first place, no less – is the weaving of my family tartan.
 

Purple and green with black and red accents.  My loom is only wide enough to do half the warping pattern at a time, but I'll get there eventually. :-D

Purple and green with black and red accents. My loom is only wide enough to do half the warping pattern at a time, but I’ll get there eventually. :-D


 
I (re-)warped the loom this morning and did one (wefting) cycle of the colour pattern.
That’s how you weave a tartan. The warping pattern and the wefting pattern are the same, and you get the complicated interweaving by using a variety of colours in a simple (1-2-1-2) up-down alternating pattern, rather than by using a complex mix of warping levels – which would require either a more complex loom or – in my case – a more complex understanding of how to weave using a more complex loom (as my loom can do four+ heddle “levels” at a time… apparently).
 
My paternal grandmother was a weaver. The tartan I’m weaving belongs to my paternal grandfather’s line. The line that bears my name. My paternal grandmother was Beligan/German/Scottish. My paternal grandfather was Scottish. My maternal lines were English, Irish and Scottish (and I have Plans to do a weaving of my mother’s clan (her family line is a sept of a particular clan) tartan as well, but I want to do this one, first).
 
When I was a kid, I had a kilt in my clan tartan. By the time I hit puberty it was too small for me, but I’ve wanted to have one ever since. My plan for this hand-weaving is to make a garment that is part tartan and part leather, with the two pieces joined (and edged) with a thin (1″-2″) strip of black leather. I’ll get my lovely wife to do the sewing on it, I suspect, and – most likely – I’ll throw in a cotton/broadcloth lining (so not really a kilt, but something of that ilk).
 
My wife said to me today: You might be the first person in your line, in two hundred years, to weave the family tartan.
And I might be.
Of course there’s that small situation where the Clan Tartans are a “noble savage” fabrication by the Brits, connected with a Scottish fabric mill that named its different tartan patterns – somewhat randomly – after highland and lowland clans (and a number of other things, such as towns) and that this was going on about 200 years ago. Before that, Scottish folks wore tartan, to be sure, but they weren’t specific to any given clan. The wearing of tartan was forbidden by the English crown in the mid-1700s because of its associations with Scottish nationalism – that bit’s true – but my people in the West Marches and near Whiteadder (about 3 hours by bicycle, or a day-and-a-half by horse-drawn wagon, from Edinburgh) didn’t have tartans specific to their family-names until about 1815.
 
So it’s more likely that I’m the only person in my family line (barring anyone who worked in the mills for William Wilson & Sons (which, being located in Banockburn, an being therefore rather a ways from our traditional lands, so probably didn’t employ many, if any, of my ancestors) to have woven my family tartan.
Non the less, I hope they like that I’m doing it, that I’m thinking of them and glad to have them in my history and on my side. :-)
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Fish Tacos – The Eat-From-The-Larder Saga Continues!

Okay.
So I’m doing the NW Edible “eat down the larder” challenge (for a given value of “doing” where I still eat out (sometimes), buy coffee, tea, chocolate(s), and milk, and hold the option of eggs in reserve should I decide I really want them).
 
So far, this is going pretty well, although I’m Noticing Things – like how much of a difference having Snack Food available makes, or like how much “going grocery shopping” is an excuse to get out of the house and a means of feeling productive for me[1], or like how much fancy fair-trade Bridgehead coffee we run through in a month – and I’m finding that I’m in a pretty good position, larder-wise, to get by for a month on just what’s on hand. Granted, I had just stocked up on tinned beans (two tins), tinned soup (4 tins), pre-fab alfredo sauce (2 jars), whole grains (quinoa, millet, & amaranth), parmajan and heavily discounted extra-old-cheddar cheeses when this business started up, so I was in a better place than I might have been if I’d started this challenge a week earlier (hint: we’d be eating a LOT more barley and wild rice if that had been the case, which would mean much different meals – more slow-cooked stews and more pilaffs done with dried fruit & dried mushrooms thrown in, perhaps, but fewer pasta-and-broccoli dinners).
 
Anyway. Last night, I did an experiment.
See, I make our bread all the time and I make pancakes (featuring jam in lieu of granulated sugar) on a pretty-much-weekly basis. Muffins and cupcakes are no problem, I know what I’m doing there.
But I’ve never tried making a tortilla.
Like, ever.
And last night I tried making fish tacos using what I had on hand.
 
 
The Plan:
Use a jar of salsa home-canned last summer
Make “edamole” (garlic-cilantro dip with an edamame base and a splash of white wine vinegar for sharpness)
Use home-made Greek-Style (strained) yoghurt in lieu of sour cream
Make “French Pancakes” but leave out the sugar, sub out some of the flour for fine-grind corn meal, and maybe up the water content
Fry fish in butter until flakey and delicious
 
 
The Reality:
We are out of home-made salsa. There is possibly a half-empty jar of pre-fab salsa in th back of the fridge, but I’m leary of going that direction. I do however have tinned tomatoes, frozen peaches[4], and dried arbol chilies on hand.
Into the frying pan go: Butter, semi-thawed haddock fillets, 3/4 of a tin of tomatoes, a handful of frozen peaches, ONE dried chili, a pinch of salt, and a liberal sprinkling of chili powder, cayenne, and black pepper.
 
While the fish mixture is simmering on very low heat with a lid covering the pan to keep the steam in, Make Edamole:
At first, I didn’t think I’d have nearly enough frozen edamame.
And then, wile digging out the frozen peaches, I discovered that I have a whole extra BAG of the stuff hidden in the bottom of the Frozen Produce bin[5]. Huzzah! :-D Creamy, creamy green stuff for us!
What I did was dump about two cups (maybe a little less?) of quickly-thawed-under-the-hot-tap edamame into the food processor along with about two tablespoons of mayonaise, five cloves of rough-chopped garlic, the very last half-teaspoon of my dried cilantro (could have done with more, alas, but it was enough), a pinch of salt, and about a tablespoon of white wine vinegar[6] for the requisite hit of brightness.
It worked! :-D (Though I probably could have skipped the salt, if I really wanted to). We’ve got extra edamole left over and I think it’s going to be used as a “pesto” this evening, to go with pasta and saussages (and, probably, the last of the tinned tomatoes). Go me! :-D
 
The tortillas… Yeah.
Under circumstances where I have more than four eggs to my name (and, as such, am willing to use more than one egg in this recipe) I would have used at least two, maybe even three eggs to make these savoury crepes.
As it stands, while they held up okay (and were tasty), they were a little on the easy-to-tear side, and we wound up eating our tacos with a knife and fork.
This wasn’t the end of the world, mind you, and I’m okay with “Mexican-style cornmeal crepes” being a thing in my house. I would kind of like a much wider frying pan, with a much shallower lip, for making pancakes and crepes, though. They were difficult to flip without ripping. :-\
 
 
One thing that I’ve noticed – even more-so given last night’s binge of made-from-scratch All The Things – is that making everything from scratch means using a LOT of dishes. Dinner alone meant a mixing bowl (crepe batter), a food processor (edamole, but also pumpkinseed butter – more on that in a bit) plus a tupperware to hold the finished dip, and two frying pans (one for the fish mixture, and one for the crepes). The tomato tin (1/4 full) is still in the fridge.
There’s one thing that convenience foods do: A bag of soft tortillas (or na’an or whatever), a tupperware of guacamole, and a jar of salsa (home-made or otherwise) mean that you don’t need a food processor or a second frying pan or a mixing bowl to dole out dinner. Just fry up the fish and everything else has already been done.
Making bread at home means one big mixing bowl per week, sometimes more. Add in some breakfast/snack muffins and you’re up to two bowls plus a pot for pre-cooking the millet/amaranth mixture and a now-empty jar that needs to be washed and stored for re-filling later this summer. Soaking your own beans overnight – another bowl/tupperware/you-name-it. Canning your own produce – say hello to weeks of extra pots and pans every day.
I’m sure you get the idea.
Each little thing doesn’t add much to the heap of dishes by the sink, but together they add up to a monumental task that seems never-ending.
 
Now, in my house, I cook and my wife does the dishes. But I cook more things, and cook from scratch, faster than she can keep up. Let the dishes go for 48 hours and you’ve got six coffee cups, breakfast dishes, dinner dishes, lunch tupperwares, used-up-leftovers tupperwares, empty canning jars, measuring cups, measuring spoons, mixing bowl(s), pots, pans, and baking dishes… again. Just because we were out of bread or needed to make a new batch of stock, and also ate dinner two nights in a row.
 
Sometimes, what I decide to cook for dinner on a given day is determined more by what I can cook it in than by what I have available to cook.
Last night, I don’t mind telling you, was not one of those nights.
Last night was a chance to get a little bit fancy, to have a sweet, appley wine with some ultra-home-cooked goodies. It went over well. In spite of how many dishes it generates, I’m quite sure that I’ll make this again. (Though I may use Erica’s method for freezing guacamole in the interests of only needing to make the edamole once in a blue moon).
 
So that’s my story of making fish tacos – and making… tortilla-esque crepes – from scratch for the first time.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] This is going to be a Thing when it comes to my experiment(s) in Once A Year grocery shopping[2]. I may keep some things as “buy-as-needed” purely so that I have an excuse to hit the store once a week or so. Then again… How much of this is related to Consumer Culture and its effects on my brain? Things to ponder. :-\
 
[2] Meaning: Buying 70 kg of flour all at once. Getting CSAs for meat and veggies (the former of which is technically laying out cash about four times per year, but still). Doing one big bulk buy from Cocoa Camino for stuff like granulated sugar, chocolate chips, coffee, cocoa, and spices. Getting a gallon of maple syrup and some other goodies once a year (or even once every two years) from my friend’s Family Sugar Shack. Getting a couple of batches of wine MADE at a local MYO so that we’ve got 40-60 bottles of wine on hand but only pay out ($200-$300) once a year. Signing up for Free Stuff by being part of the fruit and nut harvests done by Hidden Harvest Ottawa and getting influxes of extra fruit/nuts that way. Foraging. Growing (and canning/freezing/drying) my own. That kind of thing.
NOT meaning buying all canned food and KD and dropping $1000/year all at once at Food Basics or something. Although I can see myself doing exactly that with diced tomatoes, various tinned legumes, mushroom and/or tomato soups-inna-can, and dry goods like pasta, barley, rice, quinoa, amaranth, millet, gnocchi, and red lentils.
 
[3] Although more than one month would be a much bigger challenge. Kuccina povera is totally a Thing, and my temp agency days are recent enough that having a good GOOD six weeks of food on hand – the kind of thing where I can drop my grocery bill down to $11/week, AKA: 1 gallon of milk + 2 dozen eggs OR 1 gallon of milk + 1 block of heavily discounted cooking cheddar – is just neccessary for the inter-contract slow points. Going for two months or more, though, would be really, really frightening – at least it’s April now, so my second month could include dandelions (and related goodies), garlic mustard and, eventually, grape leaves, which would mean vegetables would still be an option.
 
[4] The salsa I make is tomato-peach and somewhat mild, even if I do put a dried arbol chili in each jar.
 
[5] My fridge-top freezer is “organzied” (for a given value of “organized”) into two big plastic tubs. One is for frozen fruit and veggies, and the other is for frozen animal products. The rest of the freezer space is for things like ice cream, bags of stock-fixings, frozen pucks of home-rendered lard, and the compost bag. It’s still a monumentally over-stuffed freezer, but it works and I can usually find things when I need them.
 
[6] It occurs to me just now – so a little bit late – that I have a “Buddha Hand” lemon-ancestor and a clementine orange – both dried out to the point of the ridiculous in the back of my fridge – that could have been pressed into service for a hit of citrus, but meh. This worked out fine.

H is for Homesteading – Pagan Blog Project 2014

Maybe this isn’t totally in line with the requisite Pagan aspect of this project, but it seems like a fair number of folks who do Homesteading – urban or otherwise – are also pretty heavily into the Religious Stuff. whether theyre hard-core Christians who waldorf-style homeschool their kids, back-to-the-lander Reconstructionist Jews, or Northern Traditional Pagans, there’s a common thread between all of them about reconnecting with seasonal rhythms and getting to really know – the way you know a friend or a family member – the land that you live on.
Which is pretty darned Pagan from my perspective[1].
 
Now, me? I’m an “urban homesteader” at best. I live in an apartment and have no garden, so I’m basically making due with Leet Kitchen Witch Skillz, general craftiness, some knowledge of how to forrage in an urban environment, and the possibility of being able to afford a CSA box this year. It’s a start. I dream of fruit tree(s) and berry bushes and asparagus beds, but I’ll make due with what I’ve got fo the moment.
 
Maybe it’s just because this is how my brain works, but I think that a lot of the current Homesteading “trend” has to do with relationships, with countering alienation, with – wait for it! – re-linking (you knew it was coming) ourselves with family, community, face-to-face interaction, the Land, our food supply, ancestral skill-sets, and, yes, in a great many caes, with The Holy.
 
For some of us, the Land and our ancestors are part of that Holy in a very immediate and direct way. I’m one of those people.
 
So here’s to homesteading, wherever you’re doing it. May it connect you to everything you need to re-ligio with.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Although I’m willing to hear people who see it as finding their way back to Eden, for example, too. There are lots of ways to understand the building of that kind of relationship.

G is for Games – Pagan Blog Project 2014

Alrighty. So, as you know bob, I’m a good three weeks behind schedule on these things, so let’s get going with them.
Back when I was a anthropology-of-religions student, I learned about a thing called “deep play”. The kind of game where “it’s only a game” but where the stakes are unusually high or where the meaning behind the game or the play is something a lot more serious.
 
Tarot (I find it telling that my own deck is labeled “the transendental game of zen”) is one such form of Deep Play. Yeah, it’s a fun thing to do with your friends. But it’s also a way of talking to your own Deep Mind (or Deep Self, as the Reclaiming folks say) and people who ask you to read the cards for them? They’re not typically just doing it for giggles. At least not when they’re asking me to read. YMMV? I know Mama Fortuna has this experience (maybe it’s a Canadian thing?) at least, so there we go.
 
I read tarot for Friends And Family just for the fun of it. But every time I do it, I’m also trying to give a reading that’s relevant to their lives and – one can only hope – contains some useful information and/or applicable advice. It’s part of the job, if you will. It’s a game, sure. But it’s never just a game.
 
What is it like for you?

Breakfast Muffin Experiment – Chocolate Pear Cranberry Muffins

So I addapted a muffin recipe that I found on the internet. This is what I came up with:
 
INGREDIENTS
 
1 ½ C wheat flour
1 C almond meal
2 tbsp cocoa
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
 
1 C sour milk (or coconut milk or whatever you want, just add some vinegar[1])
1 C pear OR pumpkin butter[2]
1/3 C oil
 
½ C dried cranberries
½ C crumbled walnuts
 
1 C cooked millet OR cooked amaranth
¼ C chocolate chips, melted[3]
 
 
DIRECTIONS
 
1) Preheat the oven to 375F
2) Cook the millet and amaranth on the stove (if it isn’t already cooked and sitting in your fridge)
3) Mix the dry ingrdients together in a bowl
4) Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the well and blend everything together with a fork
5) Add the walnuts and dried cranberries
6) Throw the chocolate chips in with the cooked grain (if it’s hot[4]) so that they melt
7) Mix the chocolatey grain in with the rest of batter
8) Spoon the batter into paper-lined (or well-greased) muffin cups[5] and bake for 20-30 minutes until they pass the Fork Test.
9) Allow to cool (possibly overnight, as this is supposed to be a “breakfast muffin”, chocolate chips notwithstanding.
 
NOTE: Makes about 24 muffins.
Enjoy. :-)
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] I used mostly coconut milk today, since I made curry earlier and had some left over, topped up with 2 tablespoons of cows’ milk and 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar.
 
[2] I used vanilla-nutmeg pear butter. If your fruit butter of choice isn’t spiced (if you’re using canned pumpkin, for example) you will – or at least may – want to throw a teaspoon of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, or similar into the mix.
 
[3] I melted them by chucking them in with the millet and amaranth that I cooked to make this stuff.
 
[4] If it’s not, just melt the chocolate on the stove or in the microwave.
 
[5] I used paper muffin-cup liners set in a glass casserole dish because, for some reason, my muffin tin has vanished. It’s just… gone. I don’t even know. O.O

Full Moon – Melt-Water Moon Crests

Technically the full moon isn’t until tomorrow, but this is running through my head so I’m posting it now. Who knew? A Lunar Cycles post that’s come up early! O.O
Continue reading

Eating from the Larder – Edamole Fish Tacos; Multi-Jam Multigrain Pancakes; and More!

So, my attemps to eat from the larder, such as they are (and they are not overly significant – there have been dinners out and re-stocking of coffee already, for example) seem to revolve around (1) dinners based on pasta or rice/quinoa + frozen veggies + tinned/frozen fish OR leftover slow-cooked mammal AND (2) making pancakes on the weekend using recipes like this one:
 
1 C apple butter
1 C strawberry-rhubarb jam
2 C sour milk (or yoghurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, etc – you get the drift)
2 eggs
2 tbsp oil
+
2 C flour
1 C cooked millet
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
 
 
Basically, the trick with me is that I tend to make more sweet preserves than I use. I do this on purpose, because I tend to gift more sweet preserves than savoury ones. But I also do this “by accident” because (1) chutney tends to be a sweeter preserve than I think it is when I make it, and (2) I am more likely to be given free fruit (neighbourhood serviceberries, the apples from various friends’ trees) than free veggies that I can pickle or blanch-and-freeze. So recipes where I can use up more than one jar of sweet preserves (and, er, over-sweeten the batter in all likelihood, alas) are a Good Thing.
We’re having friends over for brunch tomorrow morning, and I’m planning on using the above recipe to (a) get rid of a couple of jars of preserves, but also (b) to get rid of the cooked millet I have in the fridge[1].
EDIT: They worked! I’ve updated the recipe to show the extra milk (2C instead of 1), but they were tasty and delicious – mostly due to the absurd amount of sugar that went into them. ;-)
 
On a related note, and in spite of the fact that I don’t have any crunchy red cabbage lying around (alas – Korean cabbage, while delicious – and a great substitute for chard, kale, or romain lettuce fyi, is not crunchy at all), I’m hoping to try making something like a taco for dinner one of these nights.
My PLAN is to make something akin to tortillas, though it will probably be closer (in recipe and consistency) to cornmeal crepes, then pan-fry some bassa filets and serve them up with (a) home-made tomato-peach salasa, (b) grated daikon radish, and (c) some sort of edamole – provided I have frozen edamame in my freezer… which I doubt.
 
Yeah, Edamole.
In the same vein as wanting to use local (if I can find – or ideally, with time, grow my own – zone 3 or 4 hardy) apricots to make tomato-apricot salsa in place of the tomato-mango salsa that I so enjoy (right now I use Niagara peaches for this, which at least come from the same provence, even if they do take 8-10 hours to get here by truck), I am also frequently on the look-out for suggestions on how to make guacamole without the guaca part.
So far, the frijole mole from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is one option, but the sort made from a heap of steamed butter beans (frozen-and-thawed edamame, typically, but shelled fava or romano beans would also work – and I’ve grown my own romanos in the past, plenty of times) plus some cider vinegar (or seaberry juice, if I ever get the chance to harvest me some seaberries), garlic, a heap of dried (or fresh!) cilantro, and a little bit of mayo would do the trick, too.
I figure… With guacamole, what you’re getting is the taste of lime, cilantro, and the smoothness of avocado’s high fat content, so a mixture of acid, cilantro, and something to add a little fat to the creaminess of low-fat but still smooth-feeling butter beans would fit the bill.
 
Anyway. That’s my plan. Here’s hoping it works. In the mean time, I shall stick with the pancakes and the more typical dinner-time fare. Eventually, I’ll get around to getting over my fear of making non-cheese-based white sauce, and then we’ll be back in alfredo in no time. ;-)
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Note to self: Cooked millet is great as an alternative to shredded coconut in chocolate macaroons. It is boring, bland, and slightly gritty – and therefore gross – as an alternative to rice or quinoa for the “starch” portion of a savoury meal. Let’s not do that again. That being said, it might work out okay when added to a stew or slow-cooked brisket/shoulder roast in place of barley or potatoes. This may or may not be worth a shot during the month of April.