New Year New You 2016: Weeks 14 & 15 – Searching for a Sign + One Small Step and Then One More

I’m doing Miss Sugar’s New Year New You Experiment in Radical Magical Transformation (again) because I find it’s a really good way to kick my own ass into getting things done. You should try it!
 
Instructions: “Now would be a good time to check in with your personal Powers That Be (PTB) about your goals. […] How do your PTB’s advice change your approach to your goals?” PLUS “We’ve spent a few more weeks thinking, planning, and doing magic. Now it’s time to return to the task at hand: doing the work necessary to accomplish our goals.”.
 
Tarot Cards: Eight of Vessels (Week 14) + Two of Earth (Week 15).
 
So. I spent the past month-and-a-bit avoiding my tarot cards. A mixture of being afraid of what they’d tell me and being afraid of how I’d mis/read things (the stories in our heads are frequently how we interpret readings for ourselves, and it’s easy to read worst-case scenarios AND wishful-thinking daydreams into what the cards have to say).
None the less, messages have a way of getting through.
A huge part of the Queen of Cups Project has been, basically, answering the question of “How do I get to Happy?” Miss Sugar talks, occasionally, about Radiomancy – the practice of seeing what pops up when you spin the dial, put your playlist on shuffle, or otherwise just see what songs are screaming at you from the airwaves.
I’ve been getting these two a lot. Plus this came across my desk this morning.
Gosh, do you think someone is trying to tell me something?
>.>
 
Yeah.
 
My Eight of Water story is, basically, “Gotta let this one go. No fixing it. Time to start again. Put your energy somewhere else” like, say, feeding your whale heart and nurturing relationships with people who actually care about you. Combine that with all the “Femme Emotional Labour” and “Trojan Horse Boundary Crossing” stories I’ve been getting linked to, of late (or, y’know, all freaking year…) and, yeah. The Eight of Blooms (top, right) is the pearl found (at last?) after going through a lot of oysters. All those discarded heart and vulva shapes ringing a treasure found by moonlight, by shining a light on all my old patterns and assumptions. The “rebirth” of the Eight of Vessels is a reminder that there will be other chances, that it’s hard to be happy when you’re fussing over every little thing in order to “make” yourself worthy in the eyes of someone who, when you get right down to it, messed with your head and took advantage of you, no matter how much of a compassionate lens you can view that through.
 
So that’s the information I’ve been getting.
 
How does that translate into One Small Thing I can do to push towards my goal?
My Queen of Cups goal has been to become more receptive, to understand that I’m actually loveable and worthy rather than just some fuck-up who has too much privilege and too much monster-brain to warrant being cared for without having to seriously earn that stuff. So…
I mentioned feeding my “whale heart”. That’s a Life Coaching thing, my “new Way of being/operating” that is self-compassionate, and doesn’t truck with people who won’t step up to meet her needs the way she steps up to meet theirs. The one small thing, the moment-to-moment practical thing I can do to feed my Whale Heart is to practice being kind to myself and doing what’s actually good for me.
Yes, it’s totally a challenge – I’m something of what Nydia Dauphin calls a “high functioning self-neglector”. Way more likely to make food if I’m feeding someone other than myself. Way more likely to swallow the worst of my feelings and focus on others than make them listen to me whine (uh… this entire blog notwithstanding…) – but it’s also necessary. So. Things I can do right now along those lines?
 
Start the latest batch of stock + process a bunch of sunchokes/as’kebwan’ for the freezer. This will make it easier for me to make meals later on.
 
Put dinner in the oven (I dug through my meat bin, in the freezer, and pulled out a tiny roast. This, with some sunchokes/as’kebwan’ will be a good start to dinner. I can throw in some frozen veggies or pickled beets and sour kraut (if they’re ready) for veggie content) and make myself Real Food instead snacking on crackers until my wife gets home to start cooking. It’s not quite making Real Food For Just Me, but it’s a step in that direction.
 
Bake something (probably soda bread and/or brownies using whey and/or Gone Off Milk). This will be creative, plus it will mean easy go-to food available for lunches and snacks over the next few days. It will also clean out the fridge a bit, which won’t hurt.
 
Do 10 minutes of yoga (child’s pose, plank, tree, warrior pose in one direction, Goddess pose, warrior pose in the opposite direction, downward dog, heart-melting pose, child’s pose again), possibly while humming. This will work my body, strengthen my arms and my core (good for my back), remind me to make music and let me move energy through my body.
 
Start anointing my heart chakra with “Unveiled” – a limited edition perfume/magical oil that Miss Sugar made, years ago – to help me see what I usually can’t/won’t see, the bad stuff I wish wasn’t there, but also the good stuff that I’m too prone to ignoring or refusing to allow in.
 
Wish me luck!
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

New Moon – Long Nights Moon Begins (Looking for Patterns, Setting Intentions)

Welp. It’s freezing rain today.
It had to happen some time.
There’s snow on the ground, though it’s been hovering around Freezing for days, and a lot of it has melted. I have sunchokes and pumpkin to process for the freezer (today, ideally),and more sun-chokes in the garden that I hope (uh…) I’ll have the chance to dig up before the ground freezes solid. (Note: If it does freeze solid, they’re not going to be hurt by staying in the ground all winter and getting dug up for fresh veggies in early April or something. It would just be nice to have them available sooner than that). I have kombucha, sour kraut, kefir, and lacto-fermented sun-choke pickles all doing their thing on my “fermentation shelf” (AKA: the top of the chest freezer). The sun is noticeably heading towards Already Set, Doll by 3:30 in the afternoon (so, y’know, about 2 hours from now), even if it isn’t actually Full Dark By Four PM yet… but it’s coming.
 
A lot of my horoscopes have been talking about money, lately. Money, value, blocking myself from Getting What I Really Want, making sure I get paid for what I do, stuff like that. The rest have all been about Self Care, topping up my metaphorical/spiritual larder, reminders not to be All Things To All People all the time and about how “self care” isn’t just about pleasure (though pleasure is important!) it’s also about things like “asking for help when you need it” and “being vulnerable and telling people stuff they don’t want to hear (like “no”)” and “taking Actual Care of your body, by feeding yourself, doing your physio, and bathing”.
Radiomancy is another story, and I will talk about that in a post of its own, but that’s been happening, too.
 
My wife and I have both been self-employed for three years now. (I was self-employed for another two years before that, but now it’s both of us). The lunar cycle overlaps Winter Solstice is not generally an easy time for us. There’s emotional stuff, old traumas starting to holler and the work of pushing back against all those meta-naratives (accurate or otherwise) that our families-of-origin like us least, are happier spending The Holidays without the low-income, queer-A-F, freaky people around. But, money-wise, it’s difficult, too. My main source of income is modeling. At schools. All-of-which are in exams starting in about 10 days. Some Decembers, my wife is up to her eyeballs in custom leather gift-orders, and other years… crickets? and she never knows what that’s going to be until it happens. Things will probably be fine. But right now? They’re feeling kind of dicey. I’m wondering how many family members will Hate Me For Ever if I fail to send them xmas presents. Wondering what kind of solstice party I can throw on no money and all-home-made food[1].
 
It’s not all doom and gloom around here, mind you.
I have gorgeous new cookbooks (Batch, by the couple who run Well Preserved, and A Taste of Haida Gwaii: Food Gathering and Feasting at the Edge of the World by Canadian poet Susan Musgrave – the latter of which is almost more like a memoir told through recipes) to pour over, budding friendships (and old ones <3) to nurture, a wife to laugh with, and paycheques coming in (hurrah) for the past few weeks of modeling work.
 
Long Nights Moon is all about sorting through things and finding patterns. (And we humans just looooove finding patterns!) As Mecca said, on Twitter, the other day: If Scorpio Season is all about digging secrets out of the muck and dragging them up to the surface, then Saggitarius Season is about shining a flashlight on that stuff, rather than sweeping it all back under the rug. Yes, for sure, there are frequently riches hidden in that muck. But there’s also a lot of crap to be thrown out, or otherwise composted into something better. (Which, P.S..? I still don’t have a compost heap in my back yard. After two years in this house… Hm… Time to get on that, I think…)
I’ve been avoiding my tarot cards for a month or more – for pretty-much all of Scorpio Season (didn’t even do a birthday reading for myself) – afraid of what they’d tell me. Well. Messages come through in other ways, but I think it’s time for some confirmation. Time to pick that deck (those decks…) up again, and see what stories they can tell.
 
Some of my secrets… aren’t really secrets. They’re just another step in the long (longer than I like) process of having to come to terms, over and over, with letting things (and occasionally people) go. But others are… news-and-not-news to me. Finding out exactly why I have such a problem with being told to Do Your Self-Care, and how much that relates to (internalized?) ableism, and notions of whether or not I “deserve” help/kindness/rest/pleasure/care in the first place. The difficulties I have with self-compassion. The fears that are still living under my skin, as much as I’m trying to repair them.
 
Goals for this lunar cycle:
Be patient with myself, but don’t stop making progress;
Practice being kind to myself, while recognizing that “being kind” is a very different thing from “being an enabler” (Be My Own Mommy, as I once said to a friend who needed a fresh set of eyes on a tarot spread she’d done for herself);
Do the things that make me happy: knit/weave/sew, cook/preserve/ferment/bake, keep writing poetry, take baths and read novels and light my altars on the regular, spend time with the people I care about… You know, all the good stuff.😉
 
What intentions/goals are you setting during this New Moon around How To Deal with the secrets you’ve learned about yourself? What are you deliberately shining a light on? (What’s that thing out of The Omnivore’s Dilema? “No better disinfectant than fresh air and sunshine”? Or, as Brene Brown puts it: “Shame can’t thrive without secrecy”).
 
 
~*~
 
 
Motion: I am getting stronger. I can still only do Plank for one minute at a time, but I can do it starting from my toes, rather than from my knees, which is a big improvement. I can see muscle developing in my arms, which is exciting. I’m taking the bus more often, these days, but still get out to walk a fair bit. There’s a dance coming up in a little less than a week, and I’m looking forward to it.
 
Attention: Pulling the threads of this year’s Learning Process together, noticing the stuff that keeps popping up on my radar and trying to braid it all together.
 
Gratitude: I am SO FUCKING GRATEFUL for my larder (link actually goes to someone else’s post about their larder, but the concepts she’s discussing are ones I try to work with). My months worth of flour, oil, sugars, frozen veggies, jars of jam and fruit butter, crushed tomatoes, bags of lentils, dry beans, pasta, and grains, the kombucha that can be used as lemonade or vinegar depending on how I want to mix things. The only groceries on my Must Buy list (er… right now) are milk, eggs, and coffee, and that should stay the case for at least another couple of weeks (toilet paper will eventually be on there, too). We would be in a lot of trouble if didn’t kitchen really well-stocked with stuff that we actually eat (and that I actually know how to prepare). Also grateful for: Friends who check in with me about how I’m doing, send me Hello notes on FB or through email, tell me they miss me. For a wife who loves me to bits. For other friends who tell my why they never got back to me about The Thing and, as such, put my weasel-brain to rest on the subject of “did I do something wrong”. For parties. For dancing. For the little blue bird who chirps at me all day (and, okay, fine, for the other two birds as well, who are totally napping right now). For clean sheets to snuggle under. For gentle temperatures as the dark sets in. For my mom, who has offered to buy us a bed for our guest-room as an xmas present (Which is pretty amazing, I have to say). For friends who get as excited about pickling and knitting and so-on as I do.🙂 Lots and lots of good things in my life.
 
Inspiration: All of those above-mentioned friends who like to pickle and preserve and ferment in their kitchens.❤
 
Creation: Wrote three new (drafts of) poems! The plan is to take myself somewhere (most likely the dining room table) and write some more poems today! I’ve been working on my latest weaving project. In fits and stars, yes, but still! Weaving! I’ve also been poking through my fabric stash and seeing what I’ve got in there that I can use to make presents for people (shift dresses, vibrantly-patterned neck ties, fancy handbags) using what I already have.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Honestly, a pretty good. I’ve done it a few times before. But it’s really nice to be able to bank on having a budget for cheese and wine and non-home-made crackers to top things up. Right now (almost a month in advance, I realize) the menu looks like:
Garlicky Hummus
Red Lentil Dip (with nutritional yeast & dried tomatoes, among other things)
Kefir-cheese spread with herbs (probably rosemary, basil, and thyme)
Chokecherry chutney (AKA plum relish, as you will)
Bread, possibly baked in a round pan and torn up so it looks Fancy-Rustic
Crackers?
Lacto-fermented sunchoke pickles
Vinegar-pickled beets (from a friend)
Tomato-Peach salsa?
Creton (a Quebecois spread made with ground pork, cream, onion, garlic, and tortiere spices)
Various Cookies (we’ll see if I have butter to do shortbread, but I can do ginger snaps and other goodies)
Chocolate bark with walnuts and apricots/cherries
Mint-chocolate cupcakes OR wacky cake?
Kombucha
Raspberry Ginger Peach “friendship tea” (you make tea on the stove with whole spices thrown in)

Sour Kraut: The Adventure Continues!

So, back in the summer, I learned how to make sour kraut at a Queering613 workshop. (It was a tonne of fun, and I made a few new friends, which was also pretty great). We’ve been eating it for months, because I made a big jar off it, and it was time to top it up a couple of weeks ago.
 
I transferred everything to my spiffy Fermentation Crock (a gift from a pottery-making friend who is just as DIY as I am, if not more-so), topped it up with salt water and fresh cabbage, and let it sit for a week or so.
 
Woops.
 
Reader, I let things get mouldy. O.O
 
Now, if you’ve been reading this for a while, you know that I am generally not a “Throw It Out, It’s Ruined!” kind of gal. I have scooped out the spoiled stuff (which was above-water-level, as is to be expected[1]) added a cup of filtered whey (from my last batch of kefir – see, I told you I’d mention whey in a follow-up post) and 2tbsp salt dissolved in some filtered (boiled and cooled, actually, which seems to be working just fine, at least when it comes to making kombucha) water and… we’ll see if this works.
Fingers crossed.
 
I hope it works. I don’t want to have to compost the entire batch, and I do want to be able to serve sour kraut with perogies in the near future, plus use it to make sandwiches (it goes really well with garlicky hummus, and I think it would be good on a roast pork sammie as well) when my wife and I are working in the shop.
 
I’m really interested in continuing to make fermented veggie pickles. I’d like make some rutabaga & beet pickles (like you eat with shawarma) and to try lacto-fermenting as’kibwan'[3] using either a recipe like this or just working it the way I do my sour kraut (similar to this). I’m interested in using diced chard and kale stems (which I typically dice and freeze, and then chuck into stews and braises) to make a chunky, crunchy kraut for sandwiches, too, that I could also chuck into stir-fries or braises in lieu of needing to add vinegar for “brightness”. I’m even thinking about trying to make fermented hummus using whey and maybe kombucha-vinegar (instead of lemon juice)… just for the heck of it, really.
I mean, we’ll see if I do any of this. But it’s on my mind, and they are things I’d like to try.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Sour kraut is an anarobic[2] ferment, so it’s only good (or safe, for that matter) to eat if you’re keeping it submerged. Which is why fermentation crocks often involve a weighted lid that fits inside the crock, rather than on top of it.
 
[2] Meaning “needs to be kept away from air” in order to ferment properly. Kefir is an example of an arobic ferment, that needs air circulation to properly do its thing.
 
[3] I have yet to dig my sunchokes – which are maybe called as’kibwan’, or something close to it(?), in Anishnaabemowin (local indigenous language – I figure it’s an indigenous-to-the-area plant, might as well use its real name) – out of the back yard, though it’s warm enough to day that I can probably do so. I admit to be a bit nervous about storing my (current) favourite root crop. I don’t (yet) have a bucket of sand that I can stick them in, so I’m looking at blanching-&-freezing and pickling in the interim.

Adventures in Cheese-Making, Part Five: Kefir (this time with kefir grains!)

So I’ve started making kefir.
Kefir isn’t technically a cheese (although, strictly speaking, none of the cultured dairy I’ve made, including the ricotta, has been “cheese” because none of it has involved any kind of rennet? Who knows), but it is a cultured milk product that is vaguely related to yoghurt, so I’m putting it under this heading.
Why Kefir? My wife, who is generally not a fan of anything less cheese-like than old cheddar or a fairly firm blue, asked me this the other day. It is, after all, basically just milk that’s Gone Off in a very specific way. Here’s (essentially – I’ve expanded it a little bit) what I told her:
 

So, I love yoghurt. I love it on pancakes. I love using it instead of sour milk to make coffee cakes and muffins and stuff. I love it as a base for a creamy salad dressing for winter veggies[1]. I love it with maple syrup and frozen service berries as a breakfast. It’s fantastic. It’s also expensive as fuck. Plain yoghurt that isn’t full of thickeners, but also isn’t Organic, runs about $3/kg. A kilogram of yoghurt, at my house, lasts about 2 days, if I use it as a breakfast food. Longer if I use it as a topping or a dressing, but it’s primarily a protein source and major meal component, when I have my druthers. I’m not down for spending $10 a week on yoghurt. But I’m buying a $6 gallon of milk every week anyway and, over the summer, I was having about 1L of every gallon go bad on me. So I thought: Why don’t I make yoghurt?
Except that, every time I try to make yoghurt[4] all I get is a skiff of yoghurt floating on top of a litre+ of whey. Not helpful. That, or I thicken the milk with powdered milk (not cheap) which gets me yoghurt, yes, but it gets me chalky yoghurt that I don’t want to eat as a breakfast food.
So I decided to look up mesophilic[5] dairy cultures and try my hand at those.

 
And try, I did!
My first attempt was actually using powdered “kefir starter” which… works. Ish. But the kefir I got wasn’t very thick. Basically, a powdered starter will only ferment the milk up to a certain point, and that point was a little runnier / more watery than I liked.
But then! A friend of mine arrived at my birthday party (about 2 weeks ago) bearing a jar of milk for me. Floating in the milk were a few tablespoons of kefir grains happily getting their ferment on.😀
Woohoo!
So, as they say, it was on. I set the jar down on top of my chest freezer (warm, out of direct light, not likely to get knocked over) and let it do its thing for a few days. The kefir grains did their job fantastically (maybe too fantastically?) and I wound up over-fermenting things just a little bit.
This isn’t the end of the world, especially if you’re wanting thick kefir to begin with, but it did mean that – after I poured off most of the whey (kefir totally separates into curds and whey, fyi – it doesn’t mean something’s gone wrong, that’s normal and your kefir is okay) – I actually had trouble separating the curds, which I wanted to use in lieu of chevre, from the kefir grains (which you have to strain out, so that you can ferment more milk).
 
Kefir grains, by the way, are a SCOBY. They’re like the weird jellyfish/pancake thing that develops in, and creates, kombucha, but rather than being a jellyfish/pancake, a kefir SCOBY is dozens (or more!) of translucent little blobs like tapioca pearls[6].
 
So I bugged my fermento/DIY friends on FB and they all gave me suggestions for how to handle this little problem.
What I ended up doing was the easiest option possible.
I transferred everything except the poured-off whey (more on that in a follow-up post) into a larger jar – the one I’d first fermented sour kraut in, as it happens (don’t worry, I washed it VERY well to avoid flavour-crossing) – topped that jar up with milk, and let it sit, covered in a clean dish cloth, for another few days.
After enough time had passed that my ferment was starting to separate, I poured off some of the whey, but kept some in the jar. I shook everything up a little bit, and then tried straining the grains again.
 
Behold!
 

Using a plastic mesh strainer (kefir, like other SCOBYs, doesn't do well with metal equipment) and a plastic funnel to strain kefir into a 1L mason jar.  Mesh strainer contains clumps of kefir grains, which will be reserved to make the next batch of milk kefir.

Using a plastic mesh strainer (kefir, like other SCOBYs, doesn’t do well with metal equipment) a plastic funnel, and a wooden spoon to gently strain kefir into a 1L mason jar. Mesh strainer contains clumps of kefir grains, which will be reserved to make the next batch of milk kefir.


&nbs;
Suffice to say, it worked.
What I ended up with, once I’d strained the kefir into a clean, 1L mason jar, was about 3C of drinkable fermented milk. (If I want something more like a cheese, I would need to ferment my kefir longer, drain off more of the whey, and put a little more work into pushing the curds through the strainer to separate them from the kefir grains).
 
Which brings me to: So, How Was It?
 
It was. Fermented. It was really fermented.
See, I’ve been drinking a lot of those 1L bottle of “yop” style kefir that you can get at the grocery store. I love them, they are delicious. But they’re also pasturized. Meaning that, yes, they’re not fizzy. But, more to the point, they’re not actively boozy anymore.
That’s pretty relevant.
Especially when you’ve (mixed it with some maple syrup and (fake) vanilla extract, and) packed it as your lunch f
or a day of modeling. In a high school. For an exam.
>.>
Yeah.
I’m a light-weight, but I didn’t think I was that much of a light-weight. O.O
 
I’ve since learned that Kefir isn’t a “beginner” pro-biotic ferment like Sour Kraut. It can give you headaches and digestive issues for the first few days, if you’re not used to it, and it’s… wise to start slowly. So maybe my having started with 2C of the stuff had something to do with why I was dizzy. Then again, maybe the kefir, alone, wasn’t enough food to cover an afternoon of physical labour and rapid changes in planes/levels (lots of 30-second poses) and I should have brought nuts or other carbs with me as well. Not sure.
Regardless, the very definite alcohol smell threw me for a loop.
That said, I’m still enjoying it. (Felt weird about having it on school grounds, which I’m pretty sure is Not Allowed, mind you). It fizzes on my tongue like a weak mimosa, if that helpful for giving you an idea of what the ferment level is.🙂
 
Beyond that? If you have Texture Issues, kefir may not be for you. At least not as a beverage. (As a beverage: Shake it well, but not TOO well, because even after straining the grains and a lot of the whey out, and storing it in the fridge, a jar with a lid screwed on will be under pressure! Let the gas off every 1-2 days or so to avoid exploding jars). It’s grainy. Tiny curds suspended in liquid. Not smooth like the grocery store stuff (I don’t know how they get it smooth, but I suspect it involves some kind of thickener like carageenan). You might enjoy it as a cheese spread though, maybe blended with garlic and thyme to be used a bagel or as a topping for beets, or else sweetened and baked into a torte or even used as frosting for red velvet cupcakes.
 
I’m currently drinking the last of my first batch of kefir, while my second batch ferments away in its jar on top of the freezer. I look forward to incorporating kefir (and kefir products – like strained soft cheese, or using the whey to kick-start other fermenation projects) into our meals.😀
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Combine diced raw apples and steamed diced celeriac, toss with plain yoghurt plus some prepared mustard and ground nutmeg. Serve. It’s amazing. Also works for khol slaw with carrots and cabbage. Also works as a cheaper-than-goat-cheese topping for boiled beets and/or perogies.
 
[2] Possibly because I was drinking iced herbal-fruit teas (no milk), rather than hot chai (which I put milk in), and that was just enough of a change for me to lose a litre every week to spoilage[3].
 
[3] Not the end of the world. I can use gone-off milk to make coffee cakes, same as I use yoghurt. But I don’t necessarily want to be baking in August, either.
 
[4] Which is thermophilic, meaning that you have to heat the milk up and keep it at a fairly consistently warmer-than-room-temperature, but cooler than the “keep warm” setting on my slow-cooker, temperature while the culture is doing its thing.
 
[5] Meaning that the culture does it’s thing at room temperature.
 
[6] Which you can also use to make water kefir, coconut milk kefir, and, in a neat twist, even grape juice kefir (apparently). A friend of mine has heard tell of fermenting grape juice kefir for a day or two specifically to stain the SCOBY grains purple so that they’re easier to see. I haven’t tried this, myself, but I’m kind of curious. Could I make a cherry-berry “country wine” cordial using kefir grains? Inquiring minds want to know!

Scorpio Season – Deep Shadows Moon Begins, Crests, and Wains PLUS Samhain 2016

Hallowe’en came and went, and I marked the transition into Root Time by cracking a bottle of Sortilege and offering a glass of maple whiskey to the Gods and Ancestors outside in the back garden. (That was, in fact, the sum-total of what I did for Samhain. No special cleaning, no new pictures up. Just a nod and I’m Thinking of You All. The year-gate swings, and it’s time to dive deep again).
 
When my birthday arrived, the Sun and the Moon were both in Scorpio.
My time.
Scorpio Season.
What are you digging up with the beets and potatoes of early winter’s harvest?
What is surfacing from all that deep, fixed water?
What’s coming up from inside your ocean heart?
 
All the horoscope stuff is, like, “Stop lying to yourself” + “Set some intentions with an eye to claiming your power, because Now Is The Time” (it’s very The Craft, but that Scorpios for you). (As a side note, Miss Sugar’s new book is pretty-much all about that, and it’s available for pre-order. It’s not out until next August, but it’s a good time if the beta-readers’ chapters are anything to go by).
 
I just turned 37 and, consequently I’m thinking about Returns. It occurred to me, as I was heading out to buy heaps of Prepared Food (multiple cakes! fancy cheese!) for my birthday party, that my Saturn Return (long over, at this point), started the year I separated from my first spouse and ended the year I married my wife. Given that particular set of Very Relevant Bookends, I can’t help thinking that the lessons of my particular Saturn Return were “This is what a healthy, mutually fulfilling relationship looks like. This is how to do it. This is what to watch for in order to know that you and given person work well together as partners“.
Good to know.
 
I’m also thinking about my most recent Jupiter Return (age 36 – they come around every 12 years) and how those returns are about generosity, abundance, letting yourself be seen, and broadening your senses of trust and understanding. I’ve spent this past year trying to get the hang of being kind to myself, to inhabit my whole body more easily, protect myself without walling myself off, to understand where best to invest my energy, my heart, my time.
Related (tangentially?) to that is last year’s We’moon “year at a glance” for me was all about figuring out what kind of wealth I want to accumulate and getting material stuff sorted out. And here I am… sort of half-owning a small business that’s maybe-maybe-possibly about to have one of our contracts go national-sized? O.O
…Which, y’know, would be good.
 
But it feels like I’ve spent this year walking through a fog.
My wife asked me “what do you want to do with 37?” and I just sort of blinked and looked at her blankly. I’ve been so busy (“busy”?) putting one foot in front of the other that I haven’t really thought of anything else. My friend asks me “How have you been? How’s your heart?” and the answer comes back “Uh…?” Heart? Sometimes, in spite of lots of lovely things happening, making new connections, making an effort to spend time with awesome people who treat me well, in spite of falling in love with my wife All Over Again… sometimes my chest feels empty, sometimes I forget that “happy” is even possible? It’s really weird.
 
I’ve also been thinking about the New Year New You 2016 project and how my most recent prompt involved sacrificing… something. when I wrote it, I thought what I had to give up was my illusions. And I still think that’s true. All the scorpio-horoscope “stop lying to yourself” stuff is definitely tied up with that. But… some of my illusions involve false hopes, right? So what else (who else) do I have to give up (on)?
Yeah…
I tried to pull my love for someone out by the roots. Cut the cord and burn it away. Let that green thing rot and compost into something good for me.
That sort of thing.
And what happened? 24 hours later, I dream of them. Talking in the front hallway. Not perfect, just people, both of us. Their arms around me, leaning into my shoulder, saying “I’m still your friend”. I have no idea what to make of this, but there it is. Mixed messages coming through various channels. I spent two weeks trying to climb out from under a very heavy heart, burned through myself with rage, let something go, found space to open again. (I’m being vague and sort of hoping that it sounds “mystical” or something, but I’m really just being vague).
 
Long-story-short, I had a rough night last night, a hard morning, and then something cleared. Maybe it was reading half a dozen posts on attachment theory, or maybe it was taking care of my various ferments (I now have sour kraut, kombucha, and milk kefir on the go!) plus mixing up three loaves of bread and filling the house with the scent of their baking. (There’s something about bread. It takes so few ingredients, and they are cheap-cheap-cheap, too… and you get so much good stuff at the end. The smell is like big-warm-home meets independence and self-sufficiency. It’s pretty fantastic!). Maybe it was finally writing and posting something on Syrens after almost two months of writing next-to-nothing at all. Maybe it was a quiet day of thinking and processing and puttering and watching the first snow pile up outside (on top of un-dug Jerusalem artichokes and unharvested chard, I grant you, but still). I feel a little bit less heavy. A little more sure of myself. A little less broken. And that’s a good thing.
 
 
~*~
 
Motion: LOTS of modeling work recently, multiple classes worth of mid-length poses (15 and 20 minutes) that leave me stiff, sore, and grateful for the hour long walk home after class. Went out dancing (and got guest-listed as a birthday gift from the organizer, which was great). Can do Plank without having to start on my knees, which is nice.
 
Attention: Honestly? My bank account and how much I’ve been spending on prepared food and restaurant meals in the past, well, while. It’s got me thinking of Erica’s (or her husband’s, since the link goes to one of his posts) Treat Spiral and how I let myself go a little nuts with Nice Things For Me – new shoes, a dozen dollar-store hair flowers, fancy chocolates, copies of The Revolution Starts At Home and She Is Sitting in the Night – at the beginning of the month. Not the wisest thing to do,in retrospect.
 
Gratitude: Grateful for the repeated message to be kind to myself (even if I… am not great at that… yet?) and that it’s okay for me to be kind to myself. Grateful for the learning and the releasing, even when it comes with a lot of crying. Grateful for a living room full of femmes (mostly), sharing food and laughter and chatting about fibre arts, crafting, writing, and making things from scratch.❤ All the good things. Best Birthday, and just what I needed.🙂
 
Inspiration: Recently read S. Bear Bergman’s Butch Is A Noun. Surprised (but maybe shouldn’t be) at how my reasons for speaking (body language, verbal language, deed-language) the way I do are held in common with the butch dude who wrote this book. Makes me want to write essays about The Work, about carrying a pocket knife, an erstwhile first aid kit, safer sex supplies, and other people’s sweaters in my “mom purse”, about The Couch of Relationship Angst where people come and sit and try to figure out how to navigate relationship styles they haven’t tried before.
 
Creation: I tried to write a poem the other day. Which was the first poem I’ve tried to write since the end of September. Feeling very… lack-luster(?) on that front. But I’ve been making things in the kitchen, and that feels good.

Green Tomato Chutney 2016 Recipe

So, I’m about to run out of the house to do laundry, but I wanted to get this down. I finally got around to making my green tomato chutney (after, what, a month of saying I was going to get to it?), and put it in the slow-cooker to do it’s thing while I’m out this afternoon.
The recipe is a little different from last year’s, because I have slightly fewer tomatoes (my mistake – I waited too long, due to having run out of canning jars, and the first batch I harvested went moldy), and slightly different ingredients on hand, and also because my garlic basically dried to the hardness of cashews in the fridge, but here’s what I did:
 
 
Green Tomato Chutney 2016
 
~10 C green cherry tomatoes (halved, if they’re bigger than your thumb-nail)
8 garlic cloves, rough-chopped (very rough… um…)
1 yellow onion, diced
5 apples, diced
 
1 C cider vinegar
1 C kombucha vinegar (yep, I totally trying this out)
3 C white sugar
 
¼ C prepared mustard
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp nutmeg
1 tbsp ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
20 grinds of black pepper
 
 
DIRECTIONS
Put everything in the slow-cooker and set it on “low”. Let it do it’s thing for 24 hours and see where everything is at. If it smells tangy and zippy and tastes good, turn up the heat ’til it’s bubbling. Sterilize some 1C jars, can and process in a boiling water-bath for 10 minutes. Allow to cool (listen for the “plunk” that tells you the jars have sealed properly). Let sit for at least a month before opening to allow everything to get even more flavourfully mixed.
Enjoy!
 
I have no idea how many jars of chutney this will make, but I’m guessing about 6-8. Fingers crossed!
 
I’m glad I got around to doing this. Green-tomato chutney is a really great way to get tasty, edible veggies into your system over winter, it adds a lovely tangy flavour to pork, turkey, cheese, and even tuna sandwiches,and it lets me get a second harvest from my cherry tomatoes (some of which are sitting in a bowl, with an apple, ripening indoors) after the season is well and truly done.
Green tomatoes from the garden + onions & apples (both pretty inexpensive, if you buy them, and apples can often be found on urban trees either growing wild, or planted so long ago that the current owners don’t know what to do with all the food that’s suddenly available) make for an inexpensive preserve that let’s you use free bounty and “hard luck harvests” to make something delicious.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Wild Rice Pilaf + Sage Pesto Recipes

So, for the pervy-queer Thanksgiving Potluck, I roasted a turkey (also: my gravy brings all the pervs to the yard, I’m just saying) and made the following vegan dish that is (a) delicious, and (b) does not contain gluten or soy or nuts (though adding walnuts or pecans or even toasted Himalayan Balsam seeds would be an excellent addition) but DOES (c) contain white beans, so it’s definitely not Paleo, but can be made so very, very easily (drop the beans and add a bunch of nuts and/or extra seeds, basically).
 
Wild Rice Pilaf
 
INGREDIENTS:
1 C raw wild rice
4 C water
Pinch salt
+
2 C cooked white kidney beans or other white beans such as Great Northern (I just used 1 tin of same, drained & very well rinsed, but feel free to cook your own)
1/2 C cider vinegar
+
3 C diced butternut squash (I used pre-diced stuff from the store, but you do you)
2-3 sprigs fresh sage, shredded (or used the dried stuff, as you will)
+
2 apples (Cortland recommended, but I used McIntosh and it was just dandy)
1/4 C dried cranberries (sweetened)
1/4 C pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp prepared grainy mustard
1 tsp ground nutmeg (note: if you are going for Super Local, and have these available, you can use dried, ground spice berries in place of the nutmeg. The flavour (in theory – I haven’t tried this yet) is a combination of nutmeg and black pepper and should work well in this dish).
 
 
DIRECTIONS:
 
1) In the bottom of a double boiler combine the wild rice, water, and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Allow to cook for upwards of an hour.
 
2) In the top of the double boiler, while the wild rice is cooking, combine the diced squash and the sage. Allow to steam for 20-30 minutes. Squash should be easily pierced with a fork, but not straight-up falling apart.
 
3) While the squash is steaming and the wild rice is cooking, in a large (1 gallon would make this very easy) bowl or casserole dish combine the cooked white beans and the cider vinegar.
 
4) Core and dice the apples and add to the bean mixture
 
5) Add the dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds and toss it all together like a salad
 
6) Add the cooked squash and sage, as well as the mustard and nutmeg. Toss again then cover with a plate or the lid of the casserole dish.
 
7) When the wild rice is done, add it to the mixture in the large bowl and toss until well-combined. The whole thing should smell gloriously of nutmeg and mustard and apples and all the other good things that are in it.
 
8) Serve hot (ideally) OR chilled.
 
This dish works as both a main and a side.
It goes well with chokecherry chutney and sage pesto (below), too.😉
 
NOTE: If you want to fancy it up a little:
Leave the squash out (I do still recommend cooking the fresh sage, though) and, instead, bake delecata, sweet-baby, or other miniature squash halves in the oven for an hour while the wild rice is cooking. (When I do this, I splosh a quarter-cup of apple juice into each of the squash cavities so that the flesh is tender and easy to scoop when they’re done). Stuff the squash halves with the wild rice mixture and serve garnished with sprigs of fresh sage. If you wanted to do this as a fancy center-piece dish, I would suggest using something like a cupcake tower to display the stuffed squash halves before plating them at the table.
 
 
Sage Pesto
 
INGREDIENTS:
4C fresh sage
1 C pumpkin seeds
4 cloves garlic
¼ C nutritional yeast
½ C cooked white kidney beans OR cooked green lentils
¼ C apple cider vinegar
Pinch ground ginger
Pinch salt
Grind black pepper
¼ C oil
 
 
DIRECTIONS:
 
1) Pulse the pumpkin seeds in a food processor until they are grainy but well-smashed (this takes waaaaaay less time than making pumpkinseed butter, fyi)
 
2) Add the sage, cooked lentils, garlic, vinegar, salt, and pepper
 
3) Blend until well-combined
 
4) With the motor running, drizzle in the oil
 
5) Spoon into ice-cube trays for freezing (works great) and/or pop some into a half-cup jar for fridge storage (I don’t know how long this will stay fresh, as I keep mine in the freezer to use as-needed, but if you want to serve it with stuffed squash, for example, within a day or two, this is an easy way to do it).
 
This stuff is lovely-and-delicious as the “sauce” for a pasta dish, mixed into scrambled eggs, spread (lightly) onto a chicken/turkey/roast-pork sandwich, blended into a bean dip/spread, stirred into root-veggies blender soups (rutabaga-cauliflower or carrot-apple would both be amazing with this), or, y’know, used as a condiment/topping/garnish for baked miniature winter squash stuffed with wild rice pilaf.