New Year New You 2016: Week Seven – Glamour and You

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: “Think about how you’re presenting yourself to the world and how that’s affecting your own personal goals. […] Give your physicals selves some love and magic this week!”
 
Tarot Card: Seven of Swords. Both the Wildwood and the Osho Zen decks are applicable in this case.
 
Thoughts:
I’ve never known the seven of swords to be a positive card. Even when the interpretation is a good idea (It’s time to take the mask off! It’s okay to stop maintaining and fall apart right now. I know you’re worried about What People Will Think, but you really are Enough in spite of those fears), the actual process of showing people one’s Real Face can be terrifying (and can sometimes backfire). Yet, sometimes, what it points to (e.g.: in a reversed position) is the need to break old habits, break silences, break out of self-imposed prisons of Shoulds and Musts.
I was yacking with a friend about this a few months ago, and it seems to fit here pretty well: A lot of us learn to keep ourselves small as a defence tactic. If you are a woman on the internet (even a white, cis woman such as myself), you learn pretty early how many readers it takes to start getting unwanted, threatening attention from trolls. If you’re a woman who ever leaves her home, the same goes for when you’re walking downt he street.
There’s a zillion people (of a very specific gender, most of the time) who would love to police us back into silence and invisibility, and a lot of us balance on a thread between “too visible” and “straight-up hiding”.
The thought of being Visible, of being Big, can be really frightening, whether we’re worried about being attacked by trolls, cat-callers, or The Fraud Police, and it can be exhausting to deal with.
 
Presenting yourself in a way that shows you in your best light, as your best self, can be exhausting.
 
I went to a book launch a couple of weekends ago. I went to the Gorgeous House in the Country (a luxury home built inside a reclaimed barn – for real. I want to live there when I grow up) book launch of a femme-lookin’ (I say, because I don’t actually know if she’d ID as femme) lesbian writer’s new novel. Her sculptor-painter partner was decked out in a Nice Suit at the merch table, and she was all dolled up in a shiny gold blouse signing everyone’s new books. My wife and her other partner (through-whom we know this couple) both talked about feeling out of place at the party. Even though, as creative dykes in the 40-75 age bracket, they were even more among their peers than I was.
But I swanned in there like I owned the place, because I’m a queer femme writer (in a raspberry faux-fur 3/4-sleeve coat, a leopard-print skirt, fancy stockings – that the woman who turned-out-to-be-a-publisher noticed and complimented me on, no less – huge, diva sunglasses and hot pink lipstick… I was flagging pretty hard, kids) so how could I not fit in?
… And it worked.
 
I mean, right up until I found out that the nice queer-poetry-chick I’d been politely down-playing my writing work to (my wife had been chatting her up, but I hadn’t wanted to hog the spot-light while talking to another writer who probably wanted to talk up her projects as well) was, um… the publisher of our friend’s novel.
Oh.
That was supposed to be an elevator pitch, was it?
Woops.
 
We’ll see what, if anything, comes of that interaction, but it was an introduction regardless.
 
A while back, I wrote a little bit about how Glamour is feeling hard right now. We’re in “transitional shoes season” in these parts, the point in the year where you really do still need close-toed shoes, but winter boots are definitely too warm (and clumpy) to deal with anymore. My “tranisitional” boots are all in a bad state of disrepair and, while I can and do make them work, they’re bad enough that it’s hard to make them look “street chic” (or whatever you want to call it when fancy fashion starts riffing on a ratty punk look) at this point. I’d love to get (or more likely make – this is one of the reasons I keep a shoe-maker on staff, after all) a few pairs of shoes like this so that I have Options that won’t wreck my back and can look “professional” (in the office work sense of the word) while also looking artsy-funky-weirdo (I.E.: actually like myself) at the same time.
 
But the reality is that this isn’t really about shoes. It’s about how I feel about myself.
When I regret the haircut I gave myself (even though I now look great with my hair down), but I can’t tell how much of that regret is because I feel like a total grease-ball when my hair is hanging in my face, vs how much is because I miss having the option of doing funky anime buns and being able to do this without too much trouble, vs how much is just missing that which is easy and familiar… What do I even do with that? But when I catch myself feeling “frumpy” in a skirt I picked out, gleefully, from the clothing swap heap because it would finally let me wear leopard print on something other than lingerie, that I stitched a new lining into and replaced the zipper on because I had wanted a skirt like this for so long… That’s a bad sign, folks.
 
If my personal goal, my Queen of Cups Project, is to be more receptive to all the Good Things that come my way, I need to believe that I’m worthy of receiving that stuff. Feeling ugly[1], unworthy of notice, or unable to keep it together (says the chick who discovered she’d spilled… hollondaise sauce?… on her skirt mid-way through her work-day and is expecting Company tonight while still having an entire kitchen full of dirty dishes to deal with)… does not inspire feelings of worthiness in me about myself.
 
So. How am I handling this week’s prompt?
Well, my office-contract recently ended. So I’m back in the land of “wear whatever you want” (hurrah!) and I’m aiming for a mix of “ultra casual” (like, skirts made out of former-pairs-of-pants, very colourful socks) and “Fabulous Bohemian” (diva sunglasses, faux fur 3/4 sleeve coat, Fierce hair-do – or lack of ‘do, since it basically means just leaving it down – and cute boots). I finally shaved my legs. A friend painted my toenails yesterday. I’m feeling pretty good, even if my heart is still yoyo-ing up and down and my feelings of self-worth are following suit on a rollercoaster of their own.
 
Things I can do (concrete/mundane things I can do) to show my physical self some love (this week, and all weeks) that will also (probably) help my mood and energy levels:
1) Get dolled up and go for a walk
2) Sit in the steam room of the local pool while wearing my bikini and soaking up the heat
3) Eat fancy pastries, ideally with friends (but this is not a requirement), while out and about
… So, basically, dress spiffy and get out of the house.
I can do that.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Say what you want about The Beauty Myth, it’s insidious and fuck.

Eat From the Larder 2016 – Week Four (+ Month-End) Wrap-Up

Happy Beltane!
Unlike in previous years, I haven’t been celebrating by going out and stocking up on dry goods and not-so-dry goods from the grocery store just yet. Why? Because we still have tonnes of food. As such, I’m trying to hold off on the restock until I’m ready to do the Big Shop wherein I also buy half a dozen bags of soil from the grocery store garden centre (I’ll be getting thingd delivered anyway, so why not get a LOT of groceries at the same time?)
 
As I alluded to in my Week Three post, there wasn’t a whole lot of Eating from the Larder happening during Week Four. I bought popsicles. I bought a burito. My wife and one of her other partners and I went out for pizza and gelato because it was sunny out. I also used on-hand root veggies, the last of the winter squash (which I bought in October, y’all – Butternuts are AMAZING keepers), a variety of frozen veggies, a few tins of beans, a little dried fruit, and some home-jarred tomato products to make dinners on other evenings. Stew featuring a mix of meat and legumes + a mix of veggies and occasional fruits (and anything I can add to impart a smokey flavour – NOM!) will continue to be a Thing in our household. I used left-over pork ragu mixed with leftover burrito filling and some extra pre-cooked black beans + rice to make a super-fast, marvelously tasty stew last night (technically May, I realize).
 
One thing I’ve noticed (or haven’t noticed) this year is that, unlike last year, there’s not a significant rise in bank savings over the course of the month. Part of that is that I’ve been temping for three months (and covering 100% of the rent for a significant portion of that – though not for May) so the money levels are different from what I’m used to looking at. The other reason, though, is that we’ve been eating from the larder, in a fairly significant way (though not as big a way as during April) for most of the past year. Either getting the majority of our veggies from the garden (the rhubarb and Vietnamese garlic are up alrady, fyi, with the strawberries and sage coming along on their heels) during Summer and autumn, or else using home-jarred and home-frozen stuff over the winter. Our meat (aka: Francis the Pig) arrived, for the most part, a year ago and, even though I’ve also bought turkey, beef, duck, fish, and chicken occasionally through the past year, our groceries were paid for “up-front” in a way that they never had been before. Given how tight our budget has been since last Summer, when my lovely wife started up the Ottawa Leather Works and stopped (for the most part) working outside of her own business, I have to say a big Halleluiah for that one, since I know our usual grocery bill, pre-garden, would have been around $200/month and, instead, we’ve been able to put that towards heating bills and similar.
 
Take-aways from this year’s Challenge:
1) Praise the garden (and the forethought that goes into all that canning)!
2) Variety remains the spice of life
3) Make more salsa[1]
4) Baking bread in triple-batches and freezing 2/3 might be a good practice to get into. A lot of the bread went moldy (this is a common problem), and I’d like to avoid that happening in future, but also it’s a big help to have pre-made bread on hand when you run out and (a) the kitchen is a filthy mess with no counter-space, and/or (b) you are sick and trying to avoid spending effort on anything but getting well again.
5) Ditto for freezing stuff like waffles[2], pancakes, muffins, savoury scones, and other snacky baked goods.
6) We are still eating about a pound of cooking cheddar per week. I don’t see that changing any time soon.
 
So there you have it. The Eat from the Larder Challenge is over for 2016. Sit tight, as the garden-garden-garden posts will be starting up in short order.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maide
 
 
[1] Strictly speaking, I make limitted amounts of this due to there being someone in the family with allergies to peppers and pepper-derived spices, BUT said person lives in Toronto at this point, and so isn’t around as often as she used to be. Next summer, I will (probably) make more tomato-peach salsa and (slightly) fewer jars of herb-infused crushed tomatoes (plain crushed tomatoes, on the other hand, remain a major staple).
 
[2] I love waffles, but our waffle-iron has a teflon coating, and that will kill our little birds very quickly if it gets too hot. I would really like to replace our waffle iron with one that has real, cast-iron plates. (Or, y’know, just replace the plates on the one we’ve already got. That would be even better!)

Full Moon – Sap Moon Crests (and Wains)

Got sick when the moon crested.
In spite of that (or possibly because of it, given how I spent last Sunday), I’m feeling a little bit more in touch with my glamourous side. I spent yesterday unpacking books that I bought during my (over-long and never-completed) MA in Religious Studies, where I focused on Menstruation and Goddess Spirituality (more on that here), and then knitting a bag for my third divination deck (the Daughters of the Moon deck that is… not actually a tarot deck, but calls itself one). It’s nice to have those books out, even if my personal understanding of Goddess Spirituality, as a faith with women’s bodily autonomy and self-(re)claimation at its core, has devoloped quite a ways away from the biological-reductionism & ciscentrism/cissexism that shows up in a lot of those texts.
I think I might be in the “slightly manic / risky behaviour looks appealing” phase of getting-over-a-breakup (at least according to this thing) which… may or may not do great things for my Glamour. But it’s giving me Reasons to drag my how-I-present-myself game up out of the doldrums it was in two weeks ago, so that’s something.
 
~*~
 
MOTION: Ye gods, I have got to get myself to a pool. With a hot tub. and a sauna. Next week can’t get here soon enough.
 
ATTENTION: Paying a lot of attention to the “I Wants” in my head (e.g.: I would love to go to an event like Sapphic Aquatic, but without the $100 round trip + accomodations-hunting it would require), but also trying to pay attention to, and acknowledge, the many elements of “What Happy Looks Like” (for me) that are already part of my life.
 
GRATITUDE: The option of buying popsicles just because I want them. A wife who is willing to do the cooking when I’m sick AF and who makes me tea and slow-dances with me in the living room.❤ The luxury of new deoderant, Just Because (although I am laughing at myself, slightly, for believing that a femme chicky like me buying Old Spice is somehow "transgressive"… Yeah…).
 
INSPIRATION: Warsan Shire's gorgeous, evocative poetry (as featured in Lemonade). Clearly I have to look this woman up.
 
CREATION: Wrote a poem about claiming my body as my own the other day. Hopefully more to follow.

Eat From the Larder 2016 – Week Three Wrap-Up

The short version is: I got sick towards the end of Week Three.
 
Plus Side: I made one hell of a “Morroccan” pork ragu (er… sort of) using left-over roast pork + a pint of tomato-peach salsa + frozen greens + frozen winter squash + rice. You guys, it was SO GOOD (and SO EASY!)
 
Minus Side: There’s been a lot of junk food this week. A lot of rading my personal stash of fancy-organic-fair-trade-chocolate in the freezer, a lot of “Oh, hey, I forgot I had this cherry licorice lying around” on nights when my lovely wife was out for the evening and was “cooking” for one, a week of gifted food and breakfasts out, and I basically hit the Fuck-Its on Sunday. I mean, I spent the day in bed, editing my friend’s book, and seriously longing for a popsicle, and then basically slept for 12 hours.
I’m honestly looking down the paltry four-and-a-bit days remaining on this challenge, and just saying “Screw Everything, I still want that popsicle”.
 
Which doesn’t mean that I’m not still using on-hand (jarred and frozen) meat, fruit, and veggies + on-hand dry-goods to make meals, it just means we bought a loaf of bread on Sunday, and I bought those damn popsicles earlier today. And ate, like, four of them on the way home. My raw, feverish throat has informed me that nothing on earth has ever tasted so good.
None the less, it’s not like I couldn’t have *made* popsicles with the yoghurt in the fridge, fake vanilla in the cupboard, and frozen OJ in the freezer – and/or a jar of nectarine jam (for example). I just didn’t bother. (Which would be the kicker. The point of this exercise – in addition to the main goal of using up as many preserves as possible – is to bother). I maaay be feeling a little bad about that at the moment. >.>
 
Anyway. That’s my (very short) wrap-up for Week Three. Week Four’s wrap-up will be combined with the end-of-the-month summary, most likely.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Eat from the Larder 2016 – Week Two Wrap-Up

Saturday night, C was in town and came for dinner. It was nice to have time together, all three of us, again. I sent her home with a care package, and part of me is thanking my forethought when I was doing All The Canning back in August-September-October, because I was doing it with the food-needs of three people in mind, rather than “two plus occasional extras”. I admit that I’m proud to be able to hand off a couple of big bags of groceries (for one person, admittedly) and still have plenty left for in-house use, before any re-stocking needs to happen. Turns out, that’s something I want to be able to do at any time of year, which is good to know.
 
In other news: The rhubarb is up (barely – and only one bunch, the two from Ghost’s Dad may or may not have survived the winter. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, though, as they were kept pretty shaded until yesterday) and the Vietnamese garlic is up, too! Along with a few early dandelions and the beginnings of what might develope into this year’s crop of rappini (waaaaay too young to be harvested yet, but hey).
Tonight’s dinner (which I should brobably get going on) will most likely be a stir-fry of frozen greens, frozen zucchini, roast pork, and some carefully snipped bits of the above-mentioned garlic-greens, served over rice.
 
I’m about to run out of cream, so will probably pick some of that (or milk) up tomorrow (along with a few pharmacy items that are definitely on the Necessities list), but I’ve been making it (and the eggs) stretch quite nicely by opting for vegan baked goods, of-which there have been many. I made a tripple-batch of almond-mocha-apricot Wacky Cake (2 dozen cupcakes + a small tray of cake to slice into squares) yesterday, as an example. Also, I totally made crackers from scratch and, even though they’re ridonkulously easy to make, I’m completely chuffed that I Made Them Myself.
Go me.:-)
 
Possibly because I’m still re-stocking eggs and milk, and possibly because we are still eating out on occasion, this doesn’t feel difficult at all. I mean, yes, I’m definitely hunting up recipes that call for crushed tomatoes and diced pork as the main ingredients (this is translating into All The Ragu, All The Time, fyi), because I have lots of both to use up (hint: Green tomato chutney is a good addition to an improvised Lu Rou Fan type dish). But things have, so far, been going really smoothly. The jars on my shelves are slowly emptying, and it should be super easy to clean the fridge on April 30th (Note to Self: Make something with parsnips sooner rather than later).
 
Anyway. That’s my wrap-up for Week Two. Onwards to Week Three!:-)
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

New Year New You 2016: Week Six – Maps (Wait, They Don’t Love You Like I Love You)

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: “[G]o some place that is sacred to you and to use the experience to guide you in your work[…]”
 
Tarot Card: Ten of Cups + Knight of Earth (specifically the one from my Osho Zen deck, called “Slowing Down“, though the Wildwood’s Knight of Stones has some personal relevance as well).
 
Thoughts:
So, it’s been over two months since I did the previous prompt for the NYNY Experiment. Put that down to trying to regain some equilibrium after waiting to see how the cards would fall out.
Ha. On that note: Trying to do tarot readings when you have exactly one thing on your mind? Is simultaneously devastatingly accurate (whether you like it or not), AND massively annoying because you can’t get information on anything else.
Eugh.
 
But I’m back!
 
So. Most of my sacred places are inside my home. They’re my kitchen, my altar, my garden, my couch and my tiny dining table (especially when I’ve got people over who I can feed). But I’ve been feeling weirdly (or maybe not-so-weridly, what with Winter’s Last Hurrah having hit but a few days ago[1]) stuck when inside my home of late, so I was hesitant to try and trance out while chopping beets in the kitchen (for example – though it works quite well with apples, as long as you don’t lop off a finger in the process). All that being said, I did keep my eyes and ears open to see what would pop up and… I got something. I wrote about it a little bit in my most recent lunar post, but the majority of this message came, not from my home-base, but from my extended leather family at Queering Power.
 
The message was: SLOW DOWN!
 
Not “slow down” in the frantic, you-are-about-to-drive-off-a-cliff sense of the word, but “Slow Down” in the sense of:
When you are Triggered (yes, I’m talking about PTSD), everything starts to rush.
When you’re drowning in shame, you run around like a chicken with your head cut off, trying to “justify your existence”, when you need no justification, you just need to BE.
When you are in that spiral of “I am Too Much” (too demanding, too slow, too needy, too big, too complicated… you name it), you tell yourself that you must rush through things for the benefit of someone else – don’t tell the whole story, don’t savour that meal, don’t sink into exactly as long as it takes you to get turned on, get into it, get off – instead of being really present, really authentic, really enjoying life’s pleasures.
When you are freaking out and trying to numb yourself, you rush through experiences without really experiencing them – eat a chocolate without even tasting it, skim a poem and feel frustrated by the (unfindable, in this state) meaning you didn’t give yourself time to catch.
When you are frantic, you make decisions that hurt people you care for, and also that hurt yourself (whether you are able to care for yourself in those moments or not).
 
So that’s the big one.
The thing is, it’s not the only one.
Possibly because all the Brene Brown I’ve been reading has been bringing home what Glamour is really about (not what I would have expected), and possibly because Glamour has been feeling kind of hard for me lately, I’ve caught myself thinking a lot about Miss Sugar’s Glamour Pop Quiz questions, particularly the one about What You Really, Really Want, and… what I really want, when I think about it – what this whole Queen of Cups project is supposed to allow me to access – is this. Nothing more, and nothing less, than the Happiness & Home embodied by the Ten of Cups.
 
When it first came to me, I sneared.
 
Really, Meliad? Happiness?? Is that all?
 
Shouldn’t I have been more ambitious? Isn’t wanting a steady, caring home, and a big, queer, chosen family to love and be loved by… isn’t that Not Much At All?
And then I thought: Am I greedy, to want so much? Is it too much to ask that my heart overflow with love and joy instead of sadness and yearning?
 
And then I had a dream.
I dreamed a house that was a weird combination of the house I once owned, a house I didn’t rent when I was in my 20s, the trailer-park home of a friend’s mom near Quebec City where I was made so welcome, the imagined architectural layout of The Cloud Club[2], my ex-partner’s apartment, and the second-floor walk-up of the Toronto friends who played host to me at the end of March and who have a huge, old, fruitful pear tree growing next to their balcony.
I dreamed this house, with the backyard I have now, and the neighbours I have now, except that the hella-gardening Vietnamese lady now looked suspiciously like Shine Louise Houston[3].
I dreamed this house with potted plants outside the balcony door, and garden ready to grow its next season of fruits and veggies. I dreamed my wife and I joking together while getting the balcony in shape. I dreamed C holed up in a messy nest of a room, healing and feeling safe and still part of my heart’s family. I dreamed a friend of my neighbour (she looked like Snow White, if Snow White had the kind of hips and ass normally associated with Fertility Goddesses and the kind of asymetrical bob currently associated with queers of a whole slew of genders) flirting with me, calling me “Hey femme,” and telling me she liked my legs.
I dreamed love and hope. I dreamed relationships that last. I dreamed joy in ordinary moments. I dreamed fruitfulness and abundance and having Enough, feeling Enough. Not Hungry. And not Overwhelming.
I woke up and knew that this was plenty “good enough” to be a Great Work. I woke up and knew it was not Too Much to ask.
 
~*~
 
So thats what my sacred spaces have had to tell me.
Onwards and upwards, campers!
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Today, on the other hand, the sun is out, the snow is pretty-much GONE, the crocuses are blooming, and the leaves are starting to stretch and open up. My rhubarb survived the winter! (At least one did – we’ll see about the other two, which got planted waaaaaaaaay later and may not have got themselves established before the cold hit for real). So things are looking up.:-)
 
[2] Where Amanda Palmer lives, fyi.
 
[3] Yes, the Shine who runs Pink and White Productions.

Eat from the Larder 2016 – What to Do With Green Tomato Chutney

So, as I’ve mentioned before, I made a lot of green tomato chutney last October, when the frost knocked my tomato plants down, and now I’m not sure what to do with it.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s working out great as a sandwich spread (I’m about to make myself yet another roast pork sandwich with grainy mustard and GTC), and the sweet-spicy-tangy-umami mix of apples, mustard, vinegar, and tomatoes doesn’t hurt as an addition to lentil stew or some kind of bean-based dip.
The thing is, sandwiches don’t take more than a teaspoon of chutney each, and even a large stew isn’t going to need more than half a cup of chutney thrown in if it’s being used as a seasoning.
The sugar content makes me wonder if it would work as a stew-base, or if it would just be too sweet, but… I’m still hoping to re-jig a few recipes (like the following) in order to use up a couple of pint-jars of green tomato chutney (maybe with some crushed tomatoes thrown in as well).
 
Green Tomato Stew AKA Tomato Kootu
Thakali Masiyal
Green Tomato Pork Stew
Curry In A Hurry (also ft broccoli and sweet potatoes)
Green Tomato & French Lenils Soup
 
Wish me luck!