Full Moon – Snow Moon Crests

The night of the full moon, I met one of my partner’s other sweethearts.
Two days later, my partner broke up with me over dinner because I was the only stressor in her life that she had the power to cut.
I understand why she did it. I have a rough idea of just how frayed the end of her rope was getting, and it sucks that I was making it worse rather than helping her to hold it together.
And also: Fuck.
All that stuff that Chani Nicholas said, almost a month ago, about the Mercury Retrograde that was going to be in place between January 5th and 25th? I feel like it hit me over the course of that full-moon weekend away. Misunderstandings. Assumptions. Communication troubles. Brutal honesty. Trying to avoid conflict but only making it worse.
It hit me (again) just how graceless I can be in the face of sudden changes of plan when my own fears and insecurities are already screaming the alarm.
 
Surviving the Worst Thing and wondering how long I’ll have to keep surviving it, here I am trying to keep room for uncertainty, for what could be (whether I like it, or don’t like it, or haven’t thought of it yet), to dig into my own Issues (again, again, always again) and make room for discovery.
This has not been an easy week. There’s been lots of deep-digging (and lots more to come). Lots of changes (my wife unexpectedly had to get new shop space[1], and a few people close to us lost relatives).
Nothing like forcing a situation to make things happen quickly.
 
Where do I go from here?
The Sunday she said she needed to take a break from dating me for a while, I did a tarot reading (hours before that conversation) that didn’t make a tonne of sense. I look at it now and… am hopeful? A little bit? The Priestess looking out at me from the depths of the unconcious. The goal-oriented King of Fire pushing to Do Something in the face of sudden change, keeping the long game in view. What looks like loneliness and loss up close is really a much-needed healing process. I’ll get what I want, all those emotional wishes coming true, but it’ll require a leap of faith and a lot of hard work to get there.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Which she got! :-D She gets the keys on Monday!

New Year New You 2016: Week Five – Some Enchanted Evening

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: Do some magical thing(s) to further your cause and give you an edge towards achieving your Goal(s).
 
Tarot Card: The Priestess (Inner Voice, The Seer) – looking inward, going deeper, mediating between the concious and unconcious, self-confidence, seaking internal calm.
 
Thoughts:
Okay.
So I’ve had a bit of a shock thrown into my (life) plans recently. My long-distance partner is… not my partner anymore. At least not for the moment. We’re “on a break” for reasons that I understand, even if I’m not happy about the situation or its effects on me.
Part of me is all “I totally get it, take the time you need.”
Part of me is all “Augh! Come baaaaaaaaaaaaack!”
And part of me is just all “Eugh. Whatever. You do you. I’ll survive.”
It’s not a fun place to be, and it does add a certain bleak nuance of “Why am I trying so hard to Fix The Problems that I’m trying to fix with this project if I’m no-longer in a situation where those Problems are actually causing Big Waves in important parts of my life??”
Which is a problem in and of itself, I know.
Why don’t I care about myself enough to just get to Happy for my own benefit, rather than it having to involve someone else’s comfort with me before I’m willing to Do The Work that will make my life better regardless?
It’s stupid and frustrating and it means that part of this Getting To project is getting a bit of a facelift.
 
Originally, I was going to do my Enchanted Evening spell by putting a glamour wammy on my bathroom and dressing-room mirrors so that, every time I looked at my own reflection, I was also seeing someone worthy of love and care, in the hopes that it would make it easier for me to pick up on the love and care (and other good stuff) being directed at me from all and sundry[1].
I’m still going to do that.
BUT.
… But the whole situation with the Queen Of Cups is that she doesn’t have to use logic to walk her heart through every damn thing. She’s emotionally healthy,and emotionally secure, enough that she is both trust-worthy and trustING in ways that don’t feel like jumping off a cliff (to use Leah Lakshmi’s very apt turn of phrase) and crossing my fingers that someone is going to catch me before I hit the rocks.
Which means I’ve got other Stuff I need to work on as well.
 
So what I did this morning was steap myself a cup of thyme tea and charge it with the prayer of “Open my heart, help me to trust the trustworthy, heal me”.
Tea because: Probably a safer bet than putting drops of pure thyme essential oil directly onto my tongue. But also tea because it has links to awareness, faithfulness, and enlightenment.
I chose Thyme because it corresponds to courage, hope, happiness, purification, healing, strength, the washing away of fear.
Other herbs I can use in similar ways:
Chamomile, lavender, and dill to calm the frightened child in me
Sweet Violet (I’m reading this as the edible flowers of wood violets that grow in my yard – and all over the place) for trust, peace, and strengthening the comfort of the heart
 
As for the glamour wammy on my mirror, I’m thinking it’ll be a cleansing spray that just happens to include a mix of rosemary, sweet orange, and ginger essential oils (plus witch hazel & water for a carrier).
 
Other possibilities for scrubbing away:
A Body Scrub to sluff away all the Negativity that’s been hovering around me ft brown sugar, sweet almond oil, baking soda, rosemary, clove, cedar, tea tree
AND
A Bath Powder to draw confidence, self-assurance, courage and calm ft ylang ylang, ginger, clove, myrrh(!), and sweet orange
 
I find it… veeeeeery interesting… that a LOT of the essential oils that one would use for drawing love, sex, & happy-solid romances into one’s life (and dispelling/preventing jealousy, no less) are also stuff that one would use to increase confidence, courage & self-assurance, while calming your ass down & dispelling fear and depression.
I mean, part of that is just: people use what they’ve got. If you’re a Strega with a rosemary bush the size of your house (or… me… with a cupboard full of pie spices and dried fruit), that stuff is going to find its way into every spell you do.
On the other hand… the two tend to benefit one-another, in my experience, so maybe it’s not that strange.
 
Lastly – though not remotely surprisingly -I’ve been doing a LOT of tarot readings for myself on the question of “How do I get to Happy?” (the Fool Spread is really handy for that kind of question) and the details of making those internal changes in ways that will actually stick and not turn me into more of a wreck in the process.
They’re turning up some… unsurprising but also pretty accurate information, which is a help in terms of things I need to remind myself of like: This is going to be a bit of a slog, so you will have to be patient with yourself. Be brave but not with without compassion for yourself. Push yourself, because it’s going to be hard and you will have to keep leaning into that discomfort, but don’t burn yourself out. Learn from your mistakes, but also forgive yourself and be gentle with yourself at the same time.
 
Wish me luck.
Up next: Fancying up my mirrors and taking a solid soak. Here’s hoping it works.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] So that I could recognize that kind words from a friend are actually meant and true, to pick a non-Faaaaaaaaaamily-related example, and so that (to pick another, even less-socially-fraught one) I could stop interpreting a lack of calls from temp agents as some sort of deliberate punishment for not being available That One Time, or for saying No to that thing I didn’t want to do. So that I can just sit with the quiet (as opposed to the Silence, as in Silent Treatment) of a non-ringing phone without believing in my bones that it’s a commentary on whether or not I’m worthy of someone having my back or looking out for me.

New Year New You 2016: Week Three – Something You’ve Been Putting Off

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: Do the thing that you’ve been avoiding. Do it now!
 
Tarot Card: 8 of Major Arcana (Courage in my Osho Zen deck, The Stag in my WildWood. I’m going with the former at the moment, mind you).
 
Thoughts:
So… Basically my entire goal boils down to something I’ve been avoiding. Like, if I try to make “be more receptive” into something that I can also be proactive about, it mostly translates as: (a) be more vulnerable, and (b) be more trusting.
Which…
It feels like mostly what I’m asking myself to do, when it comes to “be more vulnerable, be more trusting”, is to step out onto the ice, stand in front of the net, and let ask people (in general, or in specific) to take pot-shots at me with no body armor (kind of like in that Canadian Heritage Moment, remember?) while telling myself to trust that those people (in general, or in specific) aren’t going to hit me with the puck even though they all appear to be aiming at my teeth.
It’s the WildWood image of the Queen of Cups as Salmon, flinging herself up the waterfalls, knowing that she’s more likely to die than to get the thing that she can’t. stop. wanting.
Cold-calling potential modeling clients in Toronto is nothing compared to cold-calling my girlfriend and asking her to want my company.
That – regardless of how unfounded it may be – feels like Russian Roulette.

But I did it.
 
…And, naturally, my internal landscape was all screaming-crying-perfect-storm for 48 hours, until she said “yes” and I booked my tickets, and there was totally a (‘nother thing I tend to put off, because I want to make sure I have All The Answers before I start bringing things up… more on that in a second) Whole Conversation about the length of the visit, and our various expectations, and Stuff.
 
So… The other Thing I Put Off is handing out information. Which, I realize, is not the brightest way to go about things. For reasons that Freud would surely say had something to do with My Mother, I tend to prefer to just present people with “This is what can happen. Everything’s prepared, all I need is your signature and it’s a go” rather than “I want to do X, but have no idea whether I’ll succeed or not, because I’m not incharge of all the components, but am still playing merry hell with your schedule and/or expectations in order to possibly give it a try”.
It’s silly (or not? But probably silly), and it leads to more problems than it solves, these days, if only because – in situations like this one, where I’m spending a few days visiting my GF, out of town, while also trying to secure another stream of modeling income – saying “Hey, can I visit you in your microscopic apartment for a week, even if I don’t have any work booked” is actually a lot different from saying “Hey, can I visit you in your microscopic apartment for a week, even if I don’t have any work booked YET, but intend to shop myself around before I get into town”… and people can only work with the information they have.
 
Sadly, a significant portion of the “information” that I have is made up of lies that my Jerk Brain tells me.
Typical.
 
The suite of Cups, I’m learning, is one of compassion and forgiveness.
As in: Don’t be so mean to yourself, Meliad.
As in: Maybe stop putting cruel words into other people’s mouths and pay attention to what they’re really saying.
As in: If you want to become a Queen of Cups, you have to walk the Knight of Cups‘ path, first.
 
Every message, text, email: Breathe in, breathe out. Read it again. Read just the words this time. Breathe in, breathe out.
Every silence: Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe through the panic of no-one is every going to hire me of unwantable, unvalueable of nobody really loves me. Breathe through the litany of every worst thing.
Stop the whirlwind before it’s too much. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in.
 
 
Meliad.

Cauldron of Plenty – Red Velvet Morning Glory Breakfast Muffins

Okay. So I started volunteering at a local Food Centre[1] just last week, because I like to cook/bake, and I like to feed people, and because I like the way this place has a “waste not, want not; use what you’ve got” attitude, and is totally comfortable with people (me) experimenting with their largely-donated larder in order to make things work.
One thing that I’m learning is how to cook in Very Large Batches, because they make stuff like granola, soup, and chili by the vat.
 
Today I made (up) a muffin recipe that resulted in about six dozen average-size muffins and was stuffed full of fruits, veggies, and seeds. It started out as a morning glory muffins recipe, but I didn’t know where the raw carrots were (yet), so I went hunting in the freezer for apples blueberries and stuff, and wound up finding a bag of frozen, pre-cooked, diced beets. There was cocoa in the cupboard. It just sort of (re-) wrote itself from there.
 
 
~*~
 
Red Velvet Morning Glory Muffins (makes ~6 dozen)
INGREDIENTS
 
5C mashed, cooked beets
4C grated carrots
2C mashed, frozen bananas (alternatives: 2C fruit butter; 2C mashed, steamed pumpkin – though they won’t be as sweet if you use pumpkin in place of banana)
1C apple sauce
+
3 C oil
½ C molasses
½ C maple syrup
¼ C vanilla extract (I use the fake stuff)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
+
8 C flour (I used polished wheat / all-purpose, but whole-wheat-pastry, or your favourite 1:1 GF mix would presumably work just fine, too)
2 C rolled oats (or rolled quinoa, or maybe even corn meal or cooked amaranth)
4 C brown sugar
1 C cocoa
2 tbsp each: ginger, cinnamon, cloves
3 tbsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
+
2 ½ C shredded coconut (untested alternatives: shredded hazelnuts, possibly Himalayan Balsam seeds, too)
2 C pumpkin seeds
2 C dried cranberries (or raisins, or dried cherries, you get the idea)
 
 
DIRECTIONS
 
Preheat the oven to 350F
Blend the wet ingredients together in an absolutely massive bowl
Add the dry ingredients
Add the dried fruit and seeds and such
Mix everything together until well-blended
Spoon into VERY well-greased muffin pans (I was using that spray-on-oil stuff with non-stick pans, but usually I use paper muffin liners and don’t worry about greasing things at all)
Bake at 350 for ~35 minutes. Use your nose and the fork test starting at the half-hour mark, or earlier if need be[1]
Let the muffins stand for a minute or two to cool (slightly) and get set
Pop them out of their trays, one at a time (or not), and let them stand on a wire rack (you will need 2 very, VERY big wire racks for this) until they cool completely.
Serve and enjoy.
 
~*~
 
 
So there you go.
 
This recipe is, handily, vegan and takes about 2 hours to mix and bake the entire batch. It can definitely be halved, or even quartered, if the amounts are really daunting, but if you have an event – whether that’s a bakesale, a large planning meeting, or a pot-luck breakfast – where you need a LOT of baked goods that taste good and can still at least pass for “healthy”? This is the way to go.
I haven’t tried freezing them but, as far as I can tell, muffins tend to do pretty well if you freeze them for long-term storage, so if you wanted to (and have the space), you could throw this together of a quiet morning and have a breakfast go-to that you could pull out, half-a-dozen at a time, for ages.
 
Give them a shot, if you’re so inclined.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] I baked most of these at the same time, in the same oven, so the top rack’s muffins were “just done” when the bottom rack’s muffins were definitely starting to get crispy. Nobody will be mad at you if you bake them 2-dozen at a time, rather than all at once, and you stand a better chance of not burning things, so.

Tarag? Skyr? – Adventures in Cheese-Making Part Four!

So I usually buy milk, by the gallon jug, at the local convenience store. It’s close by, I can return the jugs for a deposite (way better than throwing them out, in my books, plus that $0.25 is not to be sneezed at, especially when I go through this stuff like I do), and – provided that trans-pacific trade agreement doesn’t come into effect as-written (uh… not holding my breath, but I reeeeeeeeeeally don’t like what it would do to Canadian farmers) – the milk in said jugs is super-local, even if it’s not organic by any stretch of the imagination.
 
Usually this does me just fine, because I drink enough heavily-adulterated tea and coffee, plus make enough alfredo sauce, pancakes, and other milk-friendly foods, that I can go through a gallon of the stuff in about 10 days. But the minute I get a cold/cough/sore-throat, work a few full-days at a temp job (or a slew of modeling gigs with early starts), or get a visit from my cows-milk-alergic sweetie, the giant jug of dairy gets shoved to the back of the fridge to make way for herbal berry teas, goat’s milk (and/or almond milk), and juice that fill the “lots of fluids” niche… and the chances of my milk going off? They go through the roof.
 
Consequently, due to a perfect storm of all of the above, I had two half-finished jugs of milk go off on me, one after the other, in December. That’s four litres (in 2L batches) of milk, with a lot of overlap, that needed to be used up during a period when my fridge and freezer are both super-stuffed with frozen veggies (having only just stopped harvesting kale and chard from the yard), raw root veggies, and numerous not-usually-in-stock goodies (like half a dozen fancy cheeses, at least one open bottle of wine, sweet cider, various kinds of paté, and chocolate bark)… meaning I couldn’t just make a quadrupal batch of waffles plus a couple of cherry-chocolate-chip quick breads, and then freeze them (not even in a bag hanging off the back doorknob, which could have worked just fine, given enough zip-locks and tupperware, if we hadn’t spent most of December with well-above-freezing temperatures on hand).
 
The first half-gallon did end up in quick breads and coffee cakes. but the second one happened right between Winter Solstice and New Years, and honestly? I just let it go. I let it sit in my fridge and curdle/clabbor/etc to its heart’s content.
 
And, today, I drained off the whey, and called it Cheese.
 
Wait, what?
I know. But bear with me.
 
I trust my food.
I trust that, in a kitchen where wine, home-made bread, and live-culture yoghurt feature heavily in the cuisine, and where kefir, kombucha, blue cheese, and chevre make their appearances, most of the bacteria in my fridge? Are bacteria my species has been cultivating relationships with for thousands of years (sans fridges,even).
I trust my food knowledge, too. I’m a home-canner. I know that anything well into the sour (NOT bitter) spectrum is not going to harbour deadly stuff like botulism, and that vinegar, hot peppers, and garlic will kill off most of the nasty stuff that causes food (particularly meat) to spoil.
I also have a pretty good idea of where most of my food came from, how it was grown/raised and (in the case of the wine and some of the diary products) how it was processed, so… I’m not too fretful about the kind of nasty stuff you get when “pink slime” is involved… because it generally isn’t.
 
Which means that when the milk in my fridge goes off? I’m willing to see where it wanders.
 
Where it wandered, this time (having been left, for over close to three weeks, to swell it’s jug all out of shape, and having had the cap taken off and screwed back on a few times over the course of its wandering), turned out to be:
Fairly solid
With lots of whey below it, and
Smelling both super-sour and faintly of something like kefir.
 
So I tasted it.
 
NOTE: The fact that my weirdo milk product both (a) was clearly fermenting, and (b) smelled more or less like something else I’d already eaten safely is WHY I was willing to taste it.
 
I tasted a curd, about half the size of my smallest fingernail.
Nothing weird happened to my tongue or lips or gums.
I swallowed it.
Still nothing.
Tried a (slightly) larger bit, then another.
Still fine.
The stuff is sour as hell, and tastes both a little bit like beer and a little bit like yoghurt, so I decided “Screw it,”, drained off the whey, and strained the curds in my mash bag (which I got from a wine-making store for the purposes of making cheese… on purpose).
 
At this point, I have a cup-and-a-half or so of home made Accidental Cheese that I’m pretty sure is the product of a little bit of free-range bread-yeast (that I use to super-slowly fridge-ferment berry iced tea into something that sparkles about a year later) and a little bit of free-range yoghurt bacteria, and that will probably work best when cooked into a quiche or a pot-pie that would benefit from some cottage cheese thrown in.
 
Whee! Experimenting!
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

New Moon – Snow Moon Begins

The altars aren’t lit.
The shell cup hasn’t been refilled.
There is no roast slowly braising in the blue, iron pot, no wine chilling in the fridge.
Fabulous Friday Dinner is, most likely, going to be postponed to Saturday (at which point: onions, carrots, frozen chard, sunchokes, and shredded chicken for a stew served with crusty bread, I think), and I’m going to need to make more candles before those altars get lit.
This isn’t a problem.
The fact that I’m writing this – sometimes four words at a time, admittedly, – while earning a wage by answering office phones, is pretty amazing.
But I know I’ve got stock (still) to can, sheets to change, and dishes to do, and those aren’t happening while I’m typing at a desk (here or at home), so… things are piling up, as they do.
 
I’m planning a trip to Toronto, and waiting for various people to get back to me (about possible work, about dates, about places to sleep) before I book any tickets… Mercury hit retrograde on Tuesday, by the way, so I’m not particularly shocked that there are some delays in communications about this stuff. Doesn’t make me any more patient about it, but it’s a help to be aware of that particular situation. Chani Nicholas (in the above link) says “Make room for not knowing, make room for discovery”, and I go “Okay, that’s great and all, but I’d still like to know I’m not just fooling myself when I say I’m going on a trip.”
 
Still, I’m looking at what that astrological event is pulling, and noticing how much it relates to the “get vulnerable” and “stop pretending you don’t need things” parts of my 2016 New Year New You project, and… this feels a bit like when I got myself a therapist, walked in, and said “I get ten weeks with you, and I need them to count. Make it hurt. Let’s do this.”
 
By the time this lunar cycle crests, I’m hoping I’ll be in Toronto, enjoying my GF’s company, and having (At the age of 36, of all things) traveled by myself, for fun for all of the second time in my adult life.
Here’s hoping.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

The Year of the Pig – Part 4: Slightly Past the Half Way Point

Strictly speaking, I have slightly less than five months to go in my year-long pig experiment. To date, there have been half a dozen chickens + a couple of cuts of beef, one duck, and two rabbits (and a lot of lentils) supplementing our pork-focused diet.
 
I cook with lard fairly frequently, and use stock made from pork bones (as much as any other bones – see above) – in fact, I’ve got another round of bone stock in the slow cooker right now – but the majority of the half-a-pig that we picked up last May is still in the freezer. The leaf lard remains un-rendered, the kidneys, tongue, and other bits and bobs un-cooked. Though I did make Creton (Quebecois spread made from ground pork, cream – I used goat’s milk + a couple of tablespoons of lard – onion, and pie spices) from one pound of my ground pork (It makes about 3C when it’s all said and done, is thoroughly tasty on crackers.
 
I’ve learned that there’s not much eating on a pork hock, though the meat is marvelously flavourful and shreds up a treat for pulled pork sandwiches or stew (the next day, after cooking it for 8 hours). I’ve also learned that, as much as I love a good roast or braise, they don’t work so well if you need things to thaw out in less than 72 hours. Next time I buy half a pig in one go, I’ll ask our provider to have most of the hams (which aren’t cured, so they’re just more pork, basically) cut into ham steaks that I can thaw inside of 10 hours and cook like pork chops in the oven. That, alone, will probably mean we go through our half-a-pig faster than we’ve been doing.
 
On that subject: I suspect our half-a-pig will last well past May 30th (so this may become the year-and-a-half of the pig, or similar). When I started this experiment, I was more than a little worried that we would run out of pig halfway through (didn’t happen!) by eating too much meat, too often. So I made a point of cooking lentil and bean dishes once a week or so (using bone stock and poorly-rendered lard to impart hints of umami to them, so I wouldn’t call them vegetarian dishes by any stretch of the imagination) and making sure to stick with stews and pasta dishes that could use limited (left-over) pork augmented with cheese and/or beans for most of the other weekly meals.
 
Now that it’s officially Winter (seriously – December 26th involved getting a solid two feet of snow dumped on our heads, followed by -30 (with wind-chill) temperatures all of a week later), I’m more than happy to slow-cook All The Things (or at least many of the things) and rely on my preserves to get dinners on the table. At the moment, we’re both a little sick of finger food, having been eating Nibblies for the past 3+ weeks, so I’m focusing on stews and pasta dishes that make lots of use of the heaps of left-overs and stocked-up-upon root veggies[1] crowding my fridge, while still being hearty and filling and requiring of a fork to enjoy. It’s working out quite nicely, I don’t mind saying. It turns out that left-over creton makes a really lovely addition to a molee sauce (the pie spices do it), and pot-pie-without-the-pie (parboiled root veggies & nuts, fried onions & mushrooms, leftover meat of whatever variety, and alfredo sauce[2], all mixed up in a well-greased skillet and topped with parmasan cheese, then baked for 20 minutes until everything’s bubbly) is shockingly delicious and an amazing way to use up Leftover Everything.
 
Going forward, I have no idea if I’ll use up the rest of Francis The Pig more quickly, now that it’s winter and the thought of having the oven on for hours isn’t anathema. I confess to hoping that my experiment in economic and ethical eating spills over well past the 1-year point and we are munching on Francis until next October or similar, but we shall see.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] When I did the Big Stock-Up of goodies for Winter Solstice – a grocery-run that includes something like 10L of non-booze-based beverages – I got everything delivered to my door. So, naturally, I made sure to invest in HUGE bags of baby potatoes, onions, and carrots while I was at it. Like you do.
 
[2] which I finally bit the bullet and made from scratch. It’s marvelously easy, and super-cheap even with the parmesan cheese involved, so I’ve been making a lot of it… and wanting to invest in a Pressure Canner that much more as a result. >.>