New Year New You 2018 – Week Five: Make the Holy Every-Day, Make the Every-Day Holy

I’m (once again) doing Miss Sugar’s New Year New You Experiment in Radical Magical Transformation because I find it’s a really good way to kick my own ass into getting things done. It’s a good mix of practical, magical, and thought-based exercises to help accomplish specific and significant change in your own life. If it’s relevant to your interests, give it a try!
 
Instructions:What are you going to do magically to make sure that your goals happened. This is the week to really focus on that.
 

High Priestess - Dark Days Tarot (Wren McMurdo) Someone with very long, dark hair is seated, cross-legged. Roses rise up from between their legs. A pomegranate and a crescent moon hover above their raised right hand. Glittering stars and the faces of generations of ancestors spill from the river of their hair.

High Priestess – Dark Days Tarot (Wren McMurdo)
Someone with very long, dark hair is seated, cross-legged. Roses rise up from between their legs. A pomegranate and a crescent moon hover above their raised right hand. Glittering stars and the faces of generations of ancestors spill from the river of their hair.


 
Tarot Card: High Priestess
I admit I chose this card slightly because I’ve been feeling stuck and this can be a card of stillness to the point of inaction or not-getting-involved and… I’ve been avoiding this prompt for months because of those feelings.
However, I mainly chose it for its connections to mystery, intuition, trusting your inner voice, connecting with hidden talents, self-knowledge, and with secrets and magic.
 
Earlier this week, Becoming Dangerous: Witchy femmes, queer conjurers, and magical rebels on summoning the power to resist[1] arrived in the mail – at last! – and I’ve been digging into it hard since it turned up.
It couldn’t have come at a better time, I don’t think, what with me spinning my wheels going “What the heck magical thing can I DO??” and mostly just feeling slumped and stuck and completely unmotivated.
The essays – written predominantly by queer femmes – have been reminding me of what everyday magic looks like, that the stuff I do to put one foot in front of the other isn’t just survival, that it can be symbolic action, magical action, as well.
I needed that reminder, and I needed it badly.
 
I spent the morning writing myself a remind of what kinds of magic I am, or can be, doing when I go about my day-to-day. Like greeting my gods at the cross-roads, at the sight of green things pushing through the still-cold-but-waking ground, at the warmth of sunlight, brightness of moonlight, on my skin… everything I do can be a magical act, a holy-making/acknowledging act. Turning the compost, tending the ferments, lighting my altar candles, those are easy to ritualize, and I already do so (though I could stand to do it more reliably and frequently). I’m talking more about things like turning self-care stuff (like doing my back, hip, and leg exercises, cooking Real Meals from scratch, getting dressed in my I’m Awake clothes even when I’m not expecting to leave the house that day, and even showering regularly) into something that I conceptualize as body-honouring, glamour-making, goal-manifesting, creation magic.
 
Maybe it’s because it’s still well below freezing, or because I’ve been doing office work all week (and thus wearing office-appropriate (and polyester-lined!) clothes), but I needed to remind myself that dressing like the queer, femme, spooky-hippy, would-be-sexpot that I am is a way to make that reality manifest in real time.
So I dressed with intention this morning – even though it’s been a day of house-cleaning, mending, kitchen craft. Even though the laundry needs doing. Maybe especially so.
 
How much of my not-so-great house-keeping could I redefine as a way to symbolically (magically, thinking-in-things-ly) remind myself that I’m Worthy? Worthy of a clean house. Worthy of a functional kitchen. Fresh socks every day. Light that is warm and welcoming. Food that will actually nourish my gorgeous, lovable body[2]. And, more (or maybe just equally?) to the point, would that get me to do it more reliably and/or less resentfully?
 
Liz Worth says that the incoming Aries new moon is an “open door” to walk through in order to make changes in your life – which is relevant to my above re-framing in-so-far as a change of consciousness ( at will) is definitely making a change.
She also posted a tarot spread to help figure out where to take risks and what to reach for when that opportunity arrives, because everything might be a bit up in the air right now (Mercury’s still in Retrograde until tomorrow, and won’t start moving “forward” again for another few days after that).
I had a friend over for a tarot-and-shop-talk evening a few days ago, and gave Liz’s spread a whirl, in the hopes that a spare set of eyes would help make sense of things.
 

What is it time for me to begin? –> Queen of Cups
What fear must I leave behind in order to do this? –> Empress
How can I cultivate deeper confidence? –> Ace of Cups (with a Six of Cups drawn when I was, like, “Huh??”)
What can no longer hold me back? –> Five of Cups
 
Advisor: Five of Swords (R)
Over-Arching + Underlying Influences: Page of Cups + King of Wands (R)

 
Most of this makes plenty of sense.
If I want my Empress Project to be successful, if I want to achieve my goals, I need to stop being afraid of “What If It Worked Out”, stop self-sabotaging, and similar, and start opening up and being receptive to the good stuff I’m trying to court and call into my life.
The grief and 20/20 hind-sight of the Five Of Cups – y’know, that stuff that’s been eating at me since 2016, if not earlier – is apparently far enough gone that I can just get on with things without drowning in it. (That’s not to say I don’t still Have The Feels about all that, but, well, see Prompt Three, tbh. You make Good Art by taking something, doing something to it, and then doing something different to it; and that’s also how you write a new future from a crappy history, so).
 
My over-arching/underlying pair are good mix of “open your heart” (Page of Cups) and “you have the inspiration/creativity/power” (King of Wands) that I think relates pretty clearly to the Empress and Queen of Cups in the initial spread. My advisor says “Focus on being your truest, best self. Don’t get distracted by zero-sum games, insecurities, or petty jealousies”.
 
The only card that’s really throwing me is the Ace of Cups. The card is meant to answer the question of HOW do I gain more confidence in this area, not WHERE do I need to gain more confidence.
What I said to my friend, after a bit of a chat about it all, was that if I were doing this spread for someone else, I’d read the Ace of Cups in that position as… As like when your therapist asks you “What nice thing are you going to do for yourself tonight” so that you develop a habit of making kind plans for yourself and then following through on them and, from that habit, build a relationship with yourself where you can trust yourself to be there for you. I think the card I drew for “what is this about” leans towards “Let yourself play, give yourself time for small pleasures and simple joys, continue learning how to recognize and accept good things when they’re offered to you rather than assuming there’s an ulterior motive or that everything will surely go to hell. Let yourself dream and desire beyond what you can currently grasp”.
 
So there we are. Little rituals in the every-day. Little offerings from myself to myself. Little glamours to lift me up and move me towards what I want.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Totally a sales link.
 
[2] Which, that right there? I have a terrible tendency to get hungry, get hangry, and take it out on myself by basically telling myself that food is for people who deserve it. Which, intellectually, I know is garbage and unkind and generally a bad road to go down, but it’s still a thing I do. Having someone else to cook for/with helps a LOT, in terms of getting me to put food in my own mouth. But remembering to put it in my own mouth, whether anybody else is there to share it with me, is an important thing to keep doing.

Advertisements

Eat From the Larder Challenge 2018 – End of Week One

So. Week One has come and gone, largely without a hitch.
Which is a good thing, because Week One is the easiest week of the challenge and should go without any hitches at all, especially given that I’m doing this challenge on “easy mode”. However it’s also a not-so-good thing because there was, in fact, a hitch.
I got an unexpected extra half-day of temp work this past week (YAY!!!), and duly packed myself a lunch for the hour-long commute between my morning modeling job and my afternoon office job (inter-provincial busing is, uh… special), woke up to an inch of sleet on the streets and, in the rush to get out the door to catch a substantially earlier bus? Big surprise, I forgot my lunch at home.
So I bought my lunch on Wednesday.
Bit of a disappointing beginning there.
BUT!
Beyond that, things have been going fine.
 
My pre-planned meal ideas are working and proving to be at least a little bit versatile.
There’s now enough room in the freezer (thanks to the litre of frozen sunchokes that I thawed out and started fermenting – see below) for me to stock-pile an extra loaf of bread, which means we’ve been eating home-made all week, and nothing has gone moldy (yet), which is fantastic. I’ve made five loaves of bread (we’ve eaten three of them, the other two were made yesterday, along with pancakes and cupcakes).
The previously-frozen sunchokes are fermenting nicely. At least that what it looks like. I’ll start using them in cooking… probably around about Week Three.
The reconstituted mushrooms… don’t seem to be bubbling all that much, but nothing smells weird, so I’m holding off judgement for another little while. I did take the opportunity, once the sunchokes started bubbling, to add a little more of the sunchoke brine to the mushrooms, in the hopes that it’ll help it to take off. We’ll see what happens on that front, but hopefully this time next week, I’ll be telling you that my mushrooms have started to bubble.
The slight up-tick in vegetarian-adjacent dishes (I say “adjacent” because the stews and similar aren’t really vegetarian. I’m still using animal fat and bone stock to cook this stuff, even if the protein is coming from beans and grains) isn’t hurting us any, even if they do leave me feeling a tad hungrier than the same dish with a little bit of tuna or diced pork thrown in would do[1].
I’ve made chocolate chocolate-chip cupcakes and filled them with choke-cherry curd. This didn’t work out quite like I expected – it’s not like putting a dollop of cheesecake batter in the middle of a cupcake, and the curd just kind of got absorbed by the rest of the cake. But it was delicious, none-the-less, and I have no regrets.
I’m remembering to reach for pearl barley, polished rice, and whole oats (oat groats) rather than pasta, as my current go-to carbs, but will need to start pre-soaking great northern and/or black turtle beans soon-ish because, while I’ve got plenty of jarred chick peas and a a few meals worth of Spare Lentils[3], I’m going to run out of those pretty quickly.
 
Which brings me to: I have an instant pot.
Yes, really. A while back, an absolute sweetheart of a friend straight-up bought me an Instant Pot because I mentioned that I wanted to try making yoghurt in one, and they decided they wanted to do something nice for me.
(You guys. My friends are fucking amazing. Did I mention? Holy moly!)
You want to know what an instant pot can do, aside from make yoghurt? It can “pressure soak” beans. Basically, this is the same as bringing dry beans to a boil and then letting them sit, covered, for an hour, before rinsing them and cooking them in new water for the standard cook time. It just takes a lot less time. Which, if you’re staring down a chili dinner, and the tin of beans you thought you had turns out to have been used last week… Is a gods-send.
 
Today, however, I’m using it to make yoghurt. First time out of the box (finally).
Seriously. I’ve tried making yoghurt at home in my parents’ 43-year-old yoghurt maker and… it doesn’t work. Possibly because it’s just a very, very old heat-sleeve that goes on the fritz a bit. Or possibly for Arcane Reasons that I can’t figure out. But the yoghurt I’ve managed to make has been desperately watery unless I add a thickener, like extra powdered milk, and that messes with both the flavour and the texture. Good for cooking, but not very great for breakfast[4].
Fingers crossed that it lives up to its reputation, because I’ve got lots of frozen fruit available, and I’d love to bring pints of fruit yoghurt for lunch on at least a couple of days during this coming week of temp work.
 
Anyway.
Meals for this week have included:
– Braised pork chops with root veggies (carrots, onions, sunchokes), red lentils, cabbage, and dried cranberries
– Pasta with tuna, frozen peas, and cheese sauce (this is a regular at our house, and will continue to be so)
– Turkey stew with pickled root veggies, whole oats, green lentils, and crushed tomatoes
AND
– Chickpea stew with green lentils, pearl barley, crushed tomatoes, dried cranberries, cinnamon and curry powder
 
Meals Ideas for the coming week include, but may not result in:
– Veggie Stew 2 ft a significant amount of vegan (bean-based) sage pesto and, therefore, probably frozen squash, frozen cranberries, and some pre-soaked great northern beans, along with maybe pot barley or, if I have any left, some wild rice (unlikely). This one will probably also have a splish of either white wine or cider vinegar thrown in.
– Pumpkin/Cauliflower “curry” (jar of chick peas, fried onions, frozen pumpkin OR frozen cauliflower florets, quinoa, frozen greens… maybe some coconut milk, and curry powder).
– Stir Fry of onions, reconstituted (non-pickled) mushrooms, shredded cabbage, and marinated firm tofu fried and added to a mix of white basmati rice, red lentils, and frozen greens. This will probably also involve some grocery store hoisin sauce and/or Terrifying Hot Sauce, since I’ve got it.
– Some sort of black bean veggie chili, of which I’ll be making 2-4 extra servings for a friend who’s just got out of the hospital. Some of my frozen winter squash is going to end up in here, along with a couple of pints of crushed tomatoes.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] I really don’t understand how the addition of 1C or less of meat to a generous four serving meal (which works out to a maximum of two ounces of meat per serving) lets me feel sated and keeps me from feeling dizzy or hollow when the same meal, minus that 2oz of animal protein, leaves me hungry enough to get stomach cramps, even when I’m deliberately mixing beans, grains, and fats to make sure that the vegetable amino acids are bio-accessible to my non-herbivore digestive system[2]. It’s weird, especially since other folks do BETTER on a beans-and-grains heavy diet, rather than getting sick more easily under those circumstances. But that’s my body for me.
 
[2] Although my non-herbivorousness has more to do with not having a stomach that can get protein from grass & leaves than it does with needing to remember to add fat to anything (whether that’s beans+grains / nuts & seeds, OR extremely-lean meat like rabbit) to be able to get protein from PROTEIN.
 
[3] One of the ways I up both the amino acids and the fibre content of a stew, braise, or other pot dish is to do 1/3 quick-cooking (no soaking needed) lentils to 2/3 grain of a similar cooking time –> So 2/3 C pot barley or long-grain brown rice to 1/3C beluga black lentils, or 1/4 C red or green lentils to 1/2 C pearl barley, oat groats, quinoa, or white basmati rice.
 
[4] Having grown up on yoghurt made in the above-mentioned 1970s-era yoghurt-maker, I’m aware that it will be grainier, and a little bit thinner, than the stuff I get as my live culture starter from the grocery store. That’s not what I’m talking about.

Eat From the Larder Challenge 2018 – Kickoff (beginning of Week 1): A Productive Home Post

So, normally (for a given value of “normally”), I’d hold off posting anything more about Eat From the Larder Month until the end of Week One. BUT I’ve been doing a bunch of “productive home” stuff today, and I wanted to talk about it in the context of starting this challenge off.
 
It being only April 2nd, and yesterday having been Easter Dinner at my mom’s place, we aren’t exactly noticing anything yet on the “I’m not buying groceries” front. So this is more about planning and routine maintenance than anything else.
 
I spent a small chunk of the other day – while at the laundromat, no less – writing up meal plans (or at least “meal ideas”) based on what I thought I had on hand. Of course, to the shock of nobody what-so-ever, there are things I thought I had that I don’t have, and things I thought I was very nearly out of that are highly available. For example, I have NO frozen broccoli, but a LOT of frozen peas, to work with in the freezer. I have more tinned soup than expected, but a significant margin, but pretty much no ground meat (so I can cross “meatloaf” off my meal ideas list).
One of things I have that I wasn’t expecting is, as it happens, soup bones. I thought I’d used them all up, last batch, but NOPE. Turns out there’s a whole other bag of them in the freezer. Which is good, since the batch of stock I made the other day is… on the watery side, and I’d like to be able to boil it down a bit more without having feeling like I should be hoarding it instead. It’s nice to have the option of making more.
 
I made notes about which nights I need to cook something quickly that can also stretch to feed four people – I’ve got seven days of temp work coming up (thank you all the gods!), and know myself just well enough to know that pre-planning those meals, at least a bit, will make my life a LOT easier when I’m frazzled from working multiple back-to-back days of 9-5 (which is not how I usually do).
 
Thanks to a small heap of slow-but-steady spring cleaning that my wife and I have been doing, my kitchen is a lot more functional than it has been. Which feels pretty great, I have to tell you.
Consequently, I’ve got three loaves of bread (not to mention a trifle – which is an easy way to use up the last of a very, VERY stale cake I had lying around) just out of the oven and have been taking care of the ferments this morning:
 
I decanted the kombucha and set up a new batch (and put some of the older kombucha mothers in the compost, because it was getting so that there was more SCOBY than beverage in my fermentation jar, tbh). I’m kind of wondering if I can make vinegar (like, say, red wine vinegar or something) using a kombucha mother. I mean, vinegar is a zillion times less expensive than the alcohol it’s made from (probably because the wine or brandy or whatever you start with doesn’t actually have to taste good, it just has to be fermented enough to function) but I’d kind of like to try making it anyway. Maybe if I ever make cider from wild-harvested apples (six months away at the most unreasonably optimistic of possible attempt-dates), part of it can be re-fermented into vinegar, just to see if it works.
 
Transferred the last of the pickled as’kebwan’/sunchokes to a 2C mason jar in the fridge, and re-filled the fermentation jar with big chunks of blanched-and-frozen (still frozen) sunchokes from the freezer. I have SO MANY, you guys. We’ve been going easy on them, for Tummy Reasons, but it means I have something like 8+ litres of frozen sunchokes on hand and I just… I’m not sure how to get through them all. So I’m trying to ferment them (I used the old brine from the original raw ferment, so it should be inoculated with the right bacteria already, even though the veggies themselves have been killed off by the blanching), just because it will help deal with the inulin and make them easier to digest when added to stews, braises, and pot-roasts. I really hope this works out, you guys. O.O
 
I set up another fermentation experiment. Specifically, I’m trying to do lacto-fermented mushrooms. The main purpose for this is to make adding mushrooms to dinners quick and easy while relying on the dried shiitakes (or, well… something kind of like shiitakes) that I pick up by the Huge Bag every couple of years from the Chinese grocery store up the street. I find, if I just reconstitute them, they don’t always work so well, so I thought I’d try lacto-fermenting about a dozen of them (reconstituted, rinsed, and well-drained) with some thyme, just to see if they work well when added to savoury dishes. Seriously, this is why I lacto-ferment stuff, most of the time. It’s to get “annoying to prep” stuff – like beets, which are kind of messy when you peel them – into a state where I will reliably use them in stuff instead of just avoiding them because they’re messy/dirty/tough or whatever. I’m considering pre-slicing a bunch of carrots and just storing them in a big Tupperware of water in the fridge, for exactly that reason.
 
The plan for tonight is to make a turkey stew using already-cooked turkey from the freezer, plus a bunch of root veggies (some fermented, some not), some crushed tomatoes, and a splish of shiraz. Between that, the trifle, and the bread (I’ve eaten my way through half a loaf already, tbh) we should have a good dinner.
 
But First: I’m having a hot bath. It’s been too long, and I want the heat to soak back into my bones.
 
 
TTFN,
Melaid the Birch Maiden.

Full Moon – Melt-Water Moon Crests (Spring Equinox, Venus in Taurus)

I’ve been Spring Cleaning.
To some extent anyway.
I talked on twitter, the other day, about turning about turning the compost and the Ceremonial Piping On of The Manure from my childhood in New Brunswick. How doing that little bit of preliminary, seasonal garden maintenance was a sign that Spring had sprung.
I put the Solstice decorations away, that same day. Washed a lot of dishes. Noticed that the rhubarb was crowning.
Maybe it’s because Venus just moved into Taurus (the planet of material goods, sensuality, and beauty moving into the sign of Home, sensuality, tenderness, and all the pleasures life has to offer, whose ruler she is), or maybe it’s because it’s finally warm enough out to open the windows and let a breeze through the place, but my wife and I have both been feeling the call to Clean All The Things.
 
I’m relieved that the rent is in the bank, and has been since last week (good thing, too, since I didn’t have a lot of work booked for the second half of March), so I’ve been using the quiet days I’ve been given to putter around the house, slowly tidying and putting things away.
It feels like a solid week since I wrote a poem. That’s not a bad thing. Ebbs and flows are real and necessary. I feel like this is a recharging time, however brief it’s going to be.
We’re heading into Eat From the Larder Month, and getting the kitchen in order – especially with a week+ of full time work kicking off in a few more days – is a pretty high priority right now. Besides, getting the place a bit tidier – clean sheets on the bed, laundry done, lots of counter space to work from in the kitchen – is good for my brain. I’m already feeling more relaxed than I was two days ago when I started this little project.
 
It’s pretty cloudy out right now, so I can’t see much of the full moon. None the less – and even though the bath tub is still full of sheets[1] – I feel like I’m having a bit of a pause-for-breath moment right now. My wife is away for the weekend, visiting her partner who’s house-sitting for an out-of-town friend. I’m treating myself to a glass of shiraz and an indulgent read of a favourite piece of fanfic.
Tomorrow, there’ll be bread (and maybe muffins) to bake, kombucha to decant, vacuuming and sweeping up on the main floor, and an Easter dinner to get to at my mom’s place. But for now, I’m enjoying the quiet.
I’m also enjoying the different kind of creative that comes with home-keeping. The methodical rhythm of making yeast dough, cooling green and hibiscus teas for the kombucha, slow-roasting veggies in the oven, meal planning, putting books back on shelves, darning socks and knitting new garments one stitch at a time.
It’s like a reset button.
I know I can’t do this 100% of the time. Partly because constant entropy of Doing The Dishes feels more like drudgery than the in-and-out breath of a functioning kitchen. And partly because I need to make money (fingers crossed that Venus In Taurus will help me get some extra work booked for April, particularly on the Mars in Leo front, if you can believe it). But also because I need to take the gentle four-on-the-floor beat of a house’s steady heart and turn it into poetry, stories, crafting, the kind of creativity that produces something other than necessities.
 
With that in mind, maybe it’s not surprising that the card I pulled for my Tarot Card Meditation was the King of Fire.
 

The Creator (King of Wands) A bald person in flowing red robes holds a glowing energetic light between their hands

The Creator (King of Wands)
A bald person in flowing red robes holds a glowing energetic light between their hands


 
Otherwise known as the Mentor of Keys, the Visionary of Branches, and the Throne of Fire, the King of Wands is a glamourous artiste who dares to stand out and to stand by their creative work. Enthusiastic and innovative, this joyful, passionate art freak is bold enough (and vain enough) to take risks, take action, try something new, and put themself on display.
 
As someone who’s been making a point of submitting poetry to magazines for… four months now, this is pretty relevant to my interests. It’s a reminder to keep at that, keep working on my two in-progress manuscripts, and keep being brave and sending stuff out (without getting too demoralized when the rejection letters periodically come in).
The King of Wands is ALSO Venus in Sagittarius. Carefree, playful, happy to have built-in boundaries like geographical distance or time-bound scenes in place. This is also relevant to my interests, if only because my Venus is in Sagittarius (however-much I may act like my sun sign where the heart is concerned). It’s a reminder to play, to make time for dates with my wife and flirtations (that might or might not go anywhere) with new people.
 

~*~
 
Movement: The usual Walking Everywhere, a couple of modeling gigs that focused on Very Short poses (2 minutes or less, for 2+ hours… it’s like doing power yoga or something), but also the addition of Get Bendier stretches to my weekly routine. Monday mornings (usually) I do a few gravity-friendly stretches to help build core/lower-back muscle (like, more than just plank) and stretch the tendons in my legs. I’d like to try learning Areal Hooping (I picked that link because she’s tall… ish), and part of that means developing a little more flexibility in my legs than I currently have. Beyond that, I’m looking forward to going dancing a little over a week from now.
 
Attention: Generally speaking, I’ve been paying attention to the mess of my house and making an effort to un-mess it. It’s working, and I feel better because of it. Also, the fact that the rhubarb is coming up again has most-definitely not escaped my attention.
 
Gratitude: For the rhubarb crowning. For warm days walking with no mitts, my jacket open and my hair down. For discount foundation at the drug store. For a morning date with my wife before she left for her weekend away. For friends who will lend me gardening equipment that I don’t personally own. For lemon-pie flavoured yoghurt on sale at the health food store where I went to get yeast (twice, because I forgot the first time). For a strong body that can carry heavy loads home from the grocery store. For beautiful, beloved trans and cis baby queers being their wonderful, creative, resilient selves in the face of every hardship – you give me so much hope and joy. For a breeze from the open window. For clean sheets on the bed and clean dishes in the dish rack. For unexpected door prizes. For queer femme excitement and encouragement wrt my Femme Glosa Project. For a very full larder to draw on for the next month. For a patient landlord. For gig-employers who try to find extra work for me. For the rent already being in the bank. For the smell of humid, thawing earth, crocus leaves already poking through the topsoil. For quiet nights spent reading. For the chance to go dancing in big, fancy shoes. For a tiny bird, and a big lady, and a lot of friends who love me. ❤
 
Inspiration: I’m still working on femme glosas (hit 30 poems, not too long ago!) and attending VERSeFest on a night when two queer femmes – Kama La Mackerel and Rasiqra Revulva – were performing DEFINITELY helped on that front. I’m also working (still) on my moon-inspired chapbook, and trying to take honest inspiration from my own life, rather than being vague or trying to be “deep” or “shocking” about stuff.
 
Creation: See above, re: poetry. I’ve also finished the waistband of my eventual hand-knit thank-top/shell, and have started picking up the stitches for knitting in the round. I’ve got something like 400 stitches still to pick up, but I’ve technically started Part Two, and I feel good about that. I’ve also got Plans to make bread (and maybe muffins) and start a ferment of shiitake mushrooms (dried and reconstituted, to be fermented in salt water with thyme and garlic) tomorrow. It’s all creativity in some form or another. Wish me luck.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] I finally got around to soaking some stained sheets in vinegar and salt water, which I’m hoping will help get them properly clean. Beyond that, I’m not sure what to do, since bleach isn’t much of an option for colourful stuff. Suggestions welcome. >.>

Eat From the Larder Challenge 2018 – Week 0

So. Spring Equinox has come and gone (and it’s clearly past time for me to change up my Seasonal Decorations…). Meltwater Moon is only days away from full. I’m cautiously starting to think that maybe Spring Has Sprung (barring, y’know, an April dump of snow, which usually happens even if it generally gets gone in short order again) and I’m eyeing Preserves.
I have something close to two dozen pints of crushed tomatoes, put up last September, that I have yet to use.
I’ve also got sweet preserves (goblin fruit jam, chokecherry curd) and a LOT of frozen veggies – especially sunchokes, which my wife’s been having trouble with this year – still to eat through.
As such, I think it’s time for another round of the Eat From the Larder Challenge.
 

A collection of half-cup and one-cup mason jars full of savoury preserves, made by me.


 
As you may recall, the Eat From the Larder Challenge was invented by Erica, over at NWEdible, as a way to clear out some pantry space (and also prove that it could be done) before the impending influx of garden produce that, for a chick living in Seattle, was already starting in April and would only take off further once May hit.
I’m not in Seattle.
My growing/foraging season starts a solid 3-4 weeks later than hers does. But the challenge, itself, is a good way to remind me that actually, yeah, I know how to cook.
Which I haven’t been feeling, of late.
Honestly, I’ve been feeling like a crap home-maker lately – the place is a mess and I think I’ve made bread all of twice in the past six weeks when I’m used to thinking of it as a thing I do every week. I’m hoping that throwing a bit of a creative challenge my own way will – in addition to clearing out some freezer/cupboard space – get me excited about, AND back in the habit of, cooking from scratch in ways that go beyond boiling rice or roasting a chicken.
 
Right now, I’ve got a new batch of soup stock on the stove. Usually, when I make stock, it’s bones and maybe a few herbs and water. This time I’ve added a couple of branches of garden sage (dried), the better part of a jar of crushed tomatoes, a cup or so of white wine[1], some dried mushrooms, and a couple of handfuls of papery dried onion skins. I’m hoping to get at least 12 pints of stock out of this, ideally closer to 16, and I don’t think I have nearly enough bones to make a good, thick, “meat jello” stock in that quantity. So I’m adding extra stuff that will bulk up the umami factor (tomatoes, dried mushrooms) and otherwise add some flavour to what might end up being really watery. It’s not ideal but, having drawn up 30 dinner plans using what I (am pretty sure I) have in the cupboards and the freezer, I know a solid six (minimum) of those meals will be tastier (by our standards) if I cook the grain and legumes in meat stock.
 
Anyway. Rules for this year’s challenge:
1) Focus on using up the meat and frozen veggies hiding in the deep freeze, where I consistently forget about them now that I’ve got bags of beets and onions crowding the top (aka: the door) of the freezer.
2) Try to include lentils or other legumes in as many dishes as possible because (a) fibre, and (b) stretching the meat components of the meals that much farther while still making filling, delicious dishes.
3) I am allowed to buy milk/cream, eggs, wine, and Ethical Coffee (though I miiiiiiiiiiiiiight not need the coffee) during the month of April, though I should still try to limit these items (like: don’t make every dinner a quiche, right?). I can stock up on cheese ONCE, if (and only if) it’s on hella discount. I can also buy Ethical Chocolate, but not more than one bar per week. Restaurants/coffee-shops for socializing are allowed, but really REALLY need to not be relied upon.
4) Focus on making sweets at home! I have tonnes of flour and a lot of different sweeteners, including the above-mentioned sweet preserves. Oatmeal mixed-berry muffins, fruit-curd pies with shortbread crusts, peanut-butter & chocolate-chip cookies, rhubarb-cranberry crumbles/crisps/etc!
 
My April is looking pretty lean in terms of modeling work right now. That’s normal, and I’m lucky to have a week+ of temp work lined up to help make up the income I need. But it means I’ll have lots of time to get creative in the kitchen.
Thank goodness.
I’ll need it, but I’m also looking forward to it.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Conjuration – I’m In It!

Published! In a tiny bound book of magical micro-poems, no less! (Originally blogged over at The Breathings of My Heart, but sharing it here as well for the discussion of How Magic Works).

The Breathings of My Heart

So. This charming (see what I did thar) little book of magical micropoems dropped last night at the Coven Editions launch party.

A pocket-sized book of magical micropoems with a shiny ivory cover and the word CON JURA TION in black ink. Also in the frame: A pen shaped like a broom, A 1"x6" print of my poem, "Pathworking" on the same cover stock with an intention paper backing, and a selection of polished stones: rhodochrosite, snowflake obsidian, blue lace agate, bloodstone, and rose quartz. A pocket-sized book of magical micropoems with a shiny ivory cover and the word
CON
JURA
TION
in black ink.
Also in the frame:
A pen shaped like a broom, A 1″x6″ print of my poem, “Pathworking” on the same cover stock with an intention paper backing, and a selection of polished stones: rhodochrosite, snowflake obsidian, blue lace agate, bloodstone, and rose quartz.

It’s tiny! It’s shiny! And it’s packed with pint-sized poems conjuring love, loss, memory and magic (of course magic). And one of those poems is mine! 😀
As you can see, I’m more than a little excited about this. “Pathworking” is one of the poems I sent out on submission during December and January – my first crop of submissions since, like, 2011, iirc –…

View original post 484 more words

New Year New You 2018: Week 3 – Something You’ve Been Putting Off (Imbolg)

I’m (once again) doing Miss Sugar’s New Year New You Experiment in Radical Magical Transformation because I find it’s a really good way to kick my own ass into getting things done. It’s a good mix of practical, magical, and thought-based exercises to help accomplish specific and significant change in your own life. If it’s relevant to your interests, give it a try!
 
Instructions:Let’s face it, Charmers, the critical component to success or failure in your goals is your ability to do shit you don’t want to do. […] Close your eyes and grit your teeth and just do it.
 
Tarot Card: I was strongly tempted to go with The World for this one, because of it’s association with Being Involved (I literally looked up “what is the opposite of The Hermit” for this), but it has more to do with the end-result of achieved goals than the work that goes into getting there. Given what my goals actually are, I think a better bet would be the Three of Cups or the Four of Wands.
 

On the left is the 3 of Water from my Osho Zen deck. On the right is the 4 of Bows from my Wildwood deck. Both cards are named "Celebration" and both images involves women dancing joyfully with each other alongside a powerful representation of the element in question (A thunderstorm for Water, a bonfire for Bows).

On the left is the 3 of Water from my Osho Zen deck. On the right is the 4 of Bows from my Wildwood deck. Both cards are named “Celebration” and both images involves women dancing joyfully with each other alongside a powerful representation of the element in question (A thunderstorm for Water, a bonfire for Bows).


 
Now, full disclosure, the three of cups is typically my Polyamoury card.
In the case of the Wildwood deck, where the three of vessels – a bunch of gawky birds with large, heavy chalices, that doesn’t even seem to relate much to the rest of its own suit – just leaves me cold? I was both delighted and super relieved to discover that the four of bows not only shares its name, but also its general imagery, with the familiar Three of Water from my Osho Zen deck.
Which is all well and good, BUT my Goals for this project are only partially/tangentially about finding additional people to date. So I’ve chose these two cards more for their social (Three of Cups) and interactive (Four of Wands) aspects, even though their respective “building good relationships in the styles you actually want” aspects are also relevant.
 
I’ve talked before about not being massively comfortable with “putting myself out there” and, while I am getting way better at things like cold-calling (well, cold-emailing) potential modeling clients and have been stepping back into the arena in terms of letting other people (friends, strangers at open mics, magazine editors) read/hear my poetry – and, in fact, just got the good news that one of the poems I submitted during January is going to be published. Go me! (I hope this becomes a trend! :-D) – the thought of being “on the make” in any concrete way is just… not comfortable. For a slew of reasons. Everything from “I am embarrassed at the though of looking ‘desperate'” to “I can’t control every aspect of this and am at risk of making a huge, heart-crushing mistake, as has happened in the past”.
 
Ugh.
 
Speaking of The Past: I’ve been dreaming, recently, of various inappropriate crushes and exes-I-should-be-over-by-now. Not sex dreams, thank fuck, but dreams. See Also weird feelings about Those People that are equal parts simmering but intense emotions and just… massive indifference. Like, it would be really nice if I could figure out how (hahaha) to let go of the low-level-but-pretty-constant feelings of longing, without ending up in a weird, chilly desert of “I guess I’d call So-And-So an acquaintance? We were never really that close”. Y’know?
 
Which is a round-about-way of saying that, by that particular token, and for various “Reasons” beyond it, AND in-so-far as you can “let something go” on command… I’ve been putting off Getting Over various people because, on some level, it feels very all-or-nothing to me, and I would rather not opt for “nothing” when I do want to be friends with these folks.
I don’t know what to do about it. I wrote the other day about how change takes time and magic has to build up in layers, and that trying to draw a map of where I want to go, when I don’t have much in the way of landmarks to even visualize, is difficult. And it is. Sometimes I’m pretty sure I hang onto what didn’t work because at least I can recognize the good bits in among the bad fits and lousy experiences, whereas looking forward is like trying to steer through fog. I can’t see where anything is going.
 
None the less, my list of actions for how to achieve my Empress Goals includes “teaching myself to stop chasing” the people who don’t step up and ask me for my company, and giving myself opportunities to meet new people who might do that asking.
It’s Imbolg. A good time for fresh starts, trying new things, and general quickening. Not a bad time to be doing this. To that end: In addition to things like “finally shaving my legs” and “anointing my sternum with Let The Right One(s) In ritual oil” (physical and magical glamour stuff, basically), I’m picking out Events that I can (make myself) go to in the near future that involve people I’ll probably like talking to (Mender Night at the Ottawa Tool Library was one such place) but that I haven’t been to before.
 
Wish me luck.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.