Eat From the Larder Challenge 2019 – Weeks One &Two (Includes: Pear Velvet Pie Recipe)

So! It’s Eat From the Larder Month chez House of Goat! Full disclosure: Winter 2018-2019 has been substantially easier than winter 2017-2018 (never-mind the year before that one) and we have not been doing the Eat From the Larder challenge literally every other month to the point that the must-have supplies (for me) like all-purpose flour and red lentils are dwindling before I even get started over here. So I’m starting out with more “larder staples” (dry goods) than I’ve necessarily had in years past.
I’m also doing my usual thing where I continue to buy milk and eggs, at normal-for-our-house rates (about 1 gallon of milk and 1-2 dozen eggs per week), because it makes the whole month about a zillion times easier and it means I have something to cook my freezer veggies and jars of preserves with, which makes a big difference.
 
For those who don’t know, the Eat From the Larder Challenge was created, many years ago, by Erica Strauss over at (the now mostly-dormant) Northwest Edible Life blog, as a way of demonstrating the maxim that “Cooking is a basic skill of resilience” in real time while also using up any preserves that are hanging around, wearing out their welcome.
The first year I did this, I went pretty all-in. And I learned a lot about the bits of my larder that I didn’t really know what to do with (lentils), even though I had them on hand. I found out which pantry staples I tended to avoid (brown rice), and how much I want variety in my diet, even when “variety” is defined as “umpteen ways of making the same 10 or so ingredients taste good, day after day”.
 
It made a difference in how I thought about preserving food: Thinking of preserves as “ingredients” rather than “finished dishes” meant that I started paying attention to how frozen serviceberries are more versatile than serviceberry jam, fruit butters make better additions to quick breads than jams and jellies, pickled veggies and dried fruits can both be used to add acidic brightness to dishes comprised mostly of root vegetables.
It also made a difference in how I thought about my eventual (now a reality!) garden: I want perennial food plants – everything from crow garlic, nettles, and dandelions to rhubarb, sorrel, lovage, and culinary herbs – to be available in my yard, because they start arriving early enough to make a difference in a situation where my end-of-winter freezer is looking bare (or even just boring).
 
Anyway. Here we are in, like… Year Six of this challenge, and it’s the end of Week One nearing the end of Week Two.
 
Confession? I’m not taking this challenge particularly seriously. My lovely wife bought us baking potatoes and fancy cheddar (because she’s lovely, and also because I try to do this challenge in a low-key way so I don’t get any push-back… which I might not even get, but I’m letting the brain weasels have this one). We were invited to split a pizza with a metamour (at our place) a week ago, and I didn’t even think about it before saying “Sure, that’d be great”. AND IT WAS. I bought samosas for lunch on Monday of this week, and probably would have done so a second time if a co-worker at my temp job hadn’t brought in Easter Chili (I don’t even know, but it was tasty) on Thursday.
So, while The Challenge has so far been very easy, part of why it’s been easy is because, on mornings when I’ve slept late (“late” = 10 minutes, but wevs) and haven’t had ready-to-go left-overs in the fridge, I’ve opted to buy something rather than not eat.
So, yeah, I’m cheating.
 
That said: The freezer is still emptying out at a reasonable pace. I made a big batch of garlic-curry hummus (ish… it’s mostly chick peas, but not entirely) and between that and making some artichoke-kale-mayo dip (think spinach dip, if that helps), making “toasts” out of some of my sourdough bread (which is working, reliably, for sandwich bread – hurrah!), opening up a tin of smoked oysters, and putting out some dried fruit, I think I can probably come up with a nice snack-feast for later this weekend.
The fact that the crow garlic and rhubarb (and even the sorrel and dandelions) are coming up in the back yard is making it easier for me to stop hoarding be generous with the frozen veggies. So veggie-heavy meals – like strata ft zucchini, red peppers, kale, garlic, and onion (but very little cheese); or chicken stew ft chard, kale, zucchini, celeriac, onion, garlic, and winter squash – have been a delightful option. We’ve also done a cabbage salad (ft walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and dried cranberries with a yoghurt-mustard-mayo dressing) which made for a good next-day lunch as well as a easy, light dinner.
We used up the last of the costco trout the other night, with butter (we are running out of butter) and a little white wine. We’ve got a rutabaga in the fridge, along with a couple of potatoes (all of which are sprouting like heck and which I think I need to put in the ground instead of putting in dinner, but… we’ll see), some Chinese Broccoli and a greenhouse cucumber. (Cucumber salad and a standard short pasta with tuna, frozen broccoli, and bechamel sauce have also featured in the past 10 days of dinners).
I have tonnes of pre-roasted-and-frozen turkey, which I want to start using up.
I have tonnes of fruit butter, too. Which: I found a way to use it up that I really, REALLY like (though, when I run out of butter, I’m in trouble):
 
I made a pie with some of the fruit butter!
 
I’m super excited about this, because I’d been wondering if it would work pretty-much since I put the pear butter up last fall. It’s basically pumpkin pie, except you use a pint of pear butter instead of the 2C mashed pumpkin and 1C brown sugar. You guys. It works so well! Here’s the recipe (which I modified slightly from one like this):
 
~*~
 
Pear Velvet Pie
2C pear butter
1C milk
3 eggs
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
 
Blend the heck out of the above.
Pour into one pre-baked 9″ pie shell (DIY or not, crumb crust or short pastry, you do you)
Bake at 425F for 15 minutes
REDUCE HEAT and bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes
Allow to cool
Serve
 
~*~
 
I assume this will work just as well with apple butter or other fruit butters (Nectarine? Plum?), and I’ll definitely be experimenting at least with the apple, because I have so much apple butter it’s not even funny. Like five litres or something.
 
As far as this specific pie goes? Be aware: Pear butter is hella sweet. When I made mine, I put maybe half a cup of brown sugar into the whole batch. Which was like 3-4 litres of pear butter by the time it was all put in jars. So there’s maybe a tablespoon of “additional sugar” in that pint of what is otherwise just mashed pears, cooked down, with a little bit of salt and cider vinegar thrown in. So I’m assuming that, when I make this with apple butter, I may find that it’s not as sweet. (It will be plenty sweet enough, I’m sure, just not as sweet as this).
 
A similar thing that I’m hoping to do is make what’s essentially a cheese cake, but use plain yoghurt instead of cream cheese. It can be done. The consistency will be a little different (somewhere between normal cheesecake and, like, maybe custard?) but I think, especially if I mix in some melted chocolate chips, it’ll be really good. AND I can top it with some of my frozen berries, which should be awesome sauce. 😀
 
Anyway. We’ll see how the rest of this challenge goes. Hopefully things will remain delicious and easy and our food will remain at least slightly varied (there’s going to be turkey stew with pot barley and rutabaga coming up, I do know that, probably another veggie strata and, provided I can get the noodles right, some sort of udon + soup stock + turkey + lacto-fermented chunky veggies thing).
 
Wish me luck.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

New Year New You 2018 (2019) – Week Fourteen: Spiritual Consultation

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: Now would be a good time to check in with your personal Powers That Be (PTB) about your goals“.
 

Wild Unknown Tarot - Temperance - A blue heron + the mingling of water and fire against a rainbow background

Wild Unknown Tarot – Temperance – A blue heron + the mingling of water and fire against a rainbow background


 
Tarot Cards: I picked Temperance for this one, because of how it relates to both “union of opposites” endeavors and, more broadly, to cooperation and compromise.
 
See, the whole “check in with your deities (etc)” prompt… I took a “radiomancy” approach to my tarot cards today and just… shuffled the deck until something fell out.
What fell out was this:
 
Empress crossed with the King of Air. Related Influences: Seven of Air vs Seven of Fire.

Empress crossed with the King of Air. Related Influences: Seven of Air vs Seven of Fire.


 
The Empress (which is what my whole project is about) crossed with – or is that brought about through? – the King of Air. The two other cards – both sevens, which means they relate to the Chariot and its “Get Up / Wake Up, and GO” energy – read as “obstacles” vs “helpers” or a case of “what do I need to let go of” vs “what do I need to act on/with”. Influences to be taken into account, if you will.
 
As far as messages from My Ladies go? This is… very relevant, nothing unusual, and… basically confirming stuff I’m aware of already? Unless I’m missing something?
The diametrically opposed sevens: The seven of air vs the seven of fire. Shame & avoidance vs Courage & conviction.
This has been my problem for ever. I push towards the thing, I get stuck, I regress, I push further, wash, rinse, repeat. Part of me reads this as just, like, “The struggle is real” with a side order of “Also, healing works in spirals and is not in any way linear, and there’s going to be points where you’re making a lot of progress very fast and there’s going to be points where you’re seriously feeling stuck and like nothing is changing”.
But, with this specific project in mind, I can also read it as the overthinking stuckness and “freezing” that I experience literally butting heads with the vitality and bravery that it’s going to take to navigate those Stuck/Lost feelings.
 
The one card I’m not sure what to make of is the King of Swords.
This card could be a reference to my tendency to over-think things and to how researching The Thing is not the same as doing it. But – while I don’t usually read upright cards like this – the fact that the King of Swords is upright suggests that maybe this is something about, well, what my wife called “Cognitive Behavioural Witchcraft”. The way I use magic and ritual to kind of reroute my neural pathways and get myself to, hopefully, stop believing the old tapes and, hopefully, stop making the same set of mistakes.
 
Heh. There’s this meme that’s going around right now:
 

 
And… it’s not inaccurate. Sometimes my readings look more like “Yep… that is definitely an accurate description of my situation…” rather than “Wow! That’s some useful advice as to next steps to get where I’m going!”
That said, I’m choosing to interpret this as a “Yes, keep using your Very Smart Brain and your magical skills to unblock your sexual blocks and further develop your shame resilience! It’s going in fits and starts, but it’s working!”
With any luck, I’ll be correct in this.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

New Moon – Leaf Moon Begins

“Magnolia x veitchii bud at Brooklyn Botanic Garden” – Photo by Rhododendrites – Via Wiki Free Images – A twig, ending in a fuzzy, unopened magnolia bud in sharp focus, against a blurry background of vague greening.


 
I admit, I might be jumping the gun a little bit on “leaf” for a name of this lunar cycle, as the trees are very much still bare. BUT the earliest crocus and scilla are starting to poke their green sprouts above the soil and the grey-brown creeping charlie in my back yard is starting to re-green, so I’m going with it.
The compost was turned for the first time this year (by my wife) last weekend. The snow is disappearing at a rate that seems both rapid and sedate (meaning: the streets were never a disgusting slurry of melt-water and accumulated dog shit, thank you literally all the gods). The freeze-thaw-freeze-thaw of night and day, since Spring Equinox, has – I hope – been good for the maple syrup folks but, either way, it’s sap time – the once-a-year heartbeat of the world (systolic-diastolic, hemisphere to hemisphere, north-south, north-south[1]).
My wife asked me, yesterday, if I keep a garden journal and, yeah, I do. It’s this. So many things have been added to my lunar cycles posts since I started writing them in… 2011, I think? But they were initially a way to keep track of what the weather was doing and get a feel for what the seasons feel like in my bio-region. One more way of “getting to know the neighbours”.
I shuffled my wildwood deck and asked my Ladies of Earth and All Green Things how they were doing and if they had anything to say. The card that came up – and I do recognize that I have some say in this, which… I’m not sure how I feel about that right now – rather frequently was The Breath of Life.
Right now, the neighbours are waking up. A stretch. A yawn. A big breath in before the long out-breath of sprout and bloom and fruit and fall again.
Heh. I can’t help but smile a little at this, just because the folks who came up with the Wildwood deck in the first place think of Spring (Imbolg to Beltane, in their case, because they’re in Southern England) as the time of Arrows.
In my case, the waking up doesn’t happen until now and, like me, my Ladies may be stiff in the morning and need to thaw their joints out for a while. Still, I’m watching the back yard for the rhubarb, which should be sticking her head up above the soil, oh, probably right around Full Moon, if last year was anything to go by.
 
It’s early April. Which means I’m doing the eat from the larder challenge again – in my usual “milk and eggs are still fine” way – in an effort to clear out some freezer space and use up the vast quantities of jam and fruit butter I put up last year. So you can expect at least a few posts about fruit-butter Hippy Muffins and hummus seasoned with garlic, basil, and jam (no, really – just don’t use a LOT of jam). I’ve managed to successfully make two batches of tasty, structurally-sound sourdough bread which, while still in the realm of flukes and coincidence, bodes at least a little bit well for continuing in this vein.
 
Last full moon, I wrote about being on the hunt (again) for another anchor income. I’ve since had a few leads, and one “preliminary interview”, though we’ll see whether or not it comes to anything. Fingers crossed, because it would make a big difference to have that reliable cash coming in, even if there’d still be a fair bit of hustle going on, on top of it.
In poetry news: I spent last week at VERSeFest, getting inspired and scribbling drafts (hallelujah!), received a cheque in the mail for the publication of this poem, and – just this morning – signed the contributor contract for the pieces I wrote about here. It’s National Poetry Month, and I’m looking forward to writing many – probably mediocre, but drafting is still drafting – poems during the next few weeks.
I’m also looking forward to visiting some friends, just outside of town, this weekend, and am hoping to read, knit, and write some more poetry while I’m there.
 
Something I’ve recently started doing, which is relevant to the theme and scheduling of these posts, is Moon Salutations. It’s a series of yoga poses that focus primarily on (gentle) back-bends and hip-opener poses and, while I’m not scheduling them during my day to line up with moon rise, I am using them to take a couple of minutes in my day (usually morning) to both (a) help my lower back and hips unlock[2], and (b) spend some time intentionally thinking about and focusing my thoughts on my Lady of the Moon.
I figure I’m doing a lot of stuff that focuses on my Lady of the Sun – because she handles stuff like courage, money, and (most relevantly, in this instance) sex – with added, somewhat coincidental (sorry) links to my Lady of the Earth just because of all the root chakra stuff I’m doing, and I thought it might be a good idea to reach out to someone I feel like I’ve been kind of neglecting… for ever. Not right of me, you know? I want to do more to reach out to her. This is one way for me to do that, so I’m doing it. ❤
 
~*~
 
Scorpio Mystique says:

New Moon occurs on Friday morning, take time to set New Moon Intentions that allow you to embody Aries energy — let yourself be seen, take the lead, and be more self-confident. Where would you be six months from now if you had no fear?

 
…and suggests thinking about it specifically and making a concrete plan to get there.
She says “You’re the Phoenix, baby. You can go through hell and back, and still you rise, from your very own ashes, soaring higher than ever before”.
So. Where would I be in six months, if I had no fear?
Reading at the local launch of Hustling Verse. Launching my chapbook of lunar poetry through a local qaf small press. Possibly prepping to facilitate a panel discussion on sacred kink, deep play, and ordeal work? (Yeah, that one feels a lot more precarious).
What would I be? More economically stable. Physically stronger and more limber. More sexually curious, joyful, and confident.
 

Mary El Tarot - Knight of Discs - A child sits on the back of a lounging white tiger, under the shelter of a mature, leafing tree.

Mary El Tarot – Knight of Discs – A child sits on the back of a lounging white tiger, under the shelter of a mature, leafing tree.


 
The card I drew – by splitting the deck at random and seeing what was there – for today’s (this waxing moon’s) tarot meditation is the Knight of Earth. A card of slow and steady progress, of responsibility, and of getting one’s house in order – literally and figuratively. Maybe because it’s tax season, maybe because I’ve got a lot of personal projects on the go, maybe because the earth herself is slowly but surely waking up, maybe because Yes, Aries Season, but I know myself enough to know that slow, steady, consistent steps get me where I need to go more reliably than a flat-out sprint ever has… maybe for a lot of reasons: this card seems particularly apt today.
 
If I were to set an intention, with this card in mind, for this waxing Aries moon?
It would be to bloom like spring. Slowly and steadily, but surely. Inexorably, moving towards creation, vitality, sensuality, and abundance.
 
I invite the firy energy and passionate verve of Aries to light me up and fuel me for the long haul ahead
I invite the steady, determined energy of the Knight of Earth to walk me through these small, cumulative acts of transformation.
I invite myself to open and open, to let my deep red umbilical roots explore their way deeper in to the earth and draw up the strength, stability, and nourishment I need, to breathe in the breath of life and feed my own warm fires of creativity, connection, and courage, to lift myself from a steady base and rise.
 
~*~
 
Movement: Moon salutations and other yoga, very close to daily (almost but not quite). A number of modeling gigs that were heavy on short poses (meaning more emphasis on strength and flexibility rather than endurance, in terms of what my body needs in order to be able to do them). Long walks to and from work. I skipped the ecstatic dance party last night (I have been more physically worn out lately than I’ve been in, I think, a while… don’t know why), BUT there’s another one coming up just before the full moon which, health & body stuff permitting, I’ll get out to. A little bit of dancing to F+tM and Kesha in my hallway, which does my back and hips and heart lots of good.
 
Attention: Watching the green come back. Keeping an eye out for rhubarb shoots and impending magnolia blossoms. On a more inward-focused note, doing root chakra exercises that have a lot to do with mindful/attentive/intentional/focused breath and muscle relaxation. Holding my Lady in my mind’s eye when I do my Moon Salutations. Attending to my sourdough starter in a way that is slightly less lackadaisical than it has been in the past. Watching the birds and other critters in the back yard as they wake up, come back, or just hunt around for nesting materials now that the snow is going away.
 
Gratitude: SPRING! Temperatures above freezing! The greening of the world! Birds making nests! A turned compost heap! Sunshine that actually feels warm! A great conversation with my girlfriend! An impromptu fancy meal with my wife and her girlfriend last night! My food processor and yoghurt-enabled instant pot! The friend who gives me a friends-and-family deal on her family’s sugar-bush goodies! Paid poetry publications! A donated replacement recycling bin from a friend up the street! Someone buying me two books of poetry as a thank you for a reading I did half a decade ago! Making out with my wife! Amazing poetry shows! Flirting with my girlfriend via text! A pretty amazing present from a metamour! Hanging out with other poets! Job opportunities that actually fit with what I want to do! Successful sourdough bread! Parties and hangouts with friends! …It’s been an astonishingly awesome couple of weeks, kittens. ❤
 
Inspiration: TBH, actually the contents of my freezer and cupboards. It’s nice to be meal-planning again, even if it’s not a hard-and-fast plan. Also: Talking about ritual and kink with a friend over twitter, because that’s always awesome and inspiring.
 
Creation: I have written some poems! I have plans (to be enacted this afternoon) to write some more! Woohoo!
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] “That would have to be important. How fast did a forest’s heart beat? Once a year, maybe. Yes, that sounded about right. Out there the forest was waiting for the brighter sun and longer days that would pump a million gallons of sap several hundred feet into the sky in one great systolic thump too big and loud to be heard.”
― Terry Pratchett, Wyrd Sisters.
 
[2] The phsyio I do for my back effectively boils down to doing Plank on a frequent and regular basis, but some of the other exercises are meant to strengthen the muscles around my lumbar spine and yoga poses like Bow, Warrior 1, and Crescent Moon make a start at that as well. Between that and the hip-flexor stuff that goes on in the same poses, I find they’re helping – though I need to be careful with stuff like Bridge and Plow (good ones for Root Chakra work, and core strength, but also prone to exacerbating my back pain) – to loosen me up in the mornings and make it easier for me to both walk upright, and to sit at a computer for long periods of time. Woot!

Further Fun(?) with Sourdough Bread

So. I’m trying to make sourdough bread again.
This is at least my third time trying this.
Basically, last time, I got pretty fed up with how heckin’ long it takes to make a batch of bread.
Like… I know the 18+ hours is mostly not “my time” – it’s time when the chef is inoculating, when the dough is rising, and rising, and rising… but for someone who’s used to starting the bread at 1pm and having it done before dinner? This is a LOT of time. Actually having to plan and schedule things levels of time.
Also, I was having a hard time getting the bread to rise enough, and to not kind of… crumble apart when cut and/or go moldy at the drop of a hat.
Seriously. I wasn’t sure what kind of bacteria I had making my starter bubbly, but…. the mold that resulted was a lot more multi-coloured than what I was used to. Which was concerning.
So, based on all of that, something was definitely going wrong.
Given that my bread is less a hobby and more a way of shaving $2/week off our grocery bill while making a semi-reliable offering to the household gods and ancestors… I put my starter in the back of the fridge and basically ignored it unless and until I had a batch of vegan baked goods to make and needed something to function as egg-replaces (for binding, not leavening).
 
However. Spring is springing, a friend in the neighbourhood is posting about her own sourdough adventures, and I keep waking up at 4am freaking out about How Are We Going To Survive When The World Ends???[1]
So: Sourdough bread.
 
What I did, was I dug my old starter (still kicking, despite the odds!) out of the back of the fridge, poured off the water, and then scooped what was left – about half a cup of starter – into a new jar in-which I had already mixed the following:
1 tbsp honey
1/4 C plane yoghurt
1/2 C milk
1/2 C water
1/2 C rye flour
1/2 C all-purpose wheat flour
 
That was the day before yesterday.
This morning, I fed it a tablespoon of rye flour and a couple of tablespoons of water, gave it a really good stir, and put it back in a sunny spot in the kitchen.
This afternoon? This afternoon, I discovered that my jar was bubbling like heck to the point of over-flowing.
 
So, in a small bowl, I mixed 1C all-purpose flour with 1C water[2] and then added about half of my starter. Which is hypothetically 4-8 times as much starter as I need? But also, I want this to work and I don’t want my starter jar to keep overflowing. So I used a lot.
This mixture is hanging out on my counter, and I’ll be quietly ignoring it – barring the occasional stir, before going to bed, for example – until tomorrow. At which point, I’ll be trying Step Two (The Levain) and Step Three (adding The Chef to The Levain hoping like heck that it all rises properly).
Fingers crossed, and we’ll see how it goes!
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] I’ve got a lot of friends who look at me and my wife and say that we’re where they’ll go if/when the zombie apocalypse hits. But realistically? Yeah, I can grow veggies. A bit. But how am I going to turn our humanure into nutrient-rich, pathogen-free biochar with some kind of a micro-sized gassifier (that I don’t know how to run, no less)? And without that, how am I going to (a) keep us from getting sick from shit-born pathogens, OR (b) keep our limited garden soil fed and fertile? …So the fact that I want to be able to keeping making bread without relying on freeze-dried yeast? Isn’t really going to be that relevant if I also don’t have access to wheat anymore.
See also: Reasons why I’m trying to get the hang of growing potatoes.
 
[2] From a previously-boiled kettle, so anything like chlorine or whatever has had a chance to evaporate.

Full Moon – Slush Moon Crests (Spring Equinox)

“Frosty track in the King’s Forest” – Photo by Bob Jones, courtesy of Wiki Free Images – “Early morning and the well-trodden track leading into the forest from the car park is still showing signs of frost. Two hours later, the frost had turned to slush, as rising temperatures caused a quick thaw.”


 
The full moon, and the Spring equinox, are due to arrive tomorrow.
It’s the time of year for Spring Cleaning – which in my case means going through the closets and weeding out the stuff I’ve avoided wearing all winter, tackling The Mending, and trying to sort through All The Objects currently hiding out in our spare bedroom in the name of getting rid of some of them and making a bit more space in there.
 
At new moon, I mentioned feeling like “I’m constantly starting over, picking up the dropped threads, trying to find a way forward where I get to take care of myself, long-term, and get to have the freedom I want”. I was talking about employment. As I type this, I’ve got multiple tabs open to want-ads for part-time and casual office work, with an eye (again) to finding an anchor income. But there’s a heap of unwashed dishes downstairs, and a heap of mending beside me, and I haven’t written a poem in two weeks.
It’s like every week is the same cycle. Focus on finding and doing paid work, and everything else falls apart. Focus on creative work and personal growth? My finances get (even more) precarious and there’s dishes up to the ceiling. Focus on taking care of the house, and then chew my nails down to the nubs wondering if I’ll make the rent and, if all I’m going to do is cleaning and mending, can I really call myself A Writer and justify not having a full-time day job? Heck, can I say I’m living by my values if I’m buying heavily packaged prepared food to save on time, or buying not-so-ethical eggs and milk to save on money? And I’m like “And you want to focus on your sexual freedom??”
 
But, yeah, actually. I do.
I mean, I wouldn’t say I’m obsessed with any of this. Not in the sense of going hard for the long haul. I know myself just enough to know that, yeah, I have to make myself keep moving, but also I’m more likely to keep it up past the first week (or month – Hi, Nanowrimo) if I treat any given thing as a marathon of consistent baby-steps rather than a sprint that just never ends.
None the less, I want this. I want to be a sex-bomb with flexible hips and a lot of tools in my toolbox for staying present in the moment. I want to be able to make erotic connections with my lovers and sweeties, and not have them be chucked off the rails due to my feeeeelings. I want my body to feel good enough, be strong enough, that I can be attentive to what feels pleasurable instead of worrying about warning signs of pain.
My wife says that I do “cognitive behavioural witchcraft” and… she’s not wrong. All that magic. All that rose quartz and thyme and breath work. All of it water. All of it easing new pathways through the stone.
 
So. Here I am. It’s about to be officially Spring. Aries Season, with its go-go-go focus on action is coming right along with it. It’s far too early to be planting things here (unless you’re one to start seeds indoors, granted), but the questions remain:
Just as the days gain length, slowly but surely, how and where can I make steady gains of my own?
What needs to thaw and flow? What needs to be contained and channeled? What needs to flood freely?
What do I need to do to prepare the soil for what I want to grow?
 
~*~
 
Tarot of the Silicon Dawn - Maiden of Fools (R), Princess of Earth (R), and The Lovers (U).

Tarot of the Silicon Dawn – Maiden of Fools (R), Princess of Earth (R), and The Lovers (U).


 
Tarot of the Silicon Dawn - Five of Air (U).

Tarot of the Silicon Dawn – Five of Air (U).


 
Tarot Card Meditation: The three cards along the top are my jumpers. The “Maiden of Fools” (the Silicon Dawn deck has, like, five Fool cards, plus Aleph November, the Fool Who Flies) jumped out first, as I was shuffling. Followed by the Princess of Earth and The Lovers (together) when I flipped over a section to find my hypothetical meditation card – which was the Five of Air. In this case, I’m reading the 5 of Air as almost an advisor card to the spread of cards that jumped out of the deck.
 
The five of swords is a card about conflict and zero-sum situations (if I win, someone else has to lose), but it’s also a card about thinking of your own needs and concentrating on yourself. Given that I was specifically asking about “Courage, curiosity, joy, and abundance: What do I need to know and focus on around this stuff?”, I’m inclined to lean towards the latter, though as an advisor – as a “be mindful of this” – card, it could go either way.
 
My jumper cards made me smile. If I read them as a time-spread (past, present, future), they bode well. Although part of me is looking at them and wondering “Okay, did my gods just answer with: Okay! Here are cards pertaining to courage, curiosity, joy,, and abundance!” Because it’s kind of looking like they did? (I’ll make it work).
 
The Maiden of Fools is all newness. The point I was at when I only had “yes” vs “no”. A point that I will happily be leaving in the past, provided I don’t fall back into it again. More broadly, the Fool(s) speak to spontaneity, freedom, new beginnings, and trust. This card says “start something new” and “begin and adventure”. It says “let go of expectations” and “step into the unknown”. It says “trust the flow” and “let go of your fear“. It says “live in joy” and “trust your heart’s desire”.
 
The Princess of Earth is literally a card about exploration and curiosity. It’s a card about trust and about getting comfortable with the unknown. It’s a card that says “grow and expand”, “seek abundance”, “enrich yourself”, and “draw to you what you need”. It also says “act on your dreams”, “make your plans real” and “achieve tangible results”. It says “experience nature”, and – possibly most relevant of all – “use your body”.
 
The Lovers – one of the reasons I love this deck is because The Lovers here are explicitly skipping out on duality. This card says “transcend the yes/no dichotomy”: a nice nod to what I want to let go of in my Fool card. It’s a card that says “question what you’ve been taught”. But it’s so much a card of seeking and making connections, of experiencing and acting on desire, of being true to yourself, recognizing who and what you value, and devoting your time, energy, and attention to both who and what you care about.
 
~*~
 
Movement: Walking, squats, and the beginnings of something like sit-ups. (I dream of areal-hooping classes, but those will have to wait until the day I have a spare $300 just lying around. So, until then, I can do stuff that will make aerial hooping easier on, and more possible for, my actual body).
 
Attention: Watching the ice melt and freeze and melt. Watching the days get longer (hurrah!) and the temperature get a little more reasonable just about every day. Keeping an eye on the job boards. Listening to what my body’s enjoying.
 
Gratitude: Thankful for unexpected modeling gigs. For a poetry acceptance from a paid market. For date nights with my wife ft good cheese, cheap wine, and duck sausage. For library books. For selkie poems. For video-chat dates with my girlfriend. For cocoa butter massage bars. For do-it-at-home yoga videos. For clear, mostly-dry sidewalks and sunshine.
 
Inspiration: Longer days. Perfume. Floor work. Pigeon-blood rubies and other red things. The smell of roses.
 
Creation: Not a lot, tbh. (See above, re: I haven’t written a poem in two weeks). I’m sorting through poetry to send out on submission (and have a recent publication), but that’s not the same as making something new.

New Year New You 2018 (2019) – Week Thirteen: Sacrifice

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: [Make] A meaningful sacrifice to your Powers That Be […]. You and your PTB will know best what that is for you. Think on it.
 

Osho Zen Tarot - 8 of Major Arcana - Courage - A daisy pushing up through the concrete.

Osho Zen Tarot – 8 of Major Arcana – Courage – A daisy pushing up through the concrete.


 
Dark Days Tarot - Eight of Cups - A ten-limbed woman sits, cross-legged. Each of her eight arms holds a wine glass. She cries, and the glasses empty and re-fill, with the waxing and waning of the moon overhead.

Dark Days Tarot – Eight of Cups – A ten-limbed woman sits, cross-legged. Each of her eight arms holds a wine glass. She cries, and the glasses empty and re-fill, with the waxing and waning of the moon overhead.


 
Tarot Card(s): Strength + The Eight of Cups
I chose Strength – and this version of it, specifically – because it’s a strength that exists in vulnerability and trust. It’s not a card about brute force. In the more traditional rendering, the lion and the lady both have to trust each other in order to share that space together, and there’s a certain amount of coaxing going on. On a related note, this variation from the Silicon Dawn carries a reminder that risks and challenges are a thing we can choose, rather than something that gets shoved at us by the universe. We can decide to be brave and Do The Thing.
As for the Eight of Cups… The Osho Zen version is maybe more explicit in its meaning. A sacrifice is a letting-go. An offering up, or a rendering unto, in order to make room for a rebirth.
 
So. Week Thirteen. As-you-know-bob, the thought of Giving Something Up is not my favourite thought in the world. It’s easy to get het up about austerity when you already never go out because you’re perma-broke and you already avoid rash behaviour because everything feels – and sometimes is – so precarious. Miss Sugar’s a big fan of (temporary) material austerities as a form of sacrifice and… I’m not going to knock it, because apparently it tends to do the job.
But, kids, I hate it.
And – possibly for this reason – I don’t tend to do it in order to the attention of my deities. Eating more veggies or drinking less alcohol or moving my body more frequently is stuff I’m doing more for my own sake than anything else. Buying the more-expensive-because-it’s-more-ethical coffee is something I do (when I can – right now I’m swinging between the store-brand Organics coffee that’s $18/kg and the stuff that’s $18/340g but uses part of the proceeds to install water-filtration systems in homes on Reserves) because I want to be the kind of person who Makes Reparations (um… at all) and thinks about fair wages for farm staff instead of just thinking “Mmm, coffee” when I’m at the grocery store. I walk away from the internet for an afternoon, or don’t turn on my computer for the first two hours of my day, because I’ve got chores or writing to get done and I know myself well enough to know that I won’t do them if I have access to social media.
 
So. What is a sacrifice, in my case?
 
Well, it’s got to be said that I had a bit of a penny-drop moment while I was griping about how rarely I take risks because of fear (around money, around heartache, you name it).

This whole project is about “the sex-and-sensuality, certainty, abundance, inter-connectedness, and unapologetic embodiment of the Empress”.
So how the heck am I supposed to open my hands/heart to welcome in all that stuff if I’m too busy clenching them into fists, clinging to risk-averse behaviours, fearful assumptions, and other crud that’s cluttering up my brain?

 
I wrote about this over here, but the gist is that I need to give up some detrimental behaviours and patterns, in order to invite in, and make room for, all of that lovely Empress Stuff.
 
Is it a sacrifice?
Debatable.
It’s more of a “letting go” than a “giving up” but… it’s difficult. It’s hard work to dig into those habits and behaviours and sort out where they’re anchored and how to undo those knots and let them go. It’s hard work to lean into the discomfort, fear, and even just the awkwardness, of opening, loosening, freeing myself up and trying (and trying, and trying) new behaviours on when they still feel dangerous or doomed-to-failure. (I’m legitimately wondering if this is why I’ve been so tired lately, tbh…)
So… I’m willing to call this a sacrifice, even if I’m not sure anyone else would see it that way.
 
Recognizing that… this is going to be an on-going thing, an entire process of giving up and letting go (and re-filling with something else that’s better for me), I did a whole ritual/ceremonial Thing to kind of kick things off.
 
There was a bath – because me. There was a circle-casting (of a sort) and candles and a red[1] bath bomb that smelled like raspberries[2]. There was anointing my delta of venus with my signature perfume. There was a bunch of tantric-esque breath-work to raise some energy and to ritualistically breathe out all of the stuff I want to let go of. There was head-over-heart-over-hips breathing and stating affirmations while doing leg-extension & hip-flexibility exercises[3] (in the bath, because apparently I can live dangerously, on occasion). There was, somewhat unexpectedly but definitely relevantly, reaching out to my maternal ancestor line to talk to my great-great-grandmother about trauma survival and t tell her that I’m really glad we all got to exist, but also that I’m sorry she was raped and that it wasn’t her fault and she didn’t do anything to deserve it[4]. There was letting the water out, opening the circle, putting out the candles, drying myself off, and then slathering myself with cocoa-butter[5].
 
It was a good ceremony. It’s probably one that I’ll have to repeat intermittently. And it’s definitely an “in addition to” (rather than “in lieu of”) the breath work stuff I’m doing around my root chakra a few times a day (it’s not exactly a mindfulness exercise, but it’s… in that neighbourhood).
Here’s hoping I can continue to blow away the old habits in order to make space for the new ones.
Wish me luck.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Red for my own Red Lady, my goddess of sex and dance and standing your ground (among numerous other things), whose help I definitely need with this.
 
[2] My Maiden goddess, who I don’t write a tonne about, I realize (sorry), has a link to raspberries. For Reasons. She’s also curious, polyamourous, confident, and adventurous. So having something to invoke her and invite her behaviours into me was… pretty relevant.
 
[3] Bonus information: My hips actually are more flexible – and my lower-back muscles are stronger – than they were a year ago! The exercises are working! Mwahahahaha!
 
[4] Because you all needed that information dropped on you, without notice, today. Sorry. Talking about it cause weird, tight feelings in my chest that aren’t panic-related, and I supposed we’ll find out what that’s about at some point in the future? Who knows.
 
[5] The stuff I did up with cinnamon oil (possibly not the wisest choice) and sweet orange oil and ylang ylang with the express purpose of making a sex-balm massage bar to use with various partners and – apparently – on myself in situations like this.

New Moon – Slush Moon Begins

“View southeast along a slush-covered Errecart Boulevard from the Humboldt River Bridge during a snowstorm in Elko, Nevada” – Photo by Famartin via Wiki Free Images.


 
“Slush Moon”? So appetizing, right? I know. But it’s that time of year. The temperature is going to be zig-zagging back and forth across the frozen line for the next few weeks, melting the winter’s vast store of snow during the day and then freezing the run-off into ice over night.
I am deeply, deeply not looking forward to this, but I’m also seriously hoping for a slow melt-season, because this much snow turning to water all at once would spell flooded basements for just about everyone I know who has one.
So here we are.
 
Two weeks ago, I put away the Solstice decorations. Two weeks from now, it’ll be Spring Equinox. I’ve spent this past week essentially going to ‘Sexuality School” online and miraculously staying somewhat on top of my ten-minutes-a-day of exercise stuff, albeit by the skin of my teeth.
 
Ms Sugar wrote something the other day, and I find I’m relating to it a little. I’ll be forty before the year is out, and I feel like I’m “running out of time” to make changes that’ll stick. Some of those changes are the sex-related stuff I’ve been talking about over on Syrens. Some of them are more basic. Eat more vegetables. Become a better gardener. Stave off arthritis and help my body get stronger. Figure out how to parlay this university-funded casual-hours contract into a sustainable, long-term, but still casual-hours, income stream[1].
 
I feel like I’m constantly starting over, picking up the dropped threads, trying to find a way forward where I get to take care of myself, long-term, and get to have the freedom I want when it comes to how I spend my time, energy, and attention.
 
~*~
 

Silicon Dawn Tarot – High Priestess – “[… The] High Priestess get things *done* because she is *connected* in a way that few of the others down in the Earthly half of the Majors are. […] The Priestess is busy consulting her Higher Self *right now*”.


 
I chose this card for my tarot meditation.
Maybe it’s an odd one to choose, or maybe I’m pulling it because I know I’ve got a little ritual planned for later today – one that I’m nervous about, but one that I hope has some effect – and I want as much help as I can get.
The High Priestess – The Seer, The Inner Voice – is the conduit between the word-using mind and the deep ocean space of everything else in you. The connection between conscious and unconscious. The union of opposites.
As I try to get back into doing regular glamour work again (again, again… even as I type this while wearing a fuzzy bathrobe and flip-flops), as I keep trying to put myself back together again, I think it’s relevant to think of the High Priestess, how she can be in and of two (or more) worlds at once while keeping everything connected.
 
~*~
 
Movement: Some yoga. A couple of long walks (commuting, basically). Some weights-work. Some dancing.
 
Attention: Root chakra stuff. Where I am, and am not, holding muscle tension. What feels good. What makes me nervous.
 
Gratitude: Afternoons spend with pals. Time for long baths. A new Toby Daye book to devour. Sunny days, even if they’re cold. Unearthed summer veggies filling my freezer. A writing date planned for the end of the week. Kisses from my wife. Catching-up chats with my girlfriend.
 
Inspiration: A lot of what I’ve been reading in Come As You Are and Ecstasy is Necessary and a lot of what I’ve been watching/hearing during the Explore More Summit.
 
Creation: A lot of personal essays. One ritual (that’s, admitted, still kind of being done on the fly). Plans to start turning all of the above-mentioned inspiration into poems (or at least drafts of poems) later this week.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] I have some leads on this one, at least.