Imbolc: Life Springs Eternal

Imbolc (pronounced ee-molk), also known as Candlemas or Brigid’s Day, marks the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.  Celebrated Feb 1-2, it’s sort of the tipping point that reminds us that winter won’t last forever.  The warmth will return, along with the growth of new life, as we turn towards spring.

The word Imbolc means “ewe’s milk”, as this is the time of year many animals are birthing the Spring flocks.  Sheep, goats, etc. are giving birth and need special attention to help ensure safe deliveries.

Saint_Brigid's_cross
St. Brighid’s Cross 

St. Brighit (Brigid, Bride, and various other spellings – pronounced ‘Bree’ or, sometimes,  ‘Bri-jit’) started as a Celtic goddess and, as other Pagan deities have to encourage conversions, became adopted as a Catholic saint.  Between the two faiths, she’s known as a patron of fertility, the arts, poetry, healing, charity, and prophecy.  She is celebrated still, particularly in the British Isles, by crafting an effigy doll or a St. Brigit’s Cross (‘how-to’ in the link) and with the lighting of lamps or candles.  Another tribute to the ever-lengthening days. 

An Imbolc rit my church did one year involved planting a seed in an eggshell and a visualization on the ways we wanted to grow in the coming seasons.  Eggs and freshly planted seeds are also means of celebrating this time-honored Sabbat.  Sometimes we need the reminder that, no matter what is happening in life, new things will continue to emerge.  There’s always room to grow, and learn, and evolve, and improve.

Yesterday, I focused more on the planting of new seeds than anything else.  Now that I’m working outside the home (more steady than freelancing allowed for), I’m saving up to repair the elements of my garden.  I didn’t use it at all last year and the cats have since destroyed the flimsy fence we threw together to section the garden from the yard and it’s become overgrown.  This year, I intend to revive and improve it.  Instead of trying to go big, all at once, I’m keeping it basic and will add to it as I go, as I’m able.

Garden beds
Something like this is what I’m after – will post before/after pics as able!

As a side note, yesterday was also a waxing moon in Taurus.  Today is, as well.  A waxing moon in a fertile sign is always good for planting, transplanting, etc.  Things planted under Taurus are believed to grow sturdy and be productive.  I considered this occurring on a fertile holiday my sign to get seeds started.

At some point, I’ll have to do a series on what I’ve learned about ‘Planting by the Signs’ and how it’s been a tradition in both Europe and Appalachia for centuries (probably millennia).  Only becoming a dying art over the last hundred years, it’s reviving now as another “Old-Time Wisdom” we shouldn’t lose.

Whether you celebrate Imbolc, the more secular Groundhog’s Day, or just treat Feb. 1-2 as ‘another day’, I hope it’s spent with loved ones and enjoyed.  Remember that Spring is just around the corner…in another 6-7 weeks (sorry, Groundhog, it’s always another 6 weeks of winter, technically 🙂 ).

As The Wheel (of the Year) Turns…

It’s officially Winter again, y’all!  Depending on where you live, the weather may have given the impression much sooner.  In my neck of Appalachia, though, it’s been wishy-washy.  Some days were incredibly cold; others, not so much.

Today’s warm enough that a long sleeve shirt or light jacket may be all you need.  The forecast for Christmas day is 55 degrees F.  No White Christmas this year.

There have been many changes at the ol’ homeplace, as I’ve landed a job outside the home, so we’re figuring out our Yule holiday for this year a bit on the fly.  Obviously, I’ll be lighting our Oak Yule log and probably anoint the candles in it with Pine essential oil.  Frankincense and Oakmoss oils are also under consideration.

Christmas_with_the_Yule_Log,_Illustrated_London_News,_23_Dec_1848(If you’ve missed my previous post on Yule, it touches on the almost-universal holiday tradition of lighting candles and the Celtic tree associations…Oak (my personal favorite) represents wisdom, strength, and protection while Pine represents prosperity and good health…planning on a more comprehensive post on those at some point)

I’ll likely make pork for dinner and drink some bourbon or egg nog.  If I can find some gingerbread cookies when I hit the store later (as I ran out of time to make any), that’ll be a plus too.  But, the important thing is being together as a family to celebrate the heralding of the Winter season and all that it represents – a season of:

  • Contentment and contemplation
  • Planning the next year’s “busy seasons” at a more relaxed pace
  • Enjoying the bounty of the previous season’s harvest
  • Slowing down and taking the moment as it is, for what it is

Whether you celebrate Yule, one of the many other Winter holidays, or even none at all, I hope you all have a great time with loved ones and get a chance to relax.

 

For more on Yule traditions, recipes and Celtic tree associations, check out the following links:

Sacred Earth Journeys – Yule Traditions & Symbols

Earth Witchery – The Yule Log

What’s Your Sign – Celtic Meaning of Symbolic Trees & The Ogham

Recipes for a Pagan Soul – Yule

Greenhaven Tradition – Preparing for Yule  (includes detailed info and holiday rits)

Leftovers 2.0

Thanksgiving dinner is full of homemade wonders.  Grandma’s holiday fudge.  Mom’s pumpkin pie.  Dad’s turkey that comes out perfect every time.  It goes on and on.

Often, though, the meal is so huge that there’s more leftovers than you know what to do with.  After a couple plates, even the best stuff gets a bit “same old”.  Those tasty morsels need a re-boot!  Here’re some tips to use up holiday leftovers, without wasting a bite.

Turkey

Extra poultry makes a great soup or sandwich. Chop turkey into chunks and stir into gravy (dilute with water or make from scratch, if there’s none to work with).  Add vegetables, cheese, herbs, or anything else you think will dress it back up.  I plan to make my own turkey soup, with gravy (my step-son made a ton of the stuff, making soup a no-brainer!), peas, thyme/garlic/pepper, and some gruyere I bought at the farmer’s market.  I may also add some carrots.

Or, you can take those turkey slices and use them in a grilled cheese style sandwich.  Butter one side of bread and slather some sauce (mayo-dijon, cranberry, etc) on the other side.   Layer turkey with other ingredients, such as cheddar or gruyere and veggies, then fry/grill/panini it to perfection.

Cranberry Sauce

This is one of those ingredients where, if you like it enough to serve it, you tend to either kill it all on Day One or have extra that goes to waste.  The tangy, sweet flavor pairs well with several foods.  Especially well with sweet and creamy foods.

A “take two” serving could include yogurt and oats, goat cheese and crackers, cream cheese and a sprinkle of cinnamon, etc.  I’m thinking I might use the rest of mine with cream cheese and herb-seasoned biscuits, since I don’t have any goat cheese or crackers on hand.

Ham

Ham’s often done either savory or sweet, depending on your taste.  I like it both ways myself.  Like the turkey, this protein also makes great soups and sandwiches.  Personally, I wouldn’t go too far outside of its sweet or savory profile, unless sure of the new pairing’s taste mix.

Savory ham makes a great addition to a corn chowder and your leftover green beans can get tossed in there too!    Or, it can be fine-sliced, or diced, and added to a pasta dish.  Breakfast casserole also comes to mind.  A sweet ham (maple, honey, or brown sugar glazed, etc) can be added to baked beans and heated through, a great idea if you also serve baked beans for holiday meals.

Mashed Potatoes

Leftover mashed potatoes can be made into potato-cakes the next morning.  Simply mix in 1 egg, 1t. butter, 1T. flour, and a splash of milk (if too thick) for every cup of mashed potatoes.  Add whatever else you want…onion, garlic, cheese, ham/bacon, etc…and form into thin-ish patties. Skillet fry in butter/oil till golden brown and serve as desired.  If using ham, either sweet or savory work for this.

Another winner is to coalesce various holiday meal ingredients into a sort of shepherd’s pie.  Use your mashed potatoes to top it off before baking to re-heat.

Sweet Potatoes

These can be treated as potatoes and made into tasty breakfast cakes.  If my sweet potato casseroles yielded leftovers, I’d do this and serve them up with maple syrup.  Maybe add in some chopped sweet ham.

I’ve heard of others who make baked goods with theirs…cakes, muffins, etc.  Others, still, concoct sweet-spicy mixes with them.  The thought of adding cumin, ancho, chili powder, or chipotle to my sweet potatoes makes my mouth water…may have to give that a try sometime…

There are so many ways to dress up leftovers for an awesome Take Two meal.  With a bit of creativity, the sky’s the limit.  Or, if Black Friday and the shopping season leaves you with no time, the old Inter-webs has lots of recipes to choose from, to make it easy.

Hope your holiday was filled with great times with loved ones…and tasty, tasty food!  If you have any holiday meal re-dos you like, feel free to comment and share them!

 

*Image, taken by Ben Franske, found at commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:TraditionalThanksgiving.jpg

Crunchy Bayou Baked Chicken

A tasty chicken recipe that’s crunchy enough to be fried…but isn’t.

My family still protests my posting the recipe to my famous meatloaf (they’ve put it in the “too-good-to-share-so-keep-it-a-secret-till-we-open-a-restaurant” category), but I think I can get by with posting my baked chicken without incurring their wrath. 🙂

I got the inspiration for this from a cozy mystery I was reading a few months ago, Murder with Fried Chicken & Waffles.  It included some good soul food recipes, with a fried chicken one I adapted to my taste and for baking.  I’ve only actually made it a handful of times but it always seems to come out amazing – well-seasoned without being too spicy (great for picky kids), crunchy on the outside and super tender on the inside!

Pick Your Protein:

I typically use about 2lb. of chicken thighs for this.  Bone-in or boneless work equally well.  You could sub breasts, drumsticks or whatever you want.  Heck, I thought about maybe trying it with de-shelled crawfish, if it’d hold up to the dredges without being overwhelmed by them.  Probably need to adjust the cooking temp and timing, but why not?  The other day, I used 3-4lb. of drumsticks and just added a bit more flour, panko and 1 more egg on my dredges.

Flour Dredge:

  • 1/2 – 1c. flour (any kind you wanna use, I used organic white flour)
  • 1t. each pepper and Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2t. salt
  • 1/2t. garlic and onion powders, if desired

Egg Dredge:

  • 2 eggs, beaten (I used an extra egg for the 4lb. batch and it worked well)

Crunch Coating:

  • 1 1/2 – 2c. Panko breading
  • 1 – 2t. Cajun seasoning (or as much as you wanna use!)
  • 1/2t. each garlic and onion powders

The Process:

Prep your dredges and chicken (de-bone, dry, etc), then preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Dredge chicken in flour, coating thoroughly, then run it through the egg wash real good before coating with your Panko crunch mix.  Place on a baking dish big enough to hold it all without crowding together and cover loosely with foil (slit in top to vent).

Bake for about 45-60 minutes, depending on type and quantity of chicken.  If desired, you could remove foil hat for the last 10-15 minutes.  I’ve found it doesn’t affect the crunch much but it does seem to help it brown.  Corn, taters and cornbread are natural accompaniments (I bet buttermilk waffles and collard greens sauteed in bacon grease would be heavenly) but you could serve it with anything you want.

Now, I don’t know the nutrition info but baking is healthier than frying and, personally, I tend toward organic and/or farm-fresh ingredients anywhere I can, which tends to be healthier than conventional.  Use what you got and what works best for you.  And, if you try it for yourself, lemme know how it turned out, what you served it with and all that.

Enjoy!

Chips Off The Ol’ Block!

Ever look at your kids and wonder…where do they get THAT from?  LOL, me too!  But it’s even more interesting when you see what they took from you and adapted for themselves.

Lately I noticed both my Spartan and my Athenian have been jamming on Kill Count.  If you’re not familiar, it’s a YouTube channel that takes a death count of various movies and runs a little fun commentary to go with.  Not quite Elvira, but entertaining enough if you’re into that kind of thing.

Well, my Athenian asks me the other day “Mom, you ever heard of an 80s horror film called ‘Chopping Mall’?”  “Of course I have! It was one of my video store picks as a kid…so cheesy!  It’s up there was ‘Blood Diner’ and ‘Sleepaway Camp’, but they aren’t as good as ‘Blood Salvage’, which I still have on VHS by the way……”.   As I droned on in nostalgia, I saw he was watching it on Kill Count.

My kids are well aware of my love for cheesy B-rated horror.  They share my love (obsession) for the amazing Evil Dead series and the equally amazing Bruce Campbell.  They were as into the “Ash vs. Evil Dead” series as I was and enjoy watching Mr. Campbell host the new “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not”, but they don’t share my long-standing crush on him.  What can I say?  30+ years later, he’s still a handsome guy with an interesting personality!  See for yourselves.

Related image          

But I digress.

Every so often, the boys hit me with a throwback like that.  My Spartan, for example, has developed a love for 80s music.  He’s obsessed with such gems as “Puttin’ on the Ritz”, “Video Killed the Radio Star” (pop trivia – this was the very first song played on MTV in Nov. 1981!), “I Wear My Sunglasses at Night” and the kickass Twisted Sister hit “We’re Not Gonna Take It”.  For that matter, my oldest had discovered 90s music and 40s-50s music on his own…he’s down with Green Day as much as Dean Martin.  Like ol’ Mom, they don’t stick to just one genre and they tend toward songs with intelligent lyrics…happy to see that good taste in music runs in the family!

These are those parenting moments where you see the intersection between what your kids gravitate to as individuals and the influences they’re exposed to along the way (can I get a witness on some Dr. Demento up in here?!).  Between nerding out on horror and indie-style/off-color entertainment in general, these guys are definitely chips off the ol’ block!

What are some of the intersections you see with your own kids (or, if you don’t have kids, those you’re related to/watched grow up)?

Random Title For A Random Post

Once again, I’ve gone MIA.  Once again, I’ve come back.  Surely you knew I couldn’t stay away forever, right?  🙂

Those of you who know me personally know that I retreat into a shell when life gets intense.  It’s how I cope.  And it’s been a rough Fall.  Between family situations, mechanical malfunctions, and more pain than I’m used to managing (and the depression that comes from reduced functioning), getting through each day is a triumph.

I normally don’t go into my personal stuff here.  First of all, it’s my cross to bear and I’d rather post things that are interesting to read about.  Secondly, I’m pretty opinionated and sometimes very intense about things I feel strongly about.  I’m a typical Scorpio that way.  With wanting to use my blog somewhat for work purposes (at least until I build a separate site for that), I worry the intensity could affect the impression potential clients may get.

All that said, blogging therapy has its place.  Maybe I’ll throw more personal stuff here once in a while.  Maybe I’ll decide to “keep it Kroger”, as we used to say at the Ren Faire (Kroger was one of our sponsors and pushed to keep the show squeaky clean…we had to get more creative with our innuendo after that), and maybe I’ll let loose the Kraken.  We’ll see. 😉

In the meantime, the ever-growing list of potential blog content will eventually make its way here.  It may be a follow-up on the Granny Women tradition, sustainability efforts (here and elsewhere), new Misplaced Myths, a discussion on New Grammar, recipes, or more old houses to scope.  But, like Winter, they’re coming.

If I don’t make it back on before Yule…have a wonderful winter holiday and enjoy it with great company and great food!

Words of Wisdom

Some of my favorite quotes and expressions.

Even when the construction of words and ideas are your bread and butter, sometimes others just plain say it better:

“Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do.”    -Wendell Berry

“Social order at the expense of liberty is hardly a bargain.”    -Marquis de Sade

“Everything is energy and that is all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.”    – Albert Einstein

“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”    – Nikola Tesla