A Multi-Fold Harvest

This year has brought some serious changes to our lives. It’s taken so many turns, it’s almost unreal. In my life, it’s been a multi-fold harvest in many ways and, despite the challenges that come with it, I’m thankful for every bit we’re blessed with.

A Literal Harvest

This year has kicked in my inner prepper. I’m trying harder than usual to prevent waste and keep stocked up, especially with food. My garden didn’t get as far as we intended it to. Still have the beds to build; the budget’s just too tight for all the materials we need (especially the soil and 1/2″ hardware cloth!). But, earlier in the year, I signed on with a local pantry that delivers.

We’ve received so much produce! In fact, we’ve gotten more than we can eat before it goes bad and we’ve even given quite a bit away to loved ones. That said, there’s still plenty and I’ve been trying to put it to good use…for later. The cherry tomatoes are great to dry and store. Onions and peppers can be sliced/diced and frozen. Many fruits can be dried or frozen also. For a load of citrus fruits we got (lemons and limes), we zested the skin and juiced ’em.

Dried maters…SOOOO tasty!!

Personally, I’ve focused on freezing and drying for preserving. I’ve never canned before and have that bit of apprehension many get. I do think I’ll try to can the apples though, as a sauce or butter, if I don’t dry them all. I’ll use some organic lemon juice as the acid and waterbath ’em. I don’t own a pressure canner (yet), which is why my green beans and corn got prepped for freezing too.

Meats and dry goods are being stocked too, as much as my budget can manage. Some comes from the pantry, some from the grocery, and some from the farmer’s market. If I wind up with a bulk package (say, of meat), I separate it into meal-sized portions, season/marinade and prep to freeze like that. I sort of winged it on the seasonings. If they turn out good, I’ll post the recipes I made up. All in all, I expect they’ll make for some tasty, quick meals on busy days.

I’m hoping to make time to put out some kind of fall garden, to ensure cool weather crops for fresh eats as Autumn sets in. Carrots, lettuces, kale, beets, turnips, and radishes are top on the list. Fingers crossed we can make this happen in time!

A Spiritual Harvest

This year has been trying for most of us and led us into new directions to cope. In my case, it’s shaken me out of my years long “out-of-practice” mode, spiritually speaking. I have a re-newed vigor for my Pagan faith and am looking to get back into old practices (like tarot/divination and herbalwork), as well as explore new ones (like journeywork and crossing the hedge). It feels like doors that have been closed are all opening back up at once. My empathic abilities are hitting new levels very quickly.

Puma illuminates the path, helps overcome
anxiety, and sees beyond what’s “normal”.

In prayer one morning, I asked for a sign of guidance, so I can be sure of my direction. You see, I’ve felt myself lost/stuck at yet another of life’s crossroads. To my right, just ahead of me, I received an immediate answer – my totem. It’s curious how I lean European in my Craft but my totem is decidedly Native American. I do have Native ancestors and felt this may have been sent by one of them. It was exactly what I needed and the answer came to me much quicker than normal. So, now I’m exploring Puma and the medicine she brings to one’s life. My Minister recently told me “step into your power”…it’s advice that matches up with my totem perfectly!

Another area that’s opened up is my innate desire to help others. I hate to admit it but, growing up, I encountered a lot of “takers” in my life. Sick of always being drained and taken advantage of by bad actors, I shut down. I think it was a protective mechanism, so I can heal the damage it caused (mentally and energetically).

Lately, it’s re-opening and I can’t help but feel it’s because the world needs so much healing right now. All the healers are likely being called at this moment. I’m still on an intensive healing mode, but I finally feel ready to begin helping others as well. I only hope I’m not jumping in too soon, or over-exposing myself to harm again, and serving only to further deplete myself. That won’t be helpful to anyone. Fingers crossed here as well that I can meet the call in full capability.

A Creative Harvest

This is another area I’ve felt has been shut down the last few years. The designing, the concocting, the sewing, the poetry and short stories…all of it seemed to have left me. It was like The Muses abandoned me or something and I couldn’t figure out why. Maybe because I was so depleted in so many areas of my life. It felt like a slow, painful death of everything that makes me Me.

Slowly, it’s coming back to me. Basic designs and words/phrases come out, asking to be brought to light. New skills are begging to be explored, like canning and embroidery. I have a renewed interest in things like making salves and tinctures. I suddenly can find the energy to at least start the processes of moving these things back into the forefront of my life. It feels like waking up from a terrible nightmare and realizing you’re safe in the warm sun of morning.

From Darkness, Light Is Inevitable

I can’t shake the feeling that things are likely to get worse before they get better, especially here in America. I encourage everyone I know to prep what they can and to encourage others to do so as well. I hope I’m over-reacting; this feeling is so strong. But, if I’m not, we’ll all need a stocked supply of necessities and each other’s help to maintain and pull through.

That said, I believe these dark times can be overcome. There will eventually be a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s inevitable because you can’t have one without the other. In the push-pull of it all, we will get to the other side of it and prove stronger than before.

Has the year shown you who you are? Are you prepared/ing? Have you received a call (of any kind)? What do you make of the lessons of 2020, personal or societal?

Feminine Care Prepping & Alternative Products

I’ma be real right now: Periods happen and they ain’t gonna stop just because things get crazy in the world.

If there were another shutdown, would you have your feminine care squared away?

This is a question that’s come up fairly often lately, mostly in mom-prepper and homestead groups I’m in.  It’s also one I’ve been meaning to cover here since before the pandemic.  Time has a way of just running over me, so my apologies for not doing it till now.

Please note… This post is more of a rundown on cost and available options, for stocking up in the event of an emergency.  It doesn’t cover the eco-friendliness of each option, a primer on cup insertion techniques, or a deep dive into each brand for each type of product.  I’d like to do a deeper-dive post at a later time, to cover more.   In the meantime, Wellness Mama has a good post on the eco-friendly aspect of the topic. 

So, are you prepared if we have to hunker down again?  Heck, are you prepared in the event of a financial emergency, or a natural disaster?  Feminine products can get pricey, especially for ladies with heavy flow. 

Stocking Up On Feminine Care

If you use disposables, such as pads, tampons, or menstrual discs, I’d love to talk you out of it!  If I can’t change your mind, though, you’ll at least want to make sure you have a supply that’s going to last you.  Personal care items and toiletries (toilet paper, feminine items, paper towels, etc) are expected to be in short supply this fall/winter.  With this in mind, I’d suggest having at least a 6-month supply on hand to ride this thing out.

Affordability

The cost of things makes it hard to stock up on a tight budget (I know!).  But, what’s the cost of running out and being unable to replenish your supply, or having to pay more to do so?  During shortages, prices often go up to re-balance the supply/demand aspect (notice how T.P. got more expensive this year?). 

Even in good times, it’s advisable to sock away a few dollars here and there.  $5 a week in a jar or savings account, over time, can make or break an emergency response.  It can mean all the difference between being able to take advantage of a solid stock-up deal, or doing without necessities at crucial times.

Use this guide to help calculate the cost of a 6-month supply:

List the items you buy  (tampons, pads, liners, douches, fem-wash, etc), with their associated costs, and calculate by how much product you use in a month.  Then, multiply that by 6 to get your estimated total.

For example, say I use 1 box of 18-ct tampons, 1 box of 24-ct backup pads and 60 pantyliners a month.  (I’m using my local Dollar Store prices here… your costs may be more or less, depending on your area, preferred store, and the products you use.  Adjust accordingly.).  My cost breakdown would look like this:

Almost $50 to be stocked on lady gear for half a year!  It’s a lot to come by in a pinch.  For many, at least where I’m from, this means buying 1-2 items each payday till your supply’s up.  But, if that’s the only way to do it, it can still get done. 

Alternatives to Disposable Feminine Care Products

There are alternatives to buying throwaway items.  While the costs are higher upfront, they last so much longer and will actually save you over time.  On average, items will last about 5-10 years.  I’ve found they can last even longer, with proper care.  Here’s a rundown of some available options:

Menstrual Cup 

With the exception of the Cincinnati-based Keeper brand, that uses rubber, these are made from medical-grade silicone.  They generally come in 2 sizes: pre-pregnancy and post-pregnancy, though I’ve seen some in Small, Large, & X-Large.  Each brand has their own take on the dimensions for the sizes they offer, so shop around and see what might be best for you.  I use a pre-pregnancy size LadyCup, despite having given birth twice, and feel that women should consider their pelvic size and flow more so than whether or not they’ve given birth.  We’re all different.

Using a cup requires a bit of a learning curve and a solid comfort level with your body.  You will be getting up close and personal with your lady parts!  Most cup users will tell you it isn’t so bad, once you figure out your technique, and that they’re actually more comfortable than tampons.  In fact, you can even wear one when you’re simply expecting your period to show up.  And a pantyliner or pad can be used as backup, if you’re worried about leaking.

Cloth Pads/Liners

These are similar to the plastic-y disposable pads available everywhere.  Except they’re cloth…and MUCH more comfortable, in my opinion.  Again, there are different brands and materials:  cotton or organic cotton, bamboo cloth, charcoal-ed cloth, and absorbent French terry cloth are used most often.  Most cloth pads have a PUL (polyurethane laminate) backing, to prevent leaking through.  Yes, it’s a type of plastic and that’s not an ideal situation but it’s a case of pros and cons.  Some women get by just fine with cloth pads that have no PUL backing.

Leaking is a concern many women have when considering whether or not to buy cloth pads.  It’s generally assumed you’ll bleed all through a few layers of cloth.  My personal experience is that they actually hold more and are less likely to leak than disposable pads.  I bought 2 sets earlier this year, one multi-sized set & one pantyliner set, to replace a set I made a decade ago…and they’re amazing!  Let’s just say that, when I cold-rinse them (a pre-wash thing), I’m still always surprised at their capacity.

Image found at Moon Time Store: https://shopperiodpanties.com

Period Panties

I actually don’t know much about these.  They came out after I done settled on what works for me.  Seems to me that, if you’re out and about or wearing pants, changing these several times a day may become an issue.  Or maybe I just have a hangup about that kind of thing.

As with the other options, there are several brands that offer their own sizes and price points.  These can fully replace pads and tampons or act as backup to your current protocol.  I’ve seen reviews that go either way.  What works for one lady may not work for another.  It’s important she know her body and understand its nuances, especially her cycles, when deciding on lady gear.

If you use these, know someone who does, or otherwise know more about them, please feel free to have your say in the comments.

Feminine Product Care

The main caveat on reusable lady gear is that you have to clean and dry them well to keep them in good condition.  For most, this isn’t a problem.  For some, it might not be worth the extra time or they just don’t want to bother with it.

For cloth pads and period panties:

These should be rinsed thoroughly in cold water (until the water runs clear) BEFORE washing with soap and warm/hot water or tossing in the washer.  This will ensure they’re fully clean and help keep smells from setting into the fabric from leftover blood. Both can be air-dried and I think that’s the recommendation for the panties (along with hand-washing).  However, with the clothies, I find a tumble in the dryer can ensure they’re good and dry for storing till the next month.  I tend not to put our “skivvies” on the line anyway.

With menstrual cups:

This process is quicker.  Rinse ‘em out, soap ‘em up, rinse warm/hot, and air dry before storing.  However, I have heard that certain types of soap (generally the more commercial, chemical-laden ones) can break down the material over time.  My personal solution is to use an unscented liquid castile soap with no essential oils added.  I don’t always use my cup and feel this, with the soap I use, is why it’s still near-new after all these years.

Cost Breakdown for Menstrual Alternatives

Prices do vary, depending on product, how many in a set, etc.  For cups, the general range is $30-45.  I got mine on eBay (brand new…don’t EVER buy used lady gear!) 10 years ago for about $25.  Back then, the LadyCup went for $40, so it was a deal. 

The range for cloth pads is about $9 to as much as $40+ for a “full” set.  They can be bought one pad at a time or as a multi-pack.  Buying singles can be cheaper, but one is sometimes as cheap as a comparable set of three. The sets I bought were $24 for the multi-pack and $12 for the pantyliner set (currently, they’re going for $26 and $13, respectively). With the free shipping, I spent $36.  Added to the $25 spent on my cup, I spent the same as 8 months or so worth of disposable product and have enough lady gear to last me till menopause! I’m turning 40 this fall so these may, legit, be the last items I’ll ever need to purchase.

The range for period panties runs roughly $10-44/pair.  This can vary a bit, depending on if you buy a set or singles, which brand you buy, etc.  Consider, though, that you may need 2-4 (or more) a day if you’re using them as your primary period product, multiplied by how many you’d need to keep the rotation going.  That’s a lot of $$ upfront, in my opinion.  If it’s an option you’re into, it might be worth it.  Personally, my frugal ass would give them a hard pass.

Are you stocked up on your feminine items?  Do you, or a loved one, use alternatives for your period?  What’s your experience/opinions on them?  Did I miss an option you’d like to see listed (maybe in the next post on this topic)?  Feel free to leave a comment below.

*I was going to include sea sponges to the reusables list but ran across sources questioning their safety.  Some accounts suggest they may include silica (glass? I should hope not!), are dirty (contributing to TSS and other infections), introduce too much oxygen into the vagina (messing with its natural environment), and so on.  If you know more about these, feel free to comment!

Cover Photo by Vanessa Ramirez from Pexels

Back-to-School in the Age of Covid

While I hadn’t intended to make a series of Covid-related posts, this is indeed related.

It’s time for us to be thinking about the whole back-to-school thing. What’s the plan this year?

Everyone will surely be making decisions they feel are best for their families. In my household, that will mean getting back into homeschooling. Not that I don’t feel our school district has our kids’ best interests at heart. It’s more the nature of the virus (how it spreads, its danger level, the potential added risk of my son’s heart condition, etc), my worry that precaution measures won’t do enough to prevent the spread in such closed-in environments, and the fact that our gov’t is fixing to force schools to re-open, ready or not, under the threat of losing their funding entirely.

Maybe it’s just me, but that feels a bit like extortion…

Add to that the fact that the woman in charge of our Dept. of Education has been itching to de-fund/dismantle our public school system since before she took on that role. It’s the reason she was put into that role, if you want my personal opinion.

Furthermore, it feels like they’re using a forced back to school mandate as free childcare so homebound parents with younger kids can more easily be forced to “get back to work”. Unfortunately, many don’t have jobs to go back to (businesses got their PPP money and still laid-off/fired workers). Others simply aren’t wiling to put their families at risk and are awaiting a viable vaccine to get back into the job market (with the hopes they can find one then). The whole thing’s a hot mess.

But I digress…

books on desk with apple, ABC blocks and colored pencils
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Way back in 2016, I homeschooled my youngest through the end of 1st grade and the beginning of 2nd. It was an experience, lemme tell you! He was much more hyper back then.  It was the reason he was kicked off the bus that year, necessitating homeschool, but it was as fun as it was aggravating. We discovered he’s at least partially a kinesthetic learner…he’d do his spelling tests verbally, as he spun in circles on the living room floor.  Liberty’s Kids and Horrible Histories were on our Social Studies/History curriculum, which was fun.  Homeschooling also forced me to become more organized (to manage meal plans, create lesson plans, and keep up with my freelance work).  In short, we made it work.

This time around, it’ll be both boys and we’re yeeting the lesson plans right out the window (did you see them? they just caught serious air!).

They will, instead, be…un-schooled.

If you’re not familiar with unschooling, it basically means the kids guide their own education, rather than having a structured plan forced on them. I think we’re finally done with compulsory education. It counters my kids’ learning styles and takes the fun out of the discovery/learning process. Plus…I trust them to decide for themselves. They’ve proven to me many times that, given the opportunity, they learn quite well on their own and enjoy the process much more.

Looking back on my adolescence, I would say I was unofficially un-schooled. Dad worked, a single parent, and couldn’t always keep track of where I was during the day. So, I skipped school all the time and went to the library. Yes, the library (it surprised my caseworker too, LOL).

I also hung out with friends when they skipped too, but I’m a huge bookworm, so the library was like a second home. My school was one where the administrators would openly admit to students: “we don’t care if you learn anything or not, you just have to show up every day”. Real incentive to learn, that (it was truly a horrendous school and still is).

Even after being sent off for it a few times, and Dad walking me to the principal’s office each day before he went to work, I kept skipping. Until my probation officer decided I wasn’t enough of a problem child to keep sending off. Our governor at the time started a teen GED program and I qualified, so I got my GED sophmore year and started my first round of college that fall.

But, again, I digress…

Love To Learn sign on concrete wall
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Un-schooling is something I considered the first time around, but was worried it would leave me without a way to assess them for approval the next year. I’m no longer worried about that. There are un-school friendly assessors now, and things like journals, photos, projects, etc. count. Also, there are now groups that parents/kids can join. If they aren’t specifically for un-schoolers, many are un-schooler friendly. That’s refreshing!

When I started this website, it was my intent to include homeschool information for the parents doing it (even though I wasn’t anymore). I never got around to compiling my info and resources. Seeing as I’m about to be ass-deep in it again, I’ll just about have to, right? Not to mention, the info and resources will be updated, so more’s the benefit.

If you’re concerned about physically sending your kids back to school this fall, with everything going on, definitely look into your options. There are online public schools available, if you and your child/ren prefer a structured environment or curricula. Many do! And, of course, there’s the homeschool/un-school options as well. If choosing one of these, be sure to find out your state’s requirements, deadlines, forms, etc. so you can get set up and started off on the right foot!

Whatever you decide for your family, trust yourself to choose wisely. These are dicey times and we’re all just navigating the best we can. Stay safe & healthy…be well!

*Cover Photo by Feliphe Schiarolli on Unsplash

Is Covid-19 a Wake-up Call for Humanity?

This crisis has us asking many questions. This is one of mine. But, among the bad, there have been good things happening too.

OK, first I want to state that I don’t want this post to get political or overtly religious. Let’s be real: heated debates on such personal and subjective topics serve nothing in the overall scheme of things. My intent is to get some of my thoughts out about this crazy time we’re all in the midst of. Maybe some of you have had these kind of thoughts as well?

I also want to state that I’m not trying to trivialize this crisis in any way. This virus is truly insidious in its contagion and people have died. I’ve been trying to keep up on the science in real time, as much as possible. And we can’t overlook the economic toll either. These times are unprecedented and folks are suffering. There’s just no sugar-coating it.

Disclaimer aside, I can’t help but feel like Mother Nature has us in the crosshairs. In no time flat, and at a global level, everything just got laid bare. In the raw mess are the flaws of our societies, gutted, wide-open, and glaring. The flaws of our economies, our healthcare systems, our inequalities, our divisions, our loyalties…so on and so forth. Literally. Everything. Is exposed right now.

I also can’t help but feel that this may be the only way the human race will make the necessary changes to keep this planet functioning and habitable for future generations. We’ve had years, even decades, of warning and progress has been painfully slow. Blame who or whatever makes you feel better about it but, as a species, we all failed.

So, now what?

While I’d like to say we all wake up and suddenly do better, nothing’s ever so simple (and people are complex, as are their motives). Especially when the catalyst is forcing sudden changes in ways people find incredibly uncomfortable. A lot of folks naturally want to run back under the blanket and go back to sleep. It’s less painful.

But there have been upsides to this disaster and I think we’d be remiss to ignore them or discount them out of hand.

Re-Connecting With Oneself & Loved Ones

Being stuck at home may be annoying to some, particularly if you’re very social. For others, it’s provided a perfect opportunity to get things done around the house, get to know your kids or spouse better, and even get in some solid introspection time. Some have even realized they prefer working from home or homeschooling their kids or cooking from scratch. The time just wasn’t there before, with all of society’s demands.

Re-Evaluating What’s Important to You

This is one of the things many people are currently reflecting on – how much those demands took away from the quality of their lives. It’s making people re-evaluate what’s really important to them. And, they’re adapting to meet the moment. They’re connecting digitally with loved ones, planning/starting businesses that make their hearts sing, and making decisions (lifestyle, financial, personal, etc) that are likely to have some real staying power.

The Correlation Between Reduced Human Activity & Reduced Pollution

After the initial shutdowns kicked in, it became apparent pretty quick how much our hustle and bustle contributed to pollution. With so few cars on the road in major cities, Nature showed us how fast the air quality could start to improve. The slowdown of consumer behavior demonstrates how little we actually need to survive and, perhaps, even how wasteful we had been up to now. Many people are making decisions now, based on this, pledging to buy/use less and save their money, rather than spend it. Our economies will have to adjust to this new norm, as people revert back to the frugality of their ancestors. Nobody wants to get caught with their financial pants down again. It just leaves us too exposed.

The Rise of ESG/SRI Investments

As some stocks took major hits, others held up better in the downward slide. Oil stocks, which were already on the decline due to mass divestment of it and other pollution-related investment products, got pummeled. Companies are shutting down or declaring bankruptcy, many in the retail and restaurant sectors. Many of these, unfortunately, are small businesses (which are our communities backbones). Several shut down where I live, including our favorite date night spot.

In the midst of this, some sectors of the stock market are holding up better than others. Among these are ESGs/SRIs – also called Environmental, Social & Governance and Socially Responsible Investing – and even the Marijuana industry (if you ask me, this one’s gonna explode in coming years, especially if legalized at the federal level). Personally, if I could afford to invest, these are where I’d invest and had wanted to years before the pandemic.

Maybe I’m biased but I have my theories as to why these areas are doing better: because the kind of people who invest in them do so out of principles, not profit. Sure, seeing a return is nice but consider that many of these investors bought in when it wasn’t a popular thing to do at all, and people were even telling them (in their “conventional wisdom”) that these stocks were going nowhere. They bought in because it was something they believed in. Hence, they didn’t see the fear-based mass sell-offs that helped speed up the crash of the markets when the crisis hit.

Now, mind you, I work part-time at a local bank’s investment dept. (in admin, not advising) and I see how many clients are still trying to buy whatever sounds good this week, only to quickly sell it off if there’s even a slight whiff of “so, this isn’t going to help me recoup every cent I lost immediately”. I’m talking a regular 24-hour buy/sell turnaround time here in some cases. It amazes me. Some folks do it out of the stereotypical stock investor mentality of short-sightedness and others do it because they truly rely on the income from their investments to live on (and things just got real).

I can’t help but feel disappointment that folks let themselves fall prey to the fickleness of the markets when they’re so vulnerable to its whims. I mean, it went from dire straits to “hey, we’re back on everyone!” just on the promise that the government might do something – nothing had actually been done at that point and stocks were back on the rise already. If that doesn’t tell you that there isn’t much propping them up, besides hopes and dreams, nothing will. More reason to invest where you really feel it, and hang in there over the long haul, in my humble opinion.

But I digress…my apologies.

My main point here is that, despite the awfulness of our collective situation, there are indications that things can get better from here. I feel good that they will, at least eventually. There are promising developments on a vaccine. People are re-connecting and finding their own versions of a new normal. Economic indicators are positively leaning in the direction of social responsibility, clean energy, and other burgeoning industries that can provide a lot of good jobs in coming years. In the meantime, we have to hang in there and get through this incredibly tough time. I’d like to see us all do this together and by looking out for one another (as much as socially distancing allows us to, anyway, right?).

I’d like to leave you with a song that helps me feel good – Resilient by Rising Appalachia – because we are resilient and we will get through this. Be well, all!

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!