Feb 27, 2011

February Snow, March Thanksgiving

February, when the days of winter seem endless and no amount of wistful recollecting can bring back any air of summer. ~ Shirley Jackson

Winter seemed to loosen it's hold earlier this week, only to return again with more snow, ice and biting winds.  I know everyone is taking a kicking this year, so I won't moan and groan, except to say that I'm REALLY ready for Spring.

Having said that, I'm also having Autumn thoughts (nothing new - they pop up every month.)  I found this Pumpkin Spice pudding on the rack at the grocery store and got some raised eyebrows when I let out a squeal of joy.

Jello also has a few recipies to go with this gem - click on the picture above to take you to their page.  (FYI - although this pudding is a remnant from October's glory, the best before date is Sept 2012, which is great if I want to save it until Halloween but not so great when I think about what kind of preservatives keep powdered milk usable for two years.) 

Also, while digging through boxes of cast offs from the store I work for, I found some fun pumpkin trays, and a vintage tin washtub that may go into the garden, but will more likely find a home on the deck, packed full of ice and beverages.

Dad is craving turkey again, so my mom is having a March Thanksgiving dinner this weekend.  I'm thinking of bringing that pumpkin cheesecake I mentioned last Fall because I've got a freezer full of pumpkin thanks to the multiple jack-o-lanterns I thought I needed to have on Oct. 31st.

So, while I'm waiting for Spring to arrive, I'll just settle in for another spot of Autumn.  Whatever gets me through this endless Winter!

I am so thankful that March is only a day away!

Feb 21, 2011

What's In A Name?

There is no reason for this picture - taken in Fairmont, BC, Canada, other than the fact that I appreciate a business with a good name.  I appreciate one with a questionable name too.

Take yesterday for example.  I decided to chuck all on my to-do list and head to the next town where there is a labrynth, and take a stroll.  Upon finishing my medatative walk, I happened by their local cafe, named "Cafe Nevermatters."  Hmm..  What does this mean?  Leave your matters at the door?  Coffee doesn't actually matter?  (Which I heartily disagree with!) 

I think "Nevermatters" is actually a play on words because the town's name sounds close to this - but does it send the right message when you are essentially advertising that your coffee stop is pointless?  Regardless, I'm not one to thumb my nose at caffine - so I'll stop in next time I come for a labrynth visit and get the story while ordering my cinnamon latte.

I'll let you know what I find out.

PS - sorry to Ms. Smirk, who originally won the Garden Dreaming Giveaway, but you didn't contact me and there was no way for me to contact you.  I redrew the names, and the new winner is: Jennifer at "From Barren to Bountiful!"  Congrats!  Please email me at RueAndHyssop (at) gmail (dot) com and I'll get the prize in the mail to you.

Feb 17, 2011

Spring & Taxes

Walking in the yard yesterday, I noticed something of a rather striking green colour poking out of one of the raised garden beds.  Turns out that a stray onion had been missed in last Fall's harvest, and is sending up a little shoot.  I was happy to see him, but warned him of the Spring frosts and suggested he take another nap.   Either way, it seems the earth is slowly waking up. 

Yesterday was a sunny day and I got a good, long walk in.  A few of the horses in the field have been corralled now, so I imagine they are going to have their babies at any time.  It's so much fun watching the foals run around the field once they are let out to pasture again!

In the meantime, my tax deadlines loom.  For a bookkeeper this is the least fun time of year.  To keep from going completely nuts, I've been having Friday morning breakfasts with a group of girls that work at the store I bookkeep for.  Let me tell you - starting your day with pancakes or a great omelette and a few laughs can cure a host of ills!

Also on my "Tackle Tax-Time Without Totally Losing It" list:

~Wine.  Okay - wine is on every list I make.  Or Daiquiris.  But this is what I'm drinking now - my brother's Reisling, from Hillside Estate Winery.

~Perusing seed catalogues and doing drive-by's at the garden center to see if they have spring flowers out yet.

~Working with a new Tarot deck.  Although I love my Halloween Tarot and use it year round, I'm feeling like I need something a little lighter for the Spring.  I'm using the Mystic Faerie Tarot right now, and enjoying the pretty imagery.

~Eating far too many peanut butter M&M's.  Perhaps not a healthy way of dealing with work-stress, but having a bowl on my desk keeps me from tearing apart anyone who comes near my office this time of year. 

Things are actually going pretty smoothly thus far (knock on wood) so hopefully by March I'll be back to my regular work routine.

Also, a note to Ms. Smirk of Under the Autumn Moon:  there doesn't seem to be a way to contact you, even though you have a Blogger profile.  Please get a hold of me by the weekend, or I'll have to draw another name for the Garden Dreaming Giveway.  Thanks!


Feb 14, 2011

Draw for The Garden Dreaming Giveaway

The winner of the Garden Giveaway draw is...Ms. Smirk from Under the Autumn Moon!  Please contact me at RueAndHyssop (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and I'll send the parcel out to you.  Please respond by Sunday, February 20th.

Thanks to all who entered and stay tuned for a new giveaway in March!

Hope some of you are starting to get a bit of thaw from this long Winter.  We finally saw some sun yesterday, and the temperatures have risen enough to melt some of the snow.  I'm itching to get at my garden, but for now have to be content with growing cat grass for the felines, and a small pot of catnip which has little green dots just poking through the soil.

I do hope you all have a lovely Valentine's Day.  I know it's a bit of a Hallmark holiday - but who doesn't love a little (or a lot) of chocolate and flowers now and then?  Either way, enjoy your day!

Feb 9, 2011

A Little of This and That

Just a few goings on, thus far this week. 

~ I watched most of the Superbowl on Sunday (my team lost.)  I really only watch the game for the super-expensive commercials - nearly all of which we don't get in Canada.  I am forced to search online for the one's I've heard about and missed.  Although the pickings for good Superbowl commercials were slim this year - this one by Volkswagen took the prize!

~ Today I picked out a cool kit to giveway in March, but in the meantime you have five more days to enter my Garden Dreaming Giveaway.

~ I saw this video about an uncontacted tribe in the Amazon and was incredibly moved.  I'd really love to know about their lives, rituals and community, but it's so much more important to leave these people alone to live the way they have for innumerable years.

~ Although the snow has not melted, I ventured out for a walk today and was treated to not just a good workout, but was met by 3 bighorn rams and an eagle.  Unlike when I met a beaver last Summer thinking it was a dog, these animals were a safe distance away!  (We won't discuss my horrible eyesight and how I could spot bighorn sheep on the side of the road, but not the large tail on the beaver two feet in front of me.)

~ And last, but most important: for those not in the know, tomorrow (Feb 10th) is Danni's birthday.  Head on over to The Whimsical Cottage and drop some cheer on her!

Feb 5, 2011

The Mundane and the Magical - Vodka

“This drink has a magical power.  It strengthens the weak, and revives those who have fainted.  Those tired after work and physical activity can return their life forces by this drink much sooner than by nourishment.  It works as a diuretic, an appetizer, an antitoxin.”
~ Carolus Linnaeus (18th-century physician documenting the effects of vodka)
~ quote found on www.vodkarocks.com

Ah, vodka.  The stuff of gods  Or at least, of Russians and great martinis.

This kicks off a new series that will pop up on occasion, discussing the wonderful ingredients that we use in both our mundane and magical lives.  Our first item is vodka.

Early vodka production was attributed to Poland, where it was made in the early Middle Ages for medicinal use.  Use of vodka quickly spread, and the "vodka belt" (Russia, Poland and the Ukraine to name a few places) is the eastern region of Europe where vodka is drunk straight with no additives or mixes.

Myself - I prefer a martini - either "Dirty" (with olive juice and olives) or some other fluffy version with fruit juices and other liquers.  Here is a recipe I like that reminds me of my friends who like to call my path "that woo woo stuff you do":

Woo Woo Martini 
(Actual name. Found in "The Martini Book" by Sally Ann Berk)

6 parts cranberry vodka
1 part peach schnapps

Combine in a cocktail shaker over cracked ice.  Shake well and serve in a martini glass, garnished with a lemon twist. 

Rue's note:  In order not to get completely smashed -drink slowly or add 1 or 2 parts of cranberry, peach or other desired fruit juice to cocktail.  This is powerful stuff!

Using good vodka is important if you are drinking it straight or with minimal additives.  I highly recommend "Crystal Head Vodka" for sipping and it's distillation process (not to mention it's packaging) lends to some wonderful magical symbolism.  This vodka is triple filtered through Herkimer Diamonds.  These are not actually diamonds, but clear quartz crystals found only in upstate New York.  Although they are naturally occuring, they have a diamond-cut appearance, which gives them their name.  Some of the magical qualities associated with these stones include: astral travel, power and healing.

Magical uses of vodka are many.  Used as a stabiliser, vodka is added to our plants and herbs to create tinctures, flower essences and mixtures such as Florida Water.  Vodka used as a stabiliser does not have to be "the good stuff," any bottle will do.

There are many recipes and schools of thought on the exact way to make a flower essence.  The general idea is to take a clear bowl of spring water into your garden and politely trim a few flowers (or leaves if you are using herbs) and place them in the bowl in direct sunlight for 3-8 hours.  What plants you use depends on your need and the qualities of those plants.  Please be sure to know the plants you are using and their possible toxicity! 

Strain the flower-water into a bottle and add vodka or brandy (or apple cider vinegar if you don't want to use alcohol.)  Usually 1/4 flower-water to 3/4 alcohol works.  This is then your "Mother" essence.  The idea of essences is that the more diluted they are, the more effective.  So, from the Mother, place 2-7 drops into a dosage (dropper) bottle and add stabiliser alcohol.  I like to use 1/2 spring water and 1/2 alcohol at this stage, as I allow my neices to use my essences and don't want them imbibing much.  Dosage is usually two to four drops, up to four times a day from your dosage (dropper) bottle. Or you can further dilute this mixture.

Tinctures are simply plant material plus a stabiliser placed into a dark bottle and stored for up to a month, but shaken daily.  These are then strained and taken as drops, either under the tongue or on the skin or in food or drink.  Echinacea in tincture form is something many people are familiar with.

Whether you are a martini fan or just use it in your herbal remedies, vodka is a versatile ingredient to have in your cupboard.



Feb 2, 2011

Garden-Dreaming Giveaway

The groundhog has let loose his prophesy.  No shadow.  Spring is on it's way.  My prediction:  it will still take 6 weeks to get here. 

Judging from the tweets, FB updates and blog posts regarding the storms hitting most of North America, I have to say that the groundhog is a bit off his game.  However - the sun is trying desperately to come out here, and I am about to haul out my fire pit to have a little Imbolc marshmallow roast, so I'm not going to complain.

I've also been daydreaming of all the lovely things I will plant this year in the garden.  And I know I'm not the only one garden-dreaming.  So - as a little boost to your Spring fantasies, I'm going to have a giveaway.  Up for grabs is a copy of "The Real Witches' Garden" by Kate West, some herb seeds from Saltspring Seeds, and a couple other garden goodies that will be a surprise!

As always - all you have to do to get your name thrown in the hat is to be (or become) a follower of this blog.  I will draw the name of the winner on Valentine's Day, February 14th.

Good luck and happy garden-dreaming!

Feb 1, 2011

Happy February!

Punxsutawney Phil

While the world (or rather, North America - does anyone else have this odd lore?) waits with baited breath to see what the groundhog will fortell tomorrow at dawn in respect to our Winter weather - us pagan folk are celebrating the return of the light.

In the northern hemisphere the time around February 1-2 is a potent time. On the Celtic wheel of the year it is Imbolc (meaning “in the belly” and also refers to the lactation of the ewes), which is one of the cross-quarter days falling between the Solstice and the Equinox. Imbolc marks the first day of spring in Ireland, the time when the very beginning of earth’s stirrings and awakenings from winter can be witnessed. As the days slowly lengthen and the sun makes her way higher in the sky, the ground beneath our feet begins to thaw. The earth’s belly softens and the seeds deep below slowly rumble in the darkness. New life is getting ready to sprout forth.” – Christine Valters Paintner, Patheos (via Jason at www.thewildhunt.com)

Regardless of what Punxsutawney Phil, that famous rodent prognosticator says, we will be breaking bread and toasting to the stirring of the earth.  While much of the earth - including you poor Easterners is still under a foot or more of snow - here in the West we are seeing small signs of life. 

Although I am hoping for an early Spring, my brother (a winemaker at a local vineyard/winery) tells me that my longing for warm days could be a curse for his industry.  The orchardists and viniculturists are watching the trees and grape vines to ensure we don't get too early a bud-opening, because we are prone to late frosts which could destroy crops. 

It's a real balancing-act that Nature is working through at this time of year.  I suppose I can deal with a few more cold days - if only to ensure a really good wine this Autumn!

I do wish you all a wonderful February and a blessed Imbolc.  Happy Candlemas, Groundhog Day and St. Bridget's Day to all those who celebrate on whatever day you celebrate on!  (For those who want to know astronomically which day Imbolc falls this year, check out http://www.archaeoastronomy.com/)

Also - if any of you get to Punxsutawney, PA, let me know how it was.  I've always wanted to go!

(Picture of "Phil" from http://www.groundhog.org/)