A Year of Being an Orphan

I wrote this last October 16th, but haven’t felt comfortable releasing it until now. Please feel free to comment, contact me, or pass this on!
 
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An orphan (from the Greek ὀρφανός) is a child permanently bereaved of his or her parents.[1][2] In common usage, only a child (or the young of an animal) who has lost both parents is called an orphan. However, adults can also be referred to as orphans, or “adult orphans”.

That difination comes from Wikipedia.

How much of us is wrapped up in who we are as children of our parents? For me, it was, and is, alot.

My father was fairly well known in our small towns of North Arlington and Kearny, NJ.  He had worked various part time evening jobs to supplement both my parents full time  salaries.  He was a friendly guy as well, so his evening walks for nearly 30 years to the local supermarket, and pizza joint, became walks to chat with friends each night. He would fix neighbor’s cars, and build kid’s bikes.  He loved handing out candy and being silly on Halloween. Each night around 6pm he could be found standing out in front of the house, having his nightly cigarette, chatting with who ever might be around.  My mother was the local all-around-lady.  She was the Chaplin of the EMS squad, a Crime Prevention Captain, a crossing guard, the substitute organist for her church, a lay minister doing the sermons while the minister was away, worked the election board, and had worked in the Board of Ed for years as well.  She also held the distinction of being the only Girl Scout leader to have a troop of over 65 girls who’s parents fought for the troop to stay together when the council decided it was too big for one leader and wanted to break it up.  At town events that the church participated in, there you would find my parents, one being a full member and working hard, and the other, being the dutiful husband, doing whatever he could to help make her job easier.
So most of my life I was known as “Jack’s kid” or “Grace’s daughter”.  It was good.  Without really knowing me, people assumed the best.  Stores offered me a running credit (remember when local stores did that!?) account, auto shops got me parts quicker or went to greater lengths to help me out.  I once went to cash a check at the super market, and found I had forgotten my license as ID – not to worry, the customer service clerk knew my dad, called the manager over and said “this is Jack’s kid”, and they cashed the check without further worry.

When my Dad passed away six years ago yesterday, part of the shock for me was, I felt, that I was no longer “Jack’s kid” in some way. That his passing meant I would never hear that again.  And in many ways, that is the case.  We moved my mother to my home within three months of my dad passing.  Thirty-five miles away from the towns that they were known and loved in.  Away from the church, the police department, the emergency squad, the super market, the pizzeria, the neighbors, the friends.  But my mother quickly rebounded and made friends here.  She was amazing like that; she could make people love her and want to be friends with her in the drop of a hat.  She joined the church here.  She became a deacon within six months.  She got to know the local cops, and would sit and wave to them during the day.  The local pizza place got to know her name as well.  Our doctor, who was now her doctor as well, loved her visits and the whole office would be in bent-over laughter when she was there.  Even my neighbors became friends with her, inviting her into their homes for chats.  When she became ill and had to go to live in the nursing home, she again, became friends very quickly with the staff and other residents.  In a short three years, I was “Grace’s daughter” to everyone again.  It became my official title when dealing with doctors and medicare and the nursing home; “Hi, this is Terry, Grace’s daughter”.

The day my mother passed I went from the hospital to the nursing home.  I knew I had to pick up certain items and thought I could handle it.  I couldn’t.  The social worker met Michael and I in the hall, embraced me and offered her sympathies.  She pulled out a set of keys and un-locked the door to my mother’s room.  My knees buckled and I lost control of my emotions.  I never made it into the room that day.  Nurses and other residents came to see me in the social workers office.  They brought me tea and sat with me while I cried.  I could hear a few voices in the hall, and I heard it clearly that day “that’s Grace’s daughter”, when someone would ask who was crying.

About three months later, the nursing home had a service for those residents who had passed the previous year.  They invited family and friends to attend, and all residents were there.  We went, and they kindly asked each family member to come up and place a rose in a vase that signifed the full life that we remember.  Afterwards there was a small coffee/tea and cake reception.  Many women came up to me, without the hesitency that we associate to politness, but with a decidedly warm familiarity, reached out for my hand and said, “you’re Grace’s daughter, she was a wonderful woman, I miss her”.  The music director stepped up to me, telling me a sweet story about finding my mother sitting at the piano one afternoon after the normal afternoon music hour, trying to make her now painful hands play the notes they knew so well years before.  She ended the conversation with, “she was a fun and wonderful lady, and loved you very much, she talked about you all the time.  She was proud to be your mother.”  Terry’s mother.

A year has passed since my mother’s passing.  I miss her every day.  I miss even the lunches at the nursing home, the walks in their garden as she clung to my arm.
A hug that said, “thank you for spending time with me”

But I am now coming into my own being. While I am still very much “Jack’s kid”, or “Grace’s daughter”, and always will be, I don’t hear it anymore.

I am now more focused on making sure the grandchildren don’t forget them. I cherish each silly habit or tradiaiton they had. I  have associated myself more with the things that were important to them, trying to keep that part of them alive.

A year of being an orphan has been difficult, it has been painful and a learning experience.  I will continue to learn to be “Terry” without the added title associating me as my parent’s child.  And I will continue to miss it.  But I have survived.  That is something I would have told you ten years ago I could never do.  I could never be here, without them.

Published in: on June 7, 2011 at 7:23 pm  Comments (1)  
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To Blog….to blog new…to a new blog? Just write! lol

*sigh* Decisions are never easy ones for me to make.
I really suck at decisions.
I moved most of the posts here from my well followed My Space blog over a year ago, and have done very little with it since.
I have two other blogs set up, on another site, which I have not used as of yet.
I broke the three down in my head like this:
Misty Words – personal ramblings.
The Wild Strega – stuff about being a Strega (duh), and gardening for magic, and “witchy” kind of things.
The Teapot Cottage – original concept was a post a week, featuring a teapot out of the collection, some history on it and then an insightful twist or two, maybe some gardening and recipes here too.

I have enough ideas to fill them all, but no energy or time to write them!
So what shall I do?

What I was thinking about doing is writing as I can for all three, but not “publishing” the other two until I feel they are ready – until I have a few posts on each.

I have to get moving on recipe I promised someone a few months back though…..that first! lol

Published in: on June 7, 2011 at 1:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wow! This Soap is JUST RIGHT!

As women we tend to buy health and beauty products without reserve.  Go into a mall and you’ll be lured into shops by the scents of patcholui and cinnamon, lemon and apple.  Stop in boutique areas and there is always a local “soaps and lotions” retailer hawking their wares.  Browse through any metaphysical shop and you will eventually come across the soaps, lotions, and potions of a magical crafter.  Head down the isles at Walmart, Target, Kohl’s or even Macy’s and be inticed by new scents, by promises of soft skin, sweet aromas and alluring men with just the use of their products! But sometimes, if you are very lucky, you will find one that makes all the others fade like last year’s “it” pop star.  I was just that lucky.

Dreaming Tree Soap Works.  Just that simple.

Let me tell you about them; Jennifer and Meghan. The sweetest ladies you’ll find, and so obviously talented in what they do! I first kind of fell across them at Central Jersey Pagan Pride Day. You couldn’t help but be lured over to their tables – the scent wafted on the warm summer air. We silly folk were gathered around, all with bars of soap to our noses! Each hand filled we would sniff, exclaim, and pass to the person next to us! “Oooo smell this one!” was heard over and over. I had my daughters with me, so this was a true shopping trip to their table, as getting away without buying would be just about as hard as turning back the tides! And so, buy I did. Two large bars called Just Right, another large bar called Under the Lemon Moon, and one last called Storm. Placed into brown paper bags that let the scents mingle and waft out at me all day, I couldn’t wait to get home and try them!

We used Storm first. Dreaming Tree Soap Works does something wrong – they make BIG bars – they last a long time – which means we don’t order as often – but this first bar went quickly! With four women in the house, we all wanted to use it, all the time! It made the rounds from the shower on the first floor, to the sink in the kitchen to the tub on the second floor! Before I knew it, it was gone!

We moved on to open up a Just Right in the second floor bathroom, and an Under the Lemon Moon in the shower. We loved them both, but my daughter Jackie especially loved the lemon bar! It seemed in just two weeks of using it, the summer break outs she was experiencing on her collar bone area cleared up! She truly believes it was the soap! The Just Right upstairs gave the room a nice warm and inviting scent and lathered so well that I had to make sure it was rinsed off before putting it down, otherwise it would slide wherever the suds took it! I took a bar of Just Right with me to an event in another state, and couldn’t have been happier to have it with me!
By the time late September came around, we were out of our lovely soaps! But Dreaming Tree was just announcing a new product, shampoo bars!
Now, my daughters and I were hooked on shampoo bars so I had to order one!
So, along comes another event, South Jersey Pagan Pride Day.
Jennifer was great in seeking me out to try the new shampoo bar, since I had written to her about trying it! I picked up another two Just Right bars as well.

Heading home we smelled wonderful again! lol

I have to admit, the shampoo bar, called Mary Jane, wasn’t a hit here. I think we had gotten used to the super lather of Lush’s Godiva Shampoo Bar, and Mary Jane fell a bit short with that. Loved the scent, and it did the job, but the girls didn’t rave about this one. But then we began fighting over the two Just Right bars!

In December, I believe, Dreaming Tree announced a contest on their Facebook page. They were taking suggestions for a lotion scent. If you entered, your name was put in to a hat. The winner would receive the lotion they suggested. Now, you all know I cook ALOT, and I garden, and I am Italian. I opted to suggest something outside the “norm”; Olive Oil, Basil and Lemon. I forgot all about the contest. A few weeks later I got a note from Megan – I had won! I was so excited, and grateful for that, as well as the reminder that I needed to place an order!
I ordered two Storm bars, a Dragon bar, a Siren of The Sea Spa bar and a Dark Goddess Shaving Bar.
They arrived super quick!

We love them all! They are kept on the shelf in the 1st floor bath, so you can pick the one you would like for your shower!

The Dreaming Tree shelf!

I love Storm, of course, I’ve had it before and just love the hyacinth scent in it, with hints of heather and the softness of coconut oil!
After shoveling a few days back, I needed a pamper me and warm me up shower, so I did a tandem shower using the Siren of the Sea to ease sore muscles with natural sea salts, and Dragon to invoke a warmth with it’s Dragon Blood, almond oil, Patchouli and pomegranate.

Breathe in the warmth of Dragon!

I’ve found a little trick to help the soaps last longer – see the piece of foil there? (I know, the photo isn’t the best, sorry)

using foil lengthens the life of the soap!

, I put a piece of folded foil in the bathroom before my shower, slip off the paper sleeve and use the soap. When I’m done, I let the soap drip dry for a few moments in the shower stall, then take it out and place it on the foil. After it has dried, I place the paper band back on, and put it back on the metal shelf. Eventually the band won’t fit anymore, so I’ll just place the soap on top of it.

Before going out the other night, I used the Dark Goddess Shave Bar for the first time. Let me tell you right off, I will never use another thing to shave my legs with! Wow! Lots of suds, but not the fluffy, rinse down your leg kind, the deep, dense foamy suds you want to lather up before shaving. And smooth! Wow!! And the Scent! Wow wow!! Love it love it!!

Storm and Dark Goddess Shave Bar

Today I received another package from Dreaming Tree Soap Works – the lotion and a little surprise!

Special delivery form Dreaming Tree Soap Works!


I was so excited!! The package had been in the box outside for a few hours, so the lotion was freezing cold! I wanted to try it so badly! I dropped the bottle in a bowl of warm water! lol And Meghan sent me a sweet little note and a sample of Wicked Queen soap too! I don’t know what is in Wicked Queen, but it smells simply wonderful! Can’t wait to try it tonight! The lotion – well! I do hope they decide to make this as a regular product! This is the lotion I have been looking for! This little bottle will not last me long, and I would love to have a pump bottle of this in my kitchen all year long! It is just fantastic! These ladies know their stuff! Just the right amount of this and a little amount of this – the perfect balance!

Special for me, from the Labworks at Dreaming Tree!

My only two pieces of advice for Meghan and Jen are these: while rotating and coming up with new items is great, be sure to keep a few standards that your customers can always count on getting from you, there is nothing so frustrating than finding the “perfect” product only to find it has been discontinued, and; lotions lotions lotions! Your soap scents are so wonderful, but they leave me wanting more after a shower or bath – follow up with matching lotions to complete the experience!

There is little these ladies can’t do with soaps – I encourage you to head over to their site now, pick out a few and try them for yourselves. Valentines Day is coming soon, Dreaming Tree Soap Works is the perfect gift to say you care!!

Published in: on February 2, 2011 at 12:38 am  Comments (1)  
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Butternut Squash and Leek Soup with Big Parmesan Croutons!

I’ve been promising this recipe for almost two weeks now – life just gets real hectic around here this time of year and while I had good intentions, every time I sat down to blog – welp – something came up! lol

So here is the recipe with some step-by-step pics, as usual.  This recipe came to me via my friend Roxy.  She mentioned making it and I was intrigued.  I have two other butternut squash soup recipes I’ve made, and was never quite happy with them.  I had planned to do some tweaking with them this year, but then Roxy’s recipe came to me and I thought I’d try this one out, as well as tweak it as I go.

SO let’s get started….

Here’s the ingredients list:

2 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks about 1/2′ to 1′

1 pound apples – Roxy’s recipe calls for Macintosh, my store was out, I used Red and Granny Smith

2 leeks, cleaned well, cut into slices 1′ thick

4 large cloves of garlic (whole)

2 tbls fresh chopped sage

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg

sea salt and fresh cracked pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

dry white wine – snob standard here – if you wouldn’t drink it in a glass, why would you cook with it?  Don’t use those cooking wines they sell in the super market.  I used a nice Austrian white, Weingut Schuberth, Gruener Veltliner 2003.  It’s a dry white, with a peppery finish.

chicken broth

half and half

For the croutons you’ll need: 1 loaf Italian bread from the bakery/store bread shop, fresh parmesan cheese for grating, fresh cracked pepper, fresh chopped parsley and fresh grated nutmeg.

Here’s my shopping done:

All ingredients fresh from the store or cupboard!

Now, as we discussed in a previous post, I am a bit of a food snob.  I use higher end ingredients most of the time, and I prefer my snobbish tools! lol  But the reason for this is very basic – you really want the best for your family when it comes to food.  I can skimp and buy packages of t-shirts and underwear at K-mart or WalMart, but I don’t skimp on my family’s food or how it is prepared!  With that being said, there is a very important first step to making any recipe like this that requires alot of chopping and cutting – sharpening your knives!

final stage sharpening on the chef's knife

The most dangerous thing in the kitchen (right after a kitten under foot), is dull blades.  When your blades are dull you push and strain more, blades slip, cuts happen.  Sharpening your blades keeps your knives in top performance shape and keeps you safe!  All my knives are Wustoff and they get sharpened about once a month, more if I’m doing alot of chopping or cutting or slicing work.  I use a nice electric three stage sharpener.  If you don’t have a sharpener for your blades, it would be a great addition to your “Honey I would love this” list for the holidays!  You may think you’re treating yourself, but in reality, you are protecting yourself and making your work in the kitchen flow quicker and easier.

Now that my blades are all sharpened (btw, I always rinse off my blades after sharpening and then wipe them with a soft cloth – some folks don’t and sharpening tool’s instructions don’t say to do that – but when you sharpen you end up with powdered metal on the blades – you don’t want that in your food), it is time to start prepping the ingredients.

Obviously the squash comes first!  A butternut squash may look intimidating, but it really isn’t! When you go shopping, you’ll want to find squash that are firm to the touch all the way around, soft spots are a no go.  The skin should have a nice even color, but don’t worry about rough spots on it, it doesn’t affect the inside.  The stem spot, or the stem if still attached, should look green or tan, but not black.  The skin is actually very thin and can be peeled with a vegetable peeler.  I have a nice Kitchen Aid peeler that works wonderfully; it has just the right amount of heft to it for me, sits comfortably in my hand and the blades are nice and sharp.  The first step here is to cut off the top of the squash, about 1′ down.  Then cut about 1′ in on the bottom as well.  Keeping the squash on its side, cut it in half.  Stand each of those two pieces up now, and cut each of them in half as well. You should now have four pieces, two with the seeds and string in them.  Scoop this out with a large spoon, scraping well it remove any of the stringy flesh.  Now you can peel using a vegetable peeler or a paring knife.  Be sure to get to the orange flesh all the way around.  You may find you’ll have to go over it one or two times to remove the green veins that are just under the skin.

two halves on the board, showing upper half beginning to be peeled

you can still see some green veining, be sure to get that all off!

be sure to clean out like this!

Once all that is done, you can chop into 1′ pieces!

squash all prepped!

The next task is the leeks!  Now leeks are one of my favorite veggies.  They have a wonderful flavor and are pretty easy to work with, you just have to be sure to clean them really well!  Leeks are grown in sandy soil, and alot of that soil is still between the layers when you buy them.

leeks pre-wash

The first thing I do is cut the root ball off about an inch in, like this:

cut root balls off

Then the tops get cut the same way;

tops cut and ready for 1st rinse

Now I rinse them well in cold water.

1st rinse

Cut them lengthwise in half;

cut in half and ready for a good washing!

You can see all the sand and dirt in-between now.  I rinse under cold running water by holding one end and fanning out the layers.  I run my fingers along each layer to make sure all the grit is out.

final rinsing done, all clean and ready to chop!

Now you can go ahead and chop the leeks into 1 inch pieces.  I added in two shallots, lightly chopped here as well.

leeks chopped and ready

After I got the leeks done, I worked on the apples.  Coring them well, peeling and then cutting up.

apples prepped

I chopped up the sage;

fresh sage from the garden

chopped sage

All the chopping and cutting and peeling are now done.  Pre-heat your oven to 425°F.

You’ll need a large rimmed baking sheet or jelly roll pan.  I used two heavy-duty jelly roll pans.  Toss all the chopped items together, and season with salt and pepper.  Lightly drizzle olive oil over them, and toss to coat.   Add in sage and the cumin and toss again to coat.   Now toss in the 4 peeled, whole, garlic cloves.   (I cut the root ends off the garlic cloves first). Arrange all of this on the pan(s), and spread it out as much as possible.  These will go into your oven for about 30 minutes, until fork tender and tinged with gold and brown.  Half way through I did pull them out and flip the veggies a bit to make sure they roasted evenly.

ready for the oven

the aroma in the house while this roasts is wonderful! Someone should make a candle that smells this good!

While these are in the oven, it’s time to cut up the loaf of Italian bread.

nice crusty loaf from the bakery

cut into 1/2 inch to 1 inch cubes

Put these aside for now.

the veggies out of the oven

I have to admit, at this stage, I snatched a few pieces of the squash and just ate it like that!  SO yummy!   Once this is out, turn your oven down to 325°F.

Now we get to the part I love!  There are no real measurements here, you go on taste and texture preference!

Using a food processor or a good blender, begin scraping all of the veggies (in batches if you need), into the bowl and process it until you get a nice puree.  Be sure to scrape all of the browned bits on the pan(s), the rich carmelized pan scrapings lend a deep note to the flavor.  Now you want to get this puree to a smooth, but still thick, texture.  Do this by slowly, while processing, adding the chicken broth.  I ended up using about 10-12 ounces to get it to a thick puree with a smooth texture.

into the food processor

Move this into a large sauce pot on the stove, over a low flame.  Now you have to taste!  After you have tasted a bit, grate just a small (about 1 tsp) of nutmeg into the mix, and beginning slowly (by the ounce) adding your nice dry white wine.  Taste, taste, taste.  At this point I liked the flavor, stopped adding wine and began adding half-and-half to thin it just a bit, but give it a velvet smoothness.  Once you have this to the consistency you like, bring it to a very low simmer and cover.   The reason I stress that this is all by “taste” is that some folks like creamed soups very thick.  I have been served creamed soups at fine restaurants that could be spread on a cracker!  My eldest daughter likes creamed soups rather, well, soupy!  It is all up to your taste and preference.

into the pot, smooth, but thick still

While your soup is warming through mix together about 1/2 cup of good parmesan cheese, grated finely, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg, 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper.  Put your cubed bread into a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.  Now sprinkle the mixed herbs and cheese, and toss well again.  Spread these out on the pan you used for the veggies.  This goes into the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the cubes have just begun to toast nicely.

cheese, nutmeg, pepper and parsley

croutons coming out of the oven

Once these are done, you’re ready to serve.  Check your soup, and if it has thickened up a bit, add more half-and-half until it comes to the consistency you like.  Ladle into shallow bowls and sprinkle a handful of the croutons on top!  A grating of more cheese would go wonderfully as well!

Roxy mentions sour cream as a topper, I’ll have to try that!  This soup freezes well.  I served it in my white soup bowls as I wanted the deep color to shine!

serve with croutons and a swirl of cream!

Hope you try this and enjoy it as much as my family did!  Always taste and adjust to your liking!  Please let me know if you try it and what variations you come up with!

Published in: on November 12, 2010 at 4:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes (Turn and face the strain)

Grrrr…ka-bang. Crash. Growl.

 

That is how I feel right now.  Just going to vent here for a moment and then get back to business.

I wanted to make this blog look more like, well, like ME.  More like my concept, more like my intent, more like my personality.  WordPress will not allow me to do that.  WordPress has 104 “themes” you can use, and that is all you can use.  You can upgrade to a $15.00 yearly membership that allows you to edit css, but you still can’t upload or import a theme.  There are folks out there who will do a full css theme for you, that overlays the most basic of WP themes so it will work.  The charge upwards of $200 to do that.

So, I decided that I would switch over to blogger/blogspot.  I’ve had an account there for years, just never used it.

Great.  Set it up.  Exported all the stuff here.  WP exports in a funky extension file format.  Thats fine.  There is a converter for that.  Convert the file to the XML format that Blogger recognizes.

Blogger has errors in uploading it.  Are you kidding me!?  Tried every fix everyone you can imagine on the help forums and other places suggest.  Nope.

So, here is what is left for me: use Blogger and a nice theme that reflects more of who I am, but lose all my prior posts, or, stay here, with great functionality I was getting used to, all my old posts to build upon, but a sucky looking page.  For now, I’m staying here.  *sigh* Stay tuned, I may change my mind! lol

 

Published in: on November 10, 2010 at 4:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

You’ve Cleaned and Cleansed…now clean out!

After doing alot of the work I described to you in my last entry, I realized I left out something.  Cleaning OUT!

It always amazes me when things pile up.   I know I put something down somewhere just for a minute, just for a day, just until next week.  How did that small item turn into a grouping, a pile, how did the dust end up surrounding it?

If you are like me, you have a lot of “stuff” you’re never sure what to do with.  I will go out and purchase something for a project we’ll say, and then not know where I want to put that item until I work on the project, until I finish the project, until the next time I’m doing a project like it.  I do the same with piles of books! I am always reading four or five books at a time.  When I am done with them, I tend to put them somewhere so I can “organize” them at a later date – but that date never seems to come and I add to the pile as other books are read.  Photos! Yes, I sometimes still get prints, and if you have kids in school you get packs of school pictures as well – where to put them all!

The list goes on and on, so I thought I would give you some ideas of places to clean out, organize, un-clutter and toss about and out!

Let’s start with some of the areas I mentioned above:

One of the ten bookshelves in my house…

This one needs serious cleaning out!

Now as you can see, this one has small paint bottles on it, a drum, papers, binders, etc.  A quick cleaning out and organizing will make this a great “easy find” bookshelf!

I also have books and things piled up in other locations….

wow! These really shouldn't be here!

These are very old books for sale thru one of my businesses….but they have sat in this spot, on my back stairs, for the better part of two months – time to get them re-listed, put away safely and hopefully sold!  If you have books you don’t want to keep, but you’re like me and the thought of throwing out a book makes your hands burn like lava, then there are a few options for you:  try giving them to your local library!   You can also try Freecycle
Even your local High School may take them, mine does a book sale every year to raise funds for the senior class!

Have you looked at your media cabinet lately? Yikes! I opened mine today, and this is what I found:

We watched/played ALL these!?

And where did all that dust come from?!  This needs a good cleaning out.  I’ll bet there are some old kiddie movies in there too, the local day care might like those.  The library would certainly take some of these.

I showered this morning and opened the under sink cabinet, that was a mistake!

it's scary in there!

I think all of us have this.   The dreaded bathroom cabinet!  Funny, but it only takes a few minutes to clean this one out – so why did I let it get this bad!?

And speaking of cabinets that are scary, have any of you looked at your “plastic ware” lately!?

if you close the door quickly, it all stays in!

A good standard with this stuff is if it is discolored or has an odor to it – toss it.  Disposable ones at the super market are cheap enough nowadays, and while I don’t like throwing plastic away, they can be made into storage for items under the sink in the bathroom! lol

Here’s that dreaded box of photos I mentioned:

a shoebox of memories

I have at least four of these.   This is a good project for the winter.  I’ll actually have a blog on this in a few weeks – organizing your memories – so watch for that!

One area we ladies tend to neglect is our make up cases, drawers, boxes, etc.  I have a Caboodle box, and it needs to be cleaned out!

hey - it's not THAT much!

Mascaras should be tossed every three months or less, depending on use.  Lipsticks only stay good for about a year.  Eye shadows, while good for a long time, tend to pile up because we either aren’t thrilled with how they look on us but bought it so we won’t throw it out; got bored with the color after a while; or are keeping it for that “special” night out.  Go through that bunch and throw them out!  Use a basic time line to determine what goes – if I haven’t used it in more than six months – it goes.  Trust me, you’ll be walking along the aisle and see that one perfect shade you’ll just love for the holidays/spring/that party, and you’ll be free to pick up up, guilt free, since you don’t have that many at home anymore!

And while we’re on the subject of makeup – don’t forget to clean all your brushes!

these need cleaning on a regular basis!

Makeup brushes should be cleaned often.  You can use a commercial brush cleaner, like you see here, or you can use alittle mineral oil to get all the stubborn stuff out, then a mild soap (homemade would be great!) and clean them well so no oil residue is left.  I rinse well with spring water and then let them air dry.   Try standing them in a vase in a sunny window, brushes up, and they’ll dry nicely.

Now, for the magical types – I bet you have these areas to clean out as well:

My private magical cabinet – wow – needs a good organizing!

over stuffed!

The jars in here need to be organized, and there are some herbs I simply don’t use anymore – those jars can be cleaned out, labels soaked off, and re-used.   All the candles and things on the bottom need to be taken out, cleaned up, and organized so they aren’t piled on top of one another and are easy to find.

I also have an incense drawer and a candle drawer in my altar table – hmmm……maybe I should go through these as well?

it smells lovely in here!

like opening a drawer of rainbows...

Fall is always a good time to clean out closets and drawers of clothing as well.   As I change over my wardrobe from summer to fall/winter clothing I keep in mind folks that might like, or need, the things I let sit in the closet gathering dust.

fairly neat, but still has more to give...

This is a great time to offer these extra items to Goodwill, or to call a pick up service like Pick Up Please.

Also on my list is some place alot of us don’t think of – our plant friends!

clean them out too!

I bring in my house plants for the winter, and now that they’re in here, they probably need a good cleaning out as well.  Clean off dead leaves, trim back anything that looks like it is struggling so the rest of the plant can thrive.  Use a fork to loosen up the soil and add some good enriched potting soil and “till” it in well.  (just be sure not to fork till too deep – you don’t want to hurt tender roots!)  Water and put them some place they’ll be happy!

And lastly on my list today – the spirits cabinet!  A lot of these where bought for parties from a few years ago, or to try a new drink idea, and were never touched again – time to pour them out!

oh boy - we could have a party!

Now of course there are other areas you’ll think of, but don’t let the idea of cleaning out overwhelm you.  Make a list for yourself, then tackle one a week.   Take your time, and be brutally honest with yourself as you go.   Do you really use this?  Can you really justify holding to that?   Make yourself three piles while doing this chore; Keeping, Giving/Going, and Maybe.   Once you are done with the first two piles, take a long hard look at the Maybe pile.   It may be that you do want to keep those things, but thats ok, you did a great job already! May be you’ll find that no, you really don’t need them now, in light of the other pile you just discarded, great!   Good for you!

Cleaning out is hard work, both physically and emotionally sometimes.  But it leaves us open, to accept that small gift from a favorite niece.   To purchase that book you really didn’t have room on the shelf for before.   To allow that plant to grow better.   To see a small child smile watching an old movie!

Good luck on your cleaning out.  Let me know how it goes.  I’ll do the same!

Have a great day folks!

Published in: on November 3, 2010 at 3:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

New Year Cleaning – Magical and Physical

Today is the first day of the New Year for any of those folks who identify themselves as Pagan. Our Wheel of the Year has turned fully and we begin anew today.
Everything we have experienced for the past year is officially in the past now! We are free to begin planning for the new year, for new experiences, setting dates to do rituals, see friends, attend events.

With that in mind, you can see why this is a good time to think about cleansing your space – whether that be your room, your home, your office or your creative space (a den, workshop, garage, etc.). It is time to get rid of the influences of the past year, to shake off the negativity that has built up, to dust the unseen places, to unclutter yourself and your space both physically and spiritually.

The veil between the worlds, that we talk about bringing our ancestors so close to us at Samhain,  is still very thin – hey – they’re not Cinderella! They didn’t go “poof* at midnight! This is a great advantage to do this kind of work. Your loved ones, your ancestors are here and can help you gain energy and strength for the year ahead.  They can assist in cleaning!  Think of them as your personal spirit cleaning crew!

I’m going to talk specifically about cleaning the house, but you are welcome to use any of these ideas for any space you need to clean!  These are my ideas, and methods, and some may work for you, while others may not.  Please feel free to use my suggestions as a guideline to form your own way of working this special cleansing magic!  I would love to hear from folks on how they did theirs, and how it went!

So, I start from the top.  We all know energy tends to reside up ^.  Hence why we use incense smoke to bring our wishes upward towards the Gods.  Why we raise our hands during rituals.  We look to the energy created by the Sun and the Moon.  We are always looking up.  How many times have you heard “Keep your head up”, “Keep looking up!”, “How uplifting!”, “Look on the bright side!” (the sun!) – all these are sayings that bring us back to my point – energy bundles itself up high – like hot air rises.  Start from the top.  For me that means the second floor of the house.

Magical cleansing for me goes hand in hand with physical cleaning.  When you un-clutter your space, when you make things neat, when you dust away the cobwebs, and vacuum up the crumbs, you clear space for a peaceful spirit to reside in you, with you and around you.  An uncluttered space allows you time to breathe.  Instead of being confronted with “all these things to do/take care of/organize/work on”, you now have time to think them through, time to decide for yourself, without guilt, what you will use your time and energy on.

I start in the second floor bathroom – a good straightening up (three girls live here – do you know what that bathroom looks like after one day of makeup and hair!?), and then a nice wipe down. Everything gets it – toilet, sink, tub, vanity tops, window sills, molding, picture frames. Now I’ll light a nice candle, to scent the air, to give me calm vibes, and to celebrate the freshly cleaned space!  For my second floor, I don’t do the girls rooms. That is their personal space and I don’t invade it in this manner.  But I do the front hallway a bit in the same manner as the bathroom.  Then I move to my bedroom.

Bedrooms are very important.  They are the most personal room in your house.  That room is the last thing you see as you close your eyes to rest, the first you see when you open your eyes from dreams.  This is where you go to lie down when you are ill, where you make love, where you conceive your children (well, lets just go with that ok adventurous ones?), where you give birth (if you lived some time ago or if you are doing home births…) and welcome new life, where you go to cry in your pillow and where many of us hope to pass on in our sleep.  This room carries so much energy!  If you could see through glasses that display energy patterns you would see zig zags of multi-colored energy zipping all over this room!  If you could see it, it might look like this.  Although even that gives an illusion of order and calmness – which no bedroom energy, without regular cleansings, is!
What you will be aiming for is more like this.
So, a good cleaning in here as well.
I work my way down stairs and do the same in each room; straightening up, putting things away, then dusting, vacuuming, mopping, etc.

Now comes the magical side of the process.  Again, I start upstairs.  My personal altar is upstairs, next to my bedroom in the hall.  It faces East, the direction of the Sun Rise, the direction of the new day, the direction of the air.  I stand here and meditate for a few moments.  I try to clear my mind of anything that is cluttering it up that might deter me from my task at hand.  Now here you may personalize this step – some may want to cast a circle – but I don’t feel that is necessary for this.  I am not doing craft work that requires focused energy to one item or working, but of course, that is for each of us to decide.  I will light a brand new white candle.  I will ask my patron Goddess, Diana, to assist me in preparing my home for the new year, I will ask her to assist my ancestors to be near me and help me in this task.  I’ll ground myself and begin visualizing a ball of white energy within me, starting at the lower belly – the womb, the area that brings new life and holds our creativity (even if, like me you do not have a uterus any longer – this energy still resides there).  This area is commonly known as the Second Chakra.  This is the seat of energy and the Chi. I allow that ball of white light to grow and glow within me, and it is this energy I’ll use to do all the rest of the work.

Now, there are a number of ways to do this cleansing depending on your circumstances. I have to use a few different methods in my home.
These are the tools I use:
A Besom (broom for magical work) -

Three of my besoms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ceremonial White Sage for smudging -

my abalone shell and white sage

 

 

 

 

 

 

A white feather for wafting the sage smoke upwards and out -

My feather smudger

 

 

 

 

 

 

An all natural magical spray for the areas I can’t use the sage in (I have birds, and any kind of smoke can kill them quickly) -

Wee Witches Magical cottage Wash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And lastly, some black salt to seal in the cleansing and afford some protection from anything coming back in that is negative -

Wee Witches Black Salt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are looking for black salt to purchase, I suggest Mrs. B’s Brews and Baubles.  I do make black salt for home use, and I do sell it as well, but only in Wee Witches Cleansing kits, so I don’t step on my friends toes!  She puts alot of work, energy and love into her items, and you can be sure they are powerful!

 

You may want to use moon charged water, or your preferred incense over the sage.  It really is up to you.

From here the method is pretty simple, I’ll tell you how I work.  I put on some music I love.  Depending on how I’m feeling it could be something soothing like a Jenna Greene cd, or it could be something that will get me moving and almost entrance me with the beating of drums, such as The Gypsy Nomads .  Both, admittedly, recent acquaintances and friends.

Once my energy is glowing and my ears are filled with the sounds I need, the process moves quickly; each room, starting from the top of the house down, gets a sweeping from my besom.  Always outwards at the doors and windows – it is important you sweep in this manner – broom down, sweep out, pick up broom, touch down again and sweep out – never back and forth!  As I do this I am saying something like; ” I sweep out all things negative.  With this action I clear my home and make room for light and love and peace.  So mote it be!”  Then each room gets a smudging at the door ways and windows (or a quick spritz of the cleansing spray and a wipe), working backwards toward the doorway when leaving a room.  After each smudging I sprinkle a small bit (it goes a long way – remember this is magical salt – each grain is infused with power) of black salt in the window jams, or at doorways that lead outside. “With this salt I protect this house and the people who reside here.  Only those with love and peace in their heart may enter, only light may stay!”

When you are completely done, you will want to cleanse yourself in case you’ve picked up any of the negative energies as you swept them out.  Smudge your tools, or set them out to be cleansed by the moonlight.  (This coming Saturday night is a New Moon – which would be a great time to do this).
Ground yourself again, and then give thanks to your God or Goddess and your ancestors for helping you today.

I like to make a nice dinner on the day I do this, and try to get the family to sit together for it.  If that is impossible, at least make sure they all have a plate and know that the food you made is filled with your love.

This New Year cleaning can be done anytime of course, but it is especially powerful right now, and for the next few days. I hope you’ve found this helpful!
Brightest Blessings for a wonderful New Year!

Published in: on November 1, 2010 at 4:51 pm  Comments (1)  

Spiced Pumpkin Bread to warm the spirits!

I promised a new recipe.  While this is far from a “new food” recipe, it is a recipe I’ve played with a bit and made “new”.

Show of hands, how many of you know I’m a food snob?! Yeah, thought so.  Put your hands down, they’ll hurt if you hold them like that too long.  Ok, I am.  If there is one area I could bankrupt my family  – it is at the grocery store.  I’ll do most of the food shopping at Stop and Shop, but I will go to A&P for Iced Tea mix, and I will hit Kings for bakery breads, fresh fish and seafood and produce.  Speciality baking ingredients will come from Williams Sonoma or King Arthur Bread Company. If I really am making something special, or need an ingredient that I can’t find locally, I’ve been known to drive over to SoHo in NYC and hit up the Dean and Deluca on Broadway.

Why that explanation of my food snobbery? Because it explains the ingredient list for this recipe, and any future recipes as well.  You need not use the same brands I do – I am sure your recipe will turn out just as well.  These are just my preferences after many years of trial and error with various brands and ingredients.  Remember, it is all about taste – if you like how it tastes, then you’ve done fine with what you used.

The original recipe had this ingredient list (Bon Appétit November 1995)

3 cups sugar

1 cup veg oil

1 16 oz. can solid pack pumpkin

3 cups flour

1 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

They list the standard directions of beating sugar, oil and egg together.  Sifting dry ingredients together and then combining.  Bake in a 350 oven for 1 hour.

This makes two nice loaves.  They are very sweet, and little else.

Here’s mine, with directions;

1 1/2 Cups sugar + 3 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 cup melted and cooled salted butter

3 large eggs

1 16 oz. can of Libby’s Solid Pack Pumpkin (be sure not to get the pumpkin pie mix!)

1 1/2 cup King Arthur All Purpose White Flour

1 1/2 cup King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 scant tsp fresh ground nutmeg *

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp Rumford baking powder*

1/2 tsp Nielsen-Massey Pure Vanilla Extract*

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Spray or grease and flour two 9 X 5 X 3-inch loaf pans.  You’ll need two bowls, a fine whisk, a spoon and a rubber scraper.  No need to dirty the mixer on this one!

Beat sugars and butter together.  One at a time, add the eggs, making sure not to get any shell in and beating by hand between each.  Beat this all together until pale yellow and creamy.  Add the pumpkin and vanilla, mix well.  Set this bowl aside.

Combine the two flours in a bowl, and use the whisk to mix them together well.  Add each of the spices, whisking well after each.  Add baking powder and soda and whisk well.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet in three batches, mixing well and being sure to scrap the bottom of the bowl well.  At this time, if you wish, you can put an “add in” ingredient – 1/2 cup of dried cranberries goes really well, a cup of chopped walnuts, shelled and toasted pumpkin seeds (I’d only add about 1/4 cup of those), or for a decadent treat, a 1/2 cup of chocolate chips!

Whatever you add in, be sure to  mix it well.  Divide the batter between the two loaf pans and bake on the center rack for 1 hour.

This is a great tasting loaf for a not too sweet dessert with some vanilla bean ice cream on the side! I like it even better the next morning, toasted lightly and brushed with honey for breakfast with my tea!

And here’s my notes about the recipe:

I changed the sugar amount because I didn’t want a dessert only loaf.  My version is subtly sweet, not sugar sweet.  I use salted butter instead of sweet cream in almost all my baking.  I find it silly to buy both.  I simply decrease the amount of salt called for in the recipe.  You *DO* need salt in baking, it makes the baking soda and powder work.  I only use Libby’s pumpkin.  You can get store brands, but I’ve tried them and found them watery.  I like the added benefits of whole wheat, so I try to modify most of my recipes for whole wheat flour inclusion.  King Arthur Whole Wheat is a nice light weight whole wheat, with a soft, sweet smell and taste compared to some store brand whole wheat flours.  I use a *scant* tsp of nutmeg because I grind mine on the spot in a small stainless steel grater I purchased at Dean and Deluca many years ago.  Fresh ground spices do make all the difference in recipes.  Because of nutmeg’s bright flavor, you need less if it is fresh.   Rumford is a great baking powder.  I have never had a “stale batch” and everything I use it is rises very well.  I used a small bit of vanilla to soften the flavors and smooth the “edges” of the spices out.  I’ve tried alot, and I do mean ALOT of different vanilla extracts – and by far I prefer Nielsen-Massey.  It is expensive though, so I am careful with it and use it sparingly.


These are the loaves I baked today.  They don’t last long.  They do freeze well if you think you can cool them and get them in a ziploc bag before the family gets ahold of them! lol

I’m not real good at the decorating cakes, or the perfect presentation stuff, but I do love to bake!  Enjoy, let me know what you did with it!

Published in: on October 14, 2010 at 11:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

10/10/10 On and off? Make a List!

Once upon a time (a  loooong time ago), in a land not so far away (about 35 miles), I was a “Senior Internet Solutions Coordinator” for a very large internet company.

Later, working for an even larger company I became a “Senior Sales Engineer, Strategic Partnerships”.

What does this mean to today’s title?  It means that when I saw all the posts all over the place about the date being important, what I saw was binary code.  Yep, I’m that boring!  On off/on off/on off.  Now try to follow me here.  On and off is my life.  I am on, and doing and going and being.  Then suddenly OFF.  And I can be off for days at a time.  So I make lists.   My lists work to keep me on for as long as possible.  So today I propose this; make yourself a list for things you need to turn yourself on to! (ooo…sounds kinky and fun all at the same time!)

Here is the beginning of my list to get you started:

Take time to blog more! (this may sound obvious, but I rarely MAKE the time, I try to fit it in, which hasn’t worked so well)

Clean out and organize my sock drawer! ok, alright, this one is weird by some standards, but warm feet with matching socks are important to me!

Try at least one new food item or recipe a month, then blog about it!

Keep an appointment to walk the garden even in the cold weather for ten minutes a week.  We never really look at our gardens and yards as beautiful once the cold weather sets in, I want to change this for myself.

Get back to the gym! Need I say how important this is!?

So you get the idea.  Now go off and find yourself pen and pad, brown paper bag and pencil, white board and marker, computer and keyboard, whatever it takes for you to get the list going.  Don’t be afraid to amend it, change it up as time goes on, add to it or even throw it out and start again! This is your list of ONs.  Make it work for you!

Happy 10/10/10!

To help you understand why we love lists so much – here’s a great article!

Published in: on October 10, 2010 at 6:00 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Saturday, October 9th

I keep trying to get back here.

I actually have a list in my notebook of blog topics!  My life has gotten so hectic of late that even though I have intentions of coming back here and sitting down and talking to you all, n something always pulls me away!

So today I am just going to use this time to throw out a few things that are on my mind.

There is a possible frost warning for tonight.  I knew it was coming up soon.  I just hate it when it happens!  I’ve been putting off getting out into the garden and putting it to bed for weeks now.  Last year I didn’t get out there at all, and boy was it a mess in the spring!  I had an excuse, my mother was very ill, and then passed away on the 16th.  I just lost all ambition to work in the yard after that.  But now I must move forward, and part of that is securing the yard for the spring in the fall.

I’ll bring in the statues and garden nick-nacks that don’t do well with the freezing temps.  I’ll cut down the dead stalks of the bunches of black eyed susans and use them as mulch.  The tomato plants will have to have the final green tomatoes harvested (friend green tomatoes this weekend! lol), the basil will be cut down and brought in to be dried.  House plants  that enjoyed the sun and fresh air on the deck will be trimmed back as necessary, maybe topped with a bit of potting soil in their pots, and brought in to sit in my den, under an old floor standing lamp, for the long winter.  The fountain on the deck will be emptied and brought in, cleaned and stored for next year.  If I had room for it inside I might consider putting it in the house for the winter, but quite honestly, setting it up and opening the bedroom windows above where it sits, and hearing it for the first time in the spring is one of my guilty pleasures!

The pool has already been covered and put to sleep.  We have already begun breaking down the front porch.  I think that is the saddest part for me.  Our screened-in front porch is like a second living room to us all spring and summer.  I have my morning tea out there most days.  On weekends when the weather is warm enough, Michael and I will have our breakfast our there on our little antique corner table.  My big antique Victorian wicker chairs stand guard every night as we light candles and listen to Michael play his guitar and we drink wine like it’s flowing from fountains!  The entire porch is decorated in Americana.  An antiqued bunting graces the center screen, with an old painted milk can at the door with various flags in it, both old and new.  A wooden Uncle Sam is perched above the door to the stoop, and a wooden distressed sign declares “Count Your American Blessings!”  Star shaped red, white and blue dishes and a star-shaped votive candle holder are now part of the group, a gift from my daughter Shawna this past Fourth of July.

This is what it looks like during the summer, with a few slight changes since this was taken in 2006:

We have an indoor-outdoor carpet in there now, and that lamp just died on us one day.  But it is pretty much the same.  My little “southern veranda” in New Jersey!

The one person who will miss the porch more than me is Rocky.  This year has been his year with the porch.  Each morning her would sit at the front door and yell at me to let him out.  My kitty has never been an outdoor cat, but he loves that porch!  We got into the habit of leaving the screen door open, so he could come and go from the porch as he pleased all day.  We had one of his beds out there, which is used most of the time during the days.  Either that, or if it was terribly hot, he would sprawl out right in the middle of the floor making it near impossible to step over him! During the evenings he had a chair next to mine.  He would jump up and curl up and go to sleep, content that he was part of the family porch experience each evening.

While I love the crisp fall air, there is a sense of loss when autumn comes upon us.  Loss of the sun, loss of the warmth.  For me it also means a loss of freedom.  No more breakfasts on the porch, no more tea and lunch on the deck.  Space is now lost in the house to keep the plants.  Loss of the sweet sounds of my fountains gurgling.  And of course, for me personally, the loss of both my parents on the 15th and 16th of October.  But, admittedly, there is also the joy of un-packing those treasured items and putting the garden “to rights” in the spring, the first sounds of the fountains bubbling with their enthusiasm for the season, the first buds opening, the bunting going back up on the porch! And of course I look forward to the evenings with Rocky and Michael by my side.

Autumn and winter bring us all together again.  Where we have gone our ways in search of the eternal summer for three months, we now find that we are drawn back home, to the safety and security and warmth of our families and loved ones.  To memories and crunching leaves, to carved pumpkins and hot cider.

To everything there is a season……

Published in: on October 9, 2010 at 3:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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