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Look what came in the mail today! Yes, that’s “Patterns in Comparative Religion” by Eliade! It’s for an advanced ADF study course. And yes, actually, I’m excited to read it! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

 

I purposefully photographed my personal library’s latest addition for a reason.  Even though I’m working hard to take care of a busy toddler, and making sure she has interesting and wholesome stimuli, I’m still making time for myself.  It’s taken over a year, but I’ve finally started to reestablish a routine that allows me to maintain  personally meaningful, deep spiritual connections.  It was difficult, and I still have a lot of work to do to return to where I was before pregnancy, even before graduate school, but I am getting there.  It’s also a little different since some of my daily rituals involve prayers that are more childlike to promote Bee’s understanding of Gaelic polytheism as well as her early literacy skills.  Morning and evening prayers are simple and melodic.  Motherhood has given me a new appreciation for nursery rhymes and ritual gestures.  So the experiential and the experimental are going well.

The hardest habits to reestablish are my academic studies.  Between six months and a year, Bee suddenly became very active.  That’s only increased.  Finding peaceful time to read has been problematic.  I’m still nursing her, so there are times, during the day, when I may fit in some reading, but she usually wants to play with her hands.  Seriously, she grabs and pinches everything.  Everything.  Imagine a cat laying on the book you’re reading.  Now imagine the same scenario, but give your cat opposable thumbs.  Get the picture?  My new plan is to try to read more in bed at night with my trusty reading lamp.  I spend too much time trying to catch up with social media at night, and for what?  To see all the quiz results people want to share?  Psh.  Between the uselessness of that and recent studies showing how detrimental screen time before bed can be, I think I seriously need to make a change.  This great post on sacrifice from the Agora blog really drove that home to me.

Thankfully, I have allies to encourage these revived and improving habits!  A fellow ADFer started an Initiate Program study group through Schoology to help people like myself get through it.  The study program is a beast but this group, and her breakdown, is just what I needed.  Some of the books on the ADF reading list are very academic and require focus when reading.  I have no choice but making time, during Bee’s sleep, to read.  This study group has really helped reinvigorate me, thus my latest purchase towards the course “Indo-European Mythology 1.”  I scanned the table of contents and I’m already excited!

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I stumbled upon this recipe while looking at the grain section of the cookbook; it wasn’t among the other soup recipes.  I decided to experiment with this one because I already had the barley and potatoes in my cupboards.  The only ingredients I needed to stock up on were onions and turnips.

I didn’t follow this recipe exactly.  I added more barely because I wanted a thicker soup.  We also didn’t put everything in a pot of water right away.  We used butter as fat and softened the onions in that before adding water and other ingredients.  With the addition of milk towards the end, the result is a delicious but rich, creamy tasting soup.  My husband enjoyed the chunkiness, although I think I preferred the blended potato soup from last week.  All the same, we decided that this was something to make again.

As I ate, I reflected on how one of my Irish ancestors moved to Upstate NY after her family’s potato farm failed.  This is the second potato dish I’ve made, and the humble, New World veggie makes many appearances in these dishes. It’s easy to imagine how devastating the blight was…

 

An offering of incense at my ancestral altar. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

To honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I decided to make an offering at my ancestral altar and give thanks to my ancestors, of blood, heart, and place, who have worked to make the world a better place for all of humanity.  In particular, I called on the peacemakers who have worked towards equality and love.  May their spirit continue to inspire the living.

20150118-101633.jpg This week, as I explore Irish cooking, I decided to try another soup.  It’s been chilly, and soup has a way of comforting like no other.  I decided to give the Potato and Fresh Herb Soup recipe a try.  Again, this is from Darina Allen’s Irish Traditional Cooking.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of fresh herbs in the winter.  The grocery store only carries so many (such as the parsley I used).  I needed dried herbs for the rest.  Allen suggests just leaving dried herbs out entirely, but the dried didn’t seem to detract from it much at all.  This was a very easy recipe to make vegetarian – just use veggie broth.  The other ingredients are very simple and suitable for a winter soup – potatoes and onions.  Don’t forget a bunch of butter and cream!

The resulting soup is much thinner that I had anticipated, but if you let it settle after blending, it’s not as watery as I had feared.  I found that dropping in some hunks of toasted bread really added to the texture.  All three of us really enjoyed the soup.  The flavor is so wholesome.  Definitely a keeper!

For some in America, at least in the North East, Imbolc is a perfect time to consider the rebirth of our gardens.  It’s at this time of year that seed catalogs make their happy appearance in our mailboxes, and we begin to browse and dream of green.  In the past, I simply dreaming.  I put my garden planning off until the Spring Equinox.  In Upstate NY, even that day is often quite cold…  As my experience with gardening grew, and as I started to pay more attention to other local gardeners, I realized last year that I was waiting too late.  The result has been a later harvest, and many plants that don’t tolerate summer heat bolt before I can truly enjoy their bounty.  Last year, I resolved that I would get my seeds for 2015 by Imbolc.

I’m adding action to my dreaming.  Yesterday, I ordered my seeds!  I decided to go with my standby, Pinetree Seeds, and a new one for me, Victory Seeds.  The last couple years, I’ve been disappointed with the success of my Pinetree seeds, but I wanted to give a few favorites another try.  I’m still learning so much, so user error is probable.  I’m excited to try Victory Seeds, though, and several small gardeners have recommended them.

The seeds I ordered for my container garden are:

  • Bouquet Dill
  • Calendula
  • Lemon Balm
  • Green Leaf Salad Bowl
  • Parisian Carrot
  • Tiny Tim Tomato
  • Extreme Bush Tomato
  • Dwarf Gray Sugar
  • Alibi Cucumber
  • Green Tiger Zucchini
  • Jambalaya Okra
  • Gecofure Basil
  • Lovage

Some of these are old favorites, like the cucumber, zucchini, and lemon balm.  Others are things I’ve been wanting to grow for some time, like calendula.  Okra is a veggie my husband and I fell in love with recently as I’ve been making vegetarian gumbos.  The variety I chose has a short germination time and is recommended for northern climates.  Other veggies I plan to grow are eggplants (I saved some seeds from last year’s dwarf variety), sage, and potato.  I may grow some more scarlet runner beans, since I saved some of those seeds, but I don’t like them for eating…  They’re a better ornamental, I think.  The humming birds and bees sure liked them, and we must keep the Nature Spirits happy, right?

My plan is to bless most of my seeds around Imbolc and start them around the Spring Equinox so that they’re big enough to slowly start hardening off around Bealtaine.

The wheel of the year is turning, and engaging in the food we eat is a great way to learn its mysteries and celebrate beyond the high days themselves.

While I do a lot of solar-related reflection around the Winter and Summer Solstices, there’s nothing like a painfully cold day to bring the sun’s presence to our attention.  Although we were in the negatives today, there were very few clouds.  The sun shined brightly, adding a spring to my insulated step.  Every time I walked by or looked out a window at work, I was struck by the intense warmth the sun was projecting through the glass. Each time I passed through that warmth and light felt like a moment of deep communion with the Kindreds.  I often found myself taking the time to stop and say a short prayer of gratitude in whispered tones or in my head.

As we approach Imbolc, it seems like an appropriate time to contemplate the blessings of light and warmth.  My own UPG has brought me to view the sun as a symbol for Brighid’s warmth.  It is like her sacred fire, but glowing in the sky.  The promise of the sun’s renewed vigor is coming to fruition, and now we enjoy the increasing light and pray for more days like today – when warmth gives us comfort and hope.

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Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

Just as I thought when I first made the batter for snow pancakes, once the snow fully melted, it was much easier to cook.  I let the remaining batter sit in the fridge overnight.  The result was a nice, thin batter – exactly what I’m used to when I make pancakes!  I poured the batter this time, nice and thin, like a crepe.  I actually decided to roll them up and, once more, served them with powdered sugar.  Delicious! My husband and daughter were also pleased. My initial dissatisfaction aside, I think this recipe has a lot of potential for special occasions if you plan ahead.  Can you imagine how special it would be to gather fresh snow early on Imbolc and then use it to make pancakes for a late brunch?  It could be a fun family tradition, at least in climates similar to my own where Imbolc is less a celebration of spring and more of a reminder that it is, indeed, coming…

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