Thursday, January 28, 2010

Shhhhh....I Am Trying To Quiet My Mind Over Here!

I read over and over--and I really do believe it's true--that one of the most important parts of a witch's practice is learning to make meditation and visualization a regular part of their day.  I KNOW this...I BELIEVE why, Oh WHY,. is this so hard for me to do?  I mean, ya, I get busy.  I have a 9 year old son and husband.  I have a job.  I have a home to take care of.  I am sure if I really wanted to I could sit down and make a big long list of all the reasons why I have not made these things a priority in my life--I am sure we all could.  The problem with this is--I KNOW I could find the time somewhere.  I know there are times when my butt is sitting at this computer that I could be doing other things.  So really all my excuses could fall by the wayside.  In other words--they don't hold water.  They just don't.

You see.  I actually know why I have failed in this area of my practice.  The truth?  You want the honest to goodness truth?  I SUCK at it--that's why.  Sitting there...quietly...doing nothing...It. Is. So.Hard. 

I cannot get into the zone, ya know.  I am no where near the zone.  Wherever the zone is. 

The whole time I am doing it---trying to do it---my mind keeps telling me that I am doing it all wrong.  I am not sitting right.  I am not laying down right.  I am not thinking right.  I am not quieting my mind right. 

And then, all the stuff I should be doing start flashing through my mind.  I hear this voice in my head.  It is telling me that there are dishes in the sink...the bathroom needs to be cleaned...that laundry pile ain't getting any smaller.  I really hate that voice.  But, it's there.  And it will NOT shut up.  So, finally after a few minutes, I get flustered and get up to go do what the voice was telling me to do.

I am not giving up, though.  I am going to make a commitment to really start working on it.  And if anyone has any advice to help me battle that voice I would surely appreciate it. 

Hope you are all doing well.  Be blessed....and be a blessing.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Got Flat Chocolate Chip Cookies?

My chocolate chip cookies were coming out flat.  And when I say flat...I mean F-L-A-T.  Like this:

My family assured me that even though my cookies looked like they had been run over by a steam roller, they still tasted pretty darn good so, for a while, I was okay with it.  But, my family loves chocolate chip cookies, so I was making them a lot and one day I just was not okay with it anymore.  I wanted my cookies to be pretty, too, LOL.  So, I started doing a little research and began looking for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.

What I found was that pretty much every list of ingredients I came across was pretty darn similar. I read recipe after recipe and except for some minor variations in different things people like to add to their cookie, i.e.: walnuts, pecans, oatmeal, etc., etc., the other ingredients don't really change all that much.

I was almost ready to give up and just learn to deal with making flat cookies for the rest of my life when I happened upon some information that changed my baking life.  Literally.  And, now, just because I am that kind of person (and I hope that there might be some others out there who, like me, like to cook but are not yet proficient at all the ins and outs of the kitchen) I am now willing to bestow upon you this golden information that I have gleaned.

And here it is...
  • Use a stand mixer if you possibly can--they just do a better job mixing the thick dough (I only have an electric hand mixer, though, and it works okay)
  • Use dull aluminum cooking sheets; shiny sheets reflect the heat off the sheet and you want that heat in your cookie
  • the butter that goes into your recipe should be soft to the touch but no where near liquefied
  • the eggs you are going to be adding should be at room temperature--not cold right out of the refrigerator--and you want to add them one at a time and mix well after each one, this aids in the emulsifying process
  • Sift the dry ingredients together; you can use a simple large mesh strainer if you do not have a sifter.  You want air in your cookie dough--nothing compacted.
  • Creaming the fats (butter) together with the sugars is very important--you are creating air pockets. The sugar is forcing itself into the butter, this aids in the leavening and helps to create a tender cookie
  • and the last thing I did was add a wee bit of lard in place of a wee bit of butter (1/2 cup, I think)
Do these things... and, this is what you will get...

If you are still with me so far, this is the recipe I used:

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (soft to touch)
1/2 cup lard (soft to touch)
2 large eggs (at room temperature)
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1  12-oz pkg of semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Using electric mixer, beat both sugars, lard, and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Mix flour; baking soda and salt in large bowl.   Add dry ingredients to butter mixture and mix until blended.  But do not over blend.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop dough by heaping tbsp's onto heavy large baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart.  Bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes.  Transfer to racks to cool.

Enjoy!!  And, by the way, I can make chocolate chip cookies for my family even though I am dieting because they are not my favorite cookie so I can eat maybe like one and I am's all good...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fine Tuning My Recipe Box

Artwork by Debbie Mumm

 I used to keep my recipes in a recipe book but it started getting too full.  So, I put together kind of a recipe box that I think will work a lot better.  I like to use the big recipe cards (5 x 7) just eyesight might not be exactly what it once was.  But, when I went to my local stationary store to pick up another pack of them, they seemed to be fazing them out.  It seems that most people like to keep their recipes on their computers (so do I, but I like a hard copy somewhere close at hand, too).

I started wondering if maybe there was a site online that had some sort of interactive recipe cards that I could type the recipes into and then print out.  Turns out there is.  I found this website:  Prints of Joy and they had exactly what I was looking for.  Some cute recipe cards, too.  I paid like $4.95 a piece for two different recipe card files that I was able to download.  The files are completely interactive which means that I can change the size of the printable areas to coincide with whatever size card I want to print out.  Then I can type up the recipe, save it to my computer and also print out a hard copy.  I love it!  And my recipe box is so nice and neat now.

And, recipe cards is not all they have.  They also have lots of other adorable clip art available for all those other craft projects you have been meaning to do.  Have fun!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Our Dreams Are Trying to Tell Us Something

Sorry I have been so quiet lately.  I have been a little distracted.   I feel so horrible about the situation that has been going on in Haiti--just heard that those poor people were shaken up by another 6.1 magnitude "after shock".   It sounds like things are getting better ironed out over there now, but it sure seems like it took longer than it should have.  I also know that it is a whole lot easier for me to sit here and criticize while others are over there doing the hard work--so I'll shut up about that.  My heart just goes out to everyone who is hurting over there right now.  My prayers are with them.

One of the things I have been up to is visiting the website of Lauri Quinn Loewenberg.  It is called The Dream .  I first heard about Lauri when she began appearing on the local morning radio show that I listen to when taking my son to school.  She has been studying our dreaming minds for over 14 years and she can teach us how to interpret what our subconscious minds are trying to tell our conscious minds. 

I bought her two books for my mom for her birthday and when I had kind of a weird dream the other night that really seemed to "stick" with me, I used her dream dictionary to kind of get an idea of what was going on and then I posted the dream in her dream forums to see if Lauri could perhaps give me a little insight.  \

Below is my synopsis of my dream  and after that is Lauri's interpretation.  Pretty cool stuff.

"I heard a commotion at night outside our house. I went to the back French doors and looked out. A large black dog with markings like a Rottweiler was chasing and harassing a pig (not attacking but messing with) and in the dream I knew that this was my pig. I started to go out the doors to rescue my pig but the dog came running up to the door and since my own two dogs were in the house with me and wanting to go out to get this dog I could not go out. I went back into my bedroom where my husband was sleeping in bed. When I came in I could see someone standing outside our window. The windows were covered except for the top foot or so. Someone was holding a small round mirror up in able to see if we were inside the room. I walked up to the window to see who the heck was trying to look in and it was my little sister and she was crying. As I was trying to find out what was wrong I woke up. Can anyone provide any ideas here. I got the feeling that this dream was significant for some reason."

From Lauri:

 "The back yard represents your private business. Is this something that you are keeping private from others? This may also be that this is about your own inner thoughts you are keeping to yourself.

The dog is your loyalty to your husband. The pig represents the part of you that feels you may be acting selfish and greedy by uprooting yourself from your marriage in order to obtain your own needs. This conflict you are having is being played out with the pig and the dog.

You want to rescue your pig because you seem to be wanting to rescue your needs more than standing by your man. But you can't do it because of your own dogs, which also symbolize your loyalty to the marriage. It seems your needs are being outnumbered.

Your husband is sleeping because he is not fully aware of all the inner turmoil you have over this. The mirror is your concern as to how this would reflect on your marriage if you were to move away from your husband.

Your sisters tears are your own inner tears. Your dream may be showing you that this would be quite painful. You will also need to put on your thinking cap and see how you can connect your sister to this situation. Has she given you advice? Maybe she is happy where she is and she may then symbolize that same happiness that you want for yourself. Is she married? What is her marriage like? Let me know!

Oh, I may want to use this in my new book, if you don't mind. I am currently on the home chapter and I need a good dream involving a backyard."

So if you have any dreams you are wondering about, I highly recommend this gal. 

Friday, January 15, 2010

Morning Musings...

So, this idea has been flickering in the peripherals of my mind for the last couple weeks.  Dancing in and out of the shadows...teasing...enticing...and then fading back out of sight.  So...ya...I'm just going to throw it out there for everyone to gentle, okay.

Are our bodies (you know, that physical part of us) AVATARS?  Are our souls (the eternal life force within these bodies) actually the intellect/mind/consciousness of other beings perhaps not even a part of this world? 

I know I may not be explaining very well the thought processes running through my mind...but that is about as close as I can come to them.

If you have not seen the movie Avatar (which I find totally not acceptable and you must go out and see it right now) you may not understand--so, like I said...go see it!

Okay, off to clean up the yard.  Have a great day ya'll.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mom's 60th Birthday

 Someone's 60th birthday only comes along...well...once in a lifetime.  Ya, I know pretty much every birthday only comes along once in a lifetime...I was being dramatic.  Anyway, the big 60 is a pretty big marker and since she was NOT looking forward to turning the big 6 - 0, we knew exactly what we had to do.  My sister, my brother and I knew that we had to throw her a surprise party...and not just any surprise party, either.  It had to be BIG.

We began our devious planning during the Thanksgiving holidays.  We did research online--okay, pretty much my sister and I did the research and my brother sent money when we told him to--but, whatever.

I did an online query for large party accommodations near Bass Lake (a really pretty lake near where my mom lives) and The Gaines Burrow is the first thing that popped up.  If you get the chance check out their site and take a look at all the gorgeous pictures.  I can tell you, though, that the pictures don't do the cabin justice.  It was so beautiful and roomy and cozy at the same time.  I am trying to get some pictures from my grandmother and my daughter of our weekend (can you believe I forgot my camera???  I know, I should be expelled from Blogland.)

We had the best time and my mom was completely and totally surprised.  She had absolutely no idea what we were planning.  My little sister lives on the ranch but both myself and my younger brother lives hours away in different directions.  We both made up excuses for not being able to make it over for the weekend and since neither of us were able to come for Christmas either, she was feeling a little bit...ahem...sorry for herself, I'm thinking.  Pretty down in the dumps.  And my little sister was just kind of playing the whole birthday thing down like it wasn't really anything special.

I made the 2-1/2 hour drive early Friday morning and arrived at the ranch at about 10 am.  Mom was already at work so my sister and I did our best to pack a weekend bag for both her and Jim and some other stuff we knew we would need for the weekend then we headed up to the cabin to get everything put away and put up all the birthday decorations.

My grandmother had been cooking for three days so we were well supplied with food.  She had made dinner for Friday night beforehand and I was going to make Lasagna for Saturday night.  She also had us very stocked up on desserts.  It was a very high calorie weekend, I'm afraid, but it was soooo worth it.

So, the plan was this:  my aunt was flying in from Washington State in the early afternoon and would be picked up in San Francisco by my brother and his partner, Ken,  who live there.  They would then start the drive over to the cabin.  This got kind of messed up when her plane was delayed due to fog in San Fran but it worked out.

Some friends of my mom and Jim's picked them up from work at 6 pm under the guise of taking my mom to dinner for her birthday.  When they arrived at the cabin my grandmother, my sister & her boyfriend, my niece, myself, my daughter, my son and another couple that are friends of my mom's were all hiding inside.  Their friends told them they had some business to take care of inside and they all needed to go in (ya, my mom was kind of freaking out at this point, LOL (just what kind of business did they have in there and who were these people anyway!)  They led her in and we all jumped out from behind a door and about gave her a heart attack.

At this point she knew nothing about my brother or my aunt coming.  We told her he had wanted to be there but he had had to work.

We had a wonderful dinner of chile reyanos (did I spell that right?)  The margaritas and SoCo was delightful and everyone was having a great time.  My mom was beaming she was so happy.  She just said that she wished my brother could have been there.  Well, around 10pm who should come walking in but himself and kind of hiding behind him, my aunt (my aunt and my mom are really close and had not seen eachother for about a year).  It was so awesome!  Getting everything together beforehand was a bit nerve wracking but everything came together just perfect.  My husband drove over the next day to spend the night and we even had my mom's best friend drive over and have dinner with us (she lives near where I do).  Mom started crying at this point and said that this was the best birthday she had ever had.  And that's all we wanted.

Anyway, hopefully I will have some pictures soon and if you are ever looking for a place to stay in the Bass Lake, CA area I highly recommend The Gaines Burrow home.  It was very reasonably priced and the atmosphere was warm and homey and just perfect.  And the owners of the home couldn't be nicer and a pleasure to deal with.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

While visiting Swamp Creek Farm's blog this morning I stumbled upon a video she was sharing about Monsanto and felt compelled to pass it along.  It is part 1 of a 10 part series and it really should be seen by every single person living on this planet.  I don't intend for this blog to become all doom and gloom and darkness, but when information comes my way that I wouldn't feel right sitting on--I just have to pass it along.  So, if this kind of stuff really just doesn't float your boat, feel free to ignore.  I just can't.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again

Okay, so not actually in a saddle really, but I am back to doing the treadmill.  I don't think I've mentioned that in the last year I have lost 60 pounds and using my trusty treadmill at least 5 days a week was a huge part of that.  I gained a lot of weight during my last pregnancy with Tino (who is, ahem...going to 10 years old this year!) and just kept gaining after he was born.  I have always used food to comfort and I had to get a handle on that.  It will always be something that I will battle--but, it can be done.  I  have about 60 pounds to go and then I will be back at my high school weight.

Unfortunately, around Samhain (Halloween) I took a day or two off of exercising and for some stupid reason I never got back on the durned thing.  I could make up every excuse in the book but it all boils down to the fact that I just didn't do it.  Fortunately, I did not gain any weight during the holidays--yay!   I was able to maintain but that also means that it has been several months since I lost anything at all.  Now, I have no problem with losing at a slow pace-- I think by doing it that way, it really gets ingrained into you how hard it is to take off each extra pound gained and you are much more likely to keep it off--but, I don't like being at a standstill.

So, tonight I got back in the saddle again and will continue to do so at least 5 or 6 times a week.  Hopefully the scale will start moving again. 

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Seed by Any Other Name

It finally arrived...

I have been enviously reading some fellow blogger's posts about all the seed catalogs showing up in their mailboxes and have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of my own.  And, hopes have been realized.  My Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Catalog has arrived.  I am pretty picky about where my seeds come from these days and Baker Creek is #1 on my list.  Get your orders in early, though, folks.  They sell out quickly of the more popular varieties. 

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds was started by a 17 year old named Jeremiath (Jere) Gettle back in 1998.  Today he owns one of the largest heirloom seed companies in the United States.  Jere also produces a seasonal magazine called The Heirloom Gardener.

Jere, his wife Emilee, & Their Wee One, Sasha

Don't know what an heirloom seed is or what all the hype is about?

Heirloom seeds are seeds that have been passed down through families and have come from varieties of fruits, vegetables, flowers, etc. that are at least 50 years old.  In Jere's words, "some varieties even date back to Thomas Jefferson's garden and beyond." 

Heirloom seeds have not been genetically modified like most commercially popular seeds available today. They have not been messed with in some laboratory somewhere and changed from the original "Grand Design".  They can be saved year to year and passed down from generation to generation--which is in fact how many of them have survived to this day--without some Monsanto police stopping by your house one day and accusing you of messing with "their" patented seeds. (It has happened, people, and continues to.) You see, you are not allowed to save Monsanto seeds.    But enough about the dark side...

Once you've opened up an heirloom seed catalog and spied all the different, colorful, and whimsically named produce that you will never see on a grocery store shelf--and most important, lets face it--when you have tasted some you will be as hooked as I and a lot of my fellow bloggers are.



You just wait.

And next year, you will be the one eagerly waiting by your mailbox in late December/early January for the colorful sight of a seed catalog. 

Do You Dare?

Friday, January 1, 2010

I Stumbled Upon the Cauldron

Yesterday, in my half-assed, desperate attempt to find ideas for a small ritual I could perform during the Blue Moon, I stumbled upon a website I had never visited before:

After reading through the Cauldron for quite awhile and really feeling Celeste's words resonating with my own ideas and beliefs, I knew I had to share it with all of you.  Enjoy...

A Clean Slate...A New Beginning...Happy New Year

I hope that everyone had a wonderful and safe New Year's Eve yesterday.  We partied quietly with my husbands cousin and his wife and some friends of theirs that are now our friends as well.  Nothing like a few shots of Southern Comfort to bring people together, LOL.  We finally drug ourselves through the door this morning at 2 a.m. after my 17 year old niece drove us home. But, let me tell you, when my son came in to wake us up at 8:30 a.m. wanting breakfast, there was only one thought flashing through my mind (and it was not Happy New Year, LOL).   It was more along the lines of  "I'm getting too old for this sh*t!"  The recovery time is way longer than it used to be!

Was that not a fantastic Blue Moon last night?  I did manage to do a small impromptu ritual that felt very thrown together at the last minute--I will share what I did in another post--and this is one of my main resolutions for this New Year.  I want to become more present in my own life.  I feel sometimes like I am stuck on fast forward.  For instance, I realized that it was to be a Blue Moon--and a very powerful one at that--yesterday morning right before I went to work.  What the hell?  This could have been an amazing opportunity to work a very powerful ritual filled with all my intentions for the coming year.  Instead, I came to it half assed and not very focused.  I do not want to let that happen again.  This is not how I want to walk this path.  I need to plug in.  So, that is what I am going to start working on.  I think it is a practice that can only bring more stability, focus, and presence into every aspect of my life.  I am excited about the possibilities.  And what a perfect day to begin.  I know that the Pagan new year is actually at Samhain but January 1st is still embedded pretty deeply in my psyche, too, so I believe with the proper intentions much good can come of this. 

I wish each and every one of you a very happy, healthy, safe & prosperous New Year.  Be blessed...and be a blessing...