Friday, July 29, 2011

Handsy Cinderella and Unphotogenic Mushrooms

My in-laws have been slowly but surely moving into their new abode a few miles down the road. And since sanding floors, pruning trees, painting walls, and assembling Target furniture aren't really appropriate activities for toddlers, my husband and I have become official entertainers of our nieces. Last weekend my oldest niece gave us an extensive tour of her new playroom and the volcano of toys within (while my youngest niece decided that everything must be test-chewed before receiving her personal approval). She is big into dress-up now, and my husband got the honor of playing "The Prince". I told my niece to dress him up to look tough, and this is what she came up with.
But of course, my husband and I are the official aunt and uncle, so we have to do our job to corrupt in the funniest ways possible. We and the girls found a few extra doll arms lying around, so my husband and I took on the task of making up stories just out of child hearing range:
Prince: "Why, Cinderella, you're the most beautiful girl at my ball! And how convenient is it that your grotesque chest arm helps us waltz even faster?"
Cinderella: "Oh, Prince, it can do much more than waltz. Perhaps you should marry me and find out."
Meanwhile, around the corner, the faerie godmother keeps watch.
Mouse Coachman: "Um...did you know that when you sing 'Bibiti Bopity Boo THIRD ARM!' that's what would happen?"
Faerie Godmother: "That's it! You're going back to being a mouse! Bibiti Bopity Boo TYRANNOSAURUS! ... Crap. I have got to see a doctor about this Tourettes." 

I might actually start keeping a record of all the things we do when our nieces are too young to know the difference, and then give it to them when they head off to college. That could be the best birthday present ever.

  Cooking Adventure: Portobello Mushroom Burgers
The Bellydance Soundtrack: Grandstand by Beats Antique
Prep Time: 3-5 min.
Cook Time: 8-10 min.
Meanwhile, in the world of failed photo attempts and recipes lies the almighty portobello burger. Despite the fact that it looks like some kind of dying thing with its tongue lolling out of its mouth, it really does taste amazing. Plus it's easy and quick to make. Plus I got four portobellos for $3.50. They tend to be cheaper when you pull the caps off the stems at the grocery store. Can you do that? I mean, people do it with ginger root and it's okay. I don't know. It's possible that I've ripped off the Roundy's corporation a bit. Totally worth it for now though. :)

 - 2 cloves garlic, minced
 - 6 tablespoons olive oil
 - 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
 - 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
 - salt and pepper to taste
 - 4 large portobello mushroom caps
 - 4 hamburger buns
 - 1 tablespoon capers (I'm really not a fan of capers, so I leave them out.)
 - 1/4 cup mayonnaise
 - 1 tablespoon capers, drained (Again, yuck for me, but maybe not for you.)
 - 1 large tomato, sliced
 - 4 leaves lettuce

1. Turn on broiler, and adjust rack so it is as close to heat source as possible. 
2. In a medium-size mixing bowl, mix together garlic, olive oil, thyme, vinegar, salt and pepper. 
3. Put the mushroom caps, bottom side up, in a shallow baking pan. Brush the caps with 1/2 the dressing. Put the caps under the broiler, and cook for 5 minutes. 
4. Turn the caps, and brush with the remaining dressing. Broil 4 minutes. Toast the buns lightly . 
5. In a small bowl, mix capers and mayonnaise. Spread mayonnaise mixture on the buns, top with mushroom caps, tomato and lettuce.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Witch's History: Sybil Leek

Lately there have been rumblings and grumblings amongst several Pagan blogs that our community's teaching methods have become a bit washed out. To put it better way, that quickie-witch books have taken over the shelves and have cheapened the extremely hard work, extensive training and research that many high priests and priestesses have gone through. You know the books  - the ones on display at Barnes & Noble that declare, "Turn your boyfriend into a toad!" Or the ones that have a six page chapter on the basics of Wicca and then jump right into, "Now you're a witch! Here's a spell for money! Here's a spell for love! Here's a spell to make your cupcake recipes even more cute!" Okay, that last one could be kind of fun.

In the spirit of improving my own training, I have been on the lookout for books outside of the Llywellyn genre - I just find that they publish a good chunk of the quickie-witch books without concise bibliographies or good editing. This completely explains why I picked up a copy of Sybil Leek's autobiography, Diary of a Witch. I really didn't know anything about her before I bought the book, but here's a very quick summary of what she writes. 

Sybil Leek was born in England to what I gather to be a fairly well-off family. She is a hereditary witch, and learned the arts of herbalism, astrology and transcendental meditation from her grandmother as a girl. She married early and after only two years her husband passed away. Afterward she went to live with a group of gypsies for the better part of a year - adding their lore of herbs to her own knowledge. Later in life she traveled around the U.S. doing TV appearances, ghost hunting, and connecting with the flower children of the 60's. 

I am not one to readily believe in psychics or ghosts, so it was difficult for me to get through parts of DoaW. Especially hard for me was her insistence that astrology is a science and should be fully researched and used for the good of humanity. She writes that astrological charts should be given to babies at birth, so that doctors can know what illnesses will come up in their lives and when. I think she gives way to much credence to astrology, and sort of reminds me of the girlfriend in "This is Spinal Tap" who bases the band's schedule off astrological charts. :)

Sybil Leek is also a proponent of reincarnation to the point where she is convinced that one day science will be able to prove its existence. She claims to have gone on a ghost hunting trip where she discovered a human thigh bone in a previously undiscovered secret passage, and then says she brought the thigh bone home to her young son as a gift. She also believed that the Krishna Conscious group would become a very influential force in the future.

Despite the fact that I am skeptical about her views on psychic abilities and the role of mysticism in science, not to mention that all her adventures went exactly as she claims, I did enjoy the book as a way of looking at the evolution of witchcraft through the mid 1900s. It's interesting to hear about how she is perceived in European vs. American culture. I also enjoyed her description of the flower children during her jaunt in Los Angeles:

"I liked the flower children with their naive approach to life and their childlike energy. Yet there is something infinitely sad in seeing so many beautiful young people leading aimless lives, playing around with bits of clay, making collages from garbage cans in the belief that they are entering a great new renaissance. I found that few of them seemed able to cope with life without the aid of drugs which took them to a world of fantasy as an escape route."

It is also extremely interesting for me, a witch in her 20's, to see the divide starting between traditional witchcraft - often passed down through families - and more modern-day teach-yourself witchcraft. Sybil Leek wrote that the vast majority of the flower children interested in witchcraft could not maintain the discipline it took to be a practicing witch, and most of them were more keen to hear stories about Leek's encounters with Aleister Crowley. Hm. Could this be the beginning of life-long fluffy bunnies? :) (I use the term "life-long fluffy bunnies" because, let's face it, we were all that once. We just always hope we grow out of it with experience. And yes, I too thought it was "athame" that rhymes with game and "tarot" that rhymes with carrot.)

I haven't read any of Sybil Leek's other books. I'd be interested to hear from others who have.  This book really doesn't talk about her husbands or children much at all and I'd like to know more about her personal life rather than hearing her arguments on the validity of mystic practices. If you haven't read anything by her though, I think DoaW is a good place to start. It's a definite escape from, "Achieve astral projection in only five minutes!"

Oh, and on a complete side note, Celia over at Adventures of the Striped Stockings is hosting a giveaway from some very beautiful faerie prints. Or as my niece would say, "FAERIES! AND PRINCESSES! AND FAERIES! OH MY GOD I'M GOING TO FORGET MY POTTY TRAINING, I'M SO EXCITED!" Hm. It's probably a good thing that kids don't actually talk the way I imagine.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

For Women Only

Wait, do I have any male readers? Well, if I do then don't read this post. It will gross you out. 

You're still reading, aren't you?

Stop it!

Anyhow, a few days ago I was perusing the grocery store aisles and realized I needed more girly supplies, or "wands of power" as I like to call them. I stopped in front of the tampon section and just stared. And I don't know what caused this, but all of a sudden I was really tired of buying the little fuckers. I was tired of having to ask my husband to pick them up sometimes. I was tired of having to explain to him that there are scented ones that he should avoid. I was tired of having to even wonder why the heck I need to smell like lavender down there. I didn't think I would ever come across a day when a friend would sniff my crotch in a friendly greeting and say, "My, my! You smell divine today!"

So I passed up the wands, took a trip down to the hippie pharmacy and picked myself up a Diva cup. Menstrual cups were something I learned about in my women's studies course in college. At the time I remember thinking, "Woah, whoah, woah. You have to put your hand where? And you have to empty it and wash it, and... ewww! And I don't like you TA! So screw you and you're crazy holistic mumbo jumbo! My tampons and I will bid you adieu." But with all the issues I've had by now with tampons leaking and pads getting moved around and underwear being thrown out, I'm finally ready to give it a try.

If you've never heard of this before, a menstrual cup is a collector rather than an absorber. The idea is that you insert the cup, don't worry about it for 10-12 hours (Yes. You saw it right. None of that every four to six hour stuff.), take it out, dump out the contents in the toilet, wash it off in the sink, and reinsert for another 10-12 hours. It might sound nasty, because really, who doesn't get grossed out by blood. Then again, how many of us women folk have had to deal with that anyway when washing spotty underwear, losing our grip on a tampon and ripping off a pad from our skivvies.

They are apparently reusable for years - one woman reviewing it said she had had hers for ten and it was still going strong. It comes with this cute little pouch and a Diva pin. I have the feeling that after a few months of not having to worry about buying tampons, running out of tampons, forgetting to change the tampon, and for GODS' SAKES, trying to pee without hitting the damn tampon string, I'll definitely feel like a diva. :P

See, men? Now aren't you creeped out? Think you might have read too much? You should have listened. And the only way you can get back at me, is if you do a review of some kind of strange male device. Like the portable male urinal. Weird....

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Look, Ma! I'm Naked!

I discovered the concept of boudoir photography a few days ago and was instantly intrigued. I'm always on the lookout for real photos of women, and several times have actually contemplated trying to start my own health magazine/e-zine with NO photo-shopped images. I ended up stumbling into this site: The Nu Project. The photographer, Matt Blum, has an amazing collection of non-model nude photos of differently shaped women. His only rules are: no models and no getting ready. My favorite is one from his studio gallery that is a close up shot of the lines created from the torso and legs when a woman curls up in a ball.

Even my favorite health magazine, Whole Living, is full of perfect-looking bodies. Cosmo, Self, and even Women's Health certainly aren't any different either. It's inspiring to see someone working with the natural lines and imperfections of the human body for once.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Life Without My Computer...

 Cooking Adventure: Lowfat Banana Bread
Source: The Good Housekeeping Cookbook
The Bellydance Soundtrack: Snake Charmer by Bassnectar
Prep Time: 5-10 min.
Cook Time: 40-45 min. extremely productive. This summer has come to be much less busy than I anticipated after my volunteering plans fell through. As a result I've had the potential to be on the computer playing games, well, all day. And everyday. Last week I made the rule for myself that I can't be on the computer between 9AM and 4PM on the weekdays. The only way I can stay on later - until 9:30 - is if I'm dressed by 8:30AM, and the only way I can get on earlier - at 3:30PM - is if I get all my chores done. The result is a strangely clean apartment and a job application & resume sent in. Not only that, but I've gotten busier. Since I can't while away the hours play the Sims, I've been calling buddies, volunteering to teach dance, cooking going on photography hikes, seeing my nieces more and coloring. Yes, the My Little Ponies coloring book is slowly but surely being filled up.

If you're one of those people who can browse Facebook for hours, or blog surf the whole day, I highly recommend trying this for a week. If you're not in it for breaking the habit, at least be in it for the banana bread. :)

This was the first batch of banana bread I've ever made, and I feel like I've passed some kind of cooking basic skills test. Then yesterday I lost points again for opening a can of coconut milk with one of those openers that cuts around the edge. I put the top back on the can, forgot I had opened it, and five minutes later was covered with the resulting coconut explosion after I tried to get honey to the bottom of the jar by banging it on top of the can lid.

 - 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
 - 1/2 cup sugar
 - 1 tsp. baking powder
 - 1/2 tsp. baking soda
 - 1/2 tsp. salt
 - 1 cup mashed very ripe bananas (2 medium)
 - 1/3 cup applesauce (I used regular, but experimenting with flavored ones could taste really good)
 - 2 large egg whites
 - 1 large egg
 - 1/4 cup pecans, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 9" by 5" meal loaf pan. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In medium bowl, with fork, mix bananas, applesauce, egg whites, and egg until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture just until flour mixture is moistened. 
2. Pour batter into prepared pan; sprinkle with chopped pecans. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out almost clean, 40-45 minutes. Cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes; remove from pan and  cool completely on wire rack. Makes 1 loaf, 16 slices.

On an almost complete segway, this is the Bellydance Soundtrack for today. I'm heading off to teach a group of middle school girls, who think they know everything already, how to bellydance. This is the song I'm using for a mini-choreography. I would love to think of it but all I can do is watch Rachel Brice and think that only people with bodies shaped just like that must be able to do those tummy tricks (I try to undulate like that but I have stuff in the way! :P).

Saturday, July 23, 2011

New Photo Page Up

Well, nature must have taken pity on us Wisconsinites - at least for a little bit. My trip out to the conservancy on Thursday was a beautiful, cloudy & cool evening. The guide for our group challenged us to consider extremes in our photos. While I did work on some wide angle shots, I'm still a close-up person at heart. My extremes ranged in the short category. And seeing as I'm pretty short already, I didn't have to bend down too far to get these.

This blog is a bit more conducive to writing rather than displaying large scale pictures. I've created a separate photo blog for all those times I have way more pictures to display than there is space on the page. :) You can find the rest here at Spatula Wand Photography.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

You can't get me in here!

That's what I've been giggling over this last heat wave week. Yet I feel that the fire elementals are still making their point every time I think I've won. Yesterday I tried taking shelter in the YMCA, a place that boldly declared on it's changeable-letters sign, "Beat the heat inside!" Alas, the workout studio had no air conditioning and the fans only served to redistribute the really warm air. As if that wasn't bad enough, the door connecting the studio to the day care center was open because those guys didn't have air conditioning either. I poked my head in to see three YMCA employees trying to desperately calm five toddlers who were in the middle of a crying chain (i.e. One of those instances where one kid begins to wail, which leads to another kid thinking, "That's right! I've been meaning to cry and scream and freak out over nothing!" It creates a chain reaction of sobbing that cannot be consoled except by terrible, plodding, heat-wave-injected time.). 

Today will be another battle when I head to the subzero temperatures the dentist's office and declare victory even as the hygienist flosses my bleeding gums like she's excavating for gold or something and brightly asks, "You're not a flosser, are you?" The heat will most likely win out again this afternoon when I go on my first Madison Photography Meetup session out at one of the local conservancies for an hour-long guided photo hike. Hm... I feel that I need to tally up the points. Let's see what the score is so far:
American Players Theatre
Point: The Blue Faerie
Yes, it was outside, but it was also in a valley with plenty of breeze and outfitted with gift shops that had air conditioning that you had to walk against to get inside. Sweet.


Peck's Farm Market mini zoo
Point: Element of Fire
My husband and I left too early for the theater so we had to kill some time. We ended up messing with the baby chickens for a while (for some reason they were obsessed with large feathers & if you stuck one in the cage it became a huge game of keep away), but getting very hot and grumpy at the same time.

Allen Centennial Gardens 
Point: Element of Fire
I wore the wrong shoes for long walks. The garden offices weren't open so there was no shelter. I hadn't had anything to drink in the last four hours. My family & I went to a bar shortly afterward and I gulped down two large glasses of water in three minutes.

Allen Centennial Gardens
Point: No point. Both Fire and I thought this was hilarious. :)


The Little Gym
Point: The Blue Faerie
Not only was this place air conditioned, but it was adorable. It was my niece's 4 year birthday party and all the kids got to run around and jump on the mini gymnastics equipment. Meanwhile, my other niece, she's almost 1, was completely ready to suddenly develop perfect balance and dexterity and leap in.
My Kitchen
Point: The Blue Faerie
Trying to stay inside and off the computer has pushed me to find other ways of entertaining myself. Not only have I made feta-cheese & pepper muffins, and almond & roasted tomato pasta, but I now know how to make banana bread. So I've got food and I'm getting smarter, while the fire elementals are probably thinking, "Oh Gods! It's learning!" Heh, heh, heh.

...They'll be able to rest easy again after this afternoon.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Cooking Adventure: Spicy Mango Soup
Source: Um... the Internet? I don't remember!
The Bellydance Soundtrack: Kindergarten (Rube Remix) by Unkle Ho
Prep Time: 10 min.
Cook Time: 20-25 min
In celebration of the ungodly heat around here, of the awesomeness of my immersion blender, and the excellent fit of my new bra stash, I whipped up some mango soup a few nights ago. And in addition to my undergarment shopping experience, it was all mine. This soup calls for a habaƱero pepper. I made the mistake of adding a half of one the first time I made this and it was to the point of inedible except for those native Texans who have lead-lined stomachs. This time around I was very satisfied with a 1/3 of a pepper, but my husband still can't take the heat. Pity. :)

On a complete segway, I'd like to give a shout out to all the lovely ladies who provided me with even more euphemisms for my knockers and their carriers. There should seriously be a contest for coming up with these. You guys rock!

"Boobie Baskets" - Danni from The Whimsical Cottage
"Mammer Jammers" - Dark Mother from Dark Mother Goddess
"My Wee Girls" - Dreaming of Jeanie from Lost in the Trailer Park
"Funbags" - Lilith Noor from Crumbs in the Costume Closet

 - 1/3 cup creamed coconut
 - 2 med. white onions
 - 3 Tbsp. butter
 - 1 Tbsp. olive oil
 - 2 ripe mangoes peeled and chopped
 - 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
 - 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
 - 1 tsp. tamarind paste (If you can't find this, I just use Sriracha sauce or chili paste. Either work just as well.)
 - 1/3 habaƱero pepper (a whole one for native Texans)

1. Saute the onions and butter in oil until translucent in a medium saucepan.
2. Add the copped mango and cook for a few minutes until soft
3. Add the chicken stock, pepper & chili paste/Sriracha.
4. Stir, simmer and cover for 15min.
5. Remove from heat. Let cool if you are blending this in a blender. If you have an immersion blender go ahead and have at it! (Although make sure the blender is actually immersed. I didn't and got a bit of piping hot soup splatter.)
6. Blend until smooth.
7. Return the mixture to the saucepan and stir in the creamed coconut.
8. Serve & enjoy! You can use Sriracha and/or sour cream for a bit of extra taste.
**My cooking friend and I were curious what this would taste like with carrots or sweet potato added. Should anyone be feeling bold and willing to try this, let me know what it tastes like!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Help! They're Swarming my Boobs!

Allow me to start at the beginning.

I have two bras to my name. One is black and serves its purpose well by making me feel mysterious -and doubly so when I have a shirt on over it because no one else knows. The other is nude but is pointless because of slightly shiny stripes on it. For a good year the pointless stripes have kept me from wearing yellow or white shirts. Well, that is unless I want to creep out relatives in environments with bright lights ("Check it out grandma-in-law! My boobs are zebras!" I can't imagine that visit going over too well.). The addition of a white shirt to my clothes collection recently has finally caused me to see the light... and the stripes. I faced facts today and made myself go bra shopping. Alas, I took a dance colleague's advice and went to Victoria's Secret.

Now I'm not sure what the secret is. However, I am sure that whatever Victoria is hiding it involves some kind of rare, high-density plastic alloy that has been sewn into the lining of every product. It's the only way that I can think of to explain a bra costing $45. All I can say is that if I ever make bras, they'll be that much and will have speakers with headphone attachments sewn into the cups - leading to men yelling the phrase, "Yeah, baby! Turn up the base on them thangs!" I might also venture into bras that play different notes depending on which way you move. For the first time in history, having a good warm up and stretching routine would be key to music composition. 

Normally these highfalutin undergarments keep me away, but I got it in my head that maybe if I got a nice one and took care of it I wouldn't feel so bad about gutting my credit card. Almost as soon as I walked in a sales girl (Becky, or Brittany, or Barbie, or some perky name like that)* introduced herself and asked if I needed help, and proceeded to ask me if I would like to be fitted for a bra. As far as I know, bras exist to lift and hide nipples. ...I said, "Please". After sizing me up she sent me back to the fitting rooms to try on various types.

This was all fairly normal until I started coming out of the changing stall. The first time there were two sales ladies standing right there outside the door. "How'd they fit?" they asked with highly lipsticked grins on their faces and gleams of hope in their eyes. I went in for a second try after it was fairly obvious that BeckyBrittanyBarbie needed lessons with a tape measure. I opened the door to find another sales drone had joined the group to stare me down as I opened the stall, "Yes?" I was getting the feeling that these ladies wanted me to sell me something before their eyeballs popped out of their sockets. To speed things up, I just feigned interest in one of the styles and was quickly whisked to the sales rack (Heh, heh. Rack.) and encouraged to find some boob coverage.

By this point I was really ready to walk out of there. Still, I thought that maybe I had better just try one more on. I grabbed up a nude bra and stubbornly made my way back to the fitting rooms where the horde was waiting for me. No problem. The second you get into the stall, you're safe. Well, that was until I came out again. Four. Four Victoria zombies all staring at me in the face - the way a goat or a chipmunk might look at you like, "Food?"

"How was it!?" "How was the bra!?" "Did you like it!?"
"Um, it was okay."
Silence. Expressions of confusion. Their gaze slowly shifted between my face and my chest. They were making moves to suggest more bras. I bolted.

I speed-walked out of there while trying to decide whether the severing-the-head or the destroying-the-brain technique would work best. BeckyBrittanyBarbie tried to catch my attention with the same ecstatic expression, "Oh my god! Did you find one? Which one did you like!?" But I was ready for her. I whipped out my machete from my belt and with a vengeful scream - "Die you lacy, push-up bitch from hell!" - I took a swing at her neck. The Becky-zombie's head went flying and coagulated blood splattered against the walls and against the display windows. Soon other customers in the store were finding their own courage - ladies everywhere doing the Xena yell and taking down the swarms of the bubbly blond undead with broadswords, battle axes, and nail clippers (The airplanes say those things can kill, and they're right, you know.).

Soon the mall janitors arrived to clean away the zombie gore. Wiping the sweat from my brow. I wearily trudged to JcPenney - a store which has no secrets and no undead, but does have half-off sales and a final price tag of $48 for three bras. Sweet.

*I've actually had two friends named Beckie and Brittany. Neither were blond or extremely perky. In short, if your name is Becky, Brittany or Barbie, no offense meant. You are not a member of the undead. If your name is BeckyBrittanyBarbie, still no offense because your head is already missing.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fishing for Opinions

What do you guys think? His name is Wynster - after the rune Wynn meaning balance and harmony. There was a bit more of that after I finished him than while I was working on constructing him. The pattern actually took up four pages of scribble before I got it down right. And even now I'm making a smaller version and testing my own math on the stitch counts.

I'd really like to use Wynster as my first step into Etsy pattern selling. What do you think? Is he Etsy-pattern worthy? :)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Feeling Special

First off, I got an award! Thanks Leeanna! I believe it's customary to pass on the award to other bloggers. Hmmmm.... I gotta go with Soraya over at Spellbound by Moonlight. One, because I love reading about her adventures in geekery, and two, because she continually amazes me with the amount of photos of different people doing the rocker hand. If those two things aren't sweet I don't know what is.

Second off, I'm heading downtown for a volunteer interview at the Madison Children's Museum today. They need photographers to work their events in the evenings - getting photos of parents, guest speakers, of course kids, and other goings ons. I've got my first portfolio put together, which amounts to 25 4x6 shots in a really tiny photo album I picked up from Walgreens this morning. It's nowhere near professional, but then again, neither am I. I just have a fancy camera and a love for shooting people and animals. Heck, yesterday I stopped by New Glarus for a Swiss barbecue and shot my niece's faces at least twenty times. Okay, okay. Enough with the dorky shooting jokes. I am excited to work at the Children's Museum, though. My photos are all about fun, humor and bright colors, so it's the perfect locale to practice.

P.S. One of these days I might get permission from my relatives to put up photos of them online. For now though, we'll have to be content with photos of my niece experimenting with funny faces and hogging my camera.