Monday, February 28, 2011

30 Days--Day 5

Day 05 - A picture of your favorite memory.
or, in any case, of the memory which gives me the greatest fulfillment: Eagle's birth

Friday, February 25, 2011

February 25, 1989

On February 24, 1989, a little seven-year-old girl sat in the corner of her parents' bedroom, waiting to see her sister be born. She had been waiting all day. The babysitter had taken her and her siblings away for several hours during the day with assurances that no, the baby would not be here for a while, they would not miss it. The little girl was nervous every minute that she was gone that everybody was wrong and that she WOULD miss it. She had been there for her brother's birth when she was three, but she really didn't remember anything except getting to hold a flashlight. Then another brother had come, but for some reason mommy and daddy had to leave in a van and she had to go with her sister and other brother to someone elses house for the night, and when she got home her brother was already born. All she really remembered of that was being asked whether she ever wet the bed before being settled in with her sister in someone's guest bed for the night. This time, she was not going to miss the birth!
I was not going to miss this one.
But babies like to take their time apparently. All the siblings were going to watch the baby come, but one by one they got sleepy and went off to bed. Just I remained. I was stubborn. More stubborn than my exhaustion. Two hours past bedtime...three... It was near midnight, and I don't remember feeling tired, but mom was tired and decided she was going to get into bed just for a little while. Dad and Grandma both promised me that they would come wake me when the baby was close to coming so that I could still be there. Frustrated and disappointed, I went downstairs and crawled into the hidabed with my sister (our bed having been given to Grandma).
As I snuggled in I realized how tired I really was. I suspect I would have dropped right off to sleep if, within minutes, I had not heard Grandma trying to hurry down the stairs on her arthritic knees "Jenni, come quick!"
I missed the birth. Apparently mom's laying on the waterbed was what it took to entice Amethyst to come earthside. I can't say I really blame her. I was miffed at missing her birth though...and by only five minutes!
Nine months later another sleep-deprived night saw Amy back out of this world. I missed most of that too. But if I missed her entrance and exit, I did not miss the months in between, and Amethyst was--is--a precious jewel in our family. Today would be her 22nd birthday.
my sister Amethyst

My mother has an amethyst necklace. I have long thought that maybe I'd like a piece of jewelry with amethyst myself, but I had never really pursued it because, while I like purple, it's not a color I've usually worn very much. However, my recent work with The Amethyst Network, and subsequent learning about the meanings and attributes of the stone, solidified my desire for a pair of amethyst earrings (I picked earrings because I wear them more than any other type of jewelry). Plus I have two purple shirts now. ☺

I had some Christmas gift money so I started looking around etsy, and found these Amethyst hearts.
They are perfect.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Spell of Alaska

Ok, so actually the poem is called "The Spell of the Yukon" but it still applies.  It's by Robert Service. I first heard it when my dad recited it to me...I remember first being aghast that he was reciting a poem with "God" and "damned," (though he reminds me that he always substituted "darned") but my next thought--the one that lingered, was "I want to see that land!" So I guess my path to Alaska started even before mom read me started with Dad and Robert Service.

I wanted the gold, and I sought it;
I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.
Was it famine or scurvy—I fought it;
I hurled my youth into a grave.
I wanted the gold, and I got it—
Came out with a fortune last fall,—
Yet somehow life’s not what I thought it,
And somehow the gold isn’t all.

No! There’s the land. (Have you seen it?)
It’s the cussedest land that I know,
From the big, dizzy mountains that screen it
To the deep, deathlike valleys below.
Some say God was tired when He made it;
Some say it’s a fine land to shun;
Maybe; but there’s some as would trade it
For no land on earth—and I’m one.

You come to get rich (damned good reason);
You feel like an exile at first;
You hate it like hell for a season,
And then you are worse than the worst.
It grips you like some kinds of sinning;
It twists you from foe to a friend;
It seems it’s been since the beginning;
It seems it will be to the end.

I’ve stood in some mighty-mouthed hollow
That’s plumb-full of hush to the brim;
I’ve watched the big, husky sun wallow
In crimson and gold, and grow dim,
Till the moon set the pearly peaks gleaming,
And the stars tumbled out, neck and crop;
And I’ve thought that I surely was dreaming,
With the peace o’ the world piled on top.

The summer—no sweeter was ever;
The sunshiny woods all athrill;
The grayling aleap in the river,
The bighorn asleep on the hill.
The strong life that never knows harness;
The wilds where the caribou call;
The freshness, the freedom, the farness—
O God! how I’m stuck on it all.

The winter! the brightness that blinds you,
The white land locked tight as a drum,
The cold fear that follows and finds you,
The silence that bludgeons you dumb.
The snows that are older than history,
The woods where the weird shadows slant;
The stillness, the moonlight, the mystery,
I’ve bade ’em good-by—but I can’t.

There’s a land where the mountains are nameless,
And the rivers all run God knows where;
There are lives that are erring and aimless,
And deaths that just hang by a hair;
There are hardships that nobody reckons;
There are valleys unpeopled and still;
There’s a land—oh, it beckons and beckons,
And I want to go back—and I will.

They’re making my money diminish;
I’m sick of the taste of champagne.
Thank God! when I’m skinned to a finish
I’ll pike to the Yukon again.
I’ll fight—and you bet it’s no sham-fight;
It’s hell!—but I’ve been there before;
And it’s better than this by a damsite—
So me for the Yukon once more.

There’s gold, and it’s haunting and haunting;
It’s luring me on as of old;
Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wanting
So much as just finding the gold.
It’s the great, big, broad land ’way up yonder,
It’s the forests where silence has lease;
It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

30 Days--Day 4

Day 04 - A picture of your night.

Oh that's too easy!
(sorry, had to do two...)

11pm baby
moonrise (in the twilight...also around 11pm)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Making Tallow Candles--part 2 (making the candles!)

We made candles on Candlemas this year. Actually I was making candles for several days, but we made them for Candlemas, and burned a lot of them during our candlelit feast that night!
If you missed part 1 (rendering the tallow) you might want to check it out... I know you can buy candle-making materials, or save wax drippings from purchased candles and use them to melt down to make your own candles. I've done those things before. But this year we had the tallow, and I very much wanted to use what we had, thus tallow candles...
For the record, tallow smells like all sorts of unpleasant while it is rendering. But if you've strained it properly, the candles have little to no odor at all. I did put a little essential oil in all of them except the dipped tapers, but so far no stink either unlit or lit!

I made three kinds of candles: dipped tapers, pillars, and container candles.

For each type, the first step is to melt the tallow (or wax, if you're using that). I did a homemade double boiler, by using an old glass jar (salsa jars are awesome for this, or a canning jar works too). Put the tallow in the jar, put the jar in a pan with a couple of inches of water, and set it to simmering until the tallow melts.
If you want a colored or scented candle, this is the time to add essential oils or colorings to the tallow. From experience, I will say that food coloring does not work well with tallow... if you want to use something solid (like dried herbs/flowers) be aware that they will all float to the top of the candle as it cools, and will not remain evenly distributed through the candle. 

While it's melting, it's time to figure out your wicks. I tried making my own from cotton string and it was not successful. After three tries at different variations (all of which failed) I just bought wick at my local craft store. I'm sure it's also available online. I happen to really like the wick that has a bit of wire up the middle, because the stiffness makes it easier to work with.
A single strand of wick is sufficient for a dipped candle, but for pillars and containers you should either do multiple wicks or a fat wick.  (I made fat wicks by braiding 3 pieces together.) Then you'll want some kind of weight on the bottom of it...many people use a washer, but I ended up using paper clips for the dipped candles, and bits of aluminum foil for the others. I just folded a bit onto the base of the wick (making it flat so that the wick could 'stand up' from it).
Then (for the pillars and container candles) I stuck the wick to the bottom of the mold/container by pouring in a teaspoon or so of the tallow, and holding the wick base in it until it cooled (you can dip the bottom of the container/mold into a bowl of cold water if you want to speed it up, but it doesn't take very long regardless).

For pillars or container candles, you now just pour the melted wax into the container (or mold, in the case of pillars). And then set it aside somewhere to let it cool. Easy peasy.

With containers, you are now all done!
container candles with rosemary essential oil and a little cooking rosemary sprinkled on top.

I don't recommend using baby food jars as containers--I was using what I had, but they get very hot and the first one I burned melted all the way down, the wick floated out, and then it re-solidified... perhaps if I only burn it for 20 minutes at a time it will be fine, but not for an hour!

With pillars, you then have to get them out of the mold...I like using a mold that I can just cut/tear off, such as a rinsed out juice can or milk carton (quart size). Try pouring it in in layers--an inch of one color, an inch of another; or a little plain, a little with lavender flowers in it, a little more plain, etc. That will make some pretty striping.
Tallow happens to be very soft, and did NOT make good pillar candles. I ended up remelting these guys and making them into container candles. However this same method does make great candles with wax, so I kept the pictures since you're more likely to be working with wax anyway. ☺
one thing my mom likes to do is crush some ice cubes and put them in before pouring in the melted makes cool tunnels in the candles, and also helps hold the wick in place.
see about the floating flowers?
this one was so soft--and so messy (due to the food color) that it was sticky, so I rolled it in lavender... which looked cool, but fell off everywhere when I handled the candle at all. Again, not a method I recommend!
they sure were pretty for our Imbolc feast though!
Finally, for dipped tapers, you will want to make sure that your tallow-melting-jar is tall and narrow. The height of your candles will be limited by the height of the jar, and width won't do you any good, it will just take more tallow to fill it... You don't want it too hot, but it does need to remain in a liquid just keep the stove on a low setting.
The typical method is to cut a wick that is twice as long as your candle height (the depth of the jar) plus about 6 inches. Then hold it from the center and dip both ends to make a pair of candles. Before dipping, I twisted a bit of each end of the wick onto a paper clip, and then hooked the two paperclips together to make space between the candles. This proved to be the easiest way to keep the two candles to hang straight and not bump each other! (After they were all done, just take a knife and gently cut off the candle just above the paper clips.) I tried some without the paperclips and I definitely recommend using them!
Now they need to hang to dry. I just stuck a row of thumbtacks along the edge of the underside of my cupboard and hung them on that. If you have hanging mug hooks or something of that nature that would work well also. The candles will probably drip a bit (tallow definitely did, I don't know for certain about wax). In any case, I laid out paper towels on my counter underneath where I hung the candles.
You will need to dip them many times in order to get a decently fat (and sturdy) candle. I did find that the many thin layers of a dipped candle was much stronger than the poured pillars, and they work just fine with the tallow. I also found that--for tallow at least--you need to wait at least 10 minutes between each dip. If you do them too close together, the tallow on the wick does not harden enough and ends up just melting again with the dip, so the candle does not get any fatter!
This is a long process--I did it for a couple of hours one day (intermittently while I was baking something else), then a couple of hours the next day, then a couple of hours the next day...of course as a mother with little ones I get interrupted a lot, but honestly I think I would get bored if I stuck to it for the several straight hours it would require to do them in one go. The dipping is quick, but the waiting between sortof demands a second project to work on concurrently...
Can I just say, it is SO COOL to look at candles that I MADE!
I recommend storing them hanging (Besides, they look so cool!!) just trim the wicks when you're ready to use them. (It can be hard to make them the same size as standard pillars, so you may find that you don't have a candle holder of the appropriate that case, just make a little salt dough and make some candle holders!!)
(Edited to add...  Now that I've had a chance to actually burn the tapers, I don't recommend making tallow tapers. They burn down really fast. My 6 inch taper lasted about 10 minutes before it was just a puddle... It seems that containers are the way to go if you want to make tallow candles. If you want a free-standing candle like a pillar or taper, try something a little stiffer, like wax!)

Monday, February 21, 2011

30 Days--Day 3

A picture of the cast from your favorite show.

It's hard to pick just one, but here's a show I really really enjoyed.
The West Wing

Friday, February 18, 2011

Flashback Friday: Birthday Cakes

So, today's post is partly flashback, and partly current...
Last month, Bear's birthday was the 16th. That afternoon I developed a headache, and it turns out it was swine flu...the next day I was completely out, and the day after that Hubby developed it... There are only 6 days between Bear's birthday and Hubby's, and let's just say that Hubby's birthday got postponed a few days because we felt that lousey.
So I never posted the pictures from Bear's birthday.
helping me decorate the train

Dinosaur Train!

the extra mini loaves...

I just love his face here...

And this is the flashback bit--sharing the birthday "sushi cake" I made for my hubby in 2008:

I baked the 'sushi roll' parts in tuna cans which I lined with foil--it gave a more even round shape than if I'd used a cupcake pan. I used coconut for the 'rice' on the sides of the rolls, and 'filled' them with chopped mandarin oranges and my mom's homemade blackberry jam. I was pretty pleased with how it turned out.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Recent things

Recently I was talking with one of the ladies who owns our LYS (local yarn store) and she told me they were looking for local crafters who would be interested in selling some items there on consignment. She knew that I had etsy shops and asked if I would be interested. At first I wasn't sure--what was she thinking I'd be selling?! But she said yes, she knew I made diapers, and yes, she'd love to sell them!
So I now have pulled most of my current stock out of my etsy shops, and it is for sale at my LYS. Or, more accurately, at my LYY (local yarn yurt!! Yes, the shop is in a yurt. My town is just that cool!)
In any case, I have knitted up a couple of woolie diaper covers, because I suspected that (considering the sorts of patrons who might enter a yarn shop) those might be popular. In fact, I was right. I took two in last week and they have both sold already! So I'm busily knitting up more...

I did this one several months ago for Eagle,
but I don't think I ever posted a picture...
scrappy shorties

purple longies... it's fun knitting girly stuff sometimes!

this one is a fleece/PUL cover...

I haven't got them on the needles yet, but I have plans for a pair of scrappy longies (with LOTS of colors), and a couple more shorties... plus some of my looooongtime readers may remember my friend SisuGirl (the artist formerly known as KnittingFisher *wink*) and the gorgeous hand painted yarns she dyed when we were neighbors in Pelican. Well, she still lives in the bush (though elsewhere now), but I chatted with both parties and have now connected her with the ladies at the LYY, and she is going to be doing some Alaskana dyed yarns for them. She is also going to dye up some yarn specifically for me to use for woolies (I want to start with the king salmon--did you look at the link? Go look right now, don't you think everyone will want king salmon woolies?!) AND, in a little spurt of madness, we had an idea which I like but may or may not take the time to actually follow through on. The idea is for me to knit up shorties in 'bare' (undyed) yarn  with little fins and a tail on it, and then send it to her and she will dye it like a halibut--brown on one side, white on the other--then she'll send it back and I'll overknit little black eyes on one side... and we'll have a "Hali-butt" to sell in the shop. I'm thinking we can ask top dollar for that baby, don't you think?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

30 Days--Day 2

Day 02 - A picture of you and the person you have been close with for the longest.

My sister, 18 months younger than myself.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day

On Valentine's Day this year, I was awakened after a restless and wakeful night (30 minutes before the alarm) by being barfed on.
In my collar, on my sheets, in my hair...
After a start like that, it can only get better, right?

Eagle has been cutting two molars--one is though now--and he had been comfort nursing most of the night. As we both climbed into the bath to wash up I concluded that he'd overfilled his tummy and just overflowed...

As I helped Wolf get ready for school, we went to open the door so he could go catch the bus, and found that it was frozen shut. We all pulled and tugged and tugged and pulled for 15 minutes. We called to our downstairs neighbor/landlord to ask if he would come up and throw a shoulder into it (it's easier to open from the outside), but the neighbors weren't home.
Wolf missed the bus.
We kept pulling and tugging and finally got the door open and Hubby took Wolf to school.

OK, so now we've had our quota of bad and the rest of the day should be all sunshine and rainbows, right?
Alas, it was not to be.
  • The Hubby and I got frustrated with each other over what I guess was a misunderstanding (but felt to me like a failure to follow through on a promise that really mattered to me).
  • I found out that a friend just lost her baby via ectopic pregnancy and was in emergency surgery.
  • When Hubby went to pick up Wolf from school, Wolf said he wasn't feeling well, and then threw up in the parking lot. (He also threw up on his boots--guess who got the fun of cleaning that up? The mommy of course.) We might have credited it to overindulging at the class valentine's party, except that he continued to throw up all evening... And when Wolf is sick, everybody knows precisely how miserable he feels (I'm a very quiet curl-up-in-my-own-corner kind of sickie, and I admit to a lack of patience for moaning come-take-care-of-me-every-8-seconds types).
  • And then Bear didn't finish his dinner so I finished his and overfilled my tummy and then felt unwell for much of the evening (leading to much wondering of whether I would soon be throwing up too...although thankfully I did not).

In so many ways it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

But in some ways it was a good day.
  • Eagle seemed to feel fine the rest of the day after that initial barf, and Bear (and Hubby and I) felt fine all day.
  • I finally got the Christmas boxes packed up and put away (they've been sitting in the corner of the living room as we've slowly put stuff in/on them as we collected it from around the house, but I hadn't gotten around to packing it all up properly yet).
  • I cut out and halfway sewed a cover/carrier for our little portable/travel DVD player (we've wanted one for a while--with little pockets to hold the cords and headphones and so on). I bought the fabric a month ago--right before we all came down with swine flu for a week--and I've just never gotten to it.
  • I packed up three packages that I've been wanting to send to people and just hadn't gotten around to boxing up yet. (I do need to get them to the post office still, but they are packed up and addressed!)
  • I vacuumed the whole house. This is impressive, because getting the living room AND all the bedrooms clean (at the same time!) in order to vacuum does not happen as often as it should.
  • I did several loads of laundry--the barfy sheets of course, and diapers, but a couple of others too. And I got a lot of laundry folded too. I'm good with washing, but I hate folding. 
  • I was not sick, in spite of eating too many valentine's cookies
  • I finished my novel (the first Wheel of Time book--it's almost 800 pages). 
  • I started a new novel (Call of the Wild--I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I've never read Jack London!)
  • I went to bed at 10, and slept for 10 hours. That can cure so many things. ♥☺

Monday, February 14, 2011

30 Days of Pictures--Day 1

A friend of mine is doing this on facebook right now, and it's been fun to watch what she posts day after day. I'll state right off the bat that I am not going to post one-per-day as the original challenge requests, but just slowly work through the list over the next couple of months, posting one every couple of days (interspersed with my regular posts of course).
Here is the "30 Day Challenge" list. I'll link each one as I post them. I also reserve the right to substitute if I feel like it. I don't know if I will, but I reserve the right to do so!!

Day 01 - A picture of yourself with fifteen facts.
Day 02 - A picture of you and the person you have been close with for the longest.
Day 03 - A picture of the cast from your favorite show.
Day 04 - A picture of your night.
Day 05 - A picture of your favorite memory.
Day 06 - A picture of a person you'd love to trade places with for a day.
Day 07 - A picture of your most treasured item.
Day 08 - A picture that makes you laugh.
Day 09 - A picture of the person who has gotten you through the most.
Day 10 - A picture of the person you do the most messed up things with.
Day 11 - A picture of something you hate.
Day 12 - A picture of something you love.
Day 13 - A picture of your favorite band or artist.
Day 14 - A picture of someone you could never imagine your life without.
Day 15 - A picture of something you want to do before you die.
Day 16 - A picture of someone who inspires you.
Day 17 - A picture of something that has made a huge impact on your life recently.
Day 18 - A picture of your biggest insecurity.
Day 19 - A picture of you when you were little.
Day 20 - A picture of somewhere you'd love to travel.
Day 21 - A picture of something you wish you could forget.
Day 22 - A picture of something you wish you were better at.
Day 23 - A picture of your favorite book.
Day 24 - A picture of something you wish you could change.
Day 25 - A picture of your day.
Day 26 - A picture of something that means a lot to you.
Day 27 - A picture of yourself and a family member.
Day 28 - A picture of something you're afraid of.
Day 29 - A picture that can always make you smile.
Day 30 - A picture of someone you miss.


So, without further ado:
Day 01 (today) - A picture of yourself with fifteen facts.
Taken in 2004, at a renn faire...but it's still one of my favorite pictures of me. ☺
  1.  I am a girly girl. My favorite color genuinely is pink (and has been since my tweens). And I have no daughters to share it with.
  2.  "Jennifer" was the #1 name for about ten years running, and I was born right in the middle of it. My baby book says that my parents picked my name because it was "a pretty name for a pretty girl." However, they wanted me to be different from the 2 million other Jennifers born that year, so they named me "Jenni" with an 'i' and no 'fer.' The 2 million other Jennifers (and everyone else) have been misspelling it ever since. 
  3. I was not given a middle name at birth. I legally added one after my wedding when I was changing my name anyway.
  4. I donated blood regularly in college, but I'm not allowed to any more (because my husband lived in England, so we're both at risk for Mad Cow apparently...)
  5. I enjoy discussions--even debates--on almost any topic. I also am fascinated by others' opinions and try to understand them. Once I've heard someone out, I sometimes even change my mind on the issue.
  6. I have never had a professional haircut. Or manicure. Or pedicure. Or any of that salon stuff.
  7. I regularly overthink things. Really overthink them.
  8. I think best by talking through something. My husband knows this, and tunes me out. Sometimes I do my thinking via writing, thus this blog (lucky you!)
  9. I say "bolth" and "salth" instead of both and south. I don't know why. The imprecision of it annoys me actually.
  10. I knit funny. It's not normal knitting. It's also not really continental knitting. It's sortof like combination knitting, only I don't match the videos of that either. I have finally learned to knit well (instead of only purling), but I do it weird. Don't try to learn to knit from me. Also, sorry, but those little knitting help videos don't help me very much either. 
  11. In the past I had professional aspirations as a teacher...a few years ago I began contemplating childbirth education and doulaing. Now I am considering pursuing doing henna professionally. And of course there is always the sewing/knitting...
  12. This spring and summer items of my creation are available for sale at a local yarn shop. What makes this especially cool is that said yarn shop operates out of a yurt. 
  13. I had never been to Alaska when we moved here in 2007. Almost immediately upon arriving I knew this was home. I intend to live the rest (or most of the rest) of my life here. 
  14. I like dangly earrings best.
  15. I am settling into the idea of being a mother of only boys. Who knows what the future holds, but statistically speaking, I might as well adjust.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


I don't have so much of my own post to write today, but I really wanted to share a link to another post I read. 
It reminds me of Ecclesiastes where it teaches us that "to every thing there is a season" I think our modern society gets so caught up in manmade routines and schedules that we forget to heed the natural cycles of nature. God made the year with changes, so that we could work hard sometimes and rest at other times. When we have a 9-5 job year round we ignore those designated times...and we should not. Some of us, as stay at home moms, have the blessing of being able to heed those seasonal changes far more than those in the workforce. Oh that we would!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I know I just quoted this last week, but it warrants repeating.
"There was breathtaking beauty in the howling of the wolves, the glisten and sparkle of new snow beneath lights, the splendid aurora borealis that never failed to fill me with wonder. It was as though God hung the great curtains of fire to fill space with myriad colors of dancing forms and vast spears and shafts of light flashing from one horizon to the next in a dazzling display of His power and majesty."
~Norma Cobb in Arctic Homestead

Plus, because I live in the most beautiful place on earth (and most of you don't), I thought I'd rub it in a little...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Our Imbolc

I spent a lot of time on Feb 1 and 2 making candles (yes that other post is coming...) We didn't use all of them for our Imbolc Feast, but we did use five.

These are our element candles--air, earth, water, fire, and (in the center) Spirit. (Underneath you can also see our Sabbat table runner with the northern lights on it.)

We had cream of cauliflower soup (for the milk and butter, and also it seemed like an appropriate seasonal vegetable), and almond-poppy seed muffins (for the seeds).

When I first told Bear that we were going to turn off all the lights for dinner he got very concerned and said "but mommy, we can't do that, we have to see our food." I told him we would light so many candles that we would be able to see and he said oh, well then that would be ok. The next night, he asked if we could turn off the lights and light "so many handles" again. ☺

Friday, February 4, 2011

Making Tallow Candles--part 1 (rendering the tallow)

We bought a half a beef last fall. They asked if we wanted the scraps, and since I believe in using every part of the animal (since it died for us, I don't want to waste any part of its life), we said yes.
I surmised that the 'scraps' would be soup bones and the like.
I was wrong.
We got a box full of, well, scraps. There was some bone (which did go to make stock of course), but most of it was fat. Cows are fatty animals in case you didn't know or have forgotten (and there is nothing like a whole box full of fat to make sure that I will never ever forget!)

So what does one do with a whole bunch of cow fat? Well render it into tallow and make candles of course!

First, all that fat/gristle/unknown stuff has to be chopped into little pieces  (you can see the box there behind my bowl of bits--it was pretty full).

Second, put the bits in a big pan with some water, and boil for a loooong time until all the fat becomes liquid (keep an eye on it, because the water will boil off and then things get ugly and stinky and just generally bad...)

Pour the contents of the pan out through a strainer. BE CAREFUL, THIS STUFF IS REALLY HOT!! The things I read recommended straining twice, which I did (once with a bigger-hole metal colander and then once through a fine-mesh strainer). Once it is well strained, pour the remaining liquid--which will be murky--into a dish to separate and cool. The water and fat will separate and the fat will rise to the top and solidify. Give it at least a few hours, I have had the best results with letting it go overnight. (I put it in bread pans here, the square shape made it easier to get the tallow block out later.)

Once the tallow is solid, use a table knife to separate the tallow from the edge of the container. Dump out the water into the toilet. (The bits of tallow will clog up your sink drains, it has to go in the toilet!!) Set out the tallow to dry/drain (I put it on paper towels). It usually seems to have some gunk along it where it bordered the water, so I use the table knife to scrape that scuzzy part off and put it in the garbage or toilet.

I like to let it air out for at least a few hours before using it. If you do not have immediate plans for it, put it in a bag in the freezer.

Coming next: part 2, making the candles!!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

New Moon

In keeping with MotherWheel, and observing the wheel of the year, our family is observing not just the 8 sabbats but also the esbats, or the new and full moons. We're not holding rituals or anything, but on each new moon I am holding a personal fast of some sort. Last month, for example, I abstained from sugar of all sorts for several days (to detox from the holidays). On the night of the full moon, we have a family feast (which is to say that we have a fairly normal family dinner accented by silver candles!) I am already finding that the mindfulness of this regular fasting/feasting cycle is very grounding. Today I'm cross-posting here what I posted over on MotherWheel.

I have decided to name each moon this year, according to my hopes and intentions for that lunation. I began last month with my Purification Moon. Today is the new moon of what I am calling my Vision Moon.

I've been thinking about Imbolc and Candlemas, and something that keeps coming to me is that this is a day that falls within the darkness, and yet celebrates the light that we put out into the world. Candles are an obvious metaphor, and I am reminded of Matthew 5:
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Candles and light are not just a metaphor for testimony, they are also a metaphor for vision I think. For our focus. The light of one candle in a darkened room will draw the attention of all who enter. We see the flame and cannot help but go toward it. Even an infant, who does not know what the candle is, will immediately focus that direction.

The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

Even if the darkness does not comprehend the light, the light still comes, and cannot be ignored. In this month where the darkness still has hold over our earth, the little lights of our candles are standing up and being seen, and cannot be quenched.

This lunation, I will ponder and meditate on Vision: what I am focusing on, where I am going, and also what kind of light I am putting out to the world.
During this new moon, my fast (I'm planning three days) will be from the I'll see ya later. ☺

As a closing, I wanted to share this song:

Be Thou My Vision
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

If you are unfamiliar with this psalm, and want to hear it--words and music--try this link. If you just want to hear the melody, or want something to sing along with (especially if you've adapted the words for your own purposes), here is a lovely, simple, instrumental version of it from youtube

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Celebrating Imbolc/Candlemas

Imbolc is tomorrow (on February 2), so today's post is to share some background on the Sabbat, as well as give ideas of ways to observe it. (Please note that, as with all sabbats, the celebrations/observations traditionally begin at sundown on the night before, in this case, tonight!) If you'd like to learn more about this holiday, check out the posts on MotherWheel.

The First of February belongs to Brigid, (Brighid, Brigit, Bride,) the Celtic goddess who in later times became revered as a Christian saint. Originally, her festival on February 1 was known as Imbolc  (pronounced "IM-bulk" or "EM-bowlk") or also called Oimealg, ("IM-mol'g), two names which refer to the lactation of the ewes, the flow of milk that heralds the return of the life-giving forces of spring. Later, the Catholic Church replaced this festival with Candlemas Day on February 2, which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and features candlelight processions. The powerful figure of Brigid the Light-Bringer overlights both pagan and Christian celebrations.[source link]

Brigid is the goddess not just of fire, but also of hearth and home, smithcraft (blacksmiths, goldsmiths, etc), poetry and creation, healing, women's health, and childbirth. She is an incarnation of the Maiden form of the goddess, and our word "bride" comes from her name.
Imbolc is the time of Blessing of the seeds and consecration of agricultural  tools. It marks the center point of the dark half of the year. It is  the festival of the Maiden, for from this day to March 21st, it is her  season to prepare for growth and renewal. Brighid's snake emerges from  the womb of the Earth Mother to test the weather, (the origin of Ground  Hog Day), and in many places the first Crocus flowers began to spring  forth from the frozen earth. [source link]
Brigid's Wheel aka Brigit's Cross

When Ireland was Christianized, veneration of the Pagan Goddess Brigid was transformed into that of St. Brigit, said to be the human daughter of a Druid... Pagan lore was incorporated into the Christian traditions  and legends associated with Her as a saint. She  was associated with miracles and fertility. Into the 18th century a women's only shrine was kept to her in Kildare (meaning Church of the Oak) in Ireland. There, nineteen nuns tended Her continually burning sacred flame. An ancient song was sung to Her: "Brigid, excellent woman, sudden flame, may the bright fiery sun take us to the lasting kingdom."  [source link]

According to some sources, the Celts celebrated an early version of Groundhog Day on Imbolc too – only with a serpent, singing this poem:

Thig an nathair as an toll
(The serpent will come from the hole)
la donn Bride
(on the brown day of Bride (Brighid)
Ged robh tri traighean dh’an
(though there may be three feet of snow)
Air leachd an lair
(On the surface of the ground.)

In Christianity, this date (about 40 days after Christmas) marks the time when Mary and Joseph would have taken Christ to the temple, and also the conclusion of Mary's purification. In this tradition, St Brigid was the midwife who attended Mary at Christ's birth.

purity, growth, renewal, new beginnings, commitment/dedication, birth, creativity, healing, brides, virgins

white flowers, candles , torches, grains, seeds, acorns, plow, snakes, poetry, blacksmiths/goldsmiths,

  • poppyseed cakes or muffins
  • breads, cakes, scones
  • seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc)
  • dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc)

Imbolc decoration on etsy

  • On the evening before, each family member leaves one item of clothing  outside for Brigid to bless. In the morning the clothing is brought back  inside, with Brigid's blessing of healing and protection (see here).
  • Make herbal salves, teas, or other healing things.
  • Make your own butter.
  • Read scriptures about light, the Light of Christ, candles, or fires, as well as the things they stand for (testimony, example, etc)  (Matt 5 is a good place to start)
  • Sing hymns or other songs about light, such as Pass it On.
  • Use straw to make a Brigid's Wheel, or a broom, to hang on or above your door to bless your home
  • Make fire starters
  • Make a Brighid's Crown or a Priapic Wand.
  • Go outside and encourage things to grow, perhaps while waving your priapic wand, and/or with a verse like this "Wake, wake, plants in the earth, / spring is a time of light and rebirth. / Hear, hear this magical sound, / and grow, grow, out of the ground."
  • Sweep out your home to cleanse and purify it. 
  • Clean your fireplace/hearth and sweep out the ashes
  • Write or read poems 
  • Since Brigid is the goddess over childbirth, share the birth stories of family members together
  • Candlemas is the day when the Catholic Church blesses their candles for the year. If you use candles in your home (especially if you use them for spiritual purposes) you might consider blessing them.
  • Light candles.
  • Make candles! or Ice candles.
  • Have a candlelit meal with your family
  • If any early flowers have come up where you life, bring some inside.
  • If you grow a garden, this might be a good day to start your seeds indoors.
  • Plant a garden of healing herbs.
  • Help at or donate to a women's shelter, women's health organization, or pregnancy/childbirth support group.
  • (if you have other ideas, please share them in the comments!)

Source links:

Linked Within

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...