Posted in Entertaining, Food/Wine (and preserving)

Gathering Folks Together, a Simple Baby Shower, and an Easy One Pot Cake

My home seemed too small to host a baby shower for my friend, but I know after all these years of gathering people, that somehow it all works out perfectly. So my daughter, Emily, and I started planning. In my small space, we amazingly, and comfortably fit eighteen people, laughing and wishing the new mama well.

Parties needn’t be elaborate or expensive. When an RSVP came in, if they asked if they could bring something, I said yes! Many parties can be potlucks. No one minds. I always loved to throw great, large dinner parties, until I realized how crazy I was getting trying to get everything cleaned, then everything cooked, and I never ended up having time for my guests and relaxation.

My favorite guest, my granddaughter, Ayla Mae!

If you throw a celebration between mealtimes, you can just provide a few snacks and drinks. The idea is to get folks together. In an era of social media, loneliness, and disconnect, we must go out of our way to gather people together. Invite neighbors over for a neighborhood potluck. Invite a few couples over for cocktails and a card game.

Or invite several people you don’t know to a baby shower! It was really great fun. Gifts, chips and dips, vegetables trays, cupcakes, and my own vegan cake filled tables. A few different people brought sodas and Emily brought paper ware and index cards. We had the guests write their advice for the new mama. As she read each one aloud, I could tell she was touched by the support that she may not have realized she had as a single mom. It takes a village to raise a child, and a small part of the village came together to show her that.

Let us promote the idea of village once again and invite folks over to celebrate anything…celebrate life!

I like to make an easy one pot cake for gatherings. This recipe can have infinite possibilities. Use all flour or use hazelnut flour instead of almond. Change the spices. Use water or almond milk instead of coffee. Just keep the basic numbers right and you will end up with a delicious, moist, plant based cake every time!

Amaretto and Coffee Cake

Combine:

2 1/2 cups of unbleached, organic flour

1 cup almond flour

1 cup of brown sugar

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 teaspoons of baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon of ground coffee

1 Tablespoon homemade cinnamon extract (or 1 teaspoon of store bought vanilla extract)

2/3 cup of olive oil

1 cup of coffee

2 Tablespoons of white or apple cider vinegar

Quickly stir it all together (the baking soda and vinegar is what makes it rise) and pour into a 9×11 greased pan, 2 greased round pans, or a greased bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean.

For the baby shower cake, I just used regular frosting. I made the same cake the evening before for a gathering with friends and make an amaretto frosting to top the cake with. Amaretto and Coffee cake is delicious.

In a bowl combine 1 cup of powdered sugar with 3 Tablespoons of Amaretto liqueur. Drizzle over cake.

Posted in Holidays

Samhain and the Owls

The owls returned this morning.  Two owls bantering back and forth outside our bedroom window in the early morning hours.  If you know me quite well, or if you have read my memoir (The Making of a Medicine Woman; the Memoirs of Bird Woman), then you know that that is quite fateful for us.  My spirit animals only arrive when there is a profound shift in our life occurring or about to occur.  Our moves, my shop closing, and many other events were heralded by my guardian messenger.  I smiled and pulled the covers up closer as my half feral kitten licked my hair as a sign of love.  I felt in that moment profoundly grateful.

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It is Samhain.

Pronounced sow-wen, Samhain is the last agricultural holiday of the year.  Tomorrow is New Year in the old ways.  Samhain is the third harvest festival and one that is near and dear to many souls across many continents over many thousands of years.  From those celebrating Day of the Dead to those Scottish farmers lighting candles in their cottages, this time of year is bittersweet and filled with love and great memories.

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The sky grows dark earlier now and the harvest is in.  The air grows colder and the fireplace is lit.  The veil is quite thin and the things you think are coincidental are not.  Our ancestors, our beloveds, our friends and family that crossed over this year make their way visiting.  Cupboard doors creak and electronics have a mind of their own.  But it is not a scary time.  It is a time of comfort and remembrance, and most of all, gratitude.

For those lives that have touched us over the years and the people and animals that walk our journey with us for a time, we are grateful.  So tonight, put out a few chairs around the fire for the weary souls and light a candle in the west window so they can find their way.  Know that in your life, you are not alone.  There are spirits and messengers and an entire universe opening and closing doors, sending hope, arranging meetings, and helping you maneuver this lovely path called life.  So put out some old photographs, light a few candles, pour a glass of wine, take a deep breath, and know that all is well.

Happy Samhain

Posted in Our Family

What if There Were Four? (a joyful family tale)

fam 3And then they thought, “Why, we should be four.  Four holds infinite love at its door.”

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But first there was one.  She is our youngest daughter, Emily, and she is ever so much fun.

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Then there were two.  And no one stole my heart faster than you know who…

I became a Grammie and Doug became a Pa and we looked at those two girls with great love and awe.

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Then they met Reed, handsome and strong.  Of course, for years Emily had known him all along.  Maryjane sized him up and thought long and decided they’d keep him from now on.

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Then they were three, as happy as can be.  They saw concerts and learned yoga and climbed mountains and had fun.  They fought and made up and became closer and one.  They made a home and a family and are as cute as can be as three.

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“But what if we were four?” they whispered in the dark.  The spirits of the world gathered and the Creator went to work.  They sent a little soul that fit the mold that would give them the role of parents of two.

And so our family grows and grows and hearts are full and celebrations begun.  Oh this will be ever fun!  November 24th…

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Posted in Holidays

Ostara, Easter, and the New Beginning

crocus-spring-equinoxToday is a celebration of hope.  The indigenous cultures of old and the modern spiritualists and witches of today will be celebrating.  So will gardeners everywhere.  ‘Tis the Solstice, also known as Ostara.

Seeds in hand, faces to the sun, coffee hot, hose at the ready, we are grateful and joyous that the days will now be growing longer.  Oh, happy day.  More sun.  More Vitamin D.  More outdoor play.  Spring brings with it baby animals and freshly turned soil and new life.

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Ostara celebrates life conquering death.  It had been celebrated long before organized religion did it.  The word “Easter” comes from the word “Ostara.”  Now, Pagans were nothing if they weren’t artists.  Eggs were symbols of new life and fertility and were painted in beautiful colors.  The Ukrainian folk art depicted on eggs is a fine example of art.

Ostara, the Greek goddess of fertility, loved the painted eggs so much that she asked the rabbit to distribute them all over the world.

The Solstice on the agrarian calendar was the date that seeds began to be planted and new life was born.  The death of winter was past and new life has begun.

Our bodies and our lives are a part of nature as much as they ever were, we just kind of hid away behind screens and modern lives and forgot.  You will find that death and new beginnings are prevalent right now.  The Universe may have a bright new beginning for you.  That means death comes first, but know that the sun is shining every day and that life always conquers.  Welcome your new beginning.  Happy Solstice!

Posted in Our Family

Pa and His Present

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Two of my favorite people in my world are celebrating their birthdays.  My beautiful granddaughter, Maryjane Rose, who adds so much sunshine and love to our family arrived five years ago this morning.  It was a snowy March day and we were snowed into the hospital.  The next morning dawned bright as Pa celebrated his birthday with a stuffed animal from the gift shop and a new baby girl.

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“What should we get Pa for his birthday?” I asked Maryjane while we were shopping.  She looked at me blankly.  “Nothing,” she replied seriously, “am his present!”  She is all of our present.  She brought our family closer than we could imagine.  She is such a lovely soul.

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And so the next few days will be filled with festivities.  We believe in celebrating birthdays to the max around here because each day is not guaranteed and each year is truly a gift. And each soul in our lives truly matter.  Each day with these two loves of mine give me more joy than I can type.

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I am thankful.  Maryjane and grammie

Join me in sending some love and good wishes across the line to Doug and Maryjane.  Happy birthday you two!

Posted in Our Family

The Surprise Party (happy 21st miss mims!)

20180218_165729_1519012345880When her brother turned eighteen, we threw him a big surprise party.  He and his friend were a little late but when they walked in a long table of people had menus covering their faces and yelled surprise!  When her sister turned eighteen shortly after we did a reverse surprise party since we knew she would expect it.  She walked into the restaurant and no one was there!  One by one, people came, old friends, new friends, family.  So the next year when Emily was turning eighteen there was just no way for me to pull off another surprise party!  So I waited.

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My baby turns twenty-one years old today.

We have so much fun together; shopping, vacationing, or relaxing together.  Her daughter is one of the greatest loves of my life.  Emily was a daddy’s girl growing up but as an adult we enjoy each other’s company so much.  I wanted to do something special for her.  As a young mama in a serious relationship trying to make it out there in the world, she doesn’t have time to be twenty-one.  She could be thirty already.  But there is something special about my little girl.  She is bright, intelligent, artistic, creative, loving, and fun.  She is beautiful.

 

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So we gathered the troops.  A long table of people met her as she turned the corner with menus over the faces and SURPRISE!  She actually teared up.

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Her best friend growing up whom she hadn’t seen for five years came.

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Her siblings that said they couldn’t make it to dinner.

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20180218_170449Her aunt and our friends that are family.

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It was a glorious evening of food and laughter and celebrating a young woman who we are all incredibly proud of.

And who deserved a birthday surprise.  Happy Birthday to my Marvelous Miss Mims…Emily Lynn.

Posted in Our Family

A Birthday Wish for Shyanne

shyAs I get older the things I treasure are fewer but hold more intensity.  Relationships tend to take precedence in life these days.  The sacredness of being on this life journey with another soul is so breathtakingly beautiful and I have such gratitude for those who have chosen to stay in my life and partake in it.

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One of my very best friends has a birthday today.  All birthdays are a gift.  And the birthday of a very close friend is even more special.  We talk every day, no secrets, we build each other up, we straighten each other up, we are equals, and we enjoy each other’s company.  We are business partners and have spent the last twenty-two years (very likely longer though…pretty certain she was my mother in my last life!) building that love and companionship.

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Shyanne during her very favorite time of year!

This young woman has always been an old soul.  Her kindness and her empathy are evident and she is a powerful plant medicine maker and healer.  She is gorgeous on the outside and just as shining and lovely on the inside.  I cannot tell you how lucky I feel to have given birth to that little girl-now woman- 22 years ago.

My wish for my Shyanne Mae is that she has a lovely day and a year filled with dreams coming true.  Possibilities unfolding.  Laughter ringing.  And peace enfolding her every desire and path on her journey.  I wish her a year of great love.

Happy Birthday Shyanne!  (my Pumpkin, Dad’s Cupcake)  Always our baby, forever my friend.

Posted in Holidays

A Simple Samhain Ceremony with Children

samhain 2Long before the church said it was evil and before Hollywood and candy companies made a fortune, a simple holiday took place on October 31st.  The third and final harvest festival and the eve of the new year called Samhain (pronounced Sow-en).

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The hard work of farming, hunting, and filling the larder was through as the winds changed, the sun went to bed earlier and earlier, and dark settled upon the land.  It was an inevitable time for introspection, remembering those that had passed on throughout the year, and reminiscing around the table with mead and friends.  A million miles from the Celtic homes, the Day of the Dead was being celebrated in Mexico.

There was a time when everyone was attuned to the spiritual energies around us.  It was nothing weird or scary, it just was.  October 31st is when the veil between the worlds is thinnest.  Our deceased loved ones can always hear us but at this time of year, sometimes, they can reach us and they can certainly hear us better.

For children, sugar rushes and the perfect costume steal the holiday.  I wanted Maryjane to know what the real holiday was all about.  I simplified the ceremony so that my four year old granddaughter could understand.  Of course children innately know these things. I had her draw pictures of the people or animals she wanted to talk to.  She wrote adorable letters instead.  One to Anakan the snake, one to Grandma Kat, and one to Grant, her mom’s boyfriend’s brother who died a few years ago in a car accident.

20171023_111031We decorated the alter (the wood stove) with a beautiful nest we had found, a feather, and a butterfly that has passed away on my porch.  Her letters and a bell were really all we needed.

20171023_111026She chose a candle and so did I.  I chose pink for love and she did the same.  We thought of our people that we loved and missed (for me; Nancy, Kat, Great-Grandma, my Uncles…) and lit the candles.  We looked at pictures.  She sat in her little chair and read the letters to them and listened.

20171023_111014By incorporating the original spiritual belief systems and the nature based holidays, children learn connection to all things and great empathy.  Children naturally understand.  Giving them a basis to work with as they get older to celebrate and remember will help them create their own traditions.  It helps children learn to deal with grief and I know Kat, Anikan, and Grant enjoyed hearing that little voice.

Posted in Entertaining

A Guide to Renewing Your Vows

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We have been thinking about renewing our vows for some time now.  We decided to wait until we had a home of our own.  A celebration in itself coupled with a renewal of love and new beginnings.  We have certainly lived through all of our promises…through sickness and health…through richer and poorer…and have come out stronger than ever.  There were times of great sadness.  But the times of great joy and a life together lived with excitement and courage has reigned prevalent.  We share a friendship and a bond with more great memories than we can recollect.

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We had a lovely wedding.  As many weddings go, we planned for months, spent our life savings (and a good chunk of my in-laws’ savings), I became Bridezilla (crying bitterly over the greens in my flowers…I plead insanity), and then a snow storm hit and everyone skedaddled out of there promptly after the meal.  It was a blur but we were married.

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This time is different.  A bit of fun, a bit of whimsy, without expectations.  That is what makes things stressful.  Expectations.

1. This time we have no idea who is coming.  We invited to our joint house warming/vow renewal one hundred and thirty people.  Most have not responded.  It doesn’t matter.  Those that want to be a part of the ceremony and stand by us will be there.  I expect roughly forty, but perhaps not all for the vows.  I rented twenty chairs for a buck a piece.  The couches and miscellaneous chairs will fill in.  We do not need everything to match.  Just invite your favorite folks and let it roll.  Do not be hurt if certain people do not come.  We are all on many journeys.  We cannot possibly handle everyone’s schedule.

2. Have fun!  We are having a traditional Scottish wedding.  Why not?  Our friend is coming down with his bagpipes.  Our Renaissance friend is doing the ceremony complete with anvil.  Doug is wearing a kilt.  I am wearing my original wedding dress (which was my mother’s wedding dress when she renewed her vows) with corset, slips, and plaid beneath to show through.  I’ll pick up roses or something from the grocery store tonight.

3. Ask family and friends to help.  Our daughter, Shyanne, is making the cake.  Our other daughter, Emily, is taking care of all the food.  Shyanne is a master baker and has her own baking company, A Witch and  Whisk.  Emily wants to open her own restaurant.  She has been in the business for five years.  She is setting up a taco bar.  My friend, Alvin, is doing the photos.  He is an amazing photographer.  My mother-in-law is making some delicious desserts.  Fruit infused waters make an inexpensive and delicious drink.  Homemade chokecherry wine and beers for toasts.

4. Go with the flow.  It always feels like Spring in Pueblo but it is not going to be particularly warm tomorrow to my great dismay.  Somewhere between 35 and 45 degrees in the morning.  The sun always makes it feel warmer.  We may not know until morning if the ceremony will be outside or inside.  The bagpipes should be outside!  Folks can grab a couple of chairs and we can move them where we wish.  Take weather and the flow of the day with a smile and a heart of gratitude.

5. Gratitude.  That is the key.  Be happy there is a celebration to be had!  Loved ones made a point of being there in a world of busyness.  There is food and drink and laughter.  And bagpipes.  Can’t get better than that!

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Next week I will share with you the celebration in pictures.  Perhaps it is time for you to plan a celebration of your own?  They do make life ever sweet.

 

 

Posted in Our Family

Happy Birthday HotRod!

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For those that are long time readers, the people that are mentioned in my blog are almost characters in a book.  It’s fun to see folks that read the blog meet my friends for the first time.  It’s almost as if they know them!  Rodney is one of those characters.  He and his wife, Pat, have been our best friends for twelve years now.  I have never had friends for that long.  We have traveled together, celebrated together, watched our kids grow up, mourned together (especially when Rodney’s mom, Kat, died last July.  I called her my mom too), and laughed together.  When we were losing everything and about to lose our minds, they threw us in their backseat and took us to Utah for four days to play.  We go to New Mexico together and plan our respective homesteads.  They are moving to Pueblo this year along with Rodney’s dad, Rod.  These are my people.

Today Rodney turns fifty.  I think that is a monumental success and reason to celebrate.  We have all lost friends that did not make it to fifty.  This is a gift, a blessing, and I am blessed to still call this man my friend.  We have a lot in common spiritually, and our families have really melded into one.  My granddaughter, Maryjane, calls them Aunt and Uncle, and their son is her best friend (he is 16…that is the sweetest kid) and cousin.  We are their grandchildren’s godparents.

So today I just wanted to share this celebration with all of you out there.  Happy Birthday to my best friend, travel partner, confidant, and trouble maker.  May you get every wish come true!  Wishing you health, happiness, love, and peace.  And a home by us!

Here’s to friends (clink!) and here’s to Rodney (double clink!)….Raise your coffee cups!  Cheers.  Happy Birthday, HotRod!