What Samhain is all About

The sun hasn’t risen over the horizon yet and the cedars and houses are but silhouettes. It is a lovely time of day. A time of contemplation and memory. And today is Samhain; an entire day of contemplation and memory. So many have lost touch of what this holiday is really about. Candy and ghouls didn’t come until much later.

Samhain is the last harvest festival in the agricultural calendar. Also known as the Day of the Dead in Mexico and by many other names by the thousands of spiritual paths around the world throughout time, Samhain is the name of the Celtic festival. It is a day of remembrance.

Samhain is the last of the three harvest festivals. In August, we celebrated the harvest of grains and herbs. In September, we celebrated the harvesting of autumn crops and the joy of filling our larder. In October, the animals that would be used as sustenance to get through the cold months are harvested.

Now, the days are shorter and colder and the farm work is done. Days went by in a whirl and it is already October. The deaths of loved ones the previous year stay heavy on our hearts at this time with less to do. Their memories with us and grief present.

I find it rather difficult not to believe in spirits and ghosts doing the work I do, but many people shut it out. Perhaps Hollywood movies have scared us too much. But our loved ones are within earshot and all around us, in a slightly different realm, but sometimes still visible. They come to us in dreams and sometimes you can hear them. As I was moving, I was so overwhelmed with packing and stress. Twice right before we moved, as I walked through my garden, a strange white mist filled an area near my Hawthorn tree. All we have to do is pay attention.

Well Dears, today the veil is thinnest. One might note that a lot of folks seem to pass away this time of year. One also might note cupboard doors open, strange songs playing, and lots of “coincidences.” It is Samhain and our loved ones are very, very close.

Grandma Nancy and Aunt Donna

Today we remember those that we have lost this year. Last Halloween morn, Doug and I heard and saw two small owls screeching and making quite a racket outside our window. The owls only come to me when there is a big event. Great-Aunt Donna had died. Grandma waited until after Ayla was born on her and Grandpa’s 70th anniversary, then went and joined her sister. For them and the countless other loved ones we have lost in our lifetime, we will light candles and place an extra plate at the table. A candle will go into the west window so that the wandering spirits out visiting will be able to find their way home. A fire in the wood stove with chairs around to greet those that come. That is what Samhain is about.

May your loved ones visit and your heart heal from grief. May your pantries be filled with food and your homes filled with laughter and family!

Homemade Christmas Presents (planning now!)

I know no one likes to speak of Christmas before Halloween, y’all, but for us that like to make homemade presents, there is a bit of panic in the air. How close are we to Christmas? Nine and a half weeks! That may seem like a long time and there is still plenty of time to pick out costumes and plan Thanksgiving dinner, but I am wondering how I got so far behind! (Oh yea, I moved.)

The sewing machine has taken up residence on the dining room table and will probably stay there on up to Yule. There are lists of yarn and fabric still to get. Things to create. People to make presents for! And as you all know, nine weeks goes pretty darn fast.

My grandmother made many homemade gifts. She made this doll for Shyanne that year.

It is easy to go pick up something from Walmart, wrap it up, and say, “Here ya go!” But said item may inevitably break, homestead budget rarely allows for elaborate and multiple gifts, and a homemade gift speaks volumes. Wrapped in a homemade gift is poetry and love songs and a recipient can feel the affection from the giver (too romanticized?). A homemade gift is usually useful and deliberate.

So, what can you make?

Do you sew? You can make any number of things, from quilts to aprons. Maybe cloth napkins or place mats.

Do you crochet? You can make shawls, scarves, blankets, candle or cup cozies.

Do you paint? You could paint a wooden box for keepsakes or a painting of a favorite pet.

Do you weld? My daughter’s boyfriend welded together car parts to make me the most charming snowman I have ever seen.

Do you wood work? Crates and boxes and furniture are all amazing gifts.

Do you cook/bake/preserve? Jars of preserves, homemade wine, and bread are wonderful to receive.

Christmas shopping is kind of fun, so maybe get someone cast iron. Cloth napkins with good wooden spoons. Candles or an oil lamp. Antiques that are still useful. Or if all else fails, no one will balk at a gift card to Lehman’s!

I will be thinking of what I am going to dress up as for my friends’ Halloween party but I will also be busy creating gifts. What great gifts do you like to create?

Shyanne’s Halloween House

For a long time, my daughter, Shyanne, had a life-sized faux skeleton posed in the passenger side of her jeep. It was hilarious watching people walk by her car and suddenly take a second look and a jump back! Victor proudly held onto the front seat until Shyanne got another car. Victor seems to have found a new place, this time on the front porch, sunning in the autumn rays and scaring playfully in the evening haze.

Our family has always gone all out for holidays. On October first, the children would arrive home from school to find the house joyfully decorated (I am not much into real fear and gore, more Disney Halloween) and I would be standing at the stove with an outrageous witch hat on carefully stirring my pot of witch’s brew. (Apple cider with pumpkin pie spice.) The dollar store, spider webs and cardboard cutouts graced the house and a large witch on a broom, that we named “Grandma,” hung from the ceiling fan above the dining room table.

“Grandma!” the children would all greet her.

The children had a great bin of old clothes, past year’s costumes, and lots of dress-up in order to create the perfect Halloween costume. We made veggie burgers with American cheese that had eyes, nose, and mouth cut out of the slice to make a face. They melted onto the patty in fierce/darling images of scarecrows, vampires, and ghosts.

Yesterday, I went to my daughter, Emily’s house to help her with her girls so she could clean out a closet and so that we could put up spaghetti sauce. Their house is cheerfully decorated for the spooky season. A mask was on their scarecrow, and each time that ten month old Ayla Mae saw it, she began to laugh. That cheerful-baby-laugh continued every time she saw something scary. She will be like her Auntie.

Shyanne needs a job with Martha Stewart, I have always said. She is brilliant with crafts and baking and bringing to life fun and creativity. I am bringing you scenes of her yard today to inspire and enchant you; and maybe scare you just a bit!

Shyanne hand crafted this spooky arbor. Enter if you dare!
Victor’s new girlfriend.

A Peaceful Holiday

The full moon hovered brightly over the land last eve and Yule was nigh.  The 12 days of Christmas was originally the 12 days of Yule.  Festivities, bonfires, hearth fires, the yule log, the decorated trees, feeding the birds and other wildlife, exchanging gifts, and checking on the elderly and homebound fill the days of Yule leading to new year.

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It is a quiet morning here in my cozy home.  Father Sun peeks through the windows while climbing to start the day.  I sip my warm coffee, the earthiness and steam filling the air.  We keep the lights on the tree on often.  Just sitting in my rocking chair watching the glimmering lights, scanning the many ornaments that hold place as story tellers, makes me joyful and calm.  I put a Christmas album on.  My favorite is Andy Williams.   The presents are piled on the bed ready to be wrapped in paper and bows.

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Christmas past when my children were very young. (1999)

The birds outside sing and dart about.  The fat squirrel looks at me through the window.  She is out of bird seed.  Sweet thing; I wish blessings on all the wildlife.  A young eagle landed in the tree the other day and we sat together for some time.  The geese fly overhead noisily, their synchronized flying like swimmers in the sky.  Upon this great landscape of earth is such a lovely place to live.  I am thankful each day for health, for life, for family, for this cozy home where the hearth fires burn.

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Dreaming of Christmas cookies

Yesterday I did ceremony on my friends who are getting married beneath the full moon by a fire outdoors.  Today I get the honor of officiating their wedding.  Tomorrow we are off to my cousin’s, the next day to our friends’, home again for Christmas eve and my children will all gather here.  Santa knows to come to Grammie and Pa’s house.  Christmas morning will shine bright with the love of family.  A late Hannukah celebration with family and my daughter’s birthday round out the festivities before the new year dawns with promise and light.

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Christmas present. My beautiful granddaughters, Maryjane and Ayla.

What are your plans for the holidays, my Friends?  From our home to yours, I wish you the happiest Christmas and a blessed Yule.  May you be with those you love and may peace fill your home.

The Spirit of Yuletide Décor

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and most Joyous Yule, my dear friends.  Our household, throughout the year, tends to honor and celebrate the oldest of traditions and beliefs, long before organized religion and that feels beautiful and real to us.  We will be celebrating Yule, but since I was raised Christian and Doug was raised Jewish, we incorporate all sorts of lovely traditions into our house and celebrate with our families.  For all the celebrations are really the same, the celebration of light, love, and hope.

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Decorating for the holidays should be nothing short of fun!  Incorporating ideas, palettes, and items that bring joy are the basis for holiday décor.

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We have collected cute stockings for a long time.  The children took some of their stockings to their own homes.  We are one short this year with the arrival of Ayla Mae, so I will find an adorable one for her.  Santa is coming to Grammie and Pa’s house Christmas Eve!  (To my great delight!)  I hung the stockings with care from the curtain rods.

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This was the first tree top angel I bought when I was nineteen years old in my first home.  I, of course, chose the tallest tree I could fit in my house this year so angel sits in the window welcoming loved ones.  Find these beautiful candles for a buck and some in the religious aisle of your grocery store.  They have them without the pictures on them.  They burn for a long time and they add festivity and charm to the home.

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Incorporating things you love is easy.  This moose was one of two that Doug got me our first Christmas together.  Her head is falling off but way up on the bookshelf she has a safe place of importance.

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The tree is filled with ornaments of old and new.  Photo ornaments the children made in grade school and ones from my childhood.  Ones from Grandma’s tree and many from our travels.

Yuletide décor is in the details.  Use holiday china this time of year, even for lunch!  Put oil lamps in each room.  Light plenty of candles.  Place strings of garland and twinkly lights in each room (even the bathroom!)

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These sweet, little cloches hold seasonal treasures.  Bird’s nests and moss covered twigs, sprigs of pine and pinecones.

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We opted this year to just string lights around the front porch and set them on a timer.  I love my ristras (one day I will be in New Mexico) and I leave the chairs and tables set up all winter in case of a sunny day that can be spent on the porch.  Always add pieces of yourself in the décor.  A sterile scene from a store doesn’t create the spirit of life that your own personal touches can.

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Place tea candles on sand inside lunch bags and line your front walk.  Light an oil lamp on the front porch for visitors.  Make handmade gifts this year.  Spend time enjoying the season.  And make space in your heart for light, love, and hope.

Brigid and Joyous Imbolc

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And she awakens at the dawn of Imbolc and wanders the country side warming the earth as she goes, for the maiden has been reborn and with her the internal fire of life.  She is Brigid, the Celtic goddess who was so beloved among the people that the Catholic Church made her a saint in order to lead the people into Christianity.  But long before that she was there.  Her cross was the symbol of the directions and the sun wheel.

We place water out to greet her.

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The agricultural calendar is also called the Wheel of the Year and roughly every six weeks there is a holiday, a celebration, an event that corresponds with the natural intricacies of life and nature.  Imbolc is the whisperings of spring.  The first lambs are born.  The days warm slight.  Farmers prepare for spring planting.

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Brigid is the goddess of children and fertility.  The protector of midwives.  The promise of new life.

She is the goddess of creativity.  This time of year is when our hearts awaken and we desire to create something new, or something beautiful, or perhaps just an old fashioned valentine.  She is the maiden in the sacred trinity or maiden-mother-crone.  She is youth and vitality.

She is the goddess of healing waters known as the Lady of the Sacred Flame.  Next time you visit a hot springs think of Brigid and thank her for the healing virtues and warmth of the water.

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She is the goddess of our precious animals and of crops.  Farmers thank her for her blessing.  A bowl of honey or a bit of milk to offer her was left out the eve of Imbolc.  She is the patroness of wealth upon the land and the life she brings to crops and animals and the fire she brings to our souls after a dreary January brings gratitude and hope.

The waters we leave out for her to bless are used in sacred medicines and for healing.  Look for baby animals in your travels being born.  Smile at a child.  Get out a seed catalogue.  Make a beautiful wreath for your door.  Warm yourself in a bath.  Wash away the winter doldrums for spring is on its path.

Today light a red candle and ask for compassion for all things, including yourself.  Feel the life flame within yourself come alive.

The Third Step to Achieving Your Goals (and bring on 2018!)

20171226_192715How wonderful that we will have a full moon tomorrow night, a Super Moon at that.  Perfect for manifesting those deep seeded intentions!

By now you have looked at what you want to transpire in 2018.  You have examined fears that may hold you back.  Respected that dreams are imbedded into your path for a reason.  You see the reasons behind what you want.  You know it will make you a better person and make your life better, therefore making you a happier person and a person who has the ability to help others.  Now.  We make it happen.

Fire and full moon are a spectacular ways to use high frequency power to send your desires out to the universe.  You have many helpers beyond the screen.  Ancestors, friends, angels, the universal web of information and wisdom, plus all the information stored in your DNA, chakras, and in the spirits all around you.  You got this.

You should have your resolutions written down in a prominent place, like the first page of a journal or a daytimer so that you can see them often.  Now, write on slips of paper each desire, each intention, each dream.  Focus on them intently.

Write down the things that you wish to release on other pieces of paper.  Perhaps of a different color.

In a blazing fire, focus on the things to release first.  Then one by one throw them in the flame.  As the smoke rises it will take your notes to the skies.  Then repeat with the manifestations.  You just increased your success by 90%!  Now the rest is up to you.  If you want a new job, go apply.  If you want a strong body, start a yoga class.  Get out there and be the best person you can.  And know that your soul is perfect, therefore you are as well.  Be kind to yourself.  Speak lovingly to your body.  Love all that cross your path.

Happy New Year Everyone.

The First Step to Achieving Your Goals

MIL50095//1My goodness, the house is lovingly leveled with trimmings and paper and gifts galore.  And the gentle hum of Christmas comes to an end.  But the Season of Light continues on as Yuletide goes until New Year’s Day.  The tree, the lights, the song all come from Yule, so really, Christmas lives on.  So I may leave my tree up to shine this week, but my mind wanders to the new year and what it sings in promises and change.

New Year’s is a great symbol of death and rebirth, of transition into betterment.  As we tick off the things we want to achieve- perhaps the very things we have listed for years prior- let us think first about the process of transition.  Before you write anything on those precious slips of paper or in your journal, what do you fear?

Do you want to change your eating habits?  Your diet?  Your lifestyle?  Do you worry about not being able to eat what you want when you want?  Do you fear deprivation?  Because it will make your goal quite difficult with that fear whispering in your ear.

There are many fears that stay hidden under the surface.  Fear of wellness (more responsibilities, no excuses), fear of money (we ask for more but that too comes with more responsibility and more taxes), fear of disappointment, fear of failure, fears….oh they are prevalent, you just may not recognize them for they burrow in and become part of the landscape of your mind.

Best root them out so you can succeed at your transformations this year.  Exposing the darkness brings more light.  And that is what this time of year is all about.

Homemade Amaretto Eggnog

20171201_182058Folks, this little festive cocktail is so delicious.  Of course, you can leave out the spirits.  What I like about the amaretto is that it isn’t as potent as whiskey or rum so it doesn’t go to my head!  And the flavors of the amaretto meld marvelously with the fresh, frothy eggnog.  Leave Santa a little of this with his cookies and he’ll be nice and warm flitting around the world.

In a blender combine well:

2 1/2 cups of fresh milk

3 farm fresh eggs

1/2 cup of sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Pour 2 ounces of amaretto over ice in a high ball and add a 1/2 cup (or to taste) eggnog.  Best enjoyed while listening to the Andy William’s Christmas album.  (My all time favorite.  Even named my son after him!) Cheers!

 

The Storytelling Tree

Ornaments are special.  They tell stories and relive memories on the glistening tree.

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This year when we went on our family vacation and visited the North Pole I picked up an ornament that held nine names.  It helped seal the moment.  We will look back at that ornament and relive the fun we had riding the train and petting the reindeer.

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A glass doll named Sarah that my grandmother gave me when I was very young.  Ornaments from my other grandmother’s tree.  Doug’s first ornament (he grew up Jewish) and our granddaughter’s first ornament mingle on evergreen limbs.  Decades of tales whisper among branches.

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From our trip to Las Vegas with the children in 2004.

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Ornaments that were given to me by my students in the dance company I had brighten my day. That was a special time.

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A gift from Rodney and Pat some years back. We all dream of getting our own adobes.

The tree is filled with memories of our trip to Las Vegas.  Of our honeymoon cruise.  It tells of Bronco fever and the children in elementary school.  Ornaments that were given as gifts.  Quite a few from New Mexico.  Next weekend we will pick up another.  Everywhere we go, we get an ornament.

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My Andrew at seven years old.

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Shyanne at seven years old and Maryjane’s hand print Santa.

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A very sweet five year old Emily.

When we look at our tree, it clears its throat and begins its sweet reminisce and dreams up ideas for the future.  Future names written on the tree, travels yet to be, but the comfort of home and hearth will always be the theme of our humble Yule tree.

What are your favorite ornaments?