Sunday, 29 November 2009

Festive fun: Homemade Mince-meat

Well hello to you all who have travelled over from Domestic Witch. This is the first time I’ve joined in with anything like this so please accept the slightly rough edges I may have! Just in case you’re interested I thought I’d introduce myself a little.
My name is Jen and I’m a single(ish) mum of a 4year old Littleun. Together we have fun trying to live a Pagan life doing the most we can for our little bit towards looking after the Earth and without interfering much in others lives. We can often be found wandering the hills, woods and beaches surrounding our little town. I’m a firm believer in eating good organic food and we have made a start towards this by growing our own and trying to cook most things from scratch, if this means I get to try a little homemade wine or treats on the way all the better! Which brings me to my homemade gift, Mincemeat.

To make our version of this you’ll need the following:
Makes approx 4-5lbs
½lb / 225g cooking apples
½lb / 225g currants
½lb / 225g stoned raisins
½lb / 225g sultanas
4oz / 115g glace cherries
4oz / 115g chopped mixed peel
4oz / 115g shelled walnuts
8oz / 225g shredded suet or vegetarian version
1lb / 450g Demerara sugar
2 level tsp mixed spice
3-4 fl oz brandy or rum or your favourite tipple, though avoid cream liquors

Peel core and chop the apples. Clean and mince the dried fruits. Mix in a large bowl with the nuts and the apples. Blend in the suet, sugar and spice. Add enough brandy or rum to give a moist mixture. Cover the bowl with a cloth and leave for 48 hours to allow the fruit to swell. Stir well and put the mincemeat into sterilized jars, seal and cover as for jam. Leave for 3-4 weeks to mature.

Random mincemeat facts:

Mincemeat pie is thought to originally be based upon an ancient Pagan tradition of serving coffin-shapped cakes representing Osiris, the ritual taking place at the winter solstice and later co-opted by the Christians. The pies in mediaeval times were larger and baked open but after time a crust was added with an effigy of the infant Jesus as a representation of him in his cradle, known as a crib cake.

Mincemeat was once made with meats such as partridge, pigeon, hare, rabbits or beef as well as the fruit, sugars, spices and alcohol.

A recipe from a cookbook form the mid 16thc called “ A proper newe booke of cokerye” shows a pie very similar to our modern pie.

Oliver Cromwell, the self-proclaimed Lord Protector of England from 1649 until 1658, detested Christmas as a pagan holiday. Oliver Cromwell's Puritan Council abolished Christmas on December 22, 1657. In London, soldiers were ordered to go round the streets and take, by force if necessary, food being cooked for a Christmas celebration. The smell of a goose being cooked could bring trouble. Cromwell considered pies as a guilty, forbidden pleasure. The traditional mincemeat pie was banned. King Charles II restored Christmas when he ascended the throne in 1660.

More than 3,000 metric tonnes of Robertson’s mincemeat is sold in the run-up to the 25th.

The government of Pitt the Younger formed on 18th December 1783 was satirically dubbed the mince-pie administration as it was widely believed that it wouldn’t last till Christmas.

Now don’t forget to stuff yourself silly! Hope you liked my ramblings and do feel free to travel back to visit and comment whenever you fancy. Good Yule and Seasons Greetings to you all.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Stonehenge & Bath

Have gone away for a few days whilst my lovely decorator has moved in. We have headed over to Bath via Stonehenge and Avebury to explore the Baths, Museums and of course Henges. More to follow on our return.

Have a good week all.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

New Layout

I finally worked out how to do a new layout for the blog. It's not very adventurous but its a begining. Now just got to work out how to write words in the text that when you click on them link you to another site or item. Anyway let me know what you think of the new look.


I don’t know about you but I feel a drawing to stones. They have stillness and calm that makes you think, encourages you to, really. Whether this is a small stone washed up on the shore, many carefully constructed together such as the Barnenez cairn or the largest specially chosen for a menhir there is always a story.

In the summer I went to Brittany for our break and visited the Barnenez Cairn. It is magnificent. Thought to have been built between 4500 and 3900bc the exact purpose remains obscure. It is part of a group and when you consider its size this indicates that the dead were given much importance in the large population. Barnenez is actually made of a primary and a secondary cairn covering 11 funerary chambers (dolmen) whose passages open onto the south side of the monument. Made of dry stone walls, there are 2 types of roofs capping the walls, megalithic capstones or corbelled domes. The two types of rock used were a local dolerite and a light coloured granite, not a surprise the second as the region is covered in the beautiful rose granite (many a good sunrise & sunset spent watching the reflections on these stones). The clever mathematic boffins have worked out that the monument is made up of 12000-14000 tonnes and the number of hours it is estimated to make would have been about 600,000, approx 300 builders for 10 months! Some of the treasures and history had given up in the excavations included tools of flint, pottery, polished axes, a copper dagger and an arrowhead with fins and barbs. Carvings have also been found, symbols showing and idol with hair spreading out, horned shaped markings and depictions of bows and axes.

We also visited various menhirs in the area, some eroded with time and nature, others eroded by man. One such was the menhir at Pleumeur-Bodou, erected between 5000-4000bc it is a little over 7.5 metres tall. Its mutilation, oops sorry I mean Christianisation, (slip of tongue honest!) dates back to the 17th century after a mission by Father Maunoir in 1674.

On the southern side they carved the “Arma Christi” the imagery often used in the 17th century. All the instruments of the Passion which are mentioned in the gospels are represented with an exception of Veronica’s veil. Towards the top on both sides are images of the sun and Moon (pagan or an interpretation of the death and resurrection?) and at the bottom a skull pertaining to represent Adam. Up until the beginning of the 20th century there were paintings and colours, on the cross added at the top a painted Christ, now obliterated by the weather and not soon to be replaced.

One day I hope to go back to Brittany and visit Carnac. Until I do I’m going to head over to Stonehenge for Littleun to see.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Green Man Doorknocker

I'm really chuffed, I never win anything on Ebay but today, on something I really liked I finally did! The house is starting to come together...

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Man in the Moon

The man in the moon is awake tonight,
With his lamp on the casement sill,
With a pocket of beams to brighten the town,
Or the woods, where nightingales bill.

He waits all alone, ‘neath a million lit stars,
Till the clouds in the wind have fled,
Then takes from his crypt a bouquet of dreams,
To sprinkle the children, in bed.

He nods to the Sun, then Venus or Mars,
To the stars, he’ll leave well alone;
They are busy, he knows, fulfilling a wish,
Or guiding the sailors back home.

Then once every month, the man in the moon,
When the children are happy in play,
Will turn down his lamp on the casement sill,
Then sleep through the night and the day.

(copyright PRISM books 2009)

Meant to post on Monday gone but couldn't find where I had stored it!

Friday, 20 November 2009

Have a gander...

You may have noticed two links I’ve added, Section 5 drummers and Rose Blakeley’s “A Pathway through the Seasons”. If you have the time please take a look.

““A Pathway through the Seasons” is Rose Blakeley’s latest book,which is a collection of delightful stories in rhyme that takes the reader on a fascinating and enchanting journey through the seasons. It is based on folklore, history and English customs, and as you travel along the pathway, you will be accompanied by all aspects of nature including flowers, trees, butterflies and birds. Each chapter is beautifully illustrated in bright colour, and also black and white, by the author herself.”(see RB website)

Section 5 are a bunch of folks who seem to have a good time making a well organised racket. Littleun loves watching the Drum Off they have at Beltane with another group and always natters on about how he wants to join when he’s older. The only time I’ve ever cursed my mum for buying Littleun a drum! To have a look click on the title above..

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Getting fit the fun way

Ok as some of you may know I have to loose weight under doctors orders. I had another check up at the quacks yesterday and bp is still ridiculously high but on a good note I have now managed to loose 21lbs. Mostly this is down to healthier eating and exercise.
This week what with the rubbish weather I haven't got out much but made up for the lack of exercise my moving everything in my front room to every spare corner in the rest of the house. Doesn't seem to hard? Well when you realise that in the moving I have shifted 4 bookcases and approx 700 books, two sofas, a piano etc etc its not that easy!
But today the weather is lovely, shinning brilliantly and so warm I've turned our heating off for the moment. And we are heading out. A group of friendly pagans have decided to shame the local council by proving just how easy it can be to clear the local woods of the horrible plastic rubbish that seems to mysteriously appear (as far as the council are concerned it'll cost to much to do it regularly!) so we are joining them and as it's family based littleun can come to.
Have a nice day all.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The silver lining of housework

Today I started the dreaded task of housework and moving everything out of my front room.
For this week I am finally getting my decorator to start the final restoration phase of my Victorian home. With a heavy heart I looked at the mess from all of Littleun's toys and my many many books not quite knowing which edge to start with (it kinda feels like a stormy tide, never ending and keeps coming back at you).
Several hours into it and I could now see the floor, the walls on the other hand are still well hidden. Looking at the sofas, which I will be getting rid of, and the boards holding them together I'm not sure how to deal with them. I imagine them on one side of the room and then the other. Finally I give up and head out for a walk, blowing the gunk from my mind I hit upon an idea and start for home again. Now lifting a 3 seater on your own isn't easy but it is well worth it. For I found a purse I'd long since given up and with it £45! yippee, can now afford the nicer rose for my light fittings. A silver lining indeed.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Elgin Marbles, the Parthenon and who do they belong too?

As some of you may have read I went to London this weekend. One of the things I did was visit the British Museum to look at the Elgin collection and the Egyptian collection.

Whilst wandering around trying to shut out the noise of the tourists I felt that these sculptures and reliefs were trying to say something. They gave me the feeling that it wasn’t right to house them in a building far from their homelands and settings and ultimately away from the people who believed or still believe in them and their powers. Yes the main argument for keeping them in England is partly ownership and partly preservation. But really do we have the right to own them. Were they really ever the Ottomans to give away or the British Empire to acquire if not by stealth then by their usual way in the world at the time by wealth? I strongly feel that even if the Greeks and Egyptians hadn’t started on their own preservations policies and buildings that they still belong in the original countries. I think that the British wouldn’t like it if they had their Churches ripped up and removed half way round the world so what gives us the right to keep others, Education maybe? It is a valid point that this way the countries concerned (because it’s not just Britain who have done this) can increase both the availability for first hand sight and for knowledge which enables the poorer of us to study without spending much money on travelling. Is it just an age thing, that because these items are so very old the reverence they deserve in their religious aspect is ignored? Can you imagine the horror if we tried to remove a part of St Pauls to show elsewhere or Dome of the Rock? Both are old, educational and in areas with corrosion.

So what are your thoughts? Do we have the obligation to return them? Should they be housed in climate controlled great halls in foreign lands when ultimately if you think about it they were built to be in the open, visible regardless to all who wanted to worship. Should the Gods and Goddesses be free? Or as they are dead religions to many it doesn’t really matter?

Thursday, 12 November 2009

My Birthday!!

Its my birthday in 1hour and 16 mins so in the morning I'm off to celebrate in London with a few friends. Have been to Brugge in Belgium today with the family and had a brilliant time. Lovely town with friendly folk and an amazing selection of chocolate, bang goes the diet this week, oops. Will also be visiting a couple of the museums in particular to see the Elgin marbles so will hopefully be posting a little about them on my return.
Have a great weekend all , ttfn.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

An Dubhach; The Gloom

After feeling rather rough for a few days I’m starting to get better. I went for a lovely walk this morning and noticed that most people are looking down and gloomy. My Scottish friend calls it An Dubhach, a description of how folk feel as they head for mid-winter.

I find it sad that many are depressed at this time of year, yes its getting colder and yes the Sun isn’t about each day for as long as we would like but there is still much joy to be had from our surroundings. A walk in the woods with the robins looking down on us or a wander on the beach with the quietness after the foreign students with their constant chatter have headed back to warmer climes. Or seeing the cheer in the little girls face as she studies the dolls house through the frosty glass window, hoping no doubt to be getting it as a gift later on. One of my favourite ways of cheering up is a mug of hot chocolate as I sit next to the open wood fire, fire sparks creating patterns as they escape up the chimney, Littleun calling them the “fire Faeries” and laughing as they “dance”. We also spend this time of year making gifts and helping a neighbour who suffers terrible arthritic pain which the cold aggravates but who never lets the pain grind her down and she always has a smile and a kind word.

So when you’re wandering around suffering An Dubhach don’t worry, before long the light will return and in the meantime just look a little harder past the grimy dirt of Winter coming and see the hidden joys..

Monday, 9 November 2009

Illness, motherhood and children are not a good mix

I’ve been ill lately and it’s had a few problems. Littleun has been great playing nurse bringing me juice and trying to make me feel better. Inevitably in the only way a child can, by showing off. He has played every one of his musical instruments for me in a sort of concert method, taking his bow and clapping loudly each time. Wonderful, least it would be if it weren’t for this ragging headache that has been making itself known for the last 5 days! I suggested that maybe the music was hurting Mum and he stopped.

Mmm peace and quiet. Well almost, the singing started soon after. Apparently “row row the boat” is the only song that will make Mum better and is proudly (and loudly) sung every 5 mins or so.

I found out that you can’t be ill if you are a mum, especially if this happens to be a time where the Fella isn’t about. Have you ever tried to buy tissues, wet wipes and medicine whilst having a child hanging off your arm and dropping all your money everywhere? Apparently the assistant at Boots hasn’t otherwise instead off laughing her shrill laugh she’d of helped me!

I braved the supermarket, thinking that I had to get some food in. Littleun may well be enjoying his picnics but it really was time for some proper food. Again, not a clever idea. I dragged myself around the store, Littleun helping with the shopping. All going well and we headed to the checkout where my bill came to £10 more than normal. I didn’t think much of it till I got home and started putting it all away. I can tell you now it is not sensible to shop when ill; I mean really what am I going to do with a yam yam and a massive bag of dog biscuits (I don’t own a dog)?!

Finally got a lie in today, guess that Littleun realised Mum needed sleep and left me alone. When I woke up I opened his bedroom door, said hello and went to the bathroom. Soon heard him go “oh oh mess mum” now this is normally his excuse for getting everyone of his books off the shelves and stuffing them in his bed, so I ignored him. Mistake! When it came to me actually going into his room I realised this. Wallpaper everywhere. I don’t mean little bits two or three inches long but blooming huge sheets off the stuff covering the whole room. Ironically I have been trying for the last month to remove the very same stuff from the corridor, with no success, it was that welded on.

That set the tone for the day. By 6.30 we are ready for him to go to bed, I’m off my head on covonia and anti’s and he is just plain bonkers, we are fighting the “its bedtime routine” when we both see it, a lovely robin sitting on the roof opposite our window studying us as if to say, “what are you doing?” And suddenly I don’t feel so ill…

Friday, 6 November 2009

Ogham Reading

I recently have started to learn how to work with Ogham and have spent a while trying to find a set that I felt comfortable with. Didn’t have much luck! So I decided to make my own set. I got 20 rounded and smoothed wood “pebbles” and have made the markings on them by hand with a pyrography tool. I still need to refer to the references sheets as I’ve not managed to learn them all but hopefully with some diligence I’ll get there.

The Ogham alphabet consists originally of twenty letters, 5 added at a later date. The original twenty letters each consist of from one to five straight lines or notches intersecting a stem line. The earliest surviving Ogham inscriptions are carved on standing stones with the edge of the stone forming the stem line. These stones are found mainly in Ireland, although others have been found throughout the British Isles. The script on them usually spells out the name of an individual and they are thought to be boundary markers.

There is also evidence for the magickal and divinatory use of the Ogham alphabet from the literature of medieval Ireland.

Historically the symbols were used for divination by the use of four Yew wands, possibly pentagonal in shape so an Ogham symbol could be inscribed onto each side. The wands would always fall with one corner pointing upwards and this would be the symbol which was read. The position the sticks fell in may also have been an important factor. Recently, the Ogham alphabet has been used for divination by inscribing it onto small wooden staves or onto discs of wood. One symbol is added to each piece and they are used in a similar way to the runes.

Coincidently as I was deciding that I’d blog about this today another blogger who has given me some great reading is also on a similar theme. If you visit her blog at read all about a great rune set she is giving away.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Oranges and Lemons for Bonfire Night

Remember Remember the fifth of November,
The gunpowder, Treason and Plot.
I see no reason why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot....

On the 5th November all over the UK you will find celebrations for Bonfire Night, remembering Guy Fawkes and the failed Catholic plot against the Protestant King James I. And although we don’t celebrate this my family do and we have been invited to a fireworks party tonight. So I decided to make a few foody things to help keep us all warm to go with the traditional baked potatoes and stuffed apples.

Orange curd for the bread toasted on the fire:
You will need;

2 large unwaxed oranges
1 unwaxed Lemon
225g caster sugar
60g unsalted butter
4 large eggs

Wash and dry the fruit, finely grate the zest and strain the juice. Put the eggs in a separate bowl and whisk lightly. Put the juice, zest, sugar and butter into a glass heatproof bowl on a simmering pan of water, or a double boiler. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and butter melted. Strain the beaten eggs into the mixture and stir well. Continue to stir until the curd is thick enough to cover the back of a wooden spoon, at least 10 mins but up to 30 mins as needed.
(Littleun helping)

Pour into hot sterilized dry jar. Cover and seal as you would for jam. Label and date. This will keep unopened for up to 8 weeks in a fridge.

Mulled wine

1 bottle robust red wine
2 cloves
2 blades mace
2 allspice berries
1 stick cinnamon, broken
6 cardamom pods
Finely pared zest of 1 lemon
Finely pared zest of 1 orange
100g caster sugar, or to taste

Put everything but the sugar into a non-corrodible pan over a low heat. Warm to just below boiling. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. Return to a low heat. When hot, but not boiling, sweeten to taste. Strain and serve immediately.

Yule Candles

My friend has just come back from a holiday in Wales and kindly managed to think of me whilst she was there in the form of this lovely candle for Yule. It’s beautiful. Thank you H.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

After Exercise Oil

I have been told for various health reasons that I have to lose weight and soon. So I have been going for lengthy walks, some swimming and today I started at the local gym who very kindly said I could have, till March, free use with guidance to get me started. Ouch! I had really forgotten about most of those muscles and it showed. So I thought as Littleun was at nursery I’d have a relaxing bath with some oil to ease the aches. I remembered one in the first Kitchen Witches book I read, by Kate West.

You’ll need the following:
1tsp of base oil
3 drops of camomile oil
3 drops of lavender oil
2 drops of lemongrass oil
2 drops of rosemary oil

This was the first ever oil I’ve made and I am quite chuffed with the results. I only wish we had a supplier of true essential oils locally, I have to drive or take the train to the biggest town in the county which is 50ish miles away each time I want anything.

Btw in my first 6 weeks I’ve lost 16lbs, yippee!

A nearby Lavender farm we visited in the summer

Monday, 2 November 2009

My Cat the Dangler

My cat is a lazy sort, doesn’t like the outdoors and would rather lounge about the warm house. She is good though at knowing when a gentle nudge from her head or a purr to say “I love you” is needed.

They say I am a dangler a dangling sort of cat,
No matter where they place me I dangle that’s a fact.
I dangled from the shoulder and often from the knee,
Then dangle from the forearms of ladies taking teas.

When sleeping on the telly they say I intervene,
The music makes my tail swing and dangle ‘cross the screen.
But when I’m in the garden, oblivious to a call,
I dangle in the sunshine upon the garden wall.

And perched above the sidewalk, I need to be discreet,
For silly dogs go walkies, beneath me in the street.
I tempt them in their leaping to shatter my repose,
By letting one leg dangle, an inch above their nose!

copyright prism books 2001

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Samhain Pumpkins

Just a few of the pumpkins we carved:

And as a tip, don't carve pumpkins after several glasses of cider, found out the hard way it hurts!