Sunday, 31 January 2010

Our Imbolc Fun days

I’ve had fun these last few days where I have been able to pay complete attention for once to Littleun. We’ve done so much. Gone to the park to feed the birds, turned out the squirrels were hungry too, made our Imbolc crown for Littleun to wear and the one for our altar, made Imbolc snowflake biscuits so we could test that they worked (my excuse anyhow) and Littleun came up with an idea that was all his own work. Whilst moving the biscuits I asked him why he was breaking them in half, his reply and I kid you not was “to let winter go mummy” the thought apparently was that if he broke the biscuits then winter would be free for spring to come. Think he might be taking in what I tell him more than I give him credit for! We’ve even got a little ahead of ourselves and made his Beltane mask, just couldn’t resist trying out the ideas on The Cauldrons site.

I’ve now started on preparing the food for our Imbolc feast. We are having simple but homely fare, Roast leg of Mutton with winter vegetables, Crepe suzette with homemade ice cream, cheese and Littleuns biscuits for later plus non-alcoholic mead.

Non-alcoholic Mead

4 cups spring water
1 cup honey
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 lemon, sliced
1 orange, sliced

Bring the water, honey, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon to a boil in a non-metallic pan. Stir until honey is dissolved; heaviness should disappear from bottom of the pan. Use wooden spoon to skim off skin that forms at top of brew. Add lemon and orange slices, squeezing as they are placed in the pan. Cool completely; strain. Store in bottle in refrigerator.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

The Cauldron

Ok, so I know I said I was taking some time off to be with Littleun but last night whilst trying to come up with things to do with him I ran across this website called The Cauldron and just had to share it with you. In one word “brilliant”. It has a Greenman pattern for both a mask and an appliqué, something I’ve been hunting for a while (I’m no good with drawing things myself!) Imbolc paper chains, Recipes and Games to name just a few. We’re going to be entertained for ages! Go and have a look, you’ll love it.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Absolutely exhausted!

Hello, Yes still alive, well just. Have just finished a mad month of Accounts and Clients for the tax-return season. Last case completed, ooh about 30 mins ago. Funny though I was tiring towards the end I could still cope, now I know I've finished I can't even seem to drag myself to the kitchen for my supper. I'm going to be catching up with my Littleun over the next few days, he's been good but understandably a bit lonely whilst putting up with me working all hours, so won't be back posting properly for a couple of days.
See you all soon, ttfn.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Charlie Simpson, Unicef Haiti

Whilst most of us have sat here watching our screens in dismay at Haiti's misfortune a little boy called Charlie Simpson is actually doing something about helping them. Charlie is 7 and has decided that he wanted to help by raising money for a sponsored bike ride.

A note from Charlie:
My name is Charlie Simpson, I want to do a Sponsored Bike Ride for Haiti because there was a big earthquake and loads of people have lost their lives. I want to make some money to buy food, water and tents for everyone in Haiti.
I am going to cycle around South Park as many times as possible…. (at least 10 laps, I hope!). Please can you sponsor me and all your money will go to UNICEF who are collecting for Haiti.


Charlie Simpson, Haiti, Unicef

Charlie's aim was to raise £500, to date he has raised £117660.33! if you fancy sponsoring this lovely lad then please take a look at the link.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Winters End

Persephone, Goddess of Spring,
Who chases away the winter chill,
And light and life doth with her bring,
Sings forth from every meadow and hill.

Out of Winter’s cold and icy chains,
She delivers a desolate dormant land;
The blooming beauty of a warm spring rain
Is the bounty of her benevolent hand.

The Baroness is a picture of grace,
With a lively mind and sparkling eyes;
Friendly and inquiring of each new face,
One will find her witty and wise.

With festival and martial display
We celebrate her natal day.

Jeffrey Stultz

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Imbolc Food; Sheep’s cheese and Milk Bread

Imbolc is a time of year where the milk supplies were very important. The word Imbolc comes in part from the phrase "ewe's milk," so dairy products became a big part of February celebrations. This time of year was hard for our ancestors, crop stores were very low with no fresh ones to replenish them. They had livestock pregnant and the lambing season would begin soon. As the ewes came into milk they knew they would have food again.
Making as much of our food is very important for me, not just for the Sabbats but all year round if possible so to combine the two and to have some recipes that the Littleun can easily join in we have made some sheep’s cheese and milk bread. You can use other milks such as goats.

Sheep’s Cheese; Makes 2 x 500g cheeses

1.7l fresh sheep's milk
10 drops vegetarian rennet (or follow the packet instructions)

1. Put the milk in a saucepan and heat gently until it reaches 37°C (blood temperature). If you don't have a cook's thermometer, dip your finger into the milk. When you can't feel the liquid - i.e., it is neither hotter nor colder than your hand - you'll know it's at blood temperature.
2. Take the pan off the heat and add the vegetarian rennet. Give it a quick stir then leave the curds and whey to separate (about 15 minutes). Use a sharp knife to cut the curd into small chunks (about 2.5cm) in the pan.
3. Line two sieves (or one very large one) with two layers of fine, untreated muslin. Place each sieve over a bowl. Spoon the cut curds and whey into the muslin. Gather up the corners of the muslin and tie them with string, then suspend the bundles over bowls overnight to allow the whey to drain away, leaving you with lovely, creamy soft cheese.

Milk Bread Makes 1 large loaf, Takes 50 minutes, plus proving


750g strong plain white flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp salt
75g butter, cut into small pieces, plus extra for greasing
7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
1 tbsp golden caster sugar
300ml milk

1. Put the flour into a large bowl and add the salt. Add the butter and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until it's like breadcrumbs. Tip in the yeast and sugar.
2. Pour the milk into a large measuring jug and stir in 150ml water. Microwave on high for 2 minutes until warm. (Or warm in a pan over a medium heat.) Add to the flour and stir with a wooden spoon. Use your hands to mix the dough until it forms a soft dough that leaves the sides of the bowl clean.
3. Sprinkle a work surface with flour, then tip the dough onto it. Stretch and work the dough for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Roll the dough into an oblong shape.
4. Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/gas 7. Grease a 900g loaf tin and add the dough. Cover with greased cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for about 25 minutes, until the dough is almost at the top. Discard the cling film, dust with some extra flour and bake for 30 minutes, until risen and golden brown. Cool in the tin for at least 20 minutes.

A great way of warming up and doing things together, not so good on the waistline though...

Friday, 22 January 2010

Changing... Me, Him and Littleun

I used to keep a diary about Littleuns adventures to remind myself what he was like growing up. I came across this entry from a couple of years ago which would have been written about this time (the bit about not seeing fella, it always happens in January). It made me smile but also think. He hasn’t changed much, still has his days where grapes are the only food. Nursery is now not a battle about going, but the leaving is definitely still a problem. The cat still escapes and as its January, I’m halfway through the month without the Fella! The main difference, well it’s me. Before I would have sat and cried with all this stress, feeling useless as a mum and partner. Nowadays I am dealing with more stress but seem much calmer and I put this down to finally accepting myself for who I am and not worrying about what other folk think. Try it, it’s a bit liberating!

Heres the entry;

"I woke up to find Littleun sitting next to me, right next to me, I mean on top, well almost.

Immediately I realise that the reason he had escaped was to get to the toilet and to go p**, unfortunately he hasn’t mastered the art of wiping and now my bedding was somewhat soiled.

Try and run bath to clean said child only to find out that the boiler has broken down over night and flooded the kitchen.

Read emails, but can’t thanks to AOL crashing.

Try to feed Littleun but if it’s not grapes he won’t eat, clean porridge and other food off walls.

Take him outside to play on beach, change him twice before we get there.

Try for lunch, see above breakfast for results.

Read gossip board, but have so many posts (over 4000) that before I get anywhere AOL has crashed.

Change him for afternoon nursery, one torn jumper due to him trying to take it off the same time as I’m trying to get it on him. Get to nursery and proceed to be hit by him as he doesn’t want to go inside, once his key worker opens the door I marvel at the instantaneous change from “666” child to Angel when he sees her. I’m standing there with hair half out, jumper pulled all over and red-faced.

Go home, try and read AOL, can’t even log on this time!

Cry as I realise that this is the middle day of almost a month without the Fella.

Pick Littleun up from nursery only to be told how wonderful he his, seconds later in the car I’m ducking low flying toys as he doesn’t want to go home but wants to stay with V his key worker. (I’m so loved by him!)

Once home, try to get him to eat for the 3rd time, why I bothered I don’t know. Running out of floor flash.

Start cooking roast chicken dinner as my sister is coming round and I hear an almighty crash, go and investigate only to find him sitting in the middle of broken glass and china. He has decided climbing my display cabinet was a good idea and has managed to break my wedding champagne flute and other old sentimental things.

Clean up mess, check child for injuries, go back to put roasting pan in oven as I had been moving it when heard crash. Suddenly realise that there are thuds of tiny feet coming from the bathroom upstairs. Don’t realise this in time as I hear crying and see that he has slipped off the footstall he uses and has knocked himself on the head. Promptly try to cuddle child to calm him and get thumped by him as he try’s to stand up. One black eye.

Phone mum for reassuring talk that I haven’t raised Beelzebub and I’m not a nasty neglectful mum, only for her to tell me to “stop running to her crying every time something goes wrong”

Sister comes in sees mess and in trying to help forgets to shut front door which leads onto a very busy street, cat escapes.

Littleun in bed, cat back indoors. I decide that a quick swift shot of sambuca to calm my nerves is a great idea.

Today have hangover from hell and a child who has switched identities in the night and is now being sweet and “singing for mummy”.

The joys of having a Littleun, I’m sure the Krypton Factor was easier…

Wednesday, 20 January 2010


I went to Stonehenge at the end of November ‘09 and whilst there was asked to sign a petition to return the remains of humans who had been unearthed during the previous couple of years digs. Without reading too much I signed it. I’m not normally one for just signing petitions, certainly not without all the facts first, but in this case I did, mainly due to my thoughts that humans should be given respect, left alone and allowed to remain interred in the manner they had wished. I feel this way whether you are talking about the Egyptian mummies, Christian burials or in this case humans from at least 4500 years ago. And yes, I know the education argument...

But I wonder now, if they hadn’t done the dig, would they have found Bluehenge? Now for those of you who don’t know what Bluehenge is, well you’re not alone. The professionals seem to have some answers though National Geographic (who funded the Dig) and British Archaeology Magazines appear to agree on the thought that it was a crematorium before final interment at Stonehenge. Physically it was a henge, which seems to have collapsed into its surrounding ditch, and a circle of approximately 25 Bluestones.

The stones are in fact missing; all that remains are the holes, with several chips of Bluestone & Sandstone and some artefacts – antler, stone & bone tools, antler picks and knapped flints. Initial carbon dating on some of the antler picks have come back at 2470-2280BC, though the flints appear to be from earlier about 3000BC. Further carbon dating is still being waited on, attempts on an antler has so far proved inconclusive due to inadequate collagen. The thought is that the stones were later taken during one of the renovations on Stonehenge, dragged along the avenue at about 2500BC. This is in part verified by both the presence of the type of stone in Stonehenge and the lack of any substantial amount of chippings at the Bluehenge.

But the part that interests me is the funeral proceedings (I know, how can I be interested but not want the burials disturbed?!). Previous excavations at Durrington Wells, a stone-age village near Stone henge excavated in 2007 has found some seasonal festivities which some feel is part of the “domain of living”. The dead would be celebrated at Durrington, and then possibly carried along a short avenue to the River Avon, proceeding down the river and stopping, now thought, at Bluehenge for the cremation before burial at Stonehenge. There are a lot of wood charcoal and human bone fragments to perhaps support this theory and if this is the case it puts Stonehenge in line as the final destination for the ancestors.

There is more analysis planned and various publications due, the next I believe is in February as part of the Stonehenge Riverside Project. If this has whetted your interest you can start to find more information at National Geographic, The Megalith Portal and British Archaeology.

photo by cultural visions, flickr

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Sofa Joy

Yes I know, its a pathetic thing to be getting so excited about but hey so what, I am! I've ordered my new sofa. Its going to take to March to get here (boohoo) but its the first ever brand new one I've had. The last one was second hand from a kind relative but it's had its day, worn and broken (and coral pink) after 9½ years it needs replacing.

So here it is, this is what I've chosen, only mine goes the other way and is in Dark Chocolate as I'm not brave enough to allow Littleun near one so light in colour. What do you think?

Monday, 18 January 2010

January Blues

January 18th is meant to be the day when there are more depressed people than any other day. So I thought I’d find some random facts about this day and you can make up your own mind if you should be feeling blue! For myself I’m really happy today, after much hassle, delays and wondering what I had ever done I am getting my carpets, yay. Stage one of interior decorating of my home is almost complete.

January is named after Janus, the Roman god of doorways and of beginnings and endings.
He is represented with a two sided head, one looking ahead and the other always looking behind. He symbolically represented that Rome was the first real civilization, looking back at those primitive cultures before them. Some Roman coins showed him with and without beards, even occasionally with four heads.
John Boorman, 77, filmmaker (Deliverance, Excalibur), born Shepperton, England, 1933.
Kevin Costner, 55, actor, director (Field of Dreams, Dances with Wolves, Bull Durham), born Lynwood, CA, 1955.
Ray Dolby, 77, inventor of the Dolby Sound System for sound recording, born Portland, OR, 1933.
Jane Horrocks, 46, actress (Little Voice, “Absolutely Fabulous”), born Lancashire, England,1964.
Evelyn Lear, 79, opera singer, born New York, NY, 1931.
Jesse L. Martin, 41, actor (“Law & Order,” “Ally McBeal”), born Rocky Mountain, VA, 1969.
Mark Messier, 49, former hockey player, born Edmonton, AB, Canada, 1961.
Martin O’Malley, 47, Governor of Maryland (D), born Bethesda, MD, 1963.
Jason Segel, 30, actor (Saving Sarah Marshall, “Freaks and Geeks,” “How I Met Your Mother”), born Los Angeles, CA, 1980
A.A Milne 1882, Winnie the Pooh,
Cary Grant 1904 Hollywood actor, born Bristol, England
Bobby Goldsboro 1941 American Country and Pop songwriter/singer

· January in the Northern Hemisphere is the seasonal equivalent to July in the Southern Hemisphere and vice versa.
· January 1st, 1776, the first American flag, the "Grand Union" was presented. Betsy Ross later added the stars in place of the Union Jack.
· Leap years exempted, January 1st always begins on the same day as October 1st.
· In leap years, January always begins on the same day as April and July.
· The Chinese floral emblem of January is the plum blossom
· January is National Soup Month in the United States.

350 – Generallus Magnentius deposes Roman Emperor Constans and proclaims himself Emperor.
474 – Leo II briefly becomes Byzantine emperor.
532 – Nika riots in Constantinople fail.
1126 – Emperor Huizong abdicates the Chinese throne in favour of his son Emperor Qinzong.
1486 – King Henry VII of England marries Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV.
1520 – King Christian II of Denmark and Norway defeats the Swedes at Lake Åsunden.
1535 – Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro founded Lima, the capital of Peru.
1562 – Pope Pius IV reopens the Council of Trent for its third and final session.
1591 – King Naresuan of Siam kills Crown Prince Minchit Sra of Burma in single combat, for which this date is now observed marked as Royal Thai Armed Forces day.
1670 – Henry Morgan captures Panama.
1701 – Frederick I becomes King of Prussia.
1777 – Representatives of the New Hampshire Grants declare the independence of the Vermont Republic from Britain.
1778 – James Cook is the first known European to discover the Hawaiian Islands, which he names the "Sandwich Islands".
1788 – The first elements of the First Fleet carrying 736 convicts from England to Australia arrives at Botany Bay.
1861 – American Civil War – Georgia joins South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama in seceding from the United States.
1871 – Wilhelm I of Germany is proclaimed the first German Emperor in the 'Hall of Mirrors' of the Palace of Versailles towards the end of the Franco-Prussian War. The empire was known as the Second Reich to Germans.
1884 – Dr. William Price attempts to cremate the body of his infant son, Jesus Christ Price, setting a legal precedent for cremation in the United Kingdom.
1886 – Modern field hockey is born with the formation of The Hockey Association in England.
1896 – The X-ray machine is exhibited for the first time.
1903 – President Theodore Roosevelt sends a radio message to King Edward VII: the first transatlantic radio transmission originating in the United States.
1911 – Eugene B. Ely lands on the deck of the USS Pennsylvania stationed in San Francisco harbor, marking the first time an aircraft landed on a ship.
1913 – A Greek flotilla defeats the Ottoman Navy in the Naval Battle of Lemnos during the First Balkan War, securing the islands of the Northern Aegean Sea for Greece.
1915 – Japan issues the "Twenty-One Demands" to the Republic of China in a bid to increase its power in East Asia.
1916 – A 611 gram chondrite type meteorite strikes a house near the village of Baxter in Stone County, Missouri.
1919 – World War I: The Paris Peace Conference opens in Versailles, France.
1919 – Ignacy Jan Paderewski becomes Prime Minister of the newly independent Poland.
1919 – Bentley Motors Limited is founded.
1941 – World War II: British troops launch a general counter-offensive against Italian East Africa.
1943 – Warsaw Ghetto Uprising: The first uprising of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto.
1944 – The Metropolitan Opera House in New York City hosts a jazz concert for the first time. The performers are Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Artie Shaw, Roy Eldridge and Jack Teagarden.
1944 – Soviet forces liberate Leningrad, effectively ending a three year Nazi siege, known as the Siege of Leningrad.
1945 – Liberation of the Budapest ghetto by the Red Army.
1955 – Battle of Yijiangshan occurred.
1958 – Willie O'Ree, the first African Canadian National Hockey League player, makes his NHL debut.
1967 – Albert DeSalvo, the "Boston Strangler," is convicted of numerous crimes and is sentenced to life in prison.
1969 – United Airlines Flight 266 crashes into Santa Monica Bay resulting in the loss of all 32 passengers and six crew members.
1974 – A Disengagement of Forces agreement is signed between the Israeli and Egyptian governments, ending conflict on the Egyptian front of the Yom Kippur War.
1977 – Scientists identify a previously unknown bacterium as the cause of the mysterious Legionnaires' disease.
1977 – Australia's worst rail disaster occurs at Granville, Sydney killing 83.
1978 – The European Court of Human Rights finds the United Kingdom government guilty of mistreating prisoners in Northern Ireland, but not guilty of torture.
1983 – The International Olympic Committee restores Jim Thorpe's Olympic medals to his family.
1990 – Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry is arrested for drug possession in an FBI sting.
1991 – Eastern Air Lines goes out of business after 62 years, citing financial problems.
1993 – For the first time, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is officially observed in all 50 states.
1994 – The Cando event, a possible bolide impact in Cando, Spain. Witnesses claim to have seen a fireball in the sky lasting for almost one minute.
1997 – In north west Rwanda, Hutu militia members kill 3 Spanish aid workers, 3 soldiers and seriously wound one other.
1997 – Boerge Ousland of Norway becomes the first person to cross Antarctica alone and unaided.
1998 – Lewinsky scandal: Matt Drudge breaks the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair story on his website The Drudge Report.
2000 – The Tagish Lake meteorite impacts the Earth.
2002 – Sierra Leone Civil War is finally declared over.
2003 – A bushfire kills 4 people and destroys more than 500 homes in Canberra, Australia.
2005 – The Airbus A380, the world's largest commercial jet, is unveiled at a ceremony in Toulouse, France
2007 – The strongest storm in the United Kingdom in 17 years kills 14 people, Germany sees the worst storm since 1999 with 13 deaths. Hurricane Kyrill, causes at least 44 deaths across 20 countries in Western Europe. Other losses include the Container Ship MSC Napoli destroyed by the storm off the coast of Devon, England

Actually, reading this list I think I’m going to find something else to cheer me up......

Sunday, 17 January 2010

blog layout

Just testing another layout, bit bored, hopefully will find one I can settle with...

Cakes, hmm yummy, I think...

“Yes Littleun”
“Can we make cakes mummy?”
“Got to be pink ones mum, with roses and jam and tom & jerry”

So we start making the mix but...

“No mum, blue, I said blue”
“No you didn’t Littleun, you said pink, and I’ve added the colour now”

Crying, well crocodile crying...

“Ok, hang on if I add enough blue it’ll turn it a purple, is that ok?”

15 mins later, we’ve taken them out of the oven and they are cooling nicely. I start to make the icing mix, checking the colour with Littleun, who agrees, blue. He pastes the top of them and the table and his hair and the cat...

“Noddy mum, Noddy”
“Haven’t got Noddy, you said Tom & Jerry”

More crocodile crying before he checks the cupboard, knocking a jar of lentils everywhere in the process...

“Right now you really want roses too or do you want to change your mind?”
“Of course I want roses, mummy I don’t think you’re listening to me, I’m going to count to 3, maybe that will give you time to understand me”...

Don’t you just love contrary kids who can parrot your words straight back to you?!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Imbolc Crafts: Metal flakes

Brighid is the Goddess of many things, including blacksmithing. Now this is an impractical, downright dodgy thing to try if you’ve got Littleuns so I was thinking how can I combine metal and kids safely. I came up with using tinfoil. I was going to get him to roll some into shapes and make things but whilst I was getting it all ready he sat there with a pencil and started to draw on the foil. So our plans changed a bit. Instead we’ve made metal snowflakes.

It’s quite simple really, you will need:
Tin/aluminium foil
Pencil or similar
Some scissors
Soft area to work

Cut out circles of the foil in different sizes.
Drawn on one side patterns to look like snowflakes, this will leave an embossed area once you turn it over. Pinch the points where you want to give“sharpness” to the look.
Pearce a hole in a point and thread the ribbon. Then hang in the window, off the ceiling, the banisters, in fact if you are like Littleun, anywhere!

Another type of “Metal” snowflake we have done is with glitter and glue guns. A bit tricky for the Littleun to use the gun so I did that part but the rest was messy fun so he did that!

You will need:
Glue gun
Plastic cutting board/ flexible if you have one
Silver glitter

On your board use the gun to “draw” out a snowflake shape. You need to be quick so it doesn’t cool down too fast. As soon as you have, get the Littleuns to cover the shape with the glitter. Attach the ribbon with a bit more glue. Leave until hard and set then peel off board (that's why a flexible one is slightly easier) and hang in windows etc.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Diet Blown

Why is it that all my best intentions go flying out the window the minute I start baking? I don't even really like cakes and biscuits that much but there is something about a warm beautiful smelling pie (lemon is this case) that just calls to me. I tried to be good, but it kept yelling "eat me, eat me". So after a couple of hours (oh ok mins) I succumbed. Now feeling so guilty as I made a 7 inch pie and have just gone back into the kitchen and noticed that my sly nibbling at the edges means it is now a 4 incher. Oops. Diet gone for today.....

Imbolc Crafts: Brighid’s Cross

The first of the Imbolc crafts that we are trying (other than the Ice candle) is a cross. Littleun is a bit young so I thought he might find this fiddly but in fact the calm repetitive method seemed to appeal to him and after a few attempts was soon well away. We did a crazy amount of these so will be giving some to friends who hopefully will like them! Again I have used for the following information, so many thanks to them.

The cross has long been a symbol of Brighid, the Irish goddess who presides over hearth and home. In some legends, the girl who became St. Bridget wove the first of these crosses as she explained Christianity to her father, a Pictish chieftain. In other stories, the cross is not a cross at all, but a wheel of fire, which explains why it's a bit off-centre in appearance. In parts of Ireland, Brighid is known as a goddess of the crossroads, and this symbol represents the place where two worlds meet, and the year is at a crossroads between light and dark.

A Brighid's Cross can be purchased in many Irish craft shops or at festivals, but it's actually pretty easy to make your own. You can incorporate the creation of your Brighid's Cross into your Imbolc rituals, use it as a meditative exercise, or just put one together with your kids as a fun craft activity.

To make your Brighid's Cross, you'll need straw, reeds, or construction paper -- if you're using plant material like straw or reeds, you'll want to soak it overnight so it's pliable when you go to make your Cross. Your end result will be about the length of one piece of your material -- in other words, a bundle of 12" reeds will yield a Brighid's Cross just slightly longer than 12".
** Note: for a super-easy, kid-friendly edition of this project, use pipe cleaners.

To begin, you'll form a base for your Cross by bending two pieces of straw in their middles to create a pair of loops -- in fact, you'll do this with each piece as you make your Cross. Link the two pieces together at their centres, as shown in Figure 1.

Next, turn these two pieces so they lie flat, and at a right angle to one another, as shown in Figure 2. This basic two-piece unit is the base for the rest of the Cross, and it's the only time you'll have two pieces hooked together in the middles like this.

Next, bend a third piece of straw in half, and loop it over one of your two base pieces, as indicated in Figure 3. Both legs of the loop in the new piece will pass over both legs of the base piece. Pull this third piece tight to hold it in place.

Take a fourth piece, and bend it in half as you've done with the others. Loop this one over the legs of the piece you added in Step 3. You should now have four pieces, each pointing in a different direction, as shown in Figure 4.

Finally, you'll continue looping pieces over one another (see Figure 5) as you did in the last step, until your cross reaches the size you want. Each piece loops over the previous one. When you're all done, use a piece of string, ribbon, or even another bit of straw to secure the four ends. Trim off excess pieces.

EDIT: I've just posted this and then gone on to read other folks blogs, Pagan Dad has also posted about the crosses today, that'll teach me to read others before blogging mine, lol!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Ogham readings

I have somewhat neglected my Ogham studies in recent weeks. Work pressures, health and Littleun has meant that I’ve either not got the time or the peace and quiet required. But today I thought I’d go back to it. Try and continue my path a bit further. So I asked a question; “what does the next month hold for me”? A rather general question I know and full of possible answers but here are the three Oghams I had answering, I guess that means my hesitation regarding so many new things really should be taken with a firm grip and just got on with!

Iodhadh or Ioho: Yew
Transformation, rebirth, immortality:

Physical: Something held for many years must be passed on, let go. It serves you no longer. Mental: The knowledge that nothing lasts forever will bring ease at this time. Spiritual: Changes are coming to you, you have a tendency to try and hang on, let go and experience the change as an ally not an enemy.

I is Iodhadh, or Idad, the Yew tree. Much like the Death card in the Tarot, the Yew is known as a marker of death and endings. This evergreen tree has leaves that are attached in a spiral pattern to the twigs. Because of its unusual growth pattern, in which new growth forms inside the old, the Yew is strongly tied to rebirth and new life following death.

The Yew has no medicinal value at all, and in fact is mostly toxic. Livestock have been known to die from eating the poisonous leaves. Berries can be used, but should be treated with caution. On a practical level, the wood of the Yew tree is very hard and resistant to water damage, so it was popular in the making of longbows in England.

In A Modern Herbal, Maud Grieve says of the Yew, "No tree is more associated with the history and legends of Great Britain than the Yew. Before Christianity was introduced it was a sacred tree favoured by the Druids, who built their temples near these trees - a custom followed by the early Christians. The association of the tree with places of worship still prevails.

Iodhadh Correspondences
Mundane Aspects: Although it may not represent spiritual death, if Iodhadh appears, it's a sign that major transitions are coming. Be aware of them, and realize that although not all of them are bad, they will probably be pretty significant. Now's a good time to get rid of things which are of no use to you, in order to make room for new beginnings.
Magical Aspects: Changes are on the way, so quit clinging to beliefs and ideas that no longer serve you well. Shed the old, and welcome the new. Accept change for what it is -- an asset -- and stop seeing it as an obstacle. Don't fear new things, embrace them.

Ailim or Alim: Fir

Power, insight, progression:

Physical: In this issue you can see what is beyond and what is coming. You have the perception to see and to understand from the point where you stand. Take long view point and foresee the future. Mental: Receive from the past and present strength and healing from which to draw insight and knowledge for your future. Spiritual: Be aware of your progress on your spiritual voyage.

A is for Ailim, or Ailm, the Elm tree. Interestingly, this group also includes the Pine or Fir trees. These giants of the forest are symbols of perspective and height, rising above those that surround us. The Elm has a clear vision of that which surrounds it, as well as that which is approaching.

In Britain and Scotland, Elm trees grew very tall and straight, making them popular for use as a Maypole during Beltane celebrations. In addition to this, they were popular as property markers -- you knew you had reached someone else's land boundary when you crossed a line of Elm trees. Elm is flexible and bendy, so it doesn't make a very good building material, but it does withstand water very well, so it eventually became popular for use in making flatboats and wheels. In Wales, early bowmen used the Elm in construction of longbows.

Ailim Correspondences
Mundane Aspects: When this symbol appears, it means it's time to start looking at the big picture -- see the trees, but also acknowledge the forest. Be aware that your perception includes long-term goals and ideas, and prepare for what may be coming along the path.
Magical Aspects: Mark your progress well as you grow and develop spiritually. As you attain new levels of wisdom, look at the future and see where this new knowledge will take you. Also recognize that there will be others following in your footsteps, so make yourself available to guide them and give them a hand when they need it.

Ruis: Elder
Change, Transition, fæires:

Physical: Though one aspect of your life is over, another begins anew. Mental: Changes from the old will bring creativity, to usher in new ideas and thoughts. Spiritual: Links are continually formed as new phases of life and experience repeat in different forms that lead to renewal.
R is Ruis, the Elder tree, which is connected to the time of the Winter Solstice. The Elder represents endings, maturity, and the awareness that comes with experience. Pronounced roo-esh, Ruis is a sign that things may be ending, but will yet begin again some day. Although the Elder is easily damaged, it recovers and is rejuvenated easily.

The Elder is also strongly connected with Goddess spirituality, and the workings of the Fæ. The soft wood has a lightweight core that can be pushed out to create a hollow tube -- perfect for a Færie flute! Elder was also planted near dairy barns, in the belief that its presence would keep the cows in milk, and prevent collected milk from spoiling. Elder flowers and berries are often brewed to fight fever, cough, and sore throats.

Ruis Correspondences
Mundane Aspects: This is a time of transition -- while one phase of life ends, another begins. With maturity and experience comes wisdom and knowledge. Remember that it's fine to be childlike, but not childish.
Magical Aspects: New experiences and new phases of growth are continual, and these will all lead to spiritual renewal, and finally rebirth. Remember that the things we experience are all part of the formation of who we eventually become.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Celtic Gods and Goddesses; Brighid

If like me you are still learning and therefore may be a little confused about the relations between the Gods and Goddesses, you may find the "timeless myths" link for the Gods and Goddesses trees useful.

With Imbolc around the corner I’ve centred my current studies on Brighid, There is an abundance of information on this Goddesses and it’s difficult to pick a point at which to start! She is the daughter of Dagda and sister to others, including Midhir, who I’ve briefly mentioned previously. She is thought to have two others sisters, also called Brighid and as such is a triple Goddess and finally mother to Ruadán. She is the goddess of all things perceived to be of relatively high dimensions such as high-rising flames, highlands, hill-forts and upland areas; and of activities and states conceived as psychologically lofty and elevated, such as wisdom, excellence, perfection, high intelligence, poetic eloquence, craftsmanship (especially blacksmithing), healing ability, druidic knowledge and skill in warfare. Over the next few posts I hope to be able to share Imbolc related crafts which you can do with your Littleuns and place, if you’d like to, on your Altar.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Imbolc Crafts: Ice Candles

Imbolc is fast advancing and with this everlasting snow we seem to be getting, I for one can’t wait. I normally love winter, its clean cold crispness which eventually moves away to reveal new life with buds of snowdrops peaking through the ground is a lovely sight. But to be fair, I have had enough this year. I’m a wimp I know and I’ve been done in by it all. The walking constantly last week saw me end up with a horrible cough and cold, fast on the heels of the one I’d just got rid of, and a wrenched knee. Now swollen and stiff making life a little tricky in a house which is 3 levels! So I have been searching for fun things to do in the warm with Littleun. I came across this candle idea and we have given it a try, not as warm in the preparations as you’d have thought but a good afternoon anyway. Just be warned it can get a little messy.

Ice candles are a lot of fun and easy to make during the winter months. Since February is traditionally a snow-filled time, at least in the northern hemisphere, why not make some ice candles to celebrate Imbolc, which is a day of candles and light?
You'll need the following:
· Ice
· Paraffin wax
· Colour and scent (optional)
· A taper candle
· A cardboard container, like a milk carton
· A double boiler, or two pans

Melt the paraffin wax in the double boiler. Make sure that the wax is never placed directly over the heat, or you could end up with a fire. While the wax is melting, you can prepare your candle mould. If you want to add colour or scent to your candle, this is the time to add it to the melted wax.

Place the taper candle into the centre of the cardboard carton. Fill the carton with ice, packing them loosely in around the taper candle. Use small chunks of ice - if they're too large, your candle will be nothing but big holes.

Once the wax has melted completely, pour it into the container carefully, making sure that it goes around the ice evenly. As the hot wax pours in, it will melt the ice, leaving small holes in the candle. Allow the candle to cool, and then poke a hole in the bottom of the cardboard carton so the melted water can drain out (it's a good idea to do this over a sink). Let the candle sit overnight so the wax can harden completely, and in the morning, peel back the entire cardboard container. You'll have a complete ice candle, which you can use in ritual or for decoration.

Patti Wigington, Guide

Sunday, 10 January 2010

2010 International Year of Biodiversity

Over the years I have tried to limit the damage that I am creating all be it unintentionally just by my existence. This is includes changing the types of products I use to not tested on animals, cutting back on using fossil fuels/electricity or eating food that hasn't been soaked in chemicals, to name a few. I have also tried to think long term about what effect my actions might have elsewhere, not just in my immediate surroundings.
A bit deep you might think but it is a fact that not only is the climate changing our everyday weather but it is also changing and challenging the lives of plants animals and their habitats. And surely if somewhere along the lines we could help what is an essential part of our existence survive then that is good? The following is the opening Welcome statement for this years United Nations Action, a celebration of life on earth and of the value of biodiversity for our lives. If it interests you and makes you want to find out more then please click on the logo to the right (big green thing "2010").

Welcome to the International Year of Biodiversity

You are an integral part of nature; your fate is tightly linked with biodiversity, the huge variety of other animals and plants, the places they live and their surrounding environments, all over the world.

You rely on this diversity of life to provide you with the food, fuel, medicine and other essentials you simply cannot live without. Yet this rich diversity is being lost at a greatly accelerated rate because of human activities. This impoverishes us all and weakens the ability of the living systems, on which we depend, to resist growing threats such as climate change.

The United Nations proclaimed 2010 to be the International Year of Biodiversity, and people all over the world are working to safeguard this irreplaceable natural wealth and reduce biodiversity loss. This is vital for current and future human wellbeing. We need to do more. Now is the time to act.

The International Year of Biodiversity is a unique opportunity to increase understanding of the vital role that biodiversity plays in sustaining life on Earth.

On the pages of this website, you will be able to find out a bit more about the International Year of Biodiversity. Visit the pages to find out:
The important role biodiversity plays in our lives and what is happening to it.
What people are doing around the world to combat biodiversity loss
How people are celebrating the International Year of Biodiversity

Some of the resources available to you in your celebrations Take Action in 2010 and beyond, because

Biodiversity is life
Biodiversity is our life

Saturday, 9 January 2010

The Pixies

Have e’er you seen the Pixies, the fold not blest or banned?
They walk upon the waters; they sail upon the land,
They make the green grass greener where’er their footsteps fall,
The wildest hind in the forest comes at their call.

They steal from bolted linneys, they milk the key at grass,
The maids are kissed a-milking, and no one hears them pass.
They flit from byre to stable and ride unbroken foals,
They seek out human lovers to win them souls.

The Pixies know no sorrow, the Pixies feel no fear,
They take no care for harvest or seedtime of the year;
Age lays no finger on them, the reaper time goes by
The Pixies, they who change not, grow old or die.

The Pixies though they love us, behold us pass away,
And are not sad for flowers they gathered yesterday,
To-day has crimson foxglove.
If purple hose-in-hose withered last night

To-morrow will have its rose.

by Nora Chesson 1871-1906

Friday, 8 January 2010

The World is Ending

No seriously if the local supermarket is to be believed it is! Popped in to get a few ordinary bits and bobs to find that the masses had descended and were buying anything and everything. Whether they needed it or not. I can’t believe that this town has ground to a halt, we’ve only had an inch at most of snow, the main roads at least are clear and even quite a few of the side roads look fine too. Madness!

On a better note I’ve done 7 miles out of my predicted 11 for today and am now having a well earned cup of soup before heading out again. It was a nice walk really, bit arduous (I’m so unfit!) but fun watching the kids in the local park use anything that would slide on the ice if they hadn’t got sledges. I particularly liked the initiative of a kid who had found a blow up crocodile and was bravely balancing on its back down a 1:3 slope! The trees are very pretty in this snow too, though I think the swan might be thinking it’s rather chilly.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Snowed In

My car is currently snowed in and as life has to go on this means I am walking everywhere. I work with accounts and this time of year is very very manic for me and as the tax return deadline fast looms I am having to go out and see clients snow or not! This has meant that so far this week I have managed to walk about 20miles, approximately 19 miles more than normal and I'm so very tired. Tomorrow I have two more clients to see, at complete opposite ends of the town and from littleuns nursery so I'll be covering roughly 11 miles. As anyone who knows me knows, this just ain't good! It's also my excuse for the lack of posts over the next few days, I sadly just won't either have the time or be awake to do regular daily ones. Please forgive me and I'll see you soon!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Magical Animal Symbols, the Answers!

Ooh no-one played :o( . Anyway here are the answers:
  1. No; In Britain a black cat crossing the road or entering your house is considered good fortune. in Yorkshire, fishermen's wives keep black cats at home to ensure their husbands return safely home from sea. in Southern England, a black cat crossing a brides path is said to bring a fortunate marriage.
  2. The Wolf
  3. A pixie in disguise
  4. Falcon; The Falcon also symbolises magick, healing and releasing the soul of a dying person.
  5. Dragonfly; Dragonflies symbolise dreams, illusions and mystic messages of enlightenment.

I'm off out for now so hope you all have a good day...

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Magical Animal Symbols

A friend sent me this quiz from trivia website. I got 3/5 (still learning!), how well can you do? I'll post the answers tomorrow so you won't hopefully get too frustrated, unless of course you're a brainiac and know all the answers already.
  1. Is a black cat always considered unlucky?
  2. According to the Native Americans, Wind was created by; The Horse, The Buffalo, The Wolf, The Snake?
  3. According to the Irish, what is a hedgehog; A pixie in disguise, a Cursed Mortal, a Satyr, a Vampire?
  4. Which bird symbolises astral travel; The Phoenix, Eagle, Crow, Falcon?
  5. Which insect is also known as "the Devil's Darning Needle", "The Bee Butcher" and "The Mosquito Hawk"; Dragonfly, Butterfly, Scarab Beetle, Honeybee?

Now no cheating!

Monday, 4 January 2010

Pagan Parenting ideas

It’s quite difficult sometimes for me as a newbie pagan to know how to do things with Littleun. Some of it is easy, just follow your heart and reinforce the need for respect and kindness. But some off it can be tricky. How much do I tell him, I teach him about all faiths, after all as I’ve mention previously he should be free to find his own way.

Recently I have stumbled across various WebPages which have helped. Some are about the spiritual aspects and some like Pooka-pages are about a bit of spiritual and a lot of craft. I know it centres on Witches and that we aren't particularly Wiccan but I find it a helpful place and full of drawings and stories which the Littleun loves. If you have time, take a wander over, I think it’s worth the visit...

Sunday, 3 January 2010

A cold winter’s day

I don’t mind it being cold, in fact I much prefer it to rain but blimey it was very very cold yesterday! We decided to take the Littleun out and about over the last couple of days to try and get some exercise in and get rid of the lethargy the head-cold bug had given us.

On the first outing we re-visited a favourite haunt called Bedgebury where Littleun played pixies in the trees. Running around enjoying himself he would peak out from the woods to see if we have found him, calling to us at the same time. I don’t think he has quite sussed out the rules of hide and seek!

On our second visit we went to a local reserve where you can enjoy the views of the sea and surrounding hills at the same time as quietly studying the lovely birds on their way to far off places. Normally an enjoyable trip this time it was sadly marred by a large groups of twitchers who seriously lacked manners. Dropping their rubbish and marching 4-5 abreast they pushed their way past all the different children who were out on new bikes and scooters, just so they could take pictures of the birds which by now had taken cover from this mad lot. Shame on them! Still once they had gone we had the last laugh as being so quiet the birds came back out and we sat watching them till the cold beat us and we retreated to the warmth of the local.

Lovely times...

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Midhir’s Invitation

Would you follow such sweet descriptions...

A year to the day after winning his last bet with Eochaid, Midhir returns to take away Étain. Standing in Eochaid’s great hall he sings the song to her setting out the pleasures of the Gods enchanted hills.

“O fair lady! Will you come with me
To a wonderful country which is mine,
where the peoples hair is of a golden hue,
And their bodies the colour of virgin snow?

There no grief or care is known;
White are their teeth, black their eyelashes;
Delight of the eye is the rank of our hosts,
With the hues of the fox-glove on every cheek.

Crimson are the flowers of every mead,
Gracefully speckled as the blackbirds egg;
Though beautiful to see be the plains of Inisfail
They are but commons compared to our great plains.

Though intoxicating to you the ale-drink of Inisfail,
More intoxicating the ales of the great country;
The only land to praise is the land of which I speak
Where no one ever dies of decrepit age.

Soft sweet streams traverse the land;
The choicest of mead and of wine;
Beautiful people without any blemish;
Love without sin, without wickedness.

We can see the peoples upon all sides;
But by no one can we be seen;
The cloud of Adam’s transgression it is
That prevents them from seeing us.

O lady, should you come to my brave land,
It is golden hair that will be on your head;
Fresh pork, beer, new milk and ale,
You there with me shall have, O fair lady!”

Translation by O’Curry, Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish

Painting by Willy Pogany (1882-1955)