Five minutes and counting

By the time I finish writing this the polls will be open. One of my friends referred to it as an old white man contest.

I’ve been quiet lately— struggling with an outbreak of ringworm among the kittens and teenager #1 and I. We moved The Norse Pride of foster kittens from Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab into my room and The Roman Pride into teenager #1’s room. The hope is that this will increase the Romans’ trust in humans.

Meanwhile… I lost my bedfellow Fog (which distresses me greatly and he is obviously upset about it and then teenager #1 made him wear a bow tie so I may never be forgiven) and gained scenes like this:

Vale & Loki, brothers

Teenager #1 insisted they were too small and too tame to harass the birds… so I suppose this is my imagination.

But in other news, my neighbor and I had a tea party last night. She has started using her mother’s tea pot and I have fancy tea cups and even fancier jams so we joined forces.

And this was after I made lemon butter caper gravy for dinner so all in all if nothing else it was a tasty day.

Chicken and Brussel sprouts with caper gravy

Teenager #1 explained to Teenager #2 that my food and television choices are a barometer of my mood. When I’m watching Gordon Ramsay my mental health is strong, but when I’m watching Hoarders I’m trying to feel better about myself.

By those rules, what does it mean that I binge-watched the entire series of Good Girls this weekend?

Speaking of this weekend, it felt so good to attend a football game. Here is the halftime show: Wilson Warrior Marching Band Avatar

What did not feel so good was the fall I took Friday night. I fell with all my weight on my right hand so my palm, wrist and thumb are all bruised. And I elbowed myself in the ribs— not quite hard enough to qualify for a bruised rib but hard enough so my right side hurts and I can’t lay on it. Or cough. But that’s how life goes when you are a clutz with cerebral palsy.

Have a great day.

My green breakfast, beer bribes, and not so good food choices.

I am sipping a matcha latte (a Tazo concentrate and it’s very sweet) and about to enjoy a pistachio muffin.

The last thing I need right now is a 400+ calorie muffin but I went to Weis yesterday because they have beer. And wine. And I like to have beer on hand to “pay” my neighbor when he automatically cuts my front lawn when he cuts his.

When my husband and I bought this house— almost 20 years ago—we intentionally picked one with a small yard. If you’ve read some of my earlier posts, you may have seen my backyard and never even realized how small it is. Just enough for a small garden and a clothesline.

That’s more than half my yard and my huge detached garage—split level

This is the post that photo comes from: Perfect Day from the Home Office

My husband used to cut the grass with a weed wacker. But it died. I used an old 100-year-old manual push mover. The one with the rotating blades. A gift from a friend who once lived in a similar neighborhood.

But my neighbors usually do my front yard. Our front yards are small and I think they figure if you have the lawn mower out might as well keep going.

My neighbor who currently cuts my grass has a habit of opening a cold beer when he’s done. So if I see him cutting grass, I bring him a cold beer. If he does it while I’m not around, I leave a beer on his porch.

So, if I want to continue to foster this good neighbor behavior, I need beer.

At Weis, they have this display right inside the door with preboxed muffins. I go to Weis for three things: pistachio muffins (why are they the only local store with the sense to back them????), their store made fried chicken (which they don’t appear to be making right now), and craft beer mix and match six packs. (The damn store is in a trifecta triangle with my gym, my bank and Dunkin’ Donuts.)

I walk into the store and there it sits— two very troubling decisions. There are two four-packs of muffins that include pistachio.

  1. Do I buy muffins? Oh, so nutritionally void. But delicious.
  2. Do I buy the four pack of pistachio or do I buy the four pack that includes three pistachio and one corn? How did that one corn muffin get in there? Why corn?

I had to buy the one with the corn. Who else would buy such a bizarre combo of muffins? And do the pistachio muffins bully the corn muffin?

I also bought a six pack of Yuengling and a six pack of Brooklyn Brand Sour Raspberry Ale. And a strawberry parfait.

The parfait was amazing. It was a strawberry shortcake with pudding and mountains of whipped cream. I thought it might have yogurt in it but no, it was pudding. I can’t even pretend that was healthy.

Weis Strawberry (Shortcake) Parfait

Throughout the day, I ate an entire bag of Sweettart jelly beans. I’m not disappointed in myself for eating 1300 calories of jelly beans. I’m disappointed in myself for binge eating jelly beans I didn’t even really like.

Yes, jelly beans and a diet A-treat

And then finally for supper, I made spinach feta sausage patties from our local small grocery, butcher and best deli ever Park Avenue Market. More on my shopping trip yesterday here: The Uplifting Side of Pandemic Days. The teenager was mmmmming and smacking her lips.

Meat courtesy Park Avenue Market

The sausage tasted fabulous on the day-old deeply discounted bakery rolls I picked up at Weis.

And the ale was good. The fruity sour taste was a tad off putting at first because I wasn’t quite prepared for it. But it was refreshing and smooth overall.

I have to do better with my eating today.

Sidewards glance you the huge, nutritionally void pistachio muffin next to my latte.

These are a few of my favorite teas

(You have to ‘hear’ that as a line from The Sound of Music’s “My Favorite Things.)

I started this post at 5 p.m. as I drank a 21-ounce mug of 2-parts Simply Balanced* Unwind Tea and 1-part Traditional Medicinals Nettle tea.

It’s 8 p.m. and I’m trying again.

Some favorite teas

When I was in Djibouti the first time, I ordered a cup of tea. The waitress said, “Le Lipton?” and I thought, “Really, I’ve flown half way around the world to the Horn of Africa and the best you can do is Lipton?”

If you have no idea where Djibouti is and want to learn more about my African travels, this is a good start: Sunday in Djibouti

So I thought I might tell you about some of my favorite teas. First off, know I do not add milk, sugar or honey to my tea. Black. I don’t even enjoy sweetened iced tea.

When we were on our road trip to Georgia, we stopped at Charleston Tea Plantation in South Carolina where I got some first flush. So good! I make it in the French press. That has a robust kick.

Staples in my home include some form of strong black tea. Currently my favorite is Tazo vanilla macaroon. I have a box of Tazo organic earl grey in my desk at work. I keep chai on hand for my friend Nancy and the teenager. The Tazo Caramel Vanilla Chai is my favorite, but the Bigelow Vanilla Chai is almost as good but much cheaper.

I love, love, love herbal teas. But I hate chamomile. Yogi has a lavender honey stress relief tea that is a favorite. Tazo has a juniper mint honey that might be my new afternoon go to.

Simply Balanced Voice Tamer is a great one for when you want something that is fairly strong but decaffeinated. It is actually a rooibos tea, which, according to our friends at the Charleston Tea Plantation isn’t a tea at all but a random plant from South Africa.

If you want to read my post about South Carolina, check this out: Memories of South Carolina

The teenager likes orange tea, Tazo Sweet Orange. I don’t do fruity tea often, and when I do I prefer Simply Balanced Raspberry Hibiscus. Tazo’s Glazed Lemon Loaf is a delightful treat.

Nettle tea is supposed to be high in iron, but the Traditional Medicinals one does not discuss that on the box so I wonder if they process it out. Good to fight anemia.

And lastly, I want to touch on matcha. I got into matcha before it was cool. Before it hit the Starbucks menu. I love Starbucks iced matcha latte with skim milk, but I won’t pay their prices. I also discovered why theirs tastes so good. They sweeten the matcha blend.

I really like the Tazo Matcha Mate Grapefruit. It has just the right amount of puckery, clean grapefruit flavor to make it an awesome breakfast tea.

But I’m not conniving to taste Dunkin Donuts new matcha.

But for bedtime, nothing relaxes the body like a strong glass of Traditional Medicinal Nighty Night Valerian.

And to store my teas, I use pencil trays from the dollar store: one for herbal, one for caffeinated, and one for medicinal.

* Target has recently rebranded what was their Simply Balanced line as Good & Gather. Some of these teas may have been relaunched in the new line, but some may have been discontinued.

21st Century Witchcraft: Magic in the Everyday

To understand my perspective and my background, see the earlier piece (part 1): 21st Century Witchcraft: Why I’m no longer “Christian”

My definition of witchcraft is neither the practices of spells nor the following of Wicca, though both of those may qualify as witches.

My definition of magic isn’t based on hocus pocus or ritual, though both of those may qualify.

In my view, and what I wish to discuss here, there are many practices in everyday life that, again in my view, equate to everyday magic.My views may run counter to your views. please remember, the universe has space for all of us.

Respect, first and foremost.

  • Prayer. The basic concept of prayer has a person preparing a sincere conversation with God. Thinking that our words with influence a higher power or change the outcome of events certainly feels like magic to me.
  • Aromatherapy, essential oils, herbal medicine. Witchcraft may be seen as finding the best use for items in the natural world and understanding how these items influence our mind, body, health and behavior.
  • Good luck charms. Lucky penny? Only take a test with certain color pens? Not only is this about superstition but it’s also a case of using an object to focus and strengthen our own will.
  • Candles. If you choice your candles or scented wax products based on color or smell, I consider that trying to change the atmosphere of your home with subtle magic.
  • Traditional foods. Eat pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day? Certain desserts on certain occasions? Our food habits and what we chose to eat alters our frame of mind. Those mental states can certainly impact us. And in other cases, the ingredients and preparation procedures gives us singular focus.
  • Pets. The animals we bring into our homes may bring an intense bond. Some may be so attuned to us, they may provide protection, strength and reassurance. In other cases, the animal may bring beauty or joy just in its presence.

Coming soon:

Witchcraft in the 21st Century (part 3): Books and personal space

21st Century Witchcraft: Why I’m no longer “Christian”

I proposed a topic of discussion with my daughter the other day, the manifestation of witchcraft in contemporary culture.

“Witchcraft” is all around us.

Now I’m not old enough to say anything about the 1960s, but it seems that’s when American spirituality tried to break from religion in the form of rote brainwashing.

Now, don’t read me wrong.

I merely mean that traditionally, religion begins in the family and people typically follow the same spiritual tenets their parents did.

That’s how the system works and how religion and patriarchy go hand-in-hand. But that’s not my point for today nor a conversation I’m willing to have with the internet-at-large. At least not today or anytime soon.

My mother drove me to a local United Methodist Church on Sundays. Even though religion was not a core of my home life, that experience of attending a church shaped my mind.

And for a long time I was strongly Christian.

Attending a liberal arts college (Moravian College), exposed me to other religions for the first time. Maybe I was ignorant and/or blind, but my small town, rural upbringing did not expose me to anything beyond Christian. This was pre-9/11 so concepts like Jewish and Muslim were foreign to me.

And then I had to take my three religion courses for my requirements. I took Old Testament, Religions of China and Japan and maybe something else I can’t recall right now.

Studying the Old Testament’s origins shook my faith in new ways. Yet, my experiences reassured me that the universe has an order and inherent creative power.

Around this time, one of my mother’s friends gave me a Ryder-Waite tarot deck and I really fell in love with Taoism.

So now, I’m a college student dabbling in other religions convinced I’m going to hell for divination.

Present day me might be going to hell for a lot of reasons. Tarot is merely one. But I don’t believe in hell. I can’t believe a god that loves us enough to sacrifice for us would condemn us to hell. I can’t believe a God that promotes forgiveness would condemn us.

I’m no longer “Christian.” My lack of faith in Christianity has nothing to do with Jesus Christ. I just believe that Christianity is a system of bribery and reward. Institutionalized Christianity focuses too much on a Biblically-mandated moral code that prescribes what we need to do to receive eternal life in Heaven.

I want to do what’s right because I’m a good person, not because of repercussion or reward.

That’s not to say I feel Christians, church or religion is bad.

A genuine faith community is a powerful source of support and good, for individuals, families and neighborhoods.

I have met and interacted with deeply beautiful Christians who improve the lives of others through their generosity and faith. I have worshipped with many faith groups that move me to tears.

I believe in my own spiritual concepts and my own higher power. Those are personal to me and they impact how I live my life.

In my next post:

21st Century Witchcraft: Magic in the everyday

An average day

This will be a walk through my day today, a tad random, a tad sporadic.

This will include lots of silly animal posts.

But let’s start with my alarm at 6 a.m. I let myself sleep in because my rest has been irregular. I’ve had mild bouts of insomnia brought on by stress and hormones so it was hard to get out of bed.

A French Dream

I woke from a dream I don’t quite fully remember but I remember when the alarm sounded, I was dreaming that I had reached the end of some sort of tour, while on a trip, and was ordering alcoholic beverages for everyone in my party in French. I think I was the only person who spoke French. And I really was speaking French. I don’t usually speak French in dreams.

Perhaps this stems from my executive director eating a vegetable sandwich on a croissant at the networking event we attended last night.

Speaking of work, today started better and I feel a little less discombobulated about my job. I have an important report due Friday and three grants I need to have ready by Valentine’s Day.

Then the high school called.

An automated message informed me that my child was not in school. Text to teenager, who left at 7:15 with a heavy backpack. “You in school?”

No response.

(A sign that she is in school and not on her phone.)

“The school just called. They don’t think you’re there.”

She responds. “Sh*t. I must have forgotten to sign in.”

I tell her to fix that and to text me a photo from the school office holding today’s newspaper. She didn’t respond to my comment, though she did tell me she talked to the attendance office.

I had lunch with a friend who always lightens my spirit and has intelligent conversation. I’ve worked so many hours this week, I need to remember to make these connections.

And you always need those friends who give good hugs. A friend who bakes brownies is also good.

The afternoon went quickly and I decided my teenager and I would have a picnic. I took the leftover pizza from last night and a big old salad and we ate it on my bed with all the animals out, normally (to my chagrin) the kittens are locked in my teenager’s room.

Menagerie tales

So the kittens ran through the whole house, up and down the stairs, up and down the hall.

And, of course, Nala, the cockatoo, refused to eat salad in favor of pizza. Video of Nala eating pizza

Then I hung laundry and watched Opie, our 3-legged cat, play with the kittens.

Videos:

Misty attacks Opie

Opie and the kittens

My sore arm and the gym

I opted not to go to the gym as I’m still not sure I’ve recovered my strength. That fall scared me. A lot.

(See Grit and getting published on The Mighty.)

I have noticed my right arm has that vaguely sore feeling like after you get an inoculation. I couldn’t figure out why. Then I remembered, I fell on that arm. And I also noticed a bruise on my elbow. And a new bruise and scratch on my leg.

Finally

After teenager and I gathered the trash, I hopped in the shower. I found the teen “trapped” on my bed with an Oz on her back.

And now I’m drinking a double stiff mug of Traditional Medicinals Nighty Nite Valerian tea.

Cuddly kittens and a fresh cup of iced tea

I can’t stand the cuteness in my house today!

I’m sitting here with Nala, my Goffin’s cockatoo, and Oz, my teenager’s big, dumb 9-year-old cat who thinks he’s a teddy bear. I just had some ring bologna for breakfast and made myself the best glass of iced tea:

This particular glass is two parts Tazo Organic Earl Grey Noir and one part Tazo Vanilla Bean Macaroon black tea.

In the crock pot, dinner is bubbling. Crockpots are the perfect cooking tools for witches. It’s a cauldron with a plug!

I made a marinade of organic apple juice, brown sugar, Briggs liquid aminos, Chinese cooking wine, fresh ginger and garlic and dropped a pork loin and some potatoes into the mix.

But wow! I totally digress. We’re hear to talk about kittens and cuteness!

Kittens and cuteness

So the teenager is with her dad and I’ve been taken care of the kittens. Fog, the last trapped member of the brood, followed Opie out of the teenager’s room. Opie is our 9-year-old cancer survivor 3-legged cat.

Fog apparently adores him.

Oz tried to join, but he was afraid of the kitten. Opie heard Oz hiss and served as bodyguard for little Fog.

Video here: Opie protecting Fog.

Now I waited as long as I could but I needed to vacuum the dining room. Even though it was in another room, Fog heard the noise and hid behind the cat tube.

Opie stayed on the ottoman as if standing guard. When I finished vacuuming, they got back on the couch together.

I was worried that Misty (short for Mistofelees) might think something happened to Fog. So I brought Misty to the porch.

Misty wasn’t as enthused. But Fog stayed with Opie.

You can’t really see it, but they are touching.

Memories of South Carolina

So I have several more posts in me about our road trip, but those must be posted now from the comfort of home.

Once I returned, I ended up working six days straight and the vacation must have done me good because I wasn’t breathing fire and irritable by the end of that stretch.

Today my husband and I will be taking our daughter to Girl Scout camp at Camp Wood Haven, in a rental/loaner car (a 2017 Nissan Sentra) since our Altima started idling super low on Friday and the next appointment the dealer has is Tuesday.

I also discovered that my iPhone takes high res photos which has made the storage on my web site jump from 50% full to 75% full in a week. So that means I will have to take the time to shrink some of my photos.

So I will take a moment to reminisce about South Carolina.

Summerville, South Carolina

We arrived in Summerville, South Carolina, Thursday night. We discovered the town had a sculpture garden so we decided to check it out.

We quickly discovered that Summerville is the birthplace of Southern Sweet Tea. And the following day we learned that a French guy had gotten a grant to cultivate tea in Summerville around the turn of the (20th) century. He not only became successful but according to the tour guide, he won for the best tea in the world (an Earl Grey variety) at the World Fair.

The Day We Went Backwards

It was someone’s 16th birthday (not mine) and we had planned to head to Magnolia Plantation for a volkssport walk and then North Carolina to the bird sanctuary and another volkssport walk at Fort Bragg the following morning.

But since we had the recommendation to go see the Angel Oak, a tree more than 500 years old, we went backwards. And also found the Charleston Tea Plantation, the only commercial tea operation in North America.

So the tea plantation was a 40 minute tour around fields that all looked the same. It was really a fun time, with lots of tea to drink.

Turns out the tea plantation was started with cuttings from the Summerville tea operation after it had been neglected for 50 years. Lipton needed an American presence in case relations with China went bad during the Cold War.

It’s no longer a Lipton property. One man owns it and employs four people to run the plantation, six tour guides, and the gift shop staff.

The Tea Harvester

According to the staff, the only reason tea harvesting can be profitable in the United States is because of their tea harvester, which is cobbled together from pieces of other farm equipment and painted green to look like a John Deere.

The girls at the Angel Oak

Our last stop of the day was at Magnolia Plantation, where we got to see up close how slavery worked and almost stepped on an alligator.

The South Carolina swamps look like something out of a Jim Henson movie.