Sunday, 28 October 2012

Slow Cooker Sundays

I had another blog planned for today, but wasnt expecting to have to go down to Derby to visit a friend who is now in a Hospice, so the weekends plans kind of got blown out of the water.
Anyway, now that the weather is getting cooler, and due to the fact that there is never enough time during the weekend for me to get the domestics done and fit in any crafting time (for Xmas or other stuff), oh, and due to the fact that food is getting more and more expensive, Ive dug out my Slow Cooker (also called a Crock Pot in other parts of the world).
Last weekend, I did a gammon joint. and it was absolutley gorgeous! I was a bit unsure of how to do it, but had a quick google and found the Simplest Slow Cooked Gammom Ever courtesy of  Reluctant House Dad, you just put the meat in, put the lid on, turn the cooker on to Low and thats it!  I wont ever do gammon any other way again.

Todays effort is a Chilli. I got some Mince from Tesco (on special @ £3 per kilo), chucked in a red and yellow pepper, an onion, a tin of chopped tomatoes, kidney beans, some chilli power, gravy mix and smoked paprika, and once again, put the lid on, put it on low and then carried on with my day. Its bubbling away quite nicely and smelling divine. Theres more than enough for us (and the Mother in Law) tonight and can still freeze the rest for another day.

 So I shall be making more use of this wonderful price of cookwear more and more this year, as its easy and turns cheap meat into lots of yumminess, and I love comming in from the cold to be greeted with lovely cooking smells. :o)

Elsewhere this week, I had an 'appointment' which I was a bit nervous about on Wednsday (hopefully, more on this at a later date). On my way to this 'appointment' I had an altercation with a lamppost! Damn.

Craftwise, Ive been cracking on with the cross stitch cushion cover, but have also done a bit more on the Steampunk stock. We found a few tiny hats (they were actually airfreshners) and decided I could decorate them and put them on headbands.

So far Ive got one done (as seen below, and have almost got a second one done.

Im not sure when the etsy shop will be up and running, and I may have to put the Steampunk stuff on the back burner while I get cracking on some Christmas stuff as I am usually well under way by now.

Well, thats what Im up to at the moment, hopefully I will get the intended blog done and up over the next few days (depending on what crops up during the week).
Hope all is good with you and yours, Id love to hear if you use a slow cooker and what your favourite recipies are. :o)

Take Care and have a good week,


Saturday, 20 October 2012

The True Origins of Halloween

The following blog represents  my own thoughts and opinions, I do not claim to speak for any group or religion, and my words are not intended to insite any ill feeling towards others, but to imform and promote understanding.

Paganism is a Nature Based religion (as practised by the ancient Celtic people), centering around that we call the Wheel Of the Year. This follows the seasons and the cycle of Birth (Spring), Growth (Summer), Fruitfulness (Autum) and Death (Winter), all of which are equally necessary.  The Pagan festivals (called Sabbats) are celebrate seasonal changes like the Equinoxes, longest day, shortest day, beginning of the harvest, first signs of Spring and so on.
The biggest Festival is Samhain and marks the beginning of the Pagan New Year, and this has become known as Halloween, and takes place at the end of October. I will point out tho, that as the festivals follow the seasons, in the Southern Hemisphere Samhain falls in May, not October.
 The festival marks the point in the year when they Winter months are on their way. In the past , this was they time when people took stock of the supplies they had harvested to see them through the winter. If supplies were short, they would slaughter the animals they knew would not make it through the Winter and this was also the last opportunity for fresh food to be eaten before the Spring. In some cultures even today, such as those in the Artic Circle, the elderly of the tribe would refuse all food and drink at this time, effectively sacrificing themselves for the good of their people.
 Before I go any further that, despite what Hollywood would have you believe, Pagans DO NOT believe in the devil! We seek balance in all things so we do believe in opposites, Summer and Winter, Day and Night, Light and Dark etc. We do not see these as 'good' and 'bad' as we know that one cannot exist without the other and we need both in order for our world to exist.

Anyway, back to the subject, Pagans believe at the the time of this celebration the veil between our world and the spirit world is at its thinnest and it is possible for spirits to pass between the worlds. At all Samhain celebrations a place is set for any spirits of family members who have gone before if they want to join in the celebration. Pagans, do not summon spirits (as it is felt that it is not our right to disturb the peace of those who have gone before), but those who wish to come are welcome. It is traditional for a lit candle to be placed in the window to guide the welcome spirits home and to deter any unwelcome ones.
This is thought to be the origin of pumpkin lanterns (sometimes called Jack-o-lanterns).

Samhain became the Halloween we are now familiar with when Christian missionaries attempted to change the religious practises of the Celtic people. As attempts to wipe out 'Pagan' festivals only suceeded in strengthening the Celtic resolve, Pope Gregory the 1st  instructed his missionaries in 601AD to try a new tactic. Rather than trying to obliterate the native peoples customs and beliefs, the Pope instructed the missionaries to use them to their favour and consecrate them to Christ and allow their contiuned practice.
So the Christian feast of All Saints Day was assigned to November 1st. The day honoured every Christian saint, especially thoses that did not have their own 'Saints Day'.
 This feast day was meant to be a substitute for Samhain, to draw the devotion of the Celtic people and , eventually, replace it forever.  However, this didnt happen, and in the 9th century the Church tried again to supplant Samhain by establishing November 2nd as All Souls Day - a day when the living prayed for the souls of the dead. But, once again, the traditional customs of Samhain lived on.
 All Saints Day, otherwise known as All Hallows (halllowed meaning sanctified or holy)  continued ancient Cletic traditions. The evening prior to the day was a time of intense activity, both human and supernatural. People contiuned to celebrate All Hallows Eve as a time of the wandering dead, but the supernatural beings were through to be evil. People thought to pacify these supernatural beings by setting out gifts of food and drink. Subsequently All Hallows Eve became Hallow Evening and then the Hallowe'en that we know today.

The Mexican festival El Dia de los Muertos (The Day of The Dead) celebrated at the same time, is thought to be the same as Haloween. There are similarities ( both celebrate the dead and take place on 31st October) but once again, the Church tried to supplant the festivities with All Saints and All Souls Day.
Mexican Celebtraions begin on 31st October with Young Souls Day and November 1st and 2nd are All Saints and All Souls Days. Celebrations in Mexico start with families cleaning the graves of their relatives. Weeds are removed, and the graves are decorated with flowers ( marigolds being one of the most important), photos and candles, and altars are erected near the gravesite. Food is placed on these altars, and offered to the departed as a gesture to show the departed they are still loved.
The Day of The Dead is thought to have originated with the Aztecs and Mayans. They believed that on this day, the souls of their departed would come to visit and feast with them, and this is still the belief that is held today.
During El Dia de los Muertos, Mexicans put on costumes of ghouls, ghosts, mummies and skeletons and walk through towns and villages carrying an open coffin. The local vendors place fruit, flowers and sweets into the coffin as it passes their markets.
Sugar skulls are also a part of the Mexican clebrations. These skulls are gifts for the departed souls of the children in a family, and are exchanged among the living children. On Young Souls Day it is believed that the souls of departed children return to earth in the late afternoon to join in the festivities.

I have only touched on three cultures and the way they celebrate, there are almost certainly more, but as you can see there are aspects of each which Halloween as we know today combines.  I find it interesting to know where festivals originated from and why things (such as Pumpkin lanterns) came to be a part of the celebrations. I hope you have enjoyed the read. If you want to read about these in more details, check out the links below.

Enjoy your Halloween (however you celebrate). :o)

The Real Witches Handbook by Kate West
American Folklife Centre
Spanish Culture
Halloween in Mexico

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Octobers Here!

Have noticed over the last week, its really starting to get colder and the nights are drawing in. ;o(
Although we have been having nice days, so much so that one of the bulbs I planted a few weeks ago (for Spring flowering) has already popped up! Poor wee thing, its not gonna last long once it snows.

New Muscari Bulb       

This week has been a bit of a mixed bag .  Some pleasant surprises, and some not so pleasant, but its all part of lifes rich tapestry I guess.
On the not so good note, the X-stitch project I was working on for a December Birthday, will no longer be required. So looks like it will be going on etsy once its finished, and now theres no pressure to get it done.

On the nicer side of things, my former boss gave me a pressie this week.  He used to holiday in Egypt quite  a bit and I asked him to find me a statue of the Egyptian Goddess Bastet. We are big cat lovers in our house and I'd read a bit about her and felt quite drawn to her. So, a statue was found and OH paid for her as a Birthday pressie.
A few months ago, my former boss told me he was clearing out his spare room and had another statue of Baste that I might be interested.  I said "Oh yes please" but Ive had to wait until now for her to arrive and here she is......

A bust of Baste
We think they are both lovely (and they are very well made), so they keep watch over our living room. :o)

Craftwise, Im gearing up for Xmas, finding lots of ideas and sorting through my stash to find out what I can use and if I have to made any additional purchases. We are also working on building up the initial stock for the etsy shop. Ive almost completed another fascinator and have got two more started. This one just needs the lining and elastic adding to the underside.

So, thats about it for this week really, once again I am almost astounded by the boring life I lead!
Oh well, maybe when I win the lottery, sigh.
Anyhoo, thats all for now, hope all is good with you and yours. If you get the urge to leave me a comment, dont fight it, do it!!!!!