Corn Dollies for Imbolc or Lughnasadh

Imbolc is February 1/2 of 2021. Normally, you’d want to do a full Spring Cleaning to clear out the negative energies from the Winter; in my case, that’s not likely to happen because I just have a lot going on, right now.

Imbolc is a Gaelic celebration whose name translates as “From the belly.” It is also a celebration of the Goddess as Maiden (from Maiden, Mother, Crone aspects). She crosses the threshold with the Archer to bestow life upon the earth once more. Brigid is a name that shares the same derivative as “Bride,” which is why the aspect of the Goddess is that of Maiden.

Later, the Goddess Brigid (who is the Celtic Goddess of Fire) was Christianized as “St. Bridget,” and her feast is held somewhere around February 1 (I think; I’m not a Saint-celebrator). Fire warms the Earth just as the Sun begins to warm the Earth through longer and longer days. After the celebration of Imbolc comes the celebration of Ostara–the Vernal Equinox–on March 20, 2021.

Imbolc is also a fertility celebration–from the firstlings of the calves and sheep to the fertility of the fields preparing for Spring planting. Corn dollies were a way for people to celebrate the last corn of the year and ensure fertile fields for their harvests at Lughnasadh.

February has many holidays–from Imbolc and Groundhog’s Day to Shrove Tuesday/Fat Tuesday/Fastnacht Day and Mardis Gras! There’s Valentine’s Day, Sweetest Day, and several other Hallmark Holidays. We’ll explore some of them as we go through the month of February and begin to prepare for Ostara. In the meantime, please enjoy the corn dollies!

Dolmades

My apologies for not posting this blog post earlier. I’m still recovering from being sick. So far, the only residual effect is a linger fatigue that is absolutely debilitating. But, hey! I’m used to fatigue, so there’s that, at least!

The recipe I used for this particular batch of dolmades was a pretty simple one. Mine turned out a bit salty, so I probably just over-salted the mixture. I also found that I could have used more of the filling than just the generous teaspoon I did use. But, hey! This was my first time making these and I was not disappointed with how they turned out!

I know I’d mentioned it in December, but as a reminder and official update, I’ve switched my diet, yet again, to a Mediterranean Diet. This choice came after hitting my goal (and stretch goal!) for weight loss. My ideal weight is about 145lbs and the “stretch goal” was to get to 140lbs because my weight fluctuates based on inflammation. So, I’m very pleased with my progress.

The Mediterranean Diet focuses on an active lifestyle, whole grains (the ones I can eat, anyway), beans and legumes, tons of veggies, fruits, and poultry or fish as the main animal proteins. Red meat should be used very sparingly. So far, we’ve been indulging in various types of salads, fish dishes, and occasionally chicken. Tonight for dinner, I’m going to make Greek meatballs with ground turkey; the other day, I made a quinoa dish that featured tomatoes and green beans. I just got a new food processor, so I’m also going to set up some chickpeas tonight to be ready for falafel for tomorrow night. I love falafel.

We also picked up some Bulgarian feta at a Middle Eastern market the other day! I used some of it on the watermelon cubes I made to go with the dolmades and mackerel we had for dinner. It was a decision I made after the taste test in this video. It was so much better and added the right texture and saltiness needed to really bring the “salad” together. 

Another thing about the Mediterranean Diet is that it also focuses on community. I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to entertain others soon. Even though I’m not able to make my normal feed-an-army style meals to share with the guys upstairs, I can still make 4-6 serving meals that will be leftovers for a few days for us. Plus, once I’m actually fully healthy (well, my fully healthy) again, we are planning to start up our daily walks again. So, we’ll be active, eating healthy, and maintaining a community atmosphere in a socially distant way. Because I still make extra stuff for people. Because I’m like that.

Speaking of! I have learned out to make fresh, gluten-free pasta from scratch! Which is awesome because my front neighbor has a pasta company called MillerButler, LLC! They make pastas and pizzas for local delivery. Plus, she has a super cute and sweet cat named Milo. He’s so adorable. Anyway! I’m trying to get some stuff together for Imbolc videos for everyone. Thursday will be one such video! Stay tuned!

Happy New Year

No video today. Once again, I was sick…and Dad’s funeral was this morning. I was there via Zoom, which was great, but I would have rather been there in person.

It was surreal, saying goodbye virtually. Wear your masks. If not for yourself, then for people like my Dad. People like me who had to say goodbye too soon.

Have a safe and happy New Year.

Mincemeat Tartlets, Pt. 2

You may remember the previous post and video about mincemeat. It was two weeks ago and a lot has happened since. I sort of went over the most major thing in the very brief post last week. And I know I mention it in the video.

The month of December has not been kind. It started with me in intense intestinal pain of unknown cause (i.e., it was not gas because it was the same spot all the time; gas moves), then progressed to a muscle spasm in my left shoulder that lasted for about 7-10 days–then came back with a vengeance on December 18, which is the day I found out my Dad was in hospital with Covid-related pneumonia and not doing well. Cameraman Ken’s eldest son, youngest son, and youngest son’s girlfriend (responsibly) came to visit us that weekend and I spent most of it drugged and in bed. Monday morning, I noticed my skin was somewhat jaundiced, but my endocrinologist didn’t, so I thought maybe it was just me. By Wednesday, my eyes were definitely showing jaundice and I decided to go to Urgent Care–who then sent me to the ER for a liver work-up.

That’s 9 hours that will not return to me and a firm decision I will not go to an ER unless I am bleeding out, having a heart attack, or have a broken bone. 

Everyone keeps insisting I must have severe liver damage, yet the only thing I presented with was jaundice (obviously, my liver enzymes were high). I had no pain, no chills, no fever, nothing. Just a sickly yellow tinge to my being.

When you have nothing else to do for 9 hours, you start thinking things like, “I can’t be an anomaly, here. This has had to have happened to someone else before…” So, I decided to see what else could be a problem, just in case it was something I thought I should mention to a doctor.

Y’all, when you’re in intense pain that makes you nauseated for 3 weeks straight, you don’t eat food; you don’t drink a lot of anything. Nothing stays down and/or you’re asleep. Do you know what happens when you barely drink 8oz of water a day for 3 weeks?

Your liver goes bonkers because you’re severely dehydrated.

I’m back to a normal shade of pale and feel fantastic. Plus, a friend of mine gifted me a weighted blanket. I have not slept so well in a very long time. I’m still dealing with my normal fatigue, but it is nothing like before. Which means I was able to finish the mincemeat tartlets for you! Hooray!

Obviously, this video isn’t all that long. There’s not much to making the shells. It’s a bit frustrating, but we got it worked out. They are absolutely delicious and worth the effort. I hope you enjoy them!

In new news, I’ve managed to hit my target weight (which is what happens when you don’t eat or drink much for 3 weeks straight) and am beginning to transition from a strict keto diet into a Mediterranean diet lifestyle. There will be more posts and such in the future on this diet, but there’s going to be a lot more veggies, incorporating fresh fruits, and eating things like lentils and fish and chicken a lot more than beef (which, I sort of already do). Stay tuned for more!

As January approaches, we’ll be gearing up for Imbolc, February 1-2. Get ready! The Spring is coming fast!

No videos

I apologize that there is no video for Tuesday.

I have been having a shoulder spasm since Friday when I found out my Dad wasn’t doing well. He’d been in the hospital for two weeks with Covid-related pneumonia.

He passed away tonight.

My Dad who was supposed to hood me at graduation and get to call me Dr. Mackey.

Please have a safe and healthy Christmas. Hold your loved ones dear. And wear your damn masks.

Keto-friendly Mincemeat

This is the beginning of a very bad two weeks…

Mincemeat has never been part of my personal Christmas traditions. I grew up in Harrisburg, PA, with a maternal grandmother who was PA Dutch and very poor for most of her life. The first time I had it, I think was after I’d moved to Los Angeles and it was from a jar. Because I was curious.

It was gross. 

It was super sweet and that was all I could taste. But, I’m not one to give up on a food until I’ve made it myself. Plus, I know that mincemeat has its roots in Medieval Europe. I like a lot of medieval dishes, so I thought I’d see if I could find something that was low-carb/no sugar and create something magical.

I was not prepared for my back to spasm, then put me out of commission for 5 days. Yes, that’s right, 5 days

I started learning fire fans for another project I have. And I am used to shooting archery–or, at least, was used to shooting archery every weekend for 4-5 hours, in the Before Times. It’s a lot of the same muscles. My fans weigh about 7oz each. So, I was practicing for only an hour a day for two days. I woke up Friday morning and my back between my shoulder blades was tight, but I didn’t think anything of it–but, it was tight enough that I didn’t want to risk injury practicing fans. By the time dinner rolled around, my shoulder area felt like knives were being driven into it, and my ribcage felt like it was being pulled apart. I took two Tylenol to reduce inflammation, went to bed; I’d be fine in the morning.

But I was not fine in the morning.

Nor was I fine the next morning.

Friday to Saturday, I ended up sleeping on the cold, hard tile of the bathroom. Why? Because a) it was the only place I could comfortably lie down that my back didn’t instantly hurt, and b) this pain is so intense it makes me nauseated, so being near the toilet was ideal. But, because I didn’t sleep well, the pain intensified…and Saturday to Sunday, I also slept on the bathroom floor. Between about 6pm Saturday and 6pm Sunday, I had taken 10 Tylenol, 2 Naproxen, 1 Cyclobenzaprine (muscle relaxer), 1 Gabapentin, 5mg Hybrid, and 10mg Sativa. None of it worked. Monday, I had to go have my blood work re-done from my RA appointment two weeks ago. I took some Tylenol so I could drive and function and I was feeling somewhat better, but still not even 50%. I expressed to my nurse that I was pretty confident the results would be the same because of the pain I was in. This video was shot Monday afternoon and all I wanted to do was lie down and sleep. I still have to make the tart shells.  That night, I took a Percocet and a hot bath so I could sleep. 

Tuesday, I woke up feeling somewhat okay, but when I moved, all of the pain came back to my ribs and diaphragm and I spent Tuesday in bed. Wednesday was somewhat better. I filmed the other video that day and felt pretty good. I was wearing real clothes and was pretty happy–except that also included a real bra and that did not make my back happy. I ended up taking a couple Tylenol and switching to a sports bra. Today, I just started with the sports bra and I’ve been pretty comfortable.

Which just means I may film a Part 2 video this weekend to show you how to make the tart shells for your mincemeat pies! Excitement!

So, back to mincemeat.

Originally, mince meat had actual meat in it. It was a way of preserving the meat. It was a combination of sweet and savory flavors, usually a mix of spices and dried fruits such as figs and dates, in a very thick crust called a “Coffin.” The coffin was usually tossed because it was just a vessel in which to cook the meat, fruit, and seasonings. One of the earliest recipes for a mince meat tart can be found in a 14th Century book “Forme of Cury” and is a recipe for Tart of Flesh (c. 1390CE).

By the Victorian era, the meat ingredients for mincemeat pies began to disappear and the pies focused, instead, upon the fruits and spices. They also shrank in size from being the type of food one would use to feed a family to a more individual treat. 

Fun fact: According to the Chicago Reader, “Canned mince pie filling during Prohibition-era Chicago saw its alcohol levels spike to more than 14%.”

If you like boozy foods like I do, this is the recipe used for this video (and the potential “Part 2” video when I make the crusts). I used a chayote squash instead of the apple and I opted to use blackstrap molasses because I much prefer the slight bitterness of blackstrap. 

What are your favorite mincemeat recipes? Have you tried any from the Medieval period? Let me know in the comments below! If your a Patreon supporter, then hit me up on the Discord!

Video Post

The video is posted; the accompanying blog will come in the next couple days. I’m suffering with a severe back spasm that’s been going on for going on 5 days…

The post & video are about mincemeat!

Magickal Dream Pillows

We’re back with another Yuletide gift idea to make for yourself or your loved ones! The Magickal Dream Pillow!

There’s a lot that can be said about these pillows–everything from “they’re just placebo” to “they work wonders” to “…haven’t these been around since the middle ages?” And all these statements are correct!

In this application, the herbs and flowers you’re using inside the pillow are chosen for their magickal or spiritual properties, rather than their medicinal ones. So, in a way, if you believe they will work, they will work (which is like the placebo effect). Some people are greatly affected by dream pillows; some are slightly affected. 

As for the Middle Ages…

In an herbal I have that is a collection of recipes involving roses, one of the recipes was for a sweet bag (aka sachet or dream pillow), originally published in 1606 in Little Dodoen:

“Take dry rose leaves keep them in a glass which will keep them sweet and then take powder of mints, powder of cloves in a grosse powder. Put the same to the Rose leaves then put all these together in a bag and take that to bed with you and it will cause you to sleep, and it is good to smell unto at other times.”

This particular blend works well for anxiety, as well. This is one of the items I made and sell for SCA re-enactment folks. Apparently, it works for dogs, too, as a friend of mine had a couple of very anxious pups who loved having the sachet near them.

You can really use just about anything in the pillows. You can also make them any size; just remember, you’re filling them with herbs.

My fabric was about 5″ to 6″ squares. I use about 1/4″ seam allowance and just a straight stitch. The grey pillow contains 2T each of lavender and chamomile (and it resides under my pillow). The gold and red pillow contains about 1.5T each of cloves, rosemary, and mugwort (and it resides under Cameraman Ken’s pillow).

The lavender pillow is just to help with sleep. It seems to work alright for me. It’s not an overpowering scent, either, so it’s not giving me allergy issues. The mugwort pillow is for “inspired dreams,” meaning it’s meant for relaxation and divination. You’ll remember from the blog about the Divination Tea for Samhain that mugwort is used to elevate your psyche. Cameraman Ken hasn’t mentioned any of his dreams to me, so I will simply assume it’s doing what it’s supposed to and his dreams just aren’t insane like mine, so he doesn’t remember them.

You could make a dream pillow with the recipe for the sweet bag and set it in your pet’s bed if your pet is prone to anxiety. Let me know how it works if you decide to do that. Also, I will require pictures of your pet with their pillow. Or just your pet. 

That’s all for this week. Next week, we’ll have another couple of videos, one of which will be a Yule ritual, so make sure you’re following me all the places!