Happy Birthday to Me!

Well, ok, I’m a little early with that (my birthday is on the 7th). However, I’ve given myself an early birthday present….

MAKING MEAD!!!

Oh, how I have missed it so much! Making mead and beer is one my most favouritest things ever, and it has been much too long since I’ve watched yeast babies consume all the sugar they can. Well, here is a post all about my lovely mead making evening last night!

All the ingredients lain out on the counter

All the ingredients lain out on the counter

Mmm, delicious honey.

Mmm, delicious honey.

A cup of strong, black tea for tannin.

A cup of strong, black tea for tannin.

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The smell of honey and blueberries is divine.

The smell of honey and blueberries is divine.

Look at that beautiful, yeasty foam! In you go, yeast babies!

Look at that beautiful, yeasty foam! In you go, yeast babies!

Now eat till your heart's content, yeast. Or... perhaps until your death. :P

Now eat till your heart’s content, yeast. Or… perhaps until your death. 😛

So that was my wonderful evening! A blueberry mead in the works, and plans to get Grolsch bottles for beer making as I received a beer kit that must be made! It’s patio season, after all! And I’d much rather drink something that isn’t water, thank you very much! We’ll be bottling the mead in Grolsch bottles as well, but no need to get them now as I figure the mead may not be drinkable for perhaps around six months, perhaps a little less.

The last batches I made used a lot more honey so they were pretty drinkable at around 3 months, this one has a bit less honey so I’m expecting a longer wait. Which I have absolutely no problem with because I can already imagine the deliciousness! I realize too that those first meads could have aged a little longer and would have likely been even better, but when it’s the first batch…. you just have no patience at all!

This was definitely a very happy birthday present to myself, and what’s even better is there is a small wine/beer making place about a 10-15 minute walk away from me (5 if I’m riding my bike). It’s a very small store, and mostly for those who would like to have wine brewed there, but there were enough supplies that it’s all good. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind ordering things for me either. Very exciting!

 

In other news, the garden is coming along, although now I can only do things in the evening since apparently I am newly allergic to a few chemicals in sunscreen. I have some natural stuff with much fewer ingredients, and without the skin-irritating chems, on the way, so I’m hoping it will arrive if not by this Friday, then next Monday. Fingers are crossed! I can’t stand being inside and unable to be out in the garden when there is work to be done!

Despite this, I’ve been getting my potatoes in ground, and I found a Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) hanging out in the garden from last year, along with parsley, the rhubarb, and my chives. The raspberries are doing very well along the side of the garage as well, lots of baby canes coming up. Yes, there will be a raspberry mead! Wee!! So many exciting things. Now, just to keep myself motivated, although the first year of a new garden is always a year of seeing what works and what doesnt, and boy, did I find that out last year!

 

Alright, lovelies! Enjoy this beautiful day, sun or rain, or even snow if it should come to pass.

Pagan Blog Project – L is for Lilac Wine

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I’ve been inspired by the glorious perfumes that fill the air in spring. Where we live, there happens to be a Lilac tree in the back yard, and after a weekend of rain in May, which gives such a fresh, sensuous side to the delicate flowers’ smell, I decided to collect enough fresh flower spikes to make a gallon of wine. Thanks and prayers were offered in return, of course.

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Freshly cut.

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A beautiful meditative task plucking the flowers was.

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Lilac tea steeping.

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Some of the flowers left while straining them out.

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Smelled amazing. Final concoction all in it’s jug, as all my other carboys are in use.

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An ancestor decided she wanted what was left of the lilacs.

Here is the recipe I used to make the wine. If you’re leary of using lilacs, the flavour is quite similar to jasmin.

1 Gallon Lilac Wine
3/4 lb Lilac flowers, no stems/branches/leaves
2 lbs sugar/5 cups
Black tea bag
1 tbsp lemon juice
25 raisins
1 packet Red Star champagne yeast

Remove the flowers from the spikes, ensuring there are no green bits left.

Rinse the flowers.
Add half a gallon boiling water to steep them. That’s about 2 litres.

Steep anywhere from 1/2 hour to overnight. I had made a tea beforehand to gauge the strength of flavour and aroma. The different colours of Lilac have different strengths in aroma.

Start the yeast about 1/2 hour to an hour before pitching it in warm water with sugar and a few raisins.

Strain out, and press as much of the the liquid from the flowers as is possible. Add the sugar to the floral tea, mix until dissolved. Add brewed black tea and lemon juice.

Place in primary fermenter, fill with warm water (about 25°C/75°F). Leave enough room for yeast water and some head space in case it bubbles a lot. Shake or stir the primary fermenter to get lots of oxygen in there.

Add the yeast. Place airlock, and keep an eye on it in case it bubbles a lot. It shouldn’t cause much problem though as there is little solid material in it.

Dandelion Wine

When I went out with my doggy this morning, with the intentions of playing with her for a while, and hopefully her potty break, I realized how much yellow I saw in the hedgerows around my house. Then it came to me, I must make some dandelion wine! Here are pictures of the process:

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Fresh picked flowers, stems still need to be removed, and a good rinse.

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Steeping in boiled water.

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Sugary dandelion flower tea.

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All the ingredients in the carboy. It’s now happily fizzing away 🙂

If you’re looking to make your own dandelion wine, here’s the recipe I used for one gallon:

5 cups of dandelion flowers
8 cups sugar
2 litres boiling water
1 sliced orange
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/4 tsp yeast (or one wine yeast packet)

Collect the dandelion flowers, rinse them well and make sure all the stems are removed.

Boil your water, pour into a big bowl (I used an ice cream bucket). Place flowers in the water, stir well so that all the flowers are as submerged as possible. Steep for four minutes.

Take out the flowers, and add the sugar to the water. You can adjust the amount of sugar to suite your tastes, but I wouldn’t suggest going lower than 6 cups. Make sure the sugar is completely dissolved.

Slice your orange and place in the carboy (or whatever you’re using to ferment it), add lemon juice and yeast.

DO NOT ADD WATER UNTIL IT HAS COOLED! Otherwise, you’ll kill the yeast when you add the water to the carboy.

Add the water to the carboy when slightly warmer than room tempurature, and stir or shake so that it is well incorporated.

Place an air lock on top. You don’t want it to be very full because in a short while, your wine should be fizzing and foaming, which will push the oranges up to the top, making it hard (especially in a carboy) for the gases to escape.

In about two weeks, give or take depending on how warm the wine is, the bubbling will stop. Siphon out the liquid, leaving the lees on the bottom of the carboy (the icky left overs from the yeast and oranges). Strain through some cheesecloth if you want to make sure there are no particulates floating around (I don’t care so much, lol), and store in airtight containers (mason jars, flip-top bottles, etc).

Voila! It’s recommended that you wait at least a week before drinking it.

Happy home brewing!

Pagan Blog Project – H is for Hearth

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The hearth is the heart of the home, and it has become an increasing part of my practice’s focus. I am growing quite mindful of the sacred duty of keeping the hearth, and how my upkeep and time spent cleaning, cooking, baking, creating beautiful things to decorate our home, taking care of the animals, and the man, is integral to the feminine side of my spirituality.

I will outright say that I do not believe that “a woman’s place is in the kitchen”, not in the anti-feminist sort of way anyhow. I feel that the traditional gender roles are acceptable, and noble to pursue if that is the path that draws you; the same way it is acceptable and noble to pursue gender roles that are not traditional to your gender. In my case, I am very feminine, and enjoy the traditional feminine roles. “A woman’s place is in the kitchen” should really be “a person’s place is in the kitchen if that is where they find joy”. I enjoy creating a loving, welcoming, warm environment for family and friends. I have kind of always been the mama in my group of friends. That’s just the way I was made.

The hearth to me symbolizes the place where you can always return to to be safe, no matter what else in the world is going on. “Home is where the heart is,” and never a truer thing was said. The physical and spiritual energy (whether thought about or no) put into creating a home that harbours health, nourishment, joy, and love makes it inherently a sacred space. With this in mind, a happy home is naturally protected from outside negativity and harm. That doesn’t mean stop spiritually cleansing by smudging and the like, or never create protection charms to hang up, or never ward your home; do so when you need that extra bit of shielding. For the most part, however, your home is protected by the energy put into making it a warm and happy place.

I’ve been playing with an idea in my head for a little while of keeping a candle lit at all times in my home to symbolize the warmth and light of the hearth (seeing as there is not an actual fireplace in here), and to keep me mindful of keeping my home warm and light. I will obviously have to extinguish it when I leave the house, but otherwise, I’m thinking this will be a good thing for me. I am the lady of this house, and I enjoy the sense of duty and purpose within that role, and a reminder of that when I’m not enjoying it so much is in order, I think.
I’m also pretty sure the man enjoys the effort I spend making nummy foods, so it’s not a role that goes unappreciated! Speaking of which, he has said a few times recently that managing the household is my job, in lieu of reminding him of his chores and things that need to be taken care of by him in the house.
While sometimes there is frustration with having to remind him about things, I took on this role automatically when we moved in together almost six years ago. And I have to admit that my memory and observation skills are much better than his when it comes to the things that must be done, and are not necessarily fun. In a way, it’s also nice that I am relied upon in such a way.

To sum it all up for me, simply, there is more to homemaking than just the outward, or tasty, appearances.

Mead!

So, I wanted to check on my mead babies, took them out of their dark closet and placed them in the light to find that they had clarified! So I decided I’d take them off the lees (the icky yeast husks at the bottom of the bottles). I racked them all and tasted them, and man, I am so excited! They are definitely drinkable now, but I really want to wait a few more months because the alcohol is quite hot, lol.

My medium mead with no other ingredients other than honey, yeast, water, oranges and raisins.

My strawberry melomel.

Mead flavoured with allspice and clove.

A pumpkin spice mead.

After having taste tested the pumpkin mead… I have a strong suspicion it will taste like pumpkin pie! I’m so ecstatic, you have no idea!

So, going along with my productive weekend/Monday… I also made up a big batch of peanut butter cookies last night too! I feel like a busy little bee! All the while… I’m doing my homework and practicing a plethora of musical/witchy things everyday lately! Wee! 😀

Imagine my surprise and delight at how beautiful and clear these were!

My Summer Musings

Aaah, it seems as though the summer is going too fast! Mostly because there hasn’t been an incredible amount of summery weather until a few weeks ago here 😦 Also, I have been dreading going back to school in the fall! Yes, yes, I will continue to do it, lol, however, I know I will burn out, and I definitely don’t want to experience that again! But, we are living in a stress free apartment (it’s been very quiet in so far as lots of communication between us and the landlords, which is fine by me, no drama!), so I know that there won’t be a stressful home factor this year, thank the Gods! And perhaps the break in December will actually be a restful one this year, enough so that I can get through second semester! I’ve been talking and thinking about how to better handle everything, and well, it sounds trite, but I just gotta take it one day at a time. Then I get to worry about auditions in second semester for the next school I’m going to go to to finish my bachelor’s. Le sigh. It never ends! Lol. Also, I’ve been going back and forth not knowing if I should get the bachelor’s because mostly, you need that to teach, which I never, and I mean NEVER want to do. But I’ve also been undecided as to what I want to do with music. I think I’ve come to a pretty solid conclusion that fits how I want my life to be (in so far as family/house/time to myself): I’m going to be an opera chorister, stationed in one city.
Now, there’s a bit of (and by a bit, I mean a whole lot of, lol) snobbery when it comes to opera. If you aren’t a prima or primo of whichever voice type you are, and have a crazy career, you are a soloist “failure”. This is so ridiculous and needs to be changed, I tell ya! Not everyone is cut out to sacrifice basically everything to be a world-renowned opera star. Those people generally live sad lives, usually never marrying or having children. That’s just not the life I want. I want a house, a big garden, kids, doggies and kitties. Yep, I want domestic bliss. Could you imagine an opera without its chorus? Those huge, amazing scenes that get your heart pumping as the music swells with all the voices joining in emotion? It’s like raising energy in ritual! It’s just amazing. Plus, I’ll be working with the same people, which, once you’ve been in any sort of stage production, you know that they all become extended family.

"Carmen" by Georges Bizet. Performed by the Royal Opera Chorus and Orchestra.

Anywho… lol. Other things that have been on my mind or happening… I’ve been doing a lot of witchy reading (which I gotta do now, cuz during the school year, I have absolutely no want to read!). Currently on Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down the Moon”. It’s been good. Read a few 101 type books, however, I couldn’t read the last one all the way through as it was aimed for someone who’s probably only just found the Craft. I think I can move on from that now, lol. It’s been good to finally read these, although I have a feeling to get into the deeper books, I shall have to purchase them off Amazon as my library most likely won’t have books that specific.

Annnnd… mead. Oh, mead!! I think I’ve figured out what we’re going to do in retirement, lol. I’m going to have a meadery. The man can grow hops and make beer, and I will bee keep and make mead. The bottles are doing very well, the yeasties are very active. I went out today to a wine making supply shop and picked up some carboys, caps, airlocks, tubing and a brush for cleaning the carboys. I sanitized two of the caps and airlocks to place them on the water jugs I have my mead in now, and both jugs are having bubbles about every eight seconds. It’s so exciting making it, darned frustrating with the waiting (I know, it’s only been a week!! Lol), but I am quite excited! Before placing the caps on, I took a good sniff of each mead, and holy man! You can smell that alcohol! And behind that is the smell of ambrosia 🙂 Going to make another two bottles this weekend: a pumpkin mead!!!! And probably a fruit mead.

And lastly (I hope, lol), I have been spending more and more time outside during the day in the sun… it has been wonderful! I have my lovely umbrella however, lol, as I am a very, very pale person, and burn quite easily. My arms are now tanned, even though you’d never know unless I showed you how white my tummy is! We’ve been going on walks (albeit, usually to go get something, which is ok, cuz that means we’re walking for about a half hour at the very least), we should go on more with the pup though, but the man has been quite tired lately, as noted by all the angry yelling at his silly Mortal Kombat game :S
But, I’ve been bad with eating too much lately. Sigh. I’m trying to reign it in, I promise, lol. I really, really, really need to find somewhere that sells salad spinners so that I can have one and eat salads for lunch and have them with dinner. I miss salads, and I refuse to dry the salad with tea towels cuz our animals’ hairs are everywhere!

Ok, this is the last thing, I promise! I’ve also started saying a mental prayer at night before going to sleep, saying thanks for all my blessings They bestow upon me and my loved ones. It feels good, intuitive, not something I have to worry about making more elaborate than it should be. I think I’ve always known, but I believe I’m one of those whose practice is more spontaneous, and things will be less about what long ritual I’ve got written down, and more about the emotion of the moment. Don’t get me wrong, I like beautifully written ritual, very much, in fact. But when I want to do something, I never grab my books… I just… do it, in my own moment’s thoughts, words and actions.

Alright, my lovelies… that’s a huge post for one night, lol.

 

Homemade Mead!!

I finally went out and bought some honey to make me some mead! No, I don’t have the fanciest equipment, but the recipe I found was for beginners (like me!) I tried going to a place I know that sells carboys yesterday (I was thinking that they’d probably sell rubber stoppers and air locks as well), but apparently they’ve gone out of business since the last time I went there! 😦 Oh well, I ended up doing what the recipe said to do with water jugs. I was only going to do one, but the big jug of honey had enough for two one gallon jugs. So the first one is just the recipe without anything else in it, and the second has a couple allspice pods and a clove. I think what my plan is going to be is to make two gallons a month (if I can keep it to that little, lol!), and make plenty of different blends and such of fruits and herbs and spices.

So it’s been about 24 hrs, and the yeast activated right away when I first mixed everything up. I put them in the tub last night to make sure there were no explosions, but the balloons seem to be doing a wonderful job at slowly letting the gasses out while not letting anything in! Everything is just bubbling away and smelling delicious already!
I’m so excited, I don’t know how I’ll be able to wait until they’re finished in six months!

The first pic is right after everything was mixed, the second was today after taking them out of the tub.