Monday, December 21, 2009

After a week of busting my butt, it's all over. It feels so strange not to have homework or anything on a deadline... it's both comforting and confusing. Just what am I supposed to do with all this free time?

Thankfully, there's projects to work on and housecleaning to do; tonight we're transferring Genki to his home-away-from-home in preparation for my big trip (the gerbils go to a friend's place). Recently, I bugged my boyfriend into getting me some suede dye as a Yule gift (~giggles~ and hey, it was cheap too! he got the big gift this year) so I could recolor a pair of boots I'd gotten a couple years ago. The really light tan color wasn't doing anything for me, and they're loose around the ankles too, so after I order more dye they're getting grommets and lacing. It's fun to see a cheap pair of pseudo-fashion boots undergo this makeover ^^ I just had hoped that one bottle of dark red would be enough! Oh well, I'll get more eventually. So far, they're looking good.

Knitting is also on the list of things to do, and I think I'll be bringing my mom's shawl project with me when we go down South. It's always nice to have something for my hands to do during such long car rides.

If you don't know about Pandora Online Radio, I recommend Googling it and making a Bela Fleck station--some of the best bluegrass, acoustic, jazz, and mixed genre music around. Incredibly skilled musicians here, so check it out! Also makes sweet background music to whatever you're doing. ^^

Relaxing is nice.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cooking small

It's finals season.


I've spent today at home, studying as long as my attention span will allow so that hopefully tomorrow's tests will go well. Somehow I need to find time to work on projects as well; eh, it's sink or swim anyway. Best get to paddling.

The upshot of spending all day at home is that I actually have time to cook. Tonight's dinner was about as quick and easy (prep-wise) as it gets.

Stuffed Butternut Squash Halves

1 small butternut squash (ten inches tall at best)
Shredded cheese of your choice (in my case, cheddar)
Bread crumbs
Bacon bits
Bit of sage

Preheat oven to 400 degrees or thereabouts; the oven here is old and finicky and I'm always guessing at it's real temperature.

Chop the neck off your little squash, and cube it up for another recipe; mine ended up rather mushily in pot roast. Be sure to leave the top of the seed-compartment intact so the filling doesn't spill out one end.
Halve the bottom and scrape out the seeds. Place each half on a square of tinfoil large enough to hold everything in, and fill them as you like. I put in about a tablespoon of cheese, covered that with crumbs, covered that with bacon bits, a bit more cheese, more crumbs, and a good pinch of sage on top. Wrap them up and pop them in, checking at a half hour to see how done they are. With an oven-mitted hand, give them a squeeze; or stick a toothpick into the thicker bit where the neck was attached to see if it pierces easily. I let mine go for an hour and they were perfectly done.

As I had thought, the crumbs soaked up any liquid let out by the squash while they baked and the bacon bits had become tender, salty bites (I'm lucky enough to have real bacon bits, as opposed to flavored cardboard lol) with the cheese holding it all together. Next time, I want to try it with blue cheese and ham. :) Flavored tempeh would also work well... so would leftover taco meat, chicken, tuna, anything really. Using a little squash cuts down cooking time and helps control portion size too--I was cooking for one tonight, and my squash-bottom was about grapefruit sized. Just right.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Snow at last

Coincidence or not, it's amusing to think that by the time my thoughts turn to Skadi, it finally starts snowing.

Lately, I've been on a Freyja kick--who is she? What does she really stand for? What kind of person would she be if mortal? These kinds of questions turned me to a website called, which offers a very complete (albeit from one person's point of view) look of Freyja, the lore concerning Her, and even comments on many pictures/drawings/likenesses of Her.

It's very nice to find a new source of information and to read the thoughts of others; I was even lucky enough to get a glimpse of Freyja as described by this godhi: he equates her name with Berchta (thought by some to be a seperate Germanic/Continental goddess), which means "Bright" or "Shining", and so our Lady of beauty brings people together through love with Her light shining upon all. She is seen in those who prevent strife, who appear lovely to all, and even those of us who set up our friends on dates in the knowledge that they'll hit it off (and everyone but those two know it!). She seeks out passion above all; according to the information on FreyjaFirst, the names Odhin and Odr are both translated as "Passion", though in slightly different forms. Freyja seeks out those who live at the forefront of all things and dive into every activity fully aware of that moment. This shows that we can also learn to live in the now and (cliche as it sounds) live each moment as though it were our last.

However, I disagree somewhat on one point. When it comes to Freyja's modern image as a battle-goddess (and subsequent comparisons to, say, Ishtar), the author of FreyjaFirst sees this as wholly wrong, as She works to bring people together through goodwill and love. As for my views, I have read the posts online of others who saw (very generally) the Aesir as more battle-oriented gods while the Vanir tend to fight only in defense of them and theirs. As I found this view first, I've had much time to think it over and see how it seems to "fit" with what I've discovered. Even now it makes sense: the boar is a powerful symbol of Freyr and Freyja, and was worn on helms to protect the wearer in battle. More animal symbolism can be seen in Her associations with/aspects of hawk (or falcon) and cat: both are hunters, and a mother cat will fight to the death to protect her kittens.
Another sense of this could be seen in the Aesir-Vanir war; I can imagine that Freyja, known for seidhr-sorcery, could get a glimpse of what those on the other side were up to. (Seidhr, or "seething", is thought to be closely related to shamanic practices as the practitioner went into a trance in order to see how future events might turn and what might be done to change them.)

In any case, let it be said that while I have discovered a new source of information through another person's knowledge and experience, I do disagree with the author on Freyja's status as a goddess of battle. Rather than seeing Her as a total pacifist or as leader of the Valkyries, I tend to see her as a protectress, giving Her loved ones strength and guidance when they most need it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I need to dig out my camera, don't I?

When first making tamagoyaki, start with one or two eggs rather than three. Then again, it was a tasty monster. There's even some half-decent looking slices for tomorrow's lunch bento. ^^
Hopefully I can get something green to put in it too; I'm grabbing a salad after class (meaning soon. I hope.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Jumping on the bento bandwagon

I read some food blogs regularly, and among them are "Just Hungry" and "Just Bento", two Japanese-themed sites which are run by the same author. After reading so many delicious-sounding recipes, it seems to me that there's no reason I can't do this too.
Plus, it's a great way to enact portion control... something I usually don't pay all that much attention to.
(One nifty tip I picked up is that the volume of your container in milliliters roughly equals the number of calories it will hold. Of course, that depends on what you put in it, but if it's heavy on rice as Japanese bentos tend to be, then this should be roughly accurate.)
I decided to begin yesterday, even as Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season comes upon us. Nowadays I'm grateful for enough time to actually make "real" food, as opposed to microwaving a bowl of canned soup and running back out the door.

So last night for dinner my boyfriend and I made tenpura, which we both enjoy a lot and it's basically the one way I can get him to like fish! (Tenpura involves a very light batter in which things like sliced veggies, fish, shrimp, etc. are quickly deep-fried.) Before slicing up the veggies, I put some brown rice in my mini rice-cooker and let that start, as brown rice takes a long time to cook. As we cooked and ate, I discovered that--surprise!--I had sliced up more veggies than we were willing to fry and eat (this is completely normal for me. I'd rather make too much than not enough.) Therefore, I threw those in a baggie to spend the night and after a lovely hot breakfast this morning of egg, cheese, and homemade biscuit sandwiches, I stir-fried last night's leftovers this morning before packing them in a container with some of the brown rice and a few bacon bits for extra flavor.
It made for a light, filling lunch, which was my intention. Though now I realize I salted the rice a tad too much; oh well.
Now I have rice for the rest of the week!
...granted, I'm going home on Wednesday, so I'll have to eat it soon. But it's a start!

The real trouble will come with planning things out. Hopefully I can get more things like canned tuna so bento-making won't take hours of prep work. Though I do have a plan that involves that venison in the freezer for when I get back...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I'm eating in the lab!

Let me explain: in a place often associated with arcane equipment and dangerous chemicals of all kinds, there is a place where I can nuke some leftovers in a conveniently close microwave and eat them right here at the bench.

It seems weird that eating in a lab makes me feel a bit rougish, even like a rebel, but when one goes through the mandatory safety training, one of the biggest things they stress (aside from safely seperating different kinds of chemicals) is the absolutely no eating or drinking in the lab rule. This is pretty fun. (and yes, my life really is this exciting.)

Now granted, I'm not down in the lab where I usually work--this one is on a different floor and under someone else's eye. It was interesting to see all the signs around here saying "No hazardous materials allowed! Designated area for food and drink!" It's remarkable; the place feels much more human and less sanitary/robotic/sterile.

Anything tastes better when forbidden but you get some and cherish every bite anyway. I'm going to enjoy my couscous.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

First off: let the Onion say what it will of the original Fantasia--I still love it.
Every cartoony second.

And now, back to your arbitrarily scheduled blog post.

Hoo boy--looks like I get to register for classes. (Ah, the joys of being a senior!)
It looks like I'll have a pretty full load too--I need a GIS class, physics, hydrology, and a class on the atmosphere. I wonder if it's possible to skip either hydro or the atmosphere, as they both fall under the same "extra sciences" type category... else that would be 4 classes all with labs, and one of them is physics XP Math and I can get along, but physics confuses me.
I'd like to throw a "fun course" in there just to break things up, like the one on Scandinavian Folklore I found while course-shopping earlier today. Plus I've heard that hydro is a real pain; most of the people in my problem-solving class group are taking it now, and it does sound hard. Not only is the material tough, but it seems like the professor doesn't really take the time to explain things very well, which definitely would be a problem. I'm just not looking forward to all the math either.

At this rate, I might end up taking a class or two next summer and working in the off time... the upside is that I'd hold on to my current job, which pays well and is really just menial tasks anyway. Then it would make sense to take the rest of the year off, work, and prepare for the GRE and grad school.

still don't know what I want to study. Effects of a fire regime on buckthorn regrowth and its potential as a control tool? How some animal affects some aspect of plant growth in Yellowstone? Anything in Yellowstone...

I fell in love with the place as soon as we got into Montana. Sixteen people and their luggage for the week packed into two Jeeps and one SUV, sixteen hours from the Twin Cities to Gardiner, Montana. Best spring break I've ever had. And I'd love to go back if I could--get a job doing anything! Ideally some kind of ecosystem analyst or biologist, but I'd be willing to start as a tour guide if it meant I could do my own research there. Maybe I could get into fungi that can handle those extreme conditions like some bacteria do, or maybe there's yeasts that can do it... thermophilic fungi? (New band name! :D) I know there are a few species that can survive extreme temperatures and dessication just fine... some brown wood-rotting fungi we looked at in my Bioremediation class comes to mind. Maybe I'll go into bioremediation. I just hope something works out.

Monday, November 9, 2009

the future is now, or at least it could be

is it possible to skip all the work that goes into various school projects and go straight to winter break? I have one report that I suspect is due tomorrow (and I can't check that at the moment, as the elderly machine I'm currently using is having issues with Adobe Reader) and my problem-solving class group also wants to meet tonight so we can go over our findings so far. We spent a month surveying trees. I mean, it's all for the good of the community we're helping and developing our scientific skills, but I am *so* glad that is done.

I have senioritis, and it seems like it's about time. Normally I love college, and would like to stay and study all kinds of different subjects if I could. But lately I've been feeling that if only I could get a decent-paying job and work for a while, then I could have money for a car and a bigger apartment and all kinds of other things. Hell, I'd have a car! That in itself opens up all kinds of possibilities (I'm infected with wanderlust and it's frusterating to settle with daydreams)--everything from a weekend road trip to being able to go to the grocery store and really stock up on food whenever I want. Whenever I have the time, I could go forth and do!
The fact that I either bus, walk, or occasionally carpool everywhere does give me a bit of green pride (in that I'm using transportation options that emit less greenhouse gases and use less fossil fuels) but I think I'm just getting selfish or something; I want to move on. I want to be more independent: get a house with a big lot, get a good job I can plug away at for a while (if only to get a better job later on) and feel like I'm doing more than just preparing for the future. I'm an adult, dammit, and I want to act like one.
I feel like someday is getting closer and closer: someday I'll have kids and a big dog and a house with enough yard for some huge gardens and I'll make homemade meals all the time and I'll have a well-paying, meaningful job...

Monday, November 2, 2009

autumn musings

Well, I hope everyone had a good Halloween/Samhain/Disingnights/weekend :)
(just wait, soon enough it'll be Chrismahannakwanzayuleka :P)

I had a good weekend, overall. Saturday was spent mostly in my pjs making chocolate-chocolate chip cookies (check the recipe from, I've had great success with it) before dressing up in my Ren-faire duds and heading out with boy and friends for the evening. I'll have to post a pic of the corset later... yes, I did make my own corset for the Faire ^^ But that's another post in the making.
As the evening went on, they decided I had to see Shaun of the Dead as I hadn't before. Generally I'm a total wuss when it comes to horror movies, but this was just funny. Life tends to be funny when your rum and Coke is in a coffee cup and since the Coke is flat, it looks just like coffee...

Overall, we had a good time. The next day I packed all my crap up (I had lots of stuff to haul, being car-less) and waited for my ride to our Samhain celebration with my Proto-Grove (a Druid group... mostly), which was less a serious reminiscing of our dead ancestors than one of our normally solitary witchy members having a go at leading for the first time. She did just fine :) and the potluck afterward was awesome as usual. It had been years since I'd had Hamburger Helper, and yet it was still delicious. Funny how some things don't change no matter how much you do... There was also roast chicken, squash, very good chili and my cookies! So I returned home to lounge on the bed in a food coma while feeling bad that we weren't at my place/leaving the cat alone for another night. But I guess he was okay... though he did run out of water, so that was top priority when I got home this morning. Very glad I got an early bus and had time to spend with Genki before class and work today; I still feel the poor kid is alone too much.
I know it seems weird to say that of a cat, but as my boyfriend pointed out in the first place, he's really more like a dog. (He still thinks he's alpha no matter what... but other than that, he does crave attention in a very doggy manner.) Hopefully the new laser-pointer my friend got me will help us remember to play with him more often; that cat lives up to his name. (Genki is Japanese for healthy, energetic, get-up-and-go attitude, etc. We're thinking of adding "spaz" to the list of acceptable translations.)

So now it's a new year (according to old Celtic ways of thinking) and I've been pondering that. As a kid, I knew about the Jan. 1 new year, and the Chinese new year sometime in February (as it's based on the lunar calander so the date changes every year)... I've never really thought about a new year starting in the autumn. Granted, I have an autumn birthday, so to me it seems that from Halloween on it's time to party :)
And when autumn does roll around, I feel like it's "my" time. It's probably just my ginormous ego, but I feel like the leaves are changing, it's getting chilly, now's the time to curl up on a sofa with cocoa and stew and feel satisfied with things. I was born this time of year, so it's my time to start anew. I'm not much for spring--all the mud and rushing around and cold rain doesn't suit me. Summer is hot, though it's nice that everything's finally green, and late summer I love especially--the world is golden, it's hot but not muggy, the bugs are winding down and the sun is at her peak. I finally feel like I can settle down into my work and get things done (including school, I always seem to do better fall semester than spring--by the time it's spring semester, I feel like winter break shouldn't be over and I have all kinds of trouble focusing on schoolwork).
How's autumn for you?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lately, I've been attaching all kinds of meaning to food. I think it ties in with how my family (extended too) has been popping up in my thoughts so often recently.

I've been longing for Thanksgiving and Yule--they mean being with my family, going to see everyone and have good times with them and amazing food. Those on my dad's side of the family can whip up a feast, especially when we all get together; I remember fondly two turkeys deep-fried in peanut oil (amazingly tender, not greasy) at my Aunt T.'s and Aunt B.'s *real* bleu cheese dressing--real Roquefort!--with hot wings.

And even though Grandma R. (mom's side) can come up with some crazy ideas (such as the failed cheesy-poofs-on-green-bean-casserole experiment, think dry styrofoam) she still has the Best Apple Pie Ever award as far as we're concerned. The holiday hams are always amazing as well.

It's also fun at Christmas/Yule when Grandpa R. sets up the cookie assembly line :) We make all kinds, especially Reindeer Cookies with pretzel antlers, raisin eyes, and little red-hot noses. There's always too many cookies, so we're set well into the New Year with leftovers; everyone gets a tin or box-full when they leave.

Speaking of Yule, we're going South again this year! ^^ We went to North Carolina last time to visit Grandma and Grandpa P. and all the rest of Dad's side--what a trip! Driving down through the flat lands of Illinois and Indiana with a full moon shining overhead; hills and then mountains as we pass through Ohio into Kentucky and West Virginia... after the holiday celebrations in Asheville, we went out and drove all the way to the coast to the Outer Banks (OBX!), where we saw ocean and sand and touristy places mostly closed for the winter. We even had seafood (very good, mind you) at a place called Dirty Dick's! (And yes, we have t-shirts.) The whole trip was nice; I'm so excited to go again this year.

I want to pile in the car with my family and the dog and go see everyone. I want to go to the farm and take a day to re-explore everything--find cats hiding amongst hay bales in the barn, go out to the woods where the creek bed runs, climb around the junk piles on the hillside, say "heeeey-ya" softly to the horses so I don't spook them.

I want to go visit Aunt T.'s place again--oh, but their Weimie (Weimeraner) is gone. They have a new puppy from what I hear though. Go ride in my uncle's Thing (it's a car, he restored it himself) ^^ and see the cousins; bet they're even taller now.
I want to see all my aunts and uncles and cousins.
Go everywhere.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Correct action. Contrast this with orthodoxy, which is correct thought or belief.
At least within ADF (, a modern Druid group in which I am currently a member) the difference between the two is explained in a religious context. From what I have read/heard, Pagans back in the day were more concerned with orthopraxy: you do the ritual like it's supposed to be done, and the crops grow, the sun shines, and the Gods and ancestors are happy. It wasn't until the spread of Christianity a few hundred years after its beginning that orthodoxy began to be the cool new thing: so long as you have correct belief, God and Jesus love you and you'll make it to Heaven. Even within Christianity, the debate between faith vs. action has been going on ever since the Lutheran reformation; I intend to focus on how "right" and "correct" actions or thoughts go with religions of any stripe, particularly the Pagan ones.

Somehow I think you can't have one without the other: whether you want to argue that acting correctly will lead to thinking correctly or vice versa, it seems that one who acts correctly would know why they do it that way (and even if they don't, there must be some impetus for them to do what they do). But this can't be the case! Let's put this into context: For many years of my childhood, I went to church with my family and acted along with the service. I was even an altar kid at the end, and still I didn't feel like it was the right thing for me to do because I didn't believe in it.
On the other hand, you'd think that right belief leads to right action, yet this is also false; there are plenty of cases where folks say they're of a certain faith, yet don't go to church/service/ritual/whatever. Then do they really believe, or is it just a convenient thing to say and not to do also?

And I admit I have a bug up my butt when it comes to what one is "supposed" to do. Call me lazy, procrastinator, airhead, or what have you, but I'm not much for dogma and prescribed ways of doing things. Granted, when one is starting out it's nice to have examples for things; it's also good to learn what one can based on what has been going on for however long (hundreds or thousands of years, depending). But there comes a point when something like religion becomes intensely personal, and therefore unique to each individual. Members of a given faith may share big ideas, but even below the levels of denomination--even within a traditional Wiccan coven--each person will perceive things differently, have different thoughts and opinions, and therefore believe differently than anyone else.
How, then, to people see fit to say to someone, "Oh gods! You're doing it wrong!!!" when the particular details of that person's life and faith are not known?

True, there are many things to be said for tradition and keeping the faith. I grew up diet Catholic (Anglican Episcopalian) and I'm dating a Jew--tradition can be very important for feeling a connection to one's ancestors, be they of blood or of spirit. And it's a very intense and personal experience to know where you came from and how things came to be. But even ancestry becomes very personal; one may be of German descent and share the ways of those many tribes who lived in Central Europe back in the day (like from the Bronze Age), but get closer to the present and certain families form and grow and join and disappear; wars are won and lost, farms are replaced with factories and the world changes. Religions also change, the faces of the Gods as we know them are very different than those of the Gods known to Saxons and Vandals and Brythonic tribes.

I learn what I can, when I can--I strive to live up to my own label of "informed eclectic" (even though I'm not all that eclectic), since the "plug-and-play" style of ritual doesn't jive with me and the Gods I associate with. Even so, I don't always act on what I learn and I don't change what I've come to believe just so it fits with some "ideal" of the religion as it was however long ago. Everything goes through my filter(s) and things evolve. Belief isn't a lot of words set in stone: it's a natural process and survival of the fittest plays a huge part. They grow and change and die and even are reborn sometimes. They are remembered and forgotton, honored and despised or just ignored.

I guess that's all I have to say.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Unintentionally vegan, still delicious

Yesterday's stew was a blazing success, at least in my mind. I was aiming for something hearty, simple, and not traif (which is odd, since my Jewish boyfriend isn't a fan of soups aside from chili); as a result, I came up with this.
If you want to try it, feel free to use whatever vegetables you have on hand, and if you want it more soupy, just add more stock or water as it cooks. With the herbs and dark, rich stock, it does rather resemble beef stew (pity I hadn't any onions).

Veggie Stew with Brown Rice and Lentils

Made in a small rice-cooker, which I find is basically a slow-cooker with two settings: hot and keep warm. In went:
1 small yam, skin and all, in a large dice
Five or six crimini mushrooms, quartered (they were the same price as the buttons, but I find them more flavorful)
A couple heaping tablespoons of dry green lentils
One can (14.5 oz.) of whole tomatoes, chunked up (add the juice too)
A dozen or so chopped baby carrots
A rice-cooker-cupful of brown rice (about 1/3 to 1/2 cup)
Enough veggie stock to fill the pot
1 bay leaf
Lots of dry thyme, about a half tablespoon
Big pinch of dry sage
1 teaspoon dry rosemary, crushed between fingers
1 teaspoon dry parsley

Set it to "cook" and stir occasionally as everything warms up. Once it's been bubbling for a half-hour, set to "warm" and let the rice and lentils soak up the rest of the broth (about 20 minutes). Stir the now thick stew, and smile when a random housemate comments on how nice it smells. Serve up a bowl and enjoy hot; save the rest for a rainy day.

Guess what I get to have for lunch today. ^^

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

skunks don't change their stripes

It's hard to keep the cat away from the gerbil cage.

We've been trying to train him, but with Genki living in my apartment and I a college student, he does spend much of the day sans people. So far, we've had some good feedback with my cheapo Ikea squirtbottle (which I love, along with the huge--I mean huge--three dollar umbrella!) though I try to balance that with positive feedback as well. Funny how I'm trying to be a good "mom" here, when I spend much of the time flinging him onto the bed and calling him a stinky skunk... no trust me, he's not fixed, so he sprays. Thanks to all the gods that he sprays only in the litter box and that box is in a closet with a door! Though his stripes are rather handsome.
Here is the skunk in my window at the old place:

He's a big frame, but skinny. Silly guy can even be a lap-cat(!) when he feels so inclined.

Like now. :)

Though I didn't think I'd be skipping rapier tonight to start a blog; I have the search engine all set to find resources for my bioremediation paper, but a video on today's post in Food Wishes ( made me ache for something I've been craving a long time now: handmade, homemade, everything-from-scratch real food. Sometimes I still wonder why I haven't gone to culinary school (in the end I thought saving threatened and polluted ecosystems outweighed the work involved in professional foodery) since I'm addicted to food in its many incarnations. I have a vast list of recipes to try someday, along with a sizeable stash of spices and ingredients that just need the right time and inspiration to really make something awesome.

I wonder if this yearning for homemade bread reflects something deeper, or if I'm just a helpless foodie caught with desire and disappointment. But I will make stew tomorrow! (Still deciding whether it wants sour cream, but we'll see; my rice-cooker will see some use yet.)