Honey Bun Cake

On Saturday I attended the Biannual Austin Area Pagan Meetup Workshop (whew!) and Potluck. It was great! So informative and fun. The presentations were well-researched and relevant. I have to say—for all the bickering that can go on online, for all the naysaying about the Pagan community within the Pagan community…I don’t see that in the Pagans I’ve become involved with. They’re all different religions or philosophies, from eclectic to Druid to Wiccan (traditional, solitary, derivative covens) to reconstructionist to Asatru and guess what…? Everyone manages to go to the same meetup and have a damn good time.

That aside, for the potluck I made a recipe called Honey Bun Cake. I made a gluten-free version that turned out great, and as I was making it I realized it would be a perfect Imbolc dessert or to be served in the cakes and ale portion of any ritual. The cake itself is very dense, chewy and moist, while the topping is nice and crunchy. It really does remind me of those old honey bun snack-cakes.

Honey Bun Cake, Gluten Free

A lot of the proportions depend on how dry your cake mix is—gluten free mixes can vary considerably. I used King Arthur’s Yellow Cake Mix and these are the proportions I use. By the way…King Arthur gluten-free mixes are amazing. All of them.

Cake:

1 gluten-free yellow box cake mix

1 cup sour cream (maybe a little more if your box cake is very sweet)

4 eggs

1/2 c. oil

Milk to thin the batter. I think I ended up using around 2 cups.

Topping:

Up to 1/3 c. brown sugar

Up to 1/3 c. honey

1 tbsp. cinnamon

Icing:

2 c. powdered sugar

1/4 c. milk

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325.

Mix the cake mix, eggs, oil, sour cream and milk until smooth. Some lumps are fine, just not big lumps. Pour into a greased 9 X 13 pan.

Sprinkle the brown sugar, cinnamon and honey on top of the batter. Swirl with a dinner knife. Bake at 325 for 35-45 minutes.

For the icing, whisk together the powdered sugar and milk until desired consistency. Pour onto the hot cake and let set for about 10 minutes.

Here’s a link to the original recipe.

Here’s a link to a non gluten-free version.

PBP 2013: Animism, Considered

Today I took a walk. Not really an extraordinary thing, walking, except that it was the first time I’ve been outside the house in three days. The whole family is rotating through a bad cold, and I had a stomach bug besides, so…all in all…it’s been a pretty claustrophobic existence for most of the week.

But today I felt well enough to walk. My body needed to stretch, blood needed to flow. The humid-cool air chilled my skin and reminded me of late winter softball practice. Families and teenagers crowded the park/watershed where I walk, all enjoying the break in rainy weather before we get another cold front tomorrow. Already the clouds had begun rolling in, big lavender thunderheads squatting on the horizon.

As I walked I thought about a blog post I read yesterday. It was by Wendy Froud and detailed a walk she took to receive inspiration from the fae. Dver, at A Forest Door, noted that this was “animism in action“. And as I stopped to say hello to Niana, the water spirit, this got me thinking. Am I an animist?

Perhaps it was the atmosphere of the evening. Even with all the noise going on—toddlers screeching, basketballs bouncing, a group playing football—there was a…bite, shall we say…to the breeze. An ominous quality. The clouds had eaten the golden rays of the sun, so the twilight was instead a mix of gray, blue and purple.

As I turned the bend to the quieter part of the park I began to note that the trees seemed…how do I say?…more….alive. More tree-like, perhaps. I saw how the curved, bent, swooped, twisted and intertwined. I reached out to touch the bark of one, and then couldn’t stop. I wanted to touch all of them! Sit with them. Listen. I was sure, so sure, that they were talking this evening.

Further along the path I came upon a rock I don’t remember seeing before. Really, a boulder. Pockmarked limestone with streaks of red clay. About four feet tall, four feet wide. I walked over to it and leaning against it…felt it. I couldn’t say in that moment that I believed that rock to be without spirit. In fact, I believed that rock had a very distinct spirit.

And on the walk went. I’d observe, listen, and just kind of…bask…in what seemed like a very noisy conversation that many elements, spirits, trees, rocks, mushrooms, grasses were having. Maybe that’s it. Maybe today everything just seemed so loud, so close, that I couldn’t help but notice that the everything had a spirit. Everything had something to say.

Is this crazy? Maybe. The funny thing is for all I’ve considered myself a polytheist, for all I’ve been a Pagan and a novice spell worker, for some reason I’ve never considered animism fully. I don’t know why, maybe I haven’t been ready. Which is strange that I haven’t put it together, since I definitely talk to Niana, converse with the land spirits in the yard, in the hedges. Together, we converse. Is that animism? I guess that has always seemed too macro to be animism to me. And I’ve had experiences kind of like this one before, but never so…so that every tree, every stone, every mushroom I came upon seemed so discrete.

I fear I’m not expressing myself well here, pardon. Suffice to say that while I’ve never considered animism before—I’m not sure why not—it’s a conversation, a consideration, that I think I’m ready to begin.

Pagan Blog Project 2013: A is for Action

[Written on Friday, January 4, 2013]

Action. It’s a weird word to be writing about when I’m sitting in my pajamas on my couch at 9:50 a.m. My stomach is growling, and I’m too lazy to get up and fix breakfast. My tot is off at daycare/preschool, so I’m alone in the house.  The wind is bitter, the driveway slick with sleet, my A/C is pumping out hot air with abandon.

Even though my physical body is in hibernation mode, my…I don’t know, what do you call that part of you that moves independently of your mind, your body? The Other Self is a term I like (today, who knows tomorrow), that part that is you, but also apart from you. For me it’s most active in the dark months. When the cold settles in, when icy tree branches rustle and creak, when our words turn to fog in the chill, when the bustle of the holidays has given way to the long stretch of Winter…that’s when Other Self wakens. When Other Self wants some exercise, some action.

I know that according to typical Pagan structures (Wheel of the Year, I guess) the times for divination, for magic, are strongest around Samhain and Beltane. While I do feel an atmosphere of…change, activity, presence…during those times, I don’t feel focused enough to do the deeper actions that I feel divination and work call for. Samhain is the start of the frenetic holiday season; Beltane the beginning of summer activities and mirth. Both of which are lovely. But winter, the cold, the bare earth, focuses me in a way that nothing else can. Life is quiet on top of the earth. But below there is undeniable activity, and in Texas there is only a few weeks that we can take advantage before spring begins—usually neatly coinciding with Imbolc.

So Other Self and I go on some adventures. We talk using the Shadowscapes Tarot (sometimes Wildwood, but then the conversation is usually obscured). We play with spells and ritual and dancing. We dream together, write to each other, spend some precious time readying ourselves for the inevitable outside activity that begins to creep back in around Valentine’s Day.

This year, I’m hoping that Other Self and I will not lose touch as frequently as we did in 2012. By participating in PBP 13 and  possibly starting the ADF Dedicant Path, I’m looking forward to a full year of play, conversation, learning and action.

The Wind, The Wind.

The wind is blowing. I’m home alone, drinking a nice glass of wine from the winery I work at. The TV is off. The husband is gone. The babe is asleep. I think if we had our Yule tree up the twinkle lights and resinous aroma would make me feel cozy. But being alone, in the quiet, with the restless wind and the fat red waning gibbous (the fourth night in a row the moon has hung low, fat, and red) makes me feel…un-quiet.

When I listen these days I feel that there is a sense of unease in the land. I’m always hesitant to do anything about it, because what do I know of the bigger picture? I’m a peon, at best. But still, we had a mild, wet summer and now we’re having a hot, dry winter. The winds blow at night. There is dense fog and mist in the morning. The afternoon sun is bright and intense, even as we wane into Winter Solstice. This is unusual, even in a land of variable weather. It’s not winter here. We’ve been in a liminal state since July.

The restlessness of the land, of the spirits, dawned on me a few nights ago. Maybe it was the fool moon, or the high clouds racing across the sky, but as I looked up into the night I had the distinct thought that…the ancestors would be easy to hear tonight. The veil is still very thin.

And maybe that is one blessing of such a topsy-turvy year, is that through this whole season, even when I haven’t been seeking them out, everything—the very atmosphere—has felt thin, permeable, evanescent. Like the seasons are having a hard time transitioning, something is having a hard time letting go, giving up, surrendering.

Halloween/Samhain

Today is Halloween. Obviously.

Halloween and Samhain are two of my favorite holidays of the year. But this year…not so much. This October I haven’t had time to think about Halloween or Samhain (more important, in my perspective) at all. I went from working one weekend this month to four, both days (that’s 14-20 hours added to each week, no break), add-on to that your usual life stuff, plus renovating the dining room, planning a party, and making Claire a costume…I mean, right now, as I’m writing this, I’m exhausted. I’m pissed/hurt because C didn’t want to wear the costume I spent precious time and money making. I’m on a bit of a sugar crash….and…well, the thought of a ritual, anything beyond…I don’t know, sitting outside in the dark, seems overwhelming. These aren’t ‘excuses’, yes, this stuff is in my control, but what I’m saying is…I let this month get completely out of control. Seriously. I’m sitting here kind of wondering what the fuck happened.

So I was trying to get in the right headspace to do something when I came across the first few lines in *this* blogpost: I would like to start off by saying that Halloween is NOT the “Witches Holiday”. Halloween is a holiday for little children to get candy, and for Adults to decorate their houses with scary witch and ghost figures. —Steven Day

And then I thought, Duh, Meagan. Just…just, duh. Calm your silly, stressed out, tired ass down. Tomorrow is Samhain. Tomorrow is the Day of the Dead. Tomorrow, not tonight, not when I have to crowbar justonemorething in. It’s not that profound a sentiment, it’s one that I’ve always operated on. Halloween is for kids, Samhain is for spiritual/religious purposes. It’s not either or. It’s not black and white. And your practice, which you love, shouldn’t feel like another weight on your shoulders. Another have-to, another gotta-get-it-done, another check on the to-do list. Blech! Yuck! I’d rather not practice anything than for it to become so rote, so tedious. And really, it’s not. One of my greatest joys, deepest pleasures, is my spiritual practice. To say that one reason October became so out of control is because I largely abandoned it, abandoned the bigger picture, probably isn’t far off the mark.

Tomorrow will be my ritual, tomorrow will be the day that I honor the ancestors and say goodbye to summer (though you wouldn’t know it here…it went from chilly to hot). Tomorrow night will be the night that I sit in stillness and contemplate the Great Silence that is death.

Tonight? Tonight is for looking at the moon in the after trick-or-treat stillness. Tonight is for catching up on Supernatural, washing the hairspray out of my hair, thanking the household spirits for their good work this past month, reading a book…

And drinking a big, Tami Taylor-sized glass of wine.

Blessings on your Halloween night. Dark blessings as your honor your dead tonight and throughout this week.

 

Cinnamon Sugar Pecans

Cinnamon-Sugar Pecans—the stuff that dreams, Renaissance Faires and Roquefort-Pear Salad are made out of (please, try that salad–it’s absolutely divine, no matter what pantheon you worship).  Lucky for you, and your post-Renaissance Faire budget, they are very easy to make. They’re also a tasty gift, a nice touch to add to salads and sweet casseroles, and an easy, appetizing dish to include in your upcoming holiday parties from Samhain to Imbolc. Really, you can’t lose.

Cinnamon-Sugar Pecans (or any nuts)

1 pound pecans*

1 egg white, whipped till frothy

1 c. sugar, white

1 to 2 tsp. cinnamon

generous sprinkle sea salt

Directions

1. Set your oven to 200. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

2. In a large bowl, whip the egg white until frothy. Add the pecans, toss to coat.

3. In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar, cinnamon and salt.

4. Add the sugar mixture to the egg whites and pecans. Toss until thoroughly coated. Spread evenly on the baking sheet. Bake for at least an hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from oven when the pecans are very fragrant and the sugar shell is hard.

* You can definitely size this recipe for whatever amount you need. I’ve quartered it, halved it, etc. and it’s always turned out great.  Just remove the amount of egg white or add an egg white per pound.

*Also, you can apply it to different nuts, but be aware that because of varying fat content some nuts (like cashews) might burn easier, so check more often.

Enjoy! I know that I’ll be giving these to friends as gifts around Yule and Christmas and adding them to any dish that I can possibly get away with!

Foods of Imbolc

Imbolc is my favorite Sabbat. I adore it. I love the time of year–the harshest month of winter begins just as the season itself fades under the lengthening sunlight. Texas maybe gets its one day of snow a year. Then the air begins to warm, and it’s time to plant tomatoes again.

Incorporating food into my Sabbat work and ritual is important to me. It’s also important that the food be seasonal and fresh. If it’s straight from the garden, all the better. For those of us in Zone 8 that generally means no tomatoes at Yule and no green peas at Lughnasadh.

Now is the end of the citrus season. Grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, clementines can all be used to symbolize the returning sun or just enjoyed because of the fresh zip they add to food. It’s a good time to make marmalade, especially when all of the oranges and grapefruits go on sale.

My own UPG is that cultured foods are appropriate for Imbolc. In colder climates the winter stores would be nearing their end, and much of the wine, ale, fruits and vegetables that were either cultured or stored would be fermenting. Cheese, kefir, yogurt, curds and especially butter could/would be made of the milk arriving from the newly lactating sheep, goats and cows.

In my garden right now (Central Texas, Zone 8) there is an abundance of broccoli, cauliflower, collards, cabbage, green onions, snap and sweet peas, kale, turnips, lettuce and carrots. The herbs are doing well thanks to a very mild winter. I have bushes of cilantro, parsley, dill, spearmint, lemon balm, chives, oregano and rosemary. The calendula and chamomile look to be about ready to flower.  Pansies, stalwart sentinels of winter that they are, are still going strong.

For our Imbolc meal this year I’m making braised lamb, a garden salad and roasted carrots. We’ll drink wine, eat almond-honey cakes and toast to the coming spring.

Happy Imbolc/Candlemas, everyone!