Strega Nona Entertaining: Conjuring Creative Fun

From recipes to rituals, I will kindly divine the perfect celebration for you!

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Colleen DuVall

Colleen DuVall

Colleen DuVall has written articles, plays, short films, and a novel. Most recently, her work has been featured in her new blog, Off The Beaten Path for the Shepherd Express online (http://shepherdexpress.com/blogs-1-1-1-61.html), and the Wisconsin Life radio show for WPR. She recently adopted a little grey and white cat named Tessa, after beloved 22-year-old Bootise passed on.

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An Ostara Birthday

Every Spring Equinox, I have to admit I feel lucky. The sun has officially entered my astrological sign of Aries, and I feel a surge of newfound energy and confidence. Technically I wasn’t due to make an appearance until early April, closer to my dad’s birthday. But eager little me, I couldn’t wait. I got a kick out of my mom later telling me that she nibbled on jellybeans as she started to go into labor early at my grandmother’s house in Oshkosh. Because of all of these things, this time of year fills me with a renewed sense of hope and strong purpose. I start to review personal goals for the year and make notes about what can be realistically accomplished. It’s also a perfect opportunity to try something out that I’ve been meaning to, in celebration of new beginnings and my birthday on March 23rd. Here are some samplings of adventures I’ve embarked on that I would highly encourage for anyone restless with those first stirrings of spring:

Go to one of those paint/wine studios. Whether you’re artistically inclined, curious, or been meaning to get back to it, this is a great experience. Leave your inhibitions at the door and give yourself permission to indulge your creative side. Lots of these places play fun music in the background while you paint and are pretty informal. Grab a like-minded pal and share a bottle of wine as you aspire to be the next Dali or Picasso.

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Long Nights Moon

Call it Cold, call it the Long Nights Moon. It is here tomorrow, and if it’s not too cloudy where you are, you should get outdoors to try and appreciate it. This is because it will appear larger than normal, due to its proximity to earth. Referred to as the Cold Moon by Native American Indian cultures, this was due to its proximity to the Winter Solstice, marking the longer nights and the colder section of the year. Here are some notions to mark the occasion and keep the Solstice celebration going all weekend long!

Build a bonfire or make a firepit fire to moon gaze under. You may even catch a meteor shower this year, if you’re far away from the city lights. Toast marshmallows and make homemade Moon Pie cookies, putting the melty goodness between two small graham cracker-style cookies (see recipe below). This is always an ideal time of year for quiet reflection. Choose the scrying method of your choice (I prefer a detailed tarot read that I can note in my Book of Shadows) and meditate on what the signs have to tell you as guides for the coming year. Consider your immediate past, present, and future: are you focusing your energies on being your best self? Imagine how you can better align any areas of your life that are out of whack. Your relationships will suffer if not all is right with you. Plan a “me time” date with yourself once a week throughout the month of January and stick to it. This can be both a time of letting go and replacing the dark with more positive energies and activities in your life.

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Ecstatic Pumpkins

 

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(YOU'RE GOING TO) REAP JUST WHAT YOU SOW

With Lammas now underway, harvest season is here in abundance. If you haven't been visiting them this summer already, now is the perfect time to take advantage of fresh ripe produce and more from your local and regional vendors. Since I myself reside in the Midwest, I thought I'd point out some area highlights.

WEST ALLIS FARMERS MARKET
Milwaukee, WI
https://www.westalliswi.gov/index.aspx?nid=201
If you prefer a leisurely start to your harvester perusing, this is the one for you! West Allis, otherwise affectionately known to Milwaukeeans as "Stallis," "Mustalliche," and "Stallica," prides itself on providing the freshest produce possible. A later start allows farmers to pick right from their fields that same morning and do just that. This is primo time for herbs, squash, and of course, sweet corn. Tomatoes will be coming to fruition (sorry I had to go there), and soon after apples and cider will be on the way. There are also a variety of shopping vendors offering oddities ranging from records to hats. The West Allis Farmers Farmers Market is open from noon to 6:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 1-6 p.m. on Saturdays.

DANE COUNTY FARMERS' MARKET
Madison, WI
https://www.dcfm.org/

A decades-old tradition going strong since 1972, the Dane County Farmers' Market on the Capitol Square of Madtown is the perfect marriage of country mouse and city mouse. EatingWell Magazine even voted this one as a favorite of theirs. Fashioned after the European-style open markets, this cherished state event is now one of the biggest produce-only farmers' markets in the country. A Wednesday morning market has been added to compliment the ever-popular Saturday showcase, and it runs all the way into November. Early birds flock to Saturdays as it runs from 6:15 a.m. - 1:45 p.m. Wednesday times are 8:30 a.m.-1:45 p.m. For an intriguing read on this popular forum's history, fresh recipes and more info, visit their website.

KENOSHA HARBORMARKET
Kenosha, WI
http://kenoshaharbormarket.com/

Referred to one TripAdvisor traveller as “Farmer Market Heaven not far from Chicago into Wisconsin,” this happy medium between Chi-town and Cream City fits the bill. There is ethnic fare to be enjoyed, particularly at a seat by the lake, while watching the boats drift in the harbor. Also a happy medium with the time frame, this rialto is available to you on Saturdays from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Located in downtown Kenosha behind the Civil War Museum, and Kenosha Public Museum, this mixed marketplace provides performance art, crafts, and cooking demos. They also operate in conjunction with special events such as the HarborPark Jazz & Blues Festival and the Kenosha Classic Cruise-In.

This is but an appetizer of all of the farmers markets to partake in. Make a point to get out there and have fun supporting your resident agriculturalists today.

References



http://www.eatingwell.com/article/10372/americas-top-farmers-markets-dane-county-farmers-market/

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g60003-d6867210-r290234815-Kenosha_HarborMarket-Kenosha_Wisconsin.html

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Be Like Leo the Lion

When you imagine a lion, these are images that immediately come to mind: Strength, pride, regality. A certain conservation of energy is often utilized by lions. Of all of the big cats, they certainly know how to strike a healthy balance between their leisure time and the hunt. Family prides of course, are quite important to them. They could never be accused of backing down from a fight. And hey, they practice good grooming. Since the sun will officially be entering the sign of Leo today on July 23rd, it could be advantageous to tap into some of that powerful feline energy. I would also venture that you don't need to be a cat person, or fall under the sign on your chart to do so.

If you are a fellow cat person, kudos to you. You already appreciate all those kooky and mysterious little offspring of Bast on a deeper level. If you have some furry companions of this kind living with you, chances are, you have taken the opportunity to study them, and even unconsciously, to act like them. They get you to run wildly and play with silly abandon alongside them, chasing each other down long hallways and such. It's a good exercise for both of you. Probably you nap together, and that's never a bad thing. All cats are highly practiced in the art of stillness, and you can practice pretty zen-y meditations with them daily, held in the form of long starting contests. In all of these regards, cats definitely keep you in the moment. Since pet cats are largely regarded as the most wild of all domesticated animals, spend some extra time with your kitty loved one to tap into some Leo energy. If you've been considering adopting, this would be an optimum time to visit your local shelter.

If you feel the need to get closer to the real deal, look into visiting a nearby big cat sanctuary. Often these beautiful wild creatures have been injured, left behind, or mistreated, either in the wild or in an inappropriate facility. Sanctuaries provide the unique opportunity to provide loving, caring, and roomy environments for these animals, where the people there who care for them do so with knowledge and compassion. Some Midwest locations are listed under my resources below.

Since lions are very social creatures, you may want to revisit your social life. Who is a major part of your inner pride? Has it been awhile since you connected with some of these folks, if even with a good old-fashioned phone call? Now is the time, my friend. If time allows, throw a small summer fire pit party (Leo is a fire sign, after all) and invite some of these cherished companions over to roar with you.

Looking inward, think about ways that you could strengthen your own sense of pride and self-dignity. If signing up for that new dance class or treating yourself to a new outfit that you can show off makes you want to strut, then by all means, go for it. If your mane could use some coifing, get yourself into the beauty parlor and spend a little extra this time. All of these rituals should help you embrace your inner lion, and rev your confidence level up in a big way.

Resources:

https://www.wisconsinbigcats.org/Wisconsin-Big-Cat-Rescue-Education-Center

https://votk.org/


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In Search of the Sun

How does one weather a soggy Summer Solstice, anyway? Looking forward to one of the big Sabbats of the year is what most Wiccans and Pagans eagerly anticipate reveling in. As I peered out my bedroom window this morning, however, my brow furrowed. Overcast, cold, and rainy. Again. Granted this is Wisconsin, as everyone here loves to repeatedly point out, as if that makes it alright. News flash: it doesn't. My allergies have not appreciated this unduly wet and cooler year thus far. If it wasn't so damp, it wouldn't be a big deal. Even though I'm prone to heatstroke, I don't begrudge the truly hot temps, even when you get the double-whammy of humidity (more extreme wet stuff). I just pace myself accordingly, and don't attend the Ren Faire in a heavy costume, lest I be carried out on a stretcher. I'm beginning to suspect I would do much better in an arid climate, but that's a story for another time.

Back to the Solstice. I often nostalgically recall my first and only attendance to the PSG in 2000. It started out bright and sunny that day, but by mid-afternoon, we all had to seek shelter in our tents due to the thunderstorms rolling in. It wasn't so terrible. Wine, cheese, and a cozy atmosphere all helped. Earth-minded folk tend to be resilient. Things finally cleared up around nine that evening. Eventually, curiosity seekers began to creep and crawl out of their tents to the damp grass, lured by the sound of drumbeats. The natives were restless from being cooped-up the better part of the day and needed to get their dance on. So drum and dance we did, as planned, around the bonfire, until the wee wee hours. It was ecstatic and frenzied and sweet. It was continuing our celebration as planned, and not allowing Mother Nature's mood swings to rain us out completely.

So my best advice today, if it looks dicey outdoors, is to go about your plans the best you can and not lose hope. I'm determined to set up my annual outdoor "Zen Den," whether my hammock gets soaked, or not. If my partner and I can't sit outside and enjoy the sunset later, I will still cook up the ritual din-din as planned, and we can crack the windows and listen to the raindrops. Candles and incense will be lit regardless. I will still bake homemade cornbread and perform my yoga sun salutations on this day, because, why not? I believe it remains important to honor the significance of the actual sacred day and the deities associated with it. The main thing to keep in mind when following an earth-based belief, is that being flexible with Book of Shadow plans and adjusting them when necessary is key. Happy Solstice, everyone, whatever plans that you honor today.

References:

Photo by Victor Freitas from Pexels

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Rediscovering Cinco De Mayo

Its no big secret that Americans adore Mexican food and drink. Every time May 5 rolls around, we all want to get in on the celebration. Weirdly, the last time I visited Mexico, they didn't even seem to notice. Contrary to popular belief, Cinco De Mayo isn't actually "Mexican Independence Day." The state of Puebla does still
recognize the holiday, where they successfully defended themselves from an attempted French invasion back in 1862.

This year, if you wish to celebrate, why not do so with a little more authenticity, rather than getting bombed on tequila shots at your favorite Americanized version of the real deal? Here are some staple dishes that are fun and easy to concoct on your own:

    MAÍZ A LA PARRILLA MEXICANA (MEXICAN GRILLED CORN)
        4 ears corn
        1/2 cup mayonnaise
        1 1/2 cups sour cream
        1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro leaves
        1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
        1 lime, juiced
        Red chili powder, to taste
       2 limes cut into wedges, for garnish
    Remove the husks of the corn but leave the core attached at the end so you have something to hold onto.
    Grill the corn on a hot grill or cast iron griddle pan until slightly charred. Turn it so it gets cooked evenly all over.
    Mix the mayonnaise, sour cream and cilantro together. Grate the Parmesan in another bowl. While the corn is still warm slather with mayonnaise mix. Squeeze lime juice over the corn and shower with Parmesan. Season with chili powder and serve with extra lime wedges.
    (Recipe from Tyler Florence)
    https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/mexican-grilled-corn-recipe-1947651

TOMATILLO SALSA VERDE
https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/tomatillo_salsa_verde/

FRIJOLES REFRITOS (REFRIED BEANS)
http://mexicanfoodjournal.com/refried-beans/

After enjoying a tasty meal with these dishes, complimented with a little homemade sangria, give an offering of thanks to Centeotl, the Aztec God (or Goddess) of Maize. Burn some leftover corn husk from your meal with a little copal incense in an iron cauldron or other fire-safe device. If Centeotl doesn't grab your fancy, there are many Aztec Gods and Goddesses to choose from and read up on, if you visit the first ThoughtCo link below. Make a point this year to visit a local cultural center and educate yourself to the customs and art of a culture that you appreciate and are drawn to. La paz.

References:

https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/cinco-de-mayo


https://www.thoughtco.com/centeotl-the-aztec-god-of-maize-170309

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