Monday, August 3, 2020

Turning the Wheel and Dancing a New Path

Happy Lughnasadh from our house to yours!

"Our hands will work for peace and justice
Our hands will work to heal the land
Gather round the harvest table
Let us feast and bless the land."
~T. Thorne Coyle; Reclaiming Collective
This past Saturday, Ed and I celebrated Lughnasadh with an all day bake-a-thon, a huge taco feast, and a peaceful evening ritual. For the first time since my Mom's death (July 25, 2013), we celebrated a holiday with excitement and gusto!

Two Happy Pagans Happily Feasting

When my Mom died much of my Pagan practice ended. When I needed to connect with Goddess and God the most, I didn't. When I needed to center and ground the most, I didn't. When I needed to reach out, I retreated into myself. The last seven years have been spiritually empty. I haven't done many rituals and I haven't really celebrated the holidays the way I used to. Like Inanna, I went underground to the Land of the Dead. I was angry. Mom wasn't "supposed" to die yet! We had so many adventures planned. I just planted an apple tree in the yard and we were planning pies, apple sauce, and apple cake. The garden was glorious that year. Mom was gearing up to can and freeze our bounty. And just like that, she was gone. With so many unfinished projects and plans, I unexpectedly lost my best friend and mother. I was gutted to my core.

Mixing Up Some Yummy Oatmeal Cookies

Seven years later ... Mother's Day isn't so painful and her birthday doesn't send me into deep depression. This year her death day arrived and was quietly acknowledge. I'm able to think about her now without crying. I'm able to talk about her and, in turn my Pop, without feeling like I've been punched in the gut. Most importantly, I'm able to reflect on our relationship in productive and healing ways. 

I adored my Mom, but our relationship was sometimes trying and unhealthy. Mom never got to live the life she really wanted to live and she was horribly depressed about it. My parents' relationship was strained at best, and outright hostile at worst. She lamented her relationship with my father. She projected her values and dreams onto me -- values and dreams that never really "fit" who I am or what I wanted. As loving and supportive as she was, Mom could also emotionally cut with the precision of a neurosurgeon. There was nothing like a Carol guilt trip. She learned it from the best -- her Mom. 

Mix That Goodeness!

My relationship with my father was tenuous and, at times, violent. But, as I got older and realized that like my Mom, he was only human with human pain, things got better. I have a deep respect for my father, deep like the love I have for my mother. Mom used to get angry at me -- usually for being me (mouthy, irritable, impatient, headstrong) -- and she'd call me "Tony" to get a rise out of me. Tony. Ha! Like having those traits are a bad thing. Yes, I'm much more like my father than my mother. I look like my Pop. I act like my Pop. I do crazy, wacked out things like my Pop. But, I have my Mom's big heart and caring nature. 

Both of my parents were human beings whose lives didn't turn out the way they wanted. They were flawed. They were angry. They were suffering from physical, mental, and emotional pain. They were human. It took a pandemic lock down and a mid-life crisis to realize much of this. I am their child and as their child I am flawed. I am in physical, mental, and emotional pain. I am human ... and that's a beautiful, messy, wondrous thing. 

Oatmeals Cookies!!!

My life has been wild and some of it didn't turn out the way I wanted. But hey! I'm still alive! I can pivot and change. I can heal my mental and emotional pain, either with deep reflection and inner work or by seeking professional help. I can heal my physical pain with a healthy lifestyle and partnering with my team of doctors. This pandemic lock down has been good for me. It forced me to sit still. It forced me to stop and really listen to my heart and soul. It forced me to ask the difficult questions. And that, my friends, is a gloriously good thing!

A Perfect Combination

What does all of this have to do with Lughnasadh, baking cookies and scones, feasting on some righteous tacos and corn-on-the-cob, and doing ritual? Glad you asked ... I am finally emerging from the long years of darkness! I am climbing out of the Earth to face the Sun once more and GODDESS! does it feel amazing! The fact that I dressed up and celebrated Lughnasadh with all of my heart, soul, and person is astounding and very much needed. For the first time in years, I happily turned the Wheel of the Year fully knowing that my parents are alive and well inside of me. For the first time in years, I danced my Path while actively accepting my flawed, somewhat broken but healing, mushy self. And it is wonderful! 

I have so much to tell you, dear readers! There's new career explorations because freelance work is for the birds ... at least for me. I'm expanding my search and trying out new things. SQUEE! I'm exploring Intuitive Eating and the 10 principals of Intuitive Eating. I'm starting to sketch again and I'm itching to start painting. And I'm knitting and doing all sorts of creative things ... like baking cookies. Yes, there's so much to tell you, but that's what this blog is for, isn't it? Back to Saturday and Lughnasadh!


I spent the entire afternoon baking. I did a full batch of Oatmeal Raisin Cookies using a Martha Stewart recipe. Good grief! They were delicious! Ed doesn't normally like oatmeal cookies, but the Ol' Cookie Monster loved them. It's a good recipe -- soft and really flavorful. I also made cinnamon-spice wheat scones. I don't have a picture of the resulting scones, but they were just wonderful.

A potpourri of cinnamon sticks and cloves simmering on the stove

All of the spicy smells inspired me to simmer cinnamon sticks and cloves in a potful of water. The entire house smelled like baked goods and happiness. Sigh ... bliss!

Bijou, My Kitchen Helper

Bijou spent the entire afternoon glued to me. She loves "helping" me in the kitchen ... ok, she loves rubbing against my legs, running around between my feet, and grabbing anything I drop. She's become an affectionate, sweet, CRAZY kitty! She's in her "terrible twos" right now and is creating chaos in the house. We wouldn't want it any other way. Well, Ed would prefer that she not jump all over him and bite his toes at 5:00 AM for breakfast, but you can't have everything. 

Ed can't wait to dig in!

I've been making a lot of street tacos lately. I usually grill chicken breasts or sauté chicken strips, roast poblano peppers and onions, and make pico de gallo for our tacos. Quick, easy and delicious! 

Shhhh ... Ed's create the perfect taco!

As for cheese, sour cream or guacamole, these are very rare. Sometimes I'll sprinkle a little pepper jack on my taco, but that's really it. I don't really crave the cheese or sour cream, and guacamole is overkill. The tacos are delicious as they are!

With that said, I did have a small bit of sour cream. I added lime juice and fajita seasoning to it for a little zing. It was a holiday, after all!!

Sleepy, silly kitty

It was a wonderful day! It was so nice to relax and celebrate the Turning of the Wheel with Ed and Bijou. 

Life is an amazing thing filled with weird messiness. Sometimes the thing you think you really want, isn't good for you. You're meant to do something else. You're meant to be somewhere else. I'm learning to let go of the reigns and let the Universe take me where I'm meant to be. I'm learning to trust in myself and my own inner voice. I'm learning to Dance My Path again, and it feels amazing.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Wednesday Randomness: Life, Health, and Other Weirdness

One happy family.

As I write this, I am propped up on what feels like a million pillows in a position designed to take pressure off my left side. My sciatica started to flare up last Monday and is continuing with vengeance into this week. I've had sciatica before, but never this bad or for this long. I can't sit. I can't stand or walk. I can't lay on my side. I've been stretching, soaking in hot baths, walking, and taking Advil. Nothing works! I'm so desperate for some relief that I ordered a brace for my lumbar and thigh. Of course, this is happening at the most inconvenient time. I have to build my online class before August 24, which will take extended periods sitting in front of a computer. Normally, I would swim it off. Alas, the YMCA is closed. All I can do is keep stretching and walking ... and hope that this brace works.

Let's face it, being laid up sucks, especially since my fabulous stationary bike and slide board have been delivered and are ready to go! I've been able to ride the bike despite the pain. It loosens my lumbar and hips just enough to provide some relief. Exercise helps. I know this. It's a matter of actually being mobile enough to do that exercise, or in my case, straddle the bike. Sometimes I can, sometimes I can't.

Riding the bike while watching Rachel Maddow

When I can, I've been able to ride for 30 minute with a resistance of 5 (on a scale of 1 to 10). Instead of blocking out time during my day, I ride when I normally watch the news. I would be sitting on the couch during that time, instead, I'm getting in a work out. Not too bad.

Ed gets on the bike right after me and also rides for about 30 minutes. We're both struggling because neither of us have moved much since NYC was locked down because of the coronavirus. We both sit all day long because of our jobs and neither of us have a commute that forces us to walk, climb stairs, etc. This is most definitely why my sciatica is as bad as it is -- I'm sitting all day. 

The slide board, however, is not feasible right now. Sliding from side-to-side is excruciating and will definitely exacerbate the pain in my buttock, hip, and leg. It stinks, but I can't use the board until I feel better. Who knows when that will happen. I did have a chance to try it out before my sciatica attack. BOY! is it hard! I'm not a good ice-skater -- it's not something I grew up doing. The slide board requires the gliding, back-and-forth movement associated with ice-skating and a good amount of balance. The slide board is going to take a lot of practice before I'm comfortable doing full workouts. 

Burning my favorite candle ... so spicy.

I received a very lovely email from a long time reader of this blog. (I'm not putting her name here out of respect for her privacy.)  She asked if I would be doing outfit and fashion posts, especially Goth fashion with a retro twist. She also asked me if I would be featuring the stuff we bought during our Halloween Hunt. First and foremost: HELLO!!! And thank you for the lovely email. I'm glad that you're reading and following me again. :) Yes, it's good to be back. 

Outfit and fashion posts, eh? The honest answer is that I'm lucky if I slip on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt nowadays. I haven't been going anywhere because of the lock down, so I haven't been dressing up much. I spend most of my days with my hair in combs or a clip, no make up, and wearing loose, comfortable clothing. From the looks of things, I won't be going anywhere until the late Fall or even next year! But that doesn't mean I can't organize some posts around fashion, right? Maybe if I actually got dressed in the morning I'd feel better. So, ok. I can't promise when, but look out for fashion-related posts. 

As for the Halloween Hunt, because of coronavirus and all of the restrictions with retail shopping, Ed and I are cutting back on in-person Halloween shopping this year. We've been on the fence about going to Home Goods and Michaels to see what kind of goodies they have in stock. Maybe next month? I need to keep an eye on the case numbers here in NYC before we do anything. As for Yankee Candle and Bath and Body Works, our local stores are in a mall. In our area, malls aren't open yet. When I start feeling better, we're going to be focusing on creating a "Homespun Halloween." I need to be able to sit long enough to create art and craft. 

What's up, Hooman?

Bijou doing what Bijou does: Be Cute!

So what kind of fun randomness has been filling your life? 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Cooking with The Curious Dr. Z: Savory Yogurt Parfaits

If you follow my Instagram, you know that I've been posting a lot of food-related photos lately. Besides work, cooking has been a constant in our quarantined life and something with which I've been getting creative. How can I not? I'm constantly trying to figure out what's for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

For those of us who commute to work, especially here in NYC, our food options are diverse and ever expanding. One morning I can get a bagel with cream cheese, lox, and capers, and the next I can get a yogurt parfait or a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. I can bring lunch or I can grab a slice of pizza. On a random Friday, I can treat myself to a delicious bowl of vegetable soup and a falafel sandwich at the Hummus Place on Amsterdam Avenue. Dinners can be home cooked or selected from a dizzying array of options -- Italian, Thai, Chinese, Indian, Ethiopian, Israeli, Japanese ... the list goes on! 

Through the majority of NYC's lockdown, we had the option to take out or get food delivered from many of our local restaurants here on Staten Island. Now that NYC is in Phase 4 (with modifications), we can eat at restaurants with outside areas. We haven't done any of this because we're just too freaked out about Covid-19. Yes, I know take out and delivery is supposed to be low risk ... but we haven't been comfortable doing so. There's no way you'll get me near a restaurant at this point.

So that leaves us ... errrr ... me with one option: cook or "assemble" three meals a day. I have to admit, breakfast is difficult for me. I'm never awake enough to do anything special, and toast, English muffins, and oatmeal get boring very quickly. I was on an egg kick for a while, but then completely lost my taste for them. The one thing that I seem to be able to eat every morning -- and for a snack -- without getting bored is plain Greek yogurt.

Greek yogurt with chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, guacamole, chimichurri,
and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Of course, "plain" means that I buy good, ol' fashioned yogurt without anything added to it. "Plain" yogurt is the perfect base for all sorts of exciting ingredients. Most people add fruit, honey, wheat germ or granola to their plain yogurt and that's fine. That's the kind of parfait I can get on my commute. But savory toppings for yogurt can take your mornings from "blah" to HELL YEAH!

At first savory toppings can sound weird and gross, but consider tzatziki sauce, a most delicious Greek sauce made from yogurt, garlic, and cucumbers. Gyros wouldn't be gyros without it! I often order tzatziki by the cupful just so that I can dip my fries, onion rings, or whatever else I'm eating into it. Savory yogurt is no different than tzatziki except that it's to be eaten as is and not used as a sauce. 

Greek yogurt "caprese" -- cucumbers, tomatoes, fresh basil,
and a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and garlic powder

I tried my first savory yogurt last Summer when I had that God-awful, four hour, morning commute to Princeton University. I packed a 3/4 cup of plain Greek yogurt mixed with salt, pepper, and garlic in a container. In a separate container, I packed a diced Persian cucumber. Once I got on the Staten Island Ferry, I mixed it all together. BLAMMO! My taste for savory yogurt for breakfast was born.

These days I mix in diced cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, and a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and garlic powder for "Caprese" Greek yogurt. My new favorite topping is diced tomatoes and cucumbers, guacamole, homemade chimichurri sauce, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper! YUM! I'm itching to try some more savory toppings like chickpeas, hummus, marinated beets, and roasted vegetables. The options are endless!

Greek yogurt with frozen blueberries, wheat germ, and honey

Of course, there's always room for a sweet yogurt parfait. I'm particularly fond of topping my yogurt with frozen fruits, wheat germ, and honey. Why frozen? When you mix the fruit into the yogurt it freezes it, creating an ice-cream like consistency -- perfect for a hot Summer's day!

What do you top your yogurt with?

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Bat Fit: Time to Bust a Move

Eesh. Let's be serious for a minute, my health hasn't exactly been the greatest this year. Don't get me wrong, it could be MUCH worse -- I could have gotten sick with this horrendous virus! No, instead I've been locked down in a two bedroom apartment with no outside space for four months. That's enough to make to make you mentally loopy and physically crinky. 

I've been cooking every meal and haven't really been eating that much junk food simply because we haven't ordered any. Aside from a random package of cookies or tub of chocolate frosting in our grocery order, our "go to snacks" have been pretzels, crackers, and fruit. Not too bad. Breakfasts and lunches are reasonable and consist of an egg and toast or savory yogurt, and sandwiches or Lean Cuisine meals and a Lipton's soup packet. 

Until mid-June, four dinners a week were Hello Fresh meals and three were something quick and simple. We stopped getting Hello Fresh because the quality of the ingredients didn't match the price. Seriously, I shouldn't receive a smashed and rotten zucchini for a meal that's priced at $9.00 a serving! We were told that the Newark facility was having some issues, so we paused our account and I went back to making my own dinners. It's all good and healthy food; however, my portion sizes need some adjustment. 

Today, I "unpaused" our Hello Fresh account with the hopes that the Newark facility got it together. I hate grocery shopping online. LOATHE it. It's expensive and I hate not being able to pick out my own produce. I get inspired by the seasonal produce at our local Wegman's, so much so that I plan whole meals around it. Shopping online means I inevitably forget something or that I resort to whatever is in stock, which is always limited and never local. At least with Hello Fresh the meals always feature in season produce and are exciting and fun to cook. 

My biggest issue is that I haven't gotten any exercise in the last four months. None. Zip. Zero. NADA. I went on two hikes. Two. For someone who gets a lot of exercise just by commuting into Manhattan or Brooklyn for work -- up and down subway stairs, walking around NYC, etc. -- this lack of movement is absolutely killing me. As I type this I'm laid up with the worst sciatica attack I've ever had! I can't stand. I can't sit. I can't do anything. 

It doesn't help that my desk and chair set up isn't ergonomic. My knees hurt. My ankles hurt. Hell, EVERYTHING hurts. I'm not going to be commuting any time soon, so I had to do something!

Image from QVC

I bought the XTERRA FB150 Folding Bike from QVC for $129.99. It's highly rated, affordable (for me), and portable -- perfect for work outs in a two bedroom apartment! It's a no frills, functional stationary bike that will do the job. It just came today and I'll need to set it up before I use it. I'll report back once I do.

Image from Hockey Shot

The stationary bike is a no nonsense way of doing some cardio while the gyms are locked down, which is fine. 30 minutes a day on the bike and some weight training should be enough to straighten out my back, un-pinch my sciatic nerve, and strengthen my core. Hell, I'll probably start losing weight again -- WIN WIN! 

But you know me, dear readers. This just isn't good enough for this Amazon! I've been watching hockey slide board videos for months and I finally broke down and bought one! SQUEE! Yes, it's expensive. It's CRAZY! It's going to be so stinking fun!!! I splurged and got the HS Slide Board Pro from Hockey Shot for $184.95. I CAN NOT wait to get on this thing!!! It's being delivered tomorrow and you know that I'll be on it, bad back be damned! WAHOO! I just hope it doesn't cause a ruckus for my downstairs neighbor. The best part is that Ed is excited about this one! YAY! SO MUCH FUN!!!

How has your health been through this pandemic? What kind of fun exercises have you been doing? 

Friday, July 17, 2020

Halloween Hunt 2020: Let the ONLINE Shopping Begin!

As I said in my last post, this year's Halloween Hunt is going to be different. After watching Covid-19 case and death numbers shoot up all over the USA this week, including here in NYC, Ed and I have decided to forgo our normal in-person hunt this year. We just don't want to risk it. We NEED to be safe and healthy -- for ourselves, for each other, and for the beautiful future that we are building and planning. We're going to miss HomeGoods this year, and we're definitely going to miss Trader Joe's pumpkin spice extravaganza. Alas, we need to balance our love of the Fall and Halloween with our safety. 

We're staying close to home this year. We're neither going to the Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze, nor visiting Sleepy Hollow Cemetery for our annual Fall visit. I'll be making pumpkin and apple goodies, including Pumpkin Spiced Lattes, for us to enjoy safely at home. And we'll be focusing on online shopping, supporting small businesses and artists, and crafting our own "Homespun Halloween." Maybe that's what we'll need to call Halloween 2020 -- a Homespun Halloween. 

After my post on Monday, The Spooky Vegan's "Sneak Peek: Halloween 2020 at Target" post popped into my feed. Within a few hours, a number of Halloween-themed Facebook pages began to feature Target's new Halloween collection. All week my inbox was filled with "coming soon" notices from Spirit Halloween and Michaels. Today Bath and Body sent me an email: three wick candles -- including their Fall scents -- are on sale now. It's time. With a few taps on my keyboard and clicks of my mouse, our Halloween Hunt officially began.


On Monday, I placed a preorder for a few items from Target's new Halloween line. Sadly, I won't get these until the last week of August or the first week of September, but isn't that when Target starts to display their Halloween stuff anyway? I can wait for my "boxes of spooky delight!" Wahoo!

4pk Black Pumpkin Fairy Garden Bundle & Accessory Set - Hyde & EEK! Boutique™

Last year Ed and I bought a number of their "Mini Mantle" scenes, including monsters and a graveyard. We were excited to add this cute fairy garden pumpkin bundle to our collection.

Lantern with Bats Halloween Decorative Prop

Ok, the paper lanterns with bats are not new at Target. I was eyeballing them last year but never bought them. I envision these above our bed or in the corner of the living room... in our new place. WHAT? What new place? hehehe ... you're going to have to wait for that announcement. I don't know when it will all happen, but big things are in the works. HUGE THINGS. EXCITING THINGS. Stay tuned.

As most of you already know, I'm a sucker for spooky, soft sculpture figures and handmade dolls. I have a large collection of handmade dolls from Forever Fall and from a wonderful doll maker in Salem, MA. Unfortunately, I don't know their name. Their dolls are exclusive to Partridge in a Bear Tree on Pickering Wharf. When I saw this cute yarn and felt wreath, I just couldn't help myself! I had to have it!!! I have no clue where I'm going to hang it, but you know it's going to be a place of honor.

Halloween Bat Stemless Wine Glasses - 4ct

I somehow missed these bat stemless wine glasses last year! Like the lanterns, they aren't new this year, so they don't need to be preordered. I prefer to drink my wine out of stemmed glassware; however, I adore stemless glasses for mocktails and hard cider.

Ok, this one is the "impulse buy" of the season. This cute skeleton is a whomping 4 feet tall and I have no idea where he's going to live. But isn't he just the cutest thing?!?

Large Soft Sitting Decorative Halloween Cat - Hyde & EEK! Boutique™

Standing Vulture Halloween Decorative Figurine - Hyde & EEK! Boutique™

The kitty and vulture are additions to our collection of soft sculpture Halloween animal figures. I have a bunch of ravens and an owl. We simply needed a vulture! Who doesn't? As for the kitty, well, it's a kitty. Enough said.

These figures are part of Target's "Mini Mantle" line. I bought them specifically for Ed and his office. Ed's got a thing for octopi and squids. This set will look adorable nestled into his plushy cephalopod collection.

Of course I couldn't forget about Bijou! We've discovered that she likes to hide in boxes and under furniture. The crinkly cat tube was a big hit, so I thought these cat scratchers would be fun for her. I bought two -- one for now and one for later. We'll probably give her the Basic Haunted House now and save the Haunted Hotel for our new adventure. Ahem. 

Basic Haunted House Cat Scratcher - Hyde & EEK! Boutique™

Beside a Target order, Yankee Candle was having a sale on large jar candles -- buy two, get one free. I had to buy my FAVORITE: Harvest. I also bought Ciderhouse and New England Maple Syrup, which is only available at the flagship store in Massachusetts and online. They had last year's Trick or Treat tealights on sale, so I added those to my order. Finally, Bath and Body is having one of their awesome sales. They don't have the Fall body washes, hand creams, or hand sanitizers yet, but they do have the candles and Wall Flowers. I was able to snag three candles in Vanilla Pumpkin Marshmallow, Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin, and Pumpkin Pecan Waffles; and bought three packs of Wall Flowers in Vanilla Pumpkin Marshmallow, Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin, and Pumpkin Cupcake. I have a thing for the pumpkin and spicy apply scents. 

Have you done any Halloween shopping yet?