Friday, March 2, 2018

Common "Scents" and My Two "Scents."

Hahaha... see what I did there? Well, at least I amuse myself.

This post, as should be obvious from the title, is about smell. The "scents" of smell (...and the puns just write themselves!...)

I say"common sense," because sometimes I feel that when it comes to olfactory knowledge, it should be pretty straightforward for us Witches. Many of us try very hard to stick to natural sources when scenting anything, especially in the name of environmentalism. I would say that we divide smells into four categories:

1. Icky odors:

There are just some scents that nobody loves. This is actually a good thing:  it's even an evolutionary strategy. Things like rotting vegetation or, worse yet, rotting flesh (bleh!) smells disgusting because it IS disgusting. And by disgusting, I mean "harmful to humans." You can argue all day long how "this-or-that" culture has "such-and-such" a delicacy that also smells "icky" to outsiders, and yes, these are exceptions to the rule: especially where exotic cuisine comes into play (have you ever eaten durian?) But I'm talking about full-on, universal stench. Like vomit. Or sewage. Or stagnant water. We are able to smell these nasty things so that we can avoid them, or worse, we won't inadvertently consume them or the food they have tainted. Ancient humankind had to deal with a lot of nasty stuff, so being able to smell meat that had gone bad or water that was polluted was of paramount importance in order to stay alive and keep yourself in the mating game. So learn to trust your nose... it "nose" what it's talking about! (And... BOOM!  Fourth play on words, haha!)

2. Natural smells:

A lot of people enjoy these - some without even thinking about it. Scents like baking bread, fresh-cut grass, a wood-burning fire, a just-peeled orange, the smell of the air right after rain, that pine tree scent during the Holidays, or even the smell of a loved one or furry friend. When you read about or talk about these smells, you can conjure them in your mind like they are in the room with you right then and there. However, how often do you smell things of this nature that you don't acknowledge? Or maybe don't even know that you are smelling? Things like the scent of pages in an old book, or that whiff of leather that your favorite chair gives off. If you think about it hard enough, there are probably even smells you love that you think are weird. I love the smell of burnt cheese. I love the smell of tomato plants (not tomatoes, just the plants.) I even love the smell of my doggie's funky feet. (Despite how endearing this sounds, it's gross, I know.)    

3. Naturally made scents:

Usually this brings to mind essential oils, which are made of natural plant matter that has been distilled. Essential oils are natural perfuming agents that can be used to scent just about anything. You can wear them on yourself, warm them in a diffuser, use them in applications throughout the house, etc. Another example of this category of scent can be seen in naturally scented candles (like beeswax), naturally crafted incense, natural perfume waters, and even natural cleaners. There's nothing wrong with adding scent to something when you use natural ingredients. I remember my grandma used to clean copper pots with lemons and then throw the rind down the garbage disposal to freshen up the drain. This was a simple way to use the lemon's natural oils. So easy, right? If only everyone took advantage of the plethora of natural scents around us. And with that, we come to:

4.  Unnatural "perfumes":

To me, this category is close enough to the "icky odors" category as to almost make it come full circle. I say "almost" because I don't particularly relish the smell of dead or rotting things. But I'm not gonna lie: some of the perfumed products that are so popular and so widely used in our culture might as well smell like shit as far as I'm concerned, because that's how put off I am by them. One that comes to mind is the dryer sheets that everyone seems to be so fond of. Sometimes, when I walk my dog at night, I smell this wafting off of the houses we go past, and it's not (as least not for me) a welcome scent. To me, it reeks like chemicals and killing the planet. Personal perfume products affect me in a similar way. Sometimes the perfume itself (despite being unnatural) will smell ok, but people usually put SO much on, that I can't take it. And walking past the perfume counters in a department store? UGH. You know there's something wrong when the just the scent of something can give you a headache. Not only that, but perfumes can cause allergic reactions, like respiratory disorders and skin rashes. So why are they found in so many products? For one, they are extremely inexpensive, and two, because they are chemical compositions, they can be patented.

I will say, however, that I have a really developed sense of smell, so I know that different odors affect me far more than they do other people. Every time I buy a scented product, like shampoo or laundry soap, I take off the top and smell it to make sure I like it enough to use it repeatedly. I can't deal if it smells so strong that it's going to gross me out, and this is true of almost everything that uses unnatural perfumes. That "fresh laundry" smell? EWWW.

I'm not immune, though. Those scented holiday candles that come out every year smell awesome to me. So there are exceptions, even for what I like.

Witches use a lot of scented products, like incense, oils, candles, magical washes or perfume waters, salts and soaps for magical baths, potions, flowers, herbs and spices, aromatic foods, smudging materials.... Yikes! It's no wonder I can get overwhelmed, even using all-natural scents! Because of my sensitivity, I have had to compromise on some of my magical practices. I almost always use unscented candles, for example. I also often use a very lightly scented magical spritzer to purify my sacred space, instead of incense. I will talk about some alternatives like this one in a post coming up. But in the mean time, tell me:

What do you think about scent and scented products? What do you like and dislike?

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Easy Candle and Tea Leaf Spell

Here is a really neat spell idea I have been experimenting with lately. It's your basic candle spell with relaxing tea time added.

I mean... candles and tea... who doesn't like those? This is a perfect spell to do inside when it's icky weather out, as you will see. In fact, I try to make sure I have a warm blanket to cozy up in and a good book nearby while I enjoy my tea!

Here is what you will need (example will follow):

* Candle and holder
* Plate
* Athame or other knife
* Loose leaf tea
* Tea ball (to hold the tea)
* Tea cup or mug
(...and obviously, matches or a lighter, a tea kettle, maybe some comfy slippers!)

Say you want to do a love spell. You would use a pink candle for romance or red candle for passion, and you could use ginger root tea (or at least a tea that is predominantly made from ginger) since ginger induces sensuality, sexuality, and warmth. It it a spicy tea that literally warms you up!

Next, get into sacred space (meditate, smudge, cast a circle, etc.) Use your knife to carve one or more words into your candle that represent what you want to draw toward you. For love, it could be "relationship" or "partnership," and maybe "happiness" or "fun" or "sex" or whatever else you might want. Place the candle in the holder and place the holder on the plate.

Now, make a circle around the candle holder on the plate with the tea. Light the candle, and envision everything you want to gain from love. Don't think about your potential partner, just focus completely on yourself: how YOU will feel, what YOU will be doing, where YOU see yourself in life then, etc. Then, look into the flame and repeat this charm three times:

As I stare into the light, I can see my future bright.
Love, love,* come to me - this I will, so mote it be.

Let the candle burn completely out. If you have to snuff it and relight it later, that's OK, but it must burn out completely. When this is done, collect the tea and brew it so that you can drink it, internalizing the magic. Before you take your first sip, look into the light reflecting off of the liquid in the cup, and repeat the above charm again three times. Then, snuggle up, drink your tea, and enjoy!

(Using the above directions, you can adapt this spell for any use. Simply choose the right color candle, a tea with appropriate herbal correspondences, two words to carve that state what you want, and a *word substitution in the incantation for your goal. For quick correspondences, look here: Easy-peasy!)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The food expiration date conspiracy

And now, a little about the ubiquitous food expiration system:

Have you noticed that almost everything has a "sell-by" date now?  Think about it... this used to only apply to perishable foods, like meat, dairy, eggs, etc.  Which makes perfect sense... I don't want to buy month old eggs or meat that is about to turn.  However, do I really care whether or not my Spam, Cheetos,Twinkies, sodas, etc. are at their"peak of freshness?" Not when they'll taste the same months, sometimes even years, later.

The sell-by date system has become a scam.  If you print that a product has to be sold by a certain date, it is illegal to sell it in most supermarkets after that date (at least where I live.)  Which means that they have to take it off the shelves, and put new product in.  It also means that the unwary consumer believes that the products that he/she purchased has to be used by that date, or else it will not be fit for consumption. So it's a double-whammy:  the store won't sell the product, and the consumer in possession of the product won't eat it.  Which just results in more sales for the food producer, and more food waste overall.

If you want to read some articles about how much food we waste because of the expiration system, I recommend this onethis onethis one and especially this one. The statistics are shocking.

Here is a chart I saw at a preschool explaining how to read expiration dates and what they really mean:

The trick here is to take a look at the specific words used with the date. 

"Expires" (exp) and "use by" are the only true expiration dates. The rest either indicate when the food was manufactured (plain date stamp), or when the food will be the freshest. "Sell by" dates are usually not even meant for the consumer at all, but are there so that grocers know when the look, texture, and taste of the food can no longer be guaranteed. But this food is still safe to eat.

There are some good articles that explain this in better detail herehere, and here.

The point I'm trying to make, which I talked about in this blog post, is that the wasting of food is a violation of Pagan ethics. The food we enjoy and need in order to live is a gift to us from Mother Earth (or the Goddess, or the Universe, etc.) and should not be taken for granted. It certainly should not be needlessly thrown away. Which is exactly what a lot of us are doing, because we simply don't know any better.

Well, now you know, and hopefully you won't be deceived by those misleading expiration dates any more!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Are you SURE that food is bad?

As a Pagan/Wiccan, I don't subscribe to the idea of sin. "Sin" is a religious concept that usually only comes into play in the Abrahamic faiths - Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

But because I practice an Earth-centered religion, one of the worst transgressions I can think of that people commit every day - a "sin," if you will, is the wasting of food.
Mother Earth gives us an abundance of food - more than enough to feed the entire planet, despite what we are told on the news (but that is a political and economic discussion - read more about it here, and here, and here.)

I'm sure like me, you also grew up with parents that urged you to clean your plate because "There are people going hungry in the world that would be glad to eat it." And whether it was broccoli, lima beans, tomatoes (my personal dislike) or whatever else - at some point, like me, you probably thought, " Oh yeah? well, they can HAVE it!"

Now, as an older and wiser adult, and one who understands the importance of not squandering Mother Earth's gifts to us, I realize that the wasting of food is one of the reasons that there are people in the world with not enough to eat. And I also came to realize that people don't always waste food out of carelessness, but because they believe it has gone bad, when it is in fact still good, if you know what to do with it. 

So, with that said, here are some tips and tricks to salvage so-called "food gone bad," as well as a few preventative measures to extend the shelf life of perishable foods:


These are the inspiration for this post. I found some green potatoes in my cupboard the other day and was wondering if they were OK to eat, because I was told that they can be poisonous. Apparently, that only applies if the potato is green all the way through. In almost all cases, you can simply take off the "eyes" that are beginning to grow and peel off the skin and the green layer underneath, and the potatoes are safe to eat. In some cases, these potatoes will taste bitter after being cooked, but that just makes them inedible, not dangerous. The best way to avoid potatoes turning green is to keep them in a dark and cool place - the refrigerator, if possible. Potatoes that are exposed to light and heat will try to grow, which causes the "eyes" and green color, because this is the potato sending out roots and forming chlorophyll. So go ahead and peel it away, it's only bad if you were planning on making, say, baked potatoes, and eating the skin. Guess you'll have to make mashed ones instead! 


Did you know that eggs that are past their sell date are still good for weeks afterward as long as they have been refrigerated? If you want to know if an egg has gone bad, try this: get a large, deep, bowl of water. Put the eggs in it. If the egg sinks to the bottom, it's still fresh. If the egg stands up on one end but doesn't float, it's a bit older and is still good but should probably be cooked soon. If the egg floats, it has gone bad and should NOT be eaten - throw it away immediately.


Everyone knows when fruit is good or bad, right? Not necessarily. I have successfully cut brown or soft spots or even mold off of fruit and still eaten it, and it tasted fine and didn't give me any digestive problems. You will have to remove a good portion of the area around whatever you are cutting off, though. If the rest of the fruit is mushy, smells weird, or looks brown or discolored inside, then you should throw it away. This also only works with whole fruit - cut fruit that has mold or discolorations must all be tossed. Also get rid of cut fruit that has a "tingly" feeling on the tongue, as this means it has started to ferment! Some fruit you can save when it starts to turn by putting it in the freezer. The easiest way to freeze fruit is to cut it into pieces and put it into plastic bags with all of the air removed. Unfortunately, the freezing process usually ruins the texture of the fruit, but you can still use it for smoothies, pies, jam, pudding, preserves, bread/muffins, sangria, sorbet, etc. Some fruits, like grapes and strawberries, are great summer treats to eat frozen!


This includes yogurt, sour cream, and fermented foods, like kim chee, sauerkraut, and pickles. These are usually good way past their sell-by date. I've eaten yogurt that was "two months expired," based on what the container said. To determine if it is safe to eat, I've gone by three things:  smell, color, and consistency. I usually go by smell first:  it's pretty easy to determine if something has gone bad by it's odor, so go with that first. Next, notice if there are unusual colors that can't be explained, such as yellow, beige, or green in yogurt, or dark masses and unusually bright spots in fermented vegetables. Lastly, if you eat such foods on a regular basis, you will be familiar with consistency. Otherwise thick yogurt or cottage cheese should not be runny. Fermented vegetables that should be crisp but are soggy or wilted are a red flag. And always, always, ALWAYS get rid of anything that has bubbles in it that were not there before! (Fermented foods usually have some kind of bubbling action going on, but if this increases or is not present in the beginning but it is later, it means that the food is basically rotting.)


Even if this grows mold, it is still edible. Simply cut away the outside layers of the cheese and it should still be good underneath. Think about it... cheese is already "moldy milk," really. This is evidenced by softer cheese, like Brie, Camembert, and Bleu Cheese (which get's it name from the "blue" mold in it!) However, if the cheese didn't already come moldy like the ones listed above, use caution. Soft or gooey cheese without mold, like cottage cheese, cream cheese, or ricotta, should always be thrown away if it starts to mold. But a block of cheddar, monterey jack, asiago, parmesan, or other hard cheese is fine once you cut the mold off. In these cases, I always use my nose.  I know what a good block of cheddar or monterey jack smells like. If after you cut off the outsides and it still smells like mold, toss it. Also, if you do cut mold off of a block of cheese, BE SURE to put it into a different bag or storage container, otherwise it will just get moldy again from the mold left over in the packaging.


This one seems tricky, but it doesn't have to be. Unlike cheese, one slice of moldy bread will ruin the whole loaf. (The psychoactive ergot fungus, which is basically rye mold, is one possible cause of the Salem witch hysteria!) So if you find a piece of moldy bread, don't assume that you can get rid of that one slice and the rest will be OK - because it won't. However, you can avoid ever having to worry about this by always keeping your sliced bread in the freezer. I know, this sounds weird, but the same reason you can't use that piece of moldy bread is the same reason that you should freeze bread until you use it.  Bread is VERY porous and airy, and things like mold spores travel fast through it. However, because it is so porous, bread thaws out incredibly fast and can be used almost immediately. And to think I used to scoff at my grandma keeping bread in the freezer!


Rotting lettuce is really gross. It looks and smells funky, and has a horrible slimy and gelatinous texture that clings to everything. But... believe it or not, some lettuce that is starting to go bad like this is still salvageable. If it is a whole head, try removing the outer layers and see if it is good underneath. Some lettuce, like iceberg, will go bad near the stem but the leaves will stay intact. So try cutting off the stem, and then peel apart the layers to see if there are any that can be saved. And if it is a package of cut lettuce that has just started to turn (meaning it looks like there are only a few bad leaves here and there) you can save it as well. Using a colander or a salad spinner, remove the rotting lettuce pieces from the package and put those in a garbage pile. Put the good pieces in the colander or spinner. When you are done sorting them, thoroughly rinse the good pieces and all the leftover slimy residue will wash away. Then dry (or spin) the leaves, and you're good to go!

What are your tricks and secrets to salvaging and saving food? I'd love to hear about them!

 Also, look for my upcoming post on "sell-by dates" and other food guidelines. You'll be surprised to learn what's really going with these!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The 2017 Annuals have arrived!

Every year around the beginning or middle of July, the next year's Annuals (almanacs and calendars) from Llewellyn go on sale, and I get my copies.  I always love the cover artwork!

For 2017, I have written three articles:

* Pagans and Mental Illness (Witches' Companion)
* Raffia Projects (Herbal Almanac)
* Wicca Your Way: The Eclectic Path (Magical Almanac)

Here is a photo of the Raffia Crafts article, where you will learn all about raffia and its history, cultivation, and use.

I have also included directions on how to make three crafts using raffia: an altar-sized broom, a mini herbal wreath, and a raffia "corn dolly."

Even though the Herbal Almanac is not metaphysical per se, there is a lot of good information in here that is useful to Pagans, like my three crafts!

This is a shot of the back of the Witches' Companion.  See my title at the top of the list?

And last but not least, there is the "Wicca Your Way" article.  In this one, I told the story of Eclectic Wicca and its various aspects through a series of interviews from five different people.

This reveals the similarities and differences between those that follow the Eclectic path, as well as dispel certain myths.  I also think it makes for an interesting read to hear from five different perspectives on the subject.

It's always so exciting to see my work in print, even after six years of writing for Llewellyn.  And because two of my articles are a bit edgier and more controversial this year, I can't wait to see how they are received. If you read any of them, I would love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, January 4, 2016

My reaction to an article posted about children's play.

OMG I don't even know where to start on this one. It's all true! And WAIT... there's more! These are all really hot button issues in my Child Studies program. The decline of play, the rise in importance of "academics," the diagnosis of mental illness at younger and younger ages... it's all connected. This is a VERY long post, but if you are interested, here's why...
The "sense of personal control" idea in the article is dead-on. What is not stated is how this comes to be in the first place. What we see in very young children is that their view of the world is mostly due to what they learn or model from their parents. And what this means is that anxious, depressed parents typically raise children who are more anxious and depressed. And unfortunately, our current lifestyle vs. the one cited in the article (1960s) is most definitely more stressful. Parents, as a result, feel less and less like they have control over their lives and care more about what the article calls "externiality," which also includes extrinsic goals, such as a greater value on materialism (external) and less value on personal worth (internal). This just means what we already know, which is that people who are anxious and depressed usually look outward to validate themselves because they are lacking confidence in themselves. And just like the article states, this trend is rising at an alarming rate through children being so constantly exposed to media. (As an aside, media usage in children is also being cited as a reason for the decline in empathy and ability to relate to others on a pro-social level, but that's a whole other topic for another time.)
So... what does this have to do with play? Quite a bit, actually. On it's simplest level, play is how young children learn. Baby animals (dogs, cats, cows, dolphins, you name it) all play because it's how they develop the skills they will need as adults, and humans are no different. Here again is the emphasis on pro-social behavior. Human beings are social animals. We do not do well in isolation, and in fact up until a few hundred years ago (vs. the hundreds of thousands of years that we have been around as a species) to live apart from our kind was to die. We are hard wired to want to be around each other and to want to get along, because for most of human existence we have had to depend on our group or tribe for survival. Play is the main way that children learn how to communicate, solve problems, and get along with each other, the way humans have done for millennia. Now here comes the current trend in education, which is two-fold:
1. Academics have become so important, that schools have cut into play time (free-choice activities, P.E., creative arts programs, etc.) in order to concentrate more on these.
This is a vicous cycle that keeps feeding itself. It is mostly based on test scores (which, again, standardized testing and the Common Core Standards just being part of the problem, but that's for another time) which determine how well a child is doing academically. However, in our pursuit of better test scores and so-called better academic performance, we have taken away everything about school that is FUN. In pressuring children to perform better, we have also removed the "well-rounded" approach that education used to have, which not only made school fun but was also valued as integral to a child's well-being. I see more and more people trying to justify P.E. and recess programs as being necessary "to combat childhood obesity." Ok, yeah, sure, it does that. But it also provides a break and an outlet from all the testing, all the homework, all the "nose to the grindstone" studying that kids are supposed to be doing because they are being told that they are not performing well enough. Well, guess what: the more they are forced to learn without reprieve the worse they will do because they will get burned out and stop caring. This also ties into the "sense of personal control" issue, and it's just common sense! Keep pushing someone to do something without encouraging or rewarding them, and they are either going to rebel, feel miserable, or stop giving a shit altogether.
2. Play and exploration have become so strict, so regulated, and so controlled, that they hardly even resemble "play" or "exploration" anymore.
I HATE having to explain and/or defend this idea, because Americans as a culture are just not willing to hear it. "Safety" has become the number one priority in education because we are such a litigious society, and no one wants to get sued. Therefore, as the article states, "protecting" the children is rapidly eroding some of the key benefits that children get from play, such as the ability to explore and learn, to problem-solve, to become independent and self-directed, and to feel some control over their lives by nurturing their own interests and learning competency (for example, a child that learns to climb a tree without falling because he has to teach himself to go up the tree, and does so at his own pace and comfort level.) With such tight control over what is supposedly "free" time, it's no wonder that children feel helpless, dejected, lacking a sense of control over themselves, and even depressed. Faced with these circumstances, fewer children even want to "play" during recess or outdoor free choice, but instead plug into media (music, phones, iPads, etc.) because at least in that realm they actually have "free choice" over what they do.
See how destructive these cycles are, and how they are all interrelated? I understand where the confusion comes from, when you look at all these factors as isolated events instead of as pieces of a larger whole. But once again, this is what we are taught from a young age that holds us back from understanding: the linear thought process. Examples are - cause and effect, a + b = c, step-by-step progression, etc. The "well rounded" approach that I talked about above is an example of non-linear thinking, and the "whole child" approach is even better: it tries to integrate many different aspects of a child's life into his/her instruction, including temperament, cultural identity, personal experience and/or competence, and interests. Obviously this is much more difficult at the elementary and above levels, which is why those of us in Child Studies think that it is so important and so beneficial to try implementing these ideals among toddlers and preschoolers. Ignorance in these areas is forgivable, but what I can't stand are educators that, it seems to me, are capitalizing on these current trends by operating "Academy" schools for preschoolers and kindergartners. What I have seen is that among that age group, "academics," such as knowing the alphabet or the rainbow or being able to count is something that can easily be learned later, but that what we call "social competence," such as knowing not to hit other children or knowing how to take turns is only accomplished through play, and cannot really be taught.
Thank you so much if you have read all of this. I am in a Child Studies program, and a lot of this is probably uninteresting to you or seems like information I have regurgitated from my classes. The reality is that I worked with children for years before I went back to school, and what I am learning supports what I have seen with my own eyes, which is why I am so passionate about it and want to share it with anyone who will listen.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


See these shoes?  These are VINTAGE Spanish Leather riding boots.  Super cute, super witchy, and definitely one of a kind.  The last time I saw them I was crying as I threw them into the trash with about seven other pairs of shoes that my dog had destroyed because she was left alone too long during my emergency surgery.  That was on October 2nd. 

On my birthday, November 1st, I opened my present... and found these boots!  I was amazed, and thought for sure my husband had somehow found a pair that looked just like them, but it was even better than that.  After watching how upset I was when I had to throw them away, he pulled them out of the trash when I wasn't looking and took them to a shoe repair place.  They somehow managed to reconstruct THE ENTIRE TOE that had been chewed off one of the boots.  Let me tell you, I sure bawled my eyes out then, too!  This is seriously one of the most thoughtful things anyone has ever done for me, and I still can't believe that he did this.  It never even occurred to me that the shoe could be saved.  THANK YOU CM!  I LOVE YOU!