Wednesday, January 9, 2019

ABC Wednesday Again? Sure, Why Not!

click the logo to go to the blog

A is for...

come on, you know you want to say apples, unless you want to sing "Alligators All Around", like I do right now!

but that's only because I saw it posted somewhere recently, and didn't play the video, so the chorus has been ringing in my head, and this seemed the perfect opportunity to listen to it.  I've been thinking about doing another round of ABC Wednesday for awhile, and now that's it's back around to 'A' (I've been watching it), I jumped right in, completely unprepared.  but as I mentioned above, a great many of us 50-something Americans think 'apple' when someone says 'A is for', and to follow on the theme started by Roger, who is hosting this round, I thought I'd take us back to The Unused Portion's humble beginnings:

Good to the Core!

aww!  if that isn't my little monkey about to take a bite out of that Empire Apple!  back when he was still just a mini-Vermonter, trying to figure out how to get along in NY, even if Mama did work at an apple orchard.  and that was a dress on him for years, but once he grew into it, he grew right out of it.  it's long gone, now...this picture was taken the summer before he started kindergarten, when The Unused Portion was 4 months old.  now he's about halfway through his first year of high school, and this blog has been active for 10 years running!

so, the history of this blog and ABC Wednesday is that I first jumped in in September of 2012, on the letter 'I', skipped 'Q', and made it all the way to 'W' before I gave up.  in 2015, I gave 'A' & 'B' a go, but didn't go any further until 2016, when right around this time, I started another round on 'A', in which I commemorated the recent death of David Bowie, and that was the end of it.  until now.  so in the interest of getting this entry into the linkup before there's 4000 people in there, that's all I'm going to post, and start thinking up something for next week!

*and Roger's post isn't about apples, after all - it's about Alaska.  I guess it's the intro post he writes for the ABC Wednesday site that was about apples.  he says his favorite is the Macoun, which I always pronounced "ma-COON", but when I worked at Soons Orchard, Mr. Soons said it "ma-COW-an", and it was his farm (through his daddy and grand-daddy), so that's how I said it, too.  I'm not sure about a favorite...the boy ate an Empire a day back then, so I was always flush with those, but I also liked the Gala, Winesap, Braeburn, Cameo, and Jonagolds!  not working on an orchard, you kind of have to take what you can get, and at my local store, that tends to be Galas and Honeycrisp.  I'm a bit biased against the Honeycrisp, though, so I never buy them!  how do you like them apples?

Monday, January 7, 2019

From Soup to Nuts

I made a new-to-me soup!  and the teen did not want my new soup for his dinner, the brat.  he tasted it, but declared it unfit for consumption.  I was surprisingly pleased with it.  here's the's Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook "Gypsy Soup".  the recipe at the link isn't the one I used, though...I used this version before I realized it was 'adapted'.  the only real difference is the addition of kale, and the subtraction of bell pepper and tamari...but that's not the ish.  the ish is - - - if you guessed 'the name', give yourself a cookie (or a bowl of soup!).  while I'm not going to write Ms. Katzen and demand she change the name of her soup that she published in 1977, I do need to think of something to call this dish in My house, so I don't have to use that stupid name.  that being said, this soup is everything.  it's so good!  the sweet potato I had was sadly all old and spongey, so I had to swap it out for russets, and I saw it suggested that you could swap just about any orange veggie for the sweet potatoes, and any green veggie for the bell peppers, and have it turn out just as good.

there is something about the spice mix that reminds me very much of the 70's - of orange corduroy bell-bottoms, crocheted vests, and wooden-heeled clogs.  of food co-ops, and ancient grains, natural hair, and macrame.  it doesn't smell like anything that ever simmered in my mother's kitchen, but it's still so familiar, like something from a memory, a dream, or a past life.  deja vu soup.  seance soup.  70's soup.  hearty autumn soup.  burnt-orange soup.  could I simply call it Romani soup?  no, it sounds too much like 'people soup', or 'human soup'.  I mean, how would I feel about 'Jew Soup'?  I'd probably wonder why the person who named it that couldn't just call it 'chicken soup', which it probably would be...but my point is, it was super-yummy, and I will make it again.  this may be my most successful soup to date!

first I learned to make chicken soup - from a shikse (non-Jew) of all people - because...I mean, you gotta, and I AM a Jewish mother, after all (why I didn't learn to make it from my own Jewish mother is another story entirely).  last winter I made that garlic soup that was only ok.  then I learned to poach chicken, because I needed the broth for butternut squash soup, which turned out ok, and seems to have been eaten.  finally, I made the veggie scrap soup I'd been pondering for more than 20 years, and used it in my chili, to cook rice, and wherever liquid was called for in a recipe.  I made a second batch of veggie scrap, and used it in my second batch of butternut squash soup which was better than the first batch, but proved too boring to eat plain, or was simply too bland.  I need to work on that.  so then I made Mollie Katzen's soup with the last of the veggie scrap, and it was amazing!  I've been wanting to try minestrone for a few years, now, so that will be next on the agenda...

short story about my relationship to minestrone soup:  when I was still young enough to live at home with my family, there was some dish that my mom would make every now and again that my dad, bro, and I loved, that she didn't eat.  I have no memory of what that meal was, but I DO remember that whenever she made it for us, she would warm up a can of Progresso minestrone soup, and be so happy to have it all to herself.  I remember liking what I was eating, but I also remember being curious about my mom's magical soup.  she refused to share it.  and so, I never had a bite of minestrone soup in my life, because it didn't belong to me, and my mom told me I couldn't have it.  many years later, I had a baby of my own, who I can't imagine Not sharing delicious food with at every opportunity.  back then, there used to be this cool organic kid cereal on the market called Mighty Bites, which my baby loved as a finger-food snack, and I loved for it's healthfulness.  the cereal company ran a promotion for a free 'Brain Foods for Kids' cookbook, which I immediately ordered, and still keep in my kitchen today.  it's got these great little blurbs about which ingredients in each of the recipes offer specific benefits to the child's developing brain and body, and how the child's body processes those ingredients.  it's a great read, with wonderful pictures of tasty, healthy meals, and simple instructions so even a kitchen hack like myself can craft a delicious meal.  one of the recipes in the book is for 'Mighty Minestrone', and it's been at least 10 or 12 years that I've been looking at that recipe, thinking, "I'm going to make that someday".  December 11th was that day.  I have defeated another one of the demons handed to me by someone else to carry, and got myself a nice pot of nourishing soup out of it.  don't take your minestrone for granted, there may be someone out there who doesn't think they are allowed to have it.  you might want to share yours with them.  I know I do.

the minestrone was a hit - the teen liked it, but I Loved it!  I found myself wondering, though...are the two basically the same?  'Romani' Soup and minestrone?  this is the Moosewood recipe from Mollie Katzen:

3-4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 cups chopped, peeled sweet potatoes or winter squash (or a cup of each)
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. salt
Dash of cinnamon
Dash of cayenne
1 bay leaf
3 cups stock or water
1 cup chopped, fresh tomatoes (or substitute 1 can of tomatoes)
3/4 cup chopped sweet bell pepper
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 Tbs. tamari

In a large saucepan sautee onions, garlic, celery, and sweet potatoes in olive oil for about five minutes. Add seasonings except tamari, and the stock or water. Simmer, covered, fifteen minutes. Add remaining vegetables and chickpeas. Simmer another 10 minutes or so until all the vegetables are as tender as you like them.

Check salt. Add tamari if it could use a little more. Serve alongside cornbread or a crusty harvest bread.

and here is the recipe I used for the minestrone, from Brain Foods for Kids:

2 Tbs, olive oil
1 leek, sliced
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
3 green beans, finely sliced
1 quart vegetable bouillon
1 1/4 cups tomato puree
2 bay leaves
scant 1 cup pasta chapes
2/3 cup cannellini beans (drained & rinsed)
sprig of rosemary
salt & pepper to taste
grated parmesan to serve

heat the oil over medium heat, add the leek.  cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until tender.  add carrot, celery, and green beans, cook for another 5 minutes.  add bouillon, tomato puree, and bay leaves.  stir well, bring to a boil; then simmer, half covered, for 15 minutes.

remove and reserve the bay leaves, and puree the vegetables slightly (with a hand blender or food processor), so there are still some 'bits'.  put the bay leaves back in, add the pasta, beans, and rosemary, and bring to a boil.  reduce the heat slightly and cook for 10 minutes, or until the pasta is tender.  remove the bay leaves and rosemary, and season to taste.  serve with a sprinkle of parmesan.

nope, not the same at all.  different spices mixes, different beans, different veggies.  different tastes.  I'm learning, what should I make next?  I'm a big fan of one-pot meals because they help my process by not being too complicated, and also simplifying clean-up.  maybe tomato soup or red sauce?  yes!  the third of the five French mother sauces!  within the past 5 years or so, probably through my voracious watching of movies procurable at my three closest local libraries, I became aware of these 'mother sauces', and their place in French cuisine.  not being much of a cook myself, let alone one who knows about things like 'mother sauces', I was happy to learn that my natural instinct towards accumulating knowledge for its own sake followed a path I didn't know was there to tread.  I doubt I'll follow it to its end, but the side steps are worth taking by virtue of being there.  so - the five French mother sauces:  bèchamel, velouté, sauce tomat, espagnole, and hollandaise.

I learned to make roux (butter and flour) one night when a friend's daughter asked to spend the night at my house, and my friend, incredulous that I had survived more than 30 years on this planet without having learned to make it before, not only wrote down her recipe for homemade macaroni & cheese, she cooked it for us for dinner so I would know how to make it for her daughter the next night.  and her daughter (who was maybe 10 or 11 at the time?) coached me through both the grocery-buying, and the cooking processes.  I believe it turned out ok.  so I can make a bèchamel sauce (roux and milk), and Mornay sauce (bèchamel with cheese), which is generally what one uses for the previously mentioned mac & cheese.  recently, I had a 'leftover' container of sour cream hanging around in my fridge -  I'd bought it for the latkes I didn't end up making for Hannukah - so in the interest of using it up before it went bad, I wondered if I could make a bèchamel sauce from it, since I didn't have any milk.  I didn't document the process, but I looked up something that brought me to a recipe for garlic cream sauce, which not only used up my sour cream, but some chicken broth I had, as well.  and I had lots of garlic.  win-win-win.  turns out roux and stock is the base for the second French mother sauce, veloutè.

wow, two of the French mother sauces have been butchered in my kitchen?  hell yes.  time to destroy a be fair, my Mornay is passable, but I doubt my veloutè would have been exciting to anyone other than me.  not bad for a first try, for sure, but it was not a well-executed project (I can't even find the recipe, or remember what I had it with).  since there is probably little to no cause for me to even attempt either the espagnole or hollandaise sauces, and I do use jarred marinara frequently enough (and have thought about making my own, often enough), sauce tomat seems to follow the natural progression.  it turns out, 'sauce tomat' as specific to French cuisine consists of "salt pork belly, onions, bay leaves, thyme, tomatoes (or purée), roux (butter & flour), garlic, salt, sugar, pepper."  it also turns out I don't know squat about what we dismissively refer to as 'red sauce' in our house - a sauce which has a deeper and more involved global history that I would have taken the time to consider, before reaching the age where food has obviously taken the place of sex in my life, with no great compliment to Rodney Dangerfield for that joke... much more to learn, still!  I feel like my job Here is to fill my brain with as much random, esoteric knowledge as possible to be downloaded when 'what I was' returns to Void from The Circus, and it looks like that's going to be another post, entirely.  there was plenty of good cooking happening over the 'holiday season', even in my reluctant kitchen.  having covered the 'soup', here's the 'nuts' - the chocolate peanut smoothies didn't turn out that well, and unlike the teen, I'm not of the opinion that it was because I used almond butter instead.  the chocolate fondue, on the other hand, was Brilliant, and we devoured it with a whole quart of strawberries, and had plenty left over.  we found a way to top just about everything with it until it was gone.  I made French fries, just like dad used to make, which means cutting the potatoes up really thin, and frying them almost brown.  the teen loved those, too.  I did that thing where you take the leftover mashed potatoes, and whatever other leftover veggies there are, and mix them together with some egg and flour to make 'pancakes'...leftover veggie-potato pancakes, I guess.  for some reason, I want to think of them as a traditional Romani dish, but I don't know why.  they were quite yum, and the teen ate enough of them to make me feel like I get to add another gold star to my Jewish Mama holiday cooking playbook!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Shabbat Shalom

First Friday of the New Calendar Year

my family began observing 'Friday Night Dinner', otherwise known as Shabbat, when I was around four years old.  my parents may have been observant since they'd been married, or longer...I know it was a tradition on the kibbutz where my dad grew up, and I'm pretty sure my mom grew up with it as well, like generations of other New York City Jews. my memory of it in my life only goes back that far, but it's pretty well far enough to be considered an enduring tradition in my life.  my grandparents on my mother's side would usually join us, and we'd eat around the table in the dining room instead of at the 'regular' table in the kitchen.  Friday Night Dinner was a major pain as a teen, because I couldn't go out with my friends or my boyfriend until it was over, and it lasted for hours.  as a young adult, I never gave engaging with it a second thought, though every now and then I'd end up at one at my brother's house (he took over the tradition when his own family started growing, and our mom goes to his house, now) or at a synagogue sponsored event.  I don't believe I've Ever hosted a Shabbat dinner, though I've wanted to, and even if I can't do them consistently, week after week, year in year out, with my extended family, it's still worth doing for me, for my teen, at least once.  while we were cuddling on the couch this morning - our 5 minute snooze button - I was reminiscing about how his Grandma had done the same with us when we were kids, and suddenly realized it was Friday...and since we didn't have any after school/practice plans, I decided we should have Shabbat dinner!  (which met with a resounding NO, of course.  teens are so pleasant.)

for me, growing up, Shabbat dinner consisted of:

  • a clean house
  • traditional dress, or something between school clothes and formal wear
  • the 'good' dishes/silver on the big table in the dining room with the Sabbath tablecloth
  • lighting candles
  • some quick prayers
  • Manishevitz
  • challah
  • chicken soup
  • salad
  • main dish
  • side dishes
  • dessert
  • coffee

it's already 11am on Friday afternoon, and my life looks nothing like my mom's, with her cleaning lady, privilege, and years of experience being a traditional Jewish mom - but we all have to start somewhere, and the Shabbat dinners of my early youth were certainly more modest than the ones we had when I was in high school, up until I was in my mid-20's, and my parents sold that house.  so my version is going to be just perfect for what it is.  a first try.  a leap of faith in the spontaneity of playful nostalgia.  anyway, if I'm gonna get this done, I'm gonna need to get started...there's no way I can do what my mom did, with the time and resources I have, and my limited capabilities in the kitchen, but here's what I can do:

  • cleaning the house is gonna be a low priority in favor of getting the meal together.
  • I'll get dressed when it's all set to go, before serving.
  • setting the table - will fall to the teen when he gets home.
  • find some candle holders, and check to make sure I have Shabbat candles (pretty sure I do).
  • gotta hit the liquor store for Manishevitz...I hope they have it!
  • I'll need a challah, too...unless I can bake one?  no, don't push it.
  • chicken soup...I think I have everything I need:  chicken (frozen, but apparently that's ok.  I already put it in the fridge to thaw, since I don't have to start it until later), carrots, celery, onion, a potato for the hell of it because I have a lot of them, salt, pepper, parsley, oregano.
  • salad - I've got spring mix and spinach.  plus carrots, celery, green pepper, scallions, cherry tomatoes, croutons, and creamy Caesar dressing.
  • main dish - I think I'm going to make chili.  I know I have everything for that, because I bought  it all at the store yesterday.
  • for a side dish, maybe steamed broccoli, and also possibly green beens?
  • I need a dessert, unless I can think of something to make, but I'm going out anyway, so...
  • we don't drink coffee, but there's tea and cocoa in the house (and liquor, for that added warmth in the cup).

I need to mention, here, the two free bags of groceries that showed up on my porch by way of my dear acquaintance J, who I met through some disadvantaged women artist weekly brainstorming meeting group (they set it up, and it met at her offices) - my car recently broke down, and I remembered a few years ago I needed snow tires, and J got me in touch with the United Way who were able to help me buy them.  so hoping the United Way might help me again, I called J to see if they might be able to expedite the process in any way, and to see if they could give me a ride to or from the mechanic's when the car was ready (they live close by), but we crossed communications and missed each other.  BUT - they left two bags of groceries on my porch, and when I got home, the bags were waiting there for me.  carrots, onions, potatoes, celery, milk, cheese, oatmeal, a whole chicken and two additional 2.5 lbs. packages, spinach, spring, mix, eggs, butter, bread, pb & j, two boxes of pasta, and two jars of red was so sweet and kind, and welcome.  I already made one pot of soup from that gift, and a pot of mashed potatoes, and I'm feeling pressured because I want to use it all before it goes bad!  ugh, I'm in a race against time, here, and I have to get back to it!

ok, so the shopping list is simply Manishevitz, challah, and dessert, so I'm gonna run out and get that at 2pm, before I start the cooking portion of this evening's entertainment around 3 or 3:30.  I'll clean up until then, and have the teen clear the table off so he can set it nicely with my Sapta Lisa's dishes that are tucked away in the back of the cabinet when he gets home.  when all that's handled, the food is ready, he's showered and we're both dressed, we'll light the candles, say the prayers, serve, and enjoy!

chicken soup is technically done, but I'm letting it simmer for however long, and the chili is cooking, with the timer set for 1 hour.  yay!  got the Manishevitz and the challah, bought a box cake for dessert, because that was what I thought I could handle.  I haven't even looked at the directions to see when I need to start it, yet!  so, I just need to make the salad, and the sides.  I wished I had thought to make mashed potatoes, and I guess I still can, because I think that goes better with broccoli, and we can just have that as one side (potatoes and broccoli), and green beans for the other.  seems somehow better to me.  so I guess I should go put those up if I want them to be ready...was just taking a quick break after getting it all on track!

That.  Was Freaking.  Fantastic.  I just hosted my first successful Shabbat dinner!  I made:  chicken soup with carrots and noodles, a pot of chili, roasted potatoes/broccoli/garlic, steamed green beans with butter, and a salad.  the teen came home in a mood, and made a big show about how much he hated everything and how my asking him to shower, dress, get out a tablecloth, clear and set the table, find the candle holders and get two candles to put in them, was the most heinous thing I ever could have asked of him, but I gave him a firm talking to, told him his tomorrow's freedom depended on his willingness to participate in my rather important to me endeavor tonight, so he complied, and he even got in the spirit in the end.  once the food was ready, he was ready, and the table was ready, I got ready, and he actually took a picture of the table.  then we lit the Shabbat candles, said the same prayers my dad used to say, from his book, sipped the wine and broke the bread, and sat down to our meal!

the teen had two bowls of soup, most of the green beans (I was allowed a spoonful), and one scoop each of chili and roasted veggies, but no salad.  I ate Everything...I'm so stuffed!  Success!  after we cleared the table and set all the leftovers aside to cool, he was released to play video games while I did the dishes, filled the tupperware containers to pack into the fridge and freezer, mixed the cake, and put it in the oven.  just as I decided to check in again, the timer went off  ~ ~ ~ needs more time, which is fine; it gives me more time to finish the paragraph while the cake cools for 15 minutes, at which point, we will finish off our Sabbath meal extravaganza, and put a big, gold star in my Jewish Mama book.  feeling pretty good, yes I am!

cake was both moist and fluffy, with gooey chocolate bits mixed in.  we didn't even get to the coma now.  zzz...

*based on the teen's dad posting "My guitar says it needs a band soon, or it's moving to LA. and taking the amp with it." on facebook, I've been hearing one of my all time favorite happy songs play in my head (I posted it in his comments, wondering if he remembered it, how much I loved it, and doubted he did), which I played while cooking.  well, for about 6 minutes of the cooking, because I went ahead and played it twice.

Shabbat Shalom!


Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Memory Jar 2018

we emptied and read our entries into our memory jar a bit early this year (we usually wait until New Year's Eve, or thereabouts) because we were flopping around the house all week trying to stay occupied so as not to get bored and get on each other's nerves too much during the Teen's winter break from school.  we had been remarking to each other of late how empty the jar is this year, because neither one of us made filling it a priority.  still, we went through the motions when we did, and here's the list of what we took the time to memorialize:


Shavuot soup (not sure what this was, though I know it had to be a dairy dish in accordance with the Jewish holiday)

L's in Pine Hill (friends moved closer)

perfect summer days in the Catskills (no need for an explanation!)

losing 30 pounds on Whole30 (20 of which I gained right back)

Sly and the Family Stone vs. Parliament Funkadelic (teen's gig)

Goods delivery! (the ONLY place that delivers food to us, and only on rare occasions)


SLAYER! x 3 (he went to see them with a friend, without me)

Sly/Funk (gig)

Fortnite season 5 (thanks G for the battle pass)

2 snow days in a row (oh for the halcyon days...)

hangin' with G

food, friends, fitness, live music, and a recognition of perfect summer days isn't a bad year at all, without even adding in the Teen's video gaming, and the joy of youth over cancelled school days.  no matter that the list is short, or that the folks who have graced it in the past turned out not to have a place on it in our future, and knowing that will most likely repeat itself this year, due to miscommunications (not by me - I communicate rather effectively, and go out of my way to make sure I am understood), and a general lack of respect for me and mine by those I would have thought above such foolishness...but alas.  we move forward, no?  and look to the new connections we will make in the coming year that will be better suited to helping us move harmoniously into our future.

there are some things we forgot to put in the jar, like my birthday last year, attended by several of the people who have definitively shown me since that our friendship wasn't worth their time moving forward - but it was still a fun party where I felt surrounded by love, and I certainly don't want to negate that, or the people who were there with whom I still enjoy camaraderie.  also the Teen's birthday, which was just a simple sleepover with his one friend, as he desired.  he played (and I attended) several gigs with his music school - a 'Zombie Prom', a Black Sabbath show, and a 'New Wave of British Heavy Metal' show.  I even got in on the action and played a gig of my own (which was awful, and I hated every minute of it, but I got out of my comfort zone and tried something new, so yay me).  we went to Israel (the Teen's first trip - I've been many times, but not in a long while).  we celebrated Hannukah as best we could without money to give each other material gifts, but we did honor certain principles each night that I find more important than consumerism.  I made both 'Romani Soup' and Minestrone soup for the first time...we had friends over for dinner (once, the entire year) and my 'bestie' came up for a night or two (which I try to appreciate more than be mad about because I want more time with them more often,

it was a really rough year for me financially, and I had a bunch of people help me out with cash for food, heat, car repairs, and ticket money for gigs, while also gifting the Teen a new-to-him phone, and some comfy pj's for our winter holiday - SO grateful for all of Those blessings, Thank You!  a mystery challah showed up at my door on the last night of Hannukah, and while I know now who left it, it was a sweet gift to come home to that night.  I 'officially' launched Mysteriam Ink, engaged in activism and social justice work mostly (but not exclusively) related to issues that effect the Romani community, the Teen started high school, I was able to get my hands on some old photographs of my ancestors, and I uh...engaged in some 'adult activity' for the first time in too many years.  we all rode the wave of these trying political times, and while I don't tend to talk politics, here, I would be remiss if I didn't at least point out that this year, many of us are...let's say unhappy in regards to the current monstrosity of an American president and his administration.  there's a terrible world going on outside these walls, and frankly, I don't want to go out in it alone, so I'm grateful to those who stayed friends with me, and spare little to no thought for those who chose to show me their worst (though I do hope they manage to work through their issues for their own personal growth and development).

on the flip side of that, there's an incredibly Beautiful and Exciting world out there, and I'm looking forward to enjoying more of it, and watching my son learn to recognize and engage with it's gifts each day.  we don't have it easy, but we could have it worse, as we're very well aware, and we navigate our low points with whatever grace we can glean while sitting back and relaxing when the sailing is smooth.  so Happy New calendar Year to all friends, fans, and readers of The Unused Portion!  thank you for being here, subscribing, liking/following on facebook, commenting, and generally putting up with the rants and raves I dump out of my head, convert to pixels, and share with you.  sometimes it's a gift, sometimes a curse, but always worth doing for myself.  I hope others get something out of it, too.

Memory Jar posts from previous years:

2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

*New Year's Day update:  I loved The Doors when I was in high school, and I often think of the first few lines of Jim Morrison's "Ghost Song" (part of the first track, "Awake") on their An American Prayer album first thing in the morning.  this is what they say ~

"Awake...Shake dreams from your hair, my pretty child, my sweet one...Choose the day, and choose the sign of your day, the day's divinity...first thing you see..."
I woke up this morning - 1/1/19 - at 7am, to the sounds of my cat puking on the Native American poncho covering my desk chair, on which she was napping.  and I just washed it, too.  lovely...great omen for the new year, huh?  at least I know it will get better from here!

consequently, I also learned that this album was released 7 years after Jim's death, and 5 years after The Doors broke up.  I can't just stop loving it, but that fact - coupled with the new knowledge that Jim had his Own plans to release this work with artists that were not The Doors - really threw me for a loop, and made me feel like I've been lied to all these years.  not a good feeling, and I'm angry at the remaining three Doors in retrospect.  come on, 2019, you've Gotta do better than this for me!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Honoring the Dark Goddess; Winter Solstice 2018

in researching a direction to point a Solstice ritual in, I ran across many deities (Demeter, Persephone, Dionysus, Saturn, Isis, Horus, Amaterasu, Tonantzin, Mithras, Quetzalcoatl, Lucina/Lucia, Sarasvati, Spider Woman, Deer Mother, the Hopi Kachinas), and festivals (Saturnalia, Poseidonia, Haloa, Brumalia, Yule, Hestia's Fires, Kwanzaa, Hannukah, Soyal) across all traditions (Persian, Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Celtic, Yoruba, Pagan, Italian, Swedish, Native American, Eleusynian/Women's Mysteries, Jewish), nations (Europe, India, Asia, Africa, North & South America), that have a connection to the Winter Solstice, including this one crazy Viking Goddess of Winter called Skadi, who "in some of the more negative tales...was named Mornir, the troll woman, and was said to have castrated and then collected the penises of heroes," and "that offerings of men's blood were made to Skadi, symbolizing the blood of Loki that had fertilized her.  Priestesses of Skadi were said to have bathed in blood as preparation for their rituals."  pretty intense.  she, like other Dark Goddesses whose stories center around this time of year, is not evil - she is symbolic of the primordial womb, and reminds us that without darkness there is no light.  we celebrate these deities with home fires and ritual, though more privately, and in a more domestic sense, then one would in summertime.  While she is always associated with fertility and the continuation of life, in her aspect as the Dark Goddess, The Crone, She Who Cuts the Thread is calling back the Sun God, to whom she is giving birth.  he is the son/sun who will grow to re-fertilize the Earth in the spring, bringing light and warmth back into the world.

of course, since I've been on a journey with Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Dead, I feel it's her and her sister's story I want to engage with this year.  the short version - Inanna made a pass at Gilgamesh, he didn't dig it, she got mad and sent her sister's husband, Gugulana, after him. Gugulana is killed, and when Inanna shows up at the gates of Kur to pay her respects, she is made to remove an article of clothing or accessory at each of seven gates, appearing naked before Ereshkigal, and still makes a play for the throne, cheeky girl.  she is found guilty by the 7 Judges of the Underworld and sentenced to death.  Ereshkigal then kills her, and hangs her corpse from a hook to rot.  of course, Inanna left instructions for her servant to come to her aid after three days and three nights, which she did by having another god make two sexless beings to enter Ereshkigal's domain and empathize with her labor pains, to win both Inanna's corpse and the means to revive her.  so Inanna was set free, offering first her husband, and later his sister, to take her place in the underworld.

this story is obviously the basis for the later Demeter and Persephone mythos surrounding Hades that I think more people are familiar with, but it's the same, nonetheless - the longest night ending the dark half of the year, and the oncoming increase in the light, but acknowledged from a feminine perspective.  rather than a mother's sorrow over the loss of her daughter through the implied rape of a powerful man, we have two sisters symbolizing different aspects of what could be any woman's psyche.  the male archetype is hardly necessary in this myth - he is a later invention of the Son born to the Mother, who grows into the Lover, that becomes the Consort, when he can fertilize the fields, and they can be reborn.  the child belongs to the Mother - the Mother is the constant.  Our Great Mother.  enough son gods have been born, and as much honor as most of them deserve, I worship none above non-gendered Creative Source, and I give my solstice energy to its divine aspect as the Dark Goddess, Ereshkigal.

we may not find the Dark Mother comforting or appealing, but we must be willing to acknowledge the Goddess in all her aspects if we want to understand ourselves in the same way.  Most traditions honor any number of deities or beings associated with shadows and darkness, and calling upon them in ritual can act as a way to cleanse and balance our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energy, help us face up to any fears, be real with ourselves, do the dirty work and get it done, offer strong protection, boost confidence, and invite joy.  in whatever form you worship Her, remember to show respect.  the following ritual is written specifically for Ereshkigal and Inanna, but feel free to change it up as you need.

I begin preparations for my rituals ahead of time, such as doing a general de-clutter around my house (especially if it's around a gift giving holiday), finishing up paperwork that's been on my desk too long, moving things in or out and making sure they have places to live, dusting, vacuuming, that sort of thing.  I'll prepare special foods or fast, plan a ritual bath, and take time to choose my outfit and accessories in a certain state of mind as it's all a part of the plan, and an important step in creating a mood and vibrational energy.

decorate your altar with symbols of the season, such as evergreen, pinecones, antlers, bells, suns, mother and child statuary.  mead or wine, water, pomegranates, apples, oranges, and walnuts are all appropriate for the altar, too, but I wouldn't eat or drink during the ritual, and would probably fast for a day or so before, though eat right after.  have a black candle for Ereshkigal, a white candle for Inanna, a blue candle for the lapis lazuli associated with them both, and a gold candle for the new-born sun (red, orange, or yellow work, too).  stones you might use include black tourmaline, jet, hematite, obsidian, bloodstone, garnet, ruby, emerald, and diamond.  pine, cedar, bayberry, cinnamon, frankincense, and myrrh are all good choices for incense.

fire is an essential part of any ritual, and since it's too cold out to do ritual work outdoors, even near a fire, I plan to light a small one in the woodstove I'm lucky enough to have in my living room, to burn throughout my day.  into the iron cauldron filled with water on top of the stove, when it's going (to put some moisture back into the air), I will toss some pine needles, fruit peels, and cinnamon sticks.  some of the stones I mentioned for the altar would do well to be charged out in the moonlight for several nights, then added to the ritual bath - or at least on/near the tub - before being placed on the altar.

for the ritual bath:

  • fill up a bath with water at the temperature you prefer (I like it hot), and add dried or fresh herbs (sage, chamomile, basil, peppermint, cinnamon, sandalwood, lavender, rosemary), a few drops of essential oil, or both.  add any stones charged in the moonlight.
  • light candles and incense around the tub, turn out the lights, close the door/curtain, play soft music.  intentionally create and set this space.
  • sink slowly into the water, and feel yourself relaxing and releasing, letting go everyday thoughts and tensions, and making way for clear, cleansed, and purified focus and intention (a quiet, hummed, 'Om' often helps, bonus if there's an echo) .
  • honor your shadow self, and your connection to 'darker' emotions, thoughts, feelings, and actions.  connect them to the deepest roots in our psyches, our oldest instincts.  examine your fears and feelings of discomfort.  sit with them awhile.
  • offer these feelings to the Mother and to the Moon.  hold them up for Her to see.  let Her give you the strength, courage, and endurance to rebirth them into something new.
  • after the tub has drained completely, discard any herbs outside in the moonlight.
remember to dress and accessorize intentionally and accordingly!

for the ritual:

light any candles not for use in the ritual
light incense 
cast a circle
call the quarters

light the white candle and say, 

The land is dead, the soil is cold.
The fertile womb of the Earth is barren.
As Inanna descended to Kur,
so the Earth descended into Night.
Relinquishing a piece of Herself
at each of the Seven Gates
to Her sister's realm,
She stood naked, 
was found guilty,
struck dead.
Our Lady,
hung 3 days and 3 nights
on a hook
to rot.

light the black candle from the white candle
extinguish the white candle and say:

In her anger and sorrow, 
Ereshkigal locked the gates
to her realm.
Stripped Her sister
of her crown,
jewels, and garments,
and killed Her.
The crops died,
all life withered,
and the soil went dormant.
In Her grief, 
She cries.
For all the love lost,
for lives ended too soon,
for Justice.
For all the dead souls 
held inside Her,
and the pain 
of rebirthing 
the world anew.

Half the year
we dance 
with the growing light;
half the year
we dance 
with the growing night.
We honor
and celebrate
the deepest shadows
in the darkness.

now is the time to enter into personal meditation.

take some time to reflect on the darker aspects of your personal human experience.  think of deities and other mythological beings who evoke the darkness, and other frightening aspects of our nature.  do you see some of that nature in yourself?  is there some pain you are hiding, or longing to set free?  are there old wounds, anger, or frustration that you still need to move past?  She knows our ancestor's pain and She's here to destroy us, the shameless harlot, to fashion our raw heartbreak and rage into something new and beautiful.  in this context, Ereshkigal is the catalyst for Inner Knowing.  She isn't mindlessly evil, She is the Refiner's Fire, the Ordeal one must complete in order to reach the next stage of their development.  Her boundaries are clearly defined and firmly set, and Her wrath is incurred through their violation.  Her rules are not to be disrespected.  now is the time to acknowledge that the worst kinds of work we are called to do in whatever capacity is good and valid, to be thankful for it's place on our path to the light, and to offer our appreciation for those who do that work regularly.

when you are ready to end the ritual, chant:

Isis Astarte Diana Hecate Demeter Kali Inanna
Isis Astarte Diana Hecate Demeter Kali Inanna
Ereshkigal, Lilith, bringers of destruction and darkness,
we embrace you.
For our rage, we have pleasure,
for our pain we have peace.
For making it through the night, 
we are given the day, 
for without death, there is no life.
Dark Mothers - we Thank You
as we look towards the return 
of the light.

relight the white candle from the black candle
light the gold candle from the black candle

close the quarters
open the circle

this year, we have the added delight of the moon being full on the (day after) Solstice, so definitely find a way to work the Moon into your ritual, which shouldn't be hard to do, since it's pretty woman-centered to begin with.  it's got a bunch of cool traditional names like the Full Cold Moon, Long Nights Moon, and Big Spirit Moon, and as if all that plus the Ursid meteor showers weren't enough celestial goodness for you, there's ALSO a bunch of conjunctions with the moon and Aldeberan, Jupiter and Mercury, Venus and Saturn...check it all out at:  I also read an interesting bit about how Venus  - associated with Inanna - appears to...well, disappear from one horizon for three days, then show up on the other horizon, then switch back.  I didn't chase it down because I was headed elsewhere, but it sounded pretty interesting, and is worth going back for!  Venus is also connected to the number 7, and the 7-circuit labyrinth (and my Lady Ariadne), which reminds me of the 7 gates, and the 7 things Inanna has to give up, and the 7 chakras...there's just so much to explore.

I was once again disappointed (though not surprised anymore) at how Eurocentric all the articles I referenced were.  obviously, it has much to do with the content, but I've long since felt that I should know more about African traditions than that in our modern age, about half of the continent is Muslim, and the other half is Christian, with a handful of other Abrahamic traditions mixed in.  there is a huge, colorful, varied historical background particular to each different group of people inhabiting that vast land, and I want everyone to know more about all of it.  I also want to engage more with the Hindu Vedas and Upanishads to get a better understanding than my basic knowledge of some of their main deities, and the names of their holy books.

so enjoy your personal holiday celebrations, but remember to let your spirit draw inward as well, and rest.  do some serious hibernating to honor your inner sacred stillness, and renew your strength.  tend to your flame so you can emerge into the new solar year renewed and refreshed, whole, and in harmony.  I'm so far down in my solstice descent already I've been having headaches from forgetting to eat while preparing for my ritual work.  then I got my period, and my car broke down, and I didn't have any groceries in the house!  so I baked bread with what I had in the pantry, and slathered it with butter, which has become one of my funerary rights - when someone I care about dies, my body craves bread and butter.  there just something comforting about something so simple, I guess.  and it's like I'm mourning my own hanging on that hook during these darkest days, but we're almost through them for the season, and on into the light.

Blessed Be!

great link to various myths! -

other various links:

Monday, December 10, 2018

Hannukah 2018

lame store-bought excuse for suvganiot, given how delicious my homemade version is...

it's the last night of Hannukah, and it's been a rough week, so I'm glad it's over, but I'm also feeling like I need to take stock of how my holiday panned out, now that I have a minute to sit back and think about it.  so here's a quick rundown of how it went:

1st night - it's a week ago, already, so I barely remember what happened, but I DO know my teen was away with his sports team until around 3pm, after which he had a 3 hour band rehearsal.  I lit the electric menorah in the window before we left for rehearsal so we'd enjoy seeing it's glow in the night when we returned, but there was no holiday food, or presents (other than the gift of being together, safe, sheltered, with electricity, food, water, our good health, and our cat, which is plenty good enough for both of us, but I'm sure the cat thinks she could have done better).

2nd night - the teen came home early from after-school sports practice, and discovered a package in the mailbox from his dad (no note or anything) with a cool pair of wireless earbuds in it.  we got out our 'proper' menorahs to light actual candles (we still light the electric one, but it doesn't feel right to me unless we light the real ones), and made delicious latkes for dinner.

3rd night - I completed an important overdue task before indulging in some much needed self-care (good meal/hot shower/clean clothes), and went to the laundromat while the teen was at music lessons & band rehearsal, where I ran into and chatted with a newer friend, before visiting the home of a much older friend, until it was time to pick up the teen and go home.  I think we forgot to light the electric menorah before we went's pretty disappointing when you pull up in the driveway and those pretty lights aren't there to cheer you.

4th night - really rough...the teen had a spot of trouble at school, and as a result, was not allowed to compete with his team in their event after school that day, which broke his poor dear heart, but he learned that his less-intelligent actions can have serious repercussions, no matter how remorseful you feel in retrospect.  he needed to crawl into my lap (all 130+ pounds of him) and have a good cry about it, too.  we lit candles, but they burned down in the kitchen while we cuddled on the couch watching a movie and eating crap food.

5th night - we splurged and went out for a meal ($30 total, tip included).  another rehearsal night.  we may have lit candles when we got home, and I'm pretty sure we remembered to light the electric ones before we left.

6th night - the teen skipped sports practice to come straight home from school because he had to report to the venue for his gig by 4pm.  and there were gifts for him!  socks and comfy pajamas from some dear friends!  he did great at his performance, but I felt barred from entering the venue to watch him so...I didn't feel particularly celebratory, or supported by my 'community'.  it was an electric menorah night, and a rough one, at that.

7th night - I was gifted with the concern of several of the other parents at the music school who were wondering what had happened between the school and me to cause such bad blood between us so suddenly after 5 years, and their insistence that I offer those administrators (and the idiots who sowed the seeds of discontent with them) a big 'fuck you' by standing proudly in the middle of the room to watch my son perform.  while it was nice to feel seen, heard, and supported, I was too fragile to do it due to being blown off two nights in a row by the teen's friend who said they'd be there, but wasn't.  the teens are too young to drive, so it's not really the kid's fault for not making it, and who knows what their mom was struggling with to tell me she would bring her kid to the show two nights in a row, and not only Not show up, but Not call to make any kind of excuse...well, that's pretty insulting to me, and disrespectful of my time, and makes me have to reconsider how close I want to be with her in the future, as this isn't the first time this kind of thing has happened between us.  knowing one's worth - or being reminded to respect it - is an important gift in and of itself.  the teen performed another great show, and his gift was his mama's pride.  seeing our almost fully lit menorah in the window as we arrived home was a comforting sight.

8th night - we took the day off.  we literally laid around in our pajamas and did nothing other than watch some television shows we borrowed from the library, and munch on handfuls of cereal straight out of the box.  since we had no plans of any kind (for a reason - I wanted us both to have a break after our busy week), I had hoped that This would be the day that I would somehow magically have the energy and fortitude to make 500 latkes and 1000 suvganiot to celebrate Hannukah the way I know how - with lots of yummy fried goodness, and song (I'm still without the resources to provide material gifts, but yes, that's generally a part of it, too).  we didn't.  we did have to run out to the grocery store, and while we were there, I picked up the last, pathetic, getting stale, jelly donut in the case to serve as the symbol for our crumpled-wax-bag of a Hannukah this year.  we lit the electric menorah, ate our sad, commercial-grocery-store-bakery-bland, overly sugary donut (pictured at the top of the post), made a mockery of singing a few verses of various Hannukah songs ridiculously loudly, high-fived, and called it a holiday.

in stating my disappointment with myself at not having made the time to either decorate, or cook traditional foods, the teen wisely reminded me that it doesn't have to be Hannukah to make latkes or suvganiot, and I replied, "no, I only make them once a year, and that once is on Hannukah, and Hannukah's over now, so...I'm not doing it."  I knew in advance it was going to be a hard holiday for us due to my lack of financial wealth, a particularly bad case of 'winter blues/seasonal affective disorder', and the work/school/extra-curricular schedule, but there were still times that I could have made cooking a priority instead of plopping down in my chair to check facebook, or watch part of a movie.  there was definitely some gratuitous lounging around this week as I was having a hard time processing all of the emotional baggage into manageable packages so I could function at a base level, if not much more.  mainstream society doesn't often leave much room for cultural norms that fail to coincide with the status quo, and I'm not surrounded by a large and loving family/community that makes it easier to be festive by all being involved in preparing for the same party.  in fact, the one party I Was preparing for (my son's gig) left me out in the cold, and feeling the very opposite of joyful and connected.

still, all in all...the teen and I, in our tiny little two-person family, made some effort at keeping the traditions alive, which is better than not having done it at all.  the teen got some gifts that he needed (and loves), and even a gift that he wanted (and loves).  he sang his heart out, played the best solo of his life two nights in a row, and gracefully accepted some hard lessons.  I got reminded how important it is to be with people who cherish me rather than tolerate me, and that even though it generally feels like I'm out here all alone all the time, there are still folks who are willing to come out and support me every now and again.  the teen and I joked and laughed together, the way we always do, because even though our lives can be hard, we do our best to have fun and enjoy it anyway.  and to be fair, the one batch of latkes I did make were delicious (even if I did forget the sour cream and applesauce).  now it's time for me to retreat into my best version of hibernation, do some serious inner journeying for the Solstice, avoid the madness of late December consumerism disguised as religious posturing, and look towards celebrating my 50th birthday soon after the new year.  I hope it has something wonderful in store for us, we sure could use some 'wonderful' around here.

happy winter holiday season, whatever you celebrate!


Monday, November 26, 2018

Bread Crumbs & Brandy

so...seasonal affective disorder, and the January blues.  it usually hits me right between Halloween and Truthsgiving, which is the most current, Native-American-centered term I am familiar with for the day many citizens of Amerikkka celebrate during the month of November to commemorate the colonizing of the land that government holds.  the combination of the decreasing light, and this horrific practice happening all around me (not to mention the implications of the toxic-turkey-trade), in combination with my feelings of isolation in being estranged from family and not generally having anyone to gather with in community regardless of the reason, has been bringing me down hard and fast for nigh on 20 years, now.  some people get their winter blues later in the season, in January, when the winter holidays are over, and the relative hardships of the winter wear them down.  I'm generally feeling better by then, as the light increases after the solstice, and the sun begins to move into my astrological sign, but whenever the winter blues hit, or SAD is making you sad, there are ways to nurture yourself through it.

  • taking 1000 IU's of vitamin D2 (plant-based) or D3 (animal-based) daily
  • staying warm with layered clothing, hot baths, saunas, warm foods & drinks
  • light therapy - taking walks outside around noon, getting a light box, or a light therapy lamp 
  • getting up early in the day to 'set your inner clock' 
  • eating well of proteins and veggies, increasing probiotics (yogurt) and omega-3's (oily fish, walnuts, flax/hemp/chia seeds), cooking hearty soups & stews while avoiding processed foods, dairy, and carbohydrates
  • exercising is one of the healthiest ways to boost your mood - doing it outside in the sunlight is an added bonus this time of year
  • staying active and involved - being social is really hard when all we want to do is hibernate under a blanket and go to sleep until spring
  • keeping a positive mindset through meditation, and practicing gratitude
  • sleeping well - just like it's healthy to be in sunlight during the day, it's important for your body to be in the dark at night, so try to keep the bedroom free of electronics, and also slightly cool 
  • use bergamot, lavender, and rose essential oils in a diffuser, add them to your bathwater, combine them with coconut or olive oil and wear them, or simply sniff them for a lift!

I began my process at the autumnal equinox this year, having heard a call from Erishkigal - Sumerian Queen of the Underworld - back in the summer.  she seems to be with me on my journey this season, and I'm ready to learn what she has to teach me.  I first met her back when I was just a baby-occultist, discovering the wonders of more ancient wisdom than I previously knew existed, written in language and symbols that were somehow familiar to a young Jewish seeker.  she is connected to, or associated with, Lilith, who - as the daughter of a feminist Jew -  I have known since my childhood, and was my first representation of a deity outside of the Jewish 'god'.  of course I had some glancing familiarity with Greek and Roman mythology, as one will pick up in public school, but as a teen on the edge of puberty, who had either just - or was about to - become immersed in tarot, my gateway to the occult, I was thirsty for what looked an awful lot like forbidden knowledge.  so I went as far back as I could find texts to our earliest written memories - to Mesopotamia, Sumer, and Babylon, where I met my Queen of the Underworld.

Erishkigal by Thalia Took

in the years following, I spent more time meeting with and learning from aspects of my various selves as they appeared over the course of history, as well as the triple-goddess-nature of the pagan/wiccan/celtic traditions, maiden/mother/crone.  young journeyers that we were, my coven and I, we added a fourth aspect to our goddess-devotions to suit our needs - the warrior aspect - as many of us felt we were no longer innocent naive young girls, yet nowhere near ready to take on roles as mothers, or start bearing children.  my incantations during those years of my adulthood invoked the feminine in a variety of her guises and forms:  Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Inanna.  later I met Ariadne, in her labyrinth, whose story bears some resemblances to her divine ancestor, in her role as a Dark Goddess, a Mistress of the Underworld.  bulls, the number 7, a little sister, a consort, sacrifice, isolation, an eventual romantic partnership, and a certain sensuality.  she called out to me then, asked me to help tell her story, which I did, and still do.

Ariadne - the Snake Goddess

from there, my devotions turned towards the Shekinah of the Hebrew Kabbalah, the divine feminine aspect of the Absolute, and to the Prime or Creative Source...whatever you call the Oneness we all come from.  I often send devotions towards the moon in my personal rituals during her monthly transitions, as an aspect of the divine feminine, as well, though most other directions in which I send energy I think of as non-gendered, and more at cardinal points, spaces in time, or like a 'cosmic pool of collective love', if you will.  I've made a glancing acquaintance with Sara Kali, who is a Romani saint, and a Black Madonna, but I don't know much about her, and she isn't really part of my personal tradition, but I like to give her a nod for her possible place in my ancestors' past.  this time of year, this year in particular I suppose, that oldest of Goddesses is asking me to see her again, to maybe find something of the wonder of that young girl who first found that forbidden fruit in the dusty back corner of the library.  it goes along with doing a bit of the reclaimation of a lost or long hidden Self that I've either written about before, or meant to write about, or have a draft of somewhere.  sometimes it's frustrating to not have a community to practice with, but that goes right to the heart of the matter of the season, and going back to a more pure and simple kind of solitary practice.  to light the candles on my altar with intention, and breath new life into my inner practice.

Ereshkigal. (JasonEngle/ Deviant Art)

she called to me
come down
she called
come down to me
my sister
visit with me
down here
in my kingdom
through my
seven gates
at each
your clothing
your jewels
come to me
before me
in my kingdom
where I will take
your skin
hang your empty
on a hook
in my domain

and I must
journey back
I say
before I go
and puzzle out
what I'm willing
to sacrifice
to take my place
in her kingdom
while I'm gone
something I'm
willing to
go without
during my
in the world

The Queen of the Night (the 'Burney Relief') - Inanna (Ishtar)/Ereshkigal/Lilith

most recently, I've been learning more about Maa Kali, and Maa Durga...and I think there are some parallels to be drawn from them, as well, but I need to research further to know for sure.  I'll be spending some time with these powerful energies as we move closer and closer to the darkest days of our year, and seeing what wisdom they allow me to drag back out into the light, and what I have to give up for it along the way.

just for fun, here's my horoscope for the week, because it's on point, and mentions one of my favorite poets:
"In one of his poems, Arthur Rimbaud extolled the exquisite evenings when the mist soaked his face as he strolled, and he sipped that heavenly dew till he was drunk.  Was he speaking literally or metaphorically?  Probably both, if i know Rimbaud.  Anyway, Aquarius, I'd love for you to engage in similar exploits.  What are some natural adventures that might intoxicate you?  What simple pleasures may alter your consciousness, nudging you free of its habits?  Meditate with sweet abandon on how to free yourself through the power of play and the imagination." - Rob Breszny, Free Will Astrology