Hinduism for Dummies.

Been a while since you guys saw a book review from me, right? My apologies. I actually find them kinda difficult, so I’ve been reading books but not reviewing them…

Anyway, with my birthday money this year I brought myself a copy of Hinduism for Dummies by Dr. Amrutur Venkatachar Srinivasan. It’s published by John Wiley & Sons Inc and a new copy is £14:99/US$19:99/CN$23:99.

Hinduism is such a vast and complex faith, I wanted to start with something basic! And, as well as this being a ‘for dummies’ book, Dr. Srinivasan seemed like a reliable author to start things off with – he is a practicing Vaishnavite (that’s a denomination of Hinduism), the primary founder and first president of the Connecticut Valley Hindu Temple Society, spent eight years studying Sanskrit, has written other books and papers, taught courses at the University of Connecticut and Wesleyan University, and is a pujari (Hindu priest) who performs religious ceremonies like weddings.

The book is organised into 6 chapters; Introducing Hinduism, The Hindu Pantheon and Its Religious Leaders, The Sacred Texts, Hinduism in Practice, Delving Deeper into the Hindu Concept of Reality, and The Part of Tens (Ten Common Questions about Hindus, Ten Common Prayers and Ten (Plus) Traditional Mantras). All of it was interesting and easy to read, and the simple format makes it easy to look things up later. I liked how ancient and modern practices were written about, and that (condensed versions of!) stories from the Hindu epics were included. It was also nice that the author has a sense of humor, doesn’t act like he’s the ultimate authority on all Hindu thought, doesn’t spend half the book explaining why Vaishnavites are better than other Hindus, and is generally down-to-earth. Sort of like your good-natured Hindu Uncle.

From a personal standpoint, I was really interested to read about the concept of dharma. The yoga of karma resonated with me too – sounds positively…Sigyn-ish. I also discovered that I can’t get along with quite a lot of Hindu philosophy lol. So I guess I won’t be converting any time soon. But I definitely want to learn more about Hinduism, and this book taught me a lot of basic ideas and definitions to get me started.

If anyone else has read this, or has any questions, please go ahead and leave your own thoughts in the comments 🙂

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Simple Christmas Cake.

I made this to share with my family for Christmas Day. Husband got day release from hospital for Christmas, so against all odds it turned out to be a really good day! I also made stollen, but that recipe needs a little work.

  • 180g coconut oil/vegan spread (I used Vitalite)
  • 180g sugar (I used cheap white)
  • 3 mashed bananas (I brought an over-ripe bunch for 20p and they’ve been perfect for cakes. Brown bananas are good for banana ice-cream too)
  • 180g wholewheat flour
  • 700g mixed fruit
  • 50ml orange juice (or alcohol, if you drink)
  • zest of 1 orange
  • Cinnamon and mixed spice to taste
  • Ready-made marzipan and white icing (what? I was really tired! Be sure to check the icing you buy doesn’t contain eggs – royal icing usually does. I saw some vegan royal icing recipes online using aquafaba and stuff, but…I just don’t have what it takes to start experimenting with aquafaba icing right now lol)
  • Optional; swap 100g of the mixed fruit for chopped dried apricots, glacé cherries or nuts (or 300g of mixed fruit for 100g of each, or whatever combination suits you)

Cream the sugar and oil/spread, then mix in the bananas, flour, orange juice, orange zest and spices. Add the dried fruit and make sure everything is thoroughly mixed.

Spread the mixture neatly into a cake tin and fold a sheet of tin foil over the top (apparently wrapping the cake in newspaper also works, but since I have a gas oven I’m not massively keen to try this out for myself). You need the tin foil so that the outside of the cake won’t burn over the long baking time.

Bake at Gas Mark 1/140C/275F for around 4 1/4 hours – until a knife or toothpick comes out clean. Let it cool completely, then cover it with the marzipan and white icing.

I made this with 100g of apricots, because I don’t like cherries and Sister doesn’t like nuts. I think they did give it a lift and improved it, but if you were stuck for cash I think it would be perfectly fine with just the mixed fruit, which you can usually buy in value packs.

January Angel Prayer.

January is here, and December is over for another year.

Thank You, Angel Hanael, for guiding us through the past month.

Now we greet You, Angel Gabriel, guardian of January. We thank You for watching over us this month. Please help us to look inside ourselves and see what we must heal or change, to know ourselves well, and to work out our best path for the future.

Thank You, Angel Gabriel.

Yule Biscuits.

Sorry I didn’t get this recipe out in time for Yule – I wanted to get it taste-tested first!

For the past three or four years now I’ve made biscuits for Yule, both as an offering and to hang on the tree (and to eat ourselves, obviously!). I wanted to try a different recipe this year, and since it turned out well I thought I should share it with you all.

  • 180g coconut oil/vegan spread (I used Vitalite)
  • 6 tablespoons plant/golden syrup (I used golden syrup, but I assume it would also work with something like maple or agave syrup)
  • 150g sugar (I used cheap white sugar)
  • 175ml water
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • Cinnamon, ginger and mixed spice to taste
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 450g wholewheat flour

Begin by melting together the oil/spread, sugars, water, orange zest and spices.

Once all that is liquid and combined, stir in the bicarbonate of soda and, bit by bit, the flour. You should end up with a dough that is not crumbly or sticky, and solid enough to pick up.

Sprinkle a little flour onto a clean work surface and roll the dough out to roughly the thickness of a pound coin (I’m awful at getting an even thickness. but everything tends to work out fine in the end. I’m not on the Bake Off here). I do this in two batches.

Now cut the biscuits. I have a set of Yuletide cookie cutters that I fish out from the back of the cupboard every year for this very purpose, but if you don’t have anything like that then you could always cut regular round biscuits and decorate them as snowflakes later. Don’t forget to add holes if you want to hang them up.

The biscuits bake at Gas Mark 4/350F/175C for 20 minutes. Once they’re done, let them cool completely before decorating them. I like to use icing made with orange juice, because I go quite heavy on the spices and it’s nice for the icing to bring out the citrus flavors. But plain or vanilla icing is also lovely.

The Holy Tides – Yule, its traditions, and religious observances

I love this blog. I always learn something new!

Wyrd Designs

Just as our pagan cousins celebrate the eight major sabbats that comprise the Wheel of the Year, for those of us in the Northern Tradition we too have somewhat similar key celebrations that we call holy tides (from the Old Norsehátíðir). Some of these celebrations are more significant and special than others, and these especially important holy-days are known as high holy tides: such as Ostara, Winter Nights, and Yule which is now upon us.

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Yule Prayer.

We ask You to be with us, Gods, Goddesses, Spirits and Ancestors, so that together we can all celebrate Yule.

Thank You, Gods and Spirits of the Earth, for all You have provided to keep us alive through the Winter.

Thank You, Gods and Spirits of the Air, for sweeping aloft the Wild Hunt.

Thank You, Gods and Spirits of Fire, for helping us to survive the cold weather.

Thank You, Gods and Spirits of Water, for the cleansing beauty of the ice and snow.

In this moment of greatest darkness we thank You, Lady Hel. Thank You for walking with us through the darkness of our lives.

We acknowledge Your fearful power and weighty responsibility.

Thank You for gathering our Ancestors to Your table, and for sending our souls out again when the time comes for us to be reborn.

At the darkest time of our year, we find light in the bonds we share with our families and friends. They are the spark of warmth and joy that sustains us through the cold and dark.

We thank all those who have gathered to be with us – the living and the dead, in body and in spirit, mortal and Divine. We celebrate your presence in our lives, and thank You for allowing us to be a part of your lives.

Thank You, kind Gods, Goddesses, Spirits and Ancestors, for the many gifts of Winter.

Please bless the land, so that She may rest.

Please bless the birds and squirrels (or whatever animals tend to be most prominent in your area), plants and trees; all that hibernates and all that keeps fighting on through the cold, so that they may survive the season’s harshness. May the ones who don’t make it pass the torch of life on so that another will.

Please bless us here, so that we may grow closer together as a family (adjust this as appropriate to your circumstances).

Please bless us all, so that we may remember that we are all connected.

Thank You all for hearing our prayer. May You in turn be blessed and joyful in You lives (and accept this offering of…)

 

The prayer Husband and I will be saying also includes a verse for Amabael, the angel of Winter. Which reminds me – sorry I’ve missed a couple of months on the Angels Prayers. It’s been tough lately lol.

Ethical Advent Day 17 – Reindeer Food

YES!
Sorry, I just love glitter.

Monsoon of Random

Welcome to my Ethical Advent Day 17.

Today is all about keeping the magic of Christmas alive in the hearts of children everywhere.

You’ve probably heard of the new ‘Reindeer Food’ trend. No longer is a carrot a sufficient snack to accompany the mince pie you leave for Santa. Oh no, you must sprinkle glitter laden reindeer food to attract Rudolph to your door (of course, all magical reindeer are flying Santa around the world of their own free will and are very well compensated for their time and efforts).

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Now, you may be wondering, if you sprinkle regular plastic glitter in your back garden, that’s not very good for the environment. It will stay in the ground forever and might be digested by small animals, or it will enter the water course where it will pollute the sea.

There’s a very simple answer – biodegradable glitter. It’s wonderful, it’s…

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Simple Lemon Basbousa.

Not at all seasonal, but I’m trying to use up that semolina I accidentally brought. Searching through my recipe books, I came across this Egyptian recipe for semolina cake that I was able to adapt.

  • 225g plain or vanilla plant-based yogurt (I used soya)
  • 180g coconut oil or vegan butter spread, melted (I used Vitalite)
  • 300g semolina
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • zest of 2 lemons

 

  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 150g sugar
  • 75ml water

Simply mix the first set of ingredients into a dough, spread neatly into a cake mold and bake at Gas Mark 4/180C/350F for half an hour.

As that bakes, put the second lot of ingredients into a saucepan and get it all bubbling away for about five minutes, until it thickens and turns into a syrup.

Once the cake has been in the oven for half an hour, take it out and pour the lemon syrup evenly over it. Then return it to the oven for fifteen more minutes.

I didn’t initially feel very sure about this recipe, but it turned out to be a really nice, fluffy cake. Everyone on Husband’s ward likes it too (better than lemon drizzle cake, apparently).

I feel like it would be good with dark chocolate chunks, or with flaked almonds on top. I looked online and it seems like coconut is a popular addition. Because it’s such a simple recipe, it’s easy to add stuff.

Semolina Bread.

Recently, in a haze of exhaustion, I brought home a bag of semolina instead of a bag of polenta (putting away my groceries, I stood in the kitchen staring at the packet like ‘this is semolina. Why is this semolina?!’ Glad there were no witnesses lol). Now I have to figure out ways to use this stuff up.

  • 225ml water
  • 6 tablespoons of oil (I used olive)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 300g brown bread flour
  • 150g semolina
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (I used agave syrup. Vanilla flavored agave syrup, actually…it was the cheapest option!)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons yeast

An easy one; just load up your breadmaker, set it to a 750g wholewheat loaf and set it going. This bread has a nice flavor and a crunchy, slightly crumbly crust. I’d recommend putting the crust setting, if you have one, to light or medium.