Posh Chocolate, Orange and Ginger Cake.

This cake turned out really nice, but the candied orange peel and ginger made it kinda pricey. It’s not that hard to make candied orange peel, which is cheaper, but it’s fairly time-consuming and I don’t have much time on my hands lately. I’d definitely make it again, but only for a special occasion (like Christmas).

  • 200g coconut oil or vegan butter spread
  • 200g sugar
  • 250g ground almonds
  • 3 mashed bananas
  • zest of 3 oranges
  • juice of 1/2 an orange
  • 75g polenta
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 50g glacé orange peel (or orange and lemon peel, if it’s cheaper…I doubt anyone will notice. No-one noticed when I did it!)
  • 50g glacé ginger
  • 100g dark chocolate, either ready-made chips or chopped into small chunks

Cream the sugar into the oil/spread, then add the other ingredients and mix into a batter.

Bake at Gas Mark 3/160C/325F until a knife or toothpick comes out clean. This is a very moist cake, so it takes a long time to bake – an hour and 20 minutes, in my case.

The boldest flavor (and scent!) in this cake is is the orange, with the ginger being more of a background note. Next time I’d like to experiment with adding more glacé ginger, using preserved ginger in syrup or maybe (the affordable option) adding ground ginger.

Being both vegan and gluten-free, it’s a good one if you have friends or family visiting.

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Devoted

Only just started following this blog, but I’m really glad I found it. I always feel…not *jealous*, but maybe a little wistful when I read poetry like this. I aim for this type of devotion, but I only catch glimpses of it from time to time.

Lokisdottirblog

I hear your heart pounding.
Let mine beat in time with yours
My wild tormentor.
Bright, shining lord of the twisted flame
Who sews mayhem
To bring about much needed change.
You kindled me and set me alight.
Now I am ablaze for you.
Devoted to you,
As I should be.
My words cannot adequately convey
Yet you would have them, eloquent one.
Receive then, my offering.
I hope it pleases you
For I have stood within your temple of fire
And watched you burn all other choices
Which I could have made
Until, wrapped and rapt in your arms
I realised that all that was left, Loki,
Was you

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Sigyn; Goddess of Carers?

It’s something in the region of eighteen months since Husband had his breakdown. He’s currently in hospital for the third time since then, and if I’m honest there’s been no significant change in his overall mental health since his first admission. He kinda gets by for a while, however difficult that may be, and then he hits tipping point and we’re back to phoning the Crisis Resolution Team and jumping in a taxi to A&E. Apparently there are no tablets that will significantly help and what he really needs is talking therapy…the waiting list for which is, of course, somewhere between nine months and two years, depending on where they eventually decide to send him. I’d be lying if I said that things haven’t been hard, and if it doesn’t look like things are going to continue to be hard for the foreseeable future.

Particularly with his first admission, Sigyn was very much there for me. It was like Loki was hanging out on the ward to take care of Husband and Sigyn had come home to look after me.  She gave me Her strength, and She also showed me a strength of my own that I never knew I had – or, to be more accurate, strength I thought I had lost long ago. She taught me many things (I wrote about this in a little more detail in https://ravensblog2017.wordpress.com/2017/04/15/sigyn/), and it was then that I began to wonder if Sigyn might not be the Goddess of carers.

It makes sense if you think about Her role in mythology; the mourning Mother holding a bowl over Her bound Husband to catch the venom and save Him from whatever pain She can spare Him from. Being a carer is not entirely unlike that some days.

She couldn’t free Him. She couldn’t take away His pain – or Hers. All She could do was hold the bowl, day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute, unable to eat, unable to rest, until She was forced to empty out the venom and feel like She was somehow failing as poison fell on Loki, despite the fact that She had no choice but to empty the bowl. I mean, at least I get to sleep and eat. But like Sigyn, I can’t actually fix the situation I’m in – Husband has the problems that he has, and nothing I can do will actually take them from him. All I can do is try to figure out the best way to help and try not to destroy myself whilst doing it.

I have twice now seen Sigyn with heavy scarring on Her face and hands, like acid burns or something. To me, this is like a visual form of what She had to suffer in the cave. It’s purely my own UPG, but from what I’ve seen it looks like venom fell on Her too – maybe it’s just something She does to illustrate a point to me, I dunno. But I understand the message; there’s a lot of collateral damage when caring. It’s not you going through whatever it is that the person you care for is suffering…Yet, in another way, it is. The snake was there to drip poison on Loki, but by choosing to remain by His side and attempt to protect Him, venom wound up burning Her too. Her sons were killed to punish Loki, but that left Her in agony too. Loki was imprisoned to punish Him, but it left Her trapped in the darkness too.

And that’s another thing…She isn’t trapped down there, technically speaking. She could actually get up and leave, and there are those who would not blame Her. There are those who would even encourage Her to do so. But what are the consequences if you run?

I ran, the second time Husband was admitted into hospital. I don’t mean that I actually left him or anything, I just…didn’t want to go through it all again. His first admission, just over a year previously, was still pretty fresh in my mind. And fresh on my skin – as I write this, I have scars from that time that have not fully healed (scars are fully healed when they go flat and pale and finally stop f***ing itching. Most websites will tell you that scars can take ‘up to a year’ to heal fully, but I can assure you that I have one or two that are taking longer). I was afraid of having another breakdown myself.

So I lied to myself – I told myself that I wasn’t so vitally important, that he had a professional psychiatrist to make the best decisions about his care and a CPN to back him up and make sure everything happened the way it was supposed to do. I’m just an uneducated bloke off a council estate, I told myself. I didn’t even finish secondary school. What do I know about what Husband really needs? All I have to do is visit and provide moral support. I don’t need to attend those stressful ward rounds where all the decisions get made.

And everyone backed me up in this cowardice. Even Husband. Everyone I know encouraged me to take a step back and let the professionals deal with it…and what happened? A far-too-early discharge from hospital, two months of Husband barely existing, and now this. And that’s just what happened when I wimped out of ward rounds. Imagine if I packed up and left entirely.

If Sigyn were to put down Her bowl and leave the cave, no-one would take up the slack for Her. The One She loves would be left to endure His agony alone. And who would She be, anyway, if She did that? The choice is clear, and yet…Gods, what a weight that is to carry. To know that if you go, all will crumble in your wake. To know that if you fail, or break, the consequences will fall on another more harshly than on you. To know that you must keep it together and fight on, no matter what the cost, no matter what the pain, with no idea when – if ever – things will get better…And to know what will happen if you don’t.

The sacrifices you make. For Sigyn, the sunlight you don’t see, the fresh air you can’t breathe, the friends and family you’ve let go of. For me, the family I’ll never have, the prosperity I’ll never see, that ‘real life’ that I see other people living but can never quite reach out far enough to touch myself. We could have those things that we want, if we just walk away from our ‘burden’…If we can live with the knowledge of what we’ve done to the person we love the most in the world, of course. If we can live with the person that doing such a thing would make us.

Which we can’t.

So we don’t.

Sigyn, and all other carers, just carry on and on and on, because all other options are unacceptable. No matter how depressed, stressed-out, suicidal, lonely or plain exhausted we may be, we find the will to keep on living and breathing somehow. Not knowing when it will end, maybe not knowing if it will end. Fighting and praying for it to end in healing and not death.

Sigyn understands every single thing you can go through as a carer, because She’s been there Herself, except worse. And I’d suggest that, perhaps, She has a special understanding of those of us who care for people with mental health problems. People are often far less understanding about mental health problems – whilst someone caring for a person with a physical disability may be praised by others (well…maybe), someone caring for a mentally ill person is far more likely to be told ‘I can’t understand why you put up with them’. Mentally ill people sometimes do strange things, or frightening things, or things that will make their problems worse. And people don’t half judge them for it, totally failing to see that their behavior is a part of their illness. Sigyn also sees Her husband judged by people who don’t understand, and She too is judged for Her choice to care for Him – even to be involved with Him in the first place. When no-one else seems to understand you or the one you care for, Sigyn will.

I thought I was done, but Sigyn has one more thing to add; She’ll be there to remind you why it’s all worth it. Every moment of pain, every tear shed, every sacrifice made, is worth going through. Sigyn can be there and remind you of that when you’ve lost sight of it.

Chocolate Chip and Walnut Loaf.

This turned out unexpectedly moreish.

  • 100g sugar (coconut is obviously better, but I used cheap white granulated sugar)
  • 100g plain wholewheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons cornflour
  • 100g coconut oil/vegan butter
  • 2 mashed bananas
  • 50g walnuts
  • 50g dark chocolate

An easy one; just mix everything together, spread the dough into a loaf tin and whack it in the oven at Gas Mark 4/180C/350F for about 50 minutes. Give it a go!

Ethical Advent Day 3 – Christmas Cards

Animal Free Research UK are great, because they’re working on alternatives to animal research and providing something better instead of saying ‘don’t do it!’ but then not providing any alternatives. Plus…that cat in the snow! 💗

Monsoon of Random

Welcome to Day 3 of my Ethical Advent Calendar.

Today is all about Christmas Cards. Whilst sending an e-card is an environmentally friendly option for many, sometimes you still need to send a real card to a friend or loved one to show you are thinking of them.

So why not send a card that makes a difference. A card that will help to fund alternatives to animal research.

Animal Free Research UK are playing a leading role in funding high-calibre, animal replacement research, with a long term vision of helping create a world where animal experiments are no longer required.

You can read more about the research they are funding and the current animal testing statistics on the website. You can buy Animal Free Research UK Christmas cards from the eBay shop, and they also have other gifts in their online shop. Donations can be made…

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Remembrance Day for Lost Species.

November 30th is the International Remembrance Day for Lost Species. Like Transgender Day of Remembrance, I feel like this ought to be a significant day for me, but unfortunately I’ve really not been in the right frame of mind (Husband is back in hospital again, and there are other things going on too – some of which are *really* good, I hasten to add, some of which are pretty awful, and all of which are absolutely exhausting). I haven’t been able to write a prayer or make much of a plan for the day, but I wanted to at least write a blog post this time around.

The focus for this year’s Remembrance Day is pollinators, so maybe signing a petition about neonicotinoid and other pesticides would be good – this one affecting Europe, for example (https://speakout.38degrees.org.uk/campaigns/ban-bee-killing-pesticides-for-good-937d4563-7694-41a8-a642-65e6b0e51453), or American readers may wanna check out this site (https://savebees.org/petitions/). Certainly in the UK there are a lot of petitions going round about bee-killing pesticides, so if you’ve already signed one you could probably sign more if you felt like it.

Another good plan might be planting some flowers native to your area that are particularly helpful to pollinators such as bees – though bees are far from the only pollinators; lots of other insects, as well as some kinds of birds, reptiles, bats and sometimes other mammals, like large spotted genets, pollinate plants too. I happen to be particularly fond of moths, so if I had a garden I’d probably look into some night-blooming flowers I could grow. Doing the research to find out what’s right for your area could also be a devotional act.

This isn’t something I can do at this time, but in the future I’d love to build a ‘bug hotel’ (http://www.wildaboutgardens.org.uk/thingstodo/inaweekend/bug-mansion.aspx). Maybe dedicate it to the Spirit of an extinct pollinator? Bat boxes are another option if that’s relevant to your area, or make changes to your garden that will benefit hummingbirds (https://www.thespruce.com/attract-nesting-hummingbirds-386412).

If you don’t have a garden but you do have a little money, it might be possible to adopt a pollinator – (http://www.devonwildlifetrust.org/shop/product/adopt-bumblebee?gclid=Cj0KCQiA0vnQBRDmARIsAEL0M1nwu6Gsqiw_6pQS8P9ysk_uecpF7UEhU7sIHvYQwr2BFIvUClr6LzkaAhPkEALw_wcB) for example, or (http://www.worldanimalfoundation.org/Adopt_An_Animal/Adopt_A_Hummingbird.html).

I wanted to read out a list of every species, animal and plant, that has gone extinct in 2017, but I wasn’t able to find one (if anyone does know where I can find such a list, please let me know). I am going to set up my ‘windowsill altar’ (a little altar in a box that I set up on the windowsill for memorial days like this, and also for the Wild Hunt and visiting Ancestors at Samhain) and light a candle once I get home from the hospital. I also would like to spend some time learning more about pollinators in general, and looking into a specific extinct pollinator (the Mauritian flying fox, perhaps?) as a kinda devotional effort.

You can find out more, and see what everyone else is doing, at https://www.lostspeciesday.org/

Festive Flapjacks.

A little odd maybe, but my family are loving them. And they’re really easy to make, too. You could create a more luxurious version by increasing the walnuts, cranberries and chocolate, but we’re having to watch the pennies right now so I’ve cut back a bit from what I would like to use. I’d suggest 75g of the walnuts and cranberries and 200g chocolate if you felt like it.

  • 175g vegan butter spread
  • 140g liquid sugar (I used golden syrup, because I found a tin when I was clearing out my cupboards. But you could probably substitute carob syrup, agave syrup, maple syrup…I imagine it would be really nice with maple syrup, but far less affordable than my version)
  • 250g porridge oats
  • 50g broken walnuts
  • 50g cranberries
  • zest of 1 orange
  • cinnamon and ginger to taste
  • 150g dark chocolate

Take a large saucepan and melt the spread into the golden syrup (or syrup of your choice). Once it’s all melted together, stir in the orange zest and spices.

Add in the oats, walnuts and cranberries and make sure everything gets coated in the butter mixture. Spread your flapjack mix into a pan and bake at Gas Mark 4/180C/350F for about 25 minutes.

Once it’s done, leave it out to cool. Then melt the chocolate and pour it over the top. There you go! All you have to do now is stick it in the fridge until the chocolate sets, slice it up and try not to eat it all at once.

And yes, I know it’s not December yet. Grinches can wait, if they really wanna.

 

Update; Once December hit I took a big batch of these to the ward Husband’s staying on for him to share with everyone (sucks to be in hospital at this time of year, the least you need is a seasonally-flavored flapjack) and I’m told that everyone liked them 🙂

Remembrance Sunday prayer + repost of ‘Why I wear a poppy’

Northern Tamarisk

On this Remembrance Sunday
I wear my Poppy to remember the fallen,
To remember my family and Ancestors Who fought and gave their lives
And hearts for freedom.
I remember those who fought
To maintain the liberties
Of their families and people,
And I honour them for their sacrifice.
May they now know peace,
May they be remembered.
May the freedom we have
Because of them
Never be taken for granted.

(c) Michelle Gilberthorpe, Northern Tamarisk, 2017

—-
You can also read my piece from last year because I feel it’s still relevant:
Full article link:Why I wear a poppy

I do not celebrate war, in fact I hope continually for the end of conflict the world over. The reason I wear the poppy is to remember people like my Grandad George, who was in the RAF and an air traffic controller in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, my Great Aunty Margaret, who…

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Samhain Prayer.

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

The light half of the year is over, and once again we enter the darkness.

Thank You, Lady Hel, Queen of the dead; You are the one Who walks by our side into the darkness, and You are the darkness we walk into.

Thank you, all of our Ancestors; all you who we can recall and all you who we have not knowingly met.

Thank you for all you have passed down to us; the stories you told, the beliefs you held,

The weaknesses and strengths of your bodies and your hearts; all these things and more have built the people who stand before you today.

We thank You, kind Gods, Goddesses, Spirits and Ancestors, for watching over us at this time.

Please bless all those who walk the Hel-Road tonight; guide all souls safely to their next incarnations.

Please bless all those who are mourning the loss of someone they love; guide them back to the lives they must be living now.

Please bless (names), all those people in our lives who have gone on ahead of us. May they have happiness and peace, and know that we are still thinking of them. All are welcome here, today and every day.

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

Cheap ‘n’ Cheerful Oat Bread.

I made this bread today from stuff I already had in my kitchen, and decided I’d share it if it turned out well, since (in England, anyway) prices for things are climbing and wages aren’t joining them. A cheap, store-cupboard bread recipe is a useful thing. With very little effort from you (slightly more effort if you don’t have a breadmaker, obviously) this makes a large loaf that is inexpensive but good for you.

  • 410ml water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegan spread, or oil if you prefer (vegetable, sunflower, olive, coconut…whatever you have knocking about)
  • 600g brown bread flour (we use a supermarket own brand and it’s perfectly fine. I’m sure you could use white flour or a blend of white and brown instead, but you may need to use less water in that case)
  • 80g oats (we buy oats in bulk, which makes them really cheap. For this bread you can use any type of oat – so if, hypothetically speaking, you’ve accidentally brought a huge bag of jumbo oats instead of porridge oats and are now stuck eating bowls of hot oats instead of porridge in the morning (it is not the same, trust me) then this is one way to use them up)
  • 3 tablespoons of some kind of sugar (a supermarket near us almost always has a plant syrup on sale, so I buy and use whichever is cheapest – usually carob, agave or date. I assume you could use granulated sugar also – I don’t think yeast is all that picky)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast (if you make bread regularly, it works out better to buy yeast in little tins rather than shelling out for sachets every time. It also makes it easier to adjust the amount)

All you need to do is put the ingredients into the machine, set it to whatever comes closest to a 900g wholemeal loaf (that’s a ‘large’ on our machine) and let technology do it’s thing. Whilst it bakes, do consider signing the petition to scrap Universal Credit…

No. Seriously.  https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/abolish-universal-credit