Cycle of Good.

If you cycle, you may want to consider donating your old inner tubes to Cycle of Good – a company in Chilomoni, Malawi where people are combining battered old bicycle inner tubes from England with locally printed cloth to create wallets, pocket wallets, purses, glasses cases, pencil cases, phone cases and panniers. The company also create other recycled and eco-friendly items, such as bags made from local cloth, baskets made from palm leaves and even refurbished bicycles. Since I’ve just brought a Cycle of Good wallet for Husband (and kinda have my eye on a phone case for myself), I thought it would be a good time to write about them.

Cycle of Good is a small company – right now they only employ 10 Malawian tailors to craft their products, though their plan is to eventually employ 100. These craftspeople earn a good wage – above the national living wage – enabling them to support themselves and their families without having to rely on charity to get by. They also get paid holidays and pensions.

To learn to make the products, all the tailors have passed a 2-year diploma in Tailoring and Design, then completed further training in accessory production. The 2-year diploma teaches people how to make clothes, and is completed using old sewing machines donated from the UK (to donate a sewing machine – or a book or a bicycle – please visit https://www.krizevac.org/act-now/donate-items/). Volunteers from around the world then teach interested graduates how to make accessories.

Cycle of Good is a part of the Beehive Centre for Social Enterprise, a support hub to help people begin and maintain new businesses. These non-profit businesses together fund local community projects such as The John Paul II Leadership and IT Training Academy and the Mother Teresa Children’s Centre, which is based on the UK’s SureStart model and provides three meals a day, professional day care, healthcare, education and family support to up to 175 children, including orphans and other vulnerable children. The Beehive Centre for Social Enterprise is, in turn, supported by the Krizevac Project, a Christian charity founded by Tony Smith. See more at https://www.krizevac.org/

The wallet I got for Husband looks good, and most importantly it seems pretty robust – Husband wears his things out really quickly! However, he has a lot of cards and he can’t fit them all in the wallet, so we’re going to need to get him a card wallet too. This wasn’t a problem with the larger Mayan cotton wallet he had before (http://www.fromthemayan.com/product/recycled-mayan-embroidered-textile-wallet/), but but after only 2 years that one’s falling apart, so hopefully one made with inner tubes will last for longer! (My Mayan wallet is even older and still going strong, by the way.) The Cycle of Good wallet also has no popper or velcro to fasten it shut. At first Husband found that it was difficult to get cards in and out of the card holders because the plastic stuck to the rubber, but as it’s breaking in it’s getting better (this isn’t a problem in the main part of the wallet, as it’s lined with brightly colored Malawian cloth).

If you have inner tubes you’d like to donate, you can send them to Krizevac Project, Atlas Works, Paragon Road, Longton, Stoke-on-Trent ST3 1NR – or, if you’re in Leicester, Just Fairtrade in St Martin’s Square has become a collection point (http://justfairtrade.com/). For more about Cycle of Good, please visit https://www.cycleofgood.com/

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Just Your Average Muslim.

Just Your Average Muslim; The Unheard Voice is a book by Zia Chaudhry. It was never on my book list; I came across it by chance. But I thought it might give me a better insight into the lives of normal Muslims, so I gave it a go (by ‘normal’, I mean the ones who aren’t…you know…running around blowing themselves up and shit). It was published by Short Books and it’s RRP in England is £8:99, which translates to $12:11.

The first two chapters, The Seventies and Luck or Blessings, did what I expected the entire book to do; give a first-hand perspective on growing up and being a Muslim in England. After that, it was more the thoughts of the author on science and religion, Islamic history, recent events and modern politics, other books, and modern Islam. I’d guess a lot of it was as relevant or more relevant to a Muslim as it was to someone of another/no faith; there was plenty to think about for anyone.

This book was certainly far less boring than I had feared! It was easy to read and I learnt a lot from it. It also had a useful Suggested Further Reading list at the back.

If you’ve also read this book, or have any questions, it would be great to hear from you 🙂

 

praying

Sweet Potato and Cocoa Cake.

One thing I’ve noticed about being a polytheist/animist…my life has filled up with celebrations! Last weekend it was the spirit of the town we live in, this weekend it’s one of husband’s spirit allies, and it’s another of Husband’s spirit allies next weekend…How am I supposed to lose weight like this?!

  • 250g sweet potato
  • 2 flax eggs (2 tablespoons of ground flax mixed with 6 tablespoons of water)
  • 125g coconut oil/vegan spread (I used Vitalite)
  • 125g sugar (I used Traidcraft raw cane sugar)
  • 150g wholewheat flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • Optional; Spices to taste (I used cinnamon), 100g vegan chocolate chunks/chips (I only had this idea afterwards, but I’d like to try it in the future…preferably when I’m no long on a ‘diet’ lol).

 

  • 75g vegan spread (I used Vitalite)
  • 150g icing sugar

Begin by chopping the sweet potato into little chunks. It’s up to you if you want to peel it or not; I prefer not to peel, and then use a blender to turn it all into puree. If you don’t have a blender or prefer to mash then it’s probably better to peel, or at least to chop the peel up very finely.

Steam or boil the potato chunks until they are cooked through. How long this takes will depend on how finely you chopped them; I boiled mine for about 10 minutes.

As the potato cooks, mix up the flax eggs and leave them to thicken.

Once the potatoes are ready, drain them thoroughly and then either mash or blend them until there are no lumps.

Cream your oil/spread into  your sugar, and then add the flax eggs and potato puree.

Add all the remaining ingredients and mix into a thick batter.

Spread the batter out into a cake mold and bake at Gas Mark6/400F/200C for 45 minutes, until a small knife or toothpick stuck into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Once baked, put the cake out on a rack to cool. I find that, if you let cakes cool before taking them out of their molds, they hold together better and you lose less cake to the mold. Also, if you want to ice it, you need to let it become completely cool first.

The buttercream is simple; just mix the icing sugar into the spread, then smooth it over the cake with a knife or the back of a spoon. If/when I bake this again, I might try simply topping it with some melted orange and spice chocolate…I’ll update you.

We couldn’t really taste the sweet potato in this; it turned out like a moist, rich and fluffy chocolate cake. I was foolish enough to go back for an extra little slice and regretted it; it’s rich enough to make you feel very sick if you overdo it lol.

If you make this, or have any questions, it would be great to hear from you 🙂

sweet potato

Angel Card Readings.

I have an exciting announcement – Husband is giving out free Angel card readings!

He’s been using Angel cards for a while but he’s still learning, which is why the readings are free right now. He’s given lots of really good readings to family and friends, but never to people he doesn’t know at least a little. He’s offering readings to help him improve, so I guess you could say that your payment will be your feedback!

He mostly uses Archangel Oracle Cards or Crystal Angels Oracle Cards, deciding intuitively which deck to use and how many cards to draw. However, if you want to specify a deck or an amount of cards then you can. He does have other decks, but he’s not as familiar with those. If he gets confident enough with any of his other decks to offer readings with them, I’ll update you.

If you have a question or just want a general reading, please get in touch! As his dyslexia is quite severe, I’ll be handling the e-mails and writing up the readings. Just go to the contact page, or e-mail me at raven.amber.87@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing from you! 🙂

Ocarina.

I’ve wanted to learn to play the ocarina for years now, and since we moved from a flat to a terraced house I’ve felt like it’s possible to begin practicing without unduly disturbing my neighbors.

I first discovered ocarinas when I was twelve, on a family holiday to Scotland. I saw this fascinating little necklace that was also a musical instrument – I loved that idea. I swore blind that I wouldn’t ask for *anything else* this whole holiday – honest, Dad! – and I played the thing incessantly, to the great annoyance of Sister lol. This first ocarina was a 4-hole ‘pendant style’ – that means it was a small, circular type of ocarina. It’s made of clay, came with a little songbook and was made by Songstone Studios (https://www.amazon.com/Songstone-Ocarina-Irish-Celtic-Cross/dp/B005OKO82W). I’m not sure if they’re being made any more, because they’ve got kinda expensive.

I’m a) not naturally musical and b) skint, so I like that ocarinas are easy to learn and relatively inexpensive to buy. Husband brought me a cheap one to learn on for Christmas, and it cost him less than £5 (it was on offer at that point, to be fair). This is also made of clay, but it’s a 12-hole ‘transverse’ ocarina – meaning it’s sort of like a clay recorder that you play sideways like a flute (in fact, ocarinas are a kind of vessel flute). These often get billed as ‘Legend of Zelda’ style ocarinas, but if you wanna get technical then the Legend of Zelda ocarinas are really supposed to have the same unusual hole placement as the ocarinas in the games, like this one (https://www.songbirdocarina.com/collections/legend-of-zelda-style/products/the-ocarina-of-time-7-hole-in-alto-c). This is the one I have (https://smile.amazon.co.uk/NuoYa005-Holes-Ocarina-Ceramic-Legend/dp/B00KT2GPSK/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1526240902&sr=8-3&keywords=ocarina), and I got this book to learn with (https://smile.amazon.co.uk/Cris-Gale-Leonard-Ocarina-Method/dp/1495025144/ref=sr_1_1?s=musical-instruments&ie=UTF8&qid=1526241557&sr=8-1&keywords=hal+leonard+ocarina+method).

Unexpectedly, I’ve found learning the ocarina has been really helpful for managing my mental health problems. As I mentioned, I’m not naturally musical, so if I want to play properly then I cannot think about *anything* else – great for breaking out of the anxiety/depression ‘death spiral’. I’ve also found that it cuts off my intrusive thoughts very effectively.

Intrusive thoughts are involuntary and distressing thoughts or images that just come into your head whether you like it or not. Mine revolve around violence and come in the form of images, and I’ve been getting them since I was a young teenager. It’s like imagining something very, very vividly, except that you have no control over it. Because for years I didn’t understand what was going on, I just thought I was a bad person because I would often see things like myself stabbing one of the family dogs through the skull – at one point I would see this every time I picked up a pair of scissors or a knife, and it was a nightmare. These days they tend to feature self-harm or suicide, which I don’t find particularly distressing but which is difficult because I struggle against wanting to do those things anyway, so constantly seeing it played out before my eyes makes resisting hard. You can read more here (https://moodsmith.com/intrusive-thoughts/) and here (https://www.intrusivethoughts.org/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwxN_XBRCFARIsAIufy1aztYPAr5apA9WjLZgkMj71XY4-BDu48DFNrsH-kTk9T4n6MKeMw8QaAjcqEALw_wcB), and read one person’s experiences of intrusive thoughts here (https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/your-stories/intrusive-thoughts-my-experience/#.Wvia26QvzIU).

Seeing me play, Husband got interested too. At first he tried playing my old 4-hole pendant ocarinas, but he found them way too fiddly. He tried out my transverse 12-hole and took to that right away, so I brought him one of these (https://smile.amazon.co.uk/Miric-Ocarina-Professional-Protective-Songbook/dp/B074SDS5N8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1526243434&sr=8-1&keywords=ocarina+miric), because it was half price and he fell in love with it lol. This is a beautiful ocarina, and much easier to get a good sound from than mine. Mine sounds lovely on the lower notes, but it’s hard to get a good, solid high note. That’s partially my lack of experience and I am learning to get a better sound from her, but having played Husband’s ocarina a few times I can say that there is definitely a difference in quality and ease of playing.

Husband is dyslexic, so reading music is pretty much impossible for him. Happily, it’s easy to make ‘tabs’ for the ocarina – tiny little pictures that show you which holes to cover. I use this site (http://tabs.justinsteward.com/tabmaker/) to make tabulature sheets for him to play from, and you can easily buy song books featuring tabs too (https://www.songbirdocarina.com/collections/songbooks/products/anime-songbook-vol-1-for-12-hole-ocarina, for example).

Right now I’m saving up for a totally amazing ocarina called Synesthesia that *lights up different colours depending on which note you’re playing* (https://www.songbirdocarina.com/products/sol-synesthesia-the-ocarina-of-light). I want this so bad lol. I’d also like to try playing the bass ocarina, so once I have the awesomeness that is the Synesthesia then I’ll start saving for Shadow (https://www.stlocarina.com/shadow.html). In a few years time, once I have the regular 12-hole down, I’d also like to learn to play multi-chambered ocarinas, like these (https://www.stlocarina.com/doandtr.html).

ocarina

Unlock the True Taste of Fair Trade Tea with Traidcraft…

Monsoon of Random

Do you know where your tea comes from, how it is grown and if the people who grow and pick it are paid a fair wage?

When you buy fairly traded teas, you ensure that everyone in the supply chain, from farmer to supplier are paid a fair price. Sadly, much of the tea drunk in this country is picked by labourers who work long hours, for low pay and often under poor conditions. There are also many smallholder farms which can’t compete with huge plantations, and end up having to sell their tea cheaply, ending up in a cycle of debt and depending on the low pay from the international market.

tea

Well, I have some exciting news on the ethical tea front.  Traidcraft, the original pioneer of fair trade, has launched a brand new range of fair trade certified teas.

They’ve been supplying us with ethical tea since 1979…

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Cocoa and Hazelnut Biscotti.

We celebrated the sovereign spirit of the town we live in this weekend, and she asked for biscotti. Here’s what I made;

  • 2 tablespoons ground flax/linseeds
  • 7 tablespoons water
  • 100g wholewheat flour
  • 25g cocoa
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 75g sugar (I used cheap white)
  • 50g hazelnuts

Begin by making the flax eggs – mix the ground flax into the water and set aside to thicken.

Meanwhile, mix all the dry ingredients together until all  the flours and powders are evenly distributed.

Now stir in the flax eggs to make a stiff dough. If you don’t have enough moisture, add water a teaspoon at a time – it’s very easy to go from not being able to mix everything into dough to having a dough that’s too sticky! If you do end up with a sticky dough, just add a little extra flour.

Roll your dough into two fat logs and bake at Gas Mark 5/375F/190C for 20 minutes.

Biscotto means ‘twice baked’, so after 20 minutes take your biscotti out of the oven but leave the oven running – you’re going to need it again soon. Slice your dough into roughly 1cm rounds (I say ‘roughly’ because some of mine were definitely less than a cm, but some were closer to 2 lol). I’ve read that it’s best to use a bread knife for this, but I found that this made my biscotti crumble to pieces so I switched to a large vegetable knife and that worked much better.

Lay your biscotti flat on the tray and bake them for 3-4 minutes on each side.

Finally, lay them all out on a rack to cool. When they’re fresh out of the oven they seem more like cookies and too fudgy to be biscotti, but they get crunchy as they cool.

I got…approximately 16 biscotti from this recipe (I forgot to count when I first baked them, so ’16’ comes from adding how many are left to how many Husband and I think we’ve already eaten). They have a rich cocoa flavour and aren’t overly sweet; good for dunking.

cocoa

A Springtime Prayer to Jord

I love this!

Sarenth Odinsson's Blog

Loamy Earth, deep and rich

Full and black

Hela and Nidhogg blessed

The Dead in Your body

The soils’ life

Renewed and resurrected

Seeds dig tendrils and reach up

Mushrooms grow and spores spread

Everywhere is life

Bound up in Your Body and Breath

O holy Jord!

Life and Death unleashed

Dancing within and across Your Body

Waters fall, rivers swell

Bellies quicken, blood flows

Flesh pales, bones are cleaned

The Lakes yet live

The fish yet swim

The deer yet roam

The trees yet grow

The bees yet harvest

Sun drenched and rain soaked

Buds come forth from the trees

Grasses grow tall in the hills

Fields are carved and planted in the farms

The winds are wild and storms fierce

Spring has come in its riot

Frost and heat and frost and heat

So Kari’s breath finally lifts

All moist in the morning

As Sunna’s Charge drives off…

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Roasted Vegetable Tordu.

This is nowhere near as posh as it sounds – tordu just means ‘twist’.

  • 230ml water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 350g wholewheat bread flour
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon plant syrup/sugar (I used carob fruit syrup)
  • 1 teaspoon yeast

 

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 an onion
  • 1/2 a courgette
  • 1/2 a bell/sweet pepper (I used a green bell pepper, though I much prefer orange, yellow or red – green are a little bitter)
  • 2 tomatoes
  • Slosh of oil (I used garlic-infused olive oil)
  • Seasonings, to taste (I used a really nice za’atar by Zaytoun, but use whatever you most like. Next time I make this, I might try some pepper and chili flakes for spice, and use fresh herbs in the bread dough instead of pepper)

Begin with the bread dough – the first list of ingredients. Put the ingredients into your breadmaker in the order the machine instructions suggest – in my machine, that means putting the water in first, adding the salt to it, and then sprinkling over the flour so that it completely covers the water. I add the herbs, then make a little dip in the flour and pour the plant syrup/sugar into the dip. I sprinkle the yeast on top of the syrup, and then it’s ready to go into the machine. Set it to make dough and let it do it’s thing.

As the dough kneads, prepare the vegetables. They all need to be chopped up – the smaller you dice them now, the easier your life will be later!

Once they’re ready, throw them into a roasting tin with the oil and seasonings and mix everything together to make sure the vegetables are well coated with the seasoned oil – I find that using my hands is easiest. Then roast them at Gas Mark 6/400F/200C for about 15 minutes (exactly how long you need to roast your vegetables will depend on how finely you chopped them).

When the dough is ready, sprinkle flour over a clean work-surface and roll your dough out into a vaguely square-shaped blob around 1 1/2 – 2cm think.

Spoon your roasted vegetables over the dough, leaving a margin of about a centimeter around the edges. It’s fine if the tomatoes have disintegrated into a sort of tomato paste; just use the back of a spoon to spread it across the dough.

Take one edge of the dough and fold it into the centre, then take the opposite edge and fold it in to meet the first fold.

Roll this out a bit, and then repeat the folds.

Roll your folded bread out into a tube of dough something like 65-70cm long. This is when you’ll be glad  that you chopped your vegetables finely! But don’t worry if vegetables poke through the dough – it will all be fine once it’s baked. Pinch the ends together to seal them.

Make the dough into a u shape, and then twist into a…well, twist lol. I found it easiest to do this by holding each end of the u up, with the bottom of the u resting on the work surface, and twist like that, but do whatever works for you. If any pieces of filling fall out, just poke them back in again. As the bread bakes, it will rise up and cover any holes in the dough.

Bake your tordu at Gas Mark 7/425F/220C for half an hour, or until it sounds hollow when you tap it. Turn it out onto a rack to cool and enjoy!

As always, if you try this or have any questions, it would be great to hear from you 🙂

roast veg

Stromboli.

  • 200ml water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 350g wholewheat flour
  • Chopped basil, parsley and rosemary (I use fresh, but dried should be fine)
  • 1 teaspoon plant syrup/sugar (I used carob fruit syrup)
  • 1 teaspoon yeast

 

  • 1 tablespoon vegan pesto (I used La Sacla Number 9)
  • 150g vegan cheese (I used smoked cheddar…not particularly Italian, but it was what I had in my fridge lol)
  • Black pepper to taste

Begin by making the dough. Put the ingredients into your breadmaker in the order the machine instructions suggest. In my machine, that means putting the water in first, adding the salt to it, and then sprinkling over the flour so that it completely covers the water. I add the herbs, then make a little dip in the flour and pour the plant syrup/sugar into the dip. I sprinkle the yeast on top of the sugar, and then it’s ready to go into the machine. Set it to make dough and let it do it’s thing.

Just like with yesterdays Chelsea buns, once the dough is ready you sprinkle a little flour onto a clean surface and roll out the dough into a fat oblong(ish) shape. You want to roll the dough to roughly half a centimeter thick.

Spread the pesto over the dough, leaving a border of about 1 1/2 – 2 cm along one long side. Grate the cheese and scatter over the pesto, and then add the pepper.

Starting at the long edge that is covered with fillings, carefully roll the dough into a log. Use the border to seal the roll, and pinch the ends together so that no fillings can leak out (well…that’s the theory, anyway). Place on a baking tray, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to prove for half an hour. If your home is quite cold, it may need a little longer; try to find the warmest place you can to put them.

Use a chopstick or similar to make holes through the bread – supposedly this is where the cheese and pesto will bubble through, hence the name Stromboli (after the volcanic island). I have to admit though, not much filling escaped from my bread, and even then it came out through the ‘seams’ underneath and at the ends.

Bake at Gas Mark 6/200C/400F for 35 minutes, until golden and baked through. Place on a rack to cool, and enjoy. This is nice hot or cold – just ask Husband. He ate a *lot* of this bread today ❤

If you try these out, or have any questions, it would be great to hear from you 🙂

cheese and pesto