Chocolate, Orange and Marzipan Swirls.

Husband is crazy about these – all 12 were gone in less than 24 hours! Proceed with caution.

  • Juice and zest of 2 oranges
  • Water or additional orange juice, if necessary, to bring the total amount of liquid to 275ml
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 50g coconut oil/vegan spread (I used Vitalite)
  • 500g wholewheat bread flour, plus a little extra for sprinkling
  • 6 tablespoons plant syrup/sugar (I used agave syrup)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast

 

  • 150g marzipan
  • 150g dark chocolate/chocolate chips

 

  • Orange juice
  • Icing sugar
  • Optional; flaked almonds

Begin by making the bread dough. Put the ingredients into your breadmaker in the order the machine instructions suggest – in my machine, that means putting the orange juice in first, adding the salt, oil/spread and zest to it, and then sprinkling over the flour so that it completely covers the juice. Then I 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 is kneading, chop up your chocolate and marzipan into little cubes. Alternatively you could wait until the dough is rolled out, and then roll the marzipan out into a sheet slightly smaller than the dough.

Once the dough is ready, lightly flour a clean work surface and roll the dough out into a fat oblong about half a centimeter thick (and I have discovered how to roll oblongs instead of ovals – use a glass jar instead of a rolling pin. The shorter length allows you to kinda mold a squarer shape). Sprinkle the chocolate and marzipan out across the dough, leaving a border of about 1-1 1/2cm along one edge.

Starting at the edge opposite the clear border, carefully roll the dough into a log. Use the border to seal the roll. Cut the roll into fat slices – mine were probably about 2cm? Lie them flat on a tray, cover with a clean tea towel and leave them to rise for about 45 minutes. If your home is quite cold, they may need a little longer; try to find the warmest place you can to put them.

Once they’re ready, bake them at Gas Mark 6/200C/400F for 20 minutes, until risen and golden.

Obviously, it is necessary to eat one or two (or three or four) of these hot out of the oven. Definitely do that. But to really bring out the orange flavor, make some icing with orange juice and icing sugar (I can’t give amounts because I just do it by eye…sorry). Drizzle it liberally over any swirls that remain, then scatter them with flaked almonds. Mmmmmm…

marzipan

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Father’s Day Gift Ideas 2018.

Here I am again with gift ideas 🙂

Last year I mentioned Ecoffee Cups (read more about them at https://ravensblog2017.wordpress.com/2018/04/05/ecoffee-cups/). This year, I’m going to recommend Huskup (http://www.huskup.com/). We’ve recently begun to stock these where I volunteer. They look like plastic coffee cups, but they’re not – they’re made from rice husks. This is really cool because they’re taking a by-product from milling rice and turning it into something that can reduce plastic waste!

If you’re looking to splash out a bit more, a really nice shirt might be an idea. Nomads is an ethical fashion company with UK designers and Indian manufacturers. They are Global Organic Textile Standard certified, and a member of both the British Association for Fair Trade Shops and the Ethical Fashion Forum. They use organic cotton and their collections feature hand-loomed, hand-embroidered and block-printed pieces inspired by the textile traditions of India. To put the (organic, Fairtrade) cherry on the (vegan) cake, you can get 20% off men’s shirts right now! See the collection at  https://www.nomadsclothing.com/MensShirts?utm_campaign=19+Men%27s+shirts&utm_source=emailCampaign&utm_medium=email&utm_content=

Maybe you already saw my company profile on Cycle of Good? (https://ravensblog2017.wordpress.com/2018/05/24/cycle-of-good/). I’d say that any of the inner tube items would make a great Father’s Day gift – manly, practical, fair trade and eco-friendly. Can it get any better than that?!

Well…the problem with a wallet made from inner tubes is that you can’t eat it. The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, right? That’s certainly true of me, my husband and my Dad. If your Dad (/Grandad/step-Dad/other father-figure) has a sweet tooth, think about Traidcraft’s latest luxury chocolate range, Eat Your Hat – organic, Fairtrade, and free from GMOs, artificial colors and preservatives. The packaging is completely recyclable and compostable – even the ‘foil’ is plant-based. The dark 75%, dark 95% São Tomé, dark with Brazilian mandarin and dark with Sri Lankan turmeric and black pepper are all vegan – great for vegan Dads, but also useful if, like my Dad, your Dad is lactose-intolerant. There are also 3 milk chocolate bars and 2 ‘libraries’ (both of which are on offer right now, but which both unfortunately also contain milk bars). Check out the full range at  https://www.traidcraftshop.co.uk/producers/eat-your-hat

If your Dad (/gift recipient of some variety) is not so keen on sweets, maybe something like high-quality Palestinian olive oil would be better. Zaytoun is a community-interest company that sources premium quality organic produce from small-scale farmers, and they began with olive oil. Now they sell lots of things, including award-winning maftoul and freekeh, the za’atar I use to make my Easter roast (https://ravensblog2017.wordpress.com/2017/04/16/easter-roast-with-zaatar/) and the best dates I have ever tasted *in my life*. Have a look for yourself; https://www.traidcraftshop.co.uk/producers/zaytoun?product_list_limit=30

I hope this has been helpful and given you some ideas. If you have any more good Father’s Day ideas, please feel free to share them 🙂

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Pride Month.

As it’s Pride Month, I figured I should write about being trans and pan.

Being pansexual is easier for me to write about, so I’ll start with that. As a kid, I was aware that some people were gay and some people were straight, and I thought everyone fell into one camp or the other. I was also aware that I found men and women pretty much equally attractive (I mean…how can *anyone* choose between Han Solo and the Caramel Bunny?!), but I didn’t feel worried about that because I’d been told that young people often went through ‘phases’, and my sexuality may not ‘settle down’ until I was older. I don’t think I came across the term ‘bisexual’ until I was…like 19? And instantly, I knew that that was me. It just made sense.

I didn’t come across the term ‘pansexual’ until I was 26. For everyone who doesn’t know what pansexual means, it means that I just can’t resist skillets gender isn’t a factor in whether or not I find a person attractive. It doesn’t mean that I’m attracted to *everybody*, any more that a straight person is attracted to absolutely anyone of the opposite gender or a gay person is attracted to absolutely anyone of the same gender. It also doesn’t mean I’m attracted to children or animals (rolls eyes). I know a lot of people use bisexual to mean pansexual, but I prefer pansexual because it inherently acknowledges genders other than male and female. Down with the gender binary.

I’m perfectly fine with being pan, and my family have been fine with it too. I never even had to come out! I’m lucky. Being trans is…muddier. I’m absolutely not ashamed to be transgender; I’ve never tried to hide it. At the same time, I completely hate it. If I could be cis, I would. (Cisgender is just the opposite of transgender; you feel like you are the gender you were assigned at birth. It’s not some kind of cuss. And no, it’s not just ‘being normal’.)

A lot of the reason I hate being trans is how difficult other people make it. It takes absolutely forever to access treatment, unless you can afford to fund it for yourself. I was referred to a gender clinic when I was 26; I’m now 30 and have yet to be permitted to have any kind of medical treatment. I find the assessments and paperwork really stressful (mental illness strikes again), and the situation just seems to drag on and on with nothing to show for it. It drives me crazy that other people have control over how and when I transition, and I really worry how Husband will cope when I am eventually given access to treatment and he’s still stuck waiting. I also worry about how Husband will feel when I start on testosterone and my body begins to change, because he prefers women. So I feel a lot of guilt for transitioning to male. Another problem is that I don’t pass (which means that, despite my best attempts, I still look like a woman), so I’m *constantly* misgendered, even by people who have been told that I’m a man. Even by family members who have been aware of my trans identity for 4 years now. Being trans is like a weight around my neck that keeps me down, and if I’m honest I sometimes wonder if I’d have been better off to keep pretending and living as a woman. Sometimes I wonder if it’s too late to back out. I am absolutely exhausted by the whole thing.

It’s not all bleak. I’ve become far more confident and less anxious since I came out as trans, and at least I understand myself now. I’ve also learnt so much about gender! Like, really, it’s a whole new world lol. I keep telling myself that I just have to hold on and get through this, and that it will all be worth it in the end. Maybe by Pride Month 2019 it will all be different?

Not Good Enough.

I’ve written a little bit before about how the Gods have been there for me when things have been bad in my life (specifically, when Husband has been in hospital). But during his first two admissions They really had to come to me, because I wasn’t going to Them very much.

Because I was struggling, I wasn’t doing all the devotional practices that I should do – regular prayer, meditation, et cetera. I felt like I couldn’t approach Them and ask for help because I wasn’t being a good enough devotee to request anything from Them. This was especially prevalent during hospital admission #2, since I’d had my own lil’ breakdown by that point and was, frankly, all over the place. It’s not that I ever stopped talking to Them, but I definitely pulled away because I felt like, since I wasn’t giving my best to Them, it was wrong to present myself to Them at all – much less ask for or accept anything from Them.

Not long after hospital admission #3, They managed to get through to me and tell me that I’m supposed to lean on them at times like this. It is, apparently, an integral part of the relationship. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I only cut myself once during that third admission, managed my eating in a more healthy way, and just dealt with the situation better in general.

With a more removed perspective, I can see how this is logical. I wouldn’t expect someone to be able to give me their best in a relationship if they were struggling to cope with their life – it would be a time for me to help them without expecting anything in return. Maybe that seems obvious to you, but I was so busy thinking about how I don’t want to be someone who only speaks to the Gods when things are bad and forgets all about Them when things are good that I didn’t realize that it was okay – normal, in fact – to take without giving during emergencies. All deep relationships go through times like that – and when things are better, the balance evens out. That’s part and parcel of any strong relationship.

I was told that relying on Them through bad times would bring me closer to Them, and They were right. It strengthened our relationships, brought us closer and showed me that I could trust Them (if you’d have asked me before this if I trusted the Gods, I’d have said ‘of course! 100%!’, but it turns out that my issues with trust go deeper than I realized lol. Because clearly I actually didn’t Them – or, more accurately, the relationship I had with Them. Or my worthiness to be helped. Fuck, I don’t know. Ask my psychiatrist).

Yesterday morning, as I was attempting, through a fog of exhaustion, to put my clothes on in the right order, Loki ‘spoke’ to me. The impression I received was His compassion for lives that are in a mess – people who are struggling, who can’t keep up with the things they need to do to keep their lives in order, who are fighting with themselves and their problems (people like me lol). I don’t know why He chose that moment to give me that message, but it’s brought me another step closer to Him – because I know I can go to Him, with my endless mess and inadequacy, and receive understanding instead of judgment. I guess I kinda knew that already, on an intellectual level…But my feelings were still more that I was worried about not being good enough, and I was expecting negative judgment because I was negatively judging myself, so it seemed logical that everyone else would too. I guess sometimes someone has to show you that you can trust them.

I used to worry a *lot* about not being good enough for the Gods – not doing enough, not giving enough…and I didn’t realize it, but I was actually putting a barrier between me and Them with that attitude. Now I’m realizing that They don’t just want me at my absolute best, it’s actually allowing me to do more of all those things I felt bad for not doing enough of.

Black Pepper and Lemon Bread.

  • 200ml plant yogurt (I used vanilla soy)
  • Juice and zest of 2 lemons
  • Plant milk (I used soy), added to the lemon juice so that you have a total of 165ml liquid. Don’t worry if the milk curdles.
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil/vegan spread (I used Vitalite)
  • 675g wholewheat bread flour
  • 5 tablespoons plant syrup/sugar (I used agave syrup)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast
  • Black pepper, to taste (I used…about a teaspoon?).

Load all the ingredients into your breadmaker in the order the machine instructions suggest. In my machine, that means putting the yogurt, plant milk and lemon juice in first, adding the salt and lemon zest to it, and then sprinkling over the flour so that it completely covers the yogurt, juice and plant milk. I add the pepper, 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 plant syrup, and then it’s ready to go. Set it to make a 900g wholemeal loaf (that’s a ‘large’ on my machine) and let it do it’s thing. You’re done!

The yogurt, lemon and pepper all come through to make this a flavorful bread – good enough to just eat plain. I also like it toasted with a little vegan spread, and Husband likes it with Lotus spread (then again, he’ll eat pretty much anything if you put Lotus spread on it).

Individual Practice

I completely agree with this and wanted to share it 😊

Northern Tamarisk

I am very much in support of a practice that caters to a person’s individuality. While tradition has its place it can, at times, place constraints on how people practice, and how they approach and work with Deities. Part of my aim here is to encourage people to discover individual levels of practice, and to provide ideas for different ways to connect. It’s something I’ve been doing since the beginning, though I didn’t realise it until very recently. It is something I believe in strongly, and while I respect traditional practitioners, there is more encouragement needed for people on non-traditional pathways.

Our connection to Deity and/or Spirit is unique, and that can often be downplayed. I’ve seen more being written about what constitutes ‘right practice’, but ultimately I believe in doing what is right for you and the way the Gods/Spirits work with you as the person you are. Your…

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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. He suggested ideas around reform that I guess may be controversial, like changing the fasting times at Ramadan to fit the clock rather than going by sunrise and sunset, but I can’t really judge because I just don’t know enough about how modern Muslims view their faith. He’s certainly enthusiastic about Islamic history, and I learnt a lot of new things about that (to be honest though, I knew sod all about Islamic history beyond ‘Saladin seems like kind of a cool guy’).

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 🙂

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 🙂

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! 🙂