I’m not sure if I first fell in love with Robert Burns’ works as a child because of my love of Scotland, or if I fell in love with Scotland because of Robert Burns’ poetry.
I do know that these loves they go hand in hand.
Burns Night is a celebration of Robert Burns, who was born on January 25, 1759 in Alloway Scotland. People around the world host Burns Night gatherings, honoring Rabbie with song, dance, drinking, feasting, the playing of pipes, and by reciting his great literary works.
This year we decided to get in on the festivities, and prepared with the purchase of our Weebox from Scotland, which was Burns themed in The Late Great Poet’s honor.
This is our third box, and I was not disappointed (haven’t been yet!). In it we found a Burns Cottage Candle, Shortbread Cookies, a bagpipe charm, an Ailsa Tweed Handbag, and place cards for our Rabbie Burns Night supper.
So while we will not be serving the traditional Haggis, or playing the pipes personally, we will be feasting on a traditional Scottish dish, Cock a Leekie soup, drinking a dram o’ whisky in Rabbie’s honor, and breaking into our Raspberry and White Chocolate Shortbread Bites from Loch Ness Bakery.
For a wee bit o’ yer own Burns Night fun and festivities, follow the link to hear the traditional Piping in the Haggis.
If you want to try your hand at making Haggis, here’s your chance!
After the meal, it’s time to toast, beginning with a toast the man of the hour, be sure to end your memorial toast with “to the immortal memory of Robert Burns.”
Now would be a good time to read a few poems. Here is a list I found on line of some of his more beloved works. If you don’t like reciting poetry (who doesn’t like reciting poetry!?) here is a link to one of his finer poems, “A Mans a Man for A’ That.”
At the end of your night, be sure to sing one of his most popular poems, which is sung at least (at the very least) once a year … Auld Lang Syne. And according to the directions on how to have a great Burns Night provided by Weebox, “remember to cross your arms and join hands, only when you get to the line: “And there’s a hand, my tursty fiere, and gie’s a hand o’ thine.”
I dunno about you, but 2021 left me scratching my head, filled with a surreal sense of standing on a shore between the past and the future as I watched the continued shifting sands of reality nearly knock me off my feet.
Like many, my first thought was ‘good riddance’ to the tsunami we called 2021. Falling asleep beside David as we welcomed the new year in behind our drooping eyelids while neighbors somewhere around the corner shot off fireworks, I questioned what was so horrible about 2021? What treasures could I uncover beneath the shifting sands to carry into the new year?
And as I dug deep I found Gratitude. So I said farewell to 2021 with thanks. 2021 was filled with a lot of goodness, despite everything else. And that’s what I’m bringing into 2022. Good thoughts. Appreciation. And Hope.
The start of 2021 introduced an old acquaintance, and for the third time in my life I defeated cancer. No lie, I was afraid. But I did not let my fear consume me. I forged on and found empowerment. A year later I can honestly say that I am kick ass and unstoppable!
Throughout the year, we said good bye to loved ones—through death, through their moving away, and just life. But we also said hello to so many family and friends we got to meet for the first time, see for the first time in a long time, and just be around throughout summer days that brought a sense of security as we met outside and pandemic infections and death rates dropped.
In February, we lost David’s mom, and as heartbreaking as it was, we know she is at peace and not suffering anymore. And her death brought a lot of loved ones into our lives who we had lost touch with over the years.
I got to reconnect with my kin down south, including my grandmother of 96 years, and rellies we’ve not seen in decades. And I got to meet their children and children’s children and it was mindblowing.
We survived another year of the pandemic. We kept our jobs.
I released LOVE IN THE FOREST, Book 1 of the Earth and Sky series; signed the contract with Soul Mate Publishing for Book 2, LIFE IS FOR LIVING, and began writing Book 3, LOST IN YOUR RHYTHM.
I got accepted into a social work Master’s Program (then declined due to finances). But still, I GOT ACCEPTED INTO A MASTERS PROGRAM AT 58 YEARS OLD. Mind blowing.
My educational goals were not hindered by that decision, as I took a death midwifery training course, which was something I’ve wanted to do for more than a decade.
We got to kayak (which we did not get to do in 2020), drum, garden. We camped in our Forevermore a few times and had a blast.
We got to see STOMP! at the Stanley Theater in Utica, which was very cool, because my hero Jack Issa in LOST IN YOUR RHYTHM is a former THUMP! performer, so I got to see “him” in action.
We haven’t seen the kids since Thanksgiving, due to COVID exposures and their insistence to keep me safe. We will see one another in the new year, and that thought keeps me strong.
Not seeing them helped me understand myself a lot better, and helped me explore what it means to be a Pagan in a very Christian world. This year, without the kids, Solstice was our main holiday except for the awesome Christmas Eve celebration my sister holds each year. With just David and I focusing on Solstice, we found a sense of peace, hope, love, and stability. We acknowledged the one constant that we could hold on to in this crazy, ever-changing world that of late has been so filled with uncertainty. Faith. In each other, our spiritual path, and the promise of tomorrow that is kept with each rising sun.
As we move forward into 2022, I am filled with a sense of peace, hope, love, and most importantly, an understanding that as long as we stay focused on the positives that surround us, as long as we live honestly and kindly, we will be okay.
2022 will bring what we set our intentions for regardless of what happens. Peace is not found in an absence of strife, but in how we handle that strife.
I wish you a year filled with success, health, wealth, happiness, and above all, Peace.
I’m not reading enough. Between working full time, taking care of the house, chores, cooking, SLEEP, not to mention seeing friends and family on occasion, AND writing, marketing, researching, and taking trainings, by the time I get to pick up a book for enjoyment I’m falling asleep. I’m usually curled up in bed, just before midnight, on my side with my tablet or a book clutched precariously in my hands as I doze off after scouring a few paragraphs which will no doubt need to be re-read the next night.
That is about to change.
For 2022, my gift to myself is reading time, with absolutely no responsibilities attached to it. For the most part.
Each month, I will highlight the author and book listed in the image above. I will provide their website, link to their book, and an image of the book itself. When I’m finished, I will do a review and rating both on my website, and at the review site of their choice (probably amazon).
But for now, here is the information I’ve collected. Thanks to all the authors who participated. I’m so looking forward to reading your favorite works.
To my readers, check out the list, check out the authors. Drop by their pages, give a shout out, buy their books. Most of all, keep reading!
Celebrating Winter Solstice beginning on December 1
Winter Solstice brings a time of hope, reassurance, and knowing that no matter how dark the night can be, the sun will always rise.
Counting down to Winter Solstice is a tradition we began in December, 2020. A friend of ours shared the concept during a Zoom gathering at a time when we could not meet in person because of the pandemic ravaging the world.
My husband David and I set up a spiral consisting of 20 tea lights, with one pillar candle at center on a metal tray. We arrange the tealights in a counterclockwise pattern (or widdershins) as we are ushering out the darkness with every candle lit. Some might say we should set the spiral in a clockwise or deosil pattern, to help manifest light.
We prefer to embrace the darkness, and ease it from our life one day at a time, giving thanks for the gifts that come from the darkness: sleep, regeneration, healing, transformation, creation being a few. As the spiral grows in light, the thanks we give adjusts to consider blessings like life, warmth, light, food, good times, rebirth and other similar concepts.
This holiday is more real to me than any Christmas I ever experienced. It is an event that has been occurring since the birth of the Earth. And there is no disputing this. There is no made up Santa, created by Coca Cola. There is no dispute about when this event originally occurred, whether it was in the spring or the summer. Just look up in the sky.
We aren’t worshipping the sun. It isn’t evil, although many people say that Pagans are evil or devil worshippers. We are giving thanks for the sun that lights our world, warms our Earth, and gives us life. It’s not evil. It’s one of the most sacred acts I’ve ever experienced.
So we begin our celebration on December 1, lighting the tealights each night for 20 days. If my math is correct, we use approximately 210 tea lights throughout the 20 days. Then, on the 21st day, shortly before dawn on December 21, my husband and I light all the candles once more, completing the spiral by lighting the center pillar candle.
We then take the pillar candle outside and in the shadowed folds of dawn, we wait for the exact moment of sunrise, then light our Solstice Fire as we celebrate the rebirth of the sun and say farewell to the longest night of the year. We return the pillar to the spiral and allow it to burn down throughout the day.
The first hour or so we sit bundled around the fire, sipping hot cocoa, contemplating the fire, the silence, the awakening of the day, and the life that lays before us. We try not to do anything that resembles work, as it is a day of contemplation and celebration. Normally, in the past (pre-pandemic) we’ve opened our house to friends and family, inviting them to celebrate Solstice by dropping good wishes written on paper into the fire.
The past two years, we’ve only invited close friends or family to stop by throughout the day, so that there are not more than a couple people at the fire at any given time. It’s been much more subdued these last two years, but I feel that this is heralding a change in our life, and change is not bad.
We have friends who begin the celebration the night before, building a fire and keeping it burning through the night. At dawn, we take over and burn the fire through the day. Then at dusk we have more friends who set a fire and keep it burning, completing the cycle. It wasn’t planned this way, but this is who we are, and the Universe has brought us together.
So as we move through the Wheel of the Year, the sun continues to grow stronger until Summer Solstice, when we celebrate the sun at the peak of its journey. Come the equinoxes that fall between the solstices, we celebrate the balance presented at that time, when there are 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of evening.
These are constant events, not marked in books or proselytized by soft drink companies or television cartoons, that bring proof and validity of the miracle of life, and the wonders of the Universe. They are real. They are true. And they are sacred celebrations as timeless as the Universe and older than humanity.
And at day’s end, as the sun sets, we know this truth. That no matter what happens, the sun will rise again on the morrow. No matter how dark your nights are, wrap it around you like a warm cloak, and know that the light and warmth of day is never far away.
This is one of my favorite celebrations of the year because it gives all Fruitcake Lovers a chance to stand united and unabashedly proclaim their love of fruitcake!
My appreciation of fruitcake was not recognized until well into my adulthood, even though my mom made this a favorite holiday tradition she kept faithfully year after year.
Come November, Mom would pull out her beloved and tattered recipe, make a shopping list of the ingredients. Beginning just before Thanksgiving, Mom would buy the candied fruits, the pecans, the dates and raisins, and lovingly stack them on the counter by the fridge until the first week of December. Money was tight back then, and to buy everything in one stop would impact the family of six weekly food budget. She always put her daughters first, wearing Dr. Scholl’s sandals and socks in the winter so we could have boots and warm clothes. But when it came to splurging on fruitcake ingredients, she figured out how to do it with the least impact to her family.
I remember Mom lovingly stirring the ingredients together, pouring them into individual small loaf pans intended as gifts, then set them in the oven to bake for an hour at 275 F. She always put a lot of effort, a lot of love, into this tradition and carefully considered who would be blessed with a fruitcake each year. Her four daughters, her brother- and sister-in-law, and her mother were always definite recipients.
We would tease her about her fruitcake passion, but each year she would give us a loaf wrapped in shiny silver tinfoil with a bow on top. Some of us would eat it, some would toss it, and others would hide it in their pantry to be forgotten. It was Mom’s thing, and she didn’t care about the jokes at all. She would eye us knowingly, waiting patiently for us to one day figure it out.
For me, that happened in December, 2012, the first Christmas after she passed away. I finally got it, and picked up the torch that had been handed me with a sense of urgency I’d never known. I began stockpiling the ingredients a little later than she had, but nevertheless, my quest to carry on her tradition was born.
Nine years later, I’m still missing Mom. In her honor each year, I have continued carrying on her tradition. I remember that first Christmas I took over. As I looked in the bowl of mixed ingredients I remembered. As I poured the batter into individual loaf pans, I recalled her doing the very same thing. As they baked, I pondered who would be the lucky giftee of a tiny fruitcake, wrapped in tinfoil with a bow on top.
This year the fruitcakes almost didn’t get baked, despite all the ingredients stockpiled in the corner of my kitchen. But the night before Christmas Eve the calling came. As if Mom had channeled her fruitcake-baking-energy from Beyond the Veil, although I was exhausted, I stirred the ingredients together, noticing how much my hands resembled hers.
Traditional Christmas classics played, two cups of coffee (one for me, one for her) were poured, and we shared the same conversation we have since she passed and I began the Fruitcake Tradition. I told her how much I loved following in her footsteps. And she told me to add a bit more cinnamon. This year she also gave me permission to adapt the recipe and add almonds if I wanted to. So I did.
Later, after the loafs were baked and cooled, I wrapped them in parchment paper and tinfoil and thanked her for instilling in me her love of fruitcake, tradition, and giving.
My kids are grown, and they now have been handed the torch of teasing me about fruitcake and I wonder who, in years down the road, will carry on the Fruitcake Tradition when I am sitting Beyond the Veil with my mother once again, drinking coffee and eating fruitcake as we watch on, guiding them through the process. I’m not sure if National Fruitcake Day was around when Mom was alive. But if we’d known about it, we would have celebrated together. So, today my sister is coming by for coffee, and I’m going to slice up a piece of fruitcake. We are going to raise our mugs high and toast Mom for all the love she gave, and the traditions she left behind with her passing.
While we don’t celebrate Samhain until the actual astrological date (this year it is November 6), and our kids are all grown, and we live in the country so we haven’t ever had a Trick or Treater come to our house for candy, we do still celebrate the season. Ever since we moved to the Valley, I’ve spent Halloween with my sister and nephews.
Every year we go down to my sister who lives in the village and we get to have fun with the Trick or Treaters who visit her house. This year my nephew and his girlfriend joined us, and we had a lot of fun scaring the kids and adults alike. It’s a tradition as strong as Thanksgiving, and as long as she’s lived in the village we never missed one. We’d get pizza and beer or wine and dress the kids up head on down for a quick bite to eat then we’d hit the streets with the kids. When mine got old enough to go alone, I had the honor of walking with Jeana and the Boys. Now the boys are grown and my kids have moved away. But we still get crazy on Halloween.
For many, the Halloween season ends after Halloween. But for us, this season of honoring our Dead begins on October 1 and doesn’t end until the day after Samhain. After Halloween at Jeana’s, we came home and hosted our annual Dumb Supper. We did not have one last year, and this year we cut the guest list by about 80%, but it was still quite lovely. I’ll post those pics another day.
So here are some pics of the Halloween shenanigans we got up to at Jeana’s – after she made me my first ever Moscow Mule. Thank you, Jeana, for giving us a place to go to celebrate the spooky and zany goings on of the season! I love you!
For many, when they talk about the holidays, chances are they’re focusing on the traditional trio—Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. But for me the holiday season begins in September with the Autumn Equinox and lasts until February (Imbolc). Once Imbolc is celebrated, that gives us a month to pack up the winter decorations and focus on the promise of life with coming Spring.
Being Pagan gives me reason to celebrate Life all year ’round really (ask me about The Wheel of the Year), but the most special time for me is the Autumn and Winter holidays.
The Autumn Equinox marks the beginning of the dark part of the year, where we begin winterizing our lives. We harvest the last crops from our gardens, put the outdoor furniture away, prep the house by getting the furnace checked and ordering heating oil, pull out our warmer clothes, and… decorate for the first part of the season!
The week following the Equinox we usually decorate outside. We pack away our wind chimes and garden gnomes and replace them with ghosts, witches, skeletons and spiders.
Come the first week of October we turn indoors. We aren’t really into gory Halloween decorations that many people love to display this time of year. We collect witch figurines, skeletons, crows, pumpkins. And while our crows stay out year long, this is when we pull out the fun stuff.
While we decorate for Halloween, the actual holiday we celebrate is Samhain (pronounced SOW when). This is a time to honor and acknowledge the loved ones we’ve lost, our blood ancestors, those who lived on the land we now live on, and our spiritual heritage.
We honor them with an Ancestors Altar that stays up all year round, but this time of year we spruce it up a bit, by adding mementos, more photos, and more candles. This year we will pay special tribute to my mother-in-law, Lauretta Phillips, who passed in January.
We also host something called a Dumb Supper. This is a beautiful and moving tribute to those who have passed on. Our Dumb Suppers’ past have included as many as 20-25 people. The 2019 Supper was a bit smaller. We did not host one during the pandemic in 2020, but we plan to host a very small, more intimate event this year.
The way a Dumb Supper works is pretty simple. Everyone attending brings a dish, dessert, or drink to pass that is connected to the loved one they are honoring. They also bring a photo or memento to place on the Ancestors Altar. The event is lit only by candlelight (black candles preferably). The table is decorated (ideally) in all black. Black tablecloths, napkins, plates, eating utensils, glasses – as much as possible. Over the years, I’ve collected the dinnerware, utensils, cloth napkins and tablecloths, but in the beginning I used paper products which you can pick up at any party supply store, especially this time of year.
The shared fare brought by everyone is set up in the kitchen- buffet-style. Everyone describes the dish they brought, how it is connected to their loved one, who they are honoring. We share a memory or story about each of our loved ones we are memorializing. Then, we hold a drawing to determine who will have the honor of filling the Ancestors’ plate, which is then set at the head of the table. (I call it the Dead Head of the table.) Once the Ancestors have been “Served,” everyone fills their plate, taking a little bit of each dish shared. We then retire to the dining room where we eat in complete silence—not even whispers are allowed.
The mealtime is used to memorialize internally our loved ones, recall memories, maybe be open to receiving a message they may wish to share with us. I provide paper and pens for everyone so that they can jot notes. I’ve had conversations with loved ones, been inspired to write poetry, and sometimes I’ve just spent the time remembering them and the good times. People are welcome to share what they experienced once the meal is over, but no one is required to share anything if they so choose.
If, after reading this, you’d like to try to host a Dumb Supper and you have questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was receiving so much wonderful feedback about how everyone loved Josh and Brooke and wished they could visit Earth and Sky Retreats, and how they wished there was a dating site like QuirkyFlirt.com.
Well, as a writer, I can only do so much. I can’t afford to open a retreat like Earth and Sky, but I can do my best to bring it to my readers. So I created a line of Earth and Sky Merch so you can drink coffee out of an Earth and Sky mug along with the rest of the Earth and Sky crew.
I also enlisted the aid of my talented and amazing future daughter-in-law, Jolene, who is an AMAZING silversmith and makes the most beautiful and unique pieces of jewelry. I featured her online shop in the Earth and Sky Series, and made it brick and mortar shop in the (fictitious) town of Demilune, NY. Can you guess by the name which actual New York town I used as inspiration for Demilune? Sending me the answer to email@example.com will get you an entry to win that fabulous necklace pictured above!
After reading the book, Jo was inspired to create the piece Josh gives Brooke. She made two-I have one and one of my lucky readers will win the second, pictured above. Lucky me! and hopefully, lucky you!
There are other prizes, and more to come. Here are a few I’ve collected already:
All you have to do for a chance to win any of this (and more) is download the 25 quests in The Hunt. Some of them require purchases, but many do not. You can enter simply by sharing posts and sending me your email so I can keep track of entries and so I can contact you when you win! I promise I won’t use your info for spam or share it with anyone. I promise. If you do sign up for my newsletter, I will be sending you newsletters when I publish them.
So start checking off your Scavenger Hunt list today, share my posts, send me piccies of you holding the items requested, and have some fun as we celebrate my release of the Earth and Sky Series.
To help you start off, here is a sample of the LOVE IN THE FOREST collection by Nurtured by Nature Designs. Aren’t they beautiful?? Visit Jo’s page and you get another entry into The Hunt. Buy a piece and it’s a double win, you get a beautiful piece of jewelry to wear AND an entry into The Hunt! It’s that easy!
Jump on the train that leads to Earth and Sky Retreats in Demilune, NY by grabbing your own copy of LOVE IN THE FOREST, available at the following locations:
Amazon.com Keep in mind, if you are buying from amazon.com there are second hand sellers who will reap all the profits. So if you see the print copy for more than $15.99 at amazon, that’s a second hand seller. Better to buy the print version from Barnes and Noble, and the digital or KU copies from amazon.com.
So, there we are. Have fun getting to know Brooke and Josh and the rest of the Earth and Sky gang! And good luck in the Scavenger Hunt!
We will be holding the drawing on the Autumn Equinox. So get your quests in and join in on the fun!
I can never be idle. When I’m idle, I’m usually napping. I have a difficult time giving myself permission to just “be.” That includes watching television or movies, or curling up in a comfy chair with a good FICTION book. I can sit on my porch and be idle, but that is dependent on the weather and bugs, as it’s not screened in. And, even then, I’m mentally listing my To-Do’s lined up for when I get done idling.
My day usually consists of getting up early and writing or doing writing-related tasks until it’s time to start my day job. Then I work from home anywhere from 10 to 6 hours a day doing work stuff. By then I’m a bit worn out, so I take a break before it’s time to do house chores, errands, cook a meal. After dinner, if I’m not burnt out from an unusually emotionally rough day with clients, I’m back to writing or promoting.
When I’m writing, I feel torn between writing and promoting. Or writing and cleaning, or writing and working. When I’m working, I’m worrying about the chores not getting done. When I’m doing chores, I berate myself for “procrastinating” and not writing.
Sometimes it’s a no win situation every step of the way.
So these last three weekends we’ve spent time getting away from the house by camping and visiting friends and family in an effort to create some fun-time. And it’s been wonderful. We started August off with a family camping trip to Kindervolk, my husband’s aunt and uncle’s family retreat up by Lake Placid.
The second weekend in August we spent up at Long Lake/Racquette Lake visiting with friends. We helped hang Kaz’s GLORIOUS set of windchimes that are perfect for healing the soul. Their melody is deep and rich and soft and not healing.
We got to go out on the lake and commune with nature, and just BE.
We ended that trip with a stop into an Irish Pub in Indian Lake called McShanes. WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT! I went completely off my gluten-free, no meat eating plan and had a Reuben, as per the chef’s suggestion as it is his favorite dish to make. And no wonder. It was yummy! But so was the selection of beers. Again, I opted for a gluten filled beer, an old favorite, Smithwicks (properly pronounced Smiddicks.) I don’t see those locally too much, so I couldn’t resist!
Finally, this past weekend, David and I went with my sis, Jeana, and her son/my nephew Matt, and our furnephew, J-J-J-Jett! (woohooo oooooh ooooh oooh) to Cranberry Lake, NY. At one point, Jeana and I actually sat and stared at one another a little dazed and out of our element, both acknowledging it felt “weird” to not have to do anything.
I tried to write here and there, but to be honest, it felt so good to just laugh and be silly with my baby sis while David and Matt went kayaking or worked on fire starting techniques, that I felt NO GUILT at putting Liza and Jack (Book 3 of Earth and Sky Series, LOST IN YOUR RHYTHM) on the back burner for a bit.
Another fun thing we did in August that was absolutely not physically productive was seeing STOMP at the Stanley Theatre in Utica, NY. I’ve been following STOMP since the late 90s and always wanted to see them, but never had the chance. When I learned they were going to be in Utica, it was perfect timing! I’ve been working on my 3rd Earth and Skies book, LOST IN YOUR RHYTHM, and Jack is a former THUMP! Performer (which is my made up world’s version of STOMP!). So to see them perform on stage, while we sat three rows away from all the action, was just amazing. We couldn’t take photos during the performance, but here is the stage before the show started and here are me and David fully masked and practicing social distancing as safely as possible!
Let’s not forget our jaunt to the newly purchased Italian Feast in Little Falls, owned and run by my nephews James and Matt, and their dad, Curt. The EGGPLANT PARM is second only to MINE. I will be re-ordering that again. (Okay, another gluten-filled meal. I paid for it later but it was worth it!)
And as August comes to a close, signs that summer is waning and Autumn is around the corner are evident. We are signing off the summer with a 50th birthday party for a friend, and then kicking off September with a D&D game with my kids. And then Autumn will officially kick off with a Mabon celebration and birthday party for my hubby at the end of September.
And, in keeping with the way I started this blog…Balance. We have to find time for fun to balance out our work mode. And I think I did a good job of it this past month!
Enjoy the rest of the summer, make time for adventures, but also remember to keep life balanced. Anything in excess is no good!
Welcome to Bicolandia! A region located in the Southern part of the Philippines. This blog is dedicated to anything and everything we love about Bicol. Let me tell you about the things that I find interesting in my side of the world.