the wheel of the year, part 4: imbolc

can i be honest with you?  this week has really sucked.  i found out that one of the classes that i’m teaching pays nothing until the end of the semester, and when it does pay, it only pays based on how many students actually completed the class (which means that if i spent 10 hours grading a student’s work before he dropped out, i simply don’t get paid for that time…..poof!  it’s gone.)  not sure how that’s legal.  so all of this boils down to me getting 2/3 of my normal pay (don’t teach college; you’ll starve!) and the little bit extra i get at the end is going to be a pittance compared to the amount of work i put in.  also, i’m working a couple of jobs, neither of which pays very well and one of which verges on eating my life (there’s a dent in the far left couch cushion from all of the “office hours” i’ve had to put in.)  i miss my husband, despite being across the room from him, i’m tired of sitting on my butt, i’m mad at my job, and here’s the worst part—-i’m REALLY tired of bitching all the time!   for the past month my facebook statuses (stati?) have been eeyore-ish, and i’m sick of it! Read the rest of this entry »

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a traditional wassail recipe…for the brave!

in my last post on the winter solstice, i mentioned a traditional drink called wassail that was passed out to peasants and serfs, and more modernly to carolers, around yule or christmas.   although the combination of ingredients is nothing shocking to a brit, we americans might be a bit taken aback by the idea of combining things like eggs, beer, and fortified wine.  those of you who are brave and who like to try new things might be interested in trying this recipe by one of my favorite cooks in the whole wide world, alton brown.  if the reviews on his website are any indication, you’ll either love this like a fat lady loves cake or you’ll hate it with a purple passion—but you never know ’til you try!! Read the rest of this entry »

the wheel of the year, part 3: yule

hey you!  yeah,  you—the one with the arms full of bags, nerves frazzled from fighting with that crazed woman over the last ginormous bargain-basement flatscreen, and credit card maxed (again) in an effort to maintain the material status quo—yeah, you.  why don’t you slow down, chuck the jeans in favor of some pjs, pour yourself a hot cup of tea (or a hot toddy!), wrap up in a big fuzzy blanket, and relaaaaax.  take some quiet time to remember what this week in december means to you—what it really means to you.   no matter our religious beliefs, most of us rarely slow down long enough to really meditate on the depth of significance of the holiday season.  the church of consumerism doesn’t afford us that luxury.  from the time the shot sounds on the day after halloween (didn’t it used to be the day after thanksgiving??) until the last unwanted or ill-fitting gift is returned, our minds are abuzz with lists, budgets, wrapping paper, sales, and new and unusual ways to torture underpaid and under-appreciated retail sales staff. Read the rest of this entry »

the wheel of the year, part 2: samhain

janus, namesake of the month january

i mentioned in the first wheel of the year post that this may seem like an odd place to start a calendar, but it really isn’t.  rather serendipitously, i’d started my blog just before the celtic new year, samhain (pronounced SAH-wen)—better known to us today as halloween.  traditionally, our new year happens on january 1, but seasonally speaking, this is a little odd, since january 1 is smack dab in the middle of the winter.  in the first century b. c., the romans set this day as new year’s day because janus, the god for whom the month was named, was imagined as having two faces, one of which faced forward and one backward.  this simultaneously forward-backward-looking month, then, seemed the most logical place for new beginnings.  for the celts, the indigenous peoples of europe, however, notions of beginnings and endings followed more physical markers.  samhain, for the neolithic europeans, represented the end of the growing season and thus the beginning of the new year. Read the rest of this entry »

the wheel of the year, part 1

holidays are funny creatures…and i don’t only mean “ha-ha funny.”  think about it…spread throughout our calendar are days during which we force ourselves to be around people we may or may not want to be around, we eat ourselves sick (or over-indulge in a number of other activities), we focus almost solely on material goods, and, most of the time, we forget to stop and think about what the holiday even means anymore.  the material bit really bothers me the most—christmas is the biggest victim here.  once a year, i am expected to scrape together what little money i have to buy something for damn-near everyone i know.  most of the time it isn’t even something that that person needs, and we all know what happens to the heaps of unwanted gifts—you’re welcome, america’s thrift stores.   gift giving is so huge that it a tremendous taboo (perhaps one of the largest social taboos in america) not to buy someone a christmas present.  you’re not held accountable for figuring out what they really need—you’re simply accountable for getting them…..well….something. Read the rest of this entry »