"The flow of creativity feels like an avalanche of joy and wonder. Being open to that possibility creates connections with everything." - Feline Dreamers

Friday, September 30, 2011

Cake of the Month: September

The cake for September was for a family potluck brunch. ElvenTiger and I made it together. We chose a recipe from an adorable cookbook, "The Redwall Cookbook" by Brian Jacques and Christopher Denise. It's based on the Redwall series, which if you haven't read them are wonderful kids' books with talking animals, spirited adventures, and of course descriptions of delicious feasts. This recipe is "Squirrelmum's Blackberry and Apple Cake." It was delicious! Perfect for brunch.

I'm so happy to be caught up on all my cake posts. What's up for October? I imagine some kind of holiday cake will be in order...perhaps with pumpkin. Also, I'm taking an adult-ed workshop on cake decorating, so I'll be posting about that experience as well. Happy Autumn!

Cake(s) of the Month: August

Still doing some catch-up on posting about my cake project. August is a very big birthday month for us, so yes, there were cakes! I didn't make one for BlackLion, as he preferred to have homemade cherry chocolate-chip ice cream. It was yummy, but didn't last long enough for a photo.

Dryst wanted a lemon cake for his 15th birthday, so I was happy to oblige.

For Mom and Aunt Peg, I made a dragonfly cake as a surprise (chocolate, of course). They liked it! They shared a birthday celebration with Dryst, and I was amused that I used the kids' cake decorating book for their cake, rather than Dryst's. They're young at heart.

And our friend Nate got a chocolate bundt cake with icing (he doesn't like frosting - imagine that! I'm a bit of a frosting addict, myself).

There you have it, cakes for August! I'll add the September cake and will be all caught up, just in time for the new month.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Visited by Deer

I've been gifted with a visit from deer lately. On my birthday, returning home from a celebration at my parents' house, I saw a gorgeous big buck, traveling across the road in front of us, from left to right. He was in no real hurry, and we got to see him quite well. In the past I have usually seen does, or bucks when they don't have their antlers, but he had a nice big rack of antlers that I could see clearly. I felt it was a message from the masculine Divine, the God of the Woodlands. The visit brought tears to my eyes, at the time and when describing it later. I really wanted to give him a great big hug.

Tonight, nearly two weeks later, this time on the way to my parents' house, I had the feeling I would see some sort of critter, and sure enough, there was a deer. This time she was a beautiful doe, again moving left to right (which is auspicious), and taking her time, like she'd been expecting to see me, too.

I'm grateful for these signs, and look to some of the traditional meanings these beautiful creatures bring. Deer means gentleness, innocence, sensitivity, grace, alertness, and peace. It means touching others with healing and tenderness, which makes sense given my recent focus on my own health and also my Reiki energy healing service. Deer lead us into the wilderness, and into new adventures.

Ted Andrews writes, in his book Animal Speak, "Antlers are symbols of antennae, connections to higher forms of attunement. Deer with antlers thus can be a signal to pay attention to your inner thoughts and perceptions, as they are probably more accurate than you think." Antlers are also used as protection, and thus can show us that we need to gracefully care for and protect our gentle and loving inner selves.

Deer, and particularly does, remind us of our path of spiritual growth, and ask us to be patient with ourselves along the path. In Celtic animal lore, deer are often associated with the arts, particularly poetry and music. As a writer and drummer, and with my recent focus on my arts, this makes sense. Another bit of Celtic wisdom tells how the stag would lead troops of the fae folk on a pilgrimage through the forest. What an amazing and vivid image that creates in my mind's eye! Perhaps I can draw or describe it...

The deer's list of qualities also includes abundance, which is an energy I've been working with lately. In China, the word for deer and for abundance and fortune are the same. This is something BlackLion noticed right away on my birthday, when he quipped a money pun about "the buck flowing into your life" (rather than "the buck stops here").

There are many levels of meaning, and much to explore. I have worked with deer energy a bit in the past, having met them while on a shamanic journey, and certainly plan to spend more time with them now. Thank you, Deer, for blessing me with your presence!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cake of the Month: July

Okay, so I'm a bit behind on the whole cake thing. Well, not the actual making of the cakes. Just the blogging about them part.

Though I must confess, I spent more time in the water during the month of July than I did in the kitchen (especially with the oven on - it was warm!). I love summer.

I did, however, make a birthday cake for a lovely woman, on behalf of her new husband. Her favorite is chocolate cake with coconut, and that was easy to do! Since they are newlyweds, and so quite adorably in love, here's the cake I made for her.

The other cake-related thing I did in July was to order a book that I've been admiring for quite a while. It's "All Cakes Considered" by Melissa Gray from NPR (here's an Amazon link for those who like that kind of stuff). I've actually tasted one of the cakes, when a friend from MPBN (our statewide public radio network, where I used to work) made some for everyone during a fundraiser. And...yum! So now this fabulous book is in my collection, and I'm looking forward to making one of the cakes this fall sometime...if my busy schedule ever slows down enough.

Stay tuned for the August update, soon to come.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pondering Reading

Yesterday ElvenTiger tried out for her first play, "The Grinch." Along with three of her friends who tried out with her, she got a part as a Who villager. This means she'll be part of the "Whoville Chorus." Since she's even more interested in singing than acting, it's perfect for her.

I think I was more nervous than she was about the audition. She practiced a Christmas carol, as instructed - she sang "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" in a jazzy campy sort of style that she said the director liked. I was worried about her being handed part of a script to read. She still reads slowly, and I thought she might have trouble acting while reading something she hadn't seen before.

It turned out to be a non-issue. She and I practiced the page of dialogue while she was waiting her turn, and since most of it was in rhyme, she internalized it quickly (this kid has a musical soul). I didn't go in to see the audition, but she said she was easily able to perform her part, using a combination of reading and remembering what we'd already rehearsed. Very cool.

So today, I ran across this article and, as an avid reader myself, I agreed with much of it. The only part I took issue with was forcing kids to read on a schedule not their own. I do understand why that's important for a school system, which needs to standardize things for large groups of kids. But I personally prefer it when kids learn things according to their own schedule, based on their interests (thus unschooling, which works so well for us). Actually, we do and have done many of the things on the list in the article, but on the kids' own timetable.

As usually happens (I love synchronicity), another article popped up, this time on Facebook, where an online unschooling friend mentioned it. I love the way the two articles complement each other (from my perspective), even though they come from very different philosophies of education.

Then I started actively looking for essays on late readers and unschooling, and formulating the idea for this blog post. My two favorites are one by well-known author Sandra Dodd, and one from a website I'd never seen before. As a bookworm with a house full of books who has been reading to her kids since before they were born, I find the topic fascinating. And it's also quite interesting to me to observe how Dryst learned to read quite easily and fluently, and ElvenTiger, raised in the same household, is taking her time and developing her own ways of learning to read. Some would say, and I started to write, that she "struggles with" reading, but I don't think that's the case. She finds it challenging, but like many things in life, it's worth taking the time to practice, and ultimately master.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Empowered Birth: My Story

This is Empowered Birth Awareness Week. I heard about it on Facebook (which is a source of many intriguing things I might not have heard about otherwise) and decided to help spread the word. What is empowered birth? Basically it's the notion that moms and families should be the ones to make decisions about how to give birth, not hospitals or doctors or other organizations. This doesn't mean rejecting the use of medical assistance for birth, but rather using it as a tool that we access when it is necessary.

Believe me, I appreciate the availability of Western medicine. My firstborn, my son, who just turned 15, was delivered by emergency c-section. When I was pregnant with him, Quester and I carefully researched all our options. We decided to give birth in the hospital, with the help of a nurse-midwife. We wanted a natural labor, without medication, and we had other ideas that we felt were helpful, such as playing music we chose, having a friend who is a massage therapist on hand, and the like. We created a birth plan and shared it with our nurse-midwife and the local hospital (we lived in central Maine at the time). Yet due to the large size of Tristan's head, and the fact that he was posterior, he got stuck. He was delivered on a Friday night, well Saturday technically, because it was 2:31am when he finally emerged into the world.

A couple years later, I became pregnant with my daughter. We were now living in southern Maine, and contacted two nurse-midwives with a respected practice in Portland. I had done more reading, and knew I wanted a VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean). The nurse-midwives confirmed that the reasons for the Cesarean were particular to that situation. They also, when I told them my son's birth story, opened my eyes to becoming even more empowered. During the long labor I was having, and despite my birth plan, one of the nurses had several times offered me pain medication. At the time, I was very focused, and just said "no thanks." But when I told the story, the two nurse-midwives turned to look at each other in shock. "That's SO unethical!" one of them breathed. Offering pain drugs to a mother who's in the vulnerable space of intense labor, I could now see, was indeed not a very empowering thing to do.

These two nurse-midwives were wonderful throughout my pregnancy, and helped me deal with the emotional as well as practical notion of waiting for my daughter to be born. She was a week overdue, and they calmly reassured me that she would be born when she was ready. The birth itself, again in a hospital, was smooth and as easy as possible. I felt very supported, and was able to do much of my labor at home. My daughter too was posterior for a while, but with the support of my midwife, I relaxed about it, and my daughter turned all on her own, about an hour before she was born. When she at last emerged, I recall being surprised when they put her on my belly. "Wow, she's really here!" I felt really powerful and strong, being able to deliver her naturally after my previous experience.

Whether you decide on a hospital birth, doctors, midwives, doulas, or doing it all on your own at home, I think the key to empowered birth is making your own decisions. Do the research, listen to your intuition, check with trusted advisers, and have a backup plan. And then think about the lineage of mothers throughout the ages, trusting their bodies, giving birth as part of the natural order of our humanity. Choose what works best for you and your family, and many blessings to you!

If you want to learn more, check out this link.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Ahhh, September

I love September. Even though we're unschoolers, that back-to-school vibe in the air gets me feeling creative and productive. I'm making lists and checking them twice. I'm concocting ideas for new projects even as I try to keep up with the ones I already have on my plate. I join things, and say yes to events, and follow trains of thought that I might not, at other times of the year. Part of it, I think, is that it's my birthday month, and that fills me with energy. I think we each have our own personal new year, beginning around the anniversary of our birth. My dear friend the astrologer has offered me a birthday reading, and I'm looking forward to it. I feel this will be a big year for me.

I've also started on a 30-day program of custom-designed affirmations. I'll be passing along more information later, but my mission is to listen to these audio affirmations at least three times a day for 30 days, and see how my life transforms. I'm very psyched!

So, what else is happening in our lives? Well, both kids are heavily into soccer season. Practices have been going on for a while, and ElvenTiger had her first game this week. Dryst's first game as a high school soccer player is today.

BlackLion and I went to Cape Cod this week, to drum for Dark Follies in the troupe's first out-of-state gig. We were at the Cape Cod Festival of Magic, and had a fantastic time performing and hanging out with all kinds of cool creative folks, mostly magicians. It went really well. We made some new friends, and hope to be invited back for next year's festival.

The kids are gearing up to focus on things that interest them this fall and winter: learning French, figuring out some more amateur magic tricks, diving into some new math concepts, sewing, exploring history, and of course reading. Because we're not back to any kind of official school schedule, we're also able to do stuff like this.

This weekend we're visiting OceanMouse, who's recovering from surgery, and bringing her lots of yummy goodies to eat. We'll stock up her fridge and bring her a delivery of things to do as she heals (books, DVDs, and games). Oh, and probably go swimming in the ocean near her adorable cottage home. Then we're going to come home and help a friend move. Along with laundry, writing, games, music, and all the other things we love. And hopefully some relaxing and recovering from the busy month of August.

Have a terrific weekend, and be sure to take the time to relax!