Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Alright, alright, so it's not Christmas Eve!

It's been a hectic, festive last few days!  Our kitties are well cared for in NYC, and I've seen the relatives again for another year.  I got some very lovely gifts, and gave some too, if I do say so myself!  Here are some pictures of our last day in NYC, and post-Christmas holiday cheer in Ohio.

Mmmm, home-made tomato soup and grilled cheese to keep me warm and cozy while we go enjoy the Christmas windows.

The Rockefeller tree was more beautiful than ever this year!  I'll never go see it on the Saturday night before Christmas again, though!

Love this big, glowing jewelry snake!

Kitty wanted to come with us to Ohio!

 We got snowed in the day after Christmas, and decided to hold off on sledding until the blizzard ended, so we made cookies!

These are lime shortbreads.

These citrus crackle cookies are so yummy!!  I made them for my Dad's Christmas party on the 30th!

I'll be back tomorrow to get caught up!

Live Omily,

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Omily Tarot: The Queen of Staves

Sorry this one's a day late!  Things are getting a little crazy with the holidays!  I do have exciting news: the husband and I have finally invested in a laptop that, you know, is actually fully functional, unlike my poor dinosaur from college, which means updating while I'm away will be infinitely easier, and will probably actually happen!!  Expect to hear from me Christmas Eve!

Today's post is a Tarot post.  I've been making great progress with the Major Arcana, and might even have it all done by the new year!  That doesn't say much for when the actual booklet can be published, since the whole thing will need lay-outs, apendixes, edits, etc, but we're getting there!  Today's post is the Queen of Staves.  The queens are really wonderful cards, great for meditation.  Many feminist decks reverse the order of the King and Queen, putting her at the end of the court cards.  I don't find that necessary, but I do find it to be just as correct as putting the King last.  The Queen and King aren't heirarchicly different the way the knight and the page are; they are the masculine and feminine sides of the same fully matured coin: both display total control and comfort in the element they rule, but one approaches that energy from a feminine perspective, and one from the masculine.  This doesn't mean women can't be depicted in a king card, and vice versa.  We all carry the masculine and feminine energies within us, regardless of how our genitals look or how we self identify, and it's important for all of us to cultivate both of those energies.

The Queen of Staves

"The Queen of Staves is the great encourager.  She has taken the passionate enthusiasm of her suit, and molded it into a positive attitude that pushes us to achieve the goals and dreams we hold for ourselves, however lofty they may be.  The queen is fiercely loyal, and incredibly supportive.  If she is in your corner, you are very lucky, so it’s in your interest to awaken this queen in your own psyche.  
            The page gazes at his budding stave. The knight’s horse rears up, ready to face whatever came his way.  The queen sits stolidly, and her expression, directed not at her stave but ahead and to her left, suggests she’s fully appraising the situation before reaching a decision.  She has tempered the fire of her suit, and gold is her reward.  Of course, the queen has her shadow side.  Her fierce support can be seen in the mother who defends her son even when his drug problem threatens to derail her family.
            The lions on her throne suggest great courage, and like her feline companion, she is both independent, and devoted.  The lion can also be a symbol of sexual prowess, and indeed, what better lover than one that spurs you on to be the best you can be?  Though her yellow robes speak of optimism, her face is turned away from the yellow dunes behind her, and toward the gray hills to her left.  She may not speak negatively, but that doesn’t mean she’s blind to challenges and hardships along the way.
            If this Queen pops up in a reading, the message may be, “Be your own cheerleader!”  Or if you can’t, seek someone who can.  It may be a gentle reminder that any consort you take up with should be supportive of and positive about your lifestyle.  On the other hand, it may be a warning that you’re blindly optimistic about your prospects, or that you’re pushing those around you too hard in an effort to shape your world to the bright sunny, place you’re envisioning."

There is a rule, or a myth, depending on your opinion  out there that your first tarot deck should always be a gift.  I bought my own first deck, and had wonderful experiences with it.  The second one was a gift, and there is something special about the energy of that deck, perhaps because the friend who gave it to me is so precious to me.  If you want a deck, I say buy your own!  But, there's nothing wrong with suggesting a tarot deck as a Christmas gift, or, of course, choosing a deck that you feel will speak to your loved one as a gift to them.  Just something to think about as we get down to the very last gift-buying minute.  Don't forget I'm available to give New Year's readings all January long, and readings given as gifts to new clients come with a very merry discount!


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Eating Omily: The Scientologist of the Vegetable Kingdom

Broccoli may be the poster child for veggies children don't like, but I'd say it's universally more liked than the subject of today's post.  Which comes from Belgium.  And is not diamonds or chocolate (more's the pity)

Nope, I'm talking about these! (Pauses for collective gasp of horror). 
 Ok, not everyone hates brussels sprouts.  In fact, odds are very good you like brussels sprouts, assuming you've had them in some form other than boiled-to-death, or mass-produced canned or frozen, but too many of us haven't.  I know I thought I hated brussels sprouts for a long, long time.
Seriously, this shit came up on the first page of a google image search for 'brussels sprouts'.  Haters gon' hate.
 Then I realized this is the freakiest damn plant on the planet, and knew I had to give it another try.  What the hell am I talking about, you ask?  Have you ever seen brussels sprouts pre-harvest?  How do you imagine they grow?  Just like baby cabbages, right?  Wrong!  They grow like freaky alien plants!
Brussels sprouts: evidence the Scientologists are right?

So how do you cook these guys in a way that fully respects their awesome strangeness?  Try cutting them in half and caramelizing them in a hot skillet, then dressing with a vinegarette.  If they're all on the small side, don't even cut them in half.  Just saute in olive oil until just barely tender.  You'll see: they won't get slimy, mushy, or sulferous if you use higher heat, and a shorter cooking time.  AND NO BOILING!  These guys are at their best this time of year, when cooler temperatures encourage crisp, sweet specimens.  Most Farmers' Markets sell them by the stalk!
Bizarre, AND phallic!

And yet they do look like baby cabbages...surely there's feminist thesis in here somewhere?
They'll break it in half for you if it won't fit in your bag, and some places cut them off the stalk so you can buy them per pound, but they usually cost more that way.  When portioning, I find that one stalk with usually provide four small portions.  You may not see them as small portions; we eat a lot of veggies in our house.

Get out to your Farmers' Market and give these guys a try.  You may be able to overturn a decades old aversion, and since these guys are incredibly nutritious, you'll be doing your body a favor in the proccess!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Some Suggested Reading

There has been so much good reading going around lately.  My productive days have been shot full of holes because I couldn't resist finishing this or that article someone put up on facebook.  Which wouldn't be much of a hole, what with my being a fast reader, except most of these awesome articles contain links to other awesome articles that either served as inspiration for the article in question, or are a reply to it.  And I don' know about you, but I can't say no to compelling articles. 

There are so many big questions we as a society are (finally) grappling with at the end of 2012: LGBT rights, sexism, economic equality, violence, what the status of religion should be in our society and government, the environment...oh yeah, big year.  And I think that the only way we'll ever reach any kind of meaningful consensus and/or change where issues like these are concerned is by hashing and rehashing them out ad naseum until the majority of us can grasp the great scope, and complicated nature of each one, and from there, start building solutions that don't leave anybody's interests out in the cold.

So, in an attempt to do my part toward helping moving society in that direction, in lieu of tossing in my two cents, I'm cataloguing all the best articles I've read over the past couple weeks for you to check out.  Read.  Think.  Argue violently with your monitor.  Write your own reply!  You can always pop into the comments section here to add your own unique view of the issues at hand, or post a link to a fascinating article that I missed.  I can't promise the articles I read this week will touch on every issue that's important to you, or even that's important to me, but I hope to hit most of the highlights, and maybe you guys can fill in the blanks!

"Is Historical Accuracy a Good Defense of Patriarchal Societies in Fantasy Fiction?"

"Historically Authentic Sexism in Fantasy: Let's Unpack That"

"She Who Dies with the Most 'Likes' Wins?"

"Troublemakers: What Pit Bulls Can Teach us about Profiling"

"'Famous' Wolf is Killed Outside Yellowstone"

"No Excuses Schooling"

"Gerald Coles: KIPP Schools: Power Over Evidence"

"I am Adam Lanza's Mother"

"How ALEC Thwarts Honest Debate about Gun Violence"

"Actually, Mentally Ill People are More Likely to be Victims of Violence"

"The Primacy of Man"

"Helping Hands Also Expose a Divided New York"

"Obama's Game of Chicken"

Live Omily!

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Omily Tarot: The Knight of Coins

Can you believe it??  We're half-way through the Court Cards!  And I am so ready to start Major Arcanum interpretations in eight weeks.  In fact, I might be all done with the Major Arcanum by then!  Which means you might just have to wait for the book to be self-published to read those!  Hope I'm sufficiently wetting your whistle with the Minor Arcanum!  We'll the meantime, I'm really fond of this card.  The symbolism is beautiful, and easy to grasp, and it's such a helpful message.

The Knight of Coins

"The most solid and still of the knights, the knight of coins looks like he could be riding a draft horse!  And why not?  Those flashy steeds may look great galloping through a meadow, but they won’t get any real work done.  This knight is ready to be hitched to the plow.  His sense of righteousness comes from seeing what needs to be done, and accomplishing it.  The page of coins is excited about gaining applicable knowledge.  The knight of coins is excited about applying that knowledge.  
            The plowed field in the background emphasizes that fact, and also reminds us of his earthly allegiances.  Practical hard work is certainly down to earth, but more than that, this knight is concerned with taking care of his and other’s needs.  Lofty sonnets, and correcting everybody who’s wrong are all well and good, but nobody gives a damn if the restaurant hostess misspells their name; they just want to sit down and eat! 
            This is the knight to have on your side when things have to get done, even though you’d rather be doing something else.  Ever disconnected your Internet so you could actually get some work done on your computer?  Turned down a friendly invitation because you know today’s the only day you can get the house cleaned?  You were seated up on this knight’s sturdy horse."

Ok, so he's decidedly less romantic than the other knights.  Who wants their knight in shining armor to come bearing a toilet brush?  But he's the one who gets us through the day-to-day, who gets going when the going gets, well, pretty routine.  I'd show some respect if I were you.  You'll need him very soon!


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Eating Omily: Have Yourself a Hot Toddy

Feeling chilly?  Exhausted after a long day?  Maybe you're spending those loooong winter evenings with your less-than-favourite family members?

Those are all great reasons to break out the hot toddies, but I don't need any of them!  I start with mulled wine in October, and things only get more potent (and more delicious!) from there.

I shared a mulled wine recipe with you guys last year, but I haven't shared my secrets for staying warm and jolly no matter what the holidays bring...until now!  I'll try to start with the simplest and work my way toward the more involved, but honestly, none of these are rocket science.  Start with the one that sounds the most delicious!  You'll be mixing up your own takes on these steamy treats in no time.

Coffee and Bailey's

This is a classic, and one of my mom's favourites.  Just brew coffee (decaf, if you're hoping to unwind, instead of gear up!), and add a generous splash of Bailey's Irish cream.  Or more.  Stir, add sugar if it's still not sweet enough, and savor.  This is a great addition to or substitution for dessert.

Irish Coffee

No one seems to do this one like the folks at St. Jame's Gate, on Amsterdam near the Museum of Natural History.  It's a straight-forward enough process though, and if theirs is any indication, it's best served in a stein.  Brew coffee (why not do regular and serve it with brunch?), add Irish whiskey and brown sugar to taste, and top with whipped cream. Let the whipped cream melt in for an infusion of cream, or enjoy it as is with the cream on the top. Hot, strong, and full of Irish charm! Pro tip: top with freshly grated nutmeg!

Spiked Hot Chocolate

There are lots of ways to make cocoa.  I like to mix cocoa powder and sugar with a little milk, then stir hot milk into the resulting slurry.  You can add cinnamon, cayenne, ginger, vanilla, orange, or mint extract, or other extra little flavors before adding your choice of booze.  Peppermint Schnapps is nice in regular hot chocolate.  Vanilla vodka is lovely, too.  Whiskey is a bit warmer, spiced rum adds an extra touch of flavor.  Chocolate liquor will keep the boozy flavor subtle. Whipped cream, and the afore-mentioned grated nutmeg will take this to the next level (it wouldn't hurt to back track and add it to your coffee and Bailey's, either!)

Spiked Mulled Cider

My new favourite way to do this one is to bring the cider to a boil, then add a ginger herbal tea bag, and let it steep for ten minute or more.  Then I add a generous splash of bourbon for a triple treat that warms my body in three ways!  A cinnamon stick or a clove are also lovely additions, and spiced rum can be used in place of the bourbon.

Hot Buttered Rum

Mmmm...Hot.  Butter.  Rum.  What's not to love??  Start by creaming brown sugar, cinnamon, and cloves (both ground) into butter: equal parts butter to sugar, a generout pinch of both spices, till the resulting mixture tastes like a spice cookie dough.  Just keep this in your fridge, and anytime you're ready, add a tablespoon to the bottom of a mug, add a generous pour of spiced or dark rum, then pour in boiling water, and stir.  This isn't one to linger with.  The butter quickly rises to the top, and as it gets closer to room temperature, re-solidifies.  Enjoy it quick, and get merry!

Hot Toddy

Yes, there's actually a drink with this  name, though of course, there's a million ways to make it!  St. Jame's Gate does it by studding a big slice of lemon with a few whole cloves, and steeping it in hot water with Irish Whiskey.  It is absolutely delicious.  I had a wonderful variant on this at Maggy Brown's in Clinton Hill: they used lemon herbal tea bags, and tequila.  There's sugar added to both to taste.

Enough toddies to keep you busy till the end of 2012?  Good!  Enjoy!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Finding Quiet in the Holiday Cheer

The Holidays are rolling in full steam ahead, and my to-do list is getting longer and longer!  I honestly love the hustle and bustle of the season, and a day jam-packed with things to do makes me feel energized and positive, so this is NOT a problem for me, but like everyone else celebrating not just a time to show love and appreciation to family and friends, but an occasion of deep religious significance, I still need to carve out time to unplug from the busy and find stillness for my soul.

This is where things like expressing gratitude for the joy and peace they give me to my cats, and decorating the tree with colorful lights and ornaments given to us by beloved family and friends come into play as vital holiday spiritual exercises!  Nothing snaps me to zen faster than having a purring cat on either side of me.  I can't walk by our fully decorated tree without taking a pause and remembering the sacredness of this time of year.  We just got our tree yesterday, and at 7 1/2 feet tall, he's a dramatic reminder of the eternal life promised to us thanks to the gift of a certain baby, conceived out of wedlock, and born into poverty.  So far he's just making the place smell amazing, since we haven't gotten the decorations up yet, but I look forward to doing that tonight!
 What traditions do you have built in that give you a chance to connect to the spiritual meaning of this season?  Baking cookies allows ten or more minutes of downtime to inhale the sweet scent and reflect, as each batch is transformed by the fire of the oven into something special to share with loved ones.  Wrapping gifts is a chance to bring to mind all that inspires you about the intended receiver, and even all that might leave you feeling frustrated or less than generous.  As you fold the paper, add positive intentions and love for that person's growth and healing, and send a little your way, too, to enhance your ability to see the best in others, and find compassion and acceptance.
Here are some cute pictures of our kitty checking out her first Christmas tree!
 It's easy for me to think of ways to cultivate an awareness of the Divine into Christmas tradition, but I know a lot less about Chanukah, Kwanza, Festivus, and Solstice celebrations.  While religious ceremonies associated with these days are immediate inroads to our spiritual side, none of us can resist the more commercialized side of the holidays, and there's no reason to.  We can still keep love and spiritual growth first and foremost in our hearts.

What fun ways of celebrating help you connect more fully with your spiritual practices this time of year?  Do unique family traditions help you remember what really matters?  Does a special recipe make you grateful for your ancestors?  Maybe a silly party game reminds you to find joy in all you do.
Start getting contemplative now, before the rush really starts.  You'll be glad you did
And Happy Holidays!  Not because there's anything wrong with saying "Merry Christmas", but because there's no reason we can't enjoy them all!
Live Omily,

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Omily Tarot: The Knight of Swords

Happy Second Sunday of Advent!  We just picked out our tree; it'll be delivered around 4, and I cannot wait to see what our kitten thinks of it!  Today is a belated tarot day.  You'll be happy to know I'm getting my act together (for realz) and working on the Major Arcana.  I'm getting really excited to start the editing and laying out process of this project.  How excited?  Well, let's take a look at the Knight of Swords, shall we?

The Knight of Swords

            "You may have thought the knight of staves was exciting, but the knight of swords is so intense, even his own horse looks a little wary.  And no wonder.  If we worried about that young page swinging a sword, how much scarier is it for a still immature figure to be charging in at top speed swinging one?  Don’t think you’re too good for this character, though.  We’ve all lost an argument or felt foolish because we’ve acted like this figure in the heat of the moment. 
            The knight of swords isn’t all shadow side, though.  The sword he holds aloft is, in its highest manifestation, truth, and sometimes the truth has to be fought for.  In moments where the lie is popular, it is this knight who gives us the courage and determination to stand by what we know to be right instead of going with the crowd.  The knight of swords will never be too shy to correct someone who has his name wrong.
            In a reading, consider what higher truths you hold dear to your heart.  What causes or situations are you willing to fight for, in spite of propaganda, or pleasant lies that would suggest that thing doesn’t matter.  If this card points to your own behavior, consider carefully who or what is in need of such intensity in your life, and if the answer is nobody, you’d better rein it in."

 Ok, so maybe I'm not quite THAT excited.  In fact, while this is an easy attitude to adopt as a tarot reader, it's not ultimately very helpful.  The ultimate truth is always inside your querent, and your job is to direct them to recognize it, not to feed them your own truth.  It's not always easy to tell the difference, but when in doubt, rein your horse in!


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Eating Omily: Your New Favourite Cook Book

Alright, guys!  Are you excited?  I promised you a book a review, and you are going to get it!  So, full disclosure, I met Candice at Namaste Yoga and Tranquility Center somewhere between a year and two years ago, and between our mutual love for cats in need, my five minute chaturanga tutorials, and my fondness for her gorgeous cook book, we hit if off.  Candice has such a big heart, and she's an incredibly dedicated and hard-working person.  Fast forward to this September, Candice was looking for some extra help launching her latest cook book, and I was only too happy to lend a hand!  Once the book launched and I got my hands on a copy, I was head over heels all over again.  Candice's recipes are so easy to follow, and feature such irresistible flavors.  AND, all of them revolve around getting the most nutrition benefits into your body as possible, without breaking the bank!  What's not to love?
Oh look, foods with benefits!  Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and (Fairtrade!) semi-sweet chocolate chips!  Aren't you proud of me, Candice? ;-)
 This latest book is called Cook Yourself Sexy, and it offers a full-pantry, full-body transformation.  Now, we know that how your body looks is a result of many, many complicated factors, and no amount of clean eating will alter the bodytype Mother Nature blessed you with, which is awesome, because all bodies are beautiful for different reasons.  Candice reminds us on page one that "...genuine sexiness is all about what's underneath.  It's how you carry yourself...with confidence!"  Getting on the eating healthy, and exercising regularly bandwagon is guaranteed to make you feel your best, and that's the only way to look your best!  This ISN'T a diet book: there are two different dessert chapters, and some to-die-for pasta recipes.  It IS a book that will teach you to indulge in your favourite flavors without depriving your body of what it needs to thrive (Lemon-basil lasagna rolls, anyone??).

I've had my hands on this beauty for a couple months now, and have already mined it for party recipes (maple-glazed butternut squash), satisfying lunches (watermelon and radish salad), and breakfasts that are rich enough to make you skip dessert (pumpkin spice granola), but for this blog post I wanted to make a recipe I haven't tried before, and take pictures all along the way.   I skipped straight to Chapter 9: Veggie Mains, knowing I'd find a dinner I could put together with Farmer's Market ingredients, and test it on my unsuspecting husband.  Sure enough, on that blustery December night, Roasted Garlic-Lentil Soup looked exactly right: filled with warm, cozy flavors, and filling fiber.
This recipe started in the afternoon, when I made a run to the Farmer's Market for a couple ingredients.  Those are two of my favourite root veggies there!  Parsnips and carrots are close cousins.  Just think of parsnips as the rebel-troublemaker of the family who reforms into the sweetest, most down-to-earth veggie you'll ever meet after the heat gets turned up under him!  I couldn't find Swiss chard this time of year; too tender of a green, but I had some frozen I used, and I'm sure kale would be delicious, too. 
 Next up was preparing the garlic.  What a delicious, and beautiful afternoon!  Trust me, this one is worth making just for the aroma of roasting garlic in the house!
So delicious...and if you think these pictures are beautiful, by the way, you have to see the ones in the book!
 Nope, not crazy.  I keep my home-made stock frozen in icecubes in the freezer–super-easy to portion that way–and remember that sixteen cubes (one tray full) comes to a cup and a half of liquid.
Here's the pot of soup, coasting to a finish.  I wish you could smell it!
I garnished mine with a drizzle of really good quality extra virgin olive oil, and an extra sprinkle of seasalt.  I love topping soups that way; it makes them so luxurious!
And how did it taste?  Amazing, of course!  The rich, sweet garlic blended perfectly with the velvety lentils  We both ate two bowls.  This recipe is officially a Fall/Winter staple at our house!  I hope you're dying to get the book and try this recipe!  Every copy purchased sends money to a small, and local if you're in NYC business, dedicated to changing the world for the healthier.  It's available, for a steal might I add, on Amazon, and of course, it's a perfect Christmas gift for the foodie/aspiring health-conscious person in your life. Of course, if you're friends with me, stick with buying gift copies till after Christmas!!