Friday Recs

My rec for this week is not explicitly Pagan, but I do think it has a lot to say about how we view the world, how we treat other people, and how all of that fits together and how we develop community – and family. It’s also the reason I was too busy to post last Friday. [1]

Early this year, a group of immensely talented people (Emma Bull, Elizabeth Bear, Sarah Monette, and Will Shetterly, along with Amanda Downum) launched an online fiction project called Shadow Unit. Its official description is “Fanfic for a TV Show that never was”. What it really is is the stories of episodes on a show in a very slightly different universe from ours. (Go read Emma’s description here: she does it immensely better than I could.)

Season one finished right after Memorial Day. There will be a Season Two (and beyond that:they have a five year arc planned.) Right now is a good time to catch up.

All of it’s free – but they are doing this as donation-supported work, so if you like it, please throw a few dollars at the donation options. The authors appreciate it! There’s also a forum, a wiki, and other cool tools to help you sort through things. (I recommend checking the wiki for easter eggs and DVD extra content links.)

[1] Four of the five (everyone except Amanda) were at the Fourth Street convention I was at. Saturday’s panel that focused on Shadow Unit was fantastic.

Friday Recs and some happy news

(People reading my LiveJournal already know this one): I finished some great conversations yesterday with the head of the school I work for, where we have found a way for me to earn enough more money I can afford to stop looking for a new job. This is very good, because the library job market right now is miserable, and this gives me some time to continue to build some specific skills and do more professional projects. (And continue working at a place I very much like, which is no small thing.)

The other side the good news is that this means I’m not moving any time soon, and thus, can truly make longer-term plans about the coven. This means I should probably start calling it by name, and note a few upcoming things.

Name: The shiny new coven’s name is Phoenix Song (my home tradition has a particular focus on the phoenix imagery), and I wanted a name that would bring together that focus with the group’s heavy focus on music and arts in ritual.

What’s coming: I do plan to have a very small website (elsewhere on this domain) by early fall. I’ll have a few more details up in a post soon about some of the structure and other choices (summarising much of what I’ve been talking about here.) We have plans to opening to considering new members sometime this fall, but exactly how is still in process, and we intend to proceed very slowly and gently.

Expect to see lots of discussion here, not so much about what we’ve chosen to do (though I’ll use it as an example) but as what I’m thinking about as I move forward with this, and what matters to me.

Friday rec:

Since I spent Monday making a new kind of bread, a bread recommendation.

I stumbled across The Fresh Loaf site a while back, and used the pita bread recipe linked from the right column of the main page with great success. They’ve got all sorts of great articles and comments and ideas for all levels of home baking. (well, not bread machines, maybe. But everything else.) Also many really nifty recipes, many of which have photos and other commentary.

Bread is one of the most magical and nifty things I do. First, the whole process of baking bread is about transformation and change and getting something new, nourishing, and powerful out of some pretty minimal ingredients.

But more than that, it’s such a sensory process. There’s the dusting of the flour on your hands, the sweetness of the honey, the feel of the dough as you knead it, the delight of hands in warm olive-oil rich dough in the winter. I take a great joy in having fresh, homemade bread, for ritual, too.

If you’re at all interested in making your own bread, go check them out.

Lots of updates

I finally finished (to the point I feel they should be posted) two long essays I was working on. They are:

Finding Others: Where to start looking:
This essay is based on a post I did a short while ago, when someone was frustrated by a group search: I’d been meaning to pull together a large portion of my standard advice when group seeking. It’s focused more on finding smaller groups or those focused on a specific defined path, but there’s useful ideas in there for most people seeking group Pagan interaction.

Questions when searching for a group:
Related to the above post, this is a list of questions (practical, practices, approaches, etc.) that might be useful for people who are looking for a group, but not quite sure what they’re looking for.

Please let me know if anything’s confusing or if you have other comments/things to include.

They’re both linked from the ‘pages’ tab at the top of the page, as well.

Friday Recs:

Sorry for not getting further on the three things I have in draft right now (they’re all related to finding a group and evaluating a group you might be interested in). This week has been unusually busy, as it’s been graduation week (complete with two full days of meetings, and being out late for one reason or another on Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday (I’ve got one more week of work to go before my summer break: as I say about this job, the vacation time is excellent, the not getting paid part of it is not so good. I’m hoping to find temp work, but am not, shall we say, entirely optimistic. (I have good skills, but it’s obviously not a great market for it.)

You are probably less interested in this than in my new tradition of Friday recommendations.

After our last formal festivity today, I saw Prince Caspian in the movie theatre, which was visually gorgeous (and I thought they did some very nice subtle things with costuming and visuals.) I’m a longtime lover of the books, allegory and all, but it’s been a while since I re-read, as I prefer watching a movie first, then re-reading, to the other way around. (I spend more time in the movie enjoying it as a movie, and less time gritting my teeth about how it’s different.) I may have more comments about it later.

My actual recommendation:

But the one I really wanted to talk about was buying more herbs. I buy my dried herbs from Penzey’s, also available online. But the store is the really fantastic thing: I walk in there just for the pick me up from the amazing smells.

Penzey’s, based in Wisconsin, produces their own dried herbs. They are high quality, amazingly inexpensive (I can walk out of there with 10 small containers of different things for $15 or so), and widely varied. I can, for example, get both cassia and cinnamon, two kinds of basil, different processed versions of rosemary (full, cracked, and powdered – handy for a friend who hates the ‘sticks’ of them as a texture. They also sell a stock base (handy for people like me who live alone, and do not always have it on hand, or only need a little at a time. I make my own as well, but don’t always have it handy in the right amount), various kinds of salts, and a few other things.

My purchases this time were to restock things I’d run out of – dill, basil, parsley, and one of their mixes, Green Goddess, which is my favorite all purpose one. (It’s dill, basil, and various other things, including a little salt and sugar) that you can mix up into a delicious dip/dressing/etc. with a little yogurt. Healthy and yummy.

Really, though, one of the reasons I adore it is the hit to the sense of walking into the store – a chance to smell the mingled herbs and spices, the chance to try out sniffing unfamiliar ones, or things that have turned up in recipes I’ve looked at. And a chance to add something a little bit special to my cooking for not a large investment. I use them heavily in my bread-baking, too, of course.

Friday Recs:

I’ve been thinking about ways to talk about things I like – books, music, websites, whatever – that’s at least loosely related to the topics I talk about here, so I’ve decided to do a once a week post (as you might guess, on Fridays) with something I like and why I like it.

The question, of course, is where to start. There’s a lot of stuff I like.

One of the things that’s been on regular replay on my iTunes recently is Heather Dale (currently her latest release, The Gabriel Hounds, downloadable from her website at (you can also order songbooks and CDs from her). Some of her albums are also in iTunes.

Dale’s music is rooted in the Celtic folk tradition, with a lot of other additions (a bit of blues, a bit of jazz, etc.). The overall emphasis is on interesting stories, and on music that enhances and expands them.

The most recent album has several songs I like, but the ones that got me hooked on her music are on her Road to Santiago album. “Sedna” is a song about the Inuit ocean goddess (hey, I’m true to form about water deities), with a particularly earwormy-in-the-best-way tune. Another track on that album, “Medusa” is a fascinating take on self-image. I’m also quite fond of the title track: my mother’s did the Santiago pilgrimage a few years ago, and I find the history and culture behind it absolutely fascinating.

I’ll also note that while a lot of Arthurian material sometimes puts my teeth on edge, Dale’s doesn’t: her takes are not always mine, but I often come away with some new thought about an interaction from them. When money permits, I definitely plan to pick up the songbooks.