Celebrating Samhain

The Haunted Realm 2015 wall calendar by Sir Simon Marsden

The Haunted Realm 2015 wall calendar by Sir Simon Marsden

Because I am resolutely pagan, we’re going to be celebrating the beginning of the dark half of the year old school at my house Friday night. For starters we’re going to make a big feast of a dinner and set a plate aside for our dead ancestors. I always make biscuits using my granddad’s recipe. We’ll make white gravy and eggs and coffee with cream and sugar just the way Granddad liked it. That plate will stay out on the table all night. We’ll stay home and give out candy to the trick-or-treaters, because our teenage daughter is too old for mom and pop’s company tonight. Understood. At some point in the evening we’ll tie knots into a piece of string or leather or yarn, and just as we yank the knot tight we’ll yank into it something we want to let go off in the coming year. And then we’ll throw that knot into the roaring fire in our fireplace. Sometime after that we’ll build a fire in our backyard and jump over it to make wishes come true. We’ll jump over that big fire and just at the top we’ll make our wish. We’ve been doing this every year for 25 years. When we couldn’t get pregnant, we wished for children. We don’t do that anymore. Maybe we’ll also bob for apples. I read once that the old Celtic word for apples was the same as the word for soul. Which means bobbing for apples is a remnant of an ancient initiation or ordeal by water in the great search for your own soul. Just before bed we’ll make a bowl of milk and honey and set it on the back porch for any wandering spirits who pass by and we’ll leave our back door open a crack all night long in case any familiar spirits pass by. We want them to know they’re welcome. Halloween or Samhain is one of the special days of the year — a crack if you will — when the boundary between the world of the living and the world of the dead is thinnest.

Happy haunting!


Tim CampbellTim Campbell
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Coconut-Lavender Panna Cotta by Maggie Oster

lavendar

Lavender in raised border © Photos Lamontagne / Getty Images

With Fall in the air, we seem to be nesting more — wearing comfy, warm clothes and spending hours in the kitchen. So we’re exploring recipes and ways we can enjoy the harvest. And maybe entertaining our sweet tooth just a bit, too.

From the Herb Gardens 2015 wall calendar by Maggie Oster
Coconut-Lavender Panna Cotta
Providing a sense of calm and balance, the fresh, sweet aroma of lavender has been beloved for centuries. Used for its beauty, singular scent, and medicinal properties, lavender continues to be a favorite. The use of flowers and leaves of lavender in cooking is growing in popularity. With a flavor that melds floral, piney, and camphor, fresh or dried lavender flowers are most often added to desserts, but they sometimes find their way into savory dishes. Lavandula angustifolia, with its sweet, mild flavor, is the best choice for cooking. Of the dozens of true lavender varieties, Hidcote and Munstead are the most widely available, hardiest, and easiest to grow. Harvest lavender midmorning on a dry day when almost all the buds are open. Tie stems in bundles and hang upside down in a dry, dark place. When dry, gently strip the flowers from the stem. If buying, be sure the flowers are for culinary purposes. Quickly and easily made, panna cotta is a sweet and creamy pudding that is among the most versatile of desserts and readily flavored in innumerable ways. Continue reading

A Rainbow of Greens by Ann Lovejoy

basket of greens

Basket of cabbage, kale, and Romanesco broccoli. Photograph © Reinhard / Mauritius / SuperStock.

From The Organic Kitchen Garden 2015 wall calendar by Ann Lovejoy — Crisp, crunchy, and flavorful, cool-season greens have been winter staples for centuries. With the protection of cold frames or plastic tunnels, kale, chard, and cabbage can be harvested all winter, even in the snow. For variety and good looks, plant rainbow chard or Bright Lights Swiss chard, both of which produce vividly colorful stems in shades of raspberry, coral, peach, and salmon. The crinkled foliage holds up well into the cooler months and can be sautéed, steamed, or stir-fried.

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