Recipes: Midsummer Sponge Cake

Summer RecipesMidsummer Sponge Cake

Celebrate the Solstice with a delicious treat highlighting nature’s bounty.

The traditional Midsummer food are pickled herring, potatoes served in a sour cream and dill sauce with hard-boiled eggs, Swedish meatballs, gravadlax (cured salmon), Västerbottensost cheese pie, assorted breads and crispbreads. Schnapps and beer is enjoyed with these foods, and for dessert, there is only one way to end your Midsummer picnic meal, and that’s with a slice of berry cake called Gräddtårta med Jordgubbar in Swedish.

The cake is traditionally made with a fatless sponge cake, has three layers at least, all filled with an egg-enriched cream and packed with sweet berries.

Ingredients

 

 

CAKE

6 eggs

250g of caster sugar

90ml of warm water

2 tsp baking powder

100g of self-raising flour

50g of potato flour

FILLING AND TOPPING

350ml of double cream

4 tbsp of icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

450g of strawberries, hulled and cut in half if very large

200g of fresh raspberries

Method

1
Pre-heat oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4. Line a round cake tin (30cm x 10cm) with baking paper
2
Whisk the eggs with the sugar until light and fluffy; mix the dry ingredients together and then gently fold them to the whisked eggs. Add the boiled water and then mix until all amalgamated, but do not over mix. Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until it has risen and is golden brown. Turn out of the tin and allow to cool on a wire rack
3
Meanwhile, make the Chantilly cream by whisking the cream, icing sugar and vanilla extract together until the cream holds firm peaks; cover it and store in the fridge until needed
4
When the cake is cold, carefully cut it into three slices, and place one slice on a serving plate; spoon a third of the cream over the cake, then add the strawberries and raspberries;
5
Continue to layer the cake this way, ending with the top which is also decorated with cream, strawberries and raspberries
6
Serve cut into slices with extra fruit on the side
Midsummer Cake
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Almanac: Legend of the Oak King

2018Almanac

The legend of the Oak King hits me right in the feels with every read.

In many Celtic-based traditions of neopaganism, there is the enduring legend of the battle between the Oak King and the Holly King. These two mighty rulers fight for supremacy as the Wheel of the Year turns each season. At the Winter Solstice, or Yule, the Oak King conquers the Holly King, and then reigns until Midsummer, or Litha. Once the Summer Solstice arrives, the Holly King returns to do battle with the old king, and defeats him.

In the legends of some belief systems, the dates of these events are shifted; the battle takes place at the Equinoxes, so that the Oak King is at his strongest during Midsummer, or Litha, and the Holly King is dominant during Yule. From a folkloric and agricultural standpoint, this interpretation seems to make more sense.

HollyKingOakKing

The Oak King and The Holly King

In some Wiccan traditions, the Oak King and the Holly King are seen as dual aspects of the Horned God. Each of these twin aspects rules for half the year, battles for the favor of the Goddess, and then retires to nurse his wounds for the next six months, until it is time for him to reign once more.

Franco over at WitchVox says that the Oak and Holly Kings represent the light and the darkness throughout the year. At the winter solstice we mark “the rebirth of the Sun or the Oak King. On this day the light is reborn and we celebrate the renewal of the light of the year. Oops!

Are we not forgetting someone? Why do we deck the halls with boughs of Holly? This day is the Holly King’s day – the Dark Lord reigns. He is the god of transformation and one who brings us to birth new ways. Why do you think we make “New Year’s Resolutions”? We want to shed our old ways and give way to the new!”

Often, these two entities are portrayed in familiar ways – the Holly King frequently appears as a woodsy version of Santa Claus. He dresses in red, wears a sprig of holly in his tangled hair, and is sometimes depicted driving a team of eight stags. The Oak King is portrayed as a fertility god, and occasionally appears as the Green Man or other lord of the forest.

Oak King

Holly vs. Ivy

The symbolism of the holly and the ivy is something that has appeared for centuries; in particular, their roles as representations of opposite seasons has been recognized for a long time. In Green Groweth the HollyKing Henry VIII of England wrote:

Green groweth the holly, so doth the ivy.
Though winter blasts blow never so high, green groweth the holly.
As the holly groweth green and never changeth hue,
So I am, ever hath been, unto my lady true.
As the holly groweth green with ivy all alone
When flowers cannot be seen and greenwood leaves be gone

Of course, The Holly and the Ivy is one of the best known Christmas carols, which states, “The holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown, of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown.”

The Battle of Two Kings in Myth and Folklore

Both Robert Graves and Sir James George Frazer wrote about this battle.

Graves said in his work The White Goddess that the conflict between the Oak and Holly Kings echoes that of a number of other archetypical pairings. For instance, the fights between Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and between Lugh and Balor in Celtic legend, are similar in type, in which one figure must die for the other to triumph.

Frazer wrote, in The Golden Boughof the killing of the King of the Wood, or the tree spirit. He says, “His life must therefore have been held very precious by his worshippers, and was probably hedged in by a system of elaborate precautions or taboos like those by which, in so many places, the life of the man-god has been guarded against the malignant influence of demons and sorcerers. But we have seen that the very value attached to the life of the man-god necessitates his violent death as the only means of preserving it from the inevitable decay of age.

Wheeloftheyear

The same reasoning would apply to the King of the Wood; he, too, had to be killed in order that the divine spirit, incarnate in him, might be transferred in its integrity to his successor. The rule that he held office till a stronger should slay him might be supposed to secure both the preservation of his divine life in full vigour and its transference to a suitable successor as soon as that vigour began to be impaired. For so long as he could maintain his position by the strong hand, it might be inferred that his natural force was not abated; whereas his defeat and death at the hands of another proved that his strength was beginning to fail and that it was time his divine life should be lodged in a less dilapidated tabernacle.”

Ultimately, while these two beings do battle all year long, they are two essential parts of a whole. Despite being enemies, without one, the other would no longer exist.

 

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Almanac: Summer Solstice 2018

2018AlmanacWHEN IS THE SUMMER SOLSTICE?

This year, the June solstice falls on Thursday, June 21, 2018 in all U.S. and Canada time zones, specifically at 6:07 A.M. EDT.

Year Summer Solstice (Northern Hemisphere)
2018 Thursday, June 21
2019 Friday, June 21
2020 Saturday, June 20

WHAT IS THE SUMMER SOLSTICE?

summer solstice

The timing of the solstice is not based on a specific calendar date and time. It depends on when the Sun reaches its northernmost point from the equator.

The word solstice comes from the Latin solstitium, from sol (sun) and stitium (to stop), reflecting the fact that the Sun appears to stop at this time (and again at the winter solstice).

In temperate regions, we notice that the Sun is higher in the sky throughout the day, and its rays strike Earth at a more direct angle, causing the efficient warming we call summer.

This summer solstice is the day with the most hours of sunlight during the whole year.

It’s fun to share little-known facts about the Sun. For example, not many are aware that the kind of energy the Sun emits most strongly is not ultraviolet, or gamma rays, or even visible light. It’s actually infra-red. That’s the Sun’s strongest emission. The kind we feel as heat.

As for the Sun’s visible emissions, its strongest is: Green light. That’s why our eyes are maximally sensitive to that color.

equinox

MORE SOLSTICE FACTS

  • The solstice Sun stands directly over the Tropic of Cancer. In fact, that’s how the topic of cancer got its name. It’s the southernmost line connecting all places on Earth where the Sun is ever straight up. That’s because a few thousand years ago, the solstice happened when the Sun was in the constellation of Cancer the Crab. Thanks to the wobble of our axis, the Sun is in the constellation of Taurus the Bull. So somebody should go down there and change all the signs to Tropic of Taurus.
  • This  solstice is when folks in the Northern Hemisphere see the highest  Sun of the year. But it’s getting less high over time. That’s because Earth’s tilt is slowly decreasing.
  • The solstice is when the Sun is lowest in the sky for those at the equator.
  • The word solstice comes from the two Latin words “sun” and “stoppage.” Makes sense: the Sun stops moving north that day.
  • In India, the summer solstice ends the six-month period when spiritual growth is supposedly easiest. Better hurry, you only have a few days left.
  • That day, the Sun rises farthest left on the horizon, and sets at its rightmost possible spot. Sunlight strikes places in your rooms that get illuminated at no other time.

    summer solstice

    Summer Solstice by Amanda Clark

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Book Review: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

SpringReads

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

ManhattanBeach

Published: October 2017 by Scribner

synopsis

The daring and magnificent novel from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad.

Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men.

‎Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that once belonged to men, now soldiers abroad. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. One evening at a nightclub, she meets Dexter Styles again, and begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life, the reasons he might have vanished.

With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan’s first historical novel follows Anna and Styles into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men. Manhattan Beach is a deft, dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world. It is a magnificent novel by the author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, one of the great writers of our time.

review

WWII is a territory that has been written about so much that it’s often difficult to find an unusual take on it. Egan went above and beyond with this novel. Her prose reels us in from the first paragraph and holds us deep in it’s clutches. Some titles in the historical fiction are painfully boring, rest assured; Manhattan Beach is anything but boring.

Egan has crafted an absorbing historical fiction novel that exhibits painstaking research and magnificently captures a feeling of the NYC waterfront during the depression and WWII. The emotions in the novel; whether fear, loneliness, pleasure or passion, evoked by main characters Anna, Eddie and Dexter are rich and palpable. Anna shows tremendous strength, courage and perseverance, a woman ahead of her times. Egan explores the ripple effects of the war, witnessing characters  who aren’t in the midst of the war but are affected in the Great Depression. At the heart is Anna, who eventually becomes one of the first female divers.

Water plays an central symbol within the story. Whether it was walking on the beach, taking her sister to “see the sea”, watching battleships being built in the naval yard or diving into the silence of the the harbor floor.

Once again, Egan has delivered a book you cannot put down. She has expertly weaved a portrait of three people’s lives into a seamless story.

Manhattan Beach is compelling tale about fortitude and the will to survive.  Such a poignant and compelling novel which is deep in strength and courage and rich in historical detail.

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Poetry: Curtains In The Sky

poetryCurtain In The Sky

There is a place
That waits for us all

Beyond the sunrise
Past the moon and stars

This place
Is where you’ll find
All the spirits
You have loved most

Living anew
In painted skies

Waiting to tell their stories again

When it is time
They will hear your steps
Catch you as you fall

Your love will not have changed
Only the world of the living changes

There they wait
To hear stories
From the world they left behind

One day
You’ll be united

Beyond the curtains in the sky

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Almanac: May 2018 Flower Moon

2018AlmanacIn most areas, flowers are abundant everywhere during this time. Thus, the name of this Moon. Other names include the Full Corn Planting Moon, or the Milk Moon.

MayFlowerMoon

 Thinking about switching to a new position, or perhaps trying a new field altogether? Want to take a class or get your degree? Take the seeds you’ve planted last month, and allow them to bloom and grow in your favor. Here are some things you can do this month – because this is a time in which we need to plant the seeds for later success:

  • Begin tending your garden–or planting seeds in containers–and take some time to cultivate each of your herbs, flowers, and plants.
  • Remember that May is also the season of Beltane. If you want to bring fertility into your life, this is a great time to do magical workings related to conception and fruitfulness. Think about planting tubers, such as yams, which are believed to increase lust and fertility. In some West African nations, the white yam has been linked to high birth rates, particularly that of twins and other multiples.
  • Plant beans, squash and corn in the arrangement that Native Americans call Three Sisters. In addition to being a self-sustaining ecosystem, in which each plant helps the others, the planting of this trio is associated with the concept of happy families, abundance, and community.FlowerMoon

FULL MOON FOLKLORE

  • The full moon is often associated with temporal insomnia. In the past, the reason was obvious; people did not sleep well during the full moon due to the bright light it emitted.

  • The full moon was believed to make people go crazy. The world “lunatic” was used to describe a person who was considered mentally ill, dangerous, foolish, or unpredictable – conditions once attributed to lunacy. The word derives from the Latin word “lunaticus” meaning “moonstruck.”

    FullMoon

  • The full moon is an ideal time to accept a proposal of marriage.

  • It has been suggested that the full moon affects humans in the same way as it does to the oceans via the tidal force as the human body is about 75% water, but in fact, the tidal effect is totally insignificant on such a small scale.

  • Clothes washed for the first time in the Full Moon will not last long.

  • It is sometimes claimed that surgeons used to refuse to operate during the full moon because of the increased risk of death of the patient through blood loss. A study carried out in Barcelona found a statistically significant correlation between lunar phase and hospital admissions due to gastrointestinal bleeding.

  • The full moon is considered unlucky if it occurs on Sunday but lucky if it occurs on Monday. In fact, the name of Monday is derived from Old English “Mōnandæg” and Middle English “Monenday,” which mean “moon day.”

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Poetry: The Golden Haired Girl

poetryThe Golden Haired Girl

I thought I saw myself in a crowded room
Darting out a back corner
Disappearing with the flashes of light

I searched

Trying desperately to find the girl
That used to be me

Whenever I’d catch a glimpse
I’d chase her

She existed everywhere
And nowhere at the same time

Day after day

I searched

For the golden haired girl
That I used to be

Believing if I could find her
Our two halves would make one whole

Did she not recognize me?
Was that why she ran and disappeared?

Could she not see the pale beauty she had evolved into?

We were one of the same
Surely she should have recognized the reflection on the other side of the mirror

I found my answer
As I met her face to face

She didn’t have a place in this world
She no longer exists
Cancer killed the girl I used to be

There was no reverting back

I didn’t need to explore the past to make myself whole
I didn’t need to trade on tragedy to define my life

I had to enrich my future
The beautiful days ahead

That was where my mind belonged

Bright eyed and beautiful
The world at my feet

The golden haired girl is a ghost
One that no longer haunts my dreams
Nor my waking hours

I’ve put her to rest
Buried with all my wishes to change the past
Buried with all my incessant fears

By living for today

Embracing life

She has the surviving part down
Now she will focus on the thriving

There is only room for one face in the mirror

It is mine

One born of dignity and pride
One born of bravery and change

Above all
Strength

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