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Favorite Witchy Things | Our Prairie Nest
Witchy Favorites

Favorite Witchy Things - Good Magic by Marina Medici | Our Prairie NestWhen you’re on a path for a number of years, it’s easy to accumulate favorites – things you’d never want to do without. Here are just a few of my favorite witchy things.

The first item is one that remains both useful and nostalgic and that is Good Magic by Marina Medici. This is among the first of several books I read about witchcraft when I was a teenager. My father provided me with some books, but a friend in high school discovered this one and it became an insta-favorite. Mine is going on 25-years-old now, so the edges of the cover have curled up a little bit with use.

But the book still transports me to the wonder of first discovering the ideas of witchcraft and magick as a teenager, of telling my dad I wanted to be a witch, and having him provide things like my first books, incense burners, candles and candleholders, and more.

This isn’t a spiritual approach to magick. It has more of a fanciful, Old World feel, and maybe that’s why I love it. The author treats witchcraft as if it’s just a normal thing in her life. No fuss about religion or  spirituality. Because I’m not Wiccan, but I am a Witch, this book is perfect for my practice. Yes, spiritually I am Pagan and embrace the idea of feminine creative energy (aka Goddess), however it’s not an intrinsic part of the practical way in which I use magick.

Another favorite not pictured here that goes into the idea of magick separate from religion is Real Magic by Isaac Bonewits. I love how he digs into the nuts and bolts of why magick actually works.

Favorite Witchy Things - Book of Shadows | Our Prairie Nest

When I lived in Delaware, there was a wonderful store that opened in Dover called Bell, Book & Candle. Sadly, the store is gone now. However, I have several items I purchased there, including the very first wood-bound book of shadows they ever sold.

At the time, this was a bargain at $50 for this handmade wooden book, filled with 8 1/2 x 11 pages. Later books were more elaborate and more expensive, but I adore this basic version with the pentagram.

The great thing about this book is it’s completely customizable. I’ve taken out papers to print spells, devotionals, rituals, and more on them.

Of course, you can handwrite on the blank pages, too, which comes with its own benefits. But my handwriting is terrible and since the pages aren’t lined, I found printing out rituals made more sense for me.

I’ve also customized those pages with various illustrations and borders, but I haven’t been afraid to write in notes after the fact, either. This book contains more than I often remember, until I open it, looking for something specific. Every public ritual I go to that involves a handout also goes into the Book of Shadows, so I can use them at home if the ritual really resonated with me.

Another nifty item I got at Bell, Book & Candle in its heyday a tin of blank cards, which you see above. Yes, they were all faery/fairy themed and so beautiful.

Though the cards are long gone, used at least ten or more years ago when I first got them, the tin remains. It’s the perfect storage container for seed packets. Plus, I’m a sucker for anything with an autumnal color scheme, so this tin has been a staple in my house for a long time.

Back when I lived in Dover, there was a gorgeous planner called the Seasons of the Witch planner, created by Victoria David Danann. I loved that planner.

Favorite Witchy Things - Tea and Tarot by Victoria Danann | Our Prairie NestSadly, the planner is long-since defunct and, while I miss it, I do have another piece of Victoria Danann that is timeless – this beautiful print called “Tea and Tarot.” I fell in love with it when it first came out and had to have it. In fact, back at my old house in Dover, I designed the entire color scheme of my office around it.

This print now hangs in my living room where I can enjoy it every day. It’s one of the first things you’ll see when walking into my house and looks great near the front door, where it can catch the light.

I also own the amazing “Traditions” silhouette print by Liza Lambertini (it’s at the very bottom of her website, but faded out, because it was limited edition and is no longer available). Unfortunately, I need to get a new frame for it, since the one I had it in really didn’t suit it. Next year, I plan to get a nice plain, black frame. Nothing too ornate and no mat, since it’s quite a large print.

Favorite Witchy Things - Goddess & Web Statute | Our Prairie NestThe last item here was a gift from a very special friend. Silver Lyons and I have been friends for nearly twenty years now (whoa!) and we keep in touch regularly. We’re both New Englanders, separated by far too much distance. She’s an incredible writer and teacher, and we dream of the day we’ll live next door to one another, where we can chat from side-by-side front porches.

Until then, we exchange ridiculously long emails and the occasional gift. This lovely little lady came at a time when I needed Her most. As Silver knows, I have a connection to Goddess as Spider, as the weaver of the web of life and fate. I am grateful that this called to her and said She needed to come live with me. So many thanks to Silver for my lovely Goddess of all that is infinite and yet interconnected.

These are just a few of the witchy things that adorn our household. As you can see, I really prefer function over form. I’m not into knick-knacks or things that don’t have an actual use or purpose, or stuff in general. If I hold onto something decorative, it’s because I love it. These particular items are extra special to me.

Basic Farmhouse Crackers | Our Prairie Nest
Baking Crackers

Now that school is in full swing, I’ve decided that every Monday is a baking day. There was a recipe for Basic Farmhouse Crackers n the June-July 2018 issue of Mary Jane’s Farm Magazine (also previously published in their October-November 2009 issue).

I just love, love, love this magazine. When there are so many websites and books out there to tell us how to do whatever we could possibly want to learn, it’s the aesthetic of Mary Jane’s Farm Magazine that keeps me subscribing.

When I saw this recipe, I thought it would be so much fun to bake, but not during the summer. Not when my oven would heat up the whole house and compete with the AC to keep things cool. I decided back-to-school was the time to begin. Mondays during the school year also seem like a good idea, because the kids can participate, if they want. Plus, this gives us snacks, desserts, or sides for meals for the week.

The funny thing is, I don’t care for baking. I feel like it’s a lot of work and waiting for what I want. That’s something I’m trying to get over this year, so I think having a weekly baking day will be good for me.

Yesterday, my daughter and I gave it a go – our first time baking crackers! We had so much fun. The recipe is basic and easier than you might think:

Basic Farmhouse Crackers

{as seen in Mary Jane’s Farm Magazine}

1 ½ cups flour

1 ½ tsp cream of tartar

1/2 tsp salt

¾ tsp baking soda

¼ cup oil

½ cup water

1 egg

2 tsp sugar

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

¼ cup sesame seeds {toasted, though we didn’t toast them}

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly spray or wipe two baking sheets with oil.
    2. Mix first four ingredients together in medium bowl.
    3. Add oil and stir until mixture resembles coarse meal. This is where you can add spices or seasonings, if desired. We tried a very light sprinkling of rosemary, since this was an experiment, and it turned out wonderful!
    4. Add water and stir until dough forms.
    5. In a small bowl, whisk together egg, sugar, and vinegar.
    6. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out very thin. Brush with egg mixture and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Cut, tear into strips, or use cookie cutters to make any cracker shape you like. Transfer to baking sheets. I used a pizza cutter, which worked perfectly.
    7. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes depending on thickness and size. Allow to cool on cooling rack and serve.

That’s all there is to it! The crackers are easy to make, tasty, and are the perfect side to complement a bowl of soup, especially veggie or tomato.

Enough for Me | Our Prairie Nest
Enough for Me

I don’t have it all and being among other moms kind of drives that point home for me. Today, especially, I felt the weight of judgment that’s probably just a figment of my imagination.

It all started Friday night, spending time with people I’m aware are far better off than I am. Actually, it started before that when someone very graciously picked up the tab for an event I’m interested in attending, after I mentioned needing to put off spending money on until closer to the date. While I appreciate the gesture, it injures my pride a little bit. Now I have to figure out how to repay that person without it seeming awkward. Of course, I realize a true friend won’t be weird about it, but I still hardly know most of the people around me.

As it is, I have a hard time getting comfortable with people. I’m always waiting for their judgment, because it’s loomed over me since I was a kid: I’m weird. I don’t fit in.

With motherhood, it’s even more acute. First, when I had my son, I had That Mom Friend who did everything with her kids that “normal” moms do: took them to the Picture People for monthly photos, had the perfect house with a finished basement playroom, and strong opinions about the things we “should” be doing. I couldn’t keep up and, frankly, I didn’t want to.

More than ten years later, that feeling is still there with my youngest. It doesn’t help that my fellow mothers are now millennials, instead of Gen Xers. Of course, we can still relate to each other as parents, but there’s an age gap that makes it obvious we are coming from very different places.

The big difference, though, is how much effort I put into entertaining my little one. I’m comfortable with her finding her own way, so I don’t provide much by way of activities. She has enough (I believe) toys, books, and more, not to mention nature all around her. Every Monday, we bake together. Tuesday through Friday, the kids are at school. To me, that’s plenty. Her weekends should be free for exploration.

Where I live, there are a ton of fun, kid-centric places to bring little ones up in the city, about 45 minutes north of here – museums and zoos, and do I ever do it? No, unless it’s a school field trip. It’s too expensive, too much gas, and I just don’t want to run my child up to the activities constantly. Our one weekly activity during the summer was a visit to the library, then we’d hit the local playground or beach/pool on days that seemed good for it. Running up to the city for everything there seems like such a waste of time, energy, and money. Do I begrudge the moms who do this? Of course not. That’s their choice. But when they’re surprised we’ve visited the zoo once (about, um, 2015 or 2016?), it hurts a little.

Sometimes, people act as though I’m a stay-at-home-mom, which also has me grinding my teeth a little bit. I’m a work-from-home-mom and my husband doesn’t bring in an income… so what does that mean? How do people perceive us, exactly? Then there’s the fact that we grow a lot of our own food, bake homemade goodies, don’t stock up at Costco and Sam’s Club (because, again, that means going out of my way to do those things, spending money on gas to save money on food). And so on and so on.

What drove the point home and sent me in kind of a blah spiral was babysitting today. Spending time in a mom friend’s enormous house, while she graciously brought my daughter up to one of those special kid places with her kids for some fun, was a bit of a happiness killer. I know what I have is enough for me. I know it’s not enough for most people. And, honestly, I would like more. Who wouldn’t?

But I’m at a point where what I have is enough for me, and it’s up to me to continue to stand by that. I guess what I need is to “find my tribe,” the people who are happily living with less, while still striving for what they do want and need. Just somewhere a little to the left of the rat race, maybe?

Canning Pickles | Our Prairie Nest
Pickles & Breadcrumbs

No, pickles and bread crumbs don’t go together… unless you’re making them!

Last week, we did our first canning of the season. Year after year, we enjoy a bountiful cucumber harvest. The right ones go into pickles. Which cucumbers are best for pickles? You want the smaller cukes, the ones with smaller seeds. They should be just ripe. An overripe cucumber doesn’t make as nice a pickle.

Making Pickles

There are several ways to make pickles. The first couple of years, we went with the heat canning and boiling the jars, but last year we discovered an easier and tastier way to make pickles – no heat, no boiling, and the result are even more flavorful, crunchy pickles.

If this sounds intriguing to you, you want to go with cold process. There are several recipes available with different ways of spicing the pickles, but most come down to the same technique: you clean the cucumbers and jars, mix your spices, boil your brine, slice your cucumbers, add garlic, and then the brine and spices. Let them sit for a few days and then give them a try.

Making Breadcrumbs

The other thing we did last week was make homemade breadcrumbs for the first time. With all the grilling we do during the summer, the top of the refrigerator becomes a sort of catch-all for hamburger and hot dog buns. I don’t like throwing away the leftovers and I also don’t want to feed leftover pieces to the birds and ducks. It’s just not good for them or the environment. So I finally put the leftovers to good use.

Breadcrumbs are easy to make. I tore the buns into small pieces and put them on a foil-lined baking tray. Then, I placed them in the oven at 350 degrees. I checked on them every 10 minutes, mixing the bread until it’d all gone nice and dry.

If you aren’t sure you can remember to check in consistently, because you don’t want the bread to burn, you can dry it at lower temperatures for a longer amount of time. When a few pieces still felt a little soft, I turned the oven off and just let the tray sit for another 10 minutes.

Most recipes call for a food processor for the next step, which we don’t have (that and a mixer are both on my wishlist. Someday!), but a blender works just fine. I filled the blender about halfway with dried pieces of bread and used the ice crushing setting to break them down into breadcrumbs.

Then I experimented with my next batch by throwing in a combination of kosher salt, oregano, basil, and parsley. I kept the spices to a minimum, but probably could have been more generous with the amounts. This batch of breadcrumbs came out smelling delicious and I plan to make them in the future with slightly stronger seasoning.

That is, if cooking with them turns out well. I’ll try to remember to report on that!

*Edited to add: Cooking with them was amazing! Just as good, if not better than, store-bought breadcrumbs.

Bread Crumbs | Our Prairie Nest