Review: The Witches’ Almanac Coloring Book

Color All the Things!
Color All the Things!

I love to color, and as much as I hate to sound like that annoying hipster barista at your favorite coffee shop, I was actually coloring a lot before it became a trend. It’s therapeutic and keeps me from throwing rocks at people or eating my feelings.

One of the best things about coloring becoming popular, though, is that now, instead of being stuck with Dora the Explorer and Ninja Turtles, there are a floppity-million coloring books out there for grownups. No matter what your interest – I have Outlander and Game of Thrones – there’s something for you to color in.

Which is why, gentle reader, when the nice folks at Red Wheel Weiser sent me their newest foray into the world of coloring, I may have squee’d just a little bit. The Witches Almanac Coloring Book is FUN, y’all!

It’s divided into seven sections – Woodcuts, Constellations,

So Pretty!
So Pretty!

the Planets, Creatures, Egyptian, Americas (unfortunately short), and Tarot. It’s a neat collection of artwork to color in, and I’m seriously enjoying it.

The best part: I really love the Tarot section. The images are from the Rider Waite Smith deck that we’re all so familiar with, and includes all of the Major Arcana. If you’ve ever felt like the traditional RWS colors didn’t resonate with you, now’s your chance to change that. Make the sky purple any time you like.

These pages WANT you to color them!
These pages WANT you to color them!

Also, I loved seeing the woodcut artwork, many of which were featured in days gone by as illustrations for anti-witch treatises – you know, the ones where we’re all Satan’s whores? A lot of the woodcuts will look familiar to regular readers of the Witches Almanac publications; they’ve been used by Weiser regularly, and for the most part, these are fantastic.

Just Hangin' Around Coloring
Just Hangin’ Around Coloring

My one complaint? A few of the images – not many, but a few – appear so stretched that they appear pixelated and blurred, which makes them less than appealing to color. For the most part, though, the lines are nice and crisp. The book is a good quality – especially for the $12.00 price tag – and there’s a nice mix of different styles in there. In all, the good definitely outweighs the not-as-good. I’d give it eight broomsticks out of ten!

 

Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

 

In Which I Hang Out At Media Medusa

I don’t know if you guys are familiar with Media Medusa, and specifically, Nancy Basile, but if you’re not following the site, you should be. All kinds of cool pop culture things lurk over at MM, from TV to movies to books, so go check it out!

Nancy Basile at Media Medusa is awesome and you should read her stuff.
Nancy Basile at Media Medusa is awesome and you should read her stuff.

I first met Nancy when we were co-conspirators at About.com, and we discovered pretty quickly that we had a lot in common – the same weird sense of humor, an unabashed love for Outlander‘s Jamie Fraser, and no lie, we both have the Imperial March from Star Wars as our ringtones. It’s like we’re Geek Twinsies.

Anyway, I got to do a little virtual hangout with Nancy for an interview over at MM, and you should really go read it, because she asked some great questions about the creative process (spoiler: my process is possibly non-existent), inspiration, and why I even write in the first place. Go read it now! Author Patti Wigington Casts a Spell

The Good Witch’s Daily Spellbook

OMG YOU GUYS.

I have some super exciting news! I’ve partnered with Sterling Publishing to create The Good Witch’s Daily Spellbook! This collection of 366 spells – one for each day of the year – is designed in a way that’s useful for both beginners and advanced practitioners. No fancy hard-to-find tools, no hours-long rituals, just magic on the fly when you need it – as it should be!

Like a boss!

I’m super excited about this project, and my editor, Chris Barsanti, is going to be an absolute dream to work with. TGWDSB will be out in December 2016, marketed in Barnes & Noble stores (Sterling is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BN), and available in a snazzy gift-sized hardcover for just $7.98. I’ll let everyone know as things progress, like cover artwork and pre-order options, but I’m so jazzed about this that I can barely type coherent sentences right now. Stay tuned for more, and join me for one heck of a magical ride!

The Intro to Tarot Study Guide is Here!

A few weeks ago I announced that About.com had advised us that they would shortly be doing away with the e-courses. While it was disappointing to hear, there are certainly solid reasons for the decision on their part – however, a LOT of readers have given me feedback in the past about how much they loved the e-courses. Two in particular, the Intro to Paganism & Wicca and Intro to Tarot courses, were extremely popular. When I posted this initially, I was able to announce that I’d revamped the Intro to Paganism & Wicca e-class into a 13-step self study guide, which is getting really great responses.

StopBuying2Today, I’m pleased to say that the Intro to Tarot Study Guide is now available! It’s a six-step self-study program that you can use at your own pace – all of the content of the original e-course is included, as well as new and updated information. Don’t worry, there are no pop quizzes, grades, or weird bell curves involved – work through it at your own pace, whether it takes you six days or six weeks or even six months!

It’s a chance for you to follow one of my favorite suggestions: read, study, learn, and grow – and I hope you find it as beneficial as other readers found the older-style e-classes!

Intro to Paganism Study Guide

So last week About.com advised us that they would shortly be doing away with the e-courses. There were several reasons for this – all of which are valid and legitimate – but that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of readers really loved my site’s e-classes. In particular, the Intro to Tarot and the Wicca & Paganism 101 e-classes were huge hits with many readers, and I always got a ton of great feedback from people who had subscribed.

With limited notice as to the end of the e-courses, I wasn’t entirely sure what to do about them – while I know there are a number of other programs I can use to set up a mailer system for a free e-class, the fact is that I have a lot of irons in the fire right now, and don’t have the time to learn a new system right this minute. Then I realized that I had already done the legwork for the e-classes – putting together links to articles in a coherent and organized collection. It occurred to me that rather than e-mailed newsletter-type lessons, these would actually transfer really well into a self-study lesson plans, in which readers can work through at their own pace.

So I’ve decided to turn those two e-classes into self-study guides. The first one is already up and loaded here: Introduction to Paganism – A 13-Step Study Guide.

All the study guides for everyone!

Bookmark it, print it, throw spaghetti at it, whatever you want to do – it’s all there for your convenience, and it’s all of the same content that was previously included in the Wicca 101 e-class. Don’t worry, there’s no tests, grading, or weird bell curves involved – it’s just a chance for you to follow one of my favorite suggestions: read, study, learn, and grow.

I should get the Introduction to Tarot study guide complete by the end of the month (funny story, I actually had it all loaded up and my computer shut itself off, erasing four hours worth of work, so I have to re-do it), and will announce it when it’s up and ready to roll. In the meantime, go forth and learn new things!

Whole30: I Lost Some Stuff

So yesterday was the final day of my #whole30 experiment, and I’m happy to report that I feel amazing. Sure, there are a few things that could use improvement – I’m still experiencing the weird fibro Charley horses in my legs, and the arthritis in my hips still makes me hate mornings – but overall, I feel great.

Eat all the things.
Eat all the things.

I’m sleeping through the night – I’m talking about six hours, uninterrupted – which is something I haven’t done in a long time. My skin, which has always looked healthy, looks even more clear. I’m not tired throughout the day, and I feel well rested and have a ton of energy.

Also, I lost some things. A lot of things:

  • A pants size.
  • A bra size – although I’m happy that the cups stayed the same, the band measurement is down 2″.
  • Six inches off my hips.
  • Two inches off my waist.
  • Thirteen pounds.

And that’s after just thirty days with no sugar, no dairy, and no grains. I eat meat, eggs, fish, vegetables, fruit, and tree nuts, and I legitimately cannot remember the last time I felt this good. And the thing is, doing Whole30 is easy if you take the time to be mindful about what you’re actually putting in your mouth.

I know a lot of people get to the end of it and celebrate by eating a bag of candy and a bottle of wine, but I just can’t break my streak at this point, because I feel so damn great.

So what’s a girl to do when her Whole30 is this successful?

I’m making it a #Whole60.

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!

Salem, Hartford, and Pendle Hill

I first became interested in the Salem witch trials long before I was interested in witchcraft itself. I remember reading about them as a child, and being fascinated by the tales of these girls my age who had been possessed, taken by spirits in the night in league with the Devil himself. Accusations flew about like gray specters in the dark nights of colonial Massachusetts, fingers pointing, and no one was safe.

As I got older, and became more interested in history itself – not just of Salem and its trials, but of the entire country and in particular, the pre-Revolutionary world – I read more and learned more. Among the many things I learned, first and foremost, was that none of the people tried for witchcraft in Salem were actually practicing witchcraft. Nine-year-old me had been certain they were, but adult me discovered this wasn’t the case at all.

But does she weigh as much as a duck?

What a lot of people are completely unaware of, though, and something I didn’t know about until I stumbled across it completely by accident, is that there was another trial in New England, three decades before Salem happened. In 1662, there was a situation very similar to the 1692 events, albeit on a smaller scale. The town of Hartford, Connecticut, saw a spring panic, the death of a child, and accusations pitting neighbor vs. neighbor, which I’ve written about in more detail here. Unlike Salem, however, only four people died in the Hartford trials.

One thing that’s on my bucket list of things to do some day is perhaps teach a class on witchcraft trials in the British Empire, and that would include Salem and Hartford. Now, this is the part where I usually get an indignant message from someone reminding me that Massachusetts and Connecticut are in ‘Murica, damn it! Well, sure… they are NOW. But in the 17th century, when these trials took place, America didn’t exist yet. Massachusetts and Connecticut were governed by British law, because they were (waaaait for it…) British colonies. Pardon me while I mic drop a bit.

Anyway, we all know about Salem and only a few of us have apparently even heard of Hartford, but Britain itself certainly has its share of witchcraft trials. One of the most notorious took place in Lancashire in 1612, in the Pendle Hill area, and ten people were eventually found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.

One of the absolute most important takeaways when we look at trials like Salem, Hartford, and Pendle Hill, is that it is EXTREMELY unlikely that anyone who was convicted and hanged was actually practicing witchcraft. Every year – oddly, in the spring – there seems to be a resurgence of memes within the Pagan internet world honoring the “dead witches of Salem” or something along those lines. Honor them if you want, but they weren’t witches. In fact, many of them were very pious and devout Christians. We in the Pagan community can hardly hold up Salem as an example of anti-Pagan religious persecution – it was a total disaster, for sure, but had nothing to do with Actual Pagans™.

I have an awesome professor this semester who regularly points out that it’s not so much that history repeats itself, but that people themselves never change. Given the same circumstances, human behavior will tend towards repetition, whether we’re looking at ancient Rome, Asia, the British isles, or colonial Massachusetts. So read up, folks – read up on the conditions that can surround mass hysteria and panic, observe how people responded at the time, and then consider whether or not it can happen again.

For additional stuff to read, which includes references to academic work that’s invaluable, check out a couple of my articles here:

Whole30 Week 2: No One Is Dead Yet

So now I’m finished with week two of my #Whole30, and I’m pleased to say I haven’t killed anyone yet. I know this is where I am supposed to start feeling that whole Eat All the Things and Murderous Ragey stuff, but honestly, I’ve never felt better.

No, one does not.
No, one does not.

This week’s meals included curried chicken, portobello mushrooms, chorizo sausage, and tuna salad made with Ahi and homemade mayo. I legitimately think I might be able to not just pull this off, but also continue eating this way on a long term basis.

Things I’ve learned this week:

  • Coconut milk in my coffee is actually really good.
  • Just because I see a candy bar doesn’t mean I’m obligated to eat it.
  • A five-dollar burger press is a worthwhile investment, because I have a dozen perfectly shaped burgers in my freezer right now, waiting for me to eat them.
  • Home-smoked bacon is the best thing ever.
#baconbaconBACON
#baconbaconBACON

Oh yeah, did I mention I made my own bacon? It’s simply amazing and easy and affordable and I can’t believe I never did it before. More on that over at Gluten Free Redhead, but seriously, guys.

#homemadebacon4lyfe

 

 

Whole30 Week 1: I Survived

Lack of food makes me a mean girl.
Lack of food makes me a mean girl.

So I’ve just completed my first week of my #Whole30 challenge, and I’m not gonna lie, it was a hell of a lot easier than I expected. I truly believe that the advance prep work helped me through it.

A few observations:

1. I was worried I’d be hungry all the time, but I’m not. I’m sort of re-learning how my body does respond to its own signals, and now I’m eating when I start to feel growly, instead of when I’m bored.

2. I’m eating good stuff. Lots of chicken and fish, a ton of fruits and veggies, and of course, eggs. It’s never boring, because I have a metric fuckton of herbs and spices in my pantry – last night I made Indian curried chicken, sauteed in ghee and dumped over a plate of garlic roasted cauliflower. The other day, for breakfast, I had a spinach and turkey fritatta. I am eating well.

3. I miss bacon – believe it or not, nearly all commercial brands of bacon include some sort of sugar or sugar byproduct. There is a Whole30-approved bacon, but it’s incredibly expensive and I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay out the wazoo for a pound of bacon. That said, I’ve asked the nice lady at the Meijer butcher counter to order me a few pounds of pork belly, and I’m going to drag out the smoker and try making my own bacon. More on this later.

4. I’m seeing non-scale victories already. One of the things that Whole30 emphasizes is that you DO NOT step on the scale while you’re doing it. So I haven’t. And yet, I’m noticing a couple of things just one week in. My jeans are fitting better. And today, for the first time in I don’t know how many years, I needed to use the second row of hooks on my bra strap rather than the first one. Also, I’m sleeping better – that change happened within the first two days.

5. I have more willpower than I thought I would. My kid had a bag of candy hearts on the table the other day. It would have been SO easy to cheat, and just take one or two. But I didn’t. And once I didn’t, I felt really fucking GOOD about the fact that I didn’t, which made it even easier to pass them by the next time.

Week 2 looms on the horizon, and I’m already planning and prepping. This coming week is a bit crazy, so it’s probably going to be crockpot meals, but I’m okay with that. After just seven days, I’m feeling a lot better than I was in January, and it’s entirely possible I might be able to do this all the way to the end.

 

Whole30 Starts Tomorrow and I’m So Excited

OMG you guys, my #Whole30 begins in less than 24 hours.

Wait, let me backtrack. Recently – and by that, I mean over the past few weeks – I’ve started researching the concept of clean eating. I eat pretty healthy for the most part… or at least I thought I did. I don’t eat a ton of bread or pasta (hello celiac!) and I try to eat vegetables regularly and all that stuff. Then I started thinking about all the other not-wheat grains I eat. And the candy. And the ice cream. Before I knew it, I realized that while I wasn’t exactly shoveling carbs and sugar into my face 24/7, I could definitely do better.

So after looking at several different types of clean eating plans, I’ve decided I’m going to challenge myself with the Whole30 for the entire month of February. I’ve been working up to it for a week or two now, and I’m starting tomorrow, January 31, which will give me a full 30 days of eliminating all the things that could/maybe are/possibly might be not as good for me.

No grains. No dairy. No added sugars. No legumes (buh-bye, peanut butter). On the other hand, lots of meats, vegetables, fruits, and healthy oils. Oddly enough, I actually think this is doable, and here are the reasons why:

1. I’m ready for it. I spent an hour or two the other day mapping out my first week’s menu. I’m one of those people who tends to make meals on the fly, which means if there’s something within reach, I’ll cook it and eat it. On the other hand, if I know exactly what I’m going to be making in advance, then that’s what I am going to make. Plus, it helps with grocery shopping – which, incidentally, did not cost me any more today, buying Whole30 meal stuff, than it normally does.

2. I like to cook. No, seriously, I love to cook, so a month’s worth of meals is way less of a challenge for me than it would be for someone who eats out five nights a week. Also, I already use a lot of the recommended items in the Whole30 plan, like ghee and coconut oil.

3. The payoff. I’m hoping I’ll feel better physically, sleep easier, and overall be in better condition once I’m done. I don’t care so much about losing weight – although dog knows I could drop some poundage – so the numbers honestly aren’t my end goal. In fact, the founders of Whole30 are big fans of OH NO DO NOT STEP ON THAT SCALE.

Go to hell, iceberg lettuce.
Go to hell, iceberg lettuce.

And guess what else? I’m not going to be living on salads for the next 30 days, either. Salads can get boring eventually, and lettuce is mostly just crunchy water and for Pete’s sake, how many ways can anyone really make vinaigrette interesting (the answer is three)? Nope. I’m planning on eating well. I am a well fed woman who plans to continue being well fed, simply with a shift in the input.

So, what did I do today to get ready? All the same things that I normally do, just not all at once. Bought groceries, using my handy dandy list. Cut up carrots and celery for snacks later in the week, hard boiled some eggs, roasted a pan of garlic, made a batch of mayo and a batch of ketchup, browned some turkey and added a bit of fresh sage to it for tomorrow’s breakfast, and baked two pounds of chicken breasts. This way, on days when I’m busy (in other words, any day that ends in a Y), I’ll have some of the work already done. On Monday, when I work until 430 and then don’t get home from class until 9, I can just pop a chicken boobie in the microwave, warm it back up, top it with some roasted garlic and a bit of avocado, and I’ve got a meal.

I. Can. Do. This.

And in a week, when I’m feeling depressed and angry because I really really REALLY want to eat an entire bag of SweetTart Valentine’s Hearts when they’re 50% off on February 15, I’m gonna need y’all to talk me down, mmkay? Because eventually, it will pass.

Also, a final note: I’m doing Whole30 for ME. I’m doing it so I can feel better. Not to be smug about my food superiority, not because I think I’m fat (I’m chubby, but I’m still pretty damn hot), and not because I’m planning to tell you that you need to do it too. I’m sure as hell not doing it because I think the foods I eat are better than the ones you eat. THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU.

It’s all about me, because this is my Year of Living Awesomely, and if I feel better physically, I’ll sure as hell enjoy my Awesome a lot more.

Did I mention I’m excited? I’ll be posting more as things progress – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Stay tuned, and if I start making candy noises, remind me that I got this.