Saturday, December 26, 2015

2015 Year in Review

 
(Yes, my legal name is Lesley)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

2015 Holiday Home Tour


Welcome to my 2015 Holiday Home Tour! Unfortunately my first year blogging I didn't get around to posting a home tour because, well, we didn't decorate for a variety of reasons.However, we wanted our first Christmas in our new home to be extra special, so we went all out! Let's begin with the living room.




We actually purchased a new tree for this house because our other two trees were either too small or too big. Because the library is so small, we knew we needed a slim tree. Furthermore, slim trees are more formal in my opinion. This is a formal space, so we needed a tree to fit the room.




For ornaments we went with pinks, greens, golds, and whites which are the colors of the room. We actually picked up wrapping paper that will match the room, but I had already wrapped presents when we found it. Next year we'll use it!

We have several formal looking ornaments surrounded by natural ones, including the nest featured above. These are a tribute to the Earth and all her creatures.For more ornament ideas, see my Yule Correspondences post.




I added several decorations into our bookcases, including the ornaments and the word "JOY" symbolizing what this time of year is all about.

 

In the window I hung three ornaments with fishing line. I love how they sway when the heat kicks on and the light shines through them casting pink, white, and green splashes on the floor.

 

On our front door I hung the wreath I made a couple years ago. You can see a full tutorial here. The wreath was damaged in the move and I will be repairing it after the holiday season. I was going to before I put it up, but I wanted some time to think about new colors and ideas. I am probably going to add more sprigs and include pinks and golds with the greens.

 

I hung this wreath in our kitchen window. This was actually given to me this year by my employers who no longer had a place for it in their new home. It is a perfect tribute to the Holly King with its holly berries, pine cones, and evergreen sprigs. I also places garland above my cabinets and covered them in white lights, but I couldn't get a picture I wasn't embarrassed of. Ha ha!

 

 

And for the grand finale, the outside. We hung out icicle lights around the front of the house, covered the porch in garland and lights, wrapped the front trees, and hung lights and garland around the front fence. Next year we will be adding more lights to the yard, but for our first year I think we did a pretty good job.

How is your decorating going? Yule is just a couple days away! I've added a link up party below. Feel free to share your holiday decorations!


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Herbarium: Holly


Gender: Masculine
Planet: Mars
Element: Fire
Powers: Dream Magic, Luck, Protection
Magical Uses and History: Holly's association with Yule is centuries old, dating back to the Romans who hung holly in their homes and attached boughs to gifts during Saturnalia and the Druids who decorated their homes for the sylvan spirits. The edict of the Church of Bracara supposedly forbade Christians from decorating their homes with holly at the same time as the Pagans, leading to Christians decorating just days before Christmas. However, because the tradition was so deeply rooted in society, Christians began decorating with holly during most of December. Old Christmas carols are full of allusions to holly, including the song The Praise of Christmas which sings "When Christmas's tide comes in like a bridge, With holly and ivy clad..."

Holly is hung in the home for protection against lightning, poison, and evil spirits as well as to bring luck at Yule. If planted around the home, as many people today still do without knowing why, it is supposed to guard against mischievous sorcerers with it's sharp leaves and red berries. Holly is also carried to increase luck, especially in men since it is a masculine herb while ivy traditionally brings luck to women.

If you wish to make your dream comes true, pick nine leaves of holly after midnight on a Friday and wrap them in a white cloth using nine knots to seal it. Tuck it under your pillow and your dreams should come to fruition.

Holly can be used in a number of spells including:
     Dream Magic
     Love Spells
     Protection Magic
    
Medicinal Uses: Holly berries are used by some for their purgative nature, but I strongly advise against this. Unless you are a skilled herbalist, holly berries can cause severe diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration which can result in death. The leaves of certain varieties, however, can be used to fight digestive issues, fever, high blood pressure, and rheumatism. Varieties to use include Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon holly), Ilex aquifolium (European holly), and Ilex opaca (American holly).

Preparation and Dosage: Holly is to be taken internally. Using dried leaves, place 1-3 teaspoons in 1 cup of hot water and allow to diffuse for 10-15 minutes. Drink up to three times a day. As a tincture, take 2-4 milliliters up to three times a day.

 

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Friday, December 11, 2015

The Holly King

With Yule right around the corner, I can't help but be reminded of the Holly King who will be his strongest on the winter solstice. Yule is the time to celebrate the Holly King and recognize that the Sun has been reborn and soon the Oak King will come knocking.

As I mentioned in an earlier post on the Oak King, this story fascinates me. It's a lovely combination of death and rebirth that matches up nicely with the seasons. This will be a story I tell my future child one day to coincide with the sabbats. I'll go into more detail of the battle between the two in a later post, but today I would just like to focus on the Holly King.

    Image by renphoto/Vetta/Getty Images
The Holly King, Lord of Winterwood, is the dark twin of the Oak King. At Samhain, the Holly King defeats the Oak King, allowing darkness to reign until Beltane the following year. The days begin getting shorter while the nights get longer. The weather shifts from warm to cold and the Earth goes to sleep. However, it's not all doom and gloom. The Holly King is a god of transformations and new beginnings which is why we make New Year's Resolutions during this time. The Holly King helps us shed our old ways and give rise to new ones. Furthermore, Saturn reigns over this time of year, making the Holly King the bringer of gifts and merriment as well in respect to Yule. As I mentioned in my Yule, Traditions and Lore post, Santa comes from a mixture of beginnings. The Holly King is very likely one of the inspirations for Santa.

Most people celebrate the the death of the Oak King at Midsummer and the death of the Holly King at midwinter, but if you think about it, it doesn't make much sense astrologically. I'll touch more on this later, but I would like to go ahead and get you thinking about it.

I love Yule, and I love the story of the two kings. Whenever I think of Santa, I picture the Holly King, in all his glory; his cheeks flush, long white and grey beard, a wren on his shoulder, and a crown of holly atop his head. This Yule give him your thanks, write those resolutions, and celebrate the birth of the Sun once again.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Yule Correspondences

Now that I have discussed briefly the history and lore of Yule, I'd like to provide you with a list of correspondences!


Symbolism: rebirth, transformation, new life, light, new beginnings, giving, merriment

Symbols: evergreens, holly, mistletoe, poinsettias, lights, Yule Log, wreaths, bells, gifts, stars, sun, snow, ornaments, garland, Santa Claus, reindeer

Colors: red, green, gold, silver, white

Food and Drink: wassail, cider, nuts, apples, pears, fruitcake, cookies, eggnog, mulled wine, ham, turkey, lamb, breads, cakes

Herbs: holly, mistletoe, pine, oak, fir, birch, hazel, sandalwood, ivy, comfrey, myrrh, frankincense, wintergreen, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, elder, spruce, cedar, balsam, thistle, sage, juniper, moss, bay, rosemary

Deities: Mary, Holda, Isis, Ops, Hertha, Frey, Eve, Saturn, Cronos, Horus/Ra, Balder, Santa Claus, Odin, Holly King, Old Man Winter

Crystals and Gemstones: cat's eye, diamond, ruby, garnet, bloodstone, clear quartz, pearls, green tourmaline, citrine, alexandrite

Animals: bull, goat, reindeer, stag, wren, robin, elf

Magic: Being the time of rebirth, this is a great time to remove anything that holds us back and to sow the seeds for the upcoming year. Success spells are best cast this evening. Many people also perform blessings, not only for themselves and their families, but for others as well. Cleansing your home and altar and banishing negativity can also be done this night. Whatever you do, make sure your heart is filled with peace, love, and joy and work magic to bring merriment to others.

Please note this is not a complete list but a brief overview of symbols, colors, herbs, deities, and the like. If I have missed something that you feel should make the list, please feel free to contact me via the comments or through email.

Yule, History and Lore


Can you hear it? Yule is in the air, filling stores, homes, cars, and the world with beautiful music and twinkling lights. Growing up, Samhain was always my favorite holiday, but as I have gotten older, Yule has taken its place in the spot light. Why? Because I love giving, and this is the time of year for giving. It is a great excuse to lavish gifts on not just my friends and family, but those less fortunate as well. It brings me great joy to help others. But where did all this gift giving, decorating trees, and Santa Claus come from?

Almost all religions have a holiday this time of year and almost all of them are celebrations of light. There are Christmas lights, menorahs, Kwanzaa candles, and Yule logs lighting up homes across the world. Yule is no exception with it's aforementioned Yule log. Yule takes place on the winter solstice which falls on or around December 21st each year. On this solstice, the earth tilts away from the sun in the Northern Hemisphere, putting the sun at its greatest distance of the year.

Celebrations date back millennia to the Norse, who viewed this time of year as a time for feasting and merriment; the Celts, who gathered mistletoe and sacrificed a white bull; and the Romans, who held Saturnalia by giving gifts, feasting, and allowing the slaves special liberties. All of these traditions were well established by the time Christianity began popping up across Europe. They had an incredibly hard time converting Pagans who wanted to continue celebrating their holidays. They began building churches on Pagan worship sites, converting Pagan symbols into Christian ones, and before you knew it, they had everyone celebrating Christmas on December 25th.

The idea of decorating a tree with ornaments and lights is actually quite an old tradition that predates Christianity. During Saturnalia, celebrants often decorated their homes with shrub clippings and hung ornaments in trees around their homes. The Egyptians decorated with palm fronds, their symbol of resurrection and rebirth, while early Germanic tribes (where the tradition of the Christmas tree very likely originates from) decorated evergreens with fruit and candles in honor of Odin. It is also the early Germanic tribes who provided us Pagans with the word Yule and the tradition of the Yule Log. Common ornament ideas include suns, stars, pentacles, acorns, feathers, dried oranges, cranberries, holly, pine cones, cinnamon sticks, antlers, eggs, horns, colored balls (red, green, gold, and white) and of course lights, lots of lights.

And Santa Claus? Well, he comes from a mix of traditions, both Christian and Pagan. He is primarily based on St. Nicholas, a 4th-century bishop from modern day Turkey. He was known for giving gifts to the poor and even paying the dowries for a man with three daughters to save them from prostitution. However the idea of reindeer and hanging stockings by the fire comes from a Norse tradition. Odin was often shown riding an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir, which later became reindeer. During the winter months, children would place boots near their chimney filled with food for Sleipnir, and Odin would leave gifts in return. The name Santa Claus, however, originates from the Dutch word Sinterklaas. Santa is based on dozens of traditions, which I will cover later (See Ms Misantropia's comment below). However, for many Pagans Yule is the celebration of the Holly King who reaches his peak only to be defeated by the Oak King the following spring.

Today we hang stockings by the fire, leave reindeer food on our lawns and decks, decorate evergreen trees, cover our houses in lights, and make sure we are good all year to encourage Santa to bring us gifts instead of coal.

I love this time of year, even if Christmas is the predominate holiday here in the States. I smile at every Merry Christmas and wish them the same right back. In the end, it doesn't matter if they hijacked our holiday. It doesn't matter if they wish me a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. All that matters is that we give to one another, especially those in need, and we spend the month of December with a smile on our face celebrating one of the most amazing astronomical events of the year. This is the time of year to come together, no matter what faith you come from, and celebrate together.



To learn more, please read the Yule Correspondences post.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Herbarium: Mistletoe


Gender: Masculine
Planet: Sun
Element: Air
Powers: Exorcism, Fertility, Health, Hunting, Love, Protection
Magical Uses and History: Mistletoe has a long and rich history, especially in regards to Yule and Christmas, where it is traditionally hung from the ceiling and used as an excuse to kiss a loved one. This tradition originates from a couple different sources, including a Norse legend and peace tradition. The first is the Norse legend of Baldur and Frigg. Frigg loved her son so much she exacted promises from all things in the earth and below the earth asking that they never harm Baldur. Mistletoe, however, did not make any such promise as it doesn't grow in or below the earth. When Loki gave Baldur's brother, Hod, a spear of mistletoe and tricked him into firing at his brother, Baldur died. Frigg shed many tears which became the berries of mistletoe. However, when Baldur was resurrected, Frigg made mistletoe a symbol of love, hence its symbolism. The second is the tradition of calling a truce if mistletoe is spotted hanging over head during a fight or battle. From this story and tradition grew the practice of hanging mistletoe over the door or suspending it from the ceiling as a symbol of peace, good will, and love.

The history of mistletoe goes back much further than its current Yuletide tradition, however. The ancient Celts believed mistletoe to be a gift from the gods as it is a plant that does not grow in the earth. Furthermore, it remains green throughout the year, producing pure white berries right before the winter solstice which makes it very unique for the season. Right after the winter solstice, a Druid priest would use a golden sickle to cut the plant to be used used for protection, increased fertility, and, despite it being poisonous, so heal diseases. It was never allowed to touch the ground whereby it would lose its power.

Hang mistletoe wherever you wish to safe guard against lightning, disease, fires, or misfortune. It can also be hung in cradles to protect children from being stolen away by faeries in the night. Iron works well too. If you wish to increase hunting success or fertility, carry it in your pocket. Burn it to banish evil.

Mistletoe can be used in a number of spells including:
     Fertility Magic
     Love Spells
     Banishing Spells
     Protection Magic
    
Medicinal Uses: Mistletoe, when taken internally, is an excellent nervine. It will quite the nerves and soothe the mind. It also works to reduce heart rate and blood pressure. It is great for treating headaches caused by high blood pressure. For a particularly potent mixture, combine with Hawthorn Berries and Lime Blossom.

Preparation and Dosage:  Only use dried leafy twigs. The berries are poisonous! Collect young leafy twigs in the spring and dry them accordingly. To make an infusion, pour 1 cup boiling water into 1-2 teaspoonfuls of dried herb and allow to infuse for 10-15 minutes. Drink up to three times a day. For a tincture, take 1-4 milliliters up to three times a day.


 

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Friday, November 13, 2015

A Candle for Paris

 

I light this white candle to bring peace to all those suffering in Paris.
May its light shine bright enough to heal all wounds.
The world is mourning together tonight.
Stand tall and together.
Blessed Be.
 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Birthday Gifts

So, I meant to post this earlier, but I just got around to editing the pictures. My birthday was last month and my husband really outdid himself this year. I couldn't be happier nor more thankful.

I originally went to school to be a paleontologist. While I would still like to be doing that, I'm obviously not meant to at this point in my life. However, my love for dinosaurs is VERY real and VERY strong. Other than my family, they are my great love, especially in respect to evolution. They are the most amazing creatures to ever walk this earth and how they changed and adapted over time to lead to species we see today is astounding. It takes my breath away every time I think about it. That being said, it wasn't surprising that my husband went with dinosaurs this year, especially because Jurassic World was released onto DVD and Blu-Ray on my birthday!


He gave me a handmade teapot with a "TEA-rex" on it, a "TEA-rex" diffuser, and Jurassic World on DVD the day of my birthday. The last gift took a little longer to arrive, but it makes the living room.


Yes, that is Paul Revere, Georgia Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln riding dinosaurs. Because, you know, why not?! I do love historical figures. He went with tea and book pages because of our new library/living room. I love books and I love tea, almost as much as I love dinosaurs. Birds and foxes are next in line, which can be found all over the house as well, especially in our kitchen.

I am so thankful for my husband and even more thankful he has continued to put up with me for over 5 years. Thank you baby, for a great birthday!

Friday, November 6, 2015

DIY Painted Fabric Couch

This has got to be my favorite project of all time. I bought an ugly floral antique couch for $100 over 2 years ago and have been staring at the floral print wondering what to do with it. The lines and curves are stunning and the tufted back is gorgeous. I knew I wanted to keep all of that, just not the floral pattern. However, I had been at a loss of what to do. Reupholstering the couch was going to cost me an arm and a leg if I hired someone, and if I did it myself I ran the risk of destroying any expensive fabric I bought. Either way, I was going to be out a pretty penny. So I started researching ideas on Pinterest.


That is when I found people painting their chairs, seats, ottomans, and couches with Annie Sloan chalk paint. This paint is by no means cheap. In fact, I bought two quarts in Antibes green and Florence blue and a large container of clear wax and spent $111, more than I spent on the couch! But it was worth it. I spent months researching the best way to paint fabric before I was willing to jump in and take the risk of painting my own couch. Many people mentioned how stiff the fabric was afterwards and that they only used it on chairs they never sit in. Well, I was going to sit on this couch, often, and I wanted it to be comfortable.

And then I had an idea. Why not thin down the paint? Why not use the paint more as a dye than as a paint? Most of these people were just slapping straight paint on their fabric and wondering why it was so rough. I did a little more research and found some others had the same idea so I went for it.

I purchased my paint and wax (to seal the paint and give it a leathery feel) and got to work.


To achieve my amazing green color, I mixed half Antibes green and half Florence blue. To thin it, I used 1 part paint and 1 part water. So, I added one cup of water to one cup of paint. I cleaned the couch, sprayed it lightly with water from a spray bottle to prep the fabric and started painting.

I allowed the paint to dry for a couple of hours before applying another coat. Some people said to give it 24 hours to make sure the padding was dry, but after pressing down on it completely and seeing that nothing came up, I decided it was safe to add another coat. I sanded in between coats with a fine grit sanding block (220 grit) and sprayed the fabric with water again to prep it. I did this for FIVE coats. Yes, FIVE coats. It took that many to cover all the floral pattern. I only did 3 coats on the bottom of the seat cushions and the bottom of the couch itself. These were places you aren't ever going to see, so I didn't feel like taking the extra day covering them.


Once the paint had dried over night, I added a coat of wax. I just applied this with my hands. I tried doing it with a shirt, but I couldn't get a feel for the wax and the shirt kept leaving lint. I let the wax cure for several days before I buffed it. I did apply too much wax some places so it is rubbing off on my clothes, but it washes off with soap and water.


Is it crunchy? Nope! Not one bit. It feels soft and subtle like leather! If I could, I'd spend all day sitting on it.
 

I can't even begin to tell you how happy I am with it. It completely makes the room.


This is a time consuming process and you need to take your time and do it right, but it is totally worth it. So next time you find a beautiful chair or couch with an ugly print, remember, you can paint it!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Living Room Before and After

A couple of weekends ago my dad came over to help me make over our living room. It's not completely finished, as we will be ripping up the carpet within the next couple of weeks and putting down laminate hardwoods, but I'd like to show you how it is looking so far.

This room is small and very dark. The only window is covered by our front porch and the popcorn ceiling, heavy curtains (left by the owner), wood baseboards, and dark cream paint were not helping in the least. I knew I wanted to get rid of the trim and replace it with board and batten wanes coating. Having semi-gloss white 3 feet up the walls would dramatically change the room. And it did.

To get started my dad and I pulled up all the old baseboards.


And then we started measuring. We placed a thicker baseboard down, some 6 inches I believe, and used 4 inch boards for everything else, including framing the door and the window. The window was not previously frames and boy, oh boy did framing it make a difference. All of this was nailed into place where there are studs. By anchoring the baseboard and the plate rail to the studs, you ensure a tight fit that isn't going to pull away from the wall easily.


After we laid it out, we glued and nailed the spacers into place and my mom came over to help me prime the raw wood.


Finally my husband and I gave it all two coats of semi-gloss white paint. The room immediately changed. Quite dramatically actually.

For the top wall, I picked a light pink called Romance. I knew I wanted pink, but I didn't want in your face pink. This is warm and cheery without being over powering. I adore it. I did take the opportunity to paint protective symbols under the pink (in pink of course) before going over it with two coats. A little extra protection can't hurt. I'm sorry I don't have pictures. It was in the middle of the night when I began painting and I couldn't get a good picture. I also apologize for the quality of these pictures. The room is dark no matter what I do, so taking a good picture is difficult.



We modeled this room after a painting our friend Jose gave us some time ago. Its gorgeous, isn't it?


I still have some work to do in this room apart from ripping up the carpet, but it is well on its way. I'll keep you posted when we make some more updates, including recovering that dingy blue chair I bought at Goodwill for $12.

Now you may have noticed that lovely green antique couch. That project will be in an upcoming post. I can't wait to share it with you.

It is coming along! I'm still adding decorative touches, including some more plates to the wall, but I'm very happy with the room so far. What do you think?

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Samhain!

I hope your Samhain is going well so far! It is gloomy, windy, and a wee bit rainy here, but it is nice and cozy instead. We carved our pumpkins earlier today and I'd like to show them to you!

Below we have Benedict Pumpkinbatch.


My husband did Venom.


I think they turned out rather nice, don't you? I can't wait to see them lit up tonight. I'm curious if we will have any Trick-or-Treaters this year. Our new neighborhood is only one street and I'm not sure there are very many children here. We shall see!

I hope everyone's evening if filled with wonder and reverance.