Solar energy

The Sun is omnipresent is this period of the year. Temperatures have risen well above 25 degrees and I really have to make sure to put on sunscreen if I don’t want to end up as a lobster at the end of a sunny day. But it’s good! We need the Sun’s energy to provide us with food for the winter (although refrigerators and globalisation have made this less of a necessity). I’ve already noticed beautiful big blackberries and gathered some (they taste GREAT). There are gardening plots quite near me, and I want to take a walk there and see the tomatoes grow. I planted a cherry tomato earlier in spring, but even though it’s growing well, there isn’t any red to see yet.

The fact that we cannot possibly live without the warmth of the Sun has made it an icon and an object of worship in many cultures. Mithras or Sol Invictus, the Sun god that was worshipped in Asia and later in Rome (before the rise of christianity) is a great example, but we are all probably familiar with the solar disc that was the sign of the Egyptian god Ra as well. Personally, I do not personify the Sun per se, though at times I may call upon him. And yes, I still use the Sun as a symbol, which is also why I made my own solar disc for Litha (it has bent a little due to gravity). I also bought a book that discusses the Sun, both as physical object and as icon in various cultures. I still have to read it, but am excited to start!
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More recently, the interest in the Sun has increased again as renewable energy sources are sought. A wonderful development, since the Sun is expected to stay for a very long time (with my human experience of time) and other sources of energy are quickly being depleted. I only hope that people will give the Sun some credit or thank you, rather than only using his energy!

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Happy solstice!

Yay, the longest day of the year! I love Litha, and that it’s in the weekend is very fortunate (though I usually celebrate sabbats in the weekend). I’ve got some wonderful things planned, cause now I actually have time on the solstice itself!

For me, most important is being outdoors as long as possible during midsummer. It won’t be nice weather, but I hope it at least stays dry. Or that it only starts raining when I’m back and can enjoy the rainfall from inside or from our balcony rather than from my bike. I would have planned to go walking during Litha, but coincidentally we (colleagues and I) are celebrating the end of the school year. And we’re going rowing! I think the last time I was in a canoe was when I was 11 or something like that, during a very rainy vacation near the Loire (France). My mother and brother went to the middle of the river, decided it was too scary and went back, but my dad and I had the best time! So I’m really looking forward to canoeing again with friends. It’s bound to be hilarious… and difficult, probably.

Going on the water tomorrow and remembering the rainy vacation in France really made me wonder about Litha symbolism. I mainly celebrate the warmth of the sun, using yellows, reds and oranges on my altar. But earlier this week I saw a video by Pagyptian, one of the people I follow on YouTube, about Litha and water, as opposed to fire. It really made me think, so I’d like to share it with you.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? We need the balance of water to keep the fire from burning us. And thinking of summer activities, going to the beach is probably one of the most prominent ones. I was inspired, so my altar now has reds and yellows, but also some sea shells 🙂 I’m also making a sun out of red and yellow paper and skewers. It’s currently drying, but when it’s finished and turned out well, I’ll make a post on how to make it. I really like the effect the skewers give as sunrays.

As always, food is a rather large part of my celebration. I had planned to try and make small pineapple upside down cakes, but my pineapple isn’t ripe yet. So I’ll make banana bread and a mango-nectarine salad (love soft summer fruits!). I’ve got cherries as well 🙂 Bottom line is that I’ll be eating wonderfully sweet fruits all day an that I’ll be enjoying the longest day! What do you have planned for midsummer?

 

Strawberry and blackberry jam

I love the street market! Every Wednesday and Saturday, our city has one in the old part of town. Whenever I can, I love to go there, especially for fresh fruits (except mangoes, I have had rotten mangoes thrice now, all from the street market, and I’m done with it). Last week, I got deliciously sweet strawberries. Small and red, so you don’t need any sugar with them. My absolute summer favourite.

Sometimes I buy to much fruit… Today, I still had 200 gram of strawberries, two apples and some blackberries I picked when walking back from work. Perfect ingredients for a small bottle of jam! I just cleaned and cut up the fruit (leave the skin on the apples), heated it until the fruit got soft (with a bit of lemon juice to stop it from burning) and then put it in the blender. You can take the apples out before you put them in, but since I had so little fruit, I decided to keep it in. The apples and the lemon juice provided enough pectin to set the liquid, and the strawberries were sweet enough to not put in any sugar 🙂 It looks great with a vibrant red-purple colour. I’m really happy with the way it looks. It tastes a bit acidic, but hey, I can always add sugar when I really think I need it. Next time I’ll use a little less lemon juice, though 😉

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A healthy BBQ

blogalong buttonFirst of all: I have committed myself to posting every day in August. This is more than I have accomplished in the past year, but I want to start again, and the blogalong with Effy might just provide me with a new start and a way to find out what I really want to write about.

Healthy living is a big issue nowadays, with obesity rates increasing in both adults and children. With the temperature approaching 37 degrees centigrade and not a cloud in the sky, many people in the Netherlands have chosen today or the weekend for an easy outdoor barbecue. My uncle, who is a butcher, and my cousin recently went to visit family in Canada and rejoiced in a typical Canadian barbecue with half a cow on the roster. Meat, meat, and some more meat. In the past, most barbecues were hosted for carnivores such as my uncle. Meat lovers, and since men traditionally tend to the barbecue, meat was all we got.

Luckily this is changing. I like my piece of meat with every meal, but one piece is quite enough as I enjoy my veggies as well. Though not everyone realizes it yet, a barbecue is also perfect for all sorts of vegetables and even fruits, making it much healthier compared to a traditional BBQ. Read on for a few suggestions for a real, healthier summer barbecue.

  • Instead of stuffing yourself with baguette and garlic butter while you wait for the meat, try  a lighter bread with tzatziki or even better, make a salad to start off with.
  • Do you always have big chunks of meat over the fire? If you put smaller pieces on skewers it’s easier to cook and you can add vegetables between the meat. I particularly like a beef skewer with paprika in different colours.
  • Courgette, eggplant, corn, paprika, just a few of the veggies you can easily grill on the barbecue. If you want smaller veggies, wrap it up in some tin foil with a few herbs and spices and put it on the barbecue indirectly for 10-15 minutes.
  • You can use the BBQ for lovely fruity deserts. Make fruit kebabs with mango or strawberries to put on the grill, have slices of pineapple you heat a bit to bring out the sweetness even more or put half a peach on the grill and drizzle with honey once it’s on your plate. Possibilities are endless!
  • Finally: pay attention to the sauces you serve. Peanut sauce and mayonnaise pack a lot of calories (even though they taste very good). Go with red sauces such as ketchup and sweet chili sauce or try yogurt-based sauces. These can add a lot of flavour as well. Though you might need less if you marinate the meat to add taste 😉

Though I hope it will cool down a bit, the weather will stay good for a BBQ for quite some time. Enjoy!

The joy of a rainstorm

Rain

Rain (Photo credit: tchandok)

Have you experienced this before? It’s warm and sticky outside and the earth simply screams for a rainstorm to cool everything and clear the air. Especially in summer I can long for a storm after a few great, warm days. Today was such a day. You couldn’t go outside without beginning to sweat instantly. The air was moist and almost difficult to breathe in. But not any more.

The wind got stronger, rushing through the trees and hurling leaves up into the air. The sky was grey and darkened even more and a few seconds later bucketfuls of water came pouring down. The sound of streaming water, of drops ticking on the roof, of trees rustling. I went outside and stood on my balcony, enjoying the sight and the sound and the fresh feel of the rainstorm. Nature is so powerful!
After only 10 minutes it stopped raining, but the pressure outside had gone and the air was clear. I felt great and somehow cleansed by the smell and sound and sight of the storm.

The joy of a rainstorm… have you experienced it?