Winter Holidays? Um…Happy Hogswatch Anyone?

 

The winter holidays, are a time when it is often difficult to be PC. It’s impossible to tell at a glance which, if any winter holiday another person celebrates.

It is a season when people often call out greetings to strangers and it seems they expect one to respond. Problem is, responding with a simple echo of what the other person has said is sometimes difficult, especially when your beliefs and theirs may be vastly different.

This is something I find  bit difficult, being Pagan, with that faith being somewhat in the minority in my area. I have been told many times this month, “Merry Christmas!” God Bless You” and other such sentiments. While it is kind of nice for people to wish all these things, it has been pretty awkward when I have responded with “Blessed Yule!” or “Happy Winter Solstice!”. “Happy Winter Holiday” gets  few sideways glances, too.

With so many commercials, songs and even bumper stickers proclaiming that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season!”, what’s a poor Pagan to do?  I must imagine that people who celebrate other non-Christian holidays feel similarly, for not once this season have I been wished a Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Kwanzaa or anything else that was not Christmas related.

According to Austin Kline, in an article for ThoughtCo.com, “Most people assume Christmas is a faith-based holiday and, as such, can’t be celebrated in a nonreligious way. You have to believe in Allah to celebrate Ramadan, right?”

My Yule altar this year

“Although Christmas has largely been observed as a Christian religious holiday, that has changed dramatically over the years. The holiday already included many elements borrowed from other religions…” Pagan faiths in particular have often had their festivals and sabbats twisted to fit in with Christian beliefs, and even in this enlightened age, when that fact is commonly acknowledged by many historians and scholors,  we see absolutely no Pagan themed decorations, greeting cards, etc. at this time of year. Unfortunately only some of what is commercially marketed for Halloween, reflects Samhain, for no Halloween is devoid of green, warty-faced witches (I know real witches of all colors, but green is NOT one of them and we’re no more prone to complection problems than anyone else!), not to mention the ever popular cartoon ghosts, fictitious monsters and more.

Turn of the century Halloween greeting card

I LOVE dressing up and all the fun that goes with Halloween, it’s just that Halloween and Samhain, for me at least, are distinctly different. One demands fun, candy, parties, etc. The other is a time in which I reflect upon my ancestors, celebrate their lives and how they touched mine, honor them and often communicate with them. So I, being a glutton for joy, celebrate both. Besides, with my wardrobe, dressing as a Sorceress or even Witch is all too easy and who better than a Pagan to do so?!

As a bonus, Halloween is one time of the year when I can go out and pick up a few items for my home decor that actually reflect my personal taste, which admittedly runs toward the gothic, dark side!

Talking Bubbe – OY VEY!

But back to Christmas, etc. – I went to a local craft store this year, hoping for some pretty candles, etc. for Yule.  I did find candles, and some lovely Holly and Oak leaves, but almost everything else was Christmas. Very Christmas. As a saving grace, and the only nod to non-Christmas decor, there was one, 2 foot wide display of hanukkah decorations and merchandise. I, for one loved the cute stuffed talking “Bubbe” doll. That was the only reference I found to non-Christian beliefs in ny craft store this year.

I love my Christian friends, and have a few friends of other faiths, (that is the ones who are so kindly willing to put up with my hermit-like ways!).  I love them all as I have a love and respect for all humans and animals on our planet. It’s just that at times like these, I want to wish seasonal greetings or a happy winter holiday to everyone, without offending anyone in the process!  Therefore, I would like to wish you all a Happy, Merry, Joyous, Blessed Rama-Chris-Kwanz-Hannuk-Yule and if I’ve left anything out, please know that it was no doubt a typo caused by my enjoyment of a bit of sherry and pork pie for Hogswatch!

A Holiday must-see film, The Hogfather, created from Terry Pratchett’s wonderful book of the same name. Find this and I promise you will love it!

Till next time, whatever you are or celebrate, I wish you happiness and love ~ Ravenbird

Sumo Steakhouse & Sushi Bar, a Restaurant Experience to Remember

I visited Sumo Steakhouse & Sushi Bar here in Madison on December 4th 2017. The food was fresh, delicious and I was totally happy with the entire experience.

From the stylish entryway, to the authentic and sumptuous decor inside, to the charismatic Hibachi chef who prepared our meal with a dramatic flare, this entire experience is memorable.  The staff is super friendly and efficient. The Sushi Chef at the honest-to-gods sushi bar was a true artisan and very happy to pose with is knife for my camera.

Larger Than Life Sumo Wrestlers

There are two private dining rooms for private parties, meetings, etc. and the seating, either in the main dining room or private areas is comfortable and even when dining in front of the Hibachi, enjoying the show with other couples or families, the experience still manages to be an intimate one!

The decor is both over the top and subtle, all at once! There are two huge (10 feet or more high) statues of Sumo Wrestlers facing off, ready to fight, that cannot be missed standing just inside the front doors.

To the left are many booths for those who prefer not to sit hibachi-side, and a gorgeous metallic gold and amber colored set of sofas done in glove soft leather which surrounds an amazing fountain table, with koi and other beautiful details hand carved from Sandalwood. Not just for show, I saw several people just enjoy sitting here, chatting during my visit.

Well Stocked Full Bar
Sushi Chef at the Sumo Sushi Bar

The food needs to be tasted and the Hibachi Chef put on a terrific show, especially delighting the two kids at our table. It was great fun for everyone. Many dishes here come with beautiful garnishes, including even real orchid flowers. The freshness of the sushi as well as the artistry with which it is created is amazing. The Hibachi grilled Sukiyaki Steak which I ordered was cooked to absolute perfection, rare, just as I requested and served with fresh vegetables, cooked on the grill which were both tender and crisp.  I really enjoyed their fried rice, served with (no kidding) Yum Yum sauce. So good!

Happy Hibachi Chef
Onion Volcano on Veg Mountain!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Osaka Room

Sumo has a full bar,  and televisions in just about every room, just in case the fabulous food and Hibachi show aren’t enough entertainment for some folks.

The place is absolutely spotlessly clean and even the restrooms carry out the rich feel of the rest of the place, with square basin sinks, and real marble flooring along with Oriental detailing at the ceiling and indirect lighting.

I highly recommend this restaurant to everyone, and can guarantee that the prices are very affordable and the experience is one you will not soon forget.  Have fun and tell ’em Raven sent you!

Basic Basics Logo and Launch!

I love the natural products created by my friend Teresa Ginther!

Recently she asked me to help her develop a logo to use at a local event on November 11th, where she would be offering her wonderful products for sale. The sign you see before you is what we came up with.

It reflects her theory that basic, natural ingredients make the best products and can meet all of our basic needs. I enjoy making logos and pictures, cartoons etc. on my computer, and a challenge is always fun. I like adding touches like the lady bug, which is kind of a nickname for the adorable daughter of Teresa and her hubby Jamie, Ariana. They call her Ari-bug. As a bit more fun, the eyes of the bug are an “a” and a “G” for Ari-bug’s initials.

Teresa Ginther’s current soap fragrances are Peppermint Mocha, Lavender Clean, Snowy Winter, Woodsy Boy, Glamour Girl, Autumn Fireside, Vol Soap, Smurf Poop, Pumpkin Harvest, and Pixie Dust.  Lip balm fragrances are Hot Buttered Rum, Pumpkin Spice Latte, Christmas Snow, and Rosemary Lemon.  And that’s just a start!

Teresa plans to expand into a FaceBook page for her products and online sales sometime in the near future. As soon as I get details, I will add them here so everyone can get a taste of the amazing, eco-friendly and richly fregranced goodies I have been lucky enough to sample, and intend to order more of, ASAP!  If you get an opportunity to grab anything made by Basic Basics, by all mean, do! You will be very happy you did!

~Ravenbird

Bagels, Chocolate and Compassion – How Kindness Can Bring Healing!

bagel
When seeking comfort food, sometimes one finds true comfort!

The day before yesterday, a total stranger gave me chocolate to cheer me up. I love that this man was so caring, even though he did not know anything about why I was feeling blue and had tears in my eyes. He just did something kind for a stranger because he was good. Here’s how it happened:

I had spent almost the entire night before in terrible, violent nightmares, and the last few hours of that night were spent fighting yet another migraine headache. So with this auspicious start to my day, I finally got up when my husband asked me to get up and get dressed so we could go out. It was payday. We get paid once a month, on the first. Hubby was acting a little weird, I thought, either that or my natural empathy was at work.

Hubby wouldn’t tell me what was wrong, insisting that he didn’t want to talk about it until he had something to eat. He was acting angry and very stressed. I offered to cook, but he wanted to go out. I began feeling incredibly apprehensive and I knew that my bi-polar disorder and anxiety complex were beginning to take hold of me. When we got to the car, on a windy, icy cold morning, we recalled that several of our tires seemed low on air the previous night and that we had agreed to check the tires and inflate as needed first thing in the morning.

einstein-e-wash
This is not in any way solicited. This is just the opinion of one person who has felt the warmth of the good food and kind people here.

So we stopped at the PDQ nearest our house and Hubby got out to check the tires only to discover that somehow, the center pin of the valve had been somehow torn out. He was so angry by this time, he got back in the car and was clearly furious. Hubby had been struggling with the problems at hand for quite some time and had pretty much reached his limit for things going wrong, too. After a few minutes,  we decided to go get food and try to “reset” our moods before worrying about the tires.

We went to one of our most comfortable, delicious favorite places, Einstein’s Bagels on East Washington Avenue, here in East Madison. By now though, my PTSD, Bi-polar and anxiety disorders had all reached panic mode because hubby would not tell me what was wrong and all the worst scenarios were going around and around in my head. I was angry about not knowing what the heck was going on, and now, I was having a panic attack, one symptom of which is that I cannot stop crying. I made it through the line to place my order though.

chocolate-love
“Chocolate Makes Everything Better” – Kind Einstein Bagels Manager

I went and sat at a table waiting for our order, barely holding my self in check. When my order came to the table and I thought it was wrong, I told the waitress it was wrong and asked her to fix it. The waitress pointed toward the counter referring me to the manager, who happened to be the one making the sandwiches at that time.

I handed my sandwich to the manager and told him what was wrong. He said no, it was right but how did I want it changed? I told him to fix it and charge me if necessary. I am afraid that I must have sounded rude or at least very short tempered. After I went back to my table I realized how I must have come off so I immediately went back to the counter and asked the manager to forgive me if I seemed rude, that I was having a bad day.  He told me it was OK, and his understanding started me crying all over again, as kindness sometimes does, and I had to turn away and flee back to my table to try and control my tears.

The manager delivered my food and was very gracious about it and did not charge me. After he left, Hubby and I spoke (at last) about what was wrong, which,  while bad, was not the crisis-strength type of an emergency I had feared. As we worked together to find ways to deal with it, (and after I took some medicine designed to help) I was finally able to at least un-clench my teeth and begin the process of calming down. PTSD and anxiety are tough to deal with – more so for me when in public. (If you would like to learn more about PTSD there is helpful information here.)

I had still not been able to stop crying because of my damned traitorous depression and panic. As we sat there, with me drying my eyes every once in a while and my food sitting on the table getting cold, I wished that I could turn the tears off and not feel so humiliated out in public.

Just as I was wishing that, I was surprised to find that the manager had materialized right beside me, a plate with two small chocolate pastries in his hand. He put it on the table looked into my eyes and patted me on the shoulder, and said with a gentle smile, “Chocolate makes everything better”. I took his hand and thanked him, and after giving Hubby a sympathetic nod, he went back to work.

I was so touched (and surprised!) that I was able to get a grip on myself, and start sipping my drink a little and, a tiny bit at a time, I began to nibble on one of the chocolate pastries. And you know what? He was right – it did make me feel better, but it was not the pastries (although they really are wonderful) – it was the simple warmth of human kindness, of one person extending comfort to another for no other reason than to be kind.

penzeys-heart
“Love people—Cook them tasty food!” – Bill Penzey

This is something I learned from the great people at Penzeys Spices, Bill Penzey in particular. More and more, I am beginning to see this trend grow. Good can overcome sadness and kindness can change lives. Those principles sure worked for me on this day! I finished my food, and Hubby finished his, and we talked things through and things began to get back to normal, but I know lot of our recovery was due to one good hearted “bagel man” and the way he helped put things back into perspective on a particularly bad day. Thank you, Sir, for your kindness!

Loyal customer and now admiring friend,

Ravenbirdraven-blackk-n-white-400

Poinsettias and Road Salt and Meds Oh My! – Holidays Can Be Bad for Cats!

 

poinsettia-pinkThere are many dangers for our pets, every day. Even something as simple as a bit of road salt transferred from our boots to the carpet in our homes can cause sickness ranging from mild upset stomach to death for a little ct who has licked his paws clean and ingested some of it. Poinsettias are another problem, because they, too can make your kitty sick! Not the instant death some say they can cause, but even a little toxin is unacceptable to those of us who share our lives with cats, dogs and other non-humanoids.  I wanted to mention this and honestly should have earlier, but better late than never, so here is some information that may be of use. I hope you all have a terrific new year and your pets,, too!

 

From ASPCA.org:

Fruitcake, snow globes, bread dough – who knew these holiday staples could harm pets?

From meds to goodies to plants – plus the big 5 holiday dangers – this simple list of holiday No No No may help save pets’ lives, so share with your community and fellow pet lovers!

Lock These Meds Away

Pseudoephedrine

Dextromethorphan

NSAIDs

Ibuprofen

Antibiotics

Cough drops

Eye drops

Goodies That Are Baddies

Wrapped gifts containing food

Snow globes

Holiday food such as chocolate, uncooked poultry, bread dough, fruitcake & alcohol
Salt in ice melt, homemade play dough and salt-dough ornaments

Pretty But Unpalatable

Poinsettia

Christmas cactus

Holly

The Big 5 Holiday Dangers

In order of call volume reported by the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center:

Chocolate

Tree preservatives

Poinsettias

Medications

Alcohol

kitty-in-nativity

For more information on things toxic to cats, please read my Cat Toxic Plants Page  and Cat Safe Plants Page on my other blog, MyCatsite by Raven Fabal, a great resource and fun placde for all cat lovers!

If you are worried your pet may have ingested Poinsettia, here is a page from the ASPCA that can help:

http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/poinsettia

I will add more on pets and toxic dangers in my MyCatsite blog but for now, have a happy and safe new year!

~ Ravenbird