Author: Vicky V

About Vicky V

Writer specialising in vampirism, tarot, witchcraft and cookery - so far! Amateur photographer specialising in food & drink, still life, architectural, gothic and nature photography.

Spring Crumble

The Spring Equinox is here again! This year it falls on Friday the 23rd of September. The Equinox symbolises balance as the hours of day and night are roughly equal on this night. After the Spring Equinox, our hours of daylight will slowly increase and the days will become longer than the nights as we head towards the Summer Solstice.

The Spring Equinox usually makes me feel like doing a spring clean. Sometimes it’s house cleaning, sometimes it’s cleaning up my emotional and spiritual state. This year I’m spring cleaning my living space! A collapsing clothes cupboard has forced me to take a look at my storage and has inspired me to do a big clothing purge.

Seeing my crumbling wardrobe made think of a fruit crumble, but rather than a sweet one I decided to make a savoury zucchini crumble. Vibrant green zucchini, combined with a light filling and topping, is a refreshing way to celebrate the Equinox and prepare for upcoming spring cleaning.

Zucchini Crumble

Ingredients
for the filling
500g zucchini, finely grated
1 tablespoon semolina
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
125g feta

for the topping
1 cup wholemeal flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
80g unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts

Instructions
Preheat oven to 180C / 350F.
Lightly oil a 24cm x 18cm baking dish.
To make the filling:
Squeeze zucchini, making sure all liquid is extracted, then place in a bowl.
Add the semolina, rosemary, salt and feta and stir until just combined.
Spread the mixture into prepared dish.
To make the topping:
Add the flour and salt to a separate bowl.
Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips.
Add the nuts and continue mixing until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
Sprinkle the topping over the zucchini mix.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the topping is lightly browned.

An Encounter With Red Pandas

International Red Panda Day (IRPD) is celebrated on the third Saturday in September which this year falls on Saturday the 17th. IRPD was created by the Red Panda Network (RPN) to highlight the issues endangered red pandas face in the wild such as habitat loss and illegal poaching. IRPD is observed around the world with special events and red panda themed events. Some zoos celebrate on different days, so check with your local zoo to see if they are doing anything and on what day. If you’re lucky enough to have a zoo that does red panda encounters, IRPD would be a perfect day to treat yourself to one of these special experiences.

In preparation for IRPD, I visited Billabong Zoo to have an encounter with not one, but two red pandas! Rato and Tito, two elderly red panda sisters, were very keen to have breakfast, so when they saw me enter their enclosure with a bowl, they didn’t waste any time and quickly climbed down the tree for treats. They were very polite as they waited while I fed each of them tasty bits of fruit in turn.

During the encounter I made eye contact with the beautiful elder girls and my heart swelled at how gentle they were. As I looked into their stunning red panda faces millimetres from my from own, I felt a connection with these very special creatures. They seemed to know that I needed healing as it has been a very difficult couple of years. I was feeling rubbed raw emotionally and spiritually.

Being in the presence of two seemingly old and wise red panda ladies, I felt a huge burden lift from my shoulders. As I stared into their happy little faces, an overwhelming sense of calm and balance coursed through me. For the first time in a long time I felt happy, positive and ready to face the challenges ahead of me. The road forward is uncertain, but with the promise of more red panda encounters in the future, I’m ready to start journeying again.

(from the world animal dreaming oracle by Scott Alexander King)

Sweet Tea For A Bloody Countess

August 21st is Elizabeth Bathory’s deathiversary. It’s also National Sweet Tea Day. When I realised this, I couldn’t help picturing Elizabeth sipping a sweet tea. Seeing as two of her epithets are the “Blood Countess” and “Countess Dracula”, maybe it isn’t sweet tea she is sipping.

Countess Elizabeth Bathory (born 7 August 1560 – died 21 August 1614) was a Hungarian noblewoman who was accused of torturing and murdering young girls. Bathory was eventually tried and convicted as a serial killer. She was imprisoned in her castle until her death. There is ongoing debate as to whether Elizabeth Bathory was a blood thirsty murderer or the victim of a witch hunt.

As a wealthy and influential landowner, there were many reasons to discredit her and take her land and power. This has led to questioning how the evidence brought against Bathory was gathered. Some testified that they had not seen her commit crimes but had heard stories about her while the eyewitness accounts from Bathory’s servants were mostly gained through torture. The enduring tales of her drinking and bathing in the blood of virgins to retain her youth appear to have been written after her death. Whether guilty or innocent of these crimes, Elizabeth Bathory has lived on in folklore, especially in vampire mythology.

And now onto something sweeter than blood – Sweet Tea!
National Sweet Tea Day is a day to enjoy the pleasures of a refreshing glass of iced sweet tea. The difference between sweet tea and iced tea is that sweetener is added to the tea at the time of brewing. National Iced Tea Day is celebrated on June 10.

To celebrate National Sweet Tea Day, I’ll be enjoying a sweetened Earl Grey tea. To pay tribute to the contribution Elizabeth Bathory has made to vampire mythology, I’ll be adding a slice of blood orange. It won’t be chilled either as I believe that tea, like blood, should be served warm.

Happy Drinking!

Imbolc Delight

As the wheel slowly turns toward Spring in the southern hemisphere, many are getting ready to celebrate Imbolc on August 1st.

Imbolc is the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. It brings the promise of Spring in the midst of cold Winter weather. Nights are still cold but the days are warming as nature begins to slowly awaken from a Winter slumber. It’s a beautiful time of year and one of my favourites.

One of the things I like to start thinking about at Imbolc is spring cleaning. This year I began with my pantry and found a bottle of rose syrup that I had forgotten I had. I decided to use some of it to make a rose syrup jelly (jello) that reminds me of Turkish delight. Rose syrup is a syrup made from rose water with sugar added. If you don’t have rose syrup you can use rose water but you may have to add extra sugar to get that sweet flavour of Turkish delight.

I added hibiscus tea to my jelly as I wanted to get a nice pink colour. I also find the tartness of hibiscus balances out the sweetness of the rose syrup. If you don’t have hibiscus tea, you can add food colouring or just enjoy the almost pink blush of the jelly.

Rose Syrup Jelly

Ingredients
1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 titanium strength gelatine leaf*
1 tablespoon rose syrup
1 tablespoon hibiscus flower tea leaves
cream for serving (optional)

Instructions
Soak gelatine sheet in cold water for 5 minutes.
While the gelatine is soaking, place the water and sugar in a small saucepan and gently heat until the sugar has dissolved.
Squeeze out gelatine sheet and add to the saucepan.
Remove from heat.
Stir once or twice until the gelatine has melted.
Stir in the rose syrup and hibiscus tea.
Steep for 3-5 minutes.
Strain into a heatproof jug.
Allow to cool then pour into serving bowls or glasses.
Cover and refrigerate until set.
Serve with cream if desired.

*check the strength of your gelatine leaves and use as many as you need to set 1 cup of liquid.

Some Assembly Required

National Cream Tea Day is a British food day that is celebrated on the last Friday in June. This year it was celebrated on June 24th. I didn’t get to celebrate on Friday, but any day is a great day to celebrate the delight that is a cream tea!

National Cream Tea Day was created by two companies, one that specialises in cream – Rodda’s Clotted Cream and one that specialise in jams and preserves – Wilkin and Sons Tiptree. National Cream Tea Day is a fun day that encourages people to get together over a cream tea and raise money for charities. Both companies donate cream and jam for events through their joint organisation, The Cream Tea Society.

Apart from cream and jam, a cream tea needs scones to dollop the cream and jam onto, and lots of tea to wash them down with. The scone recipe I’ve chosen is not a classic British recipe but one from an Ikea cookbook called Hey Flavours! Children’s First Cookbook. Luckily you won’t need an Allen key to assemble these scones! If you’d like to know more about cream teas, and what order you should put the cream and jam on your scone, you can go to my previous post, The Battle Of The Cream Tea.

Scones
I was drawn to these scones as they are made with yoghurt instead of milk, which sounds delicious! I’ve tested them thoroughly and they do also taste delicious.

Ingredients
1 + 1/2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
50g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup yoghurt

for serving
jam
cream
tea

Instructions
Preheat oven to 200C / 400F.
Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
Add the butter and, using your fingers, rub it into the flour.
Add the yoghurt and mix into a dough.
Place dough onto a floured surface and flatten until approximately 2cm thick.
Use a glass or cookie cutter to cut into round shapes.
Place onto prepared tray and sprinkle with a little flour.
Bake for 10 – 12 minutes.

A Winter Solstice Star

In preparation for the June 21st Winter Solstice, I spent a weekend away at an eco-friendly sky pod in Victoria’s stunning Otways. Perched on a hill in a wildlife refuge property, the pod I chose featured floor to ceiling windows which look out onto the Southern Ocean.

During the day I watched as the changeable weather treated me to scenes of sunshine imbued surf, rain and storm clouds, and stunning rainbows. At night, with the lights turned off, the night sky was bewitching. I fell asleep with the gentle caress of starlight on my face.

Deep in the night I woke up and was amazed at the amount of starlight in the room. When I looked around I saw that it was the Southern Cross shining through the south facing window. I have seen this star pattern many times before but never so close. I felt as though I could reach out and touch the bright stars as they filled the room with translucent light. It was magical. I felt an immediate connection to the Southern Cross, something I have never felt before.

The Southern Cross star pattern is composed of four bright stars and one fainter star which form the shape of a cross, or more accurately, a kite. The Southern Cross is not a constellation but an asterism which is a group of stars that can be part of a constellation or span across multiple constellations. The Southern Cross is the brightest star pattern in the Crux constellation, the smallest constellation in the sky.

photo from Wikipedia

The Southern Cross asterism was once a feature of the northern skies and was an important celestial symbol for ancient cultures. The ancient Greeks considered it part of the Centaurus constellation. By Roman times it had sunk below the horizon and out of view for most of the Northern Hemisphere, although it is still visible in some southern parts of the Northern Hemisphere. The Southern Cross was virtually forgotten in the Northern Hemisphere until it became an important asterism in navel navigations.

The Southern Cross has always been a powerful celestial symbol in the southern skies and features prominently in the mythology and stories of Southern Hemisphere cultures. The Southern Cross configuration is featured on the flags of Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Samoa. It is also mentioned in the national anthems of Australia and Brazil.

In my home country of Australia, the Southern Cross is an important part of indigenous and non-indigenous Australian culture. Australian indigenous culture is wide and diverse, and while there are many stories about the Southern Cross, it is regarded as one of many star patterns that grace the southern skies. However, for many non-indigenous Australians, this celestial symbol has almost mythic status and is considered one of the most important star patterns in the southern skies. Unfortunately, the Southern Cross has also been used as a symbol of nationalism, bigotry and rebellion, often in nasty ways. This association with the uglier parts of Australian culture has made me uncomfortable about getting to know the Southern Cross asterism. However, after seeing how beautiful it truly is, I’m now keen to form a relationship.

Happy Solstice!

When Shall We Three Meet Again

May 26 is World Dracula Day which celebrates the day that Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula was published. Dracula was published in 1897 making this year the 125th anniversary!

The Dracula Tarot

Dracula is an epistolary novel as it is written as a series of documents. The narrative beautifully unfolds through letters, diary entries, newspaper articles, ship logs, telegrams and phonograph recordings. Dracula therefore has an exhaustive list of the places, times and dates that events occur. To celebrate World Dracula Day, I decided to see if there was an entry for May 26 – and happily there was!

Telegram from Arthur Holmwood to Quincey P. Morris.
“26 May.
“Count me in every time. I bear messages which will make both your ears tingle.
“ART.”

Doesn’t that sound intriguing? Here is the previous correspondence which explains what invitation Arthur is accepting.

Letter, Quincey P. Morris to Hon. Arthur Holmwood.
“25 May.
“My dear Art,—
“We’ve told yarns by the camp-fire in the prairies; and dressed one another’s wounds after trying a landing at the Marquesas; and drunk healths on the shore of Titicaca. There are more yarns to be told, and other wounds to be healed, and another health to be drunk. Won’t you let this be at my camp-fire to-morrow night? I have no hesitation in asking you, as I know a certain lady is engaged to a certain dinner-party, and that you are free. There will only be one other, our old pal at the Korea, Jack Seward. He’s coming, too, and we both want to mingle our weeps over the wine-cup, and to drink a health with all our hearts to the happiest man in all the wide world, who has won the noblest heart that God has made and the best worth winning. We promise you a hearty welcome, and a loving greeting, and a health as true as your own right hand. We shall both swear to leave you at home if you drink too deep to a certain pair of eyes. Come!
“Yours, as ever and always,“Quincey P. Morris.”

I can just picture Quincey, Dr Seward and Arthur sitting around a campfire discussing Arthur’s “ear tingling” news. Arthur can’t wait to tell them that he is engaged to Lucy Westenra. What Arthur doesn’t know is that his proposal to Lucy on 24 May is the third she received that day. Dr Seward was the first to propose followed shortly after by Quincey. Both men are refused and they realise that Arthur is the man Lucy loves. This get-together is to congratulate Arthur for winning Lucy’s heart. Arthur is never told about the proposals and never realises how deep Dr Seward’s and Quincey’s love for Lucy is. There is also another secret that Quincey and Dr Seward keep from Arthur involving an “intimate” episode with Lucy. If you don’t already know, you’ll have to read the book to find out!

Happy World Dracula Day!

The Dracula Tarot

The Halloween “Pom” Queen

Sunday the 30th of April is southern hemisphere Halloween! There are so many ways to celebrate this most auspicious of nights. This year I’ll be celebrating the seasonal coronation of Persephone as she once again embraces her role as the Queen of the Underworld.

Persephone spends Spring and Summer in the land of the living and Autumn and Winter in the land of the dead. During the Autumn Equinox, Persephone makes her descent into the Underworld. On Halloween, we celebrate the seasonal coronation of Persephone as she regains her crown and guides us through the remaining dark half of the year.

To celebrate Persephone’s Halloween Coronation, I’m making hot chocolate. Chocolate is linked to death – and not just by the dessert Death By Chocolate! Cacao has been used in celebrations and rituals symbolising both death and rebirth for millennia. You can even buy Ceremonial Grade Cacao if you’re really keen. I’m adding mint and pomegranate to my hot chocolate which also have links to death and rebirth, so they are perfect ingredients for a Halloween drink dedicated to Persephone.

Mint is a key herb herb used in funerary rites, and also an ingredient in kykeon, a fermented barley drink used in the Eleusinian Mysteries dedicated to Demeter and Persephone. Interestingly, Minthe is the name of a nymph who was the lover of Hades. Minthe said some unflattering things about Persephone and was trampled on by either Persephone, or her mother Demeter. The herb mint sprang from the earth where Minthe was squashed. That’s a pretty powerful allegory for death and rebirth!

Pomegranate is a red fruit filled with seeds that oozes blood red juice when opened. Not surprisingly they are a fruit abundant in symbology. During her first trip to the Underworld, Persephone eats some pomegranate seeds which tie her forever to the realm of the dead. For each seed she has eaten, she must spend a month in the Underworld. There is no consensus on how many seeds she ate. As her journey represents a seasonal cycle of light and darkness, six seems to be an appropriate number. Pomegranate seeds bring Persephone back to the Underworld and on Halloween she reclaims her throne as Queen of the Dead. It is this for reason I call her my Halloween Pom (Pomegranate) Queen.

Mint Hot Chocolate with Pomegranate Whipped Cream

Ingredients (1 serving)
for the whipped cream
1/2 cup cream
1 tablespoon powdered (icing) sugar
1 teaspoon fresh pomegranate juice
pomegranate seeds for decorating
mint leaves for decorating

for the hot chocolate
1 cup of milk
1 tablespoon dark cocoa powder
20g finely chopped dark chocolate buds
2 tablespoons (or to taste) peppermint cordial

Instructions
Whisk the cream until slightly thickened.
Add the powdered sugar and whisk until soft peaks form.
Stir in the pomegranate juice until fluffy and combined. Set aside while you make the hot chocolate.
Heat the milk until hot, but not boiling.
Whisk in the cocoa powder until combined.
Add the chocolate and whisk until melted and combined.
Add the peppermint cordial and whisk until combined.
Pour into a heat-proof mug.
Top with whipped cream.
Decorate with mint leaves and pomegranate seeds.

Stately Ghosts

April 20th is Bram Stoker’s Death Day. This year marks the 110th year since the Dracula author passed away. To honour the memory of one of my favourite writers, I went on another Lantern Ghost Tour.

The Eynesbury Homestead Dinner and Ghost Tour usually takes place once a month on a Friday night. I had originally booked a tour for Friday the 13th in August 2021, but sadly had to postpone it. I rescheduled it for April 15th which was close to Bram Stoker’s deathiversary and also Good Friday. I loved doing a ghost tour on a day dedicated to death, blood and resurrection. The fact that it was also a full moon added to the magic!

With the moon lighting our way, our guide took us for a walk through the property, pointing out places of historical and ghostly significance. The stories were gruesome as our guide told of those who’d died so long ago, and the stories of the ghosts who remain. The abandoned meat room, with meat hooks that sometimes swing on their own, was pretty creepy. The outdoors fully explored, it was time to go inside.

As we entered the first room – the former sitting room, I was drawn to one section in particular. I wasn’t surprised when the guide told us that’s where they placed the coffin for a wake or vigil. The deceased would be displayed in the family home for a few days to make sure they were truly dead. In a time when it was difficult to ascertain death, a wake was literally giving the deceased time to wake up before burial.

I loved the stories our guide told us as they really brought to life the house and the family who built it. Sadly, most of the house has now been transformed into a restaurant at the cost of some of its historical charm – a mixture of Victorian and Georgian styles reflecting its late 19th century origins. The exception was the snooker room, which was decorated with original furnishings and even wall paper. It brought out the historical feel, including a full sized snooker table so heavy that it had sunk into the floor and had to be reinforced! Overall though, the fact that the house is displayed as a restaurant, and not a stately home takes away some of its spirit, but it’s still worth visiting.

There is a collection of antique dolls but, devastatingly, they were not on display. Apparently they have been banished to the cellar for being too creepy. We couldn’t go in the cellar, but I did take photos, hoping to see the creepy dolls. Sadly they were out of view so I didn’t get to see them.

To console myself I went home and played with my not so creepy Dracula dolls.

April Fool’s Day Capers

To celebrate April Fool’s Day I’d like to pay tribute to one of my favourite pranks. On April Fool’s Day 1957, the BBC’s current affairs program Panorama aired a story about a family in Switzerland harvesting spaghetti from their spaghetti tree. The family were celebrating a bumper harvest due to a mild winter and the almost total eradication of the spaghetti beetle.

photo from wikipedia

Apparently, spaghetti was not well known in the UK at that time so many were fooled by the story. Some viewers contacted the BBC asking for advice on how they could grow their own spaghetti trees! Wouldn’t it be awesome if there really were spaghetti trees?

To celebrate this foodie prank I just had to make a big bowl of spaghetti. Naturally I couldn’t resist adding capers to my spaghetti. Not only do capers add a tasty burst of flavour to a dish, but a “caper” is also another name for an escapade, joke or prank.

Spaghetti with Capers

Ingredients
180g spaghetti
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
good squeeze of lemon juice
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan

Instructions
Cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente.
Drain and return the spaghetti to the pot.
Add the olive oil and lemon juice.
Toss until combined and the spaghetti is glossy.
Place into bowls and scatter with capers and parmesan.

Happy April Fool’s Day!