The Traveler’s Spread


Card 1. The Querent

Card 2. Reason for the trip

Card 3. Preparations needed

Card 4. People you will meet and accommodations

Card 5. Focus of the trip

Card 6. Watch out!

Card 7. Gift received or lessons learned

Card 8. Gifts given or what you leave behind

Card 9. Outcome

So here is an example reading using The Traveler’s Spread. Querent was a young woman traveling south and teaching yoga workshops along the way.


Card 1 -6 of Pentacles – she is sharing resources. There is an even exchange of money spent and experience gained. Hey – trips can be expensive! And this woman was going to be teaching yoga workshops along the way, so this looks good!

Card 2- 5 0f Swords – time to get out of a no win situation.

Card 3 – 6 of Swords – look at that progression. Taking off is the right thing to do. Make sure to keep your focus. Declutter – don’t overpack!

Card 4- 3 of Cups – how great is that? She will meet lots of new friends and have a good time.

Card 5 – Page of Swords – A young person who is ready to try her new idea! This trip will focus on self growth and discovery.

Card 6 -Two of Pentacles – what is this warning – handling too much? Overspending? Meeting someone shady? I reiterated the need to be careful with her money and watch out for people who may misrepresent themselves (reflects back on card 2)

Card 7 – Judgement – WOW! Two major arcana say pay attention! This trip will be life altering! Transformative!

Card 8 – The Hermit – This card does represent finding a teacher. Maybe she will leave people seeking more? Or maybe a special some one will be missing her….

Card 9 – 3 of Wands – This trip will leave her full of ambition and planning for more!

So overall, a great reading about what looks to be a very transformative trip!

I would love to hear how you would adjust the card meanings (nothing yet about “Will my car break down?”) or interpret this yourself in the comments.

Safe travels! Thanks for stopping by!

Bellydancer Minestrone

This is from FatChanceBellydance’s vegan cook book Devotion. It is delicious! And absolutely my favorite recipe in the book.

1 TBSP olive oil

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

1 med. onion

2 carrots, coined

4 stalks celery, sliced

1 1/2 cups potatoes,cubed

3 zucchini, cubed

1 28oz can diced tomatoes

1 15oz can kidney beans

1 15 oz can garbanzo beans

1 cup pasta of choice

5-6 chard leaves (or spinach)

2 Tbsp dried basil (or fresh – yummy!)

1 tsp dried oregano

2 tsp. dried rosemary

2 tsp. salt

1 28oz and 1 15 oz can water (use the cans to measure)

In a large pot on med. heat saute oil, onions, carrot, celery and garlic for 5 min.
Add tomatoes, beans including liquid, potatoes, water, herbs and salt.

Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer until potatoes are tender (10 min)

Add zucchini, herbs, and pasta, bring just to a boil, then turn off heat.

Allow to sit on the stove for a few hours for full flavor.

Super Easy Cheese Soup

Friends, I am so embarrassed of this. I make this soup ALL THE TIME. For potlucks even. Why? Because it’s easy and everyone loves it. 

Leftover trick- use it as a cheese sauce when its thickened up.

You can use generic ALDI Velveeta. Just sayin’.

Don’t judge me.

2 pkg. (16 oz.) frozen broccoli, cauliflower and carrot blend (California blend)

2 quarts vegetable broth  

3/4 lb. (12 oz.) Velveeta Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product, cut up ( 3 year olds love to do this with a butter knife.)
PLACE vegetables and broth in large saucepan; cover. Bring to boil on medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low; simmer 10 min. or until vegetables are tender.

MASH vegetables with potato masher to desired consistency. I use a submersible blender.

STIR in Velveeta; cook 5 min. or until Velveeta is melted and soup is heated through, stirring frequently.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with crackers, Sri racha, cilantro, spinach, whatever.


Muscatine 2nd Saturday

Tonight my family went to the Muscatine Iowa 2nd Saturday Music and Street Fest.

My daughter Tabitha has been asking me to go, and I was glad we finally had the chance.

The first booth we encountered was the Muscatine Literary Coalition.

 They had a table of FREE books. Tabitha and I each got a copy of O Pioneers! And we scored this gem:

There were street musicians:

And artists:

Yarn spinners:

Face painting:

Crafts for the kids:

And cool big kids:

Quirky shops:

And most importantly:

And I saw a sign, which inspired me for my upcoming Etsy shop’s Aprons for Your Revolution:

We had a fantastic time. 

The next one is the last one. Check it out October 8th. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Matar Paneer (veg and vegan)

(Originally posted at my blog ALDI Vegetarian)

Matar Paneer is a recipe I have been making for decades. And a family favorite. I usually make it vegetarian, and all of the ingredients (except spices) are available at Aldi. Last night I made it vegan, and it was darn good. Here are both versions! Remember you can mix the two recipes – a little tofu or coconut milk in your vegetarian version, for example.

Matar Paneer – Vegetarian  

(serves 8, you might want to halve it)
4 cans evaporated milk

2 blocks paneer (You can make it!)

1/2 cup ghee or butter

8 Tbsp. ginger root

4 Tbsp. garlic

1 onion, chopped

4 tsp. salt

4 tsp tumeric

1 tsp hot red pepper (you may want to adjust this for taste)

4 tsp. coriander

4 Tbsp. gharam masala

4 cups chopped tomato

2 cups peas

4 Tbsp. sugar

fresh cilantro
Put butter in skillet. Fry paneer cubes. (You can also bake them) Remove from pan.
Add more butter and ginger and garlic. Fry for 30 seconds.

Add onions and salt. Fry for 7 minutes (until soft)

Add one can of evaporated milk.

Stir in tumeric, red pepper, coriander, gharam masala

When blended, add the rest of the milk and the tomatoes

Bring to a slow boil, and let reduce for 10 minutes

Add peas and sugar

Add paneer

Garnish with cilantro

Matar Paneer – Vegan
(serves 8, you might want to halve it)
4 cans coconut milk
2 blocks tofu (You can make it!)

1/2 cup vegan butter

8 Tbsp. ginger root

4 Tbsp. garlic

1 onion, chopped

4 tsp. salt

4 tsp tumeric

1 tsp hot red pepper (you may want to adjust this for taste)

4 tsp. coriander

4 Tnsp. gharam masala

4 cups chopped tomato

2 cups peas

4 Tbsp. sweetener (to taste)

fresh cilantro

Put vegan butter in skillet. Fry tofu cubes. (You can also bake them) Remove from pan.
Add more vegan butter and ginger and garlic. Fry for 30 seconds.

Add onions and salt. Fry for 7 minutes (until soft)

Add one can of coconut milk.

Stir in tumeric, red pepper, coriander, gharam masala

When blended, add the rest of the coconut milk and the tomatoes

Bring to a slow boil, and let reduce for 10 minutes

Add peas and sweetener

Add tofu

Garnish with cilantro

We serve this with a salad and wheat tortillas. You could make papadum, chapatis, fried cauliflower, tamarind sauce, and mango lassi. 

My Ideal Self

This is a very personal, very long post. With a good ending.

A few weeks ago at Lammas, a friend I don’t see often enough complimented me on an apron I was wearing. I proudly told her I had made it! She replied “oh! My ideal self makes aprons.”

My brain exploded. Her ideal self? What was that? Tell me more!
She replied something along the lines of “You know, the things you do that you feel you should be doing”.
I became obsessed. As many of you know, I have spent the last two years in an anxiety ridden fog. This ideal self concept gave me a sliver of hope!

I spoke to an amazing psychologist friend. She said it was a helpful technique for people.

I started researching websites:

Five Ways to Become Your Ideal Self

Envisioning Your Ideal Self

And journaling. Now many of you also know that I am and always have been a prolific journaler. The last 18 months my journals were filled with nothing but gloom and doom. Not at all like me. In fact, I would sometimes write at the top of a page “I don’t want to journal about this any more!” Then proceed to fill pages and pages with just that thing. At least this was something different, right?
I would ask myself questions: 
What are my values?

Who are my friends?

How do I use my time?

How do I spend my money?

What do I eat?

And from there, the lists (oh how I do love writing lists!) started.
List after list after list.

Some excerpts:
My Ideal Self-
Eats healthy/thinner (look at me trying to get smaller!)

Has her shit together

Doesn’t talk as much (WTF Melanie?!?).   

Vents only to her therapist

Is a good mother


Keeps home organized


My coven had a retreat. We had a cabin on a lake. Time for self care. Ritual. And what the fuck did I do but suggest my coven explore this concept. So all my beautiful friends start doing the same thing. Websites. Journals. Lists.
And there I had a revelation. Lying in my little bed, drunk as fuck. 
All my friends are amazing and beautiful just the way they are! I am so sorry coven sisters.
I am amazing and beautiful! For the first 40 years of my life I thought I was amazing. I had self esteem to spare!
What had changed? I hadn’t changed really. Only one thing:
I didn’t love myself.

Fuck that.

Then, for a minute, I felt guilty. For how how I treated myself for 18 months. Then I forgave myself. I was grieving.
And now I’m done.
And I’m done with bullshit too.
Now my journal is back to planning. Homeschool units. Bellydance classes.Do I still have a list? Yes! 
But I looked it as self care. Not ideal self. 
Prairie walks

Jade egg practice

Pet my dog

Make aprons





Waldorf homeschool

Take no shit

So did the idea of my ideal self change my life? Yes.

My ideal self forgives and loves herself.

Interviewing Your Midwife

(This is a rewrite of a client hand out I wrote in the early 90’s. It was funny to change phone numbers into website links. And interesting to note that some of the questions had changed. For example, I had to include ‘how far past my due date may I go?’. -xoxo Midwife Melanie)

You’ve decided you want a natural birth. And you know a midwife is the best person to support that decision during your pregnancy, labor, and birth. But how do you go about finding a midwife? And once you do, how do you know she’s the midwife for you?

In Iowa, there are different types of midwives:
 Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM) are the most widely recognized group of professional midwives. They are registered nurses who have gone on for additional training as midwives. After attending an educational program accredited by the American College of Nurse Midwives Certification Council they must pass their examination and then are licensed. CNMs generally work under the supervision of a doctor (but in Iowa they can be independent!) Most carry malpractice insurance and participate in hospital births only. However, there are some CNMs that do attend homebirths and often they accept insurance reimbursement.
 Direct Entry Midwives (also called traditional, lay, independent, or Certified Professional Midwives) are not required to become nurses before training to be midwives. They arrive at their practice through a variety of routes including personal study and experience, formal training programs, and/ or private apprenticeship. Direct entry midwifery is not recognized in Iowa or Illinois, so these midwives might be more difficult to find and do not accept insurance. (My readers in Minnesota and Wisconsin are far luckier!) However they are homebirth specialists!
  A Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) is a type of direct entry midwife who has had her skills and experience evaluated by the North American Registry of Midwives and passed a written examination.
  The first step is finding midwives to interview. Ask friends who loved their birth experience. Go to the local La Leche League or Crunchy Mama facebook page and ask around. Also, check out midwifery websites like the ACNM, MANA, NARM, and Midwifery Today.
  It is important to interview two or three midwives before you make a decision. It will help if you have an idea of the kind of birth you would like. Do you want to deliver at home? Hospital? Birth Center?Do you want a midwife who will massage and encourage you during labor or do you want someone who will basically sit in the corner and knit, intervening only if there is a problem? Do you want FHTs to be monitored with a fetoscope intermittently or hooked up to an electronic fetal monitor? Do you want to deliver in water? Although midwives are alike in many ways, in many more ways they are very different.
Here is a list of questions you can ask when interviewing your midwife. Don’t be shy, midwives like to know their clients are a good match!
-Why did you become a midwife?
-What kind of training have you had?
-Do you practice at homebirths? Birth Centers? Hospitals?
-Are you certified or licensed?
-Do you belong to professional organizations, attend conferences and workshops, subscribe to        professional journals?
-What basic philosophies guide your practice?
-How many births have you attended?
-How many births do you attend a month?
-What tests do you require prenatally? 
-How far past my due date will you allow me to go?
-Do you deliver VBAC, breeches, or twins?
-What emergency equipment will be available at the birth? What isn’t available?
-What kind of emergency situations have you handled?
-Have you ever given birth?
-Did you breastfeed?
-Who will attend my birth with you?
-How will you monitor my progress?
-How will you monitor my baby’s health?
-May I eat and drink during labor?
-May my other children be present?
-Do you use herbal or homeopathic remedies?
-May I deliver in a birth pool?
-May I or my partner catch my baby? Assuming all is well?
-If we transport to the hospital will you stay with me?
-What is you transfer rate?
-What is your induction rate?
-What is your cesarean section rate?
-What is your episiotomy rate?
-What is your fee and what does it include?
-What kind of commitments are we responsible for; childbirth classes, back up doctor, lab work, hospital registration, birth certificates, new born testing, supplies…..?
-What do you consider your responsibilities as our midwife?
  These are initial questions to be asked at your first meeting. There are hundreds of other questions that you will ask through out your pregnancy. It should be very important to your prospective midwife that you know the complete answer to each question. Try to schedule a special interview visit, so you aren’t sitting on an exam table wearing a sheet.
  It is important to remember that midwives are providing a service to you. As a consumer, you should be fully informed of your options. This will not only help ensure that you feel empowered by your birth experience, but will also change birth, for all women and babies, for the better.

Wolf’s Birth Story

Aeddon Wolf Valdimar
VBAC, 6th Baby
“How wonderful life is, now you’re in the world” 
Sunday, August 27, 2006

(This post is my first in a few years. What better way than to blog about Wolf’s birth on his TENTH birthday?!)

I was dreaming of a family friend fighting a lion. I awoke in a puddle of water. I rushed to turn on the light and woke my husband. But I could smell it was just pee, so I tossed a towel over it and went back to sleep.
I awoke again a few hours later to the sound of my teenage daughter, Tabitha, rushing around getting ready for work. I jumped up and drove to Muscatine with the dawn. I hung out at the coffee shop for a few minutes while Tabitha made me an Americano. I told her my hips felt “wonky” and maybe today would be the day. She said not to wait too long to get her if I was.
At home my husband Chris and I read the newspaper and had fun sex.
Being Sunday it was “clean the house day”. As I worked I noticed cramping- of course I had been cramping everyday, but these seemed more regular.
I was sweeping at 10 am when Chris said, “everything okay?” I confessed to contracting every 15 minutes but tried not to get too excited.
Chris cooked me two fried eggs with salt and maple syrup. Yummy!
At 12:30 I thought I’d see if a walk “in the wild wind” would be helpful. I went alone. My contractions were 6 minutes apart. I would stop and focus on butterflies. Sometimes I would pee myself. Guess the baby’s head was moving down! On my walk I saw a flock of geese and a beautiful heron. I took it as a sign of good luck. I walked one mile.
Back home I sat on the porch swing with Chris. We talked about setting up a birth tub in the dining room in case of heavy rain- it was very overcast. I told Chris I really wanted Tabitha to come home, even if this was a false alarm. But I had no cramps while we swung and he said we could wait until she got done at 3:30.
Chris cleaned and set up the birth tub. I folded the laundry. I got a few bigger contractions. On my walk I imagined wings unfurling from my hips, but now it was more like knives twisting. Chris finished the tub and left to pick up Tab.
My 13 year old son Rowan played with the other children while I lay down for a nap. I missed Chris. I remember enjoying a nap with him at our last birth. Contractions came every 7 minutes, but I did sleep between them.
Chris and Tab return around 4. I tried doing a few chores. Chris told me later he saw me pause to squat while hanging sheets to dry. I then sat in the outdoor hot tub for a few minutes but it seemed to slow things down. I decided to watch “Moulin Rouge” with the kids while Chris started making sushi.
Pearl (midwife 1) called on a hunch to see what was going on at my house. I told her I was contracting, but not regular enough, so we’d call later.
Chris checked my cervix. 8? 9? No head though.
I called K. (midwife 2) to check in. We spoke for 9 minutes during which I had 3 short contractions. Maybe she’d stop out after supper… By now I was singing pretty loud with Ewan and Nicole.
One more trip to the toilet (bloody show!) and I was off to the hot tub again.
The contractions were really strong now. I felt nauseous and asked for a bucket. I checked myself. Lip of cervix, bag, head. I told Chris he should give up on the sushi and call the midwives.
I floated sideways in the tub. It helped me to remember I didn’t need to hold onto the contraction. I could ‘let it go’. Then a calm. The contractions slowed. The pain lessened. Chris’ face was there. “The midwives won’t make it in time”. I closed my eyes.
I remember my friend Jenni once saying “you don’t have to push”. I said this to myself for many urges.
Then it felt better to give a little push. My water broke. My whole beautiful family was watching. Rowan had the video camera. The kids were all taking pictures.
I would change positions often. Hand and knees. Squatting. Kneeling. This baby sure was taking a long time to come out!
I could feel the head inside my labia. Chris leaned in and felt. Tabitha leaned in and felt. The water wet her white t-shirt and her pink bra showed through (like in Duece Bigelow the teens said.) It made me smile.
The baby kept kicking and wiggling inside me. “Let me do it, baby”, I said. The head would crown and go all the way back in. “Come on, monkey”. I always call my children monkeys. Crown again. In again.
The head finally came. So intense! What a big head! Wait for the next contraction. I leaned back and put some traction on the head. No rotation. The baby squeezed its own arms out. Stuck at the armpits?! Chris is in the tub now. I unwrap the cord from the baby’s neck. Push again. Finally born!!! 8:08 pm. Beautiful! “What is it?” I ask Morgan Finn (5). “A boy!” my children move in close to touch their brother. This is one of the most perfect moments of my life.
After a while it is dark. Rhiannon (10) cuts the cord. I get out while Archer (8) wraps the baby. I move into bed.
The midwives arrive. Archer, Morgan Finn and K. deliver my placenta. Pearl and the children make placenta prints. Tabitha cooks the placenta for me – delicious! We eat enchiladas and drink wine. We sing happy birthday and eat birthday cake with a zero candle.
The first scale says 11 pounds, 11 ounces. We try two more scales and settle on 11 – 8.
The midwives go home. The children spread sleeping bags in my room and I am tucked in with Wolf. Bliss.

Brigid Story

Queen of Four Fires

taken from:
The Storyteller’s Goddess, Carolyn McVickar Edwards, Marlowe &
Company, 2000.

A long time ago, near the beginning, at the first crack of pink in a
young morning, near the waters of the magic well, the goddess Bridget
slipped into the world and the waiting hands of the nine sisters who
swayed and crooned in a great circle around her. The waters of the
magic well burbled their joy.

Up rose a column of fire out of the new goddess’s head that burned to
the very sky. Bridget reached up her two hands and broke away a
flaming plume from her crown of fire and dropped it on the ground
before her. There it leapt and shone, making the hearth of the house
of the goddess.

Then from the fire of her hearth, Bridget used both hands to draw out
a leaping tongue of heat, swallowed it, and felt the fire burn
straight to her heart. There stood the goddess, fire crowning her
head, licking up inside her heart, glowing and shooting from her
hands, and dancing on the hearth before her.

The nine sisters hummed and the waters of the magic well trembled as
Bridget built a chimney of brick about her hearth. Then about the
chimney, she built a roof of thatch and walls of stone. And so it was
that by the waters of the magic well the goddess finished the house
in which she keeps the four fires which have served her people

Out of the fire on Bridget’s hands baked the craft of bending iron.
Out of the fire on Bridget’s hearth and the waters of her magic well
came the healing teas. Out of the fire on Bridget’s head flared out
writing and poetry. Out of the fire in Bridget’s heart spread the
heat of compassion.

Word of the gifts of Bridget’s fires traveled wide. People flocked to
learn from Bridget the secret of using fire to soften iron and bend
it to the shapes of their desires. The people called bending iron
smithcraft, and they made wheels, pots, and tools that did not break.

All the medicine plants of the earth gathered in the house of the
goddess. With their leaves, flowers, barks, and roots, and the waters
of her magic well, Bridget made the healing teas. She gave a boy with
weak teeth the tea of the dandelion root. She gave a young woman the
tea of the raspberry leaf to help her womb carry its child. An old
man, a cane in each hand to help him walk, took from Bridget
wintergreen bark for his pain and black cherry juice for the
rheumatism. She gave comfrey to a girl with a broken leg and blue
cohosh to bring her bloods without cramps. Bridget brewed motherwort,
licorice root, and dried parsley for a woman who was coming to the
end of her monthly bleeding. “Cup a day,” said Bridget, “that you
stay supple and strong.”

The people wanted Bridget’s recipes. “But we can’t remember which
plants for which healings, where to gather them or how long to steep
them,” they told Bridget.

The fire on Bridget’s head blazed bright. She took up a blackened
stick and made marks with it on a flat piece of bark.”These are the
talking marks,” She said. “They are the way to remember what you
don’t want to forget.”

The talking marks also let the people write down the stories of her

Once two men with terrible stories of leprosy came to Bridget.

“Bathe yourself in my well.” said Bridget to the first man. At every
place Bridget’s waters touched, the man’s skin turned whole again.

“Now bathe your friend,” said Bridget.

Repulsed, the man backed away from his friend. “I cannot touch him,”
he said.

“Then you are not truly healed,” said the goddess. And she gave the
first man back his leprosy and healed the second man. “Return to me
with compassion,” she said to the first man. “There find your

Every year at midwinter the people thank Bridget for her well of
wisdom and her fires of hand, hearth, head and heart. “Thank you,
Bridget, for the simthcraft, for the healing teas, the talking marks,
and compassion. May you dwell with your fires in your house by the
waters of your magic well forever.”