Sunday, December 30, 2012

Want some Free Gift Cards?

If you're like me, you look for any way you possibly can to cut the cost of items you're purchasing. One of the ways I do that is to buy off Amazon, which touts prices generally lower than that of a retail store. But do you want to get an even better deal on the items you buy from there, and other stores as well? Why not use Swagbucks to earn some free Amazon gift cards!

That's right, you can earn FREE gift cards, just by doing things you would normally do online, like searching, polls, surveys, watching videos, shopping your favorite stores, and even playing games. There are gift cards to Amazon, Wal-Mart, tons of major restaurants, and even you can turn in your points for cold hard cash.

In general the turn-in rate for points on the gift cards is as follows:
$5 GC - 450 to 500 points
$10 GC - 1,000 points
$25 GC - 2,500 points

It continues to increase by $5 for every additional 500 points. But if you're not into gift cards, why not browse the tons of other prizes as well? I've gotten posters, books, electronics, and more off of this site, all for free.

On average, I earn a $5 Amazon gift card every two days, or a $15 Amazon gift card a week. While that may not sound like much, it adds up faster than you would think. I generally only get on Swagbucks before bed, and surf for maybe an hour. I make sure to do all my "dailies" which are the NOSO and daily poll, which gives you 3 points. Then I do the daily survey offered on the main page, which gives me 60 points, and then watch all the 1 point videos offered. Most of them are under 30 seconds, and there can be up to 10 on the main page. Then, if I want more points, I play a few games, watch some short videos on Swagbucks TV, and do a few more quick surveys. All of that activity adds us pretty fast, plus, you can get extra points just for searching in their tool bar!

Not to mention, there is a daily points goal meter, and if you reach it you get extra points. So why not give it a try today, and make life a little easier with some free stuff, and free cash?

Love and Lightning Bugs,

Disclaimer: I was NOT endorsed at all by Swagbucks for this post, I just really like this site. :)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Why I Watermark

So...I just got this in my inbox on Facebook:

"First things first, How are you? 2nd i would like to ask if you can send me all the pictures and videos you have of all the reenactments you have. That would be greatly appreciated. Sorry for bothering you with this request it is kind of urgent though and i would like them if you can by the end of next week. Also if you know anyone else who may have pictures and videos can you let me know? Thank you Isabella, od Bless and Happy Christ Mas!!"

Umm, no. No I will not. That's over 2,000 images...and you're not paying for the right to use any of them. Sadly though, this is not the first time something like this has happened, and it just keep me focused on watermarking all my publicly shared images.

As a blogger, any image I post here is considered "public". Therefore, I can't filter who sees them, and more importantly, who could steal them. So watermarking your images is as important as ever! Just to show you what I mean, I Google Image Searched one of the images on my blog.

I dragged one of the images I often use into the search bar, and up popped all the links that using that image. Thankfully, all the links were mine. But often I have GIS other images, such as those taken at reenactments, and people had stolen them, and were using them without my permission! No one wants that for their photos, especially those that may be of your children or pets. SO even though it may be a pain, and a bit time consuming, it's worth it to take a few minutes, and put your watermark across an image.

I myself made a .png file that I can simply drop onto the photo, re-size it, and save it. It saves time, but still protects the image from being easily stolen.

Above is the logo I use, and below is the logo in use on a photo. I designed it so that you have to tilt the screen, or look at the image at an angle to see it. That way If someone does steal it, I can see the watermark, while others may not.

So remember, take a few minutes and watermark your images.

Love and Lightning Bugs,

Monday, December 17, 2012

15 Days of Yule: Herbal Sachets

I'm sorry everyone! I really dropped the ball on this series, as the last week has been really stressful and busy for me. Being Pagan, I prefer to give handmade gifts, filled with my love and energy. That means it takes me much longer to get ready for Yule and Christmas...and usually my fingers give out after a certain amount of hours.

On that note though, I thought I would give you a fun Yule gift idea!

Herb sachets are an easy, and festive, way to spread some holiday cheer during the season. These simple sachets are easy to make, and you can either use them as ornaments on your tree, or give them away as gifts. You'll need the following:

  • Bay
  • Cloves
  • Juniper berries
  • Orange peel, grated
  • Orris root
  • Peppermint
  • Pine
  • Rosemary
  • Squares of your favorite holiday fabric
  • Colorful ribbon
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Small bells

Mix the herbs together in a bowl. Blend varying proportions of each until you've got the scent you want. Here's a hint: start small!

There are a few different ways you can 'package' the herbs, but some of my favorites are in felt, and in small bags. For the felt, I like to make smaller felt birds, then fill them with the herbs, finish sewing them up, and then hang them on my tree!

You can also use a spoon to place the blended herbs into the center of a square of fabric. Pull the corners up and tie with the ribbon. Tie a cinnamon stick and a couple of bells in place as well. Use a second piece of ribbon to create a loop so you can hang the sachet if you like.

Timesaver tip: you can buy small tulle bags in holiday colors and spoon the herb blend into them. Pull the drawstring closed and tie shut, then hang up on your tree, or give them to a friend.

Love and Lightning Bugs,

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

15 Days of Yule: The Yule Log

As the Wheel of the Year turns once more, the days get shorter, the skies become gray, and it seems as though the sun is dying. In this time of darkness, we pause on the Solstice (usually around December 21st, although not always on the same date) and realize that something wonderful is happening.

On Yule, the sun stops its decline into the south. For a few days, it seems as though it’s rising in exactly the same place… and then the amazing, the wonderful, the miraculous happens. The light begins to return.

The sun begins its journey back to the north, and once again we are reminded that we have something worth celebrating. In families of all different spiritual paths, the return of the light is celebrated, with Menorahs, Kwanzaa candles, bonfires, and brightly lit Christmas trees. On Yule, many Pagan and Wiccan families celebrate the return of the sun by adding light into their homes. One of my favorite traditions – and one that children can do easily – is to make a Yule log for a family-sized celebration.

A holiday celebration that began in Norway, on the night of the winter solstice it was common to hoist a giant log onto the hearth to celebrate the return of the sun each year. The Norsemen believed that the sun was a giant wheel of fire which rolled away from the earth, and then began rolling back again on the winter solstice.

As Christianity spread through Europe, the tradition became part of Christmas Eve festivities. The father or master of the house would sprinkle the log with libations of mead, oil or salt. Once the log was burned in the hearth, the ashes were scattered about the house to protect the family within from hostile spirits.

Because each type of wood is associated with various magical and spiritual properties, logs from different types of trees might be burned to get a variety of effects. Aspen is the wood of choice for spiritual understanding, while the mighty oak is symbolic of strength and wisdom. A family hoping for a year of prosperity might burn a log of pine, while a couple hoping to be blessed with fertility would drag a bough of birch to their hearth.

In my house, I usually make our Yule log out of pine, but you can make yours of any type of wood you choose. You can select one based on its magical properties, or you can just use whatever’s handy. To make a basic Yule log, you will need the following:

  • A log about 14 – 18” long
  • Pine-cones
  • Dried berries, such as cranberries
  • Cuttings of mistletoe, holly, pine needles, and ivy
  • Feathers and cinnamon sticks
  • Some festive ribbon – use paper or cloth ribbon, not the synthetic or wire-lined type
  • A hot glue gun
  • All of these – except for the ribbon and the hot glue gun -- are things you and your children can gather outside. You might wish to start collecting them earlier in the year, and saving them. Encourage your children to only pick up items they find on the ground, and not to take any cuttings from live plants.

Begin by wrapping the log loosely with the ribbon. Leave enough space that you can insert your branches, cuttings and feathers under the ribbon. In my house, I place five feathers on my Yule log – one for each member of the family. Once you've gotten your branches and cuttings in place, begin gluing on the pine-cones  cinnamon sticks and berries. Add as much or as little as you like. Remember to keep the hot glue gun away from small children.

Once you've decorated your Yule log, the question arises of what to do with it. For starters, use it as a centerpiece for your holiday table. A Yule log looks lovely on a table surrounded by candles and holiday greenery.

Another way to use your Yule log is to burn it as our ancestors did so many centuries ago. For myself, before I burn my log, I write down a wish on a piece of paper, and then insert it into the ribbons. It’s my wish for the upcoming year, and I keep it to myself in hopes that it will come true.

Image via

If you have a fireplace, you can certainly burn your Yule log in it, but I prefer to do mine outside.If you have a fire pit in the back yard, on the night of the winter solstice, gather out there with blankets, mittens, and mugs full of warm drinks to burn your log. While watching the flames consume it, discuss how thankful you all are for the good things that have come your way this year, and how hope for abundance, good health, and happiness in the next.

Love and Lightning Bugs,

Monday, December 10, 2012

15 Days of Yule: Dealing With Non-Pagan Family

In some families, the holiday get-together is something we look forward to. In fact, it may be the only time you even see some members of your family. However, if you're a Pagan or Wiccan, and the rest of them aren't, there are times when the winter holidays can be a bit awkward. So what can you do to make the season's celebrations a bit more harmonious?

First of all, remember that this is a day for families to get together and enjoy themselves. It's not a day to battle about religion or anything else. If your family celebrates a Christian holiday, no matter how you feel about Christianity, don't choose this as the day to talk about how ridiculous you think the Baby Jesus story is.

Recognize that just because you celebrate the Solstice or Yule doesn't necessarily mean that your whole family wants to hear about it. If your family is uncomfortable with your choice of spiritual path, Christmas dinner at Grandma's is not the time to bring it up. While it's nice to be able to share your beliefs with people you love, if it makes them uncomfortable, drop the subject, at least for now.

Start a new tradition. If your family is willing and open, consider asking them to join you at your home for a Solstice breakfast or something similar. This way, they can see what how you celebrate, and then you can join them a few days later for Christmas.

Keep communication open. If a parent or sibling asks questions about your beliefs, answer honestly, but don't let them antagonize you. If your sister tells you you're a sinner who's going to burn in hell, step back from the discussion. Say, "You know, I'm sorry you feel this way, and I'd be happy to discuss it another time, but not today. Pass the gravy, please."

If your family says a Christian blessing before eating, don't make a scene. You're not obligated to participate, but what you could do instead is offer up a silent thanks to the gods of your own tradition.

If going to a family member's home holds unpleasant memories for you -- if you grew up in an abusive family, for example -- then take something along with you that makes you feel better. Bring along a favorite crystal, a sachet with soothing herbs, or a piece of jewelry that makes you feel grounded. When you feel yourself getting stressed out, take a few minutes to get away from everyone who's making you feel frustrated, and try to re-center yourself. Remember, you're just visiting, and you'll be going home soon.

If you're taking your spouse or partner with you, talk to them ahead of time about any concerns or fears you may have about seeing your family. Sharing these worries is healthy, plus it will allow you to present a united front.

Keep your alcohol consumption to a minimum, or don't drink at all during a holiday event. Booze tends to make us say things we normally wouldn't, and the last thing you want to do is get in a drunken shouting match with your mom just because she thinks your pentacle necklace is tacky.

Finally, understand that while people can change, they don't do it overnight. If there's a conflict about spiritual beliefs at your family's holiday dinner, wait until another time to work on it. Realize that if even your family doesn't approve of your religion, they still love you.

Love and Lightning Bugs,

Sunday, December 9, 2012

15 Days of Yule: Mistletoe

In 50 C.E., the Greek physician Dioscorides wrote his Materia Medica, establishing himself a place in medical history. As one of the ancient world's most knowlegable herbalists, Dioscorides found that mistletoe helped cure his patients of external tumors. He wrote that it “has the power to disperse, soften, drawing and assisting tumors of the parotid gland and other lesions…” Some forty or so years later, Pliny the Elder wrote of the treatment of sores and epilepsy with mistletoe in his Natural History. He also described its use in magic and ritual.

Pliny wrote that Druid elders performed rituals in which they harvested mistletoe -- a botanical parasite -- from oak trees with golden sickles. It was collected under a waxing moon phase, and then fed to animals to guarantee their fertility. As part of the rite, a pair of white bulls were sacrificed, and if prayers were answered, prosperity would be visited upon the villages.

No one loves a party like the ancient Romans, and their festival of Saturnalia is one of the most well-documented celebrations of the Winter Solstice. This week-long bacchanal included exchanging of gifts, lots of food and wine, dancing and music. Slaves got the week off work, courts were closed, and all kinds of debauchery took place. This festival honored Saturn, of course, and he was an agricultural god. To keep him happy, fertility rituals took place under the mistletoe. Today, we don't quite go that far under our mistletoe (at least not usually) but it does explain where the kissing tradition comes from.

As the Roman Empire crumbled and Christianity spread, a rumor began in France that the cross upon which Jesus died was made of mistletoe. As punishment for its involvement in the crucifixion, the plant was forbidden to grow out of the earth, and was demoted to being a botanical parasite. It now has to have a host plant, such as the oak or the ash, apparently more well-behaved and virtuous trees.

During medieval times mistletoe was again recognized for its medicinal properties, and appears in several folk remedies. To ward off demons, twigs of mistletoe could be hung in bundles over a door. In some countries, springs were placed in the stable to protect livestock safe from local witches. Mistletoe was also known to rural people as the best cure for barren women; in fact, mistletoe seems to have been a cure-all for any problems with conception, because early societies were baffled by its method of propagation  Interestingly, the Cherokee people used the North American strain of mistletoe as an abortifacient.

The plant we know today as mistletoe has no roots of its own. What it does have is tiny extensions called holdfasts, that grip onto the bark of the host plant. They also serve as a sort of umbilical cord, and suck the nutrients from the host. Because of its dependence on the host, mistletoe is only found on living trees. Mistletoe plants can be either female or male; only the female has the beautiful but highly toxic berries.

Because mistletoe is a parasite, you can grow your own fairly simply -- as long as you're willing to sacrifice another plant as a host. The kind available in the stores at Christmas is harvested while immature, so don’t bother trying to use those berries as starters for your plants. Instead, wait until spring, when you can pick some plump, white, mature berries.

Be sure to get one from a host plant similar to the one you wish to use as a host for the new growth. Choose a hardy branch on a healthy mature tree, and make a few small incisions in the bark. the further up you can go, the better -- it allows for more sunlight to reach your seedlings. Remove the skins from the seeds, and place them inside the tree bark. Cover the seeds with some jute or other protective covering, or you'll end up with a big bird feeder and no mistletoe.

Plant lots of seeds, because you need both males and females to propagate the new growth, and only about ten percent of seeds actually germinate properly. It takes about five years, but eventually your mistletoe will reach berry-producing size.

Remember, mistletoe berries are poisonous. Consuming large quantities of leaves or berries can be fatal – especially to young children, who have been known to ingest berries. If someone is suffering from mistletoe poisoning, get them to an emergency room -- do not try to treat this yourself. Mistletoe should not be used by nursing moms or pregnant women.

The great thing about mistletoe is that if you use it magically, you don't have to worry about taking it internal. Considering all of its wonderful magical properties, it can be used in many different ways.

  • Place leaves in a pouch for an ill person to carry on their person.
  • To draw love to you, hang mistletoe over your door.
  • Place leaves in a sachet for a woman having trouble conceiving.
  • The Norsemen laid down their arms if they met beneath a growth of mistletoe -- why not use it in a working to end strife and discord in your life?
  • Follow the ways of the Druids, and hang mistletoe to bring abundance your way.

Love and Lightning Bugs,

Saturday, December 8, 2012

15 Days of Yule: Wassailing

Did you find it interesting that the Holly Kind was actually one of the origins of the Santa Clause story? Guess what, that's not the only thing that started out as a pagan tradition...

The tradition of wassailing (pronounced to rhyme with fossil-ing)is hardly a new one. In centuries past, wassailers went from door to door, singing and drinking to the health of their neighbors. The concept actually harkens back to pre-Christian fertility rites -- only in those ceremonies, villagers traveled through their fields and orchards in the middle of winter, singing and shouting to drive away any spirits that might inhibit the growth of future crops. As part of this, they poured wine and cider on the ground to encourage fertility in the crops.

Eventually, this evolved into the idea of Christmas caroling, which became popular during the Victorian era, and is still seen today in many areas. If you think your family or friends might enjoy starting up a new, musical tradition, why not gather them together to go out a-wassailing for Yule? The following are traditional, secular wassailing songs which were performed back as early as the days of King Henry VIII. Although some are Christian in background and make references to "God" in their original form, I've made Pagan-friendly substitutions in some places. You can always change these to accommodate a particular deity of your tradition.

After you get home from your night of singing, relax by your fire with a pot of spiced wassail or hot buttered rum!

The Wassail Song (traditional English)

Here we come a-wassailing
among the leaves so green.
Here we come a-wand'ring
so fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you,
and to all your wassail, too,
may the gods bless you, and send you
a Happy New Year,
the gods send you a Happy New Year.

Good master and good mistress,
as you sit beside the fire,
pray think of us poor children
who wander through the mire.
Love and joy come to you,
and to all your wassail, too,
may the gods bless you, and send you
a Happy New Year,
the gods send you a Happy New Year.

Bring us out a table fine
and spread it out with cloth;
Bring us out a farmer's cheese,
and some of your Christmas loaf.
Love and joy come to you,
and to all your wassail, too,
may the gods bless you, and send you
a Happy New Year,
the gods send you a Happy New Year.

Gloucestershire Wassail (multiple versions available, believed to be Saxon in origin, Middle Ages)

Wassail, wassail all over the town
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown,
We bring a bowl made of the white maple tree,
and with the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee!

So here is to Cherry and to his right cheek,
the gods send our master a good piece of beef
and a good piece of beef that may we all see.
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee!

And a toast to Dobbin and to his right eye
pray the gods send our master a good Christmas pie
a good Christmas pie that may we all see.
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee!

So here's to Great Big Mary and her great big horn,
may the gods send Master a good crop of corn,
and a good crop of corn that may we all see.
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee!

And a toast to Moll and to her left ear,
may the gods send our master a happy New Year,
And a happy New Year as e'er he did see.
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee!

And here is to Auld Colleen and her long tail,
may the gods guard our master that he never fail,
a bowl of strong beer! I pray you draw near,
and our jolly wassail it's then you shall hear!

And here's to the maid in the lily white smock,
Who tripped to the door and slipped back the lock,
Who tripped to the door and pulled back the pin
For to let these jolly wassailers in!

Apple Tree Wassailing (Somerset, 18th Century or earlier)

Hurray, hurray, in our good town
The bread is white, and the liquor brown.
So here my old fellow I drink to thee,
and the long life of every other tree.
Well may you blow, well may you bear,
blossom and fruit both apple and pear.
So that every bough and every twig
may bend with a burden both fair and big.
May you bear us and yield us fruit such a store,
that the bags and chambers and house run o'er!

Love and Lightning Bugs,

Friday, December 7, 2012

15 Days of Yule: The Legend of the Holly King, and the Oak King

Yesterday, we talked about the history of Yule, and today I thought I would cover the legend of the Holly king, and the Oak King.

In many Celtic-based traditions of Paganism, there is the enduring legend of the battle between the Oak King and the Holly King. These two mighty rulers fight for supremacy as the Wheel of the Year turns each season. At the Winter Solstice, or Yule, the Oak King kills the Holly King, and then reigns until Midsummer, or Litha. Once the Summer Solstice arrives, the Holly King returns to do battle with the old king, and defeats him. The Holly King then rules until Yule.
The Holly King, the Lord of the Winterwood and darksome twin of the waning year, rules from Midsummer to Midwinter. At Midsummer, he goes to battle with his twin, the Oak King, for the favor of the Goddess. He slays the Oak King, who goes to rest in Caer Arianrhod (A palace in the heavens, otherwise known as the Aurora Borealis) until they do battle again at Midsummer. The Oak King and Holly King are mortal enemies at Midsummer and Midwinter, but they are two sides of a whole. Neither could exist without the other.
Painted by Raven Willowhawk, this image depicts the Holly King, cradling the infant Oak King.
Two themes run throughout the Holly King and Oak King legend. The first, of course, is the two great yearly battles between the two. The second is the sacrificial mating, death, and resurrection of each in his season. At Lammas, the peak of the Holly King's reign, he sacrificially mates with the Great Mother, dies in her embrace, and is resurrected. This is an enactment of the natural fertility theme of the season, and is not uncommon in other mythologies: Osiris, Tammuz, Dionysus, Balder, and Jesus are only a few other gods who die and are resurrected. The Oak King on the other hand, mates, dies and is resurrected at Beltane. This aspect of the Holly King and Oak King is not widely discussed, but is an important element in their roles as fertility gods.
Often, these two entities are portrayed in familiar ways. The Holly King frequently appears as a woodsy version of Santa Claus, and was indeed the basis of the Santa Clause story. He dresses in red, wears a sprig of holly in his tangled hair, and is sometimes depicted driving a team of eight stags. The Oak King is portrayed as a fertility god, and occasionally appears as the Green Man or other lord of the forest. During each respective half of the year, it's common to have tokens of the reigning God in the home. Pressed oak leaves and acorns for the Oak King, and Sprigs of Holly for the Holly King.
Ultimately, while these two beings do battle all year long, they are two essential parts of a whole. Despite being enemies, without one, the other would no longer exist.
Love and Lightning Bugs,


Thursday, December 6, 2012

15 Days of Yule: History of the Holiday

For people of nearly any religious background, the time of the winter solstice is a time when we gather with family and loved ones. For Pagans, it's often celebrated as Yule, but there are literally dozens of ways you can enjoy the season. However, in a society where the ancient stigma against something can and does persevere, despite the best efforts of the people...I wanted to shed a little light onto what I believe. I thought it would be fun to break it down into a 15 day segment post, about the different facets of a wonderful holiday, called Yule.

Many cultures have winter festivals, which are in fact celebrations of light. In addition to Christmas, there's Hanukkah with its brightly lit menorahs, Kwanzaa candles, and any number of other holidays. The Pagan holiday of Yule takes place on the day of the winter solstice, around December 21. On that day (or close to it), an amazing thing happens in the sky. The earth's axis tilts away from the sun in the Northern Hemisphere, and the sun reaches its greatest distance away from the equatorial plane. As a festival of the Sun, the most important part of any Yule celebration is light -- candles, bonfires, and more.

Four thousand years ago, the Ancient Egyptians took the time to celebrate the daily rebirth of Horus, the god of the Sun. As their culture flourished and spread throughout Mesopotamia, other civilizations decided to get in on the sun-welcoming action. They found that things went really well... until the weather got cooler, and crops began to die. Each year, this cycle of birth, death and rebirth took place, and they began to realize that every year after a period of cold and darkness, the Sun did indeed return.

In the Northern hemisphere, the winter solstice has been celebrated for millenia. The Norse peoples viewed it as a time for much feasting, merrymaking, and, if the Icelandic sagas are to be believed, a time of sacrifice as well. Many of the traditional Christmas customs you enjoy now can all be traced back to Norse origins.

Winter festivals were also common in Greece and Rome, as well as in the British Isles. The Celts of the British Isles celebrated midwinter in a fashion unlike most other cultures. Although little is known about the specifics of what they did, many general traditions persisted through time. According to the writings of Pliny the Elder, this is the time of year in which Druid priests sacrificed a white bull and gathered mistletoe in celebration. Being a follower of the Celtic beliefs, most of my Yule celebrations and traditions will be taken from this specific region.

When a new religion called Christianity popped up in the British Isles, the new hierarchy had trouble converting the Pagans, and as such, folks didn't want to give up their old holidays. Christian churches were built on old Pagan worship sites, and Pagan symbols and traditions were incorporated into the symbolism of Christianity. Within a few centuries, the Christians had everyone worshipping a new holiday celebrated on December 25.

In some traditions of Paganism, the Yule celebration comes from the Celtic legend of the battle between the young Oak King and the Holly King....but that's a story for tomorrow.

Love and Lightning Bugs,

Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Soul's Kin

For those who may be curious, I have always had a great love of foxes. I have adored them since I too small to walk, and often times felt that they were a part of me...though I never knew how. Fast forward to the day I set out to find my spirit guide.

I was sitting beneath my patron tree, a Weeping Willow, in some nearby woods. After meditating for a few hours in the sunshine, and mentally calling for her...she came. I felt her presence before I opened my eyes to see her, but I knew she was meant for me. There, sitting on a rock directly in front of me, no more than 50 feet away, was a female fox. Her eyes were intense, but calm, and they seemed to look through me....or into me. I physically felt a jolt run through me, and before she gracefully departed, I bowed my head to her. She looked over her shoulder at me, and I swear I saw a nod returned, before she slipped off into the shadows of the trees.

"Red Fox" by Jay Mudaliar

That day, I found my spirit guide, and she found me. I was lucky enough to have a fox as my guardian animal, to help see me through life, teach me and aid me, and protect me in times of need. I felt complete for the first time in a long some void in my heart had been filled. It may sound rather silly, and even weird to those who don't know the experience themselves. I've been told it's akin to finding your religious path, such as embracing Christianity and being baptized, or becoming a new mother and embracing your child for the first time.... something that fills a void you might not even know you had.

But perhaps a bit of history and understanding are needed to better understand why this animal means so much to me. Foxes are seen as power animals, spirit guides, and totems throughout the world. The Chinese believed foxes could take human form. In Egypt the fox brought favor from the gods. Foxes aid the dead get to the next life in Persia. The Cherokees, Hopi and various other Native American Indian tribes believed in its healing power, and the Apache credited the fox with giving man fire.

The fox is amongst the most uniquely skilled and ingenious animals of nature. Being a night creature, the fox is often imbued with supernatural powers. Foxes are usually seen at dawn and dusk. Dusk starts off their day, and the dawn is its ending. This is the time, in many Pagan ideologies when the world of magic and our every day realities cross paths. Foxes live on the edges of forests and open lands, the border areas. Since the fox is an animal of the between times and places, it can be a guide into the faerie realm. The fox has a long past of magic and cunning associated with it. It can move in and out of circumstance restoring order or causing confusion, depending on the occasion.

There are various species of fox, but they all share the extreme cleverness and cunning that paved the way for the expression, "sly as a fox." The fox urges me to develop the art of camouflage, invisibility, and 'shape-shifting'. To be able to conform to any situation that I may be put into, and to survive it. They are agile, skilled, and unpredictable.

The fox's power lies in not being able to outrun the hounds, but to know in advance when they will be out hunting. They then use their ability to camouflage. I have learned to detach from my surroundings, and to use all my senses to be observant. If I do that, I will also be able to anticipate and create the future. A fox being followed by hounds will run across the tops of walls, cross streams diagonally, double back on its trail, run in circles - in short, do anything to break the trail of its scent. The fox has the amazing ability to outwit both predators and prey. She shows me how to slip out of unpleasant situations quietly and unnoticed...something I have become quite adept at! Just ask anyone who has lost me at a party, lol.

Those with fox as a spirit guide are frequently smart and witty, but must remember to keep their crafty and clever demeanor balanced or it could backfire. The fox can also show you that your actions may be too obvious, and the need to learn to be more discreet. She is a wise, potent, teacher for those who choose to live conscious and deliberate lives.

Due to their ability to blend into their surroundings, foxes are generally viewed as sly and cunning beings. Interestingly, the word cunning, originates in the Old English word, kenning, which means to know, especially as applied to seeing something which isn't visible straight away. This can be related to the fox's superb sight and their ability to anticipate. 

"Fox Totem" by Susan Williams

She can show us the skills necessary when it comes to handling people, something we all need to work on at one time or another. Being pretty anti-social in large groups, and having anxiety issues, she teaches me how to best handle myself so that I won't have a panic attack.

She teaches me the ability to camouflage, which can be deduced as being able to take a step back and view an interpersonal situation with detachment. This includes opening up the less obvious senses, such as intuition. Often the underlying basis of a situation may seem obvious, but instead of making a quick judgment, I've learned to listen closely to the outer and inner senses. Then you may perhaps get a completely different picture of what is going on. When the outer situation and the inner senses don't match it is wise to handle like a fox, to trust ones intuition/instinct/inner voice, and to lay low.

Just like the wolf, the fox partner's for life, and is very devoted to its young. Many of its clever hunting techniques are keyed to acquire food for the helpless young and the nursing vixen. This is am important element of the foxes power. Similarly, our own awareness, and flexibility can be used to greater ends, not just to serve ourselves.

The fox's wisdom includes: Shape shifting, cleverness, observational skills, cunning, stealth, camouflage, feminine, courage, invisibility, ability to observe unseen, persistence, gentleness, swiftness, wisdom, reliable friend, magic, shape shifting, invisibility. 

With a fox as my spirit guide, learning to be invisible is very important in my life. I have always avoided large crowds, feeling too open and unprotected within them. As such, my anxiety attacks often come when I am asked to speak before a group, or make myself the center of attention for something. I have learned to picture myself blending in with my surroundings, becoming part of everything. Be extremely still and quiet. With practice and patience, I am now able to go unnoticed even, at a party or in a crowd.

If fox is your power animal, pay attention to the way it moves and follow its lead. This is a powerful guide to have and those that have it to should learn to use its skills for the benefit of all, including themselves.

I hope you've enjoyed this little peek into my soul.

Love and Lightning Bugs,

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Party Planning Made Easy with Birthday Express, and the Pitch List

Don't you just love when you're going about your day, trying to get everything done that needs to be done, and it suddenly hits you that you have a birthday party plan...which is only two weeks away. Sure, you could run out to the local party supply store, and gather up a hodge-podge of random cups, plates, tablecloths, and other assorted items. But would they match? Is there even a theme? If you're planning a party for a child, does it have their favorite characters on the items, or is it just a plain color?

Why even go through all the trouble of spending hours running around looking for all the supplies you need, when you could spend 20 minutes on Birthday Express, and just have it all delivered to your door?

Image taken from

That's right, you can have all your plates, napkins, cups, silverware and tablecloths delivered right to you, all with a fabulous and coordinating theme. Not to mention, all your decorations and party favors too! But while you're there, why stop at just the party supplies, why not look at getting some of the gifts you need there too? One stop shopping at it's finest!

Thanks to the always amazing Pitch List, I was able to review a couple of items of my choosing from Birthday Express. However, all the important birthdays were either in September or in December. So, I decided to do look at some of their great games and activities instead! I found a super cute Gnome Garden, and since I'm always using glitter in my craft projects, I picked up a multi-pack of that too. Yes ladies, they even have the glitter you need to really make a party fun!

I was surprised to see a free sample of Tom's Toothpaste in my package as well, but since I love trying new products, I was happy to get it!

The shipping to my home was really quick, and very well packaged. And you can bet I tore into the package to get to the goodies! The glitter was set aside for later protects, but I began working on the Gnome Garden right away. The kit included:

  • 1 large, flat, pot
  • 1 large bag of potting soil
  • 1 packet of grass seeds
  • 2 white styrafoam mushrooms
  • 1 little wooden house
  • 1 packet of thick paper leaves
  • 1 bag of black stones
  • 1 bag of faux moss covered stones
  • 3 small ceramic gnomes
  • 3 small ceramic ladybugs
  • 1 ceramic leaf shaped 'tub'
  • 1 bag containing the assorted paints, a paintbrush, and the spray bottle for water
That box was crammed full of fun things, and my imagination ran wild. Not being a lover of Gnome's, I decided to make this tiny garden a place for my house fairies instead, and threw in a few of my own items as well. 

I painted the mushrooms, and a fairy protection rune over the door of the little house, and on the side of the pot itself. No one wants bad fairies moving in! Then I glued on the paper leaves, and a few of my own glitter covered fall leaves. I laid the 'walkway' using the black stones from the kit, and I also put in some Celtic Sea Glass, for a touch of color. It still looked a bit bare to me, so I went ahead and made a wire tree using copper and silver wire, and placed a fairy charm in the branches. After all that, all that was left was to plant the grass seeds.

This was a super fun kit, and a gift someone of any any age would love! Birthday Express has tons of kits and activities just like this one, that would make any party a hit.

But it gets even better, now you can enter to win a party pack full of plates, cups, napkins, and other supplies that you need for a great party!  In fact, 5 winners get a $30 party pack! Enter below for your chance to win!

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Love and Lightning Bugs,

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Making Holidays Memorable With Gift Baskets Plus

With the holidays around the corner, you know what that means...families getting together, big dinners, gifts being exchanged, and that ever elusive search for a present to give to the one person that you have no idea of what they will want or use. That last task is my least favorite part of the holiday season.

So what do you do when nothing in the stores seems like a good present for that person? You look outside the box!

Gift Baskets Plus is the perfect place to find a great gift, that everyone will love.

They have amazing gift baskets for every occasion, including EasterThanksgiving, and Father's Day. Not to mention, the awesome variety of baskets, filled with meat and cheeses, fruit, candy, and cookies. But there is way more than any normal gift basket company I have ever seen.

Do you have a beer or wine lover on your list? You're in luck! Gift Baskets Plus has an awesome array of wine and beer baskets. Do you know someone who has a special food need, like Kosher or Organic? Well Gift Baskets Plus has those baskets too! There is such a great selection of baskets, big and small, for almost every person and occasion you can think of.

Even better, right now they have a coupon code active only for my readers! Want 15% off any basket? Then please use this code at checkout: 15OFF

Using Gift Baskets Plus, you can make any holiday memorable!

Love and Lightning Bugs,

Sunday, November 18, 2012

From Frumpy, to Fabulous!

We all have those boring, baggy, old tee-shirts we don't really wear anymore...and we all either donate them, turn them into rags, or simply throw them away. But...why should be so ready to give up on something, just for being a little ugly? Why not turn something frump, into something fabulous!

This super cute shirt was made in less than 5 minutes, with no sewing required, and all from one of those ugly throw away shirts. Isn't it amazing what a bit if imagination, and some scissors can do? To make this shirt you'll need:

  • 1 pair of scissors
  • 1 spool of grosgrain ribbon
  • 1 peice of chalk
  • 1 bottle of fabric glue
  • 1 ugly ass tee-shirt, in a color you like

Look at the diagram below, and get your piece of chalk ready!

1st: Lightly sketch out where you want your neckline to be. I would suggest only taking off the collar in the back, and not going any lower...otherwise you're tee will become an off the shoulder number.

2nd: Sketch out the lines for the ribbon. You need to have 4 lines, with the inner two right below the middle of your tata's, and the outer two about 4 inches from the inner line.

3rd: Cut the collar, and the ribbon lines.

4th:  Now, take your ribbon, and cut it into 4 pieces...with each piece being 10-14 inches. It depends on how long you want the ties to be.

5th: Put one end of the ribbon inside one of the cuts on the chest, and glue it to the t-shirt. Make sure you use glue that will hold through being washed and dried! If you prefer, you can always handsew the ribbons into place, which will only take about 10 minutes.

6th: When the glue is completely dry, you can put the tee-shirt on, and make your two knots. Tie the inner ribbons into a knot, and then the outer ribbons into a pretty bow.

Voila! Now you have a super cute new shirt!

Love and Lightning Bugs,

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Something Delicious For Your Eyes

Take a look at the picture below, and just savor it for a moment. 

Look at that sticky rice, topped with a delicious shrimp. A little wasabi, or soy sauce, and this would be perfection! Just one piece, the last piece, remains on the plate. Can't you just taste it?

Well, you probably shouldn't be putting that piece of sushi in your mouth, because it's not quite what it's a zip drive!

That's right, this yummy looking piece of deliciousness is a 4 GB zip drive, that will store your files, and make all your friends envious at the same time! Thanks to Fake Food Japan, you too can have something that looks as good as this, while still being a functional item you'll use everyday.

Started in 2012, Fake Food Japan has made it their mission to, "give people spanning the globe the opportunity to own and enjoy for themselves this Japanese time-honored craft of producing the most authentic looking fake food known to man."

They have a ton of amazing products offered for sale, including USB drives, mint cases, business card cases, key-chains, full size food replicas, and cell phone charms. Not to mention their custom order service! You can actually have a certain food of your choice perfectly recreated. Now that is pretty awesome. 

The craftsmanship of these pieces is really exquisite when you look at them as well. Not only do they look delicious, they look strikingly real. Please note the tiny imperfections, and almost invisible black specs on this piece. The creators of these beautiful pieces have so perfectly replicated the shrimp, that they even put on the black specs sometimes left over after cleaning the shrimp. 

Many of the items at Fake Food Japan would make perfect gifts or souvenirs for that person who loves to travel, or who loves anything Japanese. Not to mention perfect stocking stuffers for that person who's so hard to find a gift for. I could see the full size replicas being perfect for teachers, or chefs, who want a teaching aid.

I seriously love my USB drive, and I have received so many compliments about it from my college classmates.

As you as in love with these fun and quirky items as much as I am? Then enter below using the rafflecopter form to win any item under $55.00!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Love and Lightning Bugs,

Sunday, November 11, 2012

To Hunt, To Howl, To Make Movies

Many years ago, when I was just a "cub", I found myself wandering through a very dilapidated section of my local library. There were dusty books with the bindings missing, books missing whole sections of pages, and a bin filled with torn and crumpled comic books. Being the ever-curious child I was, I headed for the plethora of comics, and laid my hands upon a very abused copy of ElfQuest...and I was never the same after.

The Wolfriders, the main cast of the ElfQuest comics.

I was often mocked and ridiculed as a child, be it for my large glasses, my hand-me-down clothing, or for not typically fitting in. So growing up, often my closest friends where the characters in my books. As silly as it sounds, I became a part of the world of Two Moons whenever I read those books. I connected with the characters (huntress Nightfall the most), I learned to hunt and howl, to stand up for and be myself, to always try and find the best solution to my problems, and to love and be ever loyal to my "pack" they furry or of my same flesh.

However, with the comic being over 30 years old, you can imagine my dismay when the closest friends I had as a cub simply stopped, trapped in time where they were. I went all through my late middle school, and high school, years without any new stories from them...though my love for them never dimmed. I drew them, wrote stories about the adventures they could be having in their "holt", and even cosplayed a few in my older years.

During my first two College years, my friends and their quests stayed mostly in the back of my mind, as I was working and studying to be an Animal Science major. However, one very fateful day, I was again browsing a library, though it was the one at my new four-year University...and there on a pile of books to be thrown away, was the same issue of ElfQuest I had stumbled upon as a child.

After that, I found there was a website online, which had every copy of the ElfQuest comics! I read for days it seemed, reliving all the adventures, peril, bloodshed, and love. It was like the years had never happened, and I was beyond thrilled to see new adventures, new stories that I had never known. But something even better was about to happen...

The creators of the comic series, Richard and Wendy Pini had been trying for countless years to get their ink creations to come to life in a movie. Though the plans had been bounced around a few times, no major studio had ever fulfilled the project. So, Wendy and Richard handed the project over to two very talented Indie film-makers: Stephanie Thorpe and Paula Rhodes.

These film-makers have put out one ElfQuest themed movie, months before the Wendy Pini made this announcement: "With their deep love and understanding of the property, they represent a new direction for 'ElfQuest. New creative energy and new connections in the larger media." You can see their movie below.

My eyes see with joy at this latest announcement, and I couldn't be happier to know that the characters I love so dearly will finally come into their own, and make it to the big screen. Did I mention Wendy is writing and drawing the chapters of the Final Quest? With new pages being published online every Monday? Shade and Sweet Water!

Love and Lightning Bugs,

** For clarification:
For those of you who don't know, or understand, the words I threw in this post here's the explanations.

  • Cub - The Wolfrider tribe of elves call their children cubs.
  • Pack - The Wolfriders are call such because they live with and ride wolves. They call their tribe a pack, and their children cubs because of this.
  • Holt - The Holt is the home of the Wolfriders. It usually comprises a very large tree with many dens in the trunk of that tree. Most often located in a cool and damp forest.

All rights for images and videos belong to their respective owners, Wendy and Richard Pini, as well as Stephanie Thorpe and Paula Rhodes.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Customize Your Space With Vinyl Disorder

If you've known me longer than five minutes, you know I have an undying love and obsession for what I consider my souls kin: foxes. I have fox fur (harvested from animals who have died naturally), toy foxes, fox jewelry, a vase that my High School art teacher made me (which is a fox), fox calenders, the signature on my blog has a fox...and I could go on for pretty much ever. 

So of course, when I was given the opportunity to review an item from Vinyl Disorder, as part of another awesome Pitch List opportunity, what did I pick? A 9 inch, metallic silver, Fox. It took me about 10 seconds to decide to put it on my laptop.

I can not even begin to tell you how much I love this vinyl! It's very professional looking, with fantastic cutting and patterns. Not to mention super easy to apply! It only took five minutes out of my day to prep my laptop, and apply the image to it. Even better? They supplied the only tool I needed: a small credit card sized 'scraper' used to remove air bubbles, and transfer the design from paper to my laptop.

Vinyl Disorder has literally hundreds of different vinyl stickers available on their site, which can be used on cars, walls, windows, mirrors, laptops, and more! The stickers are very affordable, and are long lasting wherever you place them. The image comes sandwiched between adhesive paper, and wax paper, making this a very fast and easy apply process.

You simply peel back the adhesive side, slowly and carefully  making sure that every part of the image stays on the wax paper. After you've done this, you  hold the image above the area you want to apply it to, line it up, and carefully begin to put it on the surface. Using the provided scraper, make sure the image is firmly attached to the surface, and get out all those pesky air bubbles! Then you just remove the wax paper. Voila! The image is crisp and clean, leaving no junk behind from the papers used to transfer the image over.

If you like what you're seeing and reading, then why not enter below for your chance to win? The Rafflecopter opens at Midnight tonight, so make sure to come back!

Please enter the rafflecopter below, then feel free to visit the other blogs in the linky! I love looking at the different ways that others used their graphics!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Love and Lightning Bugs,