Month: April 2016

Keeping Food Cheap in SF

Most people here eat out. Why? Because single, or money, or money plus single. That said, those of us stuck spending 60% or more of our income on rent can still have  night out, or a lovely meal, if we very carefully navigate the holes-in-the-wall that often serve amazing food in huge portions.  Food is an incredibly controllable expense in San Francisco. Any day of the week, any time of the year, you can find food that is fresh, cheap, and delicious. There are of course limits to this – you still need some money to eat well or at all…

Farmer’s Markets

There is a farmer’s market somewhere in San Francisco 7 days a week. Prices will vary by market – the most expensive one is of course the one on the Embarcadero, and often fresh food there goes for boutique grocery store prices. Find the smaller ones, or go to the one at Alemany.

Ethnic Markets

Thanks to spiraling rents and little to no eviction protection for longtime businesses, these are disappearing. Even so, you can still generally find plenty of Chinese markets in the Richmond district, plenty of Latina grocery stores in the Mission, and a small smattering of other ethnicities sprinkled throughout the city – but you have to be willing to look.

Safeway Club

If you want to enjoy Safeway at affordable prices you pretty much have to join their club. It reduces pricing from a direct poke in the eye to bearable, at-market food pricing. That said, Safeway is often used as a sort of meet-market on Friday and Saturday nights, especially in the Marina district. Best in and out fast for most of us.

Google Shop, Safeway Delivery

This is a more expensive option that can, to some degree, save you time or at least limit your human contact. You can, with a little fishing, have just about all goods delivered to your doorstep any day of the week. While it’s not a money saver in terms of availability, if your budget is often thrown by impulse buys this can eliminate the environment that prompts that behavior.

Recipe: Lavender and Rose caramel

In 2012, my partner and I bought a house. Income is wonky for a writer at my level (with my health problems) but I still wanted to invest equally to make it our house rather than the house she bought and I lived in.

Since my cupboards bulged with baking material I didn’t care to move, I decided to use up everything in the cabinet and host a bake sale. A couple artist friends threw in with me and we had a holiday boutique in the common room of my apartment building. The food sold faster than everything else – I wish the ladies had done better, but we had a really squirrelly, nosy apartment manager to dodge so we did as we could.

One of the more popular items at the sale? My caramels. I don’t use corn syrup – it’s unnecessary and we made caramel before that stuff ever existed. I used the following recipe for the lavender caramel:


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups lavender syrup – purchased pre-made from Kitchen Window
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups goat’s milk.

You can substitute cream for goat’s milk or even evaporated milk. The syrups you can sub in can be flavored traditional sugar syrups, molasses, honey, maple syrup and the flavored fruit syrups popular at ethnic groceries.

There is absolutely no way around using a candy thermometer mix – the hard ball/soft ball method just doesn’t work consistently in all geographies. The closer you are to see level, the more likely you need everything to work at a higher temperature.

Begin by melting the sugar and butter, then add the syrup and one cup of the milk. Heat to 334 degrees (this has been the optimum so far for me.) When it reaches 334, take off heat immediately, stir in the remaining cup of milk and then reheat again to 334. Once it hits that magic number, take it off heat again and pour into a heat proof container. You may want to have parchment paper or wax paper laid down in it first. Then leave to cool for at least 12 hours.

The next day cut into small slices and wrap into wax paper – et voila, caramel candy!


I also made rose caramel although that was a bit more difficult – I’m not obsessed with the possibility of making a rose caramel with coconut milk. The delicacy of it is amazing but I can’t quite get it to hold up as candy – I did however use regular cream on the rose caramel and that worked well. It did, however, confuse some people who aren’t used to floral candies.


Uncut rose caramel. #baking

*note: I rarely consume refined sugar because it does terrible things when combined with the steroids I take for my allergies. I strongly encourage you to explore all unrefined sugar options for this and any other recreational food.

Getting Crafty: Elemental Cookies

Elemental Cookies
Elemental Cookies

Every so often, a witch has to get a little bit crafty.

Now that my smoke allergies have progressed to “walk past a barbecue, use an inhaler” I have to adapt a whole bunch of my regular practices. Not least among those is one in which I call upon the elementals and then promptly release them. I used to use a sheet of paper to etch the symbols etc. and then burn it. I then started converting the paper into flash paper – super smokey and satisfying… with the unfortunate side effect that leads to skin hiving.

I tried a few things that didn’t work so well – a bath biscuit recipe comes to mind as a rather famous fail. I needed to use something that could keep the shapes carved into it and that could then dissolve in water. Then I found this recipe for homemade craft clay: it’s 2 parts baking soda to 1 part corn starch. Heat in 1 1/2 parts water over medium heat and stir until it just refuses to stir at all. It comes out white and goopy but perfect. I stirred in some herbs while I was at it and after it cooled I kneaded in a good chunk of uncrossing oil. While pretty crumbly later on, they served their purpose well.

God Is not an Asshole: Installment 1

I’ve always found the idea that religious beliefs require academic backing well, insane.

Religion is the very department of the irrational. By itself that isn’t a bad thing – nor is it a good thing.

It just is.

Some of us believe in a divine intelligence, an intentional organization of the universe, a giant puppeteer making us all crawl eventually – whatever.

But sooner or later some asshole just has to be right and so the quest to “prove” God/ess begins. And it’s always pointless.

We don’t know. The point of religion is to not know.

Seriously, as much as I love my books and random facts, I have always been a religious woman. And that means there’s a chunk of my brain that a)believes something out there and b)is OK with not being too sure. In this context faith means “can function without proof.” It’s not my first priority in life, this state of non-proof. That’s good – it lets me keep friends who believe differently. It lets me put scientific discovery first, or better yet, incorporate that into my faith.  I am skeptical of other people, but terribly skeptical of phenomena. Also, it’s always fun to have an excuse to write “phenomena.”

That’s all religion is. I’m pretty sure it’s a neurological state and not everyone can or should be wired for it.

But because there’s so much “don’t know” the “not –alloweds” that actually do not impact anyone else’s daily lives or practices are a load of steaming hooey.

I think somewhere along the way people have lost their ability to discern the moral difference between “I am going to make stuff up and claim my ancestors did it since I am pretty sure I believe as they did,” “yeah, I made it up and I’m none too interested in my ancestors and as far as a personal operating system goes, it’s not bad,” and “you’re doing what? But I haven’t given your permission!”

The intention of a religion depends on the religion. The intention of faith is to delegate doubt to other places where it can come in handy.

This is the first, possibly only installment of G.O.D is not an asshole series.

Using the Golden Bough anyway

Paganism and academics are fuzzy bedfellows, the type that never will quite satisfy one another. While I often sidestep the issue by focusing entirely on the present – an advantage of journalism – when writing books about a somewhat artificially constructed holiday like Mabon, I do feel obligated to stop and explain myself.

The explanation right now? Why will the book on Mabon be referencing the Golden Bough and the White Goddess when anthropology, history and archaeology have moved far beyond the conventions started by these books?

For me, it’s quite simple: the conclusions in these books – not the facts, the logos of it – but the pathos and ethos are what still speak to modern Paganism. I expect this to change, eventually. I don’t expect this to change soon and to be honest, when it comes to the emotional connection, I don’t want it to change much at all.

I am hoping we can at some point get to a point of comfort with the … “yeah, some bloke or dame made this up…” Certainly Ronald Hutton has done quite a bit of work nosing us in the more accurate direction. Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone have also been pushing a bit with their disinformation tours, pointing out that claims of sole legitimacy issued by some but not all Gardnerians/Alexandrians is a way to miss the point of the spiritual practice altogether.

Even so, while assembling the book that became Llewellyn Sabbat Essentials Mabon, I drew from the Golden Bough and referenced the White Goddess though not with abandon. While they are not part of deep history – the anthropology and archaeology that stirs our dreams of revival, of finding all that we have ever lost – they are part of modern Pagan history, even if just as a springboard for stuff we collectively made up to get us from point A to point B.

Someone will have academic quibbles with me. Some will have academic  quibbles that it’s not an academic book, it’s a book meant to inform and inspire modern practice.  No matter how good the work, someone will have quibbles intended as preventative that

are ultimately cultural setbacks – and those quibbles are best ignored.

I have made my peace with that.