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Archive for the ‘holidays’ Category

Fitness and Elliptical Machinery

In fitness, holidays on November 17, 2010 at 5:57 pm

How to stay healthy this holiday season

– Joseph Achille Federico

With the holidays rapidly approaching, so is the promise of wintry weather which includes snow, ice, and freezing rain. That being said, chances are you will head to the gym less and less as the weather gets worse and worse. Why head to the gym when you could purchase an elliptical machine?

Compare and review elliptical reviews.

The holidays are a time for seeing family, old friends, and sharing stories about the good old days. Lots of traveling may be involved, but it’s so worth it when there are homemade pies to be tasted, mulled cider to be drunk, and turkey and stuffing to be enjoyed by all!

Holiday food is wonderful, but no one likes to be out of shape come January 1st of the New Year. It’s a proven fact that we as humans have a tendency to over eat, then overeating leads to depression, and that’s just an all around bad combination. The key is to indulge but in moderation, and keep yourself fit as a fiddle through it all.

How to stay fit through the holidays? Find out more…

It is quite important to not forget about one’s health, even the health of others during the joyous and cozy holiday season. And after the holidays, like we stated earlier, who really has the patience to head to a gym to work off all of those holiday cookies and egg nog?

By purchasing home equipment such as an elliptical machine, it’ll be a wise and smart investment for those who like to work out in the comfort of their own home. Heck, you could even work out in your favorite holiday pajamas! Also, by purchasing an elliptical machine, the more you use it, the faster it pays for itself. Wouldn’t you much rather buy your own fitness equipment than wasting thousands of dollars on a fancy and lavish purchase that won’t be used all that much anyway?

Here are some elliptical machine maintenance tips.

The main point of all of this? We want you to stay as healthy as can be this holiday season without breaking the bank … leave that to Santa and his elves!

Source

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Valentine’s Day Date Ideas

In Being Gay, concerts, Dating, decor, Gay Weddings, holidays, Music, Night Out, Relationships, sex on February 13, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Every year when Valentine’s Day comes around, there’s always that feeling that you need to do something more than just dinner and a movie. This year, Equal4All has compiled a list of simple, different dates so you and your valentine can make the most out of it.

10 things to do together on Valentine’s Day:

Watch the sun rise together. It’s a romantic way to start off the day. Bring your date some of their favorite morning beverages or even breakfast in bed and snuggle together as you watch the sunrise.

Take a trip. Valentine’s Day is part of the weekend this year, and for some it might be longer because of President’s Day, so why don’t you go somewhere for the long weekend? It doesn’t need to be anywhere far or glamorous, just a nice chance to escape the normal everyday routine and be together.

Cook dinner together. Though it might seem more romantic to cook your partner a surprise dinner, it might actually be better if you cook it together. Pick out the menu together, go shopping for it, come back, open a bottle of wine and start cooking. You’ll both have fun while you’re cooking, and even if the meal isn’t the best thing you’ve ever eaten, the fun you had making it will make up for it.

Plan a picnic. If you would still rather surprise your date with a meal, consider turning it into a picnic. Pack it all up with a bottle of wine and a blanket and find somewhere cozy and romantic. If it’s cold where you are, consider setting-up an indoor picnic. You can dim the lights, light some candles, and put on some soft music.

Go see a concert. Seeing a nice show, in a small intimate setting where you can cuddle up listening to music can be very romantic.

Recreate your favorite date. There’s always one date that stands out in a relationship. If you’re in a relationship, you’ve probably had one, so go out and recreate it as a surprise. I’m sure remembering that special day will touch your partner.

Create a spa day. You can either go to the spa and get all the treatments that will relax you and put you in the mood, or you can create a spa day at home. At home, you can give each other manicures, pedicures and massages; just make sure to dim the lights and play soft music so that you get the whole experience.

Scavenger hunt. Leave little notes around the house or town with cute messages for one another that have clues to find the next note. At the end of the scavenger hunt you can be waiting for them with dinner or a gift.

Volunteer together. It may not be the most romantic thing in the world, but Valentine’s Day is about love and sharing your love with others less fortunate is a great thing and will probably draw the two of you closer.

Drive-in movie. Let’s face it, dinner and a movie is a standard date night, and they can get pretty dull. Going to a drive-in is a better alternative. You can bring blankets, pillows, a dinner, and just snuggle up together in privacy – much better than sitting in a crowded theatre with a $7.00 bucket of popcorn.

How will you be spending your day of love?

Lindsay Dahlstrom

Photo Source 1, 2, 3, 4

Valentine’s Day for Singles

In Art, Being Gay, Clubs, Dating, decor, holidays, Hollywood, Literature, Music, Night Out, Relationships, sex on February 12, 2010 at 3:59 am

I’ve only ever been in two relationships in my life, and only was one of those was my high-school girlfriend during the Valentine’s Day hullaballoo. So as one may have guessed, Valentine’s Day is not one of my favorite holidays.

This particular holiday isn’t just for the love birds out there, however. All us single ladies can still have a good time, if not better than all the couples. There is plenty is of stuff to do, for even the broken-hearted “miz-pots,” as my grandmother would call them. Let’s see what all us non-bequeathed can do on this day of sappy emotions and unyielding amount of paper hearts.

#1: MOVIE! They are not just for the couples on Valentine’s Day. If you decide to go it alone, there are plenty of movies out there for all kinds. If you go with a group of friends, I suggest going and seeing something fun – might I suggest Avatar or Tooth Fairy. The romantic comedies will have a fair amount of couples in the theatre, along with horrors and apocalypse movies.

#2: Singles party. And this is not what you are thinking it is. I mean that it’s a party of single guys and/or girls out there. Having a small group of people, nothing bigger than I’d say 5 or 6, over to your apartment with some nice hors d’oeuvres, a nice bottle of wine, or soda for the younger set can mean a nice time for all involved. Hit up your local video store or Netflix if you have the time, and get something that is either predetermined by the group, or you want to surprise people with. If you don’t think that you want love to be your theme, then simply don’t get decorations or a romance-inducing movie.

#3: The Club! Plenty of clubs are having holiday themed parties and specials this weekend, and a lot of them should also be doing Mardi Gras themed parties too. For your local gay bar or club, consult Google.

#4: Go see a show. There are plenty of shows fit for all on Broadway and being put on at thousands of venues throughout the country. If musicals aren’t your thing, there are what we in the industry call straight plays, which there are many out for all to enjoy.

So as you can see, there are so many things that anyone can do on Valentine’s Day. Whether it be throwing a party for you and your friends, or going to the movies, most everyone who is single can still pass the day without being alone.

What will YOU be doing this Valentine’s Day?

Stephen Papallo

Photo Sources 1, 2, 3, 4

Mardi Gras 2010

In Art, Being Gay, Clothing, decor, holidays, Hollywood, Music, Night Out, recipes, religions on February 11, 2010 at 5:09 am

When you think of Mardi Gras, most times the first thing that comes to mind is a crazy party where drunk girls flash themselves in order to attain beads … seems like a far departure from its Catholic origins. Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday,” which was originally a holiday put in place before Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday kick-starts a period of fasting and Fat Tuesday was established as a feasting day where everyone would sit, eat, and drink all day to prepare themselves for the fast.

In the late 1800s, the celebration started to become the Mardi Gras that we know today. They had parades, costumes, masks, and even adopted the official colors; purple, green, and gold (representing justice, faith, and power). Then finally in the 1960s, we started to see the craziness that’s familiar to us today.

My memories of Mardi Gras are probably a little different from the average college girl. I took French growing up in school and every year we would have a Mardi Gras party and plan it for weeks. What I remember most was our homework assignments to create our Mardi Gras masks that we would wear to the party. Mine always ended up being paper mache, painted the Mardi Gras colors, covered in glitter and feathers (fantastic, no?). Then in class, we would all put our masks on, dance around while we listened to French music, eat some cake, and finally crown someone King of the day. Not a bad way to spend a school day.

Throwing a last minute Mardi Gras party? Here are some quick tips:

Decorations—Luckily you’ll probably be able to get everything you need at a party store. If you stick with purple, green, and gold you should be good to go. I’d suggest getting a bunch of beads, feathers and streamers.

Dress—Stick with casual attire that’s comfortable for dancing and partying. You might also want to wear a mask because they’re part of the fun of Mardi Gras.

Food and Drink—A bunch of easy appetizers are probably best, that way you can just put the food out instead of trying to get everyone to sit down at one time, it’s easier on you too. As for a drink, I’d suggest something fruity and fun, but if you’d rather drink something else, go for it.

Music—Whatever music you like is fine to play, but if you want to get into the spirit of things, I’d suggest you put on something fun and light, maybe some Jamaican music.

So what are your thoughts on Mardi Gras?

Lindsay Dahlstrom

Photo Sources 1, 2, 3, 4

Christmas Dinner Ideas with a Healthy Twist

In Art, Being Gay, Gay Business, holidays, NYC, recipes, religions on December 25, 2009 at 8:21 pm

 

Christmas is a time when you really appreciate what you value most in life, time spent surrounded by your closest friends and family reminiscing about the great times passed over a grand feast. Since the late 1600’s and earlier, there has been a Christmas celebration, and along with it a great feast. In the early 1700’s, the Christmas feast was of a grand scale and held by the aristocracy. This grandeur continued on into the 30s and 40s where The Great Depression and World War II made celebrating much harder and made the great feast of yesterday into a meal consisting of canned vegetables and jellies. The pheasants, oysters, consumé, and crown roasts were lost with the greatly depreciated economy. As time continued on, the 50s, 60s, and 70s brought back roast duckling, oysters Rockefeller, and standing rib roasts. Understanding tradition and why it is so important to keep the essence of the feast alive, will help you truly make an amazing meal this Christmas.

This year, mix tradition with a new approach to a healthy lifestyle. Create dishes inspired by classics but with a much lighter load on our bodies and our wallets.

Every Christmas feast was centered around a roast of an animal; pheasant, pork, beef, and duck are a few examples of traditional roasts served for dinner.

Because pork is so lean and high in protein, I chose a pork-based dish for this Christmas centerpiece.

Apple Cider Brined Pork Loin with Cider Mustard Sauce

Brine:

1-Gallon Apple Cider
10 Cloves Garlic
10 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
5 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
2 Cloves
1 Cinnamon Stick
2 T Mustard Seeds
1 T Fennel Seeds
1 Orange Peel
1-Cup Sugar
1-Cup Kosher Salt
2 T Whole Pepper Corns
1 Bay Leaf

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a large pot. Turn the heat down and simmer for 2 minutes to dissolve sugar and salt and coax flavor out of ingredients. Cool down completely and then add your pork loin.

(It’s important to use kosher salt because kosher salt weighs about 5 ounces per cup and iodized salt weighs 10 ounces per cup. If you use iodized salt, only use a ½ cup.)

Acquiring your roast:

In the supermarket, you can usually find boneless pork loins ranging from 1-4 pounds. It takes about 30 minutes of cooking time per pound of pork loin, so you can gauge your cooking time based on the size of pork loin you can find and the size you need.

For this recipe, I use a 4 pound boneless pork loin roast, but again you can use any size. Place your pork loin in your cooled brine and make sure it’s completely submerged. If it’s sticking out you can place a plate on top to keep it down. Cover completely in plastic wrap and let it sit for 12 to 24 hours.

Preparing your roast:

2 T Olive Oil
1 T Salt
1 T Cracked black pepper
1 T Thyme, chopped finely
1 T Rosemary, chopped finely
1 T Orange Zest 

Remove your pork loin from its brine and place it on a wire rack on top of a sheet pan. Take paper towels and dry the pork loin completely. Drizzle olive oil on your roast and coat with all other ingredients.  Place your roast into a 425° oven for 20 minutes, or until nicely browned. Then turn the oven down to 400° and cook until roast has an internal temperate of 140°. You want your roast to be at an internal temperature of 145°, but the roast will still cook when you take it out of the oven. This is called carryover cooking. Carryover cooking will finish cooking the roast gently and redistribute the juices within the meat, keeping it nice and juicy when you cut into it. It should take about 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours of cooking and resting time. Take all your dripping from the pan and set aside for the sauce! Be sure to check the roast throughout its cooking time. There is nothing worse than a dry roast!

Apple Cider Mustard Sauce:

2 cups apple cider
2 cups chicken stock
1 shallot
4 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
1 thyme sprig
3 T whole grain mustard
Pan drippings

To start, slice your shallot thinly and mince your garlic finely. Sauté them in your pan drippings for a few minutes and then add all of the ingredients besides the mustard. Bring to a boil and then reduce down to a simmer and let it cook until it has reduced three-fourths and is a sauce consistency. When the sauce is finished, add the mustard.

To go along with your roast, you need a few delicious sides to compliment and complete your meal. Roasting vegetables really brings out a depth of flavor and naturally occurring sweetness.

Roasted Butternut Squash

2 large Butternut Squash
1 sprig Thyme
2 T Olive Oil
Drizzle of Honey
2 T Salt
1 T Pepper

Peel and seed your squash. Dice it into 1” cubes. Remove the tiny green leaves from the stem of the thyme sprig and chop it finely. Toss the squash with the olive oil, thyme, honey, salt, and pepper and place on a sheet pan. Roast at 400° for 15-20 minutes. Turn the squash every 5 minutes to avoid blackening. Check the squash with a knife to ensure doneness.

Roasted Fennel

4 large bulbs – Fennel
1 sprig -Thyme
1 whole – Lemon
4 cloves – Garlic
2 T – Salt
1 t – Pepper
2 T – Olive Oil

Wash, halve, and core your fennel. Cut each half into fourths. Remove the leaves from the thyme and chop finely. Zest the lemon and smash the garlic cloves. Toss all ingredients together and roast in a 375° oven for 20 minutes.

Haricot Verts with Shallot and Almond

2 T Olive Oil
2 T Salt
1 T Pepper
1 Pound Haricot Vert
1 Large Shallot
2 Cloves Garlic
½ cup Sliced Almonds

Bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt and drop your haricot vert in. Boil until just tender and then drain and set aside to cool. Slice shallot paper thin, and mince the garlic finely. Toast the almonds and set them aside. When ready to eat, sauté the cooked beans in a tablespoon of olive oil with the shallot and garlic. Add salt and pepper and cook through. Top with toasted almonds.

Parsnip Puree

5 large parsnips
6 cloves Garlic
1 liter Chicken Stock
1 sprigs Thyme
1 Shallot

Peel parsnips and cut into large chunks of equal size. Smash garlic cloves and roughly cut the shallot. Remove the leaves from the thyme and put all ingredients into a pot. Bring the pot to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Cook until fork tender, or about 15-20 minutes depending on the size. Once cooked, strain the parsnips but keep the liquid. Blend the parsnips and add the liquid slowly until you have a nice smooth mass, with a texture similar to mashed potatoes. Although it’s more work to blend them this way, you want to do this to make sure that that texture is correct and not too watery.

Naval Orange Marmalade

2 oranges
3 cups water
2 cups sugar

Cut the ends off of you oranges and then halve them. Slice the oranges as thin as you can. Put your oranges, sugar, and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes, stirring frequently so that it doesn’t scorch.  Once it has thickened and the fruit is completely softened, pull it off of the heat and cool.

Wine Pairing:

For this meal I would serve a light red wine that would compliment the pork and not compete with it. A pairing that would be great would be a Beaujolais Noveau!

This wine is made from the Gamay varietal of grapes and is very light and easy drinking. It is also special to have it with this meal because it is only released the third Thursday of November every year and needs to be consumed soon after because it doesn’t have the ability to age. On another note, it should be served slightly chilled to enhance its fruity flavors.

Now it’s time for the finale to this fantastic meal! Traditionally the dessert course is full of heavy puddings, tarts, and pies. This year, try something different and end the meal with a light and seasonal dessert. A Pavlova is a pastry that is made from a meringue base and is baked until it’s light and crispy. The inside stays chewy like marshmallow, and then there is a cream filling and it is topped with fruit. The dessert was named after the famous ballerina Anna Pavlova and is a holiday tradition that started in the 20s.

Pavlova with dried fruit compote

Filling:

1 cup Ricotta
1/4  Chevre
¼ Greek yogurt
2 T Honey
½ t Vanilla

For the filling, blend all ingredients until smooth. This filling is delicious and much healthier than the regular filling, which is made of cream and sugar!

Fruit Compote:

2 oz Dried Apricots
2 oz Dried Cherries
2 oz Golden Raisins
2 oz Dried Cranberries
2 oz Dried Figs
1 T Orange Zest
1 T Lemon Zest
1 cup Brandy
1 cup Orange Juice
1 Cinnamon stick

Cut your apricots and figs into smaller pieces, and zest your orange and lemon. Put all ingredients into a saucepot and cook until the fruit is soft and the juices thicken, about 20 minutes.

Pavlova:

4 Egg whites
¼ t cream of tartar
1-cup brown sugar
4 t cornstarch
2 t white vinegar
1 t Vanilla

Put your egg whites and cream of tartar in a bowl and beat it until small peaks form. Add the sugar slowly with the mixer on low until it is thick and glossy. Add the cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla. Mix for 30 seconds just to blend all ingredients.

Bake on a parchment-lined sheet pan and form it into a disc in the middle of the pan. Smooth the top of mass so that it cooks evenly.

Bake at 250° for an hour and a half.  After the total baking time, turn the oven off and let it cool completely in the oven. This will form the crisp texture and prevent it from becoming sticky.

Only assemble this dessert right before you are about to eat it! The Pavlova should be room temperature, the cream should be cold, and the compote should be just warmed through.

Top the Pavlova with the goat cheese mixture and compote and serve!

This dessert is so impressive and so easy! It is an indulgence and a lot healthier than most desserts. Although there are eggs and sugar in this recipe, you are using the white of the egg, which has no fat, and a small amount of sugar. There are lots of textures and flavors going on, which will be a great end to a fantastic meal. Try something new this year, and start a new tradition with your friends and family!

Merry Christmas!

Sean Gallagher

Photo Sources 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

New Relationship Tips and How to Act

In Art, Being Gay, Clothing, Clubs, Dating, Gay Business, Gay Celebrity, Gay Weddings, holidays, Hollywood, Night Out, NYC, Relationships, sex on December 21, 2009 at 11:23 pm

I haven’t had the greatest run with relationships. My love life has been sucky for a while, but if there’s anything I’ve learned from it, it’s how to act while your relationship is still young, tender, and fresh. Here are some DOs and DON’Ts:

DON’T be annoying! A stage 5 clinger is the last thing your partner needs. Try to space out text messages and phone calls. Don’t check on them every 5 minutes. This will lead to serious attachment issues, believe me.

DO play hard to get! Everyone likes a challenge, so why not? DON’T, however, be too defensive. Try to find a happy medium that suits you and your other half.

DON’T make the relationship all about gifts. Sure, flashy things and nice clothes are great, but not at the beginning of a relationship. Save those for when things get serious. Remember, love cannot be bought.

DO make compromises! Don’t make it all about you, and don’t let your partner take all the spotlight. If you find that the other person tends to be an attention whore, stay away! This will only make you feel you belittled, and that should never happen. An occasional expensive dinner or splurge is appropriate, but don’t make your partner go bankrupt!

DON’T break-up because of a few fights. Conflict is natural and in some cases, necessary. Occasional verbal arguments and disagreements will always occur. If you are looking for the perfect relationship, get ready for disappointment. Not everyone can agree on the same things, so don’t expect it to happen with your partner.

DON’T expect your partner to pay for every date! If he insists, convince him to switch things up a little bit and treat him to dinner and a movie once a month. You must give him a break once in a while!

Now, I’m not guaranteeing that these tips will apply to all relationships. These tips were formulated from my own experiences in the dating jungle. Winter is the best time to spread love, so go out there and find your perfect match!

Matt Scotto

Photo Sources 1, 2, 3, 4

Coming Out at Thanksgiving

In Being Gay, Dating, Gay Weddings, holidays, Relationships, religions, sex on November 25, 2009 at 5:45 pm

The decision to come out is an important part of any gay man’s life. It’s the chance to finally let the people you love see you for who you are. With Thanksgiving fast approaching, you might start thinking that there is no better time to come out and finally be yourself. Equal4All sat down with two gay men as they shared their views about coming out on a holiday.

“Holidays are very family oriented and I get that it’s a comforting time,” said Jon McPhee, 22, but he doesn’t believe that you have to come out on a holiday. “You should find comfort in coming out anytime of the year, you shouldn’t have to fall back on a holiday. But if that’s what it takes for you to come out, more power to you,” he said.

McPhee, who came out earlier this year, also mentions that the relationship that you have with your family is a huge factor in the coming out process. “Ultimately, it’s your own decision when you want to come out, but I just hope that the reason why people come out on holidays aren’t so they can fall back on it because they fear the outcome. It’s always sad when you hear that someone’s coming out process is a trying experience rather than a positive one.”

Colin Sullivan, 22, had similar feelings about coming out on a holiday. He came out to parents earlier this year and said that he may come out to his sister during the upcoming Thanksgiving. But he too, is unsure if coming out on the holiday is the right way to do it. “I don’t think I could do the ‘tell one, tell all’ type of thing. I wouldn’t want such an important part of my life being associated with the holiday,” he said.

“It’s really just such an important time for a gay man, so when you’re ready to tell people, you should regardless of the circumstances, but just try and be aware of what the reactions might be,” Sullivan said.

Though Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the ideal time to come out for a lot of men, for some, it is. “If you want it to be out there quickly, then jump into the deep end and do it, It’s different for everyone; all I know is that I wouldn’t be comfortable doing it that way,” Sullivan said.

So, if you are planning on coming out this Thanksgiving, just make sure you do it on your own terms and that you’re ready for anything thrown back your way. Sullivan said, “Just be strong, be prepared for any reaction possible … but no matter what they say, or how they react, everything gets better with time.”

What are your thoughts on coming out at Thanksgiving? Please share your ideas below!

-Lindsay Dahlstrom

Photo Source 1, 2, 3

Wiccan Traditions: Happy Halloween!

In Art, Being Gay, Clothing, decor, holidays, Hollywood, Literature, Night Out, Relationships, religions, television on October 30, 2009 at 5:37 am

wicca

What does it mean to be Wiccan? Is there a difference between practicing witchcraft and Wicca? If you have ever visited the Salem Witch Museum in Massachusetts, rented such movies as The Blair Witch Project, or even turned your boob-tube to shows like The Vampire Diaries, you more than likely have been introduced to ways of the witch … or so you think. In the following interview, we will get to know Doreen Lavista (Westchester’s authority on all things Wiccan and Pagan) and her son, Michael. They are a pair of practicing Wiccans that will answer questions ‘til your heart’s desire. The mother-son duo clear the air on what Hollywood has made witches out to be for centuries and make the idea of performing rituals quite attractive.

wiccan

Joseph: When did you first realize that being Wiccan was what you wanted to associate yourself as? Can you tell us what the differences are between the different beliefs out there?

Doreen: Because it made sense! The more I read about it, the more sense it made. Wicca, witchcraft, and Paganism basically align themselves with the seasonal changes of the earth. Paganism is very gynocentric, in that we celebrate the changing seasons and celebrate the changes within ourselves each season.

witch

J: How old were you when you first started to read-up on Wicca and such?

D: First of all, before I even could read, I knew that I had a sense that other people didn’t have; that was what they called precognition … knowing something before it was actually spoken or done. That sense of being aware of what was coming next was very acute in me as a child.

I’m a child of the 60s; there was media that indicated, “Well, if you have x-ability, then you must be a … fill in the blank…” and at that time the word was “witch.” So like every other teenager looking for their niche, I would have to say between the ages of 12 and 13 was when I started doing real research; but what was available was either topics about the Salem Witch Trials and the history of the Inquisition … yeah, not too much. And a lot of dark and negative stuff … a little Anton Lavey …very little by people like Sybil Leek or Laurie Cabot was available at that time.

Really good resources and literature didn’t really come about until, oh I would have to say, the re-explosion of the Neo-Pagan movement in the late 90s.

religion

J: How is being Wiccan different from being Catholic, Jewish, or even Pagan?

D: Let’s discuss Paganism first; that’s kind of an umbrella term for anybody who does not follow the traditional Judeo-Christian-Monotheistic belief system. Pagan refers to all the indigenous people who had religions before they were conquered by Western Europe; Wicca kind of falls into that, in that it differs from Christianity, Judaism, and even Islam, in that it’s not strictly monotheistic. It is also, again, gynocentric, where a female deity is not only powerful but very present; there is balance in the male and female deities, where there’s balance in nature as above and also below. Monotheistic and traditional belief systems seem to be a little one sided there.

witch and cauldron

J: Wow … I didn’t know any of that. Films, like Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, give such a negative connotation to witchcraft and Wicca, you know? And I have become more intrigued by what that is all about…

D: As far as Hollywood is concerned, people like darkness … they like to express that darkness and see it in the theater, simply because they cannot manifest it or express themselves … most of it is way too violent, and it’s still against the law. But Hollywood manages to put a label on something they simply don’t completely understand. When we use the word “occult,” we’re referring to knowledge that has been hidden … and that’s exactly what it means; when a doctor takes the hemoccult, he draws blood and he wants to see what’s hidden in your blood.

This is what the ancient mystics, the Hebrew Kabbalah practitioners, the druids, the shamans, the medicine men had; they all had this “occult” knowledge. But again, it was suppressed when Catholics or Christian Western Europeans came into power. And you had to speak through a mediator … you were not allowed to speak to God directly.

the craft

J: I just have one question to add, and that is … How would you like to see the Wicca way be represented in the future? Would you like it to been seen in a more positive light and gain more exposure?

Michael: As far as exposure is concerned, as long as it’s portrayed the way it is in real life, and not something as dark, evil, or menacing, I personally would feel intrigued if they came up with a show about actual witchcraft and what they do; not a show about shooting sparks out of their hands.

D: Here’s my take on that … I would like to see Wicca and Paganism in general portrayed in the light that it’s really meant to have. It’s not just the Halloween thing; it’s healing and helping people, and being there to be console to people. There’s a lot more light and a lot more protective energy involved.

witches

Hollywood seems to get a little carried away with the special effects of reappearing and the disappearing, and all kinds of entities manifesting. A lot of pulp fiction and romance novels now are embracing the thought of “vampires are groovy and werewolves are sexy;” and so on; it’s driving me crazy because people really don’t know how they’re manipulating this energy. And it all begins and ends in the mind, with intent. What you intend is pretty much what you get … it starts with your mind set.

The “craft,” the nuts and bolts of the candles, colors, herbs, and the bags and the ritual, are the tools that go along with manifesting in the material world that which we have created in our minds. Does that make sense?

J: Yes … so it really isn’t something to be afraid of. It’s more about energy and the earth.

D: Oh, absolutely. There’s nothing to be afraid of … it’s all about truth and light.

J: How do you feel about witchcraft becoming more popular, let’s say as opposed to how things were back in the 60s?

D: Personally I think it’s great; and again with the caveat being, as long as it’s portrayed correctly. It works, but then again so do novenas and prayers. For me, the promotion of the stereotype perpetuates a myth of fear … once we take the fear out of it, and everything is in the light, it’s a-okay. Once again, it’s all about truth and light.

broom

J: Michael, do you feel that it was easier to relate to the Wiccan way as a gay individual, rather than other religions that shun homosexuality?

M: Yes and no. When I was in elementary school, my grandmother at the time wanted me to be raised Christian; well, I was sent out to CCD a couple of days a week after school and came home repeatedly with questions. The answers I was getting to those questions didn’t satisfy me. From what I gather, when one is spiritual, whether it be Christian, Jewish, Islam, Wicca, whatever … you’re supposed to feel something and get something out of it personally. I didn’t feel anything when I was going to church; there was no connection for me there.

I finally decided to take a step back and find something that suited me and what I like and what I was interested it. And as time progressed, I learned more about Wicca and witchcraft from my mom, participated in a couple of ceremonies and holidays, and said, “Wow, this is what I was looking for; this is about the cycles of the earth.” For me, it makes me feel comfortable, I feel and get something out of it. There was no pressure or influence from any outside source; there was no kind of cult mentality.

Looking back as a now 24-year-old, I’m a little upset because there are all these extremists announcing that “homosexuality is wrong,” and “God hates fags,” and so on so forth. There are so many different aspects and variations of Catholicism, that I’m pretty sure the whole “love thy neighbor” thing is supposed to take precedence over spreading words of hatred. That’s probably the main reason why I wouldn’t want to practice one of the three main world religions.

ritual

J: My last question is: Have you or your mother ever participated in any kind of ritual and what kind was it?

D: For about the past twenty years I’ve been part of a coven, and we’ve all taken our turns hosting particular rituals throughout the seasons; some of them were just for the purpose of getting together and celebrating the phase of the moon and bringing manifestation to that phase of the moon and some of them were our traditional holiday celebrations. For instance, Samhain is coming up … you call it Halloween, we call is Samhain; but we also celebrate Yule (December 21) which is the winter solstice. Our holidays actually predate the hallmark calendars.

I’ve often held public rituals in places for events; we’ve gotten some Pagans from all over the county to come and participate … it’s been a lot of fun!

halloween witch

As the time approached to bit each other adieu, Doreen recommended a website for you; it is called witchvox.net, and it is a great place to become more familiarized with all things witches.

Doreen also welcomes you all to befriend her on facebook, especially if you would like to work with her one-on-one … she teaches Wicca 101, you know!

With that being said, venture off calmly, dear spirits of the night and have a happy and healthy Halloween!

-J. Federico

Photo Source 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Hearty Harvest Recipes

In decor, holidays, recipes on October 29, 2009 at 3:58 am

fall harvest

The harvest season is upon us which means cold weather, seeming less time to get things done, and an overabundance of friends and relatives “stopping by.”  The one thing we all have to do is eat, and usually feed all those that jump in and out of our homes during this hectic time.  In order to help with this, I’ve put together a few easy, home-cooked meal recipes that are not only fitting for the cooler weather, but will definitely pack a punch to your taste buds.

beef stew with red wine

Beef Stew with Red Wine

Most stew recipes call for an earthy beefy flavor with lots of vegetables.  Although I don’t skew far from that, the wine and some of the other spices really kick this comfort meal into high gear.  If you have a slow-cooker, it makes the job much easier.  If not you can do it in a large pot, you just have to watch it.  I recommend serving this with the wine you use to cook with and some crescent rolls.

Here’s what you need:

2 lbs. of stew meat
4-5 Red Potatoes (cut in 1” pieces)
4-5 carrots (sliced)
3 Pieces of celery (sliced)
1 can peas
1 can corn
1 sm. Container white mushrooms (sliced)
1 med. Onion (chopped)
2 cans beef gravy
¼ cup flour
½ tsp. salt
1 tbs. black pepper
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 cups beef broth
2 cups of drinkable red wine

How to prepare:

In a large bowl, combine the stew meat, flour, salt, and black pepper.  Combine so the meat is somewhat evenly coated (the flour is used to thicken the gravy.)

Place into pot (medium heat) or slow cooker (high heat).  Add all of your liquids except the brown gravy and give a quick stir.

If you are doing this recipe in a slow cooker, add in all other ingredients.  For pot cooking, don’t add the brown gravy yet.  If you are doing this recipe in a pot, keep the heat add medium, stirring every 15 minutes or so, for an hour.  Then reduce the heat to low, and simmer for another hour or until the vegetables are tender.  If you are doing it in a slow cooker, let it go for about 4 hours stirring a couple of times as you go.

At this point, for the pot cooking, add the brown gravy and let it cook for an additional 15 minutes.

Add salt and pepper to taste, serve, and enjoy!

kielbasa

Kielbasa with Roasted Veggies

As you will come to notice quite quickly, I am a fan of red potatoes.  This recipe is no exception.  Besides being very easy to make, this recipe is full of flavor.  The sauerkraut is optional, but very much recommended.  This is also a standalone dish, but feel free to serve whatever you want with it.

Here’s what you need:

4-5 pounds Kielbasa
1 bag of small red potatoes
2 large green bell peppers
2 large red bell peppers
2 pounds of sauerkraut
2 tbs. garlic powder
1 tbs. paprika
2 tbs. black pepper
Salt to taste
½ cup of Olive Oil

How to prepare:

Chop potatoes into approx. 1 inch pieces.  Slice all peppers into strips.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Take one large, or 2 small cookie sheets, and cover them in aluminum foil.

Combine oil, and all spices.  Toss potatoes with this mixture to coat.  Place potatoes on cookie sheets reserving as much oil as possible for peppers.  Put potatoes in oven for about 20 minutes.

Toss peppers in the same mixture and place on top of the potatoes on the cookie sheets and return to oven until potatoes are tender.  Remove from oven and place into a large bowl.

Put the kielbasa on a separate foil covered cookie sheet and place into the oven for approx. 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and chop into ½” pieces.  Combine kielbasa with potato/pepper mixture, and add in the sauerkraut.  Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees and cook this mixture on the cookie sheets for 20 minutes.

Remove, serve, and enjoy!

apple crisp

Apple Crisp

The perfect ending to any meal, or for breakfast … or whenever, to be honest!

Here’s what you need:

3 pounds tart apples
2 tbs. lemon juice
½ cup light brown sugar (packed)
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup sugar
4 tbs. cold butter
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

How to prepare:

Peel, core, and chop the apples.  Toss in a bowl with the lemon juice.  In a separate bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Add to the apples and toss to combine.

In another bowl, combine flour, sugar and the oats.  Cut butter into 8 smaller pieces and mix it into the flour with two forks until crumbly.  You can also do this with your hands to save some time!  Stir in the chopped nuts.

Butter a 9” square baking dish.  Spread the apple mixture into the bottom of the dish, and then sprinkle the flour mixture on top.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until the apples are tender and the topping is a little browned.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.  OM NOM NOM!!

Hopefully you will enjoy these few recipes and I look forward to sharing more with you in the future!

-Scott Merwede

Photo Source 1, 2, 3, 4

Top 10 Scariest Halloween Movies

In holidays, Night Out, reviews on October 27, 2009 at 3:40 am

hollywood monsters

Halloween was never a holiday that I liked too much, even as a kid. However, I happen to have a special place in my heart for scary movies. So, instead of dressing up in some expensive and elaborate costume, me and my friends buy a ton of Halloween candy, rent a few scary movies, and stay up real late getting freaked out. Here are my top 10 favorite Halloween movies picks:

10. Seven

The Saw series wouldn’t even exist without the creation of this intense psychological drama starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman. The two A-Listers star as detectives that play a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with a psychopath who plans to kill seven people, one for each of the seven deadly sins.

poltergeist

9. Poltergeist

In this creepy supernatural flick, a family is visited by ghosts who tear up the family’s home. Hey, they all can’t be as friendly as Casper.

8. The Shining

In this adaptation of the gripping Stephen King novel, Jack Nicholson stars as a hotel caretaker who comes in contact with the ghost of a former hotel custodian (who killed his wife and two daughters). To put it lightly, shit goes down.

the blair witch project

7. The Blair Witch Project

This film follows a group of students who journey into vast woods for a school project about a fabled witch became an instant cult classic when it was released back in 1999. The movie isn’t all that scary, but it will, in fact, make you a nervous wreck.

6. Paranormal Activity

In this low-budget supernatural rollercoaster, a couple who hears bumps in the night decides to purchase a camera and record the demonic festivities while they are asleep. Let’s just say it’s more than just a bump.

nightmare on elm street

5. A Nightmare on Elm Street

This movie scared the bejesus out of me as a child. It follows the story of the residents of a quaint little town who are being haunted by a pedophile that was burned to death by the town’s parental figures. He has claws and swallows a young Johnny Depp by way of his bed. Enough said. Check out the trailer for the Nightmare on Elm Street remake, coming to theaters in 2010.

4. The Ring

Naomi Watts stars in this in this horror gem about the investigation of a killer videotape. “You’re gonna die in seven days…”Eek!

sixth sense

3. The Sixth Sense

A young and creepy Haley Joel Osment made the phrase “I see dead people” famous in this 1999 thriller about, you guessed it, a child who can see dead people. He pursues the help of Bruce Willis, who plays a child psychologist. This is the movie that contains the perfect twist ending.

2. Halloween

Jamie Lee Curtis plays a schoolgirl stalked by a maniacal killer in what is considered the most memorable horror movie ever made. The school scene in the beginning is an all-time favorite of mine.

And last but not least…

the strangers

1. The Strangers

This nerve-racking ride of a movie starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman deserves its spot at number one. The story follows a young, distraught couple stalked, terrorized, and tortured by three masked killers. The tension in this movie can be cut with a spoon … or even a plastic spork. Watch this film in the dark and get back to me.

Happy Haunting!

-Matt Scotto

Answer us this: What’s YOUR favorite scary movie?

Photo Source 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6