As I mentioned earlier... One of the ways we remember and honor our ancestors is by having an "ancestor wall". One big wall is covered with photos of our grandmothers and fathers and other family members. In the middle is a small shelf to light candles, put some fresh flowers in a vase, write a message or display other objects to help us remember, connect, honor. This way we're always reminded of them and of our connection... Somehow they are still with us. And we'll always have opportunities to talk about them with our daughter - share stories and small facts. We'll always and everyday have a place to go to light a candle and just be quiet for a moment. And we don't have to go anywhere, because they are here. With us.


A visit

We've "visited" great grandmother and great grandfather at the cemetery today. Sunflowers was my grandfathers favorite flower - he used to scatter sunflower seeds around where the vegetable garden used to be... he didn't have the health or energy to grow as much potatoes as he used to for the last few years. So sunflowers it was. He fed the birds through winter and then enjoyed his sunflower forest in the summer. So whenever I see a sunflower I think of him, and of all the memories and good times we spent together.

We're not at the cemetery very often. And I know why. I really think it is a strange and unfamiliar way (to me anyway) to remember and honor deceased friends and family. The funeral was even more estranged to me. It felt as it had nothing at all to do with my grandfather or grandmother. I couldn't see them anywhere - I could not see anything in the ceremony that reminded me of them, remembered them or respected them as the people they where. Nothing. It was all so cold, unfamiliar... Lots and lots of words without meaning and feeling, lots of memorized phrases of courtesy.

They were not Christians. We're not Christians. Still, we had a Christian (protestant) funeral. Because that's what you do. I don't understand that. Really don't. So I'm writing my will and testament to prevent this from happening to me (and my family) when I'm passing over. It's disrespectful, cold and not made for people in loss and mourning. Or people in general. Period.

But we still visit this place from time to time. And although our 4 year old doesn't understand the concept of death and dying, the visits gives us opportunities to remember and talk about her great grandparents. But as pagans we have other ways of honoring them - ways that feel much more in tune with who we are, who they were and the relationship we had. Ways that still connect us instead of bringing us further apart.

I'll write more about that later.


The verdict

Eagerly preparing the tasting of our rose petal jam. Properly dressed for the occasion of course.

Main course; Wooden fish head and sausages (with velcro).

And then this monstrous thing for dessert; just a plain slice of bread with whipped cream and rose petal jam... or sauce as it turned out. I've found lots of different variations on the rose petal jam recipe and most of them says that you should tear the petals into large(ish) pieces, put the petals or the finished jam in a blender or remove the petals altogether (for jelly - got to try it). Our recipe said nothing about that, so when the jam was ready I got the old "feeling a bit sick" about all thing roses again... Not good. It certainly didn't look like anything I'd like to eat. So I put it in the blender and got a thick rose petal sauce.

I couldn't finish this, but it was great! Nothing like potpourri, I promise. It was a very delicate, sweet and even child-friendly. I kept thinking of weddings, overly romantic "chick-flick" movies and the hot flashes and dizziness of falling in love. Don't know what came over me :)

I'm going to buy some good quality vanilla ice cream and serve it with lukewarm rose petal sauce. Decorating with some rosebuds, lemon verbena leaves or lemon balm...

Mid-summer luxury in a jar. Recipe:

Rose petal sauce/jam

750ml water
500g sugar
250g rose petals
Juice of two lemons

(I made half this)

Remove the white heels and a little of the though part at the bottom of the petals. (If you don't the jam will be quite bitter). Put them in a blender and pulsate for just a few seconds or tear them to smaller pieces. Mix in half the sugar. Leave overnight in the fridge. Dissolve the rest of the sugar in a pan with water and lemon juice. Add the petals and sugar mix and simmer for about 20 mins or until you get the consistency you want. Pour into clean jars and seal.

I have no idea how long this will keep in the fridge, but I guess the safest thing would be to put small portions in plastic bags, yogurt jars, ice trays or something and put in the freezer.

The view

Just got to show you the view... Not from our house, but a few kilometers downhill from where we live. Nice?

Yes... I know... photos taken from the car. To my defense - I was standing still (yes really), and I was going somewhere... not just driving down there to show you the beautiful view :P


Rose petal jam

We're trying out something new and different - rose petal jam. At the moment the rose petals are in the fridge soaking in sugar... Didn't read the whole recipe and suddenly discovered that I had to let them sit in the fridge overnight... Oh well. But here they are in all their velvety, sweet-smelling loveliness...

I've just recently discovered the opportunity of using rose petals and rosewater in cooking. I used to think that roses in food smelled like really cheap soap or potpourri no matter what kind of fancy recipe. I didn't like the smell of it - not even the essential oil or the actual rose itself - it all made me feel a bit sick. But something has changed - I don't really know what. Maybe it all started with buying some Turkish (ehm.. Greek) delight while I was in Crete this spring. I just fell in love.

I was skimming through some books the other day, looking for ideas and inspiration for some mid-summery crafts and activities and stumbled across a recipe. My rose bushes (rosa rugosa) are in full bloom, and instead of just picking the petals and drying them for "something" - I thought I'd try this out. So now I have lots of ideas... homemade rosewater, jam, jelly, sauce, sugar, Turkish delight, other kinds of candy, different kinds of creams and beauty products, sachets for the bath tub, used in incense recipes, dream pillows, potpourri, dried and used to make art, put in a herbarium... The sad thing is that we removed a lot of the rose bushes this spring because they stung, took a lot of space, invaded the garden, looked... well, a bit sad... (Cut back hard and they will come back up looking as healthy and luscious as ever before). The good thing is that they will probably continue their invasion, and I will have even more petals for future projects. And rosehip tea and soup in the fall! I'm in love.

Recipe and verdict still to come.