How to Read Oracle Cards

Oracle cards were the first magical tool I bought myself when I set out on my magical path. I had always had a fascination with tarot cards, but I felt a bit intimidated about using them in my magical practice, so I decided to use oracle cards as sort of a stepping stone.

Find a set that you feel a connection with

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I wasn’t sure about which set I should start with so I decided to look at different designs and see which one called to me. When I saw The Wisdom of Avalon Oracle Cards by Colette Baron-Reid I knew that I wanted to have these cards. I have always had a fascination with the story of King Arthur, and most legends, and after reading the book The Mists of Avalon I felt even more connected to the magic of Avalon. The cards are beautifully designed and make me feel a part of Avalon.

Build a relationship with your cards

When I received my cards I took them out of the package and looked through each of them. I wanted to see each card and learn their meanings.

It’s important to touch each of your cards and have your energy flow through them. You want to be familiar with each card and you want them to be familiar with you. You can also say a little prayer over your cards or talk to them. Thank them for the wisdom and guidance that they will provide to you in your life and thank them for coming into your life. You can also read the accompanying book that comes with your set. This will help you understand the meaning of each card and guide you when you feel unsure.

Reading the cards using the guidebook 

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When you first start out you may feel apprehensive or unsure, so you might want to rely on the guide book in the beginning.  You can use this until you become more comfortable with working with your cards.  It can also help you think more about what your spread means.

Reading the cards using intuition 

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Eventually, you may want to start reading the cards using your intuition. When doing so look at each card and think about what it means in relation to you question. Read the words written on the card and look at the picture. Look at each detail. You can withdraw meaning even from the smallest details. Also, see which card draws you in more. That may be the one that holds the answer or it may be what you need to focus on.  Be confident in your intuition because it is your guides leading you and they only have your best interests in mind.

One card spread 

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Using a one card spread is what I like to use to begin my day. I typically ask the cards what I need to be mindful about for the day. This helps me to pay attention to what I am seeing, what I say and how I interact with others.  I have also used this spread when I am reading tarot cards. Some people may find it unusual, but I have found it to be very helpful. If I am unsure of what the tarot cards are saying, or I need some clarity, I can use a one card spread to help me understand my other reading.

Three card spread 

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I use this spread when I need to understand a situation a little deeper. You can use this spread to represent past, present and future, three stages of something else or anything else you like. There isn’t a right or wrong way to read this spread or for what you want it to represent.

Four card cross spread 

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You would use this spread if your question is a little more complicated and you’re in need of more guidance. I usually don’t use more cards than this because I find that the reading gets a little muddled and I lose sight of my question in trying to understand the meaning behind each card.

Asking questions 

You can ask the cards any question you want but I stay away from yes or no questions. The cards are not a magic eight ball and I would never want to use them in that way.  Since I use them in my spiritual practice I want to use it more respectfully and use it in a way that can help me grow spiritually. They are a guide and whenever you ask a question I think it is best to ask questions that will help you understand a situation better. Don’t look at it as telling the future, but look at it as helping guide to your future.

Choosing cards 

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Sometimes I will choose a card from the top of the pile, but you don’t have to. You can choose a card from anywhere within the stack. You can move your hand(s) over the cards and feel which card(s) you feel energetically drawn to. Only choose a card that you feel is right.

Understanding cards that look scary 

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Some cards may seem scary or unsettling but don’t be alarmed by these cards. Not everything is literal and somethings are metaphorical. For example, if you choose the card death it doesn’t mean a literal death. Think about what death represents: It is the end of a cycle and a part of life.  If you choose this card it may represent the end of a relationship, situation or stage of life. Something must die, or end, in order for something new to be born. When dealing with these cards always think of what else they may represent and you will see that the universe is guiding you towards what is good.

May the goddess guide you  🌒🌕🌘

 

 

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Shanghai’s Cityscape & Garden Getaway

I was bubbling over with excitement to finally be going to Shanghai. I was excited to see my partner’s homeland and experience part of her country that she had never seen before.

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This was printed after I was fringerprinted😆

DF2551F4-2815-40E4-8136-D83BBE635A49While our(my partner and I) primary purpose was to eat as much as possible, I also wanted to see what Shanghai’s cityscape was like. My first sight of the city was on the Meglev train and luckily I had a window seat.

Some street views looked beautifully unreal.

My favorite place in Shanghai is definitely the river view at night. We walked along the river and no matter where we stood we had a beautiful view of the other side. After walking around for a bit we took a riverboat cruise. If you’re in Shanghai you definitely shouldn’t pass this up. It gave us a break from all the walking we had done and we were still able to enjoy the city at our leisure.

One of my favorite things about Asia is the abundance of vending machines, but Shanghai definitely stepped it up with fresh orange juice and an actual coconut. I dont think anyone can top that.

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Don’t mess with the scooter gang or you’ll get run over

On our last day we went to visit my partner’s best friend in Suzhou. Luckily, we were able to get train tickets despite the fact that everyone was traveling to their hometowns for the harvest festival.

Suzhou is famous for its gardens and I really wanted to see Tiger Hill. There were many people there, but the garden is immense and there were several areas that were almost deserted.

Walking around the garden was very peaceful and it’s easy to get lost in there, which we did, but we were able to see most of it because of that.

We happened to stumble upon two strangers who had a love for Classical Chinese music and they were singing together. Unfortunately, they were a little camera shy when we came up, but their voices fit perfectly with the scenery and I would have enjoyed listening to them longer.

As we walked around some more we found even more music being played. A young women was playing a guzheng and we saw a traditional opera.

We finally made our way to the temple and were able to see the various forms of Buddha and even a 3D wall depiction.

Old school picture frame.

Bonsai Garden.

The most famous part of the garden is the pagoda. It is over 1,000 years old, so over time it has begun to lean due to the forces of nature. A beautiful leaning tower.

2FE8F56D-BB6F-4BCF-9290-43D9AB281B29I loved my time in Shanghai and I didn’t want to leave. There is so much to see in and around the city that I know that I’ll have to come back and explore some more.

Feast in Shanghai

I had been antipcating our trip to Shanghai for several months. It would be my first visit to China and my partner’s and I first international trip together. Unfortunately, we arrived several hours after our arrival time due to China Eastern’s inability to ever leave on time. Thankfully, my partner is able to keep me positive even when I am feeling hangry.

We decided to keep our explorations near our hotel because of how late it was so we tried a night market nearby. Sadly, it was the middle of the week and there weren’t any vendors, but we were able to get some skewers from a small restaurant. We had gluten, mushroom and lamb skewers. They were very well seasoned, but there wasn’t much meat on the lamb, it was more fat than anything else, but it was still very delicious. I’m not sure what seasoning was used, but I wish I could have bought some to take home.

After we ate we decided to walk around and see what was around the neighborhood. That is when I saw a restaurant selling Shanghai breakfast and I couldn’t walk past. Shanghai breakfast was the number one meal I wanted to try. We had dou jiang(hot soy milk), dou fu nao(which is soft tofu in a light broth), you tiao(a fried dough that you dip into the soy milk) and ci fan taun(a rice roll that can be filled with what you choose). The meal was better than I had imagined. The soy milk wasn’t watery, as I thought it might be, it was very smooth and light. The fried dough wasn’t overly sweet and it complemented the soy milk and absorbed the soy milk without gettting very soggy. The tofu melted in my mouth and the broth was surprisingly flavorful and it tasted even better when my partner added chili oil. The rice roll surprised me the most because I wasn’t expecting a lot of flavor from it, but there were several layers of different ingredients. We couldn’t figure out what was used, but there were some sweet and sour vegetables and some salty meat. With each bite I bit into a new flavor and I would have kept eating if I wasn’t so full. All of this and a mildly sweet herbal tea was less than $4 USD.

The next day we went to a restaurant that was known for their noodles, but we didn’t limit ourselves to just that. I wanted to try as much as possible so we ordered xiang qin dan gan(marinated hard boiled egg slices), yan shui ya(steamed or boiled salty duck) and Jinpai hai xian mian(seafood noodle soup). Our food didn’t look like it would really go together, but the flavors balanced each other very well. The egg slices were mild and were like a palate cleanser. It balanced the saltiness of the duck meat which was also tender and juicy. The meat fell of the bone and right into my salivating mouth. The duck doesn’t look very pretty, but you shouldn’t let that deter you from trying it. Last, we had the seafood noodle soup, which was my favorite. The broth looked milky and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was delicious. You can taste the crab, the base of the broth, but I dont know what other seasonings are used. It was mild, but it wasn’t a soup that you would get tired of eating and you dont feel heavy after eating it. Also, they gave us 5 whole shrimp, so I left more than satisfied.

My partner wanted a snack so we bought chou dou fu(stinky tofu). I know a lot of people say that the smell is awful, but it didn’t smell bad to me and I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to try new food. I thought it tasted great.  The tofu was firm and the broth was a little spicy, slightly sour and salty.  I will definitely try this again. I was still feeling adventurous so I decided to try Dove durian chocolate. That was a mistake. It tasted like white chocolate with onion filling and I couldn’t finish it. The filling tasted completely different from fresh durian, which I tried later and actually liked.

Later, we met up with my partner’s childhood friends and had dinner together. They ordered more food than we could eat, but my favorites were the li yu jiang ya(marinated duck) it tasted sweet and salty, duo jiao yu tou(Steamed fish with salted chilies over noodles) despite being spicy I was able to eat it and the fish was seasoned all the way through and mo cha bai yu(matcha tofu) a dessert tofu that was slightly sweet with a very smooth texture. For dessert they wanted ice cream, which I can never pass up, so we went to Häägen Dazs. Not very Chinese, but ice cream is delicious everywhere.

On our last full day to ourselves we visited the Shanghai Muslim Market. It’s only opened on Fridays and it seemed like it was winding down by the time we got there, but there were still many food stalls open. I really wanted to try the baozi and jiaozi because I prefer beef over pork and I wasn’t disappointed. The nui rou baozi( beef baozi) was crunchy on the outside and well seasoned and juicy in the middle. The nui rou jiaozi had a thick, crispy outside with a tender filling similar to the baozi. We also tried the lamb skewers and the meat was tender. If we would have stayed another week I would have gone back to eat more.

We found more baozi at a famous bao restaurant near the river. When we tasted their baozi we knew why there was a line. I haven’t had a wide array of baozi, but the flavor in these were well balanced and very juicy on the inside, which my shirt found out rather soon but I’m not bitter. We couldn’t get a to-go-box so we’ll have to live on the memory of the best baozi we’ve ever had.

On our last day in China we went outside of Shanghai to visit my partner’s best friend. Her husband made us hot pot, but without using water. It was a no-broth hot pot that used the water from the ingredients to cook everything, but the main ingredient was the Chinese mitten crab from Yang Cheng Lake. The crabs were very sweet and juicy and were the best part of the hot pot. Definitely the best crab I’ve ever had.

There is so much to eat in Shanghai and I know I’ve only scratched the surface of Shanghai cuisine, but thanks to my wonderful partner I was able to feast in Shanghai.

Finding Pride – Seoul Pride 2018

6E132E3C-94B6-48F9-8790-23D0F1247EF1Seoul Pride came around on July 14th this year and I was more excited than usual because it was my partner’s first time at Pride. We knew it was going to be hellishly hot, so we made sure to stay hydrated and rather than staying for the whole festival we arrived around 2pm.

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Waiting to cross the street to enter the festival🌈

A9A2D273-61D4-4B1A-8A98-9C5D987DFE9EEach year that I have attended has had many participants, but it was definitely a lot more crowded than in the past. The crowd was so large that I could hardly see any of the booths inside. Seeing so many people in attendance made my little queer heart sing. Despite all obstacles and difficulties they were there making a stand as a queer person or as an ally.

One of the few booths that we were able to get to🌈

I didn’t know that the Amsterdam Rainbow Dress would be at Seoul Pride, but I’m glad that it was there. It’s imporant for us to be aware of what other queer people go through in countries that don’t have laws to protect them. My partner and I decided to take a picture near the dress, but because she isn’t out yet(neither am I😅) I had to cover her face. We both hope to be out to everyone one day, but for several hours that day we were able to hold hands, kiss each other publicly and we were recognized as a couple. No strange looks or hate from anyone inside❤️🧡💛💚💙💜

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This woman’s sign is saying not to get the mark of the beast😂

We walked around and decided to go outside of the festival grounds to see what the protestors were up to. I wanted to see how many hateful people decided to show up this year and it wasn’t that many. This is my 4th Pride in Seoul and the protesters numbers look as though they are dwindling while our numbers keep growing. I actually feel sorry for them, because among them I am sure there were people who are closeted and afraid. There were probably others who are oppressed by the dogma of their religion and of course there are those who are just hateful. I’m sure the complexities are much deeper than this, but they must live very sad lives to put that much effort into trying to stop others from being themselves and living life freely.

Waiting for the parade to start🏳️‍🌈

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One of many lame signs from the protesters

 

Yes, you are loved❤️🧡💛💚💙💜

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Just a small portion of the parade☺️🏳️‍🌈

It was hot and we were tired, but we survived the heat and had an amazing time. We left feeling physically tired, but spiritually high. The energy that everyone emitted was powerful, full of love, pride and unafraid. We were there to demonstrate our right to exist and celebrate our differences. No matter what your sexual or gender identity is, you have a right to be you. You are beautiful. You are worthy. You are loved. Love is love is love is love❤️🧡💛💚💙💜

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How to Avoid Housing Scams in Korea

4C10E212-B67E-4E94-A5B1-EF70103C0196This post is a bit of a departure from previous posts because I feel that this is important to share. I want to talk about the recent experience my partner and I had with finding a new apartment in Seoul, South Korea.

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*Disclaimer* Because of Korea’s strict defamation laws I can not name a business specifically by name. Also, this IS NOT ABOUT JIKBANG OR AGAINST THE APP IN ANY WAY, but about SOME realtors who use the app. Again, no names are mentioned.

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A map of the area and all available listings under the price range I set.

Many people in South Korea use a popular housing app called 직방(Jikbang) to find a new apartment. It’s very convenient because you can see what an apartment looks like and everything about it before making a decision to view the apartment. We had used it a few months before without any difficulty and were able to find a place almost at the last minute, so we felt comfortable using it again. We started looking and adding the places that we liked the best to our favorites list and then we contacted one of the realtors. We set up an appointment and headed out to Sillim(신림). We chose this area because we were under the impression that the it was cheaper to live there based on what we saw on the app and from what we have heard other people say.

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These are not the apartments we considered, but they are similar. The first number is the key money and the second number is the rent. 100 = 1million won and 34 = 340,000 won etc. The addresses are blocked out because of the defamation laws in Korea.

Now, when my partner had spoken to the realtor the day before he did say that the apartment we wanted was only available for one month, but we still wanted to go and see what other apartments they had available because they didn’t have all of them listed on the app. When we arrived I immediately felt as though something was off. It was not a typical realtor office and it was set up haphazardly. There were more desks inside the room than could comfortably fit and everyone in the office was under 40. This is not to say that younger individuals cannot be realtors, but it is odd not to have at least one seasoned realtor. They welcomed us in and we sat with a young woman, not the person my partner spoke to on the phone, and she asked us the normal questions of our budget, location, preference and move in date. She then pulled up a website and input our criteria. At first, I thought that this site was the company site, but my partner later told me that it was a website that any realtor could sign up for and use for a fee. As we looked at apartments for over an hour I was very discouraged because the living conditions of each apartment were very poor and the apartments were expensive. This was shocking to me as we saw many apartments on the app that fit our price range and met or cleanliness standards. Also, during the hour the realtor kept pressuring us to lower our standards. She wanted us to choose apartments that I told her were “shoeboxes” or were 30 minutes away from the train station by bus. I felt that our expectations weren’t unrealistic so I wasn’t willing to compromise and neither was my partner. We thanked her for her time and left.

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We took a break and went to a coffee shop and called another realtor and met him an hour later. There was an apartment that he had listed that we wanted to see, but it magically wasn’t available anymore when we called him, so we asked him to show us a few others. He took us to an apartment that was a “shoebox” even for Seoul standards. I’ve lived in a small apartment in Seoul and my friends have, but nothing as tiny as this. A bed would not be able to fit into that small space and if it did, your apartment would be all bed. It was more the size of a goshiwon(a very small room that’s similar to a dorm room)than an apartment. He said he showed us that apartment to give us “realistic expectations” of what is available. He then took us to another apartment about a 5 minute walk from the station. This one was a villa(a smaller building with apartments) that didn’t have an elevator, but I’ve experienced that with a villa before and I was willing to at least see this apartment. However, the apartment itself was well below our standards. It smelled rotten and the bathroom was very moldy. Most Korean bathrooms don’t have windows and small apartments don’t have a separate shower from the rest of the bathroom, so mold is a real problem, but this was not something I could deal with. The bathroom did have a window, which was unusual, but the bottom of the toilet wasn’t sealed(the source of part of the smell) and there was mold throughout the kitchen as well. This is mostly the fault of the current tenant, but mold is not only disgusting but it is very dangerous to be around for your health. We told the realtor no thanks and asked him to show us a few other places.

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After my very apparent displeasure with the last apartment, I thought he would surely show us something with better living conditions. After all, he did ask us what we thought and we were polite but clear on how we felt. I was very disappointed. He took us to an apartment that was even further from the station and even worse than the previous one. The key money and rent were higher, but the apartment was small and the bathroom did not have a sink. That’s right. No sink. When I asked about the bathroom sink he literally said, “there’s a sink in the kitchen that you can use.” I have never seen that in any bathroom in Korea no matter how small the apartment and bathroom are. Also, there wasn’t a refrigerator or a stove. There was a small balcony that could be used for storage, but it was layered in mold. All of that on top of the smell throughout the building it was a big no from us with this place.

When we walked outside I was nearly in tears out of frustration with not finding a place after what we had been shown. Throughout the process, this realtor kept telling us that we needed to lower our standards and that it would be impossible to find an apartment based off of our criteria. He actually told us that we were used to a nice place and that’s why we were being picky. We told him we would be in touch and decided to get something to eat and regroup. While we were eating my partner decided to call one more realtor. We saw another place that could fit our needs, so we decided to give one more realtor a try for that day. When she called, the realtor told her that the place we wanted had a lot of problems. He said the owner had a lot of debt and that if we rented that place we might not get our key money back, but he had other places that were available. We went, despite our better judgment.

When we arrived I was immediately suspicious, again. This realtor office was a lot smaller than the previous ones we had visited that day, around 7 desks that were almost impossible to walk around, and the realtors were even younger. I would say they were all under 30 years old. The realtor we spoke to took us to an apartment in the same neighborhood as his office and it was just as bad as the previous apartments we had seen. We quickly left and asked if he had something better. You would think that we had learned our lesson, but we actually gave him one more chance. He took us to an apartment that was the worst one we had seen all day. The entire apartment was moldy and the bathroom was filthy. I was shocked that someone was actually living there and paying the amount of rent that was listed. My partner and I were so disgusted that we told him we did not want to see anymore apartments. Just as the other realtors had said he also told us to lower our standards.

That night we were very discouraged and disappointed but we were both glad that we went through that experience because we would not have known that these scams were going on. A majority of the listings for the Sillim area were fake. Each picture was bait to make you believe that decent apartments were available, but once you called about the apartment you wanted the realtor would say that it’s not available but they would show you some other apartments that are comparable when none of them were. A realtor that my partner called the next day actually admitted to her that he didn’t want to put up fake listings but because other realtors were doing it he had to as well to stay competitive. He only admitted this after she had pressed him about a particular apartment that we wanted to see.

9C7CBE4D-247B-4A0A-B947-41DEB10E95E4We decided to forget the Sillim area and look around where we were currently living. We found a place that we liked and called the agent. I didn’t have high hopes, but the realtor asked us if we wanted to visit his office first or go directly to the apartment. We didn’t want to waste anymore time so we went directly to the apartment. When we went inside we were both pleasantly surprised. The apartment was spacious and it was clean. The key money and rent were reasonable, and cheaper than the places we saw the previous day, and it was only 600 meters away from our current apartment. The neighborhood was quieter and we could move in right away if we wanted. He took us back to his office and showed us documents pertaining to the building and the owner. The documents said who the owner was and that he owned the building completely. It also said that if the owner ever has financial problems we have the right to ask for our key money. This all seemed too good to be true, so we told him we needed a few hours to think about it. We talked it over for 10 minutes and called the realtor back saying we wanted the place and we moved in a week later.

This whole process was very emotionally draining, but my partner and I felt that we gained some valuable lessons from this. We learned that we should never lower our standards. Each realtor, with the exception of the last one, tried to pressure us to lower our standards because they wanted us to accept whatever they had available because they were running a scam. We also learned to stand firm for what you want. Don’t let anyone sway you from what you want because you are the one that has to live with your choice. You will spend a lot of time in your apartment so it’s important to make sure the place fits your needs and that you feel comfortable living there. When you’re calling a realtor remember the registration number of the apartment you want, if you’re using Jikbang. If they say that it’s unavailable ask to see another apartment that they have listed. If that one is magically unavailable then you know it’s time to move on. You don’t want to waste your time, especially with scams. Don’t worry about their feelings. While being polite is important don’t feel as though you have too spare their feelings if you don’t like a place. Make it very clear that you don’t like it and specify what you don’t like. If they insist on you lowering your standards tell them bye.

It’s also important to do research before you look into moving. Go to a realtor in the area that you want to move to and ask them to show you what they have available. You will need key money, but don’t worry too much about that because you can probably negotiate that. Ask if you can pay more rent or if you can pay the remaining amount during the first few months of rent. And don’t forget to stand up for yourself and trust your gut feeling.

Garden of Roses & Hidden Fields of Flowers

D03485F6-2B8C-44DE-B145-532C5101197AI passed by Olympic Park a few days ago and I decided to stop and take a few pictures of the rose garden. I have been there many times before, but I’ve never seen the roses when they’ve bloomed. While it is a little hot for them now there were still many roses that were fully bloomed and thriving.

I walked around the garden and despite the fact that it is right next to a busy road I could still smell the roses. And while many of the roses had lost their petals they still added beauty to the garden. It reminded me of the cycle of life and how there can still be beauty in death, because death gives life and all around the garden I could see life. Not only the roses, but the bees that were able to drink from the flowers and the smaller beings that all rely on what is in that garden. It felt like a world unto itself.

I decided to relieve myself from the heat and I sought shelter in the shade underneath a cluster of trees. That is when I stumble upon a field of flowers. Surprisingly, there weren’t that many people there so I was able to take pictures and commune with nature at my own pace.

After walking around for several minutes I reached the top of the hill and I was greated by another field of flowers. These flowers felt untamed and wild. They didn’t grow uniformly and there were several different kinds of flowers all growing together, but that made them more beautiful. I felt as though I had been transported to a remote village untouched by the modern world. If felt refreshing to walk through the rows of flowers and I felt blessed to have been able to walk through unbothered and in peace. But right before I left I found 10,000 won(around $10 USD) on the ground. I felt like the spirit of that space was giving me another blessing. I am so thankful and grateful for the time that I was able to spend there.

Kitchen Magic – Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

I have always enjoyed banana bread, but I could never find any that didn’t include walnuts. I’m not a big fan of nuts, go figure, and I always ended up picking out each nut. Yes, I despise them that much. Anyways, last week I went a little overboard and bought around 2kg of bananas. My partner and I definitely couldn’t eat that many bananas before they went bad, so I made some banana bread without nuts and cinnamon to accommodate my and my partner’s preferences.

You will need:

  • 3 overripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 milk cup (Any milk will work, but I used low fat milk)
  • Semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used 1 cup, but 1/2- 2/3 is probably more reasonable)
  • 2 cups flour of your choice
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (Omit or use half depending on your preferences)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (I prefer pink Himalayan salt)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

Add the vinegar to the milk and set aside for a few minutes. Place the bananas in a bowl and mash them. You can leave it chunky or mash them until smooth. Mix in the vanilla, salt, sugar, milk and coconut oil into the bananas and mix until everything is combined well. It took me about 2 minutes of mixing. Add the flour and baking soda and mix until it is just combined. Now add you chocolate chips. Pour into a greased pan, I used a 9×9 cake pan, and bake on 190ºC for 35 minutes or until set in the middle.

Kitchen magic doesn’t have to be elaborate or take up a lot of your time. It’s about nourishing your body, feeding your soul and adding a magical touch to something that may seem mundane. I like to think about what each ingredient means and how they will work together.

  • Bananas – Luck, love
  • Sugar – Sweetness, love
  • Milk – Nourishment
  • Choclate – Love, prosperity
  • Coconut oil – Feminine energies
  • Vanilla extract – Joy, love, luck
  • Salt – Purification
  • Baking soda – Rising energy
  • Apple cider vinegar – Healing
  • Flour – Consistency. I also see it as bringing everything together and combining the energy of each ingredient.

For this recipe I found that each ingredient was well balanced, even with the overload of chocolate chips because I needed that sweetness during my moon cycle and the goddess knew. It also brought more of a feeling of home to our apartment. The lingering scent of baked bread in the air made us feel cozy and warm long into the evening. It was a subtle reminder of how simple foods can change our emotions for the better.

Fire Magic – Making Sichuan Hot Pot (四川冒菜火锅)

I love to cook and try new foods and I really like hot pot. There are so many different vegetables that you can put inside of it that gives you something different to taste with each bite. However, this hot pot is more than what you put into it; the flavor is all in the broth. It’s spicy, yet cooling. The chilly peppers are balanced by peppercorns that have a numbing and cooling effect. And there are a plethora of other herbs and spices that make this hot pot flavorful and comforting. The herbs and spices work together and one does not overpower the other. It’s the perfect balancing act.

My partner and I decked to make this hot pot one chilly Friday evening. We covered the furniture and made sure no cloth was left exposed, lest it become permeated in hot pot aroma and continually tempt us long after our stomachs were full. Since I like to be in charge of the kitchen, even if I don’t understand the recipe, I decided to get started. My partner told me we could put whatever we wanted inside of the hot pot and I might have a taken that too literally. We made this hot pot on two separate days, so here are the two versions.

Version 1:

  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 medium sized sweet potatoe chopped
  • 2 small white potatoes chopped
  • 4 shitake mushrooms sliced
  • 5 button mushrooms sliced
  • 4 leaves from a large napa cabbage chopped
  • 3 bok choy stalks chopped chopped
  • 1 carrot chopped
  • Thinly sliced beef
  • 1 package of Hot Pot Sauce

Version 2:

  • 1 1/2 cups of soaked wood ear mushrooms
  • 2 sausages sliced lengthwise
  • 6 bok choy stalks
  • 3 sweet potatoes chooped
  • 2 white potatoes chopped
  • 10 leaves of Napa cabbage
  • Sweet potato noodles soaked in warm water
  • 1 package of hot pot sauce

* These measurements can be adjusted according to preference. Hot pot is very versatile and there are many different types that you can choose from.

After boliling the water I placed the first seasoning packet inside the water and the aroma that came from the pot was overwhelming delicious. I think my mouth was literally watering. I boiled the potatoes and carrots for a few minutes, until they were almost tender, and then I added the remaining vegetables. After everything was cooked we mixed in the remaing 2 packets and stirred for a few seconds before adding the beef. Since it’s thinly sliced it only takes a few seconds to cook. You can eat this as is or with a small bowl of rice.

 

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Version 1: The vegetables are chopped a littler smaller.
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Version 2: The vegetables aren’t chopped, except for the potatoes, and we added sausage.

For me, part of kitchen magic is appreciating the ingredients that I use and enjoying the process. Making this hot pot is not only simple, but it is impossible to do it “wrong”. Each ingredient you use is what inspires you, so if you feel more inclined to use another vegetable you can use it. It’s not fancy or pretentious and it doesn’t require a lot of work to make it, yet it does more than any meal at a Michelin rated restaurant could do for me. It made me feel warm, relaxed and deeply satisfied.

Sacred Ink

8DE52C7A-1735-48F4-9856-8D15BB6154BFI remeber wanting a tattoo when I was 18 years old because I thought it was trendy and cute. I know, big eye roll into the back of your head. I actually got over the idea of getting a tattoo rather quickly so I am very thankful that I didn’t get one when the tattoo would have held no meaning to me.

Fast forward several years and I started to see tattoo artists on instagram that are creating amazing tattoos. I didn’t realize the skill that is required when giving someone a tattoo and I started following many of these artist because their work was stunning. I couldn’t take my eyes away from their creations that came to life and told different stories. I started to view tattoos differently and I realized that having a tattoo was a way for me to show part of my spiritual path. That is when I decided that I wanted a tattoo. I did’t make an immidate appointment, but I was a lot more informed than I was when I was a teenager and I knew exactly what I wanted.

I had decided on getting a realistic triple moon with the colors of the bisexual flag on it. My religion and my sexuality are two very important parts of my life and I felt as though this design would be the most meaningful tattoo for me.

I took my time searching for an artist and I found one that I felt was able to give me what I wanted. I messaged her and sent here all of the details about my idea, but I never received a message back. I was sad and disappointed because I had my heart set on that particular artist giving me my first tattoo. I momentarily gave up the idea of getting a tattoo but my partner encouraged me to continue looking at other artists, so I started searching again and I found my artist.

There were so many signs pointing to her being the one to tattoo me. First, she only does tattoos for women. Secondly, her name is 타투이스트 달 (Tattoist Moon). Third, she was very responsive and worked with me over messenger for a few weeks before my visit. Lastly, she brought my design to life and created something that went beyond what I had imagined. When I went in to see her she had printed out 6 different sizes for me to choose from and while she was willingly to place my tattoo anywhere I wanted, she did give me her perfesional opinion on why she thought another placement was better. Throughout the process she gave such great customer service and she made the whole process less stressful for me.

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Photo credit goes to Tattoist Dal

This is my first tattoo, so it wasn’t pain free, but I am beyond happy with the final result. It’s part of my body now and every time I look at it I love it. I am beyond grateful to the artist for bringing something so meaningful and sacred to life and putting herself at risk for her art. Tattooing someone without a medical license is illegal in Korea so I really respect this artist and her work. This process reminded of how the Goddess works in my life and how the universe is working out as it should )0(

Seeking the Sacred in Japan’s Temples & Shrines

7BF38602-128C-4DD2-B425-C12766238A44I love to travel. I enjoy learning about other cultures and seeing how other humans live. This is one of reasons why I decided to move to South Korea and why I’ve been to Japan twice.

Seeing the human experience and how others interpret the divine is something I especially look forward to in other countries. So I always make a point of visiting local shrines and temples. Some local traditions have been lost to colonization and time and sadly we will never know how those people lived through those traditions. However, there are some that have survived and we can see the vast richness that is part of humanity.

The first time I went to Japan I was able to visit several temples and shrines. Japan has tens of thousands of temples and shrines, so I can only speak about the ones that I have visited.

Whenever I visit a scared place I try to remember to show respect towards the divinity in that space, as well as the people who hold this place sacred. I think that it is important to remember that a religion and tradition holds special meaning to those whose cultural that it belongs. Whether or not the people practice or follow the religion they still view it as an integral part of their culture. Come into these spaces with knowledge, respect and gratitude towards the people and the divinity.

The first shrine I visited was Hōkoku-jinja Shrine (豊國神社) in the Osaka Castle Park. I was very excited to see this shrine because my friends and I hadn’t planned on visiting and we happened upon it when we were exploring around the castle. There weren’t that many people there, probably because it was getting late, so we were able to enjoy the quiet of the shrine.

The next sacred place we went to was Tōdai-ji Temple (東大寺) in Nara. However, before we could reach the temple we were greeted by many eager deer that were happy to walk alongside us searching for food. We decided to buy some food and feed the deer. They’re very used to humans and are friendly and sweet. Seeing them before arriving at the temple felt as though they were welcoming us to this place. 

When we arrived at the temple I couldn’t help but feel awe. We couldn’t see anything of the modern world and it looked as though we had been transported in time. I couldn’t hear any noise besides what was made on the temple grounds. I was thankful that the other visitors were quiet and seeking blessings as well.  We washed our hands at the spring and then we went into the temple to pray to the Great Buddha. The statue was much larger than I had anticipated and we felt small in comparison.

Afterwards, we decide to walk a little further away from the crowds and we found a shrine. I don’t remember what it was called or if it was connected to the temple, but there was a shrine gate with a path that led up the mountain. We saw a few more deer along the way and there weren’t that many people. It was very beautiful and easy to walk around without the crowds. There was also a resting area inside with fans, which we desperately needed.

The next day we ventured to Kyoto to the Monkey Park. I didn’t expect to see a shrine at the base of the mountain, but I was glad that I had an unexpected opportunity to see another sacred place. Ichitani Munakata Shrine (櫟谷宗像神社) is a small shrine that is worth seeing. There were many people climbing the mountain to see the monkeys, but no one was stopping to visit the shrine so it was empty. We couldn’t go into the shrine itself because the gates were closed, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying some peace and quiet on the shrine grounds.

Later in the day we ventured to Tenryū-ji Temple (天龍寺). This temple is right beside the bamboo forest, so we couldn’t pass by without stopping for a bit. We stayed a little longer than we had anticipated, a few hours, but there were so many different things to see that it was difficult to leave. The gardens are extensive and there are various pathways that you can walk on without being bothered by other visitors. There are many buildings and walkways leading between them that I couldn’t resist walking on. Walking were others who have dedicated their lives to their path have walked felt very sacred. I tried to connect to the energy of the place and feel what they have felt and I realized that even though they lived in a serene environment they were human like me. It’s very comforting to know that even those who I see as spiritually evolved go through the same human emotions that I do. I was able to leave this temple with a full heart and ready to see what else this land had to offer.

Yasaka Shrine (八坂神社) is another famous shrine in Kyoto. We didn’t enjoy this one as much because it was so hot that we were literally running underneath the shade whenever we had the chance, but this shrine was gorgeous. It was very crowded and a little difficult to see some parts of the shrine without people standing in the way, but it was still worth it to go.

We walked a little further and we saw a few unoccupied areas and that is when stumbled about the best rickshaw driver ever. Not only did he give us a rickshaw ride, but he also told us about the history of the area. He gave us a break from walking and an unexpected guided tour. May he be blessed.

That ride led us to our last temple that we visited, Kiyomizu-dera Temple (清水寺). Because the temple was under some construction we couldn’t go through certain areas, but there was still so much to see. There were various sized Buddha statues lining the pathway and plenty of shade from the sun. The most interesting part of this temple is the spring that offers health, longevity and success in studies to those who drink from it. There were many people lined up that wanted to drink from the spring and touch the water. I hope those people received the blessings that they sought.

Each sacred site gave me different feelings and perspective, but what I felt from each of them was that while each path may be different we are all striving towards oneness with the divine.