Welcome to the Order of the Sacred Star! This Pagan/Wiccan group, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is committed to teaching the Craft to all those who wish to learn. Our goal is to provide a complete and fulfulling learning experience. Our public classes are offered through the Winnipeg Pagan Teaching Circle.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Herbology: Harvesting Your Herbs

Harvesting your herbs sounds like a simple matter. You walk up to the plant you're going to harvest, take out your bolline (or shears if you're not using a bolline) and harvest away. Right? Well, you could do that without any other considerations, but if you want to maximize the herb's effectiveness and minimize damage to the plant, there are a few things you might want to take into account.

First, don't just pluck the parts you want right off the plant. That actually damages the plant. Use a sharp blade (or sharp shears) and harvest in fluid motions. This will help keep the plant healthy so you can harvest it again and again. It also will result in better quality herbs for you.

The next thing you want to do is look at a calendar, one that indicates when the full and new moons fall. Why? Because the tops of herbs, the parts that grow above ground, are best harvested when the moon is full or when it is waxing (growing larger). The roots, the parts that grow below ground, are best harvested when the moon is new or when it is waning (growing smaller).

This doesn't mean you should harvest your herbs at night. Just the opposite. If you want to preserve the plant, harvest herbs during early morning hours. This will allow the sun to help heal the plant during the day. This does not apply if you're harvesting the entire herb, of course, because nothing will be left behind to heal.

If you want to get really complicated about it, you could determine the planetary ruler of each plant you plan to harvest, then look up the hour associated with that planet, but this isn't strictly necessary.

Leaving Offerings After Harvest

It is often natural instinct to leave something behind when we take something away, and this is a good thing. Usually. Unfortunately, many times those who harvest herbs will leave the wrong offerings. I've seen people leave bread, fruit, honey, and even wine as offerings. All of these things, as well as anything else that could be classified as 'human food', should absolutely be avoided. Food attracts bugs the plant may not have had to cope with before, and wine...let's just say herbs don't appreciate alcohol. It kills the roots in most cases, so don't pour wine as an offering.

So what can you leave as an offering? There are many ideas. If you're gathering your herbs in the wild, why not bring some plant food? You can get it in tiny little sticks that you can shove into the soil as your offering. Don't like that idea? Maybe some natural spring water to water the plants you're collecting from. Plants appreciate these things, and they won't attract bugs or kill the roots. These offerings also work for your outdoor garden.

For plants in your own home, you can get more creative. I'm assuming you take regular care of your plants, meaning they have food and water already. So an appropriate offering might be to add crystals to the soil of your potted plants. Use crystals with similar qualities to the herbs you're harvesting. Offerings of this sort will be well received and do no damage.

Harvesting your herbs is one of the more satisfying aspects of herbology. You finally get to hold the fruits of your labors in your hands. Just be mindful and respectful as y

Friday, July 4, 2014

Herbology: Finding Your Herbs in the Wild

Gathering herbs from the wild (sometimes referred to as wild crafting) can be a fun and gratifying experience, but it is also fraught with dangers. Many perfectly benign plants look very similar to toxic ones. This is a defense mechanism, designed to keep animals from consuming them just in case they happen to be poisonous, but it also complicates our efforts to gather herbs in the wild. Get a high quality field manual, one that has great pictures and offers advice on telling the plants apart. And if you're not absolutely sure of what you've got, don't use it.

That being said, wild herbs such as sage and thyme are excellent in herbal recipes. You'll want to carefully pick the areas you harvest in, however. Stay away from highways, rivers that are polluted or have EPA warning issues against them, public parks, and farmland. Highways and polluted rivers are obviously not ideal. Too many chemicals involved to give you a decent product. When it comes to farmland, consider that most farms use pesticides and fertilizers to grow their crops. You never know when the chemicals were used, so they might be at their most potent when you collect your herbs.

Public parks are an interesting conundrum. In some cases, they're perfectly safe in regards to chemicals, but you may not be permitted to gather wild plants there. Many, if not most, public parks have rules against picking the flora, so it's generally best to find a forest, field, or other area that is not specifically designed as a public park. If you do want to gather on parkland, make sure that particular park allows you to harvest herbs before you gather up your supplies and set out.

The other problem you may encounter is gathering on private land. Not all fields and forests are fair game. Even if it looks like the field is abandoned, it could still be owned by someone. Herbs on private land belong to whoever owns the land. Sure, your neighbor might not mind if you gather the dill growing freely in his backyard, but I bet the farmer with a field of ginseng won't be as willing to part with a crop that makes him money. Ask first.

A further word of advice: don't collect mushrooms, no matter how good your guide is. My great-grandfather was an expert, and even he eventually picked a poisonous mushroom. He died the next day. Mushrooms are sneaky devils, so if you are using mushrooms in an herbal recipe, buy the mushrooms.

When you are gathering your herbs, you should make sure you have the correct supplies. You'll need something to cut the herbs since tearing damages the plants. You can use your bolline or a sharp pair of scissors. You'll also need something to carry herbs home in. Do not use plastic bags as these promote rot. Instead, get yourself a mesh bag, preferably one with several different pockets for different herbs. The mesh allows the air to pass freely around the herbs, keeping them from even starting to rot. They'll dry instead, which is a much better option.

If you keep the above in mind while you're searching for wild herbs, you should be well on your way towards gathering something worthwhile. For myself, I gather wild cedar, pine, willow, birch, and a few other trees. I also have access to wild sage and thyme, though I prefer to grow my own. You can choose which plant materials you'd like to grow, which you'd like to buy, and which you'd like to try gathering wild.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Herbology: The Benefits of Growing Your Own Herbs

Growing your own herbs is a fun and worthwhile exercise. A large full-service herb garden is the dream of many, but you can grow herbs anywhere. Even the smallest apartment usually has a little window where you can grow a few essentials. Planters can fit nicely onto balconies and there are some really cute items these days designed for growing plants on your table or even on a shelf. Work with your space to find a solution and you can have fresh herbs all year round.

Many people argue that they simply don't have time to grow their own herbs. These same people state that the dried herbs you buy at the grocery store are just as good as anything you can grow at home. This is actually an easy debate to settle. Let's start by addressing time. There's hardly any time commitment at all if you're only growing a few choice herbs in your window. You plant, water, occasionally add plant food, and harvest when you have a need. You don't do any actual work. The plant is the one that has to do all the growing. If you have a sunny window and a ready source of water, you can grow herbs.

The second part of the debate requires you to do a little sampling. Pick a fresh sprig of basil. If you don't have any growing at home (if you do, better yet) head to the nearest supermarket that stocks organic produce. Most of these stores will have a small selection of fresh herbs to choose from. Basil is usually among them. Place the fresh basil in your mouth and chew, savoring the taste. Rinse your mouth with water and chew on a few bits of dried basil. Notice the difference?

Fresh, healthy basil always tastes better than dried. Always. There is no exception to that. If you're going to use dried herbs, try and dry them yourself. At least then you'll know how old they are. With the packaged herbs, you really don't know when they were dried. Taste dwindles with age, so it makes sense that other properties might as well. It's entirely possible (and likely, giving the anecdotal evidence) that older herbs are less effective when it comes to healing. Fresh is better. Always.

Using fresh herbs will make a difference. If you're still not convinced, try a fresh apple from the tree. Or a tomato from your garden. Or just about anything you grow instead of buy at your supermarket. It will all taste better than anything packaged. If you really can't grow a certain herb yourself, check your local farmer's market. They have a lot of herbs that you probably won't.

Besides having a fresher product that will be more effective, growing some of your own herbs is relaxing and satisfying. You can also see exactly what you have left by glancing at the window. And if you've never had the scent of fresh basil, oregano, or thyme (my favorite is lemon thyme) wafting through your kitchen, you don't know what you're missing.

In the end, the greatest benefit of growing your own herbs might be that you have total control over the final product. You get to decide what soil you want, what plant food to use, whether or not to use pesticides (hint: don't use them), how to harvest, and how to dry or otherwise store the herbs you've gown. You get exactly what you put in, and that is a comforting thought.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Herbology: Aquiring Herbs and Oils

Once upon a time, long ago, back in the early 1990s, you couldn't just order exotic herbs over the Internet. Herbs had to be grown at home, or purchase from someone who did grow them at home, and oil had to be expressed or distilled if you couldn't find a local retailer. Today, however, you can order dried herbs, live herbs, or even their essential oils from a variety of reputable sources. This means today's practitioners have many more options. You can grow everything, purchase everything, or purchase only some things. It's really up to you.

Growing or Purchasing Herbs

Some people will tell you that you must grow and harvest your own herbs, but let's be realistic. I use over a hundred different herbs in my practice, and I live in an area where many of them simply will not grow. Yes, I can grow common ones such as basil, oregano, sage, rosemary, and thyme. I also grow lavender and lilac, and elm, pine, cedar, and willow are common in my area of the world. But some herbs just don't grow well here, or don't grow well for me. I've never had any luck with eyebright, for example, and cohosh of any variety just doesn't like me. Growing them all myself is just not practical.

So what are we to do? Well, growing your own is ideal, and herbs you grew and harvested are three times more effective than those you bought off a shelf (or from an Internet provider), but buying herbs is a fact of life for most of us. So choose no more than five or six plants to grow yourself. Pick easier ones such as basil or thyme. Lavender also grows well and has a variety of uses. I would also suggest sage and oregano, as all these herbs can also be used fresh in cooking. They also can all be grown in a window sill.

If you're lucky enough to live near a greenhouse that allows you to harvest your own herbs, check and see what they offer. You might be able to harvest rosemary, cohost, fennel, eyebright, and many others. You'll have to pay a fee, of course, but herbs you've harvested yourself (but that someone else has grown) are twice as effective as those you've purchased. It's also possible to collect herbs that grow natural, such as dandelion or willow, but collect only from pesticide-free areas. And make sure you know what you're collecting.

Finally, there will be herbs you need to purchase. I always purchase my belladonna and my eucalyptus, for example. Just make sure you're dealing with a reputable source, especially when ordering from the Internet. Looks for stores that have been in business for a decade (or close to it) and who have good reviews. Talk to people about where they get their herbs; you'll find the best sources that way. And remember that not all Internet shops can ship to your location. Herbs are often checked or even confiscated when crossing international borders, so go local (or at least within your own country) if at all possible.

Don't forget to check your local grocery store, especially in the organic area. You'd be surprised what the supermarket carries.

Acquiring Essential Oils

Finding quality oils can be tricky. Real essential oils are distilled or expressed from the most fragrant part of the plant. You can also find absolutes, which are similar to essential oils except they've been created with the assistance of a solvent. Some oils are labeled as 'essential oil' when they're really no more than a fragrant oil, and fragrant oils only smell like the real thing. They are not all that useful in herbology.

For the most part, real essential oils will come from India, Egypt, or one of the countries in that area. It is here where essential oils have been produced for thousands of years, and they've really go it down to a science. True, a local shop could produce their own oils, but it is so expensive to do so that most (if not all) can simply not afford it. Instead of going broke trying to produce their own oils, most shops will simply offer their own blends (or someone else's) at decent prices. The problem with this is that you don't really know what is actually in the oil. Most 'magickal oils' are nothing more than fragrant oils blended to smell nice. These are not essential oils.

Some oils will have the word 'essence' on the label, but will not actually say 'essential oil'. Beware of these. 'Essence' means scent, and usually they don't even smell all that great. Even if they do, they probably don't smell like the actual plant. Avoid these at all cost.

So where are you going to get essential oils? The truth is most Pagan or metaphysical shops don't stock them. It's not because they don't want to, but more because clients aren't buying. If a customer sees 5ml of rose oil for $15 at one shop, but can find 5ml for $3 down the street...you can guess where they go. Most don't know, or don't care, that the $15 oil is the useful stuff. Even metaphysical shops have to cater to their clientele, so unless you live in an area where there the customers actually want essential oils, your shop won't have them.

The good news is that they can absolutely be ordered from a variety of shops on the Internet. Check the reputations of the shops you find, make sure they ship to your country, and make absolutely sure the oils say 'essential oil'. Anything less is not worth your time.

One more word of warning: some plants don't have an essential oil, or even a fragrant oil. this is because some scents are entirely water-based, and as such don't have an oil form. This is especially true of strawberry, watermelon, and that newly mown grass smell people are so fond of. These oils are almost certainly synthetic. There's nothing wrong with using these oils for aromatherapy (and I do), but they are not appropriate when practicing herbology.

When growing or acquiring your herbs and oils, take the greatest care. Your plants should be of the upmost quality. If you can't grow a good plant, buy it, but make sure your source is giving you only the best.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Best Places to Find Antiques for Altar Tools

Sometimes we don't just want the regular old altar tools. We don't want to pop online to a Wiccan or Pagan shop and order a wand, or a chalice, or whatever else we need. Sometimes we want something special, something with history. The problem is most modern Pagans don't have boxes from Grandma full of old tools. This is where antiques become useful, but unless you know where to go, finding suitable antiques can prove problematic.

 For those who love antiques, searching out the perfect item and getting a good deal can be an exciting and exhilarating moment. However, for those who don’t know where to find antiques, or perhaps don’t understand what an antique is, this search can end is disappointment and sometimes even heartbreak. Before you can begin your search for antiques, you have to know where to go and you’ll certainly need a basic understanding of the term “antique.”

Probably the most persistent myth regarding antiques is the theory that if it is old, it must be rare and valuable. An item that is old isn’t necessarily an “antique.” It’s old. Most of the old items floating around are not really that valuable and they may not even be rare. If it`s neither valuable nor rare, then it cannot be appropriately termed an “antique.”

So, in order to be classified as an antique, the item you’re considering must be of a certain age and must be worth something to someone. Most dealers will not label an item as “antique” until it is at least 45 years of age, so consider that before you head out to shop for antiques. Also take into account the rarity and value of a given item. To some extent, these two things are related. However, a rare item isn’t necessarily valuable. Understanding antiques and their prospective values is somewhat of an art, so if you’re unsure, do your research first and consult an expert.

Once you’ve acquired some basic knowledge, it’s time to start looking for antiques. However, you can’t just head out without some idea of what you’re looking for. There are many antique shops and dealers who specialize in certain items. You don’t end up in a pottery shop when shopping for Victorian furniture. Before you begin your search, you should have some basic idea of the items each shop deals in. This can be done by simply calling ahead.

That said, antique shops are not necessarily the best place to acquire antiques. It may sound counter-intuitive, but in a shop you`re paying a higher price for items the dealer doesn`t want anyway. There are other options that may help you cut costs and offer a better selection.

Estate sales are the perfect place to find interesting antiques, especially if you're looking for glassware (you might find a nice chalice). Estate sales are typically held after a death, divorce, or even large scale move. These sales may have items that are decades or even centuries old for sale at a decent price. Keep in mind, however, that professional dealers also frequent these sales to acquire items for their own collections and to display in their shops. You`ll be competing with these people for the items of your choice, so go prepared.

Flea markets are fun and enjoyable to visit and you might just find what you’re looking for. Often, vendors at flea markets have their items priced lower to attract most customers. You may be able to acquire that unique staff or chlaice for a fraction of what you might pay for it in an antique shop. But make sure you examine the items carefully. Some vendors use flea markets to get rid of damaged merchandise without fully informing the customer.

If you’re looking for antiques at prices you simply can’t beat, rummage around in local yard sales. Yard sales are usually held by people who have no desire to examine their own goods thoroughly and haven’t consulted a professional. You will often find people selling antique glassware, paintings, and even furniture for next to nothing, so take a trip around your area in the spring and summer for the best selection.

Don`t ignore the possibility of finding a valuable antique at your local thrift shop. There are many tales of people finding items worth thousands of dollars for just a few pennies. This is especially true of glassware and other delicate items. You`ll sometimes even find antique books on the shelves of a thrift shop (a good friend of mine found some interesting texts any Pagan would be interested in). However, this is not an easy search, as there will be many items that are not even worth a look. Do some research on the items you`re hunting for so you can quickly identify the real thing. Of course, items as thrift stores tend to be priced cheap, so you probably won’t lose much money even if you make a mistake.

If you’re willing to take a risk, invest some time, and truly search for antiques, you can probably acquire much of what you’re searching for at relatively cheap prices. Search yard and garage sales, estate sales, thrift stores, and even your mother’s attic for items that are old, rare, and valuable. Keep in mind, however, that if these resources yield no results, you can always check your local antique shop or dealer. If they don’t have something, they may be able to find it for you. If you’re willing to pay the price.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Stained Glass for Beginners

I've been getting a lot of questions about Pagan crafts lately, so I though I'd share one of my favorites. I enjoy stained glass, especially when I use it to create images that fit well in my temple. I have an entire Wheel of the Year display made entirely of glass. It took a long time to create, but it was well worth the effort. If you want to get started with stained glass, start small. You can take a class if you like, or you can try to get started on your own.

The art of stained glass can be an exciting hobby. Stained glass can be used to create beautiful items that you can keep for yourself or give as gifts to those you care about. However, stained glass is a complex art that requires years of practice to master. If you’re just starting out, you’ll need time, patience, and the right tools.

Traditional stained glass pieces are created using lead. However, for the beginner, this may be a little too complex. It might be better to use the copper tape method for constructing your stained glass pieces. Copper tape is easier to work with and gives beautiful results. If you’re worried about your project having adequate strength, consider using leaded edging.
Keep in mind that most of the tools and supplies listed are not safe for children. You should only work with stained glass in a well-ventilated area free of children and pets. Also be very careful when handling glass. Broken tiles are sharp and glass chips are equally dangerous.

Tools for Your Project

Regardless of construction technique, you will need certain tools and supplies to get started. Most craft and hobby stores will have what you’re looking for. If not, looked for a stained glass supply store. You can even order supplies online if you have to. When you do find a supplier, make a comprehensive list to avoid multiple trips to the same store. Some of the items you might include on that list are:
  • Glass in a variety of colors
  • Glasscutter (as sharp as you can find)
  • Copper tape (available in rolls)
  • Snips
  • Flux
  • Soldering iron
  • Plastic boning tool
  • Backing board
  • Pushpins (longer is generally better)
  • Painter’s tape
You will also need a water-cooled electric grinder. Look for once specifically designed to smooth the edges of glass. It is essential that your grinder is water-cooled to prevent overheating and possible injury.

Creating a Pattern for Your Project

In order to create beautiful stained glass projects, you should have a pattern firmly in your mind before beginning. This pattern can be anything you can imagine. However, if you’re just a beginner, you might want to consider a pattern that has large blocks of color. A pattern with a great many small areas is much harder and should be left until you have gained some experience. Also be wary of selecting a pattern with uneven edges. These are difficult for even experienced craftsmen. Instead, look for a pattern that is entirely round or oval.

Draw your pattern on a piece of paper to scale. If you’re hoping to assemble your stained glass project on the paper, use a fine tipped pen, preferably black. This will show through most glass and allow you to position each piece correctly. If you have a large project with many different pieces, consider marking each part of your project with a number. You can then use your painter’s tape to label individual glass pieces, making it easier to reassemble your project when you are ready to solder everything in place.

Cutting and Grinding Your Glass Pieces

Take each individual piece of glass and lay it out on your pattern. Use a fine tipped pen and mark the glass precisely. Take your time because glass it delicate and difficult to repair. If you break too many pieces or cut them incorrectly, you’ll have to make another trip to the craft supply store. Remember that even an expert will make some mistakes, so always have extra glass on hand.

Use your glasscutter to gently score the glass exactly where you marked, but be careful to make only a single score. While supporting the piece of glass you intend to keep, gently tap the surrounding area until it snaps off. With your snips, remove any excess glass. Do not use your hands or you may cut yourself. Repeat with the remaining glass pieces until you have all the pieces required to complete your work.

It is often tempting to look at your glass pieces and assume they’re smooth enough for assembly. They’re not, no matter how careful you were when cutting your glass pieces. And if they’re not smooth, they will not adhere to your copper tape. To make sure you have perfectly smooth glass, use your water-cooled electric grinder. Grind each individual piece until smooth to the touch. Place finished pieces onto your backing board for assembly. You might want to practice on a few scrap pieces first, just to get the hang of using a grinder.

Assembling Your Project

You are now ready to assemble your pattern. Adhere the copper tape to the edges of all your glass pieces. Cut out the pieces you need and the boning tool to smooth the tape. Make sure there are no air bubbles or your tape will peel off. Smooth any excess tape around the edges of the glass. When each piece is ready, place it in the correct location on the backing board and secure it using your pushpins.

Begin soldering your glass pieces together. Heat your soldering iron and use just the smallest bit of flux to secure each of your elements together. Don’t solder the pushpins. When your pieces are secure, you can remove the pushpins and solder the length of each seam. Allow the solder to set completely before moving on.

It may take some time to get used to the soldering iron, just as it did with the grinder. Practice on spare glass and expect that the excessive heat will crack the first few pieces. After a while, you’ll get the hang of it.

When all seams have been soldered and the solder is set, you’ll have to turn the piece to solder the back. To do this, you must turn the project over. Do this gently by lifting just one corner. If you have allowed ample time for the solder to set, your project should turn over easily enough. Solder the back of the project in the same manner as the front.

When set, you must edge the entire project with copper tape. This is done in the same way as the individual pieces were edged. However, you should probably use a thicker tape than before, depending on the size of your completed project. Finally, solder well enough to cover the copper tape.

If you don’t like the color of the solder lines, apply a suitable patina. Depending on the patina used, it will either darken or brighten the solder lines, improving the look of your piece. Keep in mind that this is an optional process. You do not need to apply patina to your project if you are satisfied with the look and feel of the solder lines.

Once the solder is set and the patina is dry, your project is complete. Hang it where it will catch the light, changing the location if you are not happy with it. After you’ve completed your first project, you can move on to more complex stained glass projects. With a little practice, you can create lampshades, window hangings, decorative centerpieces, and even complex shapes such as 3D images. I even have a pentacle made of stained glass. Practice a bit, and you'll be able to create anything you like.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Wiccan Sabbat Recipes: Desserts for a Yule Party

The holiday season is the perfect time to hold a party, especially a Yule party. Getting friends and family together in one location can bring joy and happiness to both you and your guests. However, all parties require some degree of planning. Inevitably, you must consider what you will serve your guests, and this leads to thoughts of dessert. Dessert is not only the sweetest part of the meal, but it's generally the last, and so leaves the greatest impression upon your guests. Whether you choose an elaborate dessert of something simpler, these suggestions will almost certainly help to make your Yule party a success.

Chocolate Truffle

For many families, the holidays would not be complete without a taste of chocolate truffle. This chocolaty dessert is rich, sweet, and delicious. It would make a wonderful addition to any table. This recipe serves 8 to 12 people.

Preheat over to 425°F. Melt ¼ cup butter in a saucepan. Stir in 1¼ cups chocolate wafer crumbs and 1tbsp sugar. Press into ungreased 8-inch springform pan and set in a piece of foil, pressing foil upwards all the edges to prevent water from leaking. Set the springform pan in another deep pan or roaster.

Melt 1 cup butter in a saucepan and add 3 cups chocolate chips. Stir until melted and poor into a medium bowl. Add 5 eggs, one at a time, beating after each one. Add 1tsp vanilla. Pour over crust in the springform pan. Pour boiling water into roaster or deep pan at least ½ way up the side of the springform pan.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until outer edge of truffle is set; the center will still be soft. Do not over bake. Lift the springform pan out of the water and place on rack to cool. Chill for at least 4 hours before removing truffle from the springform pan.

Melt ½ cup chocolate chips and combine with 3tbsp whipping cream. Stir on low heat until smooth, then poor on top of truffle immediately. Smooth the top and sides and let dry completely.

Beat 1 cup whipping cream, 2tsp sugar, and ½ tsp vanilla until stiff. Drop in puff balls all around the outer edge of the truffle. Dust these puffs with grated chocolate and chill until ready to serve.

Plum Pudding

Plum pudding is a traditional dessert for many Yule feasts and continues to be popular to this day. This recipe serves 12 to 15 people, and is often the crowing glory of a Yule dinner.

Combine the following ingredients in a large bowl: 2 cups raisins, 1 cup currants, 1 cup ground almonds, ½ cup chopped glazed cherries, ½ cup mixed peel, 4 chopped glazed pineapple rings, ½ shredded coconut, ½ cup flour. Stir until fruit is coated with flour.

Add the following ingredients and mix well: 1 cup chopped beef suet, 1½ cups dry bread crumbs, 2tsp baking powder, ½ tsp baking soda, 1tsp salt, 1tsp cinnamon, 1tsp nutmeg, ½ tsp ginger, ¾ cup flour.

Beat 3 large eggs in a small bowl until just frothy and add milk. Pour this over the fruit mixture and stir until just moistened. Turn entire mixture into a greased 2L pudding pan, cover with a double square of greased foil, and tie the sides down with string. Place in a steamer with boiling water, ensuring the water comes at least ½ way up the sides of the pudding pan. Steam, keeping the pudding covered, for 3 hours, adding water as necessary to keep the level high enough. Cool and serve with your choice of traditional holiday sauces, such as rum sauce or pastel hard sauce.

Whipped Shortbread

A tray of cookies and confections can make a wonderful dessert, especially for cocktail parties, and whipped shortbread is a cookie that should never be ignored. With its melt in your mouth flavor and smooth texture, this cookie will be a favorite of all your guests.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cream 1 cup softened butter and ½ cup sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Add 1½ cups flour and ½ cup cornstarch gradually, but don't stop beating the mixture. When it's light and fluffy again, drop the batter by teaspoons onto a greased cookie sheet.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. If you like, take a piece of milk or dark chocolate and press it into the cookies while they're still hot. Cool on a wire rack before serving. This recipe makes approximately 2½ dozen cookies.

There are many more ideas for Yule desserts. From chocolate chiffon pie to Yule cakes, each and every dessert has something to offer your Yule party. You might want to consider a pie table, confection trays, or any number of combinations for offering desserts. Take into account your preparation time, the tastes of your guests, and the type of party you're having, then choose the dessert that will best compliment your own Yule festivities. Your guests will thank you for it.

First published at Helium: Delicious Desserts for a Holiday Party