happy equinox

Make/Play/Watch/Read: Happy Equinox!!

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Of all the festivities throughout the year, I think the Equinox is my favorite. I love how this usually religious festival is based on science. I also love how the Equinox heralds the change in seasons, reminding me to balance and shift with time. Plus, there are two equinoxes each year, so I can double the celebrations! Whether we’re preparing for upcoming Easter fun or knuckling down for some Autumn schnuggle time (yes, that’s my official term), Equinox is the perfect celebration to share across both Northern and Southern Hemispheres. 

A couple of fun facts about the Equinox: 

  • An equinox is the moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator, from north to south or vice versa
  • There are two equinoxes each year: the Vernal Equinox (spring) and Autumnal Equinox (fall)
  • Each equinox is calculated to the exact moment with science and mathematics. There is no special divination required. The next equinox is this Saturday, March 20, 2021.
  • The Vernal Equinox for the Northern Hemisphere is a core factor in determining our favorite Festival of Chocolate. Each year, Easter is set on the first Full Moon after the Vernal Equinox. 
  • Despite the name, the length of day and night are not exactly equal… but it’s close enough to count. You will achieve far more balance in your life if you simply go with it.    

Make: Hot Cross Buns for the Equinox

There are many myths surrounding this timely treat, none of them fully confirmed. Christians believe the buns celebrate the cross of Jesus and the spices used to anoint his body. Some even claimed the recipe dates back to a monk in England sometime around the 1500s. However, the tradition of crossed buns is older than that. Similar buns have been traced to Ancient Greece, Egypt, and Germanic practices, connected with the Goddess Eostre. There were reports of small crossed loaves found amongst the volcanic ash in Herculaneum, the second city impacted by Mt Vesuvius in 79CE. The cross has been used to represent the Wheel of Time (seasons, not fantasy novels) and various fertility deities to mark the cycle of life. (Discussed in great detail with an Italian archaeologist who loves hot cross buns at any time of year.)  

Homemade Hot Cross Buns for the Equinox
Not mine, but I am determined to make a batch just as good. / Photo by EG Mum

Now, I’m going to be absolutely honest with you: I am utterly useless at making Hot Cross Buns. In fact, any recipe with yeast is pretty much going to be my nightmare. I have a recipe my friends swear by, however, I have no photos of success from my own kitchen. Let me know how you go with it: 

Ingredients: 

  • 3 cups (520g) all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup (35g) graham flour–you can substitute wheat germ for this
  • ¼ cup (55g) packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 cup of warm water
  • 1x 7g pack of dry yeast
  • 2 large eggs (1 separated)
  • 4 tbs (55g) butter (softened)
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 cups (454g) confectioners/icing sugar
  • 1 tbs milk
  • 2 cups orange juice

Method: 

  1. In a large bowl, mix 1 cup of all-purpose flour with graham flour, brown sugar, salt, and spices. 
  2. Blend the warm water and yeast. Let it stand for 5 to 10-minutes, until foaming.
  3. In this order, stir the following into the yeast mixture: spiced flour mixture, 1 egg, 1 egg yolk, and butter.
  4. Gradually add the remaining 2 cups of the all-purpose flour, mixing it well.
  5. Scrape the dough down and cover with a clean cotton kitchen towel. Let it rise for 45 to 60-minutes, or until doubled in size. 
  6. Punch down the dough and then turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.
  7. Toss the dough until it’s smooth and no longer sticky.
  8. Roll the dough out to 1-inch thick. Cut into rounds with a floured water glass. Then cover and let rise for 30 to 35-minutes.
  9. Preheat the oven to 375oF/190oC.
  10. Combine egg white, 1 tsp of water, and 1 tsp of sugar to create a glaze. Brush the buns.
  11. Bake for 15 to 18-minutes, depending on your personal preference for appearance. 
  12. To make the icing, combine the last three ingredients in a small bowl.
  13. Use the icing to make an equilateral cross on the top of each bun.

Play: Ary and the Secret of the Seasons

Sticking with the “seasons” theme, I found a great family-friendly game: Ary and the Secret of the Seasons. It is currently available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam. The game retails for around $30 and was initially released in September 2020. It is a 3D action/adventure with dungeon puzzles similar to The Legend of Zelda franchise. While it does have an open-world feel to it, your movement is limited to how you progress through the story.

You play as Ary, a young girl in the magical world of Valdi. Ary is the daughter of the Winter Guardian and lives within one of the four regions of Valdi, each based on the four seasons. When all of Valdi is threatened with the sudden appearance of giant red crystals, Ary seeks out the other guardians and resolves the weather crisis. To aid her quest, Ary gradually receives powers to control elements of each season. As you progress through the game, you learn more about Ary’s skills and the importance of balance in nature.

There is a lot to like about Ary and the Secret of the Seasons and the highlight is definitely the dungeon-esque puzzles. I really enjoyed the use of orbs to manage her powers and gain a balance between the seasons. By the way, the imagery for these powers was playful and fun! I will be honest and say I had a bit of difficulty with the motion at first; the swinging camera triggered my motion sickness. However, this was easily fixed in the settings and had absolutely no effect on the kids. I’m just lucky, I guess.

Speaking of kids, this is a great game to share with them. It is a single-player, which means parents can be the support crew while the kids join in the action. Chatting with the developers, I learned how much this family connection was integral to game development: 

“We designed Ary to be played by the family. The parents were the kids who grew up with the games like Zelda and wanted to share that experience with their kids We believe Ary would be that game to connect the parents and the children of today.”

– Sebastien Le Touze, CEO & Game Designer of Exiin Games / Ary and the Secret of the Seasons 

I received a free copy of this game for the purpose of a review. I have received no payment and all opinions here are my own. Of the three kids, 7-year-old Zaltu really enjoyed playing the game, while 11-year-old Nefarious enjoyed the story and action but still preferred playing his Zelda games instead. As the biggest kid of all, I really enjoyed it too.

Watch: Ladyhawke (Disney+ and Amazon)

There is no better movie to capture the balance of day and night than Ladyhawke. This 1985 fantasy classic stars Michelle Pfieffer and Rutger Hauer, with Matthew Broderick as the sidekick and John Wood as the villain. Broderick is a young thief who unintentionally joins a warrior and his lady, hunted by the Bishop of Aquila. At the risk of a small spoiler, the warrior and the lady are cursed to never be truly together: by day she is a hawk, and at night he becomes a wolf.

I absolutely adore this film. We have a fantasy action romance with a dash of comedic relief from typical 1980s Broderick. The balance of day/night is an obvious concept, exaggerated by the “opposites attract” elements in the main characters. For me, it makes for a sweet and enjoyable movie to watch on your Equinox. 

Read: Cloak and Dagger: Shadows and Light (Marvel) by Bill Mantlo, Al Milgrom, Chris Claremont, Ed Hannigan (illustrator), Rick Leonardi (illustrator), Ron Frenz (illustrator) Tony Salmons (illustrator), Kerry Gammill (illustrator), and Bill Sienkiewicz (illustrator)

I have always been a Marvel girl and I will confess, Cloak and Dagger have always fascinated me as both characters and a story concept. Ty is a 17-year-old Black boy from Boston with a stutter, still learning to live with the police shooting of his friend. Tandy is a 16-year-old white girl running away from her privileged but neglected childhood. We have two complete strangers, connected only by their shared circumstances as runaways. Otherwise, they are very different from each other. Like night and day, really. Until they cross paths with Simon Marshall, a criminal chemist testing his new synthetic heroin on runaway teens with deadly results. 

Image courtesy of Marvel

Against the odds, Ty and Tandy survive the testing, however, the side effects turn them into super-powered beings. Ty becomes engulfed in darkness with a seriously dark hunger balanced only by Tandy’s presence and her brilliant glow. Ty can swallow bad guys into his darkness while Tandy can throw out daggers of light. See? Night and day? Cloak and Dagger? 

Cloak and Dagger is possibly one of the most honest depictions of the balance between night and day. It’s not all sweet harmonies and peaceful balance. We need both night and day in a raw, powerful way that does not allow any other options. Without Tandy, Ty’s hunger will overpower him. Without Ty, Tandy will overcharge with light and explode. This is the same with any light/dark balance. We cannot live on a planet in perpetual darkness, nor can we live with eternal light. It is the balance that keeps us going, and preferably without killing us.

Okay, so the Marvel comics make me all deep and pensive. Cloak and Dagger are definitely on the darker side of Marvel but still a truly enjoyable read. Do yourself a favor and pick-up the original 1983 stories with Cloak and Dagger: Shadows and Light. There is enough backstory from the earlier Spider-Man issues as well as their own adventures to round out the story for you. 

The secret to a great Equinox is to balance whatever you want to do with the other thing you want to do and make it a win-win situation. Now to sit back and plan for another Evil Genius Easter! Happy Equinox!!!

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