Monday, December 28

Christmas Cauliflower...

1 large head of cauliflower, broken into florets
1/4 cup diced green pepper
1/4 cup diced red pepper
1 jar sliced mushrooms (we also like using fresh mushrooms)
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
2 cups milk
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 tsp. salt

Cook cauliflower for 6-7 minutes in a small amount of water. Drain well. Melt butter in saucepan and saute peppers and mushrooms for 5-6 minutes. Add flour and allow to cook for 2 -3 minutes. Gradually stir in milk and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove form heat, stir in cheese, and melt. Place half of the cauliflower in a greased 2 quart baking dish and top with half the sauce. Add remaining cauliflower and sauce. Bake, uncovered at 325 degrees for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with paprika if desired. Serves 8 -10.

Saturday, December 26

The Second Day of Christmas...

Today was all about staying in our cozy house while the rain fell! We made lots and lots of chocolate chip cookies (three batches worth!) for a cookie exchange my family is having on Monday and I also made a large pan of Christmas Cauliflower (recipe tomorrow, I promise!) for my husband's family party tomorrow! I love that the Christmas festivities aren't over yet!

Thursday, December 24

Tuesday, December 22

Preparing for Nativity: Day Twenty- Two...

I am a little more than halfway done with the shopping... that doesn't sound great, but I feel okay about it (tomorrow is another day!). Our little ones were so good as we trekked hither and yon. It is starting to feel like Christmas!

Happy Birthday and Namesday, Auntie Anna! We love you!

Monday, December 21

Preparing for Nativity: Days Eighteen, Nineteen, Twenty, and Twenty One...

Things we've been up to: sickness, snow, and a beautiful Christmas tree!
On the agenda tomorrow: All the Christmas Shopping. Yes, ALL! Ugh.


Bonnet Tip: MommyLife

Sunday, December 20

A Wonderful Title, and No Real Job Description..

By Matushka Valerie G. Zahirsky

What does it mean to have a wonderful title, and no real job description? The position of the wife of a priest is exactly this. The various languages or every Orthodox country have titles of honor for the priest’s wife. Some might literally be translated as ‘priestess’, while some mean ‘wife of the priest’, and in at least one language — Russian — the priest’s wife is ‘mother’ or ‘little mother’.

So it’s clear that our Orthodox cultures have always seen the position of priest’s wife as something special. Yet there really is no “job description” for what she should do or be. This might be seen as a reason for confusion and frustration, but I think it’s more true to the nature of Orthodoxy to see it as the Church’s loving freedom, given to her children. It leaves a woman free to regard her position as a ministry which can be carried out in whatever way is most suitable and comfortable for her own character and personality. If there is no job description, there is no blueprint, either, to which any woman should feel obliged to conform.
The late Jacqueline Onassis was asked early in her husband John F. Kennedy’s presidency what she though her most important role would be as First Lady. She answered that it would be to take care of the President so that he could do his job effectively. And despite the differences in “style” of various priest’s wives, they, too, have this as their first task. Like any wife, the priest’s wife must help her husband carry out the demanding tasks that are his, not by taking part directly in those tasks, but by seeing to his physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being. If the family includes children, there are other things to be seen to. The priest’s family needs to be a healthy unit whose members’ needs are attended to. The members must also be allowed to grow through their mistakes and experimental “trying on” of various aspects of life. Most of all, there should be continual spiritual effort in the family, involving all its members.

We can say more about each of these points. First, seeing to a husband’s well-being: For a priest’s wife, this includes what it does for most wives — overseeing the diet, activities, and living conditions of her family. But it can also mean helping her husband feel confident in his ministry, encouraging him during rough times, and discerning what to tell him about the things she herself observes in the parish. Because so often there is little monetary or status-related reward for the priest’s work — as there is more likely to be in other professions — her support is particularly important.

The second point, the need for the priest’s family to be a place in which members’ needs are attended to, applies especially to the children. The demands of the priestly ministry can be — or can be allowed to become — so overwhelming that there is little time left for a busy priest to see to the needs of his own offspring. His wife is often the one who makes sure he carves out time to attend a son’s concert or a daughter’s game, and who encourages family conversation at the dinner table, as well as private talk between father and child at other times. There are many clergy wives who, while themselves holding down full-time jobs to meet material family needs, manage also to satisfy the family’s emotional needs in this way. Their heroic efforts will surely find a great reward in heaven!

The third point, that a priest’s family should be a unit whose members can make mistakes and experimentally “try on” aspects of life applies to children as well as to their parents. Green hair on the priest’s son or a little gold ring in his daughter’s naval, for example, should not scandalize the parish any more that they would if they appeared on other parish teens’ bodies. Priest’s wives need to work with their husbands to protect their children’s right to try things out, and not to let those outside the family put the children into a box of expected, impeccable, exemplary behavior — different from what is expected of any young, growing Christian. A clergy wife must also resist the temptation to impose a certain standard of behavior on her children for no other reason than “not to embarrass the family.” Good behavior should be encouraged because it will help the child have a satisfying and God-pleasing life, not because he or she is a PK (‘priest’s kid’), and therefore has a special responsibility to make the family look good. If the priest’s wife can calmly accept her children’s quirks and mistakes, she will by example help other parents to have the same flexibility and calmness. In fact, this will help them to be more accepting of people in general — a healthy trait for Christians to develop.

Finally, the fourth point: The clergy family must be a place in which there is constant spiritual effort. A clergy wife with small children knows the struggle of getting little ones dressed and ready for Liturgy on a wintry Sunday morning with no help from the husband, who left for the church some time ago to begin the preparation in the altar. She knows, too, that he won’t be standing with her during the services to hold a tired toddler or gently quiet a baby’s outburst during the sermon — because he’ll be busy giving it!

Perhaps this is the place where the priest’s wife has the most important aspect of her ministry. If she can make the effort — not always successfully — to get to the services even under difficult circumstances, and if she can show that she wants to be there, she will do a great deal for the people around her. We can be tempted to see worship as a beautiful but inessential adjunct to the “real” parts of our lives: work, home, school. But the priest’s wife, a layperson like the others in the parish, has the same responsibilities and temptations that they do. When she makes the Church and its worship central to her life, other may see that they also can do so. They may even decide that they should do so!

If the priest’s wife can encourage even one person in this way, she will have done the work of the Lord and will truly be the partner to her husband that her Orthodox title of honor calls her to be.

A noted Orthodox speaker, Matushka Valerie Zahirsky and her family live in Steubenville, Ohio. Fr. Michael Zahirsky serves as rector of St. Andrew Orthodox Church, Mingo Junction.

Friday, December 18

Memory Eternal!

Archbishop Job of Chicago and the Midwest

Archimandrite Joasaph, Head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem

Grant Eternal Rest O Lord!

Thursday, December 17

Preparing for Nativity: Day Seventeen...

Today, my husband and I talked about what we want to serve for Christmas dinner! I cannot believe that it is a week away! It will only be five of us - our family and a friend. We'll be celebrating Sunday and Monday with our extended families.

Cheese, Sausage, and Cracker Platter

Marinated Porkloin
Mashed Potatoes
Christmas Cauliflower
Green Beans and Sauteed Mushrooms
Cranberry Sauce

Wednesday, December 16

Preparing for Nativity: Day Sixteen...

Fr John's plan the next few months is to paint one room a week... so far he's done it, but Nativity will definitely derail him and I have a feeling that the fact that the motherboard on his computer all but blew up has helped. Once his new computer arrives (it was supposed to on Dec. 15th, but the delivery date has been pushed back to Dec. 30th!) and he has to get his business back on track, I think house projects will take a backseat. For now though, I am loving all of the improvements!

The office had to be totally dismantled on Tuesday afternoon. Fr John was able to get on one coat of paint last night and then he finished up this morning.

I love the color he chose!

I think that the icon corner looks particularly beautiful with some color behind it.

Preparing for Nativity: Day Fifteen...

Last night, I headed out to run a few errands after the babies were in bed. One of my stops was Barnes and Noble and I used a gift card to snag a copy of this edition of The Gift of the Magi. It is absolutely beautiful book! If you want to add a Christmas book to your collection, you might want to check this one out. I loved O'Henry's story before, but the illustrations in this book make it even more special.

Preparing for Nativity: Day Fourteen...

On Monday, I put away all of our autumn decorations and started putting out some of our Christmas decorations. My favorite thing we have out now is a pinecone garland with lots of fairy lights and our Nativity set.

Profile Picture...

Does anyone know who the artist is for my profile picture? I have a reader who would like to buy a print of it and I have no idea where to direct her. Thanks!

Sunday, December 13

Preparing for Nativity: Day Thirteen...

It is a rainy night here... perfect for snuggling under a blanket and watching Greer Garson!

Saturday, December 12

Preparing for Nativity: Day Twelve...

Little Man's second birthday was a lot of fun! He had lots of presents and a lovely little tea complete with chocolate cake before Vespers. Fr John commented when I was having a little trouble getting him to sleep the night before his birthday, that he was a lot more difficult two years ago! So true.

Friday, December 11

Preparing for Nativity: Day Eleven...

Today's activity was painting the half bathroom. Fr John gave me 100% choice in picking the color and so I went with a favorite - violet! It is a really gorgeous color! The bathroom still needs a second coat and then I'll clean it and put it back together before I show more pictures.

Tomorrow is Little Man's second birthday!

Preparing for Nativity: Day Ten...

We've really started delving into our Christmas book basket. The Little Drummer Boy is a new addition this year, and I am going to start reading my favorite Christmas book, The Lion in the Box, to the children soon! What are your favorite Christmas books?

Wednesday, December 9

Preparing for Nativity: Day Nine...

Today nearly slipped by without any preparations for Nativity, but we did manage to take down the autumn wreath and replace it with our wintry pinecone one. Despite the fact that it was a balmy 60 degrees today, I also hung wooden snowflakes from our dining room light!

Tuesday, December 8

Preparing for Nativity: Day Eight...

For each of the four fasting periods of the Liturgical Year (Nativity Fast , Great Lent, Apostles Fast, and Dormition Fast), I try to deep clean the house. Though I had my cleaning schedule all mapped out beginning December First, I really only started today. The little ones and I cleaned the master bathroom, our family closet, and master bedroom. I was also able to line the drawers in the bathroom vanities, which is something that I've wanted to do for awhile. We weeded out some clothing that no longer fit and tossed some of the junk that always seems to accumulate - no matter how vigilant I try to be!

Lest you think it was all cleaning and no fun, we went to story hour today which is the highlight of my children's week! Miss Allison handed out jingle bells to dance and jump around with, read Bear Stays Up for Christmas, and helped all the children make handprint Christmas Trees and decorate them with sticker ornaments!

Monday, December 7

Preparing for Nativity: Day Seven...

I had the bright idea to DVR all Christmas movies that come on the next few weeks to show the children. ABC had on Santa Claus is Coming to Town tonight, so we started to watch it and got as far as the Winter Warlock appearing before the little ones were terribly frightened and I had to delete Fred and Mickey for fear mongering.

Saturday, December 5

Preparing for Nativity: Day Five...

The mantle is done!

The Power of Positve Thinking...

Said Sugar Plum to me upon waking and seeing the sky thick with clouds and hearing a steady drum of rain hitting the window panes:

"Mama, it looks like a good day to jump in puddles!"

Silent Monks Singing Halleluia...

Friday, December 4

Preparing for Nativity: Day Four...

Happy Namesday, Little Man! God Grant You Many Years!

Little Man had such a nice namesday! We began with opening presents in bed early this morning, which was not something that we have done before (usually, we wait until we have dessert in the late afternoon or evening), but I am so glad that we did! He and his sister played with his gifts (a cascade tower, fire engine book, and little tradesmen) he received all day long (I just found his sister asleep with one of them clutched in her arms!). Our special dessert today was apple crisp made with double the crisp! Yum!

Thursday, December 3

Preparing for Nativity: Day Three...

Today was a fun day! While the children napped, I wrapped up gifts for Little Man's namesday (which is tomorrow!!), Saint Nicholas Day (December 6th), and my Secret Santa in my mom's group. After dinner, we went to see a Christmas Parade in a nearby town which was so much fun! Both of the children loved everything, and it was perfect for Little Man because it was an endless caravan of different vehicles decked out in lights, tinsel, and wreaths! I think the highlights for them were the fire engines and the High School Marching Band! What Christmas events do you attend in your area?

Wednesday, December 2

Preparing for Nativity: Day Two...

Well, the mantle is nearly done! I am so pleased with how it looks! The photo doesn't do it justice... it was taken with the cellphone.

We also put away out Autumn and Thanksgiving books today and swapped them out for our Christmas books and some of our Winter ones. I think that we are missing a few, but I suspect that they are boxed away with the Christmas decorations. We'll find out in a few weeks when those are unearthed from the basement.

Vegan Banana Bread...

I made this bread on Monday afternoon and it was gobbled up so quickly, that I made another loaf after the children were in bed last night. It is so delicious!

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups white granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
3/4 t. baking soda
3/4 t. salt
3/4 t. cinnamon
1/2 cup almond milk
1 t. apple cider vinegar
2 cups mashed banana, from about 4 large very ripe bananas
1/4 cup canola oil
1 t. vanilla extract
cinnamon sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly oil a 9"x5" loaf pan and set aside.
2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugars, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the almond milk and cider vinegar and let stand for 2 minutes. Add the mashed banana (I've used a food mill with great results), canola oil, and vanilla extract, whisking until well combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing until just combined (do not over-mix!). Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top (it makes a lovely crust for the bread). Bake for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean. Allow the bread to cool on a wire cooling rack for 20 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, December 1

Preparing for Nativity: Day One...

Last year, I really enjoyed the Preparing for Nativity series I began on December 1st, so I've decided to do it again!

We are starting out our preparations with a BANG! Fr John and I picked up the materials necessary to build a mantle yesterday, and have begun the project today. I think that Fr John will have the majority of the work of putting it together done tonight, so I imagine that we'll have it all finished by the end of the week. It will be so exciting to hang our stockings this Christmas! Hopefully, I'll be able to take some pictures soon - sadly, I dropped the camera last night and broke the lens:(

Living and Learning for December...

Alfie's Feet, Shirley Hughes
Saint Alexander
Saint Nicholas
Saint Herman of Alaska
Saint Lucia

Finalize Plans for Little Man’s Namesday and Birthday
Christmas Shopping and Present Wrapping
Christmas Card Creation, Addressing, and Mailing
Christmas Decorating
Christmas Tree
Paint Half Bathroom, Nursery, and Nursery Bath
Mantle for the fireplace (and Stockings!!)
Follow Cleaning and Activity Plan to Prepare for Nativity
Solidify Plans for the 12 Days of Christmas

Read Alouds
Christmas Books

Jan Brett
Saint Nicholas
Nativity and the Twelve Days of Christmas

Establish a Firm Evening Routine for After Dinner: A Craft, Games or Puzzles, Bathtime, Prayers, Books, and Bed

Special Days
2nd Full Oak Moon
3rdth Uncle Greg’s Birthday
4th Little Man’s Namesday
8th Auntie Katharine’s Namesday
12th Little Man’s 2nd Birthday
19th Uncle Nicolas’s Namesday
22nd Auntie Anna’s Birthday and Namesday
31st Little Man’s Hospital Homecoming Anniversary

Practice Being Still and Quiet during Prayers and Services
Singing – “Our Father”
The Sign of the Cross for Little Man
Tidying up Toys after Play
Tidying the floor after meals using the dust buster
Nature table scene
Christmas book basket
Go to Story Hour Weekly
Messy Art at the Local Bookstore
Christmas Parade
Winter Wonderland of Lights Display
Living Nativity
Children’s Christmas Party with Our Local Mom’s Group
Lacing Cards
Caring for Our Fish
The Tree of Jesse – Christmas Preparation and Nativity Celebration
Christmas Vacation Fun (?)
Decorating the Children’s Christmas Tree
Children’s Nativity Play Set

Saturday, November 28

Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.
-C. S. Lewis

Sleeping Beauty, Jessie Wilcox Smith

Friday, November 27

Happy Thanksgiving!

And as (Jesus) entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.
-St. Luke 17:12-19

We began the day with a Thanksgiving Moleben at my father's church and ended it with a sing-a-long around my parent's piano! I hope that your day was as wonderful as ours was!

Wednesday, November 25

Beeswax Ornaments...

I found this craft at Homemade Serenity via Frontier Dreams withing the past two weeks. I knew immediately that this was how I wanted to use up the beeswax candle stubs that we had been collecting for months! Since we were using leftover beeswax, the craft was pretty cheap. I bought two of the candy molds at Michaels ($1.99 each) and some hemp twine (I think that was around $3). The directions at Homemade Serenity are really helpful and very clear. The only thing that I would add is that taping the twine to the mold helps a lot. I think the best part of this craft is that you can keep melting and re-melting your beeswax until you get ornaments that you are happy with. I am definitly going to be doing this again!

Oh, if your church burns beeswax candles, you might ask your priest if you can have the stubs from the candle stand. I *think* that you can strain the sand and string out of the wax. I am going to try this and let you know.

Monday, November 23

Learning Basket: Thanksgiving...


The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple...

After the success of our St Michael's Day Party earlier this month, Fr John and the parents of the children in church decided that it was time to start church school. Aside from one seven year old, the rest of the children are three and under. Because of this, we've decided to make our church school a sort of co-op where we all help out and there isn't just one teacher.

Yesterday was our "official" start and the topic was the Feast of The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, which we celebrated on Saturday. We had the seven year old read Mother Melania's book and then I read The Story of Mary the Mother of God to everyone while they worked on coloring the icon for the feast (the younger children didn't do much, but the older ones did a beautiful job and we had the seven year old try to copy the colors that were used in the real icon of the feast. The children had some of the Litiya bread leftover from the Vespers on Saturday night. Finally, we decorated candles with colored beeswax and the children will light them the next time that they are in church. Our next session is for St Nicholas Day on December 6th!

Beginning Week Two...

We finished up the first week of the Nativity Fast on Saturday night. Things have gone pretty smoothly with the readings, coloring pages, and candle. We've found that reading before bedtime is not working out too well. Our children are really quite wild right before bed and are not able to listen and concentrate on serious read-alouds. I am going to try reading to them before naptime this week and see if that helps (they are both often much calmer at 11:30 am right before being tucked in for naps!). I printed two copies of each of the coloring pages for this past week and have discovered that Little Man is just not into coloring yet. Sugar Plum really enjoyed coloring after dinner or when she is relaxing before bed, so that's what we've been going with. Finally, I was much too frugal with our candle this week! I am going to try to light it when it gets dark at about 4:30 or 5 and let it burn until Fr John lights the lampadas in our icon corners in the evening.

Saturday, November 21

The Manhattan Declaration...

Joyous Feast!

Today is the preview of the good will of God,
Of the preaching of the salvation of mankind.
The Virgin appears in the temple of God,
In anticipation proclaiming Christ to all.
Let us rejoice and sing to her: Rejoice,
0 Divine Fulfillment of the Creator's dispensation.

-Troparion for the Feast of the Presentation of the Theotokos-

Tuesday, November 17

Troy Polamalu...

Despite being Giants fans, our favorite player is Troy Polamalu.How can you not love someone who has a great personality, plays well AND is an Orthodox Christian unafraid to share his Faith?!

Monday, November 16


When it comes to window treatments for this house, we've been pretty stumped. We really like the shades that were left in this house from the previous owners, but they left the top of the windows bare. Fr John thought of cornices, searched the diy network's website, and found directions. These two beautiful cornices are the fruits of his labor on Friday night and Saturday morning. We hung them last night and that was the trickiest part! I'd like to do the rest of the windows downstairs this way.

Do you think that is overkill?

The Ocean in November...

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