Wednesday, March 31

Children's Pascha Baskets...

Sugar Plum's Basket

Presenting our little ones with baskets on Pascha is something that is relatively new to our family. When we were children, we brought a basket filled with food goodies to bring to church for the Midnight service on Saturday evening so that it could be blessed after the Liturgy. Since I am the child of converts, we didn't put in the "traditional" Paschal foods like Kulich and Cheese Paska. Our baskets were brimming with bacon, sausage, yogurt, eggs, chocolate, cheese, etc. Fr John remembers that he and his brothers filled theirs very simply... Big Macs to enjoy after the Liturgy!

Anyway, when Fr John and I had our first Pascha as a family, we created a basket with the foods that we had missed most during the fast to be blessed after the service. We have continued this tradition since then, but last year we also decided to give each of our children a basket with some gifts inside on Pascha morning after a few hours sleep. I read a post by Regina Doman awhile ago that made a lot of sense to me. She writes, "Since Easter is the most glorious feast of our Church year, I've always wanted to make a big deal about it. And to me, who loves presents, that means real presents in the Easter baskets along with the candy and stuffed bunnies. My parents made a point of always including something religious, but I love tucking useful items and fun toys into my kids' baskets as well."

Little Man's Basket

This year is our second year of creating baskets for our little ones. I decided that it was unnecessary to repeatedly buy little stuffed animals and plastic Easter grass for our little ones each year, so I gathered up the bunnies, lambs, and chicks that we had tucked here and there and hid them away so that they will be special once more on Pascha morning. I also stowed away several playsilks to serve as our "grass" (I think regular scarves or fabric would be equally beautiful). In addition, instead of buying new baskets, I am going to use ones we already have (though this was a hard one, because I was sorely tempted by the sweet ones Target is selling this year).

As far as candy goes, I buy a lot of it this time of year. I love all things Cadbury. Of course there are also the little Peeps and Lindt bunnies, lambs, bugs, and carrots to enjoy too! In order to make sure that our wee ones don't OD on sugar first thing on Pascha morning, I will only put one chocolate bunny in each of the children's baskets. The rest of the bootie will be safely tucked into a family candy basket to be doled out little by little.

Just in case you thought I was kidding about the amount of candy I get

This year, Sugar Plum will be getting new rainboots (she grew out of last year's pair), a butterfly kit, and The Man and the Vine by Jane G. Meyer. Little Man is receiving The Woman and the Wheat by Jane G. Meyer, a wooden tractor and trailer, and an Ostheimer cow (the last two items I was lucky enough to buy inexpensively from a friend). I am really excited about the children waking up to their baskets on Pascha morning!

Sunday, March 28

10 Tips for Holy Week and Pascha...

1. Make participation at the Services a priority.
2. In our homes we should strive to “keep out the world” and enter into the peace, solemnity, and theology of the events of the last days of our Lord.
3. Be sure to read the last chapters of the Holy Gospels that speak of the Passion, Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ.
4. If you are visiting another parish and wish to receive Communion, make sure that the priest knows who you are and that you are prepared. This should be done in advance by phone, email, or any other way.
5. Last year’s palms and pussy willows should be placed outside in an area to decay where they will not be disturbed. They are holy and should not be simply thrown out with the garbage.
6. Before venerating Holy Objects, such as the Cross, the Chalice, Icons, or the Winding-Sheet, make sure to wipe off your lipstick or chapstick. Reminder: we do not kiss the face of our Lord, His Mother, or the Saints; in-stead kiss the hands or feet.
7. If you haven’t yet made your Confession during Great Lent, try to make it during the beginning of Holy Week. Speak with your priest to arrange a time.
8. Try to make amends with those we may be upset with or those who are upset with us, so that on Pascha we can joyfully sing, “Let us call brothers, even those that hate us, and forgive all by the Resurrection!”
9. Try to stay after the “Midnight Service” on Pascha morning for the blessing of baskets and festive meal. Let us share in the joy of the Lord’s Resurrection with fellowship and love.
10. During Bright Week, sing or read the Paschal Hours instead of your “normal” morning and evening prayers. Let the joy of praising the Lord’s Resurrection accompany you throughout Bright Week, the Paschal season, and your whole life.

Taken from Fr John's Sunday Bulletin

Saturday, March 27

Making Crosses with Palms...

Here are some directions for making crosses with your palms from Palm Sunday!

Friday, March 26


We had two adult baptisms tonight! God Grant the Servants of God Nikolai and Sergius Many Blessed Years!

Pedicures and Sisters...

Thank you, Anna! My "Pascha Egg Red" toes are still giving me a thrill every time I spot them!

Thursday, March 25

Confession as a Social Action...

By Jim Forest
Featured Article on

It is impossible to imagine a healthy marriage or deep friendship without confession and forgiveness. If we have done something that damages a relationship, confession is essential to its restoration. For the sake of that bond, we confess what we’ve done, we apologize, and we promise not to do it again; then we do everything in our power to keep that promise.
In the context of religious life, confession is what safeguards and renews our relationship with God whenever it is damaged. Confession restores our communion with God and with each other.
It is never easy to admit to doing something we regret and are ashamed of, an act we attempted to keep secret or denied doing or tried to blame on someone else, perhaps arguing—to ourselves as much as to others—that it wasn’t actually a sin at all, or wasn’t nearly as bad as some people might claim. In the hard labor of growing up, one of the most agonizing tasks is becoming capable of saying, “I’m sorry.”
Yet we are designed for confession. Secrets in general are hard to keep, but unconfessed sins not only never go away, but have a way of becoming heavier as time passes—the greater the sin, the heavier the burden. Confession is the only solution.
To understand confession in its sacramental sense, one first has to grapple with a few basic questions: Why is the Church involved in forgiving sins? Is priest-witnessed confession really needed? Why confess at all to any human being? In fact, why bother confessing to God, even without a human witness? If God is all-knowing, then He knows everything about me already. My sins are known before it even crosses my mind to confess them. Why bother telling God what He already knows?
Yes, truly God knows. My confession can never be as complete or revealing as God’s knowledge of me and of all that needs repairing in my life.
A related question we need to consider has to do with our basic design as social beings. Why am I so willing to connect with others in every other area of life, yet not in this? Why is it that I look so hard for excuses, even for theological rationales, not to confess? Why do I try so hard to explain away my sins, until I’ve decided either that they’re not so bad, or even that they might be seen as acts of virtue? Why is it that I find it so easy to commit sins, yet am so reluctant, in the presence of another, to admit to having done so?
We are social beings. The individual as autonomous unit is a delusion. The Marlboro Man—the person without community, parents, spouse, or children—exists only on billboards. The individual is someone who has lost a sense of connection to others or attempts to exist in opposition to others—while the person exists in communion with other persons. At a conference of Orthodox Christians in France a few years ago, in a discussion of the problem of individualism, a theologian confessed, “When I am in my car, I am an individual, but when I get out, I am a person again.”
We are social beings. The language we speak connects us to those around us. The food I eat was grown by others. The skills passed on to me have slowly been developed in the course of hundreds of generations. The air I breathe and the water I drink is not for my exclusive use, but has been in many bodies before mine. The place I live, the tools I use, and the paper I write on were made by many hands. I am not my own doctor or dentist or banker. To the extent that I disconnect myself from others, I am in danger. Alone, I die, and soon. To be in communion with others is life.
Because we are social beings, confession in church does not take the place of confession to those we have sinned against. An essential element of confession is doing all I can to set right what I did wrong. If I stole something, it must be returned or paid for. If I lied to anyone, I must tell that person the truth. If I was angry without good reason, I must apologize. I must seek forgiveness not only from God, but from those whom I have wronged or harmed.
We are also verbal beings. Words provide a way of communicating, not only with others, but even with ourselves. The fact that confession is witnessed forces me to put into words all those ways, minor and major, in which I live as if there were no God and no commandment to love. A thought that is concealed has great power over us.
Confessing sins, or even temptations, makes us better able to resist. The underlying principle is described in one of the collections of sayings of the Desert Fathers:
If impure thoughts trouble you, do not hide them, but tell them at once to your spiritual father and condemn them. The more a person conceals his thoughts, the more they multiply and gain strength. But an evil thought, when revealed, is immediately destroyed. If you hide things, they have great power over you, but if you could only speak of them before God, in the presence of another, then they will often wither away, and lose their power.
Confessing to anyone, even a stranger, renews rather than contracts my humanity, even if all I get in return for my confession is the well-worn remark, “Oh, that’s not so bad. After all, you’re only human.” But if I can confess to anyone anywhere, why confess in church in the presence of a priest? It’s not a small question in societies in which the phrase “institutionalized religion” is so often used, the implicit message being that religious institutions necessarily undermine spiritual life.
Confession is a Christian ritual with a communal character. Confession in the church differs from confession in your living room in the same way that getting married in church differs from simply living together. The communal aspect of the event safeguards it, solidifies it, and calls everyone to account—those doing the ritual, and those witnessing it.
In the social structure of the Church, a huge network of local communities is held together in unity, each community helping the others and all sharing a common task, while each provides a specific place to recognize and bless the main events in life, from birth to burial. Confession is an essential part of that continuum. My confession is an act of reconnection with God and with all the people who depend on me and have been harmed by my failings, and from whom I have distanced myself through acts of non-communion. The community is represented by the person hearing my confession, an ordained priest delegated to serve as Christ’s witness, who provides guidance and wisdom that helps each penitent overcome attitudes and habits that take us off course, who declares forgiveness and restores us to communion. In this way our repentance is brought into the community that has been damaged by our sins—a private event in a public context.
“It’s a fact,” writes Fr. Thomas Hopko, rector of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, “that we cannot see the true ugliness and hideousness of our sins until we see them in the mind and heart of the other to whom we have confessed.”

A Communion-Centered Life
Attending the liturgy and receiving Communion on Sundays and principal feast days has always been at the heart of Christian life, the event that gives life a Eucharistic dimension and center point. But Communion—receiving Christ into ourselves—can never be routine, never something we deserve, no matter what the condition of our life may be. For example, Christ solemnly warns us against approaching the altar if we are in a state of enmity with anyone. He tells us, “Leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matt 5:24). In one of the parables, He describes a person who is ejected from the wedding feast because he isn’t wearing a wedding garment. Tattered clothing is a metaphor for living a life that reduces conscience to rags (Matt ch. 22).
Receiving Christ in Communion during the liturgy is the keystone of living in communion—with God, with people, and with creation. Christ teaches us that love of God and love of neighbor sum up the Law. One way of describing a serious sin is to say it is any act which breaks our communion with God and with our neighbor.
It is for this reason that examination of con-science—if necessary, going to confession—is part of preparation for Communion. This is an ongoing process of trying to see my life and actions with clarity and honesty—to look at myself, my choices, and my direction as known by God. The examination of conscience is an occasion to recall not only any serious sins committed since my last confession, but even the beginnings of sins.
Conscience is an inner faculty that guides us in making choices that align us with God’s will, and that accuses us when we break communion with God and with our neighbor. Conscience is a reflection of the divine image at the core of each person. In The Sacred Gift of Life, Fr. John Breck points out that “the education of conscience is acquired in large measure through immersing ourselves in the ascetic tradition of the Church: its life of prayer, sacramental and liturgical celebration, and scripture study. The education of our conscience also depends upon our acquiring wisdom from those who are more advanced than we are in faith, love, and knowledge of God.”
Conscience is God’s whispering voice within us calling us to a way of life that reveals God’s presence and urges us to refuse actions that destroy community and communion


Today is the beginning of our salvation,

The revelation of the eternal mystery!

The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin

As Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.

Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:

Rejoice, O Full of Grace,

The Lord is with Thee!

Wednesday, March 24

Pregnancy Update - 20 Weeks...

It has been awhile since I updated everyone on what is going on this pregnancy. Our little boy is doing well! I have been feeling him wiggle around for a few weeks now and Fr John got to feel him move this past week. We had our 20 week doctor's appointment on Tuesday and got to hear our little guy's heartbeat which is a thrill no matter how many times I get to hear it! I am measuring well and everything seems quite normal and healthy.

Emotionally, I am starting to panic about having another preterm labor, delivery, and a premature baby. I know that God is in control and that things will be fine no matter what happens and I am trying so hard to work on trusting Him. It is amazing to me that I felt fine about what happened with Little Man until now - hormones are a funny thing, aren't they? Please keep us in your prayers during this second half of our pregnancy. I need all the help I can get!

Tuesday, March 23

Fun Paschal Learning...

During Holy Week and Pascha (Easter), there are many times that the faithful hold lit candles during the services. Children inevitably want to get in on the action. Last year, we offered the little ones these battery operated versions and they were a huge success! I bought ten votives from Target for the children this year - hopefully there will be enough!

We are hoping to sprout wheat on Palm Sunday for a pretty Paschal centerpiece. We did this two weeks before Easter last year, and I was shocked at how quickly the wheat grass grew and how much Sugar Plum loved it! I think that this is the project I am looking forward to doing the most this year!

Eggs, eggs, eggs! I bought some pretty eggs to fill for a family egg hunt on Pascha morning. We'll also use these for again for our parish egg hunt on Thomas Sunday (the Sunday following Easter). Each family with children donates two dozen filled eggs for us to hide. It is so much fun!! I am also planning on trying some natural egg dying with the children on Holy Saturday. Of course, we'll have the beautiful red eggs at church after the Liturgy! I can't wait!

What are some of the things you are planning for your little ones these next few weeks?

Lenten Pilgrimage...

On the weekend of March 20-21, members of our church traveled to New Jersey for the exhibit, "Architecture as Icon" at Princeton University, and to attend the Divine Services at St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Howell and Ss. Peter & Paul Church in Manville.

After the Akathist to the Mother of God at 9:00am on Saturday, the group of ten members set off to Princeton, NJ for lunch and the exhibit at the University's Art Museum. Unfortunately, photography was not permitted in the exhibit itself. However, the impression received from the ancient icons, manuscripts, reliquaries, and other artifacts will be lasting.

Following the exhibit, the group journeyed to St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral for a short tour of the church, a stop at the bookstore, and to attend the Saturday evening Vigil service.

Saturday night was spent at Ss. Peter & Paul Church in Manville, NJ, where we attended the Sunday Divine Liturgy and Lenten Mission Vespers later that day at 4:00pm. Following a wonderful meal and fellowship in the parish hall, we set off on our return trip home.

Glory be to God for a safe, enjoyable, and spiritually profitable Lenten pilgrimage!

Sunday, March 21

Saturday, March 20

Happy Spring!

I hope that the first day of spring is gorgeous wherever you are! We are taking a road trip this weekend to see our families and show some of our parishioners beautiful churches in the area! Check back for pictures!

Friday, March 19

Minimalist Maternity Spring Wardrobe...

Long-sleeved Tees in Heather Gray, Black, and White

Denim Skirt and Khakis Skirt

Slip On Sandals

With the addition of a sweater or jacket for chilly mornings and some yoga pants for cool and rainy days at home, this should work well for the spring.

Thursday, March 18

Oh, Boy!

We had our sonogram two weeks ago and were excited to find out that we are having a healthy Baby Boy! This is the first time that we have found out the gender of our little one prior to birth, so this is new territory for us! So far, it is lots of fun!

Wednesday, March 17

This Week's Presanctified Menu...

Pasta Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing, Tortilla Chips and Salsa, and Fruit Salad

It was brought to my attention that some of my readers might not know what a Presanctified Liturgy is. Click HERE for more information.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Fruity Rainbow with Banana Gold and Marshmallow Clouds

Coloring Saint Patrick

Purple Shamrocks!

Does anyone know of an Icon of Saint Patrick coloring page?

Tuesday, March 16

Lenten Cleaning: Week Five...

This week, I'll be spending most of my time in the kitchen getting things straightened up. I didn't work on the kitchen counters or decor as I had planned on Friday and I've run out of dusting cloths that I use for the baseboards, so those things will have to be added to this week's chores. Any tips for cleaning a really filthy and stained metal sink? I'd love to just be able to snap my fingers and have it sparkle!I can't wait to get through this week's cleaning, because then the fun of Paschal clothing, baskets, flower planting, etc. starts!

March 14th: Sunday
March 15th: Pantry and Microwave
March 16th: Freezer and Refrigerator
March 17th: Stove and Oven
March 18th: Drawers and Cabinets
March 19th: Put Out Spring Decorations
March 20th: Saturday

Monday, March 15


A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

- William Wordsworth
from: I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

Sunday, March 14

Geese Before Liturgy...

I'd love to know the varieties of geese we found this foggy morning. Canadian Geese are easy to spot, but what about the others?

Pascha: The Resurrection of Christ on NBC...

Image from Jordanville's 2009 Paschal Photos

From / Mar 5, 2010

NEW YORK – The video presentation of “Pascha: The Resurrection of Christ,” a program highlighting Orthodox Christian Pascha, or Easter, will broad cast on NBC affiliates nationwide this April. The program, produced by Greek Orthodox Telecommunications and sponsored by FAITH: An Endowment for Orthodoxy and Hellenism, highlights Holy and Great Week, focusing on the deeply moving and ancient services that recount the Gospel narrative leading to the Death and Resurrection of Christ. Archbishop Demetrios of America leads a procession of the faithful around the church and outside where, following the reading of the Gospel of the Resurrection, they proclaim the joyous hymn “Christ is Risen!"

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America is working with affiliates nationwide, urging them to broadcast the program within their local area. Broadcast information will be posted as soon as it becomes available from affiliates. Below you will find a listing of NBC affiliates by state. Please check the listing for exact date, time and station. Please contact the Department of Communications if you need assistance. You may also contact the Program Manager locally to request coverage. For more information on coverage, please log on to The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese website.

Saturday, March 13

Waiting for the Birds...

This little ones are waiting impatiently for the birds to return to our area now that the weather is warming up. They love going to church early because the geese are already swimming in the water behind the building and wandering around the lawn. It will be nice to see the goslings once they hatch!

Friday, March 12

Christ Carrying the Cross...

After seeing this as inspiration, I commissioned a woodworker to create a figure of Christ Carrying the Cross. I am really happy with how it turned out! I would really like a wreath like the one Anne Voskamp's son carved, but ideally I would love to use it for the Nativity Fast (40 days), Great Lent (48 days), and Dormition Lent (14 days) so it might be tricky to create.

Rainy Day Color...

Thursday, March 11

This Week's PreSanctified Menu...

Last week, one of our guys cooked for the parish, giving me the night off! This week, I was back on with renewed effort. I made Aunt Nadia's Shrimp and Linguine, Tossed Salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing, French Bread, and Whole Fruit Bars in Grape and Tangerine...

Aunt Nadia's Shrimp and Linguine

1lb linguine
2lb raw shrimp
6 tsp. oil
6 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 can of minced clams with juice
1 cup of dry sherry
1 jar of marinara sauce
1/2/ tsp. basil
1/4 tsp. oregano

Saute shrimp, garlic, salt and pepper in oil until pink. Remove shrimp. Add can of minced clams and juice, sherry, marinara sauce, basil, and oregano. Simmer for 20 minutes. Serve hot over linguine.

Notes: I only use 1 lb of shrimp for this recipe and it is plenty for our family of four. I also substitute apple juice for the sherry.
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