Monday, May 31

Food for the Fast...

With everyone posting their menus for the Apostle's Fast on their blogs, I decided not to be left behind! I came up with a list of dishes that either are very simple or make a lot and can be re-heated. There are quite a few things on this list that can be found in the freezer section of the market. Many families probably don't want to eat pre-made foods, but we've found that eating a veggie burger along with a re-heated bowl of soup or a plate of salad simplifies things for us enormously. We will be also taking advantage of the lovely fruits and veggies that are popping up at roadside stands and farmers markets. I will put the links to the recipes or foods that I can, so that you can click on them if you like!

Saturday, May 29

Fast-Free Friday...

.:Ranch Dip jazzed up with Bacon and Green Onions, served with Veggies:.

Since yesterday was one of the few fast-free Fridays (in honor of Pentecost) of the year, we made it special by grilling steaks, eating lots of yummy potatoes, and enjoying Fr John's favorite dip and veggie platter. My husband had to go to the grocery store for a few odds and ends and came back with ice cream. It was a great night! Plus, we get to enjoy leftovers for lunch today:)

What did you eat?

Friday, May 28

Friday's Feminine Tip: Making Every Meal Special...

.:The table set for a business lunch for my husband:.

When I was growing up, my father loved to read Miss Manners books (now you know where I get it, right?). One of the things that he learned from her books and often commented on was her command that no commercial packaging should be allowed on the table. I am certainly someone who has been known to plop a ketchup bottle on the table or the milk carton and cereal box, but I truly love sitting at a table where these things are decanted into other vessels. I notice that I am very careful about keeping commercial packaging off the table when we have guests and not so cautious when our family is sitting down to eat together.

.:Plates waiting for grilled sausage sandwiches:.

One of the things that I would like to get back to is to make every meal that our family eats special. I recently read the play, Our Town, by Thorton Wilder. The main theme of the play is to appreciate every day life. As a busy mom of little ones, it is so tempting to rip a paper towel off the roll, plop a bit of food onto a paper plate, and shove it in the general direction of a hungry kid. There are times when this is appropriate (such as right now while I am supposed to be taking it easy and Fr John is in charge of dish washing and ninety million other things). However, when I make this a habit, what does that say to my husband and children? I think that it says "I have to feed you and I want to get it over with as soon as possible, so eat."

.:Parsley garnishing homemade potato salad:.

When I take the time to set a lovely table for our meals together, it shows that I care about what I am doing. It tells my husband that I appreciate the work that he is doing to put food on our table. It shows my children that I love them and enjoy being their mother. It helps me remember that making food for my family three or more times a day is not a monotonous chore that I can't stand, it is part of my calling in life. Setting a pretty table is a little more work for me. There are napkins to wash, dry, and fold and a few more dishes to wash. But you know what? I wash, dry, and fold laundry every day. What is a few more pieces of cloth? I rinse, load the dishwasher, and put dishes away every day. What does it matter if I add a couple more things to the pile?

.:Ranch Dressing, Bleu Cheese Dressing, and Mustard:.

It certainly takes a little more forethought to make our meals special, but I find that the extra effort is worth it. Mealtimes can become a time that we all look forward to and enjoy, rather than dread. I hope that our children remember our meals with fondness when they grown older. I know that I certainly treasure the memories of the lovely meals that I shared with my parents, sisters, and brother.


Here are some of the things that I like to use when I set a pretty table:

  • A centerpiece - flowers, a plant, candles, or even a pretty basket are nice choices
  • Pyrex containers - these are great because leftovers can stay in the containers and a lid can be added to keep things fresh
  • Ramekins and pitchers - excellent for condiments, dressings, milk, etc.
  • Cloth napkins - so much nicer than paper! I like dark napkins to hide stains
  • Napkin Rings - If every family member has their own, napkins can be used for the day rather than just one meal (as long as they aren't too messy)
  • Fresh Herbs - These are great for cooking, but don't forget garnishing the finished dishes with them
  • Tablecloths, runners, chargers, and/or placemats - linens for the table add so much
  • Coasters - essential if your table is made of wood
Check Out Meredith's blog post from awhile ago for more good ideas:
Live Well on Less: Breakfast

Do you try to make mealtimes special? What are your tips?

Thursday, May 27

It Figures...

I finally took the winter bedding off of all of our beds. The feather duvets are aired and folded, the lambswool rugs are added to the pile, and our beautiful white duvet cover has been washed, and readied to be tucked into the cedar chest my parents gave me for my eighteenth birthday. Of course, now that this is all done, we find that it will be a chilly the next few days. It never fails!

Wednesday, May 26


.:Birthday Garland in Sugar Plum's favorite colors:.

.:Birthday plant from Papa and Little Man:.

.:Vanilla birthday cake with pink cream cheese frosting and strawberries:.

.:The much longed for birthday scooter:.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Girl! We love you so much!!

Pregnancy Update - 30 Weeks...

I had my weekly doctor's appointment yesterday. I was given my third progesterone shot and another fFN test (the results haven't come back yet, but I will update when they do) and the doctor found that our little guy is much lower than he was last week. I am hoping that he takes after his sister who was just as low, but wasn't born until I was induced three weeks after she dropped. We'll see what happens!

Update: The nurse called back and told me that the fFN test came back negative!!! I still have to take it easy (and no trip to New Jersey for Memorial Day... Boo!), but there is only a 2% chance that we will go into labor within the next two weeks. YAY!

Monday, May 24

Blueberry Buckle...

The little ones and I whipped up Blueberry Buckle yesterday after dinner (don't worry, it was the only thing that I did besides church all day) and I am so glad that we did. The recipe was easy and the results are delicious! I am planning on enjoying a piece with a hot cup of tea and a good book during naptime! I'll be making cupcakes for Sugar Plum's birthday on Wednesday and I really want to make these Peanut Butter Brownies before the Apostle's fast begins on Monday.

What is your favorite thing to bake?

Friday, May 21

Friday's Feminine Tip: Pretty Pajamas...

.:Floral Rose Nightgown:.
To be perfectly honest with you, I am very guilty of throwing on a pair of yoga pants and a tee shirt when it is time to go to bed. Obviously, stretchy clothes are very comfortable to sleep in, but they are certainly not feminine! I love looking at sleepwear websites for inspiration and around this time for year I start to want to revamp my pajama drawer.

.:Bridal Gown:.
There are quite a few options for pretty pajamas and nightgowns out there. One place that I can often find nice things is Target. I have found that they often carry sleepwear that is feminine, reasonably priced, comfortable, and easy to care for. April Cornell, Victorian Classics, and Amolia Mae are also all retailers that have beautiful pieces in their sleepwear collections.

.:Music Ladies Pajamas:.
Spring, summer, and fall are the perfect seasons to refresh your sleepwear wardrobe. Crisp cottons and soft knits in gorgeous colors and prints are readily available and are also so nice to sleep in as the nights get warmer. Take some time this week to look through your pajamas so that the next time you spot a pretty nightgown or pajama set, you can add it to your wardrobe.

Homecoming Outfits...

My sister bought these two sweet little outfits for our new baby to wear his first few weeks. Look at the exquisite detail on the baby gown! The hard part now is to decide which outfit to use for our little one's homecoming and which to use prior to his baptism!

Celebrating Pentecost...

By Matushka Ioanna Callinicos Rhodes

After the Ascension of Christ the disciples were eagerly awaiting the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem as was promised them by Christ. They had no clue as to when this occurrence was going to happen. They never realized what the impact of that moment was going to be and how it was going to affect them. Finally, ten days after the Ascension, the Holy Spirit descended as in tongues of fire over them, and a new life was given to them. They were filled with wisdom and knowledge never known to them before. It is the Wisdom that can only come from the Grace of the Holy Spirit himself. It is this Grace that renews our life.

In Christ’s Resurrection we receive the “New” Pascha (Passover), Christ passing over from death to life. It is not the old Passover of the Old Testament, which commemorates the deliverance from the Angel of Death as he passed by the Jewish homes, but the actual destruction of death. It was not by accident that the Crucifixion and Resurrection occurred at the same time as the Jewish Passover. The two had to be connected.

In much the same way, the descent of the Holy Spirit was connected to the Old Testament Pentecost (Shavu’ot). This period is counted from the second day of the Jewish Passover for seven weeks which equals 49 days + 1 day to equal the fiftieth day. Originally this day was the day the first fruits of the harvest were brought to the temple. Later on it became the time that commemorated the giving of the Torah (the Law). The Jews see this as being redeemed spiritually from bondage to idolatry and immorality.

The fiftieth day is considered to be that of new beginnings. The Jews see this as a season to be redeemed spiritually from bondage to idolatry and immorality. Also, in ancient times, Jews would plant trees for each newborn child; a cedar for a boy, a cypress or pine for a girl. Today in Israel, it is customary to plant trees and play outdoor games. In other countries: oranges, figs, dates, raisins, pomegranates, and, other fruits that grow in Israel are eaten by Jews.

With this background, one can see why the giving and descent of the Holy Spirit had to be on the fiftieth day after Pascha. Indeed, the new Pentecost transformed the old! In the old Pentecost we had the giving of the Law. The sages of the Old Testament make the distinction between the giving of the Torah (Law) and the receiving of the Torah (the Law). They say that man is constantly in the process of receiving the Torah (the Law), that it is received every day, but that it was given at this appointed time.

In the “New” Pentecost we have the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the giving of the Grace and Wisdom of God. It is no more God’s Law but God’s Grace which bestows His Wisdom that is being received—and we are continuously in the process being filled with the Grace at every moment. It truly is “The New Beginning” and the beginning of “New Life.”

Historically, it was also during this time period when many were baptized and were the newly enlightened ones ( νεοφωτιστοι − neophotisty = neophytes). It was the start of a “new” beginning for them. This is the reason Pentecost was referred to as Whitsuntide, because of all those who were baptized and who wore their white baptismal garments . It is referred to as “Wisdom Sunday,” also, because the Holy Spirit is the “Wisdom of God” as mentioned before.

In the Ukraine it is known as “Green Sunday” and in Poland as the ‘Green Feast.” The color green symbolizes “New Life,” again, a new beginning but now it is in the Grace of the Holy Spirit. Greenery and flowers are brought into the home and into the church. In some parts of Greece it is customary to break off branches from walnut trees and/or flowers, and placed on the floor of the church to kneel on during the kneeling prayers. In Russia it is common to have flowers, green grass or hay on the floor for the same purpose. Many times the laity brings bouquets of flowers to hold during the service. The church is completely dressed and decorated in greenery. The vestments, altar covers and any other church cover are all green. It is the celebration of the renewal of the earth.

Thursday, May 20

Strawberry Day!

When my father was a little boy, his mother had the tradition of serving strawberry shortcake for dinner one night a year when the strawberries were ripe. My sister came up today and very sweetly took the little ones to the farm to pick their own strawberries this afternoon (something I thought that they'd miss out on this year). We decided that today was the perfect day to carry on Grandma Judy's Strawberry Shortcake Dinner tradition and the children practically licked their plates clean! Yum! Auntie Anna and I are already looking forward to seconds after everyone is tucked in for the evening!

Wednesday, May 19

Celebrating Pentecost with Children...

With Pentecost just a few days away, I've been thinking about ways that we can celebrate the feast with our children this year. In the Orthodox Church, the liturgical color for the feast is green (which represents the color of new life) and the symbol of the Holy Spirit that we focus on is the tongues of fire. Many of the ideas that I have come up with are quite simple and can be accomplished with very little preparation and work. In our family, things usually go better if I keep things quick and easy... it is not difficult to get overwhelmed!
  • Wear outfits with shades of green to Liturgy.
  • Bring flowers and greenery to church to hold during Kneeling Vespers.
  • Decorate family icon corners with greenery.
  • Sing the Troparion of the Feast for the prayer before meals.
  • Read The Feast of Pentecost and the story of Pentecost from a children's Bible with the children.
  • Display the Pentecost Icon on your feastday shelf. If you don't have one, print a coloring page and color it in!
  • Serve green foods for lunch and dinner. I am thinking about Chicken Caesar Salad for lunch and Homemade Pizza with Alfredo Sauce, Broccoli, and Sausage for dinner.
If you are looking for some more ideas (especially from the Roman Catholic perspective), head over to Jessica's blog to read about some things that she will be doing with her little ones! I love her suggestions for flying kites and enjoying a cake with strawberries and candles for desert! If you have any traditions for this feast, I would enjoy hearing them!

Fun Mail...

My mother sent the best thing to the children a few days ago. She is a preschool teacher and totally geared toward little ones and knows just what they like! She wrote each of our children a little story on fun paper - Sugar Plum's was about something her naughty mama did when she was a little girl (it involved the theft of candy at a little shop! Are you properly horrified?) and Little Man's was a story about our beloved kitty, Pippi. It was so sweet of my mom to do that! My mother told us so many stories when we were growing up and I would love for her to write some of them down for all of the grandchildren to enjoy!

Tuesday, May 18

Clean Up, Clean Up, Everybody Clean Up!

The past week or so, things have been pretty relaxed around here when it comes to picking up toys. I honestly have no idea what the upstairs rooms in our house look like (and I don't want to!). One thing that has been working like a charm for us lately is to play some clean-up songs to help move things a long in the evening and get the downstairs a bit more presentable. Our favorites so far are The Wubbulous World of Dr Seuss Clean Up Song and The Happy Working Song from Enchanted. I anticipate that clean-up songs won't work forever (or even until the baby comes), but the important thing is that they are keeping us all sane right now!

Do you have a favorite way to get encourage happy cleaning in young children?

Pregnancy Update - 29 Weeks...

We had a doctor's appointment today and got some good news! My doctor thinks that it would be fine for me to modify my bedrest a little bit this week. I am now allowed to prepare simple meals for the family and take the children outside into our yard. I still have to be cautious and I need to drink lots of water, rest frequently, and be sure not to get to overheated. I am happy about this, because it will be a lot easier on Fr John to not have to put together meals and it will also help the children (and me!) to be able to have time out-of-doors each day. I am hoping to go to church this weekend as well. We are going to take things one day and one week at time:)

Monday, May 17

Invisible Priest...

A comment reported on the Portland, Maine, television station, Channel 6:

"We could take a cue from Orthodoxy, whose priests stand with their backs to their congregation, leading a liturgy that is neither clever nor impassioned, but simply beautiful, like stone smoothed by centuries of rhythmic tides. It's an austere ritual, in the sense of - there's nothing new here; it's sublime, in the sense of - creating a clearer view into Heaven. The priest can be any priest. Who he is, what he looks like, how he speaks, and what he thinks matter little. He hasn't written the service that he officiates. It isn't about him or his prowess. He's an interchangeable functionary draped in brocaded robes, obscured by incense, and, as such, never points to himself, a flawed human, pointing ever and only to the Perfection of the Mysterious Divine. That is the role of every priest or preacher - invisibility, while making God seen."

What We've Been Up To...

Paper towels and toilet paper make great toys!

Sunday, May 16

The Servant Lord...

By Very Reverand Vladimir Berzonsky

"Now there was a dispute among [the apostles] as to which of them should be considered the greatest...'But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be like the younger, and he who governs as he who serves...Yet I am among you as the One who serves'"- Luke 22:24,26

Jesus performed the demeaning act of washing the feet of His disciples in order to challenge the attitude of pride that afflicted them in jockeying for status over one another. It is imperative that spiritual leadership be expressed in humility. The leaders are to lead in displays of meekness, gentleness and acts of kindness. These are the ways of holiness. To be like the Lord Jesus is to imitate His humbleness. It's not an attribute that comes easily to Americans.

Consider the qualities defining the various nations of the western world. We speak of English reserve. Scotch frugality. We may know a good German or an honest Dutchman. The French boast of their glory: "la gloire du nom francais." We have heard of a true Irishman and the loveliest of all such national titles, Holy Russia. Our nation never seems to tire of the self-labeled attribute: Proud American. "Proud to be an American." We are a people unashamed to praise ourselves over all the things we are proud of: Proud Parent of an Honor Student at [insert school]. Proud Owner of [something or other]. Proud [fill in state or sports team].

Even as I write this, I wonder if it will be read by fellow Americans with dismay and even resentment. Pride defines who we are. Never mind that our Lord, God and Savior expects another set of attributes from us. For Him humility is the flip side of pride, and yet it doesn't appear to matter all that much for us. A basic ingredient of pride is self-confidence. We'll decide who we are, what we believe and how we'll prioritize our value system.

Can you imagine that we Orthodox Christians might also campaign for the right to call our nation Holy America? Who would march with us? Where would we begin to make such a statement to the press and public? And how long would it be before we would attract notice as another weird group looking for attention from the media? And yet an argument might be raised to justify such a goal which for many or even most could be considered quixotic at best, perhaps even ridiculous. We attend a holy Church. We worship a holy Trinity. We understand ourselves to be a holy people who honor our holy God and blessed saints. Why not live in a holy nation?

I would argue that like our Lord Jesus Christ we are called to make public, or in scriptural terms, to evangelize the gospel given to us to promulgate. Even though we are more comfortable keeping our beliefs to ourselves, treating our parishes like monasteries shut off from the world outside our walls, this attitude itself is not what our Lord wants or expects from us. Let us agree with the criticism and do something about it. What do we do when we bring the non-Orthodox to the true faith in Christ? Teach them the real meaning of the Bible. Explain the workings of the Holy Spirit through history from Pentecost to the present. Show them how to pray. Point out the beauty and glory of iconography and the veneration of icons. But is it not the main purpose to lead them into holiness? The life in Christ that becomes Christ's life in us, adoption into the Holy Family of the Trinity, learning what it is like to call the Almighty "Father," "Abba"? How can that be if we are not holy ourselves? And if we love our fellow citizens, do we not want the very best for them? In humble faith, let us say: "Lord have mercy on us. Teach us the joy of humility."

Saturday, May 15


Yesterday, I took a quick break from the couch to go outside. Since it was a nice warm day, we decided to free our butterflies. This project was really worth it and I hope that we can make it an annual adventure. They were so easy to care for and I know that the children will get more out of the project each year that we do this.

A week or so ago, I set up our butterfly reading shelf with some of our favorite butterfly books. My favorite in this group is Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert. The children LOVE Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Also on the shelf is a beloved Monarch butterfly puppet by Folkmanis.

A few years ago, my sister gave us a butterfly garland which we've hung in the spring and summer ever since. I love how it looks on our mantle.

Bishop Michael's Consecration...

It is hard to believe that it is just over a week since Bishop Michael's Consecration (it seems a lot longer!). Here are some photographs that Father John took from one side of the church. I think that some of them offer a unique perspective, since he was able to take a few from inside the altar.

.:The church of Ss. Peter and Paul:.

.:Metropolitan Jonah entering the church:.

.:Bishops entering the church:.

.:The Vesting of Metropolitan Jonah:.

.:The Deacons that Served for the Consecration:.

.:The Consecration:.

.:Bishop Michael:.

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