Tuesday, July 31

First Grade at Home...

I am in the midst of preparing for our second year of homeschooling!  Last year, we went with Sonlight K, and while it was a good program, we found that it didn't really fit our family.  So, for our first grade year, we are planning on doing things a little bit differently.   I have chosen the books and tools that we are going to be using and we are eagerly awaiting their arrival. Once they come, I will begin to plan out the year probably using a color-coded progress list similar to Sarah's.  Here is our curriculum:

Math:  Horizons 1

Language Arts:  Daily Language Review, Explode the Code 1 and 1.5, Daily Journal Writing

Handwriting:  Draw Write Now 1

Read Alouds:  Complete Little House on the Prairie Series ( we are currently reading By the Shores of Silver Lake), Charlotte’s Web, Henry Huggins, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Understood Betsy, The Year of Miss Agnes, Boxcar Children (the first few books), Little Pear, Homer Price, The Magic Tree House (the first few books), Ramona Books (the first few), The Secret Garden, and more!

History:  Kaya, Felicity, Josephina, and Addy Books as well as extra books and activities for each time period and Wee Sing America

Geography:  State Notebook Pages (still fleshing this out!)

Art: Drawing from Draw Write Now and Knitting

Gym: Swimming Lessons and Daily Outside Time

Music: Bach, Mozart, Chopin, Strauss, Tchaikovsky, and Stravinsky (Music and Books on the Composer)

I am sure that we will have to tweak things here and there, but we are all hoping for another happy year spent learning at home!

Monday, July 30

Creating A Child-Friendly Environment: Icon Corners...

If you have ever entered the home of an Orthodox Christian, you have probably noticed that they have icons hanging in most rooms of their home.  This past week, Father John was able to hang up two small corner shelves in the children's bedrooms that we found at Home Depot (for less than $8 each).  The little ones were thrilled about this because they had been using their windowsills for their icons and having a corner shelf in their bedroom like the one we use for our family icon corner in Father John's office seems much more special!  We allowed the little ones to choose icons that they liked from our collection, picked flowers for small vases, and bought battery operated votive candles for them to light at night.  Father John hung the shelves relatively low to the ground, but the older two children still have to stand on a small stool to reach them.  We did this for two reasons:  first, the children are growing and we didn't want to have to move the icon corner up too quickly and secondly, we want the children to realize that icons are not toys and should be treated respectfully.

About four years ago, I blogged about putting icons low to the ground for little ones to venerate.  We had used blue poster putty for the job and we had such a hard time getting it off of the walls of the house that we were renting.  These small shelves seem like they will be much better!  I still dream about my husband making a tiny icon stand for our little ones!  Maybe someday!

Sunday, July 29


Where shall we set up camp?" Nutmeg said.

"How about just over there, under that clump of nettles?" suggested Tumtum. "so long as we're under stinging nettles, the children won't trample on us.  But we'll still be close enough to keep an eye on them."

"Good idea," Nutmeg agreed.  "And we can light our campfire behind that pebble.  we shall be completely hidden."

So the Nutmouses heaved their things through the long grass and started setting up camp.

Although Tumtum hesitated to admit it, everything was very luxurious.  The General's tent was well proportioned - bigger than the butler's pantry at Nutmouse Hall, and tall enough to stand up in - so the Nutmouses did not have to squeeze together as some campers do.

Tumtum blew up the inflatable mattresses, and Nutmeg made up their beds with feather sleeping bags and soft pillows.  Then they unfolded the picnic table and laid it with plates and glasses and silver candlesticks, and damask table napkins embroidered with the Nutmouse family crest.  Ans after that, Tumtum made a big fire out of twigs while Nutmeg marinated some earwigs for dinner.

Emily Bearn

Saturday, July 28

Ten Short Exhortations to Spiritual Children...

By Archpriest Gregory Ponomarev

1. If you know something, keep quiet.
2. If you hear something, keep quiet.
3. Do not interfere in other people’s conversations.
4. Reply to questions, but do not talk much.
5. When you want to do something, think it over alone and with prayer; do not tell anyone about it until you have done it.
6. Do not point out people’s shortcomings.
7. If your self-love has been hurt or if you have been reproached, hold your tongue.
8. If you are wronged, say so quietly and calmly. 
9. Do not express yourself sharply and do not get agitated.
10. Look at everything like this: “As God grants! Such is His holy will.” Always remember God, the Mother of God, and pray.

Friday, July 27

July's Nature Table...

::Our little table::

::Black-Eyed Susan from our yard::

::An illustration from Summer by Gerda Muller::

::A jar filled with sand and a few tiny shells::

Thursday, July 26

Learning How to Knit...

While my sister was here, I began to think about how much Sugar Plum and I have wanted to learn how to knit.  When we lived in our last neighborhood, there was a group of older ladies that would meet to knit once a month, but I never could quite get it together to go to their meetings.  I decided to do a quick Google search to see if there were any yarn shops in the area that held classes and lo and behold, I found one in our town that is run by a homeschooler!  She has a shop above her parent's garage (she also teaches violin there!) and holds knitting sessions every Saturday afternoon from 1 - 3!  I am very excited about this and plan to have a knitting date with Sugar Plum on a regular basis.  The shop also caters to spinning (on spindles like my sister's and on spinning wheels!).  I foresee many happy hours in my future with our little girl!

Tuesday, July 24

Learning How to Use a Drop Spindle...

My sister, Kate, was visiting us for a few days with her husband and their little one this past weekend.  While she was here, she took some time to teach Sugar Plum how to use a drop spindle!  Kate has been teaching herself how to spin yarn for the past few months and is already making a little dress for her baby to wear out of her homemade yarn!  Sugar Plum made a little bit of green yarn and then they worked on making some pink.  It was so much fun that we may try it on our own sometime soon!

Monday, July 23

The Blessing of Automobiles and Bicycles...

 From Father John's Weekly Bulletin, Source Unknown.

In these days when “road rage” seems to be such a problem, it might do us some good to think about our own attitudes when we drive. As in all other aspects of life, we are not responsible for the behavior of others, but we are responsible for ours, and driving in traffic is not too unlike every other human interchange. Nevertheless, driving, somehow, seems to be able to release in us certain behaviors we otherwise do not manifest, and the most notable of these is, of course, anger.
Since we tend to be alone in driving, we can have some opportunities to look at ourselves and ask ourselves why we react in one way or another, and whether it does or does not conform to behavior expected of a Christian, especially an Orthodox Christian, in the light of the Gospel and our experience of the Savior. And if we are reacting angrily at such times, we might not be surprised to find that it usually is because we are angry about something else; or that, as is so often the case, we have not forgiven someone somehow, and we are consciously or unconsciously holding a grudge. Perhaps, in the solitude of the automobile, we have opportunities to see our symptoms, and prayerfully come to a better self-understanding, opening the door to our own ability to forgive, and to be healed in heart.
The Ten Commandments for Drivers
I. Always begin a trip with a prayer, making the Sign of the Cross and entrusting yourself to the Lord.
II. Never drink and drive.
III. Never try to shorten the time of a trip. If you started out late, you will arrive late. Do not speed.
IV. Apologize to a driver whom you have interfered with, even when you did not intend to. After all, when we are walking, and bump someone, we apologize without thinking. So why should there be a different ethic behind the wheel?
V. Always yield was to someone who is in a great hurry, or is driving aggressively. If you do not yield, he will pass you, but the situation will be more dangerous.
VI. Give a wave of thanks to a driver who makes way for you.
VII. Drive in such a way that you won't fear seeing a police car. Remember that God is Watching, even if the police are not.
VII. Stay as far away as possible from cars that have dents or show signs of accidents. But be careful not to judge, or you may share in their misfortune.
IX. Never speed up when another driver tries to pass you, or get into your lane. Do not treat you neighbor in a way you do not want to be treated.
X. After every trip, thank God for its safe completion. Be thankful after any trip, and not just a successful one. After all, almost always it could have been worse!

Sunday, July 22


It had been a peaceful afternoon in Nutmouse Hall.  After lunch, Nutmeg had scuttled to the sewing room to start work on a velvet smock for one of Lucy's dolls, and Tumtum had pottered off to the Library to put his feet up.  

I shall have a nice long read, he had thought, flopping in an armchair in front of the fire.  But the fire was so warm, and Tumtum's tumtum was so full of lunch, that it wasn't long before he had fallen asleep.

All through the house, there was not a sound to be heard save for the tick tock of the big clock in the hall.  Nutmeg was so absorbed in her work that she hardly noticed the afternoon slipping by. 

"Goodness," she said eventually, looking at her watch.  "It's gone four o'clock, and I haven't even iced the fairy cakes."

Emily Bearn

Saturday, July 21

Why Do We Need to Go to Confession?

By Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

“Why do we need to go to confession? Is it not enough to confess our sins with sincerity in our private prayers each evening, will not God forgive us from the very moment that we confess our sins? Yes, as soon as we turn to God in true repentance He forgives us. God is always more ready to forgive than we to repent. Even the slightest turning of our heart will be blessed by God. Why then are we taught also to go to the sacrament of confession?

First: there are no private sins, all sins affect our brothers and sisters in Christ. All of our sins, however secret, have an effect on the community. If I feel in my heart anger towards someone else, even if I do not show it by word or action, that evil disposition in my heart has a destructive effect on others around. Every sin is a sin against the community; every sin however secret is a stumbling block for others and makes it harder for them to serve Christ. In the early Church confession was public. After the fourth century, with the growth of the Christian community, that gave scandal and so confession assumed its present form, as an opening of the heart before the priest alone, under conditions of secrecy. But let us remember that during confession the priest is there, among other things, as the representative of the community, of the people. The fact that we confess not just to God, but in the presence of a fellow man, shows that we acknowledge the communal social dimension of all our sins. In confessing in his presence we are also asking forgiveness from the community.

Once before the Divine Liturgy St. John of San Francisco was hearing the confession of a man, and the man said: “Yes I know that what I have done is a sin, I ask God’s forgiveness, but my heart is like a stone, I do not feel any sorrow for my sin, it is all just in my brain.” So St. John said to him: “Go out into the center of the church in front of the people and make a prostration before them and then come back to me.” As the man did this and knelt to ask forgiveness from the people before him, something broke inside his heart and it came alive again. Suddenly he felt real compunction for what he had done. He said “now it is different,” and the Archbishop gave him forgiveness. That was the moment of turning for him because he acknowledged that his sin was a sin against the community and he asked their forgiveness. So in our confession let us first of all recall that dimension. We are also asking for forgiveness of our brothers and sisters for what we have done. That is one reason to go to confession, because sin is social.

Second: The spoken word, the uttered word has great force. This applies in two ways. First of all we listen to the spoken word of the priest, the council that he gives, and it may be that what he says if written down and put in a book would not seem so striking. It may be that it wouldn’t seem so remarkable. But in confession the priest is praying and we are praying for the light of the Holy Spirit, and he is addressing those words under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to each one of us, to each penitent personally. The words which looked at in the abstract might seem obvious, common place, can prove words of fire when we realize that they are being said to me personally here and now under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

At the Russian convent in London many years ago there was a priest, Fr. John, who didn’t much like hearing confessions, he didn’t much like giving sermons either. He was a person of few words and very humble, and didn’t feel he really had the authority to offer council in confession, but he was blessed by the bishop to hear confessions so he did so. On one occasion a woman was telling him at immense length of her quarrels with her husband: “I said this and he said this and I told him he was wrong and told him this” and so it went on “and I told him this and this.” When she had finally stopped all Fr. John did was to turn to her and say “And did it help?” and then he gave her absolution. That came as a sudden revelation to her, the futility of the endless arguments she had with her husband, of her endless desire to prove that she was right and that he was wrong. Suddenly she saw that there was no point to all this, it was quite simply unnecessary and she stopped from that moment.

So the uttered word can have great power and that applies also to what you or I utter when we make our confession. Yes we can confess our sins secretly in our evening prayers and we should do so, but when we come before the holy icons in church, when we have listened to the prayers and speak in the presence of the priest, when we have to say these things aloud, often then it becomes powerful, immediate, personally significant in a way it was not before.

The uttered word has great force and we find ourselves in confession, by God’s grace, saying things that we never said in our private prayers. Suddenly we are able to understand more deeply and to express it more openly. Therein lies much of the grace of confession. The desert fathers say that a thought which is concealed has great power over us, but if we can find a way to bring it into the open and to speak of it, it loses its power. That is also what the modern psychiatrists tell us, but the desert fathers said it first! So, the uttered word that we bring in confession can have a sacramental force and a healing grace which will surprise us.

But then there is a third thing, not just what the priest does when he offers advice, not just what we do when we try to speak the truth in Christ. There is also what Christ does. Confession is a mystery of the Church that confers sacramental grace, there is power within it, Divine power. When the priest lays his hand upon our head in Confession, it is Christ who lays his hand upon us, Christ who forgives and that is certainly the deepest and most profound reason why we should go to Confession. When such grace and such healing is offered to us, who among us dare refuse to accept such an opportunity.”

Tuesday, July 17

On the Beach...

Mama Mead's Gluten Free Bakery...

Though our family is not gluten-free, I jumped at the chance to review the baked goods made by Mama Mead's, a bakery dedicated to making the gluten-free life sweet!  I have always enjoyed the photographs that Kyrie takes, and many of them contain the lovely cookies, quick breads, and other treats that she bakes for her family.  I know that it isn't easy to have food restrictions placed on one's family, but Kyrie has met the challenge beautifully by figuring out how to bake gluten-free sweets and by doing it well!  Here are some of the items that Kyrie offers (along with a little review by me):

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies:  The Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies were the first treat that we pulled out of the box.  Honestly, my expectations were not terribly high.  I really only like cookies when they are fresh from the oven and I was a bit worried about how gluten-free cookies would taste.  My first thought as we opened the wrapper was that they were still soft and moist looking.  We all got a piece to try, took a bite, and WOW!  These are the best cookies that I have ever had!  They are moist and peanut buttery without being overpowering and the chocolate chips?  The perfect addition! 

Sea Salted Dulce de Leche Brownies:  Oh my!  I love brownies and Kyrie's Sea Salted Dulce de Leche Brownies did not disappoint!  These fudgy brownies are delicious!  They remind me of a truffle and the sea salt adds so much depth of flavor to the chocolate.  They are a perfect for a little mama pick-me-up in the afternoon! 

Ginger Molasses Cookies:  These spicy cookies remind me of autumn!  I can imagine coming indoors after a lovely afternoon outside in the cold, lighting a fire, and settling down with a stack of books, apple cider, and a plate of Ginger Molasses Cookies.  These flavorful cookies are mouth-watering! 

Everything Cookies:  Everything Cookies are made with oats, coconut, and chocolate chips...  basic ingredients from that can be found in most pantries, but they are truly something special!  They are a little crisper than the other cookies Kyrie offers, but that is just as an oatmeal cookie should be!

Mama's Original Granola:  I meant to eat this granola in a bowl with milk, but I nibbled on a bit straight out of the bag and didn't stop!  The flavor is sweet and savory at the same time and my absolute favorite part is that Kyrie's granola is chewy and not rock hard like other granolas that I have tried.  Also, this delicious granola is vegan!


Kyrie is offering my readers a 10% discount on their orders from now until August 16th when they use the code  CHARMING10 

I do hope that you order something from Kyrie!  You will enjoy your treats so much!

Sunday, July 15


When the Marchmouses had gone, Tumtum and Nutmeg shut their front door and retreated to the kitchen.  It was breakfast time, so Nutmeg boiled a kettle for tea and made some buttered toast, a big pot of porridge, two boiled eggs, and a round of pancakes.  Then she laid the table and they sat down to eat, thinking how nice it was to be alone again.

"He's a strange fellow, that General Marchmouse," Tumtum said philosophically.  "anyone would think that he enjoyed going to war, risking life and limb and all that."

"Well, I suppose some mice crave adventure," said Nutmeg.  "But I hope we don't have another one, Tumtum.  I don't feel I'm quite cut out for them."

"I don't think that there'll be any more adventures coming our way, dear," Tumtum said confidently.  "We've had more than our share.  From now on we'll live happily ever after."  Nutmeg agreed with him, and they sat down to breakfast and put all the trouble from their minds.

Emily Bearn

Saturday, July 14

Her First Lost Tooth...

On Saturday afternoon (just before Vespers!), Sugar Plum lost her first tooth!  We have been patiently waiting for it to fall out.  Sugar Plum wiggled and wiggled it faithfully for days and all at once, POP!  Out it came with very little fuss.  We showed to to Papa who cheered and as Sugar Plum turned on the faucet to rinse it, the tooth whisked from her hand down the bathroom sink drain.  Fortunately, Papa was able to take the drain apart and retrieve it.  He turned on the water to wash it off again, and WHOOPS!  Down the drain it went again!  This time, he had to take apart the pipe underneath the sink to get it.  He found it and we carefully used a little towel to polish it off, having finally learned our lesson.  We  found a little lacquered box and safely tucked the tooth in for safe keeping.   What an adventure!

Friday, July 13

Layer Cakes!!

For Sugar Plum's namesday dessert, I attempted my first layer cake!   It wasn't as traumatic as I expected it to be!  I am not a fancy cake baker at all, but was encouraged by my friend Kelly to give it a whirl.  I chose Martha Stewart's Versatile Vanilla Cake recipe.  Unfortunately, I baked the cakes a little too long (I keep forgetting that the oven in this house runs a bit hotter than our last house!), but the flavor of the cake was very good!  I will definitely be using this recipe again (and watching it a bit better!!).

I thought that the icing that I chose to frost the cake with was a bit too sweet (I did a basic vanilla frosting).  It seemed like the cake would have bit a bit better with whipped cream as the icing instead of a sugary frosting.  I really liked the blueberries and strawberries, though!  I decided to try to ice and decorate the cake a bit like I've seen Alica Paulsen do on Posie Gets Cozy.  I think that it would be fun to try making this cake with a vanilla pudding center and whipped cream on top...  too crazy?!

What new thing have you tried doing lately?

Thursday, July 12

House Tour: Sun Room...

The Sun Room is the final room in our house.  Normally, it is just a big empty room (with an exercise machine at the end of it!), but in this photo, it is all set up for Metropolitan Jonah's visit this past Saturday.  Since the tables are not yet gone and I want to finish the house tour, I decided to put them up like this.  Maybe I will update this post when everything is gone!

House Tour: Living Room...

House Tour: Dining Room...

House Tour: Kitchen

 Hallway with Laundry Room and Door from the Rectory into the Church

 Door that Leads to the Church (with a Keypad Lock to Protect Our Privacy)

Kitchen View towards the Learning Room

Kitchen View from the Dining Room

House Tour: Learning Room...

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