Thursday, February 28

The Hidden Garden...

It was with great excitement that we eagerly opened a package from Conciliar Press on Friday afternoon just minutes after our UPS man handed it over!  Inside was Jane G. Meyer's latest masterpiece, The Hidden Garden:  A Story of the Heart.  It is a book with a truly lovely message of hope, forgiveness, and redemption.  

Written as a parable, The Hidden Garden is an old man's exhortation to his little grandson to tend the spiritual garden in his heart with prayer, love, and good deeds.  The author's poetic writing weaves the old man's tale beautifully as he recalls a life living without Christ and then the change that comes over him as he asks for help from the Lord.  Masha Lobastov's illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to Jane Meyer's story.  They are bold and colorful and yet possess a dream-like quality that is captivating to young children.

As Great Lent quickly approaches, I can think of no other book to purchase this year to help children understand the benefit of drawing closer to the Lord.  They will receive gentle instruction on praying ceaselessly, loving one another, and helping those in need.  The Hidden Garden is a gem that you will enjoy reading with your child over and over again!

Wednesday, February 27


1 lb. Ground Beef
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
1 Onion, Diced
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1 1/2 tsp. Italian Seasoning
3/4 tsp. Oregano
1 1/2 T. Worcestershire Sauce
1/3 c. Milk
1/4 c. Grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 c. Seasoned Bread Crumbs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Combine ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix until evenly blended.  Form into 1 1/2 inch meatballs and place in a baking sheet.  Bake in the pre-heated oven until no longer pink in the middle (20 -25 minutes).

Serve hot with your favorite pasta and sauce

Note:  I like sauteing the chopped onions for about 10 minutes prior to mixing them up with the other ingredients.

Tuesday, February 26

Edith Shawl...


The Edith Shawl is finished!  I began it November 29th and finished it February 22nd and so it is my longest project yet.  I think that it is also my favorite project.  I knit it with our friend Olga in mind the whole time and was able to give it to her on Saturday night.  It is very fulfilling to give something away that you have made with your own hands.  It is also humbling:  What if she doesn't like it?  What if she sees all the mistakes?  What if she washed it in hot water?  (just kidding!)

I made this shawl along with many others at our knitting shop as part of a knit along.  We were given the pattern, needles, yarn, and instruction for as long as it took to make it.  This was the first time I did this, and I would do it again!  It's lots of fun to see how others are progressing each week and it is great to have encouragement and help from experts.

Now that I have finished this shawl, I think that I would like to make another.  It was quite difficult for me to get the hang of the lace pattern at first, but with persistence and stitch markers, it became rather easy at the end!  Next time I will try a different yarn...  one that is a bit smoother.  The yarn that was used for this project was thick in some spots and thin in others.  I would like to see what the pattern looks like when using a more uniform yarn.

Next up:  A Finished Tiny Tea Leaves!

Monday, February 25


I'm really not great at growing things (I always forget to water!), but when I saw As Cozy as Spring's post on Microgreens, I knew that I wanted to try planting greens with our little ones.  I found everything that we needed (though in the future, I think that I'll skip the little paper pots and opt for a container like Jennifer's), and we quickly re-hydrated the little dirt pellets and popped our seeds in.  We don't have growing lights (or even sun today), but I put a bit of plastic wrap over top of them and put the pots on the counter top under the lights we have beneath our cabinets.  I hope that they will be happy and that I can stick to a watering plan for two weeks...  somehow though, I have a feeling that these little seedlings will be well-watered by my little sprouts!

Sunday, February 24


Celeste began straightaway to clean and make order of her new home.  Now that the house was bright and cheery, and its contests easy to see, she could open drawers, explore cabinets, shake out linens, polish brass, shine crockery, and sweep floors.

And she did .  She made a small broom using feathers from the old mattresses and a rag from a bit of mattress ticking.  Soon the floors and walnut staircase glowed.  She dusted and polished the chandelier and glass cabinet doors.

An inventory of the dining-room cabinet revealed a lace tablecloth, four china plates with matching cups and saucers, and a china serving platter.  In one drawer Celeste found several tiny candles, partially melted from the summer heat in the attic."

Henry Cole

Friday, February 22

The Little Things...

When we began homeschooling in earnest this past year, I knew that I wanted to keep things simple.  I wanted each child's school books to fit into one basket and all of our daily supplies (not counting picture and chapter books of course!) to fit onto one bookshelf

As the year has progressed, I have found a few things that have made our way into our little school nook or our routine that have been very helpful for our family and have made it easier for me.

1.  A Wastepaper Basket:  This sounds very silly and obvious, I know.  I did not have a garbage can in our school area and I noticed that things got chaotic and messy without one.  Once I put one next to our work area, it eliminated the numerous trips we were taking to toss a piece of paper, dump, pencil shavings, and empty the dustpan.

2.  A Binder:  I have been using a binder to collect all of the bits and pieces of paper that are associated with learning at home and it has been nice to have everything in one place to refer to and use through our lessons and especially in preparation for our homeschooling review that takes place twice a year.

3.  An Electric Pencil Sharpener:  This is something that I hemmed and hawed about for a long time.  It seemed to frivolous and unnecessary when we had two little sharpeners that are twisted with one's hands.  This electric one has made things a lot easier.  We were forever loosing the little sharpeners (or one of the two parts), the shavings were dumped all over the place, and it took a lot longer to sharpen pencils (and we seem to need to sharpen a lot).

4.  A Daily and Weekly Tidy:  This was a big help!  The children and I tidy up the playroom on a daily basis (usually!) to keep everything in order.  Sugar Plum and I try to keep our school books and supplies organized as we use them.  Each week (usually Thursday), we dust, sweep, empty the wastepaper basket, etc. as we listen to some classical music.  It is actually pretty enjoyable!

5.  An iPod dock:  Not too long ago, we realized that it would be easier to have a way to listen to music and audio books in the playroom.  Our little ones like to listen to music and stories while they play and having everything in one place was a huge help.  We already had this dock in our master bedroom (where it sat unused mostly) and I wish that I had thought to move it to the playroom much sooner!

I know that none of this is rocket science, and likely all of you have thought of these things before!  I feel a little foolish for even taking the time to write a post about such things, but I think that it will be nice to look back and see how things evolve for us as a homeschooling family.

Thursday, February 21

Favorite Things: Cloth Napkins...

For a few years now, I have been using washcloths in our kitchen to wipe up spills, clean faces, wash dishes, and clean the counters every evening.  We go through quite a few each day and I have noticed that it has helped us to keep our use of paper towels down to a minimum (we haven't eliminated them completely).  Typically, I throw dirty washcloths into the laundry room throughout the day so that they can go into the next load of wash that I do.
Despite my positive experience with reusable cloths in the kitchen, I have been resistant to using cloth napkins.  I think that it has something to do with thinking deep down that they are for fancy meals and shouldn't be used everyday lest they be ruined.  Isn't that silly?

We have begun to use a set of chocolate brown hemstitch napkins that I bought years ago for Thanksgiving dinner fairly regularly and despite being rather messy eaters, we have not ruined a napkin yet.  Feeling brave, I recently purchased five (I'd like to buy more as the budget allows...  I haven't decided if it is better to have 8 or 12) red and white gingham napkins with  dear little red picot trim.  We broke them in last night with a dinner of ravioli, meatballs, and lots of spaghetti sauce.  I simply tossed them into the washer before bath-time and voila!  They were ready for breakfast with nary a mark on them!  I am not very fussy about how they look, so I simply smooth them a bit as I fold them and don't worry about the creases in the least!  In fact, I think they look better if they are a little rumpled.

Do you use cloth napkins?  How do you care for them?  How many do you find you need for your family?

Wednesday, February 20

Yarn Along: Cheerful...

The Edith Shawl is making it's final appearance in a Yarn Along post (I hope!)!  This Sunday is Olga's wedding party at church and I hope to present it to her then.  I have to just finish up a few more rows with this last bit of wool, block it, blog it, and then it is hers!

We're reading another mouse story:  Cheerful.  It is a sweet picture book about a city mouse that longs for the country.  Cheerful is a boy mouse, so that makes my little men very happy!

Happy Anniversary! 

Happy Second Anniversary to my sister Kate and her husband Peter!  May God Grant You Many Years!

.:All Photos from Holy Trinity Monastery's Website:.

Tuesday, February 19

Stacking Wood...

Olive Us is a weekly video series that was created by Ben and Gabrielle Blair and features their six little ones.  These short videos are very well done and show such interesting things!  I think that this one is my favorite (followed closely by Betty in Paris)!

Sunday, February 17


The way Mama could peel apples!  A few turns of the knife and there the apple was, all skinned!  Jane could not take her eyes from her mother's hands.  They had a way of doing things, peeling apples, sprinkling salt, counting pennies that fascinated her.  Jane sighed.  Her mother's peelings fell off in lovely long curls, while, for the life of her, Jane couldn't do any better than these thick little chunks which she popped into her mouth.  Moreover, it took her as long to peel one apple as for Mama to do five or six.  Would she ever get so she could do as well?"

Eleanor Estes

Saturday, February 16

Tutorial for Learning the Eight Tones...

The OCA Website has just launched a tutorial for learning the eight Obikhod and Kievan tones (there are only four up so far).  It has long been my desire to learn the tones (they are sung on an eight week rotation in the Orthodox Church) and since I don't read music (another thing to learn someday), this tutorial is perfect for me!  I hope that anyone who wishes to learn or perfect their knowledge of the tones will be able to use this terrific feature on the OCA Website!

Wednesday, February 13

Yarn Along: A Nest for Celeste...

I am chugging right along on Sugar Plum's cardigan...  I am a few hours away from finishing the sleeves.  I will to try to do the button bands on my own, but I may have to wait until Thursday to get a little help during knit night.  

We picked up a copy of A Nest for Celeste while we were running errands last week.  It is a huge hit with Sugar Plum and Little Man and has inspired a lot of drawing and sketching!

Tuesday, February 12


To our dear brother-in-law Subdeacon Peter!  We wish that we could have come to your ordination today!  We were there in spirit!

Monday, February 11

Living and Learning: February...

The Meeting of the Lord

Saints Simeon and Anna
Zacchaeus Sunday
The Publican and the Pharisee

Saint Raphael of Brooklyn

Remove the last few Christmas decorations

Reorganize Seasonal Decorations in the attic
Enjoy Forced Bulbs (Hyacinth, Tulips, and Daffodils)
Hang Family Photographs in Our Bedroom
Purge Boy Clothes Bins in the Attic
Book Hair Appointments for Sugar Plum and Me
Make Dental Appointments for Father John and Me

Clean the Car
Start a Winter Planting Project:  Microgreens?
Valentine's Day:  Menu, Small Trinkets, Cards, Decorations
Knit Sugar Plum's Tiny Tea Leaves
Finish Knitting Olga's Edith Shawl
Read Everyday Saints

Hearts and Valentines

Special Days
Groundhog Day (2nd)

+Gege (1st)
Baba's 90th Birthday (4th)
Valentine’s Day (14th)

Aunt Susan (17th)
Grandma (17th)
Auntie Kate and Uncle Pete's Wedding Anniversary (20th)
Full Snow Moon (25th)

Practice being still and quiet during services and prayers

Practice patience and love towards one another
Learn to Sing "Beneath Thy Compassion"
Souper Bowl Sunday
The Sign of the Cross for Button
Listen to The Carnival of the Animals  Tidying up Toys after Play
Clearing the Table after Meals
Read A Nest for Celeste

Read Mrs Piggle-Wiggle
Complete the Ramona Series
Nature Table Scene
Winter Book Basket
Watercolor Pencils
Learn How to Cut Out Hearts

Feed birds
Polish wooden toys together
Weaving with Sugar Plum
Knitting Fork with Little Man

Sunday, February 10


There is one certain way to cheer yourself up, on January days, when Christmas is quite over, and the spring is still far ahead, when outside it is grey and cold, windy or wet or snow-bound - make marmalade...  Even the word marmalade is ripe and pleasing to the mouth."

Susan Hill

Saturday, February 9

The Brethern...

My father-in-law told me about this interesting documentary which is about the world's nothern-most Orthodox monastery.  It has English subtitles!

Friday, February 8

Just Because..

It has been a long week.  All of the little ones have taken a turn with a terrible cold and cough, so they were completely miserable.  This past Saturday and Sunday we had ten guests (some of whom stayed overnight) over to celebrate my father-in-law's 65th birthday.  It was lovely, but such a lot of work. 

By yesterday, I was tired of everything and decided to make something frivolous like Strawberry Shortcake.  I normally don't like to make things out of season (strawberries belong to May and June), but they were on sale at the market and I had purchased them to cheer up my little sicklings.  I made these little cakes while my children watched Little Bear and before I knew it, we were sitting down to a cheerful table.

Rain is here for the next few days, so we'll have to find some fun things to do to squelch our cabin fever and continue to get better.  I'm thinking that valentine sugar cookies are next! 

Wednesday, February 6

Yarn Along: Tiny Tea Leaves...

I am so happy that I am knitting my first sweater.  It has been a little nerve-wracking (just ask my sister who had to talk me off of a cliff as I was working on the armholes with her on the phone!).  Also, I dropped a stitch and didn't realize it for a few rows last night.  Normally, I would just put the project into my basket and bring it to Monika for repairs, but this time I decided to actually look up a video on picking up a dropped stitch.  Do you know what?  It was easy to fix!  I am still surprised!  My goal is to be ready to knit the sleeves by Thursday's Knit Night (which means that I have about 8 inches of stockinette to crank out).  Those will require that I use double pointed needles, so I'll need a little guidance before I begin.  

I am not reading anything right now.  It is sad, but true.  The children and I are still in Ramona-Land though!

Tuesday, February 5

House Blessing...

Every year after Theophany (or after moving to a new home), Orthodox Christians invite their priest to come over to bless their house.  Since my husband is a priest, we have to be extra disciplined to make our house blessing happen (the shoemakers children are never shod and all of that!).  This year, we had Father John's extended family come for the weekend to celebrate his father's 65th birthday.  It was the perfect chance to have Grandfather (who is also a priest) bless our house for us!  It was sweet to see our little ones help by taking turns to hold the candle!

Sunday, February 3


He looked round his study when his wife had departed to the kitchen.  Since his marriage, Dimity had done her best to mitigate the austerity of this sunless room where so much of his work was done.  

She had put a rug down by his desk, to keep his feet from the inhospitable cold linoleum which covered the floor of the room.  She had bought some shabby but thick curtains from a village jumble sale, to take the place of the cotton ones which had draped the study windows ever since he had taken up residence years ago.  

There was always a small vase of flowers on the side table, at the moment complete with pheasants eye narcissi and sprigs of young greenery from the garden.  An electric fire had been installed, and although Charles himself never thought to switch it on, used as he was to a monastic chill in the room, Dimity would tiptoe in and rectify matters on icy mornings.  

He was a fortunate man, he told himself, to have such a wonderfully unselfish wife, and one who had the gift of making a home in the straitened circumstances in which they lived.

Gossip from Thrush Green
Miss Read

Saturday, February 2

What Can Separate Us From the Love of Christ?
Image From Saint Michael's Orthodox Church

I grew up in Binghamton, New York, in a parish where the church was the center of my life. I served as an altar boy and went to the Church School, which was huge! We had a teenage Bible Study group; the church had a basketball team (which I was not very good at). I ran the parish library. We had altar boy practice every Saturday – we sang the Liturgy and learned about serving the services – there were as many as 36 altar boys at a time! So, almost every weekend, I was in church for Saturday Liturgy, Vespers, Matins, and Sunday Liturgy… plus holy days, baptisms, weddings, funerals and everything else that came with life in the Church.

After high school, I went to college nearby and lived at home. I never had the problem of wondering, “What do I do when I’m on my own?” I worked out my class schedule so I could be at the Liturgy during the week when there was one. Church was the place to be.
I loved being in church, and I loved what I was doing in church – especially serving in the Altar and learning about the Faith. So it was only logical for me to want to become an imitation of my parish priest, Fr. Stephen Dutko of blessed memory, so that I could have, and give, that same kind of experience. I wanted to be like Father Stephen.
And so I did. I went to seminary right after college. I got married and ordained at 22 years old. I was assigned to my first parish, Saints Peter and Paul Church in Homer City, PA, and I was raring to go.

Then it all changed. After 29 days of marriage, my wife and I were in a car accident. She was killed instantly. I was in the hospital – in a coma. I came out months later, confused and bitter, guilt ridden and doubting. I was feeling all those kinds of things that a person would feel in that horrific situation. Why did God let this happen? It had to be somebody’s fault. All the confusion, all the anger, definitely made me think about not being a priest anymore.
However, I couldn’t conceive of not serving at the Altar. I could not conceive of living my life outside of that experience that I had had all those years. I just could not imagine that.
So, rather than walk away from the Church, I did what I really needed to do – and what I have counseled so many people, of all ages from the youngest to the oldest, to do when we have these terrible, tragic experiences. And that is to draw closer to Christ in the face of pain and agony and loss. When I did that, it was not just an inner, “me and Jesus” kind of experience. The Lord came to me, and began to heal me through the faces, the words, the embraces, the love of His people: the Church.

My spiritual father was one of them. He was tough on me. He told me, “Your faith just has to kick in.” One of the questions I raised was, “Where was God when all this happened?” And he said, “He was in the same place the day that Debbie died that He was on Great and Holy Friday, when His Son died.” He told me that even though that particular Tuesday when we had the accident might have been a Good Friday to me… still, Good Friday is not the end of the story… Pascha is. He reminded me that Christ triumphed over death – and I had to believe that my wife was a sharer in that victory and in the Resurrection.

So, I never left the Church. I never walked away from the priesthood. My first parish as a priest became a replica of what I had experienced in my home parish as a young person… and those people who I served as a young widowed priest helped me nurse back to spiritual health – as well as me helping them in their dark moments and in their difficulties. It wasn’t just me, as their priest, taking care of them. Guided by God, as His family, we cared for each other.

A famous Christian writer named Tertullian, who lived less than 200 years after Jesus, wrote that “A Christian alone is no Christian.” He meant that no one is saved alone… it takes the Church to save a soul. Whenever I look back on that incredibly painful time in my life, I am more and more deeply convinced that I never would have survived – not spiritually, and maybe not literally – without the Church. I do not mean just the Church as a building, although that is the place where we meet and pray and even play together. I mean, the Church as a community; the constant presence of the people of God – my spiritual father, my parishioners, my brother priests and their families, with all of the guidance, the prayers and the love that they have to share.

Even though my hope for you who read this is that you never have to go through what I went through, I pray that somehow, whenever you do experience difficulties, doubts, and obstacles, by God’s grace, your faith will “kick in.” I pray that you will seek, and find, the healing and the love that Our Lord offers us in the faces, the embraces, and the prayers of others — the love of Christ Jesus, shown within the community of His Church.

One of my favorite quotes in the Bible is from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, in which he asks the question, “What can separate us from the love of Christ?” (Rom. 8:35). And he answers that neither height nor depth… nor life nor death… nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Thanks to the Church, I am living proof that this is true.

The Meeting of the Lord...

The Prayer of Saint Simeon the God-Receiver

   Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, 
according to Thy Word,
for my eyes have seen Thy salvation,
Which Thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples-
a Light to enlighten the Gentiles,
and the Glory of Thy people Israel.


To find the Festal Learning Basket for The Meeting of the Lord, click HERE.

Friday, February 1

Saint Brigid...

O holy virgin, Brigid full of divine wisdom,
went with joy along the way of evangelical childhood,
and with the grace of God
attained in this way the summit of virtue
wherefore she now bestows blessings
upon those who come to her with faith.
O holy Virgin, intercede with Christ our God
that He may have mercy on our souls. 

To find Saint Brigid's Festal Learning Basket, click HERE.
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