Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Dormition of the Theotokos

Blessed Feast to you! My husband and I married before we converted to the Orthodox Faith, and our wedding anniversary falls during Dormition fast, on August 9th. This year we are celebrating 7 years of marriage. On our fourth anniversary, my grandfather departed this life, so on that day we also remember him--Memory Eternal!  It happens that I was born on my grandparent's wedding anniversary, which I think forms an interesting circle. This morning during Divine Liturgy, I was struck by the Troparion of the Feast and how it similarly juxtaposes birth and death.
To non-Christians, and perhaps even to those Christians who do not celebrate the lives of the saints, it may seem odd that we would celebrate the departure from life of the Mother of God as a Great Feast. It may seem backward or callous that we celebrate someone on the day of their "death."  In secular life we celebrate birthdays, even for people we are remembering.  We honor the Presidents in February because two of our great Presidents, Washington and Lincoln had birthdays in this month. We honor Martin Luther King Jr. in January for his birthday, rather than in April when he was assassinated.  And we do celebrate births in the church, most notably of course, the birth of Christ, but also that of the Theotokos and St. John the Forerunner. In fact, we even commemorate the conception of these Saints. However, for most saints, the date of their repose is the primary date on which the they are honored.
When we celebrate the Saints' lives on the date when they departed from this life, we are celebrating their whole lives, here on Earth, and the Heavenly lives to which they depart. The Feast of the Dormition illustrates for us why this is so. When we refer to the Theotokos as the Mother of Life, as we do in the Troparion of the Feast, we refer to the fact that she gave birth to the One who is Life, and who conquered death.  The name of the Feast is another clue about why we celebrate the date that Saints depart from this life.  The word Dormition means "falling asleep."  When we refer to Christians as falling asleep or as departing this life, and to death as repose, we are not speaking euphemistically. We are not trying to soften death for the living or to avoid thinking of death.  We take this language from the Bible, and by speaking this way we are affirming that those who die in Christ do not die.
Like the Theotokos, when we depart this life, we do not forsake the world.  When Christians repose, we enter into the eternal Life of the Kingdom of Heaven, that same Life that we participate in during the Divine Liturgy. So while it is difficult and painful when our friends and family depart this life, at the same time we celebrate Christ's victory over death, knowing that because He is risen, so are our loved ones.  While they depart this life, they do not forsake us, and we ever ask them to intercede for us. Most Holy Theotokos, save us!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fast Food Friday: Sushi

During Great Lent, James and I made our first attempt at making our own sushi, and last weekend we enjoyed making it with friends. We've definitely got room to improve as far as making beautiful rolls, but we've had a lot of fun making it. We think it's pretty delicious. In fact, we like our homemade as much as restaurant sushi. During Lent we really enjoyed it with a pot of jasmine tea, but now we're finding one of the things we like about it is it's so cool and refreshing.

It's certainly far more economical to make it than buy it now that we've got some supplies, too. We bought a mat to roll the sushi, nori sheets, wasabi powder, pickled ginger, some black sesame seeds, and sushi rice. The condiments will last a long time, and even the nori and rice are enough for a few meals. For fillings we've tried carrots, avocado, bell pepper, cucumber, steamed asparagus, mushrooms marinated in soy sauce and sesame oil, as well as shrimp and smoked salmon for the seafood eaters. I'm enjoying trying different combinations of fillings. I especially like asparagus and mushroom.

It's really pretty easy to do, and it makes a quick to prepare, almost no-cook dinner. It's a nice addition to our rotation of fasting meals. You cook the sushi rice, then spread it out on a plate, and sprinkle it with rice vinegar to cool and season it. Then you spread rice very thinly on the nori, add your fillings in a line, roll it up and slice it. I'm sure you can find a million tutorials and videos on how to make sushi, with much better advice than a novice like me can give, so give it a try.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Fast Food Friday (belated): Tostadas

OK, so I know it's Saturday, but here we are in the midst of the Apostle's Fast, so I thought I'd do a few fast food Friday posts. We had these for dinner last night, and this morning I realized they'd be a great food to write about. I thought about saving this for next Friday, but then I thought, why wait? Tostadas are one of my favorite summertime fasting dinners. We really enjoy these during the Dormition Fast when we have all those great summer vegetables, and we often eat them on Fridays throughout the summer.  They are super easy to make, and they are a great way to take advantage of bounty from the garden and farmer's market.

This is not so much a recipe as a process and list of suggestions. First, you need the shells. I make the tostada shells by baking corn tortillas. Lay as many as will fit on a baking sheet, bake for about 7 minutes in a 400 degree oven until they are good and crispy but not browned. You could do a few baking sheets worth at a time for a big family. I've done that before for company, but generally I do 5 or 6 for James and me.  If you want them to be pretty flat, you can flip them over halfway through. Do NOT forget you have them in the oven, and keep an eye on them because they burn easily if left too long. I've burnt many a tortilla by getting distracted! If I'm just making tostadas for one, I will stick two tortillas in the toaster oven. You can buy tostada shells, but they are more expensive than corn tortillas, and they are fried. If you make your own tortillas, go for it and do the whole thing from scratch. I mean to try that some time, but I've only ever made flour tortillas.

So, once you have your tostada shells, you need toppings. Here are my suggestions:

Beans: you can do refried, mashed, or just cooked or canned. We usually use pintos or black, sometimes refried, sometimes not.

Salsas: Whatever you like. In tomato season, we like homemade pico de gallo. We also like corn salsa. I prefer a chunky salsa for this, but I generally just use what I've got.

Grilled or roasted veggies: This is one of my favorite parts. We grill or roast squash, peppers, onions, mushrooms, tossed with some oil, lime juice, chile powder and cumin. Yum. You could do whatever vegetables you like, but that is my favorite combination. Cherry or grape tomatoes are good, too.

Other chopped vegetables: fresh tomato, corn off the cob, bell pepper, canned or fresh hot peppers/chiles of some kind (if you want some heat), lettuce, onion (green, red, sweet), olives, avocado


Seafood (if you are a fish eater): Grilled fish or shrimp, quality canned tuna

If it's not a fasting day, or you're not Orthodox: Shredded cheese, sour cream

And if you're not a vegetarian like me: shredded chicken or pork, grilled strips of beef

The tostadas pictured here are topped with refried pintos, shredded lettuce, corn salsa, and guacamole. These are from my lunch. Last night I had roasted veggies to top them, but we ate those all up! I think this is pretty kid-friendly, since you can put out a whole bunch of toppings and people can pick what they like. They are also good for eating outside, because they are messy!

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

This was a childhood favorite of mine. There were a lot of things for me to identify with in this book.  I liked "imagining games better than anything," as Melanie says in the book, and I remember being very interested in ancient Egypt, so I loved their Egypt game.  The main characters are Melanie, her precocious, tag-along younger brother Marshall, and her new friend April. I identified with Melanie because I also have a younger brother who I was very close to growing up, and with April because I moved all the time as a kid, so I had a lot of sympathy for her as the new kid going through a rough transition.

In the story Melanie, April, and Marshall play an elaborate, imaginative game where they are ancient Egyptians in the unused backyard and shed of a curio shop in their neighborhood. As the story progresses, they bring more children into the game. Then something happens that halts their game. It's a pretty suspenseful mystery, as a matter of fact, and I had completely forgotten about that part. Another thing I had forgotten about is that it's beautifully illustrated by Alton Raible. Looking at the pictures again, I'm pretty sure I really liked them as a kid, too, because they're enchanting. They're clearly contemporaneous with the story which was originally published in 1967,  unlike the cover of my 1986 Scholastic copy. Other things worth noting are that it has a quite racially diverse cast of characters, and is set in a university town. I'm not sure if I realized as a kid that the book wasn't written at that time, but now I can see it's pretty emblematic of it's time. 

Upon re-reading I was surprised to realize I'm not sure if I've read any other works by Snyder. This is odd since as I kid if I found a book I liked, I'd usually read everything else I could find by that author. There's now a sequel to The Egypt Game that I'm curious to check out as well. Any recommendations for Snyder books I should read immediately?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

5. Make cheese--Check

For my first-ever venture into cheese-making, I decided to try one of the most simple cheeses. I made paneer. It has only two ingredients. Milk and some kind of acid with which to curdle it. Following this recipe, I used lime juice. I was amazed at how easy it was. You bring the milk to a boil, add the lime juice, stir and cook for about 5 minutes, strain out the curds, press them into a ball, drain it for an hour, and then chill it. I will definitely make this again, and I think after the Apostle's Fast, I will try my hand at some other cheeses as well.

The only downside was that it was that it took a long time! I knew it would, and I planned for the draining and chilling, but I didn't take into account how long it would take to bring a half-gallon of milk to a boil. I did it over medium heat because I didn't want to scorch it or let it boil over, and it took about 45 minutes!  Other than that the several hours were no big deal, since they weren't hands on. I didn't have to be around for the draining or chilling.

I used the cheese to make palak paneer, (spinach curry with cheese) which is one of my favorite foods. You can see the chunks of cheese in the curry above. I love Indian food, but I for some reason I don't cook it all that often.  The palak paneer was delicious, and I was so proud of making it totally from scratch. I kind of melded a few different recipes on the fly, so I'm not sure how authentic it was, but no matter since it was yummy. I didn't take notes, so I don't really have a recipe to share. Next time I make it I'll try to pay attention to how I'm doing it. I actually used chard instead of spinach, because that's what they had at the farmer's market. The milk for the cheese came from the local dairy, so the two main ingredients for this international dish were locally produced. I'm excited that we're coming into the time of year when we have an abundance of fresh local vegetables.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

24. Get some glass dishes for taking my lunch--Check

So, it may seem that I am failing miserably with goals 32 (Continue posting at least once a week on average) and 33 (Track my progress with this list) from my Birthday List, but I'm actually making some progress with some of the other goals. And in order to live up to goal number 33 (and help fulfill goal 32), I'm posting my first update.

I got some glass dishes to take my lunch to work in. Two of them are pictured above. I actually got them over a month ago--my mom gave four to me as a birthday gift. I'm loving them so far. One of my favorite things about them is that it's so easy to see what's in them. They look really pretty in the refrigerator, and I can tell at a glance what leftovers they contain. I think they'll really help prevent food waste. I actually now want to get some more, but this is a great start.  It's nice to know I'm not imbibing plastic with my lunch.

I've been trying to reduce the amount of plastic I bring into my life for a long time now, because of concerns about how it may affect our health, the effects of all the waste plastic on animals and the ecosystem, and the depletion of petroleum resources from its production. I go through periods where I'm more successful at keeping it at bay, and then I tend to backslide as I find myself busy and seduced by the convenience of plastic. I like to read  Fake Plastic Fish when I need some inspiration in this area.

I'm working on making bulk buying an ingrained habit so that I won't be so likely to slide back into buying packaged things, and I'm just generally trying to be more aware about the plastic I'm buying.  I've just started really trying to reduce the existing plastic in my house, especially in my kitchen. Michelle mentioned recently how frustrating it is that plastic is so pervasive, and I definitely know what she means.  My glass containers even have plastic lids, but plastic lidded glass seems like the best option for me. I need dishes with leak-proof lids that I can use for transporting, heating and serving my lunch. Bringing my lunch in stainless steel containers would mean transferring the food to other dishes to heat them in the microwave at work. I know myself well enough to know that would mean that I'm less likely to use them than the glass dishes I'm so enjoying.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Books I Read in April

Middlemarch by George Eliot
I started reading this lo, these many months ago, and finally finished it at the very, very, tail end of April. I read it for Mimi's Lenten read-along, and I so enjoyed it. It was a really dense read, and is rather long. So be forewarned, this is not a book you can just flirt with, it requires a serious commitment.  It was thought provoking with interesting characters and a historical backdrop that taught me a few things. Fiction is my favorite way to learn!

This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson
I really loved this book, but the topic is pretty close to my heart. I just think libraries and librarians are so important, and even more so in this age of information overload. I enjoyed the stories about the various libraries and librarians. I liked reading about the cool things different librarians are doing. It was fun to read about other aspects of librarianship, and also to see some familiar names crop up from my own field. It's mostly a pretty rah-rah book about librarians, but it also depicts us as humans with real flaws, and not cookie-cutter stereotypes.

Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
I come from a family of political junkies, so this book was fascinating to me. It was pretty intriguing to see the process of the presidential campaigns behind-the-scenes. This book was somewhat controversial because the authors chose to leave there sources anonymous, so take it with that grain of salt. It's not a book everyone would enjoy as it's certainly not an uplifting read, but I found it to be pretty engrossing.

Wild Ride by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer
I read this book after I cataloged it because the premise was so wacky, I just couldn't resist. An amusement park on an island in the Ohio River is a prison for five ancient Etruscan demons, and there are five guardians who have to make sure they stay trapped.  Wow, talk about suspension of disbelief. I was somewhat intrigued because I've read most of Crusie's other books, and this seemed nothing like her usual work. Most of her novels are really funny, character based romances. Her collaborations with Mayer have been more plot based, but this is a even a departure from those. I can't say I really cared for it, and it doesn't seem like it would appeal to her fan base. It was just pretty out-there. And shockingly, (I say with tongue somewhat in cheek) despite people being possessed by pesky demons left and right, none of them had to be cast out with prayer and fasting. 

Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces by Gayla Trail
This book is beautiful! I love the pictures. And that's really what gardening books are all about, right? The pictures? Considering I'm pretty much totally inexperienced as a gardener myself, they're one of my favorite things about gardening books, anyway. It seemed to have lots of cool, practical advice for growing vegetables in small spaces. I actually have a reasonably good sized yard, but most of it's shady so we don't have a lot of prime vegetable growing space, so I think a lot of these tips will be know, when I plant a garden. 

One Magic Square: One magic square : the easy, organic way to grow your own food on a 3-foot square by Lolo Houbein
Not so many color photos as the book above, but lots of different charts for 3 foot square gardens vegetable gardens, which sounds like a totally reasonable size for a complete garden neophyte. It also has recipes and all sorts of stories from an experienced gardener.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Lightening things up

I mentioned a little over a year ago that my parents were getting their house ready to sell and had been foisting their unwanted stuff generously giving of their bountiful surplus to my brother and me. Well, they have sold their house and are now getting settled into their new condo. They seriously downsized, and the purging of excess household goods continues. Shortly before they moved, James and I spent a weekend at their house helping to pack. James and my brother took a couple truckloads of stuff to Goodwill, and to further lighten the load of things my parents would have to move into their new house, they sent us home with a carload as well. The above picture shows most of the haul on my guest bedroom floor. I'm still working on integrating some of these items into our home and off the floor, but a number of them are already earning their keep. Although, not the ones below.
This picture shows my dollhouse (obviously) and my set of encyclopedias (in the box). Yeah, those are still sitting exactly as pictured, and they are the flagship items for the things still sitting around. Most of them are books or toys. I don't have any children, so the toys are not really going to be actively used at this time. I need to get those boxed up and stored. And our bookcases are full right now. I won't mention how many we have, but suffice it to say, more bookcases aren't really an option. So we need to do some weeding of our books, which James has scheduled for when school lets out.

In the meantime, one of the items we are really enjoying is the lampshade. You may remember it as one of the few items from the first picture not packed in a canvas tote bag. (I love canvas tote bags. I use them constantly. My mom had a million at least a score of these, so I nabbed several.) I'd been wanting a lamp for our living room for quite a while, so I stopped at my favorite thrift store shortly after I brought the lampshade home and picked up this lamp for $2.99. I love it, and it's much cozier than the overhead light. I've found that lampshades with warm earth tones really help warm up the light from those energy-saving compact florescent light bulbs. I'm pretty keen on the retro vibe of the wooden lamp, too.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

100 Children's Books

Recently I posted my Birthday List, and now I'm going to go ahead and divulge that I love lists. Particularly book lists. Perhaps this is not a shock, considering that I'm a cataloger. I am not actually by nature a particularly organized person, but I love creating small pockets of order in an often disorderly world. I find it very satisfying. For instance, when I clean out a closet, I will repeatedly open it to gaze inside at the newly ordered shelves. Lists give me this same feeling. (So does a well written MARC record. Yep. I'm a cataloger.) 

All this to say that I just read this post over at Book Scout, and I want to join in the fun. This list is from the School Library Journal.

100. The Egypt Game – Snyder (1967)
99. The Indian in the Cupboard – Banks (1980)
98. Children of Green Knowe – Boston (1954)
97. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane – DiCamillo (2006)
96. The Witches – Dahl (1983)
95. Pippi Longstocking – Lindgren (1950
94. Swallows and Amazons – Ransome (1930)
93. Caddie Woodlawn – Brink (1935)
92. Ella Enchanted – Levine (1997)
91. Sideways Stories from Wayside School – Sachar (1978)
90. Sarah, Plain and Tall -- Mac Lachlan (1985)
89. Ramona and Her Father – Cleary (1977)
88. The High King -- Alexander (1968)
87. The View from Saturday – Konigsburg (1996)
86. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – Rowling (1999)
85. On the Banks of Plum Creek – Wilder (1937)
84. The Little White Horse – Goudge (1946)
83. The Thief – Turner (1997)
82. The Book of Three – Alexander (1964)
81. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon – Lin (2009)
80. The Graveyard Book – Gaiman (2008)
79. All-of-a-Kind-Family – Taylor (1951)
78. Johnny Tremain – Forbes (1943)
77. The City of Ember – DuPrau (2003)
76. Out of the Dust – Hesse (1997)
75. Love That Dog – Creech (2001)
74. The Borrowers – Norton (1953)
73. My Side of the Mountain – George (1959)
72. My Father’s Dragon – Gannett (1948)
71. The Bad Beginning – Snicket (1999)
70. Betsy-Tacy – Lovelace (1940)
69. The Mysterious Benedict Society – Stewart (2007)
68. Walk Two Moons – Creech (1994)
67. Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher – Coville (1991)
66. Henry Huggins – Cleary (1950)
65. Ballet Shoes – Stratfeild (1936)
64. A Long Way from Chicago -- Peck (1998)
63. Gone-Away Lake – Enright (1957)
62. The Secret of the Old Clock – Keene (1959)
61. Stargirl – Spinelli (2000)
60. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle – Avi (1990)
59. Inkheart – Funke (2003)
58. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase – Aiken (1962)
57. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 – Cleary (1981)
56. Number the Stars – Lowry (1989)
55. The Great Gilly Hopkins – Paterson (1978)
54. The BFG – Dahl (1982)
53. Wind in the Willows – Grahame (1908)
52. The Invention of Hugo Cabret (2007)
51. The Saturdays – Enright (1941)
50. Island of the Blue Dolphins – O’Dell (1960)
49. Frindle – Clements (1996)
48. The Penderwicks – Birdsall (2005)
47. Bud, Not Buddy – Curtis (1999)
46. Where the Red Fern Grows – Rawls (1961)
45. The Golden Compass – Pullman (1995)
44. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing – Blume (1972)
43. Ramona the Pest – Cleary (1968)
42. Little House on the Prairie – Wilder (1935)
41. The Witch of Blackbird Pond – Speare (1958)
40. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – Baum (1900)
39. When You Reach Me – Stead (2009)
38. HP and the Order of the Phoenix – Rowling (2003)
37. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry – Taylor (1976)
36. Are You there, God? It’s Me, Margaret – Blume (1970)
35. HP and the Goblet of Fire – Rowling (2000)
34. The Watson’s Go to Birmingham – Curtis (1995)
33. James and the Giant Peach – Dahl (1961)
32. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH – O’Brian (1971)
31. Half Magic – Eager (1954)
30. Winnie-the-Pooh – Milne (1926)
29. The Dark Is Rising – Cooper (1973)
28. A Little Princess – Burnett (1905)
27. Alice I and II – Carroll (1865/72)
26. Hatchet – Paulsen (1989)
25. Little Women – Alcott (1868/9)
24. HP and the Deathly Hallows – Rowling (2007)
23. Little House in the Big Woods – Wilder (1932)
22. The Tale of Despereaux – DiCamillo (2003)
21. The Lightening Thief – Riordan (2005)
20. Tuck Everlasting – Babbitt (1975)
19. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Dahl (1964)
18. Matilda – Dahl (1988)
17. Maniac Magee – Spinelli (1990)
16. Harriet the Spy – Fitzhugh (1964)
15. Because of Winn-Dixie – DiCamillo (2000)
14. HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Rowling (1999)
13. Bridge to Terabithia – Paterson (1977)
12. The Hobbit – Tolkien (1938)
11. The Westing Game – Raskin (1978)
10. The Phantom Tollbooth – Juster (1961)
9. Anne of Green Gables – Montgomery (1908)
8. The Secret Garden – Burnett (1911)
7. The Giver -Lowry (1993)
6. Holes – Sachar (1998)
5. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – Koningsburg (1967)
4. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – Lewis (1950)
3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone – Rowling (1997)
2. A Wrinkle in Time – L’Engle (1962)
1. Charlotte’s Web – White (1952)

So. The one's I've read are in bold. There are a few others that I may have read, but I can't remember for sure, so those are not bolded. You can tell that I haven't really been keeping up with children's books lately, so it will be fun to read the current ones. Plus there are a couple I've never read that are classics, so I'll be able to count those toward my goal for my other list! Now here's my plan: Each week I'm going to write a post about one of the books on this list. I'm going to do the whole list, both bold and unbolded. Any votes as to whether I start with number one or make it a countdown and start with number 100?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Books I Read in March

Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living by Doug Fine
An eco-memoir--I've read several of these now. I like reading these for the personal inspiration to continue edging myself towards a greener life, but this one wasn't really a favorite. For one, the author moves to Arizona to start his green lifestyle in earnest, and so a lot of the things aren't really transferable to my life in Indiana. Also, the writer makes a number of jokes about the political right and despite often finding them amusing, I felt like the book could be alienating to some readers, which I found frustrating.

The Sayings of the Desert Fathers translated by Benedicta Ward
We read this for our adult study at church this Lent. It is excellent for Lenten reading--very humbling and thought provoking. It's arranged with with sections of sayings from various desert Fathers and some desert Mothers grouped (Greek) alphabetically by the saint's name. So good. So perfect for Lent.

Homegrown Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs: a Bountiful, Healthful Garden for Lean Times by Jim Wilson
Lots of pictures, user-friendly, devotes a full or half page to info and tips on growing many kinds of fruits and vegetables.  I especially liked the sidebar with tips from the author's personal experience, like how to retain aroma and flavor when you dry basil. This book doesn't advocate completely organic methods, seems like an integrated pest management approach.

The New American Backyard: Easy, Organic Techniques and Solutions for a Landscape You'll Love by Kris Medic
Tons of advice on choosing plants, managing a lawn, landscaping to work with what your soil and yard, arranging plantings to reduce energy costs in your home, and dealing with weeds and pests.
The Landscape Makeover Book: How to Bring New Life to an Old Yard by Sara Jane von Trapp
Tips on how to update the look of your yard, how to decide what to keep and what to get remove. Also pruning, thinning and transplanting things that are overgrown, and generally planning and prioritizing. Doesn't have an organic focus.

James keeps teasing me that I like reading about gardening more than actually gardening. I've got a few more gardening books that I've been reading in April. We are planning to put in our very first vegetable garden this weekend, though. April should be a pretty long book post, actually. I'm slowing myself down by juggling a lot of books at once, but I'm hoping to edge Middlemarch out of the currently reading sidebar.  Winter's Heart is my lunch book at work, though. I take half hour lunches, and it's a long book..hopefully it will show up in the May edition of Books I Read.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

33 things to do before I turn 33

 1. Make spanikopita
 2. Make tamales
 3. Make 3 different kinds of homemade ice cream
 4. Bake bread once a month
 5. Make cheese
 6. Can something
 7. Eat something grown in our backyard
 8. Plant more bulbs
 9. Hang a fern in our front entry
10. Put up (and use) a clothesline in our yard
11. Organize our non-fiction books
12. Do a kitchen organization and spruce up
13. Make cushions for rocking chair
14. Do some decoupage
15. Finish Christmas project for our Godchildren
16. Make Christmas stockings
17. Finish the socks I have in progress
18. Knit some more dish cloths
19. Finally make that t-shirt quilt
20. Organize a photo scavenger hunt
21. Go to 3 garage, yard or rummage sales
22. Go on a walk at least once a month and take pictures to mark the seasonal changes
23. Get a conveniently portable, reusable set of dishes to use before next Lent
24. Get some glass dishes for taking my lunch
25. Visit a state I've never visited before
26. Get my hair cut
27. Visit the IMA 6 times
28. Play croquet at least 3 times
29. Start using a lectionary for daily Bible readings
30. Memorize 1 Psalm per month
31. Read 3 classic works of literature I've never read before
32. Continue posting at least once a week on average
33. Track my progress with this list

Monday, April 5, 2010

Christ is Risen! Χριστός ἀνέστη! !المسيح قام

I hope everyone has had a joyous Feast of Feasts. I had not intended for my spring break post to indicate that I was going to take a break from blogging for the rest of the fast, but I guess it served as such. Today I have caught up on all my blog reading. I really enjoyed looking at the many pictures of Holy Week and Paschal celebrations, but I don't have any to share myself, just a few photos around the house.

The last few weeks have been very full.  Efforts are being made locally to form an Orthodox school, and I had the opportunity to meet with one of the leaders of the steering committee about serving on the school board which is being formed. We had our annual staff appreciation dinner at the library where I work. The weekend of the fifth Sunday of Lent, we had a wonderful Lenten retreat at our church which is hosted jointly by the women of our parish as well as those of the local Greek parish.  This year Maria Khoury came and spoke to us of her experiences raising a family in the Holy Land, which was very inspiring. On the 25th of March after Holy Liturgy for the Annunciation, there was a fish dinner at church celebrating not only the feast, but also the 50th birthday of our parish priest. And of course, through it all there have been the Lenten church services.

And then, Holy Week: my favorite week of the year. I was telling a non-Orthodox co-worker about the services of Holy Week, and she commented, "It sounds like you could just pitch a tent in the church parking lot for the week." I believe that most of my readers are Orthodox Christians, but for any that are not, or for those curious about the schedule we follow in our Antiochian parish, here is the schedule for Holy Week this year. It gives a brief description of the various services.  Each one is unique and beautiful and a blessing to attend.

I find Bright Week a bit of a shock to the system, in more ways than one. Staying up most of the night on Pascha, eating all of the rich, (delicious!) festal foods, and then after being so immersed in the life of the Church for Lent and Holy Week, suddenly finding myself back to life as usual.  I take the day off of work on Bright Monday to ease myself back into it, but the big shift in the pattern of daily life tends to feel very abrupt to me. I do find it helps if I have some fun things and projects planned to fill the time I was spending in church: there is a garden to be planted, things to make, and books to read. Not to mention chores to be done, which have been severely neglected! I'm so impressed with those of you who do a Lenten spring clean. For this working wife Lent means work, church, sleep, repeat.  Food and food shopping find their way into that pattern sometimes, but cleaning, almost never. So I have plenty to do to help me adjust to the seasonal shift, and hopefully I'll be inspired to share a few of these projects here.

Blessed Paschal season to you all!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring Break

James was on Spring Break last week, so we took a little weekend trip to a popular spring break destination. The weather was beautiful.  We frolicked on the beach, enjoyed some fine dining, saw the sights, and did a little celebrity watching.

Oh, wait, actually we went to Fort Wayne, Indiana. Weather? It rained the whole weekend.  But at least it didn't snow!  Beach? We didn't even think to bring swimsuits to take advantage of the hotel pool. Fine dining? We had Chinese food, which is kind of a treat for us, anyway. We also went to Burger King. Did you know they have veggie burgers?  I hadn't been there in years, and I had forgotten. Burger King was one of the highlights of our trip, actually, since we got to spend a leisurely lunch talking with Emily and Ben while their kids played in the playground.  So Burger King gets five stars from me.

And sights? Yes, there were certainly sights to see.  We got to attend the Opening of the Doors for St. John Chrysostom's beautiful new building, as well as the first Divine Liturgy celebrated in their temple. Celebrities?  His Grace Bishop MARK was presiding. Through a confluence of events the year we were Chrismated, James and I saw His Grace in so many different cities, that he joked upon seeing us after the fourth or fifth place, "Here come my groupies."

OK, so not a beach vacation at a popular spring break destination, but a still a lovely little spring break. The Opening of the Doors was joyous. It was wonderful to attend during Lent, since I can't help but anticipate hearing the same dialog from Psalm 24 on Pascha and thus being reminded of Our Lord breaking the gates of Hades and His victory over death.

You can read about the Opening of the Doors and see more of the sights at Emily's blog.  And the first two pictures are from a trip that James and I took a couple of years ago to the San Francisco Bay area.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Lenten Lentils: Sloppy Lentils

1 1/2 cups red lentils, sorted and rinsed
4 cups water
1 bunch kale, finely chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 Tbs. dried basil
1 dash cayenne pepper
1/2 Tbs. soy sauce
1/2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
Couple of drops liquid smoke

Add all ingredients to a large pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer. Stir occasionally, and add more water if needed, until lentils and kale are tender, about 40 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

As you can see, I like to serve this as an open faced sandwich on a bun. You can also serve it as a stew. I really like the kale chopped more finely than this for sandwiches. I guess I was being a little rushed when I made this. This recipe is very forgiving. I make it a little differently every time.  I found the recipe here originally. It's one of those adaptations of an adaptation of an adaptation, as most recipes are. I have changed it up a bit to reflect how I make it. I also tried to give more precise directions, but the amount of seasonings I use for this actually varies pretty widely. Sometimes I use twice as much as this, but this is a good starting point.  It's really easy, tasty, healthy, and  no-oil.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Lenten Lentils: Curried Lentils

1 cup dried lentils (brown or red)
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
3/4 tsp. dried ginger
1 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground turmeric
3 1/2 cups or 2 14.5 oz. cans vegetable broth
1 cup diced canned tomatoes, or 3 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 to 1 1/2 cups frozen spinach (I use the flash frozen kind, no need to thaw or drain. A few good handfuls of fresh would be fine too.)
Salt and pepper to taste

Sort and rinse lentils. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat, add onion and saute until transparent, about 10 minutes. Add spices and cook another 2 minutes, stirring well. Stir in the lentils and broth, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the tomatoes and spinach.  Simmer for another 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender.  Serve over rice (of course). We love this with naan or chapatis, too.

I forgot to take a picture of this, but it's one of my favorites. I make it at least once a month all winter long. I've adapted it from a recipe from OK, So Now You're a Vegetarian by Lauren Butts, a cookbook I've had for about 10 years which is pretty much falling apart from use. There are several recipes from it that I still make regularly.  Since I don't have a photo to share, I'm including a bonus recipe, which is my own creation.

Lenten Pumpkin Cake

1/2 cup margarine, softened (I used Earth Balance)
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
2 cups dark brown sugar
3 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. dried ginger
1 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 14.5 oz. can pumpkin
1/2 cup applesauce

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and dust with flour a 13x9 baking pan. In a large bowl, cream together margarine, oil, and brown sugar. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl. To creamed mixture, stir in alternately a cup of the dry ingredients, half the pumpkin and applesauce, another cup of dry ingredients, the rest of the pumpkin and applesauce and the final cup of the dry ingredients until well blended.  Spread batter in pan, and bake about 40-45 minutes until done (toothpick poked in center comes out clean)

So far I've just served this dusted with powdered sugar, but I suspect it would be really good with a maple icing. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Books I Read in February

Blackout by Connie Willis

Two of my favorite novels are Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog, both by Willis, so I was excited to see she had written another of book about her time-traveling Oxford historians. This book is set during the London Blitz and it was totally engrossing.  I really enjoyed it right up until the cliff-hanger ending.  I didn't realize it was part of a 2 volume work, and I was left reeling. Now I have to wait until All Clear comes out. I devoured this book, and I recommend it with the caveat that you might want to wait to read it until the second volume is released in October.

The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan

Book eight of the Wheel of Time series. See Books I Read in January for my comments on WOT.

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

I had never read this before and didn't know what to expect, so I was surprised by this book. I don't want to give away the premise if any of you are unfamiliar with it. It was a very quick read, but thought-provoking. It is told in a very engaging manner, but I found it quite sad. It's rather depressing to consider all the ways we separate ourselves from God. I highly recommend it.

Thus concludes this short edition of Books I Read. The brevity is partly because I'm in the midst of reading several books which I have yet to finish. It's also partly due to spending half of this short month attending church services. Books aren't the only thing I'm reading less of this month.  My blog reading has fallen off as well. I tend to do it in concentrated bursts once or twice a week.  So somewhat belatedly, I mention that I was delighted to see this kind write-up of my blog by Anastasia at Kyrie, Eleison!  And also very amused at her assessment of what my stash size says about my status as a "True Knitter."  At least through the joys of blogging I can vicariously enjoy the stash of others while I aspire to enter the ranks of the True Knitters.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Lenten Lentils: Pineapple Lentils


1 1b. brown lentils, rinsed and sorted
8 oz. can pineapple tidbits or crushed pineapple in 100% juice, drained with juice reserved
4 cups water
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice or vinegar 
3 Tbs. molasses
1 Tbs. dry mustard
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 clove garlic, minced

Combine all the ingredients except for the pineapple in a baking dish (Set aside the pineapple, but add the juice at this point). Cover and bake at 350 for an hour to an hour and a half. After about 45 minutes of baking, stir in the pineapple, and add more water, if needed. You can also make this in a crockpot, cooking about 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high, adding the pineapple in the last half hour or so.

I like to make crockpot meals on Mondays during Lent because we have Great Compline that night with no meal at the church. It makes life so much easier on those nights knowing dinner will be ready when I get home from work. While this dish has a fairly long list of ingredients, it's really simple to make, which is definitely a plus for Lent. And you can be pretty flexible about the seasonings. Feel free to adjust them to your taste or omit or substitute something if you don't have all of these on hand.

I serve this over rice, as you can see in the picture. This actually shows leftovers.  The rice and lentils were stored together so the rice has absorbed the juice from the lentils, which is pretty yummy.  We usually eat this with sweet potatoes, also seen in the picture, and a green salad or other green vegetable. This recipe easily serves 12.  I generally either make a half batch or freeze half of it.  It freezes really well. I recommend adding the pineapple after it defrosts if you want it to hold its shape, but it's pretty tasty either way.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday of Orthodoxy

 We venerate your most pure image, O Good One, and ask forgiveness of our transgressions, O Christ our God. Of Your goodwill, You were pleased to ascend the Cross in the flesh and deliver your people from bondage to the enemy. Therefore with thankfulness we cry aloud unto you: You have filled all with joy, O Savior, for You did come to save the world.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lenten Lentils: M'jaddarah

Last year I completely disappeared from this space during Lent, but I'm trying to post at least once a week, so this year I've decided to create a Lenten series of fast food Friday posts. I'll be combining my love of two things, Lent and lentils (Well, make that three things, if you include puns.). Lent is my favorite time of year (OK, Lent and Pascha, but you can't have one without the other, so in my mind, it's one time of year.)  I so value the increased opportunities for corporate prayer, and I treasure the increased sense of community with my brothers and sisters in the parish. I love the rhythm that the near-daily church services gives to my weeks. Even though it makes me really busy, the time seems to feel really peaceful and ordered rather than hectic.

And lentils are one of my favorite foods. I love all kinds of lentils, and I love them prepared many different ways.  I don't believe I ever even had lentils until I went away to college, but I was instantly smitten and have only come to love them more and more in the years since. Thankfully, James is a lentil fan, too, because we eat them at least once a week during Lent.  I thought it would be fun to share some of my go-to lentil recipes. 

Today I'm sharing my own personal m'jaddarah recipe. If you've spent any time in an Antiochian parish, you're probably familiar with this dish. M'jaddarah is one of those very simple and very delicious foods that each cook makes in her own way. I think we first had it at our first Lenten pitch-in (as we call potlucks here in central Indiana). James loved it so much, that he begged the woman who brought it to make it again and again, so I knew I had to learn to make it. My version uses brown rice, which is not typical, but that's all I ever buy.  And I actually find it easier to use brown rice, since you can add the rice and lentils at the same time.

2-3 onions
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup brown lentils
1 cup brown rice
6 cups water
salt & pepper

Chop the onions (I think the more onions the better, but if I'm low on onions I'll use two), and heat the oil (a cast iron skillet is perfect for this) Add the onions to the oil, and cook slowly over low heat, stirring occasionally until they're a nice deep golden brown color. One you've got the onions going, drain and rinse the lentils. Put them a in pot with the water and rice, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer.  Periodically check on the onions and the rice and lentils and give both a stir. After the lentils and rice have been cooking about 20 minutes, stir in some of the onions and oil (up to half, I do a couple of big spoonfuls) Total cooking time on lentils and rice is about 40 minutes, and about an hour for the onions. This can vary and you may need to cook it longer and/or add more water to the lentils and rice if it's sticking.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the m'jaddarah topped with the remaining onions.  Additional toppings may include green salad, cucumber, green onions and more olive oil. It's often served at room temperature, but it's also tasty warm.  I like it topped with salad which I give a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Obviously, this dish contains oil.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

St. Valentine's Day

Blessed St. Valentine's Day to all. It seems that there are various stories about why this saint and this day came to be associated with romantic love.  In fact, as there are more than one saints named Valentine, it's not completely clear which of these saints is being commemorated. The Writer's Almanac on NPR today relates one story of a St. Valentine, who would secretly perform marriages, despite Emperor Claudius II forbidding men to marry in order to boost enrollment in the army. On being discovered, he was sentenced to beheading, so in addition to promoting marriage, as a martyr St. Valentine was a great witness for his love of God.

Regardless of how this day came to be observed, the gesture of expressing our love to those dear to us is a good one on any day. I usually make small token for my husband and leave it somewhere for him to find. Last year I used cutouts from the cardboard sleeves of some Charlie Brown DVDs that we had gotten at the library to decorate a few Valentines.

The first year we were married, I made these felt Valentines that I left scattered all over the place.

This year, I don't know if you could say I went in a really silly direction, or a really practical one. We have a few hand-knit dishcloths that I have made, and we both really prefer these to the store bought cloths, so I made this:

A heart-shaped dishcloth. It certainly made James laugh, but he's not quite sure if he should be irritated that I gave him cleaning supplies as a token of my love and affection. Although I have to admit, I do feel particularly loving toward him when he does the washing up.  :o)

Since today is also the last of Cheesefare, we are industriously applying ourselves to the remaining items of dairy in the house. We've managed to eat up most of the cheese, and we will likely have eggs and milkshakes for dinner. I ate this for an afternoon snack, which is sort of a Valentine in itself. It's Black Raspberry Chip from Graeter's, which I was thrilled to find is now available at a local grocery store chain here in Indianapolis.

It feels quite appropriate that St. Valentine's Day should fall on Forgiveness Sunday, as we endeavor to show love and humility to one another and to God, forgiving one another as we enter Great Lent.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Books I Read in January

The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan
Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan
A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan

Right now I'm plowing my way through a re-reading of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, which I do every once in a while. There are currently 12 reeeeaaaallllly long (700-1000 page) books in this series. And it's not done yet. Even though Robert Jordan passed away in 2007. If you are unfamiliar with the Wheel of Time, it's a fantasy saga with a huge following of sometimes fanatic readers. There are a number of fan sites devoted to it. I started reading this series when I was 14, and a friend asked me to read the first book. He was delighted that I was undaunted by its length and that he would have someone to talk with about the books. At that point only three of the books had been published, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. So this series is a habit that I've retained since my teen years. The twelfth book was released in the fall, and I've been re-reading them ever since. It's necessary to do this occasionally so that I can keep track of all the characters and story lines in my head. All this to say that I've mostly been reading WoT books this month.

I'm not going to write notes on each of these books individually. I think would be a bit pointless to read any of the three (books 5, 6 & 7) without reading the whole series. The first book is The Eye of the World. If you like epic fantasy novels, you should read it and decide if you wish to read on.  This series is a (perhaps the) seminal modern work in the genre. If you don't enjoy fantasy novels, or series with a huge scope, you probably won't enjoy this, and you might not even if you do like the genre. To me they are old friends, and I love them despite their flaws.

Vintage Knits for Modern Babies by Hadley Fierlinger

This book is lovely. I want to knit about a dozen different things from this. I'm currently knitting a gift for a friend from it, which is why it is sticking around in my sidebar. I got it from the library, and I think I may need to add this to my personal library, especially if I ever have some modern babies of my own. I suspect you'll be seeing a few projects from this pictures in the future.

Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited by Elise Schein and Paula Bernstein

I found this book to be thought-provoking. I was especially interested in what each had to say about how learning of and getting to know their twin, as well as their journey to learn about their birth mother, affected their views of family. I enjoyed it and would recommend it. 
Home in Time for Christmas by Heather Graham
I didn't really care for this book. I read it because I was intrigued by the concept, a Revolutionary War soldier who gets propelled forward in time to modern day. It's a romance novel, and I didn't find the heroine to be very likable. I also didn't think the major conflict of their cultural differences due to being from different time periods was resolved very convincingly. If you enjoy reading romance that's not overtly sexual, I can recommend it on that front, but note that it has a rather syncretistic treatment of Christian and pagan practices.

And thus ends my summary of the books I read in January. I plan to do this the first week of each month.  Likely the list will get more varied and lengthy when I finish the WoT re-read.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Two Visitors

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent the weekend of the 24th in southern Indiana. This gave me the chance to visit the very new, as yet unnamed, mission in Evansville. (Sorry, no pitures this time.) It was so wonderful to be able to go to Liturgy while there. This was a first for me. Although Evansville is the third largest city in Indiana, and if you include nearby Owensboro, KY it has a metropolitan area of easily 400,000 people, there is no Orthodox church of any jurisdiction in the area. I have long been praying for a mission to be started there, so it was a particular joy and blessing to attend Liturgy in my home town. Please pray for Father Daniel and the faithful there. They are a very small community right now, so I pray that this seed will bear much fruit in the years to come.

While I was in Evansville, being warmly welcomed by the founders of the mission, we had a visitor at my home parish in Indianapolis. This is not unusual, since we generally have at least a few visitors every week, be they family or friends of parishioners, people new to or visiting the area, or people curious about the Orthodox faith. But our visitor last week, Stacy Towle Morgan, has written about her visit to St. George at her blog, Never Enough Sundays where she is blogging about her experiences as she visits a different place of worship every week this year. In addition to writing about her visits, she is also taking the time to interview the spiritual leaders of the communities she visits, so you can hear her podcast where she has interviewed our pastor, the V. Rev. Father Nabil Hanna.

Morgan amusingly titles her post about her visit to St. George, "This Is Not a Church for Sissies: Discipline Required."" I can understand how she drew that conclusion, especially having visited an Orthodox Church as we prepare to enter Great Lent, but actually I think the Orthodox Church is absolutely for "sissies." Discipline is certainly something I find to be a constant struggle, and I know I'm not alone in that. The Church supports us in that struggle. It provides us with the loving support of a community of brothers and sisters engaged in the same struggle, spiritual fathers to guide us, and the nourishment of the Food we need to strengthen us.

I found it interesting to read about the Liturgy from the perspective of someone totally new the experience. I'm still quite young in the faith, having been Chrismated only three years ago, but although I was worshiping that same Sunday in a new place, with new people, in a very different environment than usual, the experience wasn't new to me at all. It was the Holy Liturgy that I've come to know and love, that I participate in each week. As I stood in Father Daniel's dining room, singing along with a choir just getting to know one another and the music, I felt totally at home.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Knitting Diversions

Last weekend I headed down to the toe of the state to visit family and to attend a baby shower. A good friend is expecting her first baby in early March. In addition to a gift from her registry, I knitted this hat. She is having a boy, and they have decided on the middle name Patrick, so I thought green would be appropriate. This pattern is the umbilical cord hat from Stitch n' Bitch. I've made it quite a few times now, in various colorways. I'd call it my go-to baby gift at this point. I can knit it up in an evening while watching a movie or two. After making a couple I felt totally familiar with this baby hat concept. I'll happily do stockinette in the round all day long, and I love a project with decreases at the end. Yep, love that mindless knitting. It's easy enough that I've made some fun variations, like pumpkin hats with ribbing for October babies. This one was straight from the pattern though. It's even the suggested yarn, in a different colorway.

I had this yarn in my fairly meager stash (Leftover from making those pumpkin hats, I think). I know some knitters have a tendency to let their stash of yarn get out of control, but I'm very project oriented with my yarn buying. I tend to buy yarn for something I want to knit and then knit it before I buy more yarn. Most of my"stash" consists of leftover odds and ends. I think I only have one skein that I bought for a project that I never got around to knitting.

I do have a couple of works in progress right now, though. This little hat was a quick diversion from a bigger project I'm working on. I'm knitting another baby gift at the moment that I hope to finish and get mailed off by next weekend. It's rather bigger than a hat, so it's taking more than just an evening of knitting. Also, I still have a sock in progress. It probably would have been finished long since, but I need to buy more needles. I'm too hard on tiny sock needles apparently. I'm on my sixth sock and I've snapped 3 of six needles. They are rather toothpick-like, being wooden number ones. Maybe I should get some aluminum ones so I won't break them again. Once I finish the other project I'll have to track some down, so my husband can have toasty hand-knit socks before winter is over. Instead of getting new ones, I started that other project, which I should probably get back to now, actually.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Health Kits for Haiti

On Friday afternoon, around 3:30 pm, I announced to one of my co-workers, "I have no plans or obligations for this weekend. I don't think I've had a free weekend since sometime in October!" I was really looking forward to doing a lot of knitting, watching the Colts on Saturday evening, and doing a little house cleaning. Then about 4 pm, James called me to say that we had been asked to help at church with an effort to put together health/hygiene kits for Haiti, and my plans immediately seemed pretty trivial. I felt really blessed to have this opportunity to do something with my own hands, beyond praying and writing a check, to help those affected by this terrible earthquake. And I have to add that with many hands working together, we got it done so quickly that it didn't encroach on my own selfish plans at all.

On Saturday morning James and I went to Holy Liturgy and a memorial for the sister of one of the priests attached to our parish, which was another gentle reminder to me to think of others. Since she lived in Serbia, he was unable to return there for the funeral. Afterward, we learned how to put together the hygiene kits and organized supplies so that we would be ready to teach others how to make them after liturgy today. The congregation all worked together to put together the kits, and in less than an hour we put together about 850. We still need to get a few more supplies to finish putting together 150 more to round out 1000 kits to be shipped this week. It was really a joy to do this, and the hustle and bustle around the hall as everyone pitched in to get it done was fun to experience.

Look here to learn more about what you can do to help Haiti through IOCC, including making health kits or emergency buckets. Recently a staff member from IOCC visited our parish, and he told us that they can never have too many of these kits on hand. It's one of the simplest and most effective things they can do to help people in the immediate aftermath of an emergency. These kits provide a modicum of comfort and dignity to people who have lost their homes and belongings, and they also contribute to sanitation to help prevent the spread of disease after a disaster. We found it so gratifying to do be able to do something tangible to help our neighbors in Haiti, however small, that we are now making plans in our parish to have kit-making days several times a year to make the various kinds of kits that are distributed by the IOCC.

And while I'm talking about IOCC, which is a really remarkable non-profit with extraordinarily low overhead costs, did you know you can select them as your charity at Goodsearch allows you to choose a charity, and each time you use the search engine it donates a penny to that charity. Using their links to web retailers raises even more money for your charity. It lets you see how much money has been raised for your charity each month, and judging by IOCC's numbers, this is a well-kept secret! So mosey on over to Goodsearch, type in IOCC to set them as your charity, and start searching. Also, you may not know this, but if you give money through United Way at your workplace, you can probably direct that giving to IOCC. Click here to learn about it.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I have had a gift of some extra free time today. This was the view outside the window a little while ago, and the snow continues. The library where I work closed early, so I got to come home at 12:30. I am not a great lover of snow, but I can appreciate its beauty as long as I don't have to go out in it. For one thing, I don't like going out in the cold and wet, but for another, going out in it spoils the illusion of the snow's pristine beauty. When we track through it we drag up the muck and dirt underneath it. Having celebrated Theophany this week, I've been thinking about the snow in an allegorical fashion. The whole world seems to be wrapped in a white baptismal garment, one actually made up of water itself. Although the garment is inevitably sullied, it will be cleansed and renewed with another snowfall or will melt away to bring forth new life in the spring, so it seems to be a beautiful illustration of the sanctification of the waters.

Now that Theophany is past, we will be putting away our Christmas decorations over the next few days, so I thought I'd post pictures of ours so I can enjoy them virtually once they're packed away, and to help me remember next year what I did. Below is our little pencil Christmas tree, that we bought when we were first married and living in a tiny apartment. It was perfect for us then, and is small enough to fit in our entry way now. The tree skirt is tulle leftover from wedding decorations.

Green is my favorite color. I have a green car, a green coat, green purses, plenty of green clothes, and this green wall in our dining area and kitchen. One of the things I love about the green wall is that it looks so cheery with the red Christmas decorations.

It's about 15 degrees outside right now, so I suspect that very soon the wood you see in this picture will be burning away in the fireplace. You can also see our Nativity set which is on top of the TV cabinet reflected in this mirror. My brother gave it to us as a Christmas gift the first year we were married, and the cave belonged to my mother-in-law, and might be older than I am.

And this is the first time in several years that we've had a real Christmas tree. Last year we were traveling for most of Christmas, so we didn't get one, and for the few years before that we were in an apartment. James surprised me by picking it up from a tree farm here in Indiana, and it's been lovely. We're going to be a little sad to take it down.

So one more time, to those of you celebrating Christmas today on the Old Calendar, "Christ is Born! Glorify Him!"