Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cleaning House

I've been contemplating lately. Dangerous stuff. I was cleaning my kitchen and my floors while I was thinking today. Cleaning always involves many repetitions of the Jesus prayer, because I particularly don't like to clean, hate dealing with dirt, etc. So I force myself to make it a spiritual exercise. Makes it more palatable. I used to get really really angry whenever I had to clean, while I was cleaning, etc. I don't anymore, so I think there's been some growth there, over the years. The only remedy to the anger, though, is the Jesus Prayer.

But the stupid thing is, I can't even do that without another track in my brain being like: "Oh, wow! Aren't I cool? I'm cleaning my kitchen and praying the Jesus Prayer! Aren't I so very very spiritual? Yay, look at me. Wheeee! I'm praying the Jesus Prayer....etc."

Meanwhile, the other track in my brain is really trying hard: "Oh Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. Oh Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. Oh Lord..."

And a third track in my brain: "Sheesh! I can't believe I'm having those thoughts. God, I'm so awful! I'm like a toddler who pees her pants and wets the bed all the time, and the one time I do go potty I feel like I ought to get some national recognition! Sheesh! Have mercy on me a sinner...back to the Jesus prayer track..."

And the DIRT that's coming out of my wet/dry vac (I clean it after it cleans my floors) is just amazing. Something to contemplate, pointing to a higher reality, surely.

So I'm doing all this cleaning (I went through an entire "magic eraser" sponge!) and I'm contemplating the fact that I have such a hard time seeing dirt until it gets really bad. Then I realized I have a hard time the same way with my sins. I just don't see them, and I gloss over them, ignore them, etc. But they are there all the time.

From a distance it might look OK, but up close...ugh. Up close it's pretty bad!

O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Yummy Muffins and Pyrophilia

B made some very yummy stevia sweetened apple muffins today. Very healthy. The recipe is at stevia.com and has whole wheat flour, oats, apple chunks, applesauce, and of course, stevia. We made the fat free version, so it was only 1 point each when I put it through the recipe analyzer at weightwatchers.com. That made me happy, since the muffins were actually very good. This is the first time that a stevia sweetened baked good turned out. It pays to follow a real recipe instead of trying to wing it.

What made me even more happy, though, was that B made the muffins all on her own. Her first venture back into the kitchen since she got sick.

I only ventured into the kitchen to cook lunch and dinner today.

I've also discovered something one can do to rescue unburned candle was if the wick fizzles out too soon: stick a match down in the wax as deep as you can cram it, and light it. Wood acts as a wick and will burn for quite some time. It's totally ghetto, but the neat thing is, you can cram several matches into the wax of a ruined candle and have a nice little inferno going. Pyrophilia. If you do enough of them, there might be marshmallow roasting possibilities.

I went a-visiting someone yesterday afternoon, the upshot of which was a cup of coffee consumed at 4 pm and then reading until 3 am from the resultant great awakening.

So now a mountain of laundry to fold before I can fall asleep. And I'm sooo sleepy!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Asteracaea



Photo


I truly wish there were a way to take a photograph of the things we see with our Eyeclops.

The Eyeclops is a very cool toy we got for Christmas. It was a very good investment, as it has fired the kids' love for the botany we've been studying together. It is 200x microscope that plugs into the TV, so we can all view together what is magnified.

Some friends brought me a beautiful plant for my birthday, and it was obvious to all of us that it was in the Asteracaea family. Asters (Daisies, Sunflowers etc.) are composite flowers, and what we think of as their "center" is actually a disk covered in a multitude of tiny little flowers. A flower, of course, is defined sexually: Having the carpal, stamen, pollen, petals and nectar for reproduction...all the parts doing what they should.

So the flowers in the Asteracaea family are arranged on a disk, and are generally very very small. Around the outer edge of the disk are what are called "ray flowers" which to the naked eye look like petals.

But there is more than meets the naked eye. Each ray flower also possesses its own stamen, etc.

These particular Asters have greenish centers with hot pink "petals".

Unless you look at them up close.

At 200x magnification we see the following: A field of closely packed light bluish purple flowers. Yes, purple! Each has darker purple stamen, anthers, and a greenish carpal, and a profusion of bright yellow pollen. Blue plus yellow makes green. That is why the center looks greenish.

Around the edge, one can observe the ray flower: more stamen and anthers, but these are the same color as the "petals", a hot pink, and are edged only on one side by the petals, arranged in a circle around the center disk.

Amazing. Absolutely amazing!

And all of this beauty is too small for the eye to see. Each of these collections of flowers are less than an inch in diameter. Each disk perhaps a centimeter or less in diameter. And a profusion of these live on the little potted bush. And each composite flower contains hundreds and hundreds of these tiny gorgeous purple flowers.

Each tiny purple flower has five petals. These, along with the branched veining on the Aster's leaf shows us that this plant belongs in the dicotelydon group of the angiosperms. (Angiosperms are flowering plants, and dicot refers to the shape of its seed when it sprouts.)

"O Lord, how many are Thy works! In wisdom hast Thou made them all. The earth is full of Thy creations..."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Belated Birthday Party!

I knew my friends Heidi and Lisa were coming over. What I did not realize is that is was a birthday party!!! Lisa brought these awesome pudding-on-the-bottom brownies, and Heidi showed up with low fat vanilla frozen yogurt. And flowers!

So we had tea and chatter and chocolate, and a wonderful time. And the kids played and ate pudding and cheesy fishies and pretzels.

What a happy, happy surprise!

Thanks, gals, if you read this!

Thoughts

How do you love your enemies, when your enemy is a big EVIL insurance company who is doing everything in its power to deny your very legitimate and needful (yet very large and ongoing) claim????

I'm thinking that at some point a loving letter from a loving lawyer might be in order....


Meanwhile, I cannot forget what I heard Father Stephen Freeman say one time: Be kind to everyone.
It seems like it must be difficult to concentrate and communicate when the only thing standing between you and being catatonic is a thrice-a-day pill.

I often wonder what the other kids think of their sister's illness. I have tried to get them to talk about it but they don't really. I think my kids are at least very kind to one another, for the most part.

The kitty cats are fighting today. And it's very cooooold outside. A lovely morning snow storm graced our area, but unfortunately for the kids, yet again it's melting off before they have a chance to get out in it.

My coffee, which I forgot to drink this morning keeps getting cold. I keep trying.

I love the feeling of just having come back from the grocery store, and there's lots of good food in the house. I'll love it even more when I get off this computer and go clean the kitchen. Now THAT will be nice. Freshly baked bread, something hot to drink.

I also like in when I have a hundred forty dollars to spend, and my grocery tab comes to $139.50.

Somehow, despite the cold, I can hear a flock of birds outside in the honeysuckle bushes singing their little hearts out. Perhaps it keeps them warm. I like it.

I organized my tea shelf: chammomile, peppermint, lemon zinger, raspberry zinger, decaf, regular black tea, hot chocolate mix, diet hot chocolate mix, xylitol packets, stevia packets, honey, and an assortment of generic crystal lite type things. A new one my daughter spotted at the store this morning: Chocolate Hazelnut Decaf tea. She says it's good. I was going to have some, but then I realized that the label says it contains peanuts. Bummer. But I'm glad there's something nice for her and whoever else wants some.

Weight Watchers this morning: I didn't loose any weight this week, but that's what happens when I don't track for the first four days of the week, isn't it? This week I must do better. I struggle along and keep trying. At least I have identified some bad habits, and some questionable habits to be working on. And I won't give up. Blarch. I wish it were easier.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Lipton Onion Lentils and Rice

1/4 cup oil
2 cups dry brown rice
1 cup dry lentils
1 packet lipton onion soup mix

6 cups water.

Mix all together and cook the way you would brown rice.

Makes 8 cups. 7 weight watcher points per cup.

I think it will be good with steamed broccoli.

Flesh Eating Plants!

We had a very fun lesson in botany yesterday. It was all about Venus Flytraps, Pitcher Plants, Bladderwort, and the Sundew. Carnivorous plants, to be precise.

This morning, I realized the lesson had not discussed at all how these plants reproduce, so I decided to look it up. My guess was that the traps are not the flowers, and I was correct.

There's lots of good information at anyone's fingertips via google, and I particularly enjoyed this site . Perhaps you will, too.

Now, owning a venus flytrap plant is definitely on our wish list. There's a nice website that sells and ships the plants, once the weather warms up.

I am in awe at the ecological diversity alive on this planet. Venus flytraps, for instance, are native to the Carolina coasts, and that is it. Unfortunately their habitat has been ravaged by golf courses. Fortunately they are grown in other places now as well. I could say something deep and theological here, but I think I'll just be silent.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Feeling Sad about my Daughter

Today, that's how I am. Every once in a while we have a particularly bad episode, usually in the evening, and it really brings it home to me how sick she is. Yesterday was one such time. I want to just give her a pill and make it all better, but it doesn't always work that way.

It's so hard seeing my daughter grieving her losses due to this illness. I'm grieving, too, and so is my husband.

But, glory to God for all things, I guess. Somehow we shall muddle along and this will teach us the ways of Christ, form us into His image, etc.

I really do believe that. I'm not being sarcastic.

Well, school is going along. I"m having to re-learn how to teach my oldest. What to expect from her, etc. I want expect neither too much nor too little. It can get frustrating. Today she listened to the Botany lesson I gave to the other kids, and then wrote about 2/3 of an essay about it, before her brain froze up and she couldn't think any more. Hopefully later, after a rest, she'll be able to go back and complete the lesson.

And no, she's not playing me. I promise.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Mercy


St. Isaac of Syria:

"What is a merciful heart? It is a heart on fire for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for demons, and for all that exists. By the recollection of them the eyes of a merciful person pour forth tears in abundance. By the strong and vehement mercy that grips such a person’s heart, and by such great compassion, the heart is humbled and one cannot bear to hear or to see any injury or slight sorrow in any in creation. For this reason, such a person offers up tearful prayer continually even for irrational beasts, for the enemies of the truth, and for those who harm her or him, that they be protected and receive mercy. And in like manner such a person prays for the family of reptiles because of the great compassion that burns with without measure in a heart that is in the likeness of God."

Friday, January 18, 2008

Creature Comforts


I went to bed with dread last night. I'm at that terrible stage in a head/chest cold where I could be up for hours coughing at night. I dosed myself with theraflu, propped myself up on pillows, had my handy water bottle and tissue box, and proceeded to sleep.

Amazingly enough, sleep I did.

At one point my cat decided to join me. She curled up right on that part of my chest and neck that was bugging me the most, and it seemed like soothing balm. Then she started licking me. WHY WAS SHE DOING THAT?

I've had this cat for over ten years. She has NEVER done anything like this before at all. (I've trained her to stay off my bed.) It was very soothing. I lay there, half asleep and half aware, thinking muddled thoughts of furry angels. Thanks be to God! Does He use his creatures like that?

And this morning while I was cuddled up in my coleman sleeping bag on the back porch for my very silent morning coffee and prayers (not much of a voice today), a wren actually flew up onto the porch. Twice. We stared at each other for a good long time. The bird was very fluffy from the cold. Snow was falling, and I thought I ought to get some bird seeds, or some breadcrumbs going for those good creatures who keep me company out there.

I was reminded of some saint who said that if we only perceived the depths of our sins, we would ask even the birds of the air for forgiveness. I wish I could remember who said that so I could post the actual quote.

Bird image: http://identify.whatbird.com/img/4/3120/image.aspx

Thursday, January 17, 2008

And to Top it All Off

I got a bit less grumpy after my prayer time yesterday. I'd had a pot of black bean chili going in the crockpot and successfully made some corn muffins with a can of pumpkin, two cups of cornbread mix, a bit of sweetener and a bit of water (my son gobbled them up, unaware of the sneaky pumpkin!). So, that was nice.

I even had a good time at Bible Study. A few of us went out for coffee afterwards and sat around and laughed and joked, and it was fun.

And then, in the car on the way home I realized that the ruby had fallen out of my engagement ring! I've had that ring for sixteen years.

I think Wes was sadder about it than I was, when I came home and told him. Of course my friends and I had searched the car, the parking lot and the coffee shop, and I left a message with the guy working at the coffee shop, but I think that ruby is gone, gone, gone! A stone like that is way smaller looking out of it's setting, and may be difficult to spot.

But it's OK, it really is. I think the Holy Spirit has been preparing me for loosing it. Like, a niggling thought over the past few months when I've looked at my ring..."It's gonna get lost"...so I wasn't too surprised or anything.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tomorrow's my Birthday

I'll be 38. I don't care about being 38. It's a fine age, and all that, but for some reason my birthday leaves me nothing but GRUMPY and it has nothing to do with getting older.

For some reason I mentally add all this pressure to my birthday, that it's not possible to fulfill. Like, I want the day to be special or something. And it never is. It's always in January, it's always gray.

I wish Wes would take me out to dinner and a movie, spend some time with me. I wish I felt special. But I don't. It's not him. It's just life.

I have decided that I'm not going to make myself a cake or buy myself a cake. If my family wants me to have a cake, they can find a way. And I refuse to bake a cake on my birthday for the kids to have just because they expect birthday cake. Know what I mean?

Today I'm feeling particularly blue and not just because of my upcoming b-day. I suppose I should sneak out back and pray for a while. I think part of my problem is that it's COLD out, too cold to walk much more than a mile, and I have a really nasty head cold, so not enough exercise this week.

I'm so stuffed up I can't even taste anything.

And my favorite blue wool sweater, the one that looked perfect on me, went through the dryer and is SHRUNK. I had to give it to my teeny tiny daughter. She says it's soft. Sob.

And so many (all) of my clothes are so shabby looking, being several-years-old-handmedowns that I want to go nowhere in them. But what's the use in buying anything new when I'm trying to loose weight?

If only THAT were going well! I've probably lost some weight this week, but that's what I thought LAST week, when I gained 1.8 pounds to put me less than five pounds lighter than when I started this effort last NOVEMBER. Aren't I a fool? I feel foolish about the whole thing and somehow destined always to look like a ridiculous potato.

I'm just way beyond grumpy, aren't I?

So now I've inflicted my foul mood on my blog. I betcha anything this is PMS. Time for some non-dairy hot chocolate.

Teapot:

3 heaping spoonsfull of cocoa powder
pinch of salt
dollop of vanilla
Splenda and to taste (at least as much as cocoa)
a stevia packet or two
boiling hot water

Thermos
Back porch
Coleman sleeping bag
hat, gloves
candle
icons
prayer rope

That's what I need. I'm so pathetic.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Currently on my Bookshelf

I'm reading a whole stack of interesting stuff right now, in bits and pieces:

Apostolic Fathers (Yesterday I read the Didache. Currently working on 1 Clement)
History of Russia and the Soviet Union by Thomson (I'm enjoying this one the most!)
Orthodoxy and Catholicity by Fr. John Meyendorff
Speaking the Truth in Love: Education, Mission and Witness in Contemporary Orthodoxy by Thomas Hopko
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien (I'm reading this aloud to the kids and having a grand time doing so.)
It's the Little Things: Everyday Interactions That Anger, Annoy, and Divide the Races, by Lena Williams (Boy, this one is shining light on some surprises in my own heart!)
And a "braincandy" romance novel the title of which is not worth mentioning.


Recently Completed:

Becoming Orthodox, by Fr. Peter Gilquist (a quickie trip down memory lane re-read)
1 Corinthians, by St. Paul
The Illumined Heart by Frederica Matthews-Green (also a quickie re-read to remind myself of what it was about)

I hope to have a quiet evening of reading tonight.

Artisan Bread

I found a video clip on line yesterday at the Chicago Tribune. I'm having trouble posting the link. For some reason it won't go through.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/food/
chi-artisan_bread_9jan09,0,1192637.story


But it's on making what is being called "Artisan Bread" but what I call "Baslerbrot".

The kind of bread I grew up eating. Hey mom and dad, it's "Baslerbrot"! I promise.

I made up a double batch of the dough and it is now living in my fridge. The kids are insisting that I stop buying that nasty store bought bread. And every day a hot loaf comes out of the oven.

And the lovely thing about it is: no kneading. It literally takes minutes.

I no longer want a birthday cake this week. Who needs it when there's this kind of bread to be had? Go check out the link. Seriously. I hope you can get it to work.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Something that Works

Chocolate Cake Mix...Spice cake would work well, too. A can of plain pumpkin. Join these two together. Divide into muffin tins, or bake in a cake pan. I used my new silicone muffin pan that turns out perfect muffins every time.

You can't taste the pumpkin, they are moist and delicious and MUCH lower in fat and calories than the regular way to do a cake mix. I used a Pillsbury Reduced Sugar cake mix. Chocolate of course.

Three points if you are doing weight watchers.

Egg free if you care about lenten cooking.

Extra nutrients from the pumpkin if you care about sneaking veggies into picky kids by hook or by crook.

Now that I've successfully done it with a mix, my goal is to do it at home from scratch. How chocolaty can I make it and sneak extra nutrition in?..flax meal, pumpkin, some bean paste perhaps?...BWAHAHAHAHA!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Wisdom from the Friends of Christ

We were studying the resurrection of Christ, and the raising from the dead of Lazarus yesterday in our home school. One of the kids reminded me of the time I'd told them how St. Lazarus, after being raised from the dead, saw a man stealing a clay pot and laughed, saying "Clay stealing clay!"

That's the perspective I want to have. Clay.

I get so tied up in home angst. Our home is not beautiful or anything like that. It's small, and all our furniture is old and thrift-store chic. I regularly have to take the sin of envy to confession after I've been in someone else's home. Others do it so much better than I do. It being both home decorating, arranging, and cleaning. Package deal. Knowing what to spend money one, where to shop, etc. factors in, too. I'm so bad at that.

And I get particularly bogged down in bad feelings when I force myself to come face to face with dirt. How do other people get their stove fronts so clean? I can't manage it. And the dirt around the edges of the floor...I suppose I ought to get down on my hands and knees and do something about it. But I don't. Not usually. And at least ten times as I've done laundry this week I've thought I should grab a spray bottle and scrub off the outside of the laundry machines, but I haven't yet. Something else always distracts me. It's not that I've done nothing but crochet and read books, though, either...whole wheat banana muffins just came out of the oven, the cat box got cleaned today, laundry, kitchen and bathroom floors mopped, schoolwork supervised, tests graded, etc.

And yet whatever I do seems like never enough.

Clay envying clay. The dust of the earth worrying about the dust of the earth.

Now love for my family requires that we at least keep this place habitable and not utterly disgusting. Don't get me wrong. It's hard to pray in a nasty house. Or to practice hospitality.

It's just that those bad feelings I have about it all need to go to....Well, anyways, the whole Mary and Martha thing...


I much prefer the Mary thing...but cleaning house and cooking good food is still necessary.

OK, now I'm officially rambling. I just wanted to talk about putting the struggle in its proper perspective, since I always figure I'm not the only one who struggles thus.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

I'm not saying it well at all...

I'm staring to think that God does not need us to be healed physically or mentally. He does not need us to be whole, functionsl, cool, with-it, able-bodied, or any of that stuff.

What has the cross got to do with anything like that? He heals us to reveal Himself to us. But sometimes he doesn't, for then there's the blood of all the martyrs. Where was their victory? Their healing? Their witness?

In the very blood they shed.

They sure weren't functional or physically whole in the end. But they were faithful. And that is the witness.

And this faithfulness...supernatural faithfulness...this love for God no matter what the circumstances...this is what it's all about. That pearl of great price. (I"m not saying it very well at all.)

I was talking with a weeping B the other day and I reminded her of that thing that St. Paul wrote, about neither depth nor height...things below or things above, etc...that nothing can separate us form the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. I would include neither paranoid delusions or hallucinations can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing. And she cried "Good!" tears streaming down her face. She can still be the handmaiden of the Lord.

I learned this when my fibro was really bad. Neither lack of energy or total body pain could separate me from God. For now, God has strengthened me for this current trial. I'm not so naive as to think that just because this is happening, that my family and I will henceforth be immune from other difficulties, trials, crosses. But any small mercy is always welcome.

But God doesn't NEED us to be well. He doesn't need anything from us, really. And perhaps knowing this makes the surrender all the easier. This is about love rather than about success, health, happiness, wealth accumulation.

I'm really not saying it well at all. The point is, union with God. That is our only healing. And God doesn't need for us to be physically healed for that, although ultimately in the resurrection we will be.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Theophany


On January 6, Orthodox Christians all over the world celebrate the feast of Theophany. The word theophany means "revelation of God". The Holy Trinity is revealed to the world as Christ, the Son of God, is baptized by St. John the Forerunner in the Jordan river. The voice of God the Father says "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." and The Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove. (Mt.3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22).

So, on this day we celebrate that God has revealed Himself as Trinity, and we worship God as such, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This feast dates back to the time of the Apostles, and has also been a time when Catechumens were baptized.

The Orthodox Church sings the following hymns for Theophany:

Troparion - Tone 1

When You, O Lord were baptized in the Jordan
The worship of the Trinity was made manifest
For the voice of the Father bore witness to You
And called You His beloved Son.
And the Spirit, in the form of a dove,
Confirmed the truthfulness of His word.
O Christ, our God, You have revealed Yourself
And have enlightened the world, glory to You!

Kontakion - Tone 4

Today You have shown forth to the world, O Lord,
and the light of Your countenance has been marked on us.
Knowing You, we sing Your praises.
You have come and revealed Yourself,
O unapproachable Light.


Christ was not baptized in order to wash way his sins, since He is sinless, but to show us the way. Being God incarnate, his entrance into the waters caused the waters to be blessed, to become holy. This feast, therefore, is a celebration of the God with us-Immanuel- who has touched the water, the land, the very air we breathe, humanity itself by his becoming human; transforming all that he touches into the stuff of life which leads us back into communion with God the Father, through the work of the Holy Spirit. This is the enlightenment of the world. Whenever I stop to really meditate on the full implications of this, I am in awe.

Orthodox Christians keep this feast by blessing holy water both indoors and out of doors. Tomorrow we will have a vesperal service of the Blessing of the Waters, and a font of water will be blessed and each person will take a bottle of this Holy Water home for use all through the year.

On Sunday, after Divine Liturgy we will all treck out to a public place and bless the resevoir. Anyone who knows anything about the water cycle/watersystem can do the math: All over the world, Christians are gathering to pray and bless the waters of resevoirs, rivers, lakes, oceans...you name it. This is done with prayer, singing, censing, and of course throwing a cross, the symbol of Christ, into the water. The Son of God Himself actually getting into the water is an impossible act to follow, but we do like to re-live and remember and pray and rejoice. So we do keep this feast and the Holy Spirit is with us.

So when you turn on your tap water, know that it's been blessed.

Glory to Thee, O Christ, glory to Thee!



http://www.stjrussianorthodox.com/theop/blesswaters2.jpg

Thursday, January 03, 2008

This and That

I knocked over our Christmas tree today. It was an accident. I was bringing the storage box in form the garage, with intentions of putting it all away, when I bumped the tree with the box and CRASH! all went down. A blown glass ornament was shattered, and a few more had pieces broken that I can super glue, so over all the damage was not too great. And I'd been just about to pull the tree apart anyways,so it wasn't that big of a deal.

The tree wasn't the only thing that seemed crashed and broken today, though. A rough day here at the Mousenest Monastery. I'm emotionally drained from care taking.

So I brought our table back into the living room, and put a pretty light blue table cloth with a lace table cloth over it on it...in the place where the tree was. Re-hung the icons that happen to be on the wall there, and decided I'd do something decorative for Theophany. I got down the icon of the Baptism of our Lord, and propped it up against the wall, surrounded with cut holly leaves. A green glass plate with three white votive candles complete the picture. It's quite pretty. If I hadn't left my camera battery recharger in Nashville I could take a picture...but alas!

Today is also my nameday. St. Juliana of Lazarevo. I just remember that I usually pray her Akathist on this day, but so far have not done it. I was so busy taking care.

I did manage to sneak out for some back porch time...it's really really cold out there but my Coleman sleeping bag and a mug of hot cocoa got me through some belated ninth hour prayers. I so needed that. I feel less drained for having done that.

Pancakes for supper, I guess. And then I have to go grocery shopping. God have mercy!

I'm so glad this life is not the end of it all....it's been an OK day, but I think what's really kept me going is knowing that the Kingdom of Christ is not of this world and that there is a love and a hope and an eternity that is not like this. This has me filled with joy.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Years Resolutions

I usually resolve not to make any New Year's resolutions. But I do have some goals in mind this year that I don't mind sharing to the whole world via this blog.

Of course there is the tiresome and ever-present weight loss effort. This one is actually rather embarrassing because it seems I'm ALWAYS working on it, or at least giving it the nod, and NEVER successful with it. I think my friends and acquaintances secretly roll their eyeballs whenever I bring it up, which unfortunately I do way too often.

So, I resolve: A little less talking about the whole weight loss goals and a lot more action. I've been working on the less talking about it for at least a year and still have a long way to go. Blech. One aspect about myself I don't really like. There it is.

Another habit to build: Morning prayers as soon as I creak out of bed instead of mid morning after lolly-gagging around drinking coffee and blogging.

OK, there it is.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

St. Basil Bread

Yesterday was interesting. I decided in the morning that I wanted to make some "St. Basil" bread. It's a sweet bread that has a coin hidden in it. The person who gets the slice with the coin receives a special blessing for the new year.

This is a Greek tradition (Vasilopita), but I find it to be somewhat familiar. As a child in Switzerland there was a similar tradition with a loaf of sweet bread that had a hidden "king" (small plastic figurine) in it, and a crown that the finder would wear and be "king for a day". In elementary school it was particularly fun when various classmates who had won the king at breakfast each was wearing the crown from home. At least once, one of my teachers brought in such a loaf and we did it in school as well as at home. I think I was fairly lucky, over the years, to get the king often enough. In Switzerland this is done on January 6, for Epiphany, or "Three Kings Day." So it's been something that I've continued with my kids.

But January 6 is celebrated as Theophany (the baptism of our Lord) in the Orthodox Church, and so it doesn't quite fit with the whole "Three Kings" theme. As well as the fact that on a great feast, what with all the prayer services, there's just not so much time for baking.

Imagine my joy when I learned about the St. Basil bread tradition! Now I can continue something fun that I remember from my childhood with a new twist that fits in better with my current schedule.

St. Basil the Great lived in the 300's, during a time when the Church was under fire from the Arians. St. Basil was brilliantly educated, a relief worker, a founder of hospitals and monasteries, a clergy person and eventually a bishop. St. Basil gave to the poor and had a heart for justice issues, embracing a life of poverty and asceticism himself. One story I came across said that perhaps the custom of doing the bread with the coin baked in it stems from a time when he gave to the poor by baking money into loaves, since the poor people were too proud to receive help any other way, St. Basil then claiming that he had no idea how the money got into the loaves.

At any rate, I like tangible ways for us to remember various saints and the ways in which each one followed Christ. B found the quarter in her slice this morning, and decided to put it in the alms box. How fitting. (I learned recently that St. Herman of Alaska (December 14) loved to bake cookies for his orphans, so starting next year, this will be our family's cookie baking day...and hopefully I can think of a way to serve some orphans on that day as well.)

So, yesterday I decided that I'd bake this bread. Except I was out of flour and yeast, so we all bundled up to walk to Save-A-Lot to buy our supplies (Wes' car being in the shop and mine with him at work...). I had a back pack that I was going to carry the stuff home in. Well, at Save-A-Lot, I learned that they don't carry yeast. We were half way to Wal-Mart at that point, so we just kept going. I think Wal-Mart is about two miles from our house. We got the supplies, and then stopped for lunch, because it was lunch time and we'd gone further than planned. That refreshed us.

Eventually we got home and I made the bread. I made a ridiculous amount, and took some to some of our neighbors. Had a nice chat with the lovely couple who recently moved in next door. That was my ultimate object. I wish I wasn't so shy, but there it is.

I didn't really follow any recipe, just made a sweet bread with water, butter, eggs, yeast, sugar, salt, flour, lemon oil, cardamon, cinnamon, raisins and dried mixed berries...and one quarter per loaf. It tastes remarkably the way it should. The lemon and cardamon are a very nice touch, if I do say so myself.

Happy new year to all, and may each of you find the real treasure (Mt. 13-44).