Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Meme

1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?

Went spelunking (Caving) deep underground. Was that in 2010? I think it was.


2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

No, my New Years Resolution was a fail, as usual. I think it had something to do with weight loss and I ended up gaining a bunch of weight this summer after dieting and not losing much the first part of the year. And then I got back on the diet bandwagon but have not yet lost all that I'd gained. And so it goes. And yes, more new year's resolutions for 2011. I'm a sucker.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Friend from knitting group and some acquaintances at Church.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

My maternal grandfather, Peepaw, died last January. I wasn't that close to him, but he's a "close relative" in that sense.

5. What countries did you visit?

The Land of Nod.

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?

Success losing weight or not gaining weight. Better habits in other areas. And a real bed instead of a mattress on the floor. Is a bed a selfish thing to wish for?

7. What date from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Getting the test results of Bethany's psych testing and her new diagnosis. That was huge.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Abbi's wedding dress, and getting back on the low carb bandwagon and doing some work on my inner being that is reaping good results.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Massive weight gain due to stupid philosophy of "non-dieting and self acceptance" that I experimented with, that involved legalizing EVERYTHING food-wise and resulted in a couple of months long sugar bender and about 20 extra pounds on my already obese body...and now my knees hurt perpetually and I desperately want to lose it again. And I'm trying.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Fibromyalgia...chronic. But it has been BAD this year. And LOTS of dental pain. Even after the root canal.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

New sewing machine! New phones (My touch 3G) And the Wii for Christmas.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

I have good kids. And I'm proud of myself for finally getting back on the low carb bandwagon as of November 9th or so.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Mine. This summer. With food.


14. Where did most of your money go?

"My" money (earned from sewing) went towards getting Wes and I new phones.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

I don't have enough energy to get that excited.

16. What song(s) will always remind you of 2010?

Nothing stands out. Although Superman by Five for Fighting continues to resonate with me, especially when people at Church always comment about how patient I am with my kids (esp. B) and her health issues, and I think to myself: "I'm not a saint. I'm just too tired to lose it and fly off the handle."

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

Happier or sadder?--happier

Thinner or fatter?--fatter

richer or poorer?--same

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Read my Bible, read other good books, knitting and sewing and spending time with friends.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Watch TV and read junk literature.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?

I spent Christmas in Church and at home with my family...as usual.

21. How many one-night stands?

I don't have a night stand. Especially not one shaped like the number one. I have a set of shelves next to the mattress on my floor. ;-)

22. What was your favorite TV program?

Bones and Chuck and Big Bang Theory are tied.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I don't do hate.

24. What was the best book you read?

Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

that Taylor Swift is actually talented. I'd written her totally off, and then I listened to some of her new stuff and really liked it. I've also discovered Paolo Nutini and I hope to purchase some of his music in 2011.

26. What did you want and get?

I wanted to knit myself a lace wool sweater and I did. I'm so proud of my accomplishment.

27. What was your favorite film of this year?
Harry Potter I guess...but that's almost lame to say. Have not seen that many movies.

28. What did you do on your birthday?

I can't remember.

29. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?

Fat people clothes! Whatever I can find at the thrift store.

30. What kept you sane?

Prayer and therapy.

31. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Gerard Butler

32. What political issue stirred you the most?

Health care system overhaul.

33. Who did you miss?

This year I've really missed the fact that I never really knew/have known my cousins. I think that feeling started when I felt so isolated from them all at my grandfather's funeral, wishing I were part of the crowd and feeling left out when I found out later via facebook that everyone went out for drinks and did not invite myself or my siblings...the "outsiders". But then they all grew up together and we were not a part of that so it's understandable.

34. Who was the best new person you met?

Nichole!


35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010:

Several lessons:

My body can't handle carbohydrates. Converts them directly to body fat and does not use them for energy AT ALL. This will never change. I accept that.

The thoughts in my head and how I choose to interpret situations, my life, other people's actions, words, etc. will determine whether I'm happy or sad, empowered or powerless, joyful or embittered. I choose the positive in my daily battle against depression.

Looking Forward

113 days until Pascha!

...just thought I'd mention that.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

More Sewing Doll Clothes




Blush pink fabric with lace overlay and sleeves. Lace applique detailing at neck and waistband.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Another Cake Picture


The decorations on this are totally over the top and "old school".

My, aren't I on a creative spurt this week?



More sewing machine whimsy. Camera flips the image around, so in real life it's correct.

Working with Chiffon Fabric



Chiffon doll dress with bodice ruching and a blush-pink lining.

Tips for working with chiffon:

1. Use lots of pins, even when laying out and cutting the fabric, especially if it is a double layer.

2. Work slowly and deliberately, do not rush.

3. Pay attention to details-since it is see-through, the seams have to be perfect.

4. Either use french seams or serge/zig zag the seam allowances, again, due to the see-through nature of the fabric.

5. Instead of hemming, a very fine zig-zag stitch or scallops look very nice.

6. Be gentle if you have to undo a seam. Work slowly and carefully if seam-ripping and it is not a problem.

Happy Birthday, Wes!



Check out the crazy OLD SCHOOL style cake Ariana and I decorated.

And we MISCOUNTED the candles (discovered while removing them from the cake after he blew them out). There should have been forty-one, instead of the forty on the cake. We added another and made him blow it out. All by its lonesome.

Anyways, Happy Birthday, dearest Wes. God grant you many years.

And no, I did not eat, nor will be eating, any of that cake. Had leftover low carb pound cake in the fridge/freezer. Ate some of that. With coffee. I'm not suffering.

I'm doing some research on low carb cake icing, hoping to actually decorate something for my own birthday, coming up in just a few weeks.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Pretties

I spent some time today in my sewing corner, and while I started the day doing ordinary mending and alterations on some hand-me-downs we were blessed to receive, I progressed on to making a muslin bodice for one of the wedding dresses I'm making and then playing with chiffon to figure out how my new machine responds to that very slippery and fussiest of fabrics.


By the end of the day I realized that I'd accomplished quite a lot, and had a large pile of "Pretties" to show for my efforts.

Purple child's cardigan in wool with fun green heart buttons. I'm short two buttons and can only HOPE the fabric store has some more.



For Christmas, I wanted something colorful to wear, and so I took an old lackluster and out of style brooch that had belonged to my mother-in-law and I superglued some pretty beads onto it. A new look! Ok, so technically I made this on Friday, not today. But it is something I made and it's pretty, so it fit in with this post.

A wool hat got knitted today. I commissioned Bethany to make this, as I'd made it yesterday and then had to unravel it when it turned out to be too big for Wes' head. It's for his birthday which is this week. So Bethany got to earn five dollars and I had my time freed up to do other things (sewing work) today.

While I was working in my sewing corner I decided I wanted a pin cushion. I've been storing my pins on a magnet and have gotten fairly sick of poking myself when go to grab a pin.





And while I was playing with the yard of chiffon I decided to see what my machine could do with things like scallped edge stitching and embroidery stitches so I made a triangular shaped scarf with machine embroidery lace-look edging. It's pretty!

I sure do like working with my hands!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Slowly Losing It

Yesterday I was getting dressed and had to change my outfit because finally at long last, I officially have a pair of slacks that are too big for me.

And there's that one sweater that's starting to hang unattractively. I keep telling myself that I'd better wear it a lot before it, too, is too big for me to get away with wearing.

So, I'm grateful to be on this journey in a way that I can do long term that involves nutritious food and not starving myself.


And no, I wont be blowing my progress on Christmas cookies. I have a long way to go yet.

Perhaps I'll keep those slacks as my "before" pants and take a picture of me standing there holding the waistband out someday.

....in a year or so.

Meanwhile, I offer you some links to a couple of awesome low carb recipe blogs I've found: Healthy Indulgences and Lighter Side. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Evolution of a Knitter

I'm the kind of person who dabbles. And when I dabble, I do something for just a little bit and get a little bit good at it, enough perhaps to realize a certain innate talent at whatever it is I'm doing, or to realize my obvious limitations. And there I stay. And that skill, whatever it is, does not get developed beyond the rudimentary level.

This is true for folk art painting, which I dabbled in and impressed my friends and family with for about three months several years back (it's all about having good brushes, people), doing crafts with beads, crochet, playing guitar (I got to the simple "accompany camp songs and praise choruses" level of mad guitar skills way back when I was about 12, and have improved very little since then), cooking etc. etc.

There are two things I have developed beyond "beginner" level, and those are sewing and kitting.

And the knitting took less time to develop and learn than the sewing. Two years ago I was at the "I've knitted a couple of wonky ill sized plain flat sweaters" level of knitting skill. So today I'm going to tell you the steps I took to get from there to here. (See post below to see what "here" is...I just made a lace knitted cardigan coat length sweater in a month...and you could too because it's not hard the way computer programming or calculus is hard...it just takes time and effort and a bit of practice and some nimble fingers.)

So, lets pretend you are at the "I knit scarves" stage of back and forth knitting business. Here's is your step by step guide to developing your knitting skills to the place where you can do pretty much anything with two needles and some wool.

Step One: You must know how to knit and pearl and be able to do this with a good even hand. This is where many beginning knitters stop their mad knitting skillz development. It's a great place to start but there is so much more, grasshopper, so much more! When you get to this point, develop your addiction by knitting some scarves to give as Christmas gifts to your friends. If you've been dating a man or woman for a year or so, a hand knitted scarf might be appropriate. Do NOT, however, knit him a sweater until the ring is on your finger, girl!

Step Two: Add a hat to the scarf. This will teach you how to use small circular needles or double pointeds to knit on the round. Knitting on the round is like knitting a giant spiral. In such a project you will learn how to do decreases. If you are knitting a beret, you will also learn to do increases. Good skills to have. At this level, you will be learning how to follow a knitting pattern if you do not know how to already. You will check out some knitting books from the library and read them, peruse the pictures, and get addicted to the idea of whipping out little knitted items of adorableness for yourself, friends and family members. I call this the "one skein wonder" stage of knitting.

Step Three: Now is the time to learn how to do a yarn over and knit two stitches together, how to pass a slipped stitch over and how to use a cable needle. Again, none of these new steps are hard, per se...they just take experimenting and some practice. When it comes time for baby shower gifts, you will be the envy of all your friends, when you gift someone with something unique and hand crafted.

Step Four: Become a yarn snob. By now you will have done enough knitting and read enough books and be addicgted to the craft sufficiently that you will leave the world of acrylic yarn far far behind. Only the best will do: Cottons, wools, silk blends. Explore your city for the cute locally owned knitting shops. Join Ravelry if you have not already. You are SO on your way!

Step Five: Plunge into knitting socks (if you have not done so already). You have the mad skillz for socks already if you can do all of the above, but you might not know it yet. Many people are very frightened of the heel. All the heel involves is knitting short rows, that is, knitting part of a row and then turning your work and knitting back in the other direction. You will be able to pick up stitches at this point as well. Youtube is a good resource with lots of knitting how to videos. Join a knitting group.

Step Six: Lace and Fair Isle. You have the skills, youe stitches are even. You've made many small projects. Some of these small projects might have lace in them, and you realize that knitting lace is not hard, it just takes an even hand and patience and lots of stitch markers. At this stage you can read a lace chart. You borrow books such as this one from the library.

Step Seven: You find yourself asking for more knitting books and large batches of wool for your birthday, or for Christmas. You are hopelessly addicted to knitting and carry your knitting bag or basket with you everywhere you go. Your outfits have evolved into eclectic accumulations various of multi-hued hand knitted items such as a beret, a scarf, fingerless gloves, a cardigan and hand made socks. You start wearing sandals in the winter time to display your homemade socks better. The only difference in your summertime wardrobe is that your hand knitted items are made of cotton instead of wool. You have a mad look in your eye. At this point of addiction you are no longer a safe driver, since you will automatically slam on your brakes and rubberneck if you drive by anyone on the street who is wearing hand knitted items. You find yourself distracted in Church by persons wearing sweaters and such that could be done by hand, as you are busy memorizing the pattern.

So there you have it. How to develop your mad mad knitting skillz in seven easy steps.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Lace Sweater!!!!!





Hand knitted 100% wool lace sweater from Lion Brand Yarn Fisherman's wool. Pattern from the book Knitted Jackets, by Cheryl Oberle. I modified the pattern by making a bolero style lace jacket a coat length lace jacket instead. It used about 2.5 skeins of wool (they are big skeins).

Kursk Root Icon

Kursk Root Icon as it is being brought into the nave of St. Athanasius Orthodox Church


Father Justin Patterson holding a print of the icon that was a gift to the parish.

The priest who travels with the icon.


Yesterday my kids and I traveled down to Nicholasville, to visit our old parish, St. Athanasius Orthodox Church. The Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God, one of the oldest icons of the Russian Orthodox Church was visiting that parish at 12:00 noon. People gathered for prayers at that time. I overheard one young child ask her father: "Why do we pray to icons instead of to God?" And the Father answered: "We do NOT pray to icons. We DO pray to God. Icons give us something to look at." Good answer, dad.

The Kursk Root icon
has had many miracles surrounding it. It is the icon that the Lord used to heal the child who grew up to be St. Seraphim of Sarov.

I thought a visit was especially apropos this time of year, so close to the Nativity. The Mother of God has been on my mind a lot lately.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Dinner Plans

What's on your table for Christmas dinner?

Really, I need ideas. I have none. Meat obviously. The family wants pork chops. Meh, whatever. Me, I want effortless. We might order meat pizzas. Really.

Often in the past I've done the frozen lasagna thing, with much approval, but I'm off carbs so lasagna is off the menu. (yeah, I've tried subbing various veggies for the noodles. Not to be tolerated. Especially eggplant, an otherwise delectable veggie. It gets rendered nasty when asked to become an ersatz nooodle.

So what else should I make for Christmas?

As a buffet at breakfast: Summer sausage, sausages, fancy cheeses, cookies, eggs, etc.

Christmas cookies.
Some sort of low carb dessert.
Pork chops with cinnamon apples
Salad
Baked mashed potatoes (do them in advance and then heat them up in the oven)
Croissants
apple cider
roasted mushrooms and cauliflower.

So, it looks like I'll be in the kitchen. Oh well. All in the name of love.

What's on your Christmas table?????

Monday, December 20, 2010

Closure

I was in Lexington today, wedding dress fabric shopping with a bride-to-be for dress stuff I'm going to sew up. It was such a fun day. We had lunch at the Oasis (middle eastern restaurant extraordinaire!) with the most adorable new-guy bumbling waiter.

After our outing, I swung by Cuppa and hugged my friend Lisa's neck. She's the owner of that tea shop. If you live in Lex, go drink some tea there, it's awesome. Cuppa is on the corner of Jefferson Street and 2nd. Ave, I think. Very nice tea and it was SO GOOD to see my friend.

And then I decided to do a very brave thing. I decided to drive by our old house. Well, it's not our house anymore. We gave it up. It sat empty for a year and then it was auctioned. What became of it, I wondered.

I drove down Louden. I turned. A minivan was in the driveway. Some toys in the back yard. The overgrown honeysuckle bushes were still overgrown. The overgrown holly tree in the front yard, still big and bushy. The bushes by the side of the house were gone. But what made me really happy was to see that the house has new windows, a new front door, a new roof, and weatherproofing plastic stapled onto the frame of the covered back porch. Christmas decorations could be seen in the window.

I was happy. That's what I needed to know about that old house.

Before I left town, I decided to hit my favorite thrift store in the old neighborhood and came away the with cutest blue and white tea pot, creamer and sugar bowl set you could imagine.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

From Russia with love



All this Christmas joy is here for the purpose of leading us to lent and Pascha. So today I offer this lenten hymn instead of Ave Maria. Jesus is the reason for the season....

Behold, the Bridegroom comes at midnight, and blessed is that servant whom He shall find watching, and again, unworthy is the servant whom He shall find heedless. Beware, therefore, O my soul, do not be weighed down with sleep, lest you be given up to death, and lest you be shut out of the Kingdom. But rouse yourself crying: Holy, Holy, Holy, art Thou, O our God, Through the Theotokos have mercy on us.

Mutton Soup

I'm doing Atkins. And I'm doing it with the attitude that this HAS TO BE a permanent way of life. As in: Kill the passions (that would be bread and sweet baked things in my case) and buckle down and "git 'er done".

On a happy note, I'm nine pounds lighter than I was when I started. It was the week before the Nativity fast started. I remember because Fr. A told me that this IS my fast. And on Christmas day, I'll still be fasting. Lord have mercy.

But on that note, I want to share the delicious concoction that I made last night: Mutton Soup

1 lb. farm fresh ground mutton
1 large leek, thinly sliced/chopped
about 3 small stalks of celery
2-3 small garlic cloves
a bit of olive oil to sautee the veggies in
1 can of diced tomatoes
2-3 cups of chicken stock.

Sautee veggies in a bit of olive oil or butter, add mutton, salt and pepper to taste, and let meat brown. Add tomatoes and chicken stock and let simmer on stove for a while.

This was good. It made about six bowls of soup, 3 g carbs per bowl.

And speaking of which...I think I'd better go make some more chicken stock.

If you've never made homemade stock, here's what I do, easy peasy: Chicken bones in crock pot, add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice, about a tablespoon of salt, cover in water. Can also add a couple of carrots, onion for some golden color and extra nutrients.

After a day or so off letting this stuff simmer, and adding more water as necessary, strain off the broth and throw the rest out.

That's all there is to it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Schubert - Ave Maria (Opera)



Interesting stuff I learned last night cruising around the internet: Schubert's Ave Maria is NOT the usual "Hail Mary" prayer. It is a prayer, but it is an excerpt of a translated poem by Sir Walter Scott about the Lady of the Lake and it's called "Ellen's Song". The story line is that a young woman and her father are in trouble and hiding in some caves, and the young woman is praying to the Virgin Mary for protection. Here are the lyrics:

Storck's translation used by Schubert

Ave Maria! Jungfrau mild,
Erhöre einer Jungfrau Flehen,
Aus diesem Felsen starr und wild
Soll mein Gebet zu dir hinwehen.
Wir schlafen sicher bis zum Morgen,
Ob Menschen noch so grausam sind.
O Jungfrau, sieh der Jungfrau Sorgen,
O Mutter, hör ein bittend Kind!
Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! Unbefleckt!
Wenn wir auf diesen Fels hinsinken
Zum Schlaf, und uns dein Schutz bedeckt
Wird weich der harte Fels uns dünken.
Du lächelst, Rosendüfte wehen
In dieser dumpfen Felsenkluft,
O Mutter, höre Kindes Flehen,
O Jungfrau, eine Jungfrau ruft!
Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! Reine Magd!
Der Erde und der Luft Dämonen,
Von deines Auges Huld verjagt,
Sie können hier nicht bei uns wohnen,
Wir woll'n uns still dem Schicksal beugen,
Da uns dein heil'ger Trost anweht;
Der Jungfrau wolle hold dich neigen,
Dem Kind, das für den Vater fleht.
Ave Maria!

and in English:

Hymn to the Virgin by Sir Walter Scott

Ave Maria! maiden mild!
Listen to a maiden's prayer!
Thou canst hear though from the wild;
Thou canst save amid despair.
Safe may we sleep beneath thy care,
Though banish'd, outcast and reviled -
Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer;
Mother, hear a suppliant child!
Ave Maria

Ave Maria! undefiled!
The flinty couch we now must share
Shall seem this down of eider piled,
If thy protection hover there.
The murky cavern's heavy air
Shall breathe of balm if thou hast smiled;
Then, Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer,
Mother, list a suppliant child!
Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! stainless styled.
Foul demons of the earth and air,
From this their wonted haunt exiled,
Shall flee before thy presence fair.
We bow us to our lot of care,
Beneath thy guidance reconciled;
Hear for a maid a maiden's prayer,
And for a father hear a child!
Ave Maria.

the Schubert melody was taken and the Latin "Hail Mary" prayer was put with the same melody after "Ellen's Song" was composed.

This prayer reminds me of "Steadfast protectress of Christians...".

Rejoice, O Virgin Birthgiver! Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev



In case anyone has not noticed, I'm doing an "Ave Maria" series. That's to say, a "Rejoice O Virgin" series, or a "Hail Mary" series. Pick your language, etc. ;-)

Seems seasonally appropriate. It all started when I was listening to a Christmas CD yesterday and got stuck on Ave Maria. Lovely. I'll do some Latin soon too.

It's a good prayer to fill one's mind and heart with these days. Any days. All. the. time.

Pray the Holy Scriptures, people! Luke 1:42.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bogoroditse Dyevo Raduisya. Rakhmaninov



Rejoice O Virgin Theotokos, Mary full of Grace
The Lord is with Thee
Blessed art thou among women
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
For thou hast borne the savior of our souls.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Priceless



Serving up Ariana's amazing cake to some very eager children at St. Michael's on Sunday. The looks on their faces are priceless.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Winter Idyll


I can never resist peeking out of the window on a snow day, first thing in the morning, just to see the sight of the world covered in white. Yesterday we woke up to a dusting, but as it had been raining before it turned to snow, there was ice underneath, which made walking to the car especially hazardous. To make things even more exicting, we had this amazing cake that Ariana had made to take to Church. The Applepatch party (an organization that serves children and adults with Down's Syndrome) that it had originally been destined for, had been cancelled. Where else but Church would we find enough hungry bellies for such a large cake? (Three 9x13's and a double batch of rice crispy treats for the roof, not to mention all the goodies on the outside!)

And in the afternoon, we settled in for some snow! Knitting, games, old movies, hot tea and a log in the fire place. It was as peaceful and idyllic as an afternoon could get...after we all spent about half an hour tidying the place up, that is.

We all agreed that a tidy home is more relaxing than a messy home.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

About Facebook, blogging, etc.

Dear Blog readers,

I love you. Really, I do. You stroke my ego by reading my blog. But here's the thing: If you want to be friends with me on facebook (and I have no objection to that notion), and you only know me from reading my blog, it would be helpful to include a note like "I adore your amazing blog and read it regularly" along with your friend request. Otherwise, dear blog reader, I might not know who you are, and think you are some creepy person trying to stalk me.

I have just recently turned down a few friend requests from people I don't know and am wondering where they came from.

Also, if you know me in real life please note that reading this blog is not a sufficient way to "keep in touch" with me. Especially if you never comment. It's not even a good way to keep up with the latest news on our family. That's what e-mail and telephones are for.

Sincerely,

alana

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Exercise!

Today I was able to exercise and I'm so grateful! And this was AFTER going to hellmart for one of my weekly shopping trips. That's huge, you all.

My fibro has given me a bit of a break today. Maybe it's the fact that I've started taking vitamin D and B complex supplements, along with my meds. I was reading an interesting article that a friend sent me about most Americans not getting adequate vitamin D, and how it feeds the illness industry that is Big Pharm and their AMA distributaries.

But I'd already been taking the supplements. Should have been all along since I was dx'd with low vitamin D over a year ago. I'm so bad about vitamins. After all, I tell myself, they taste funny and they're "just vitamins". Yeah, whatever.

So, my exercise routine: I'd been going to Curves, and then discontinued my membership so that we'd have more money for other things like medical bills and the cost of expensive pills. Life can be such fun. Then I took a cake decorating class with my daughter and went from being fat to REALLY fat. Oh joy.

So basically I was fat-but-fit and now I'm having to regain lots of lost ground. Starting from "I have fibromyalgia and there are some days I can't move" scratch.

But even on my bad days I could do Curves, so I'm hoping I can do this little routine three times a week as well. The concept is the same: hit each body part at least twice with a resistance exercise for 30 seconds and alternate with 30 seconds on the mini trampoline. Those things have many benefits.

So for the weighted parts I do: shoulder presses, bicep curls, tricep extensions, flat bench press (using a footstool in our living room because I"m so glamorous like that), lat raises, crunches, squats, lying dumbell leg curls, deadlifts, overhead tricep extensions, hammer curls, flye press, oblique crunches and static lunges, and maybe a few extra leg extensions for my non-existent abdominals.

Ideally I'd do this twice for a full 30 minute or so workout.

Today I did it once since I'm so out of shape.

But it sure felt good to get my heart rate up.

So, that's what's up today.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

An Extraordinary Ordinary Day


Every time I am preparing to go take communion I am severely tempted to stay home. Each and every time. It's a spiritual battle and my flesh is often weak. A priest told me one time that the devil likes to prey on the old, the infirm, and the innocent. I'm am neither old nor innocent, but I certainly do have more than my share of infirmities. Sometimes these legitimately keep me home, and at other times I'm just tempted to give in to laziness, all in the name of "I need more rest."

I was facing such demons this morning at six when my alarm went off. I managed to get to Church anyways. It's the feast of the Holy Apostle Andrew, the First-Called. So, I walked into St. George's chapel at 7 am while it was still dark outside, and was met by the lovely glow of the lit up Church. All was gold and rosy, and the choir was heavenly. I am so glad I got up extra early today and managed to make the effort. I feel blessed. It's so good to receive the Sacraments.

In other news it's raining today and it's just the kind of day for doing internet research on potential dress patterns and fabric sources for one of the wedding dresses I'll be making next spring. Such fun!

And knitting! I'm knitting a lace cardigan out of fisherman's wool. The pattern lends itself well to the chunkiness of the wool yarn and it makes me happy, happy, happy. I have dreams of having it done by Christmas. A girl can dream, I guess. I'm almost done with the body up to the armpits, and then I'll split it up and do the front panels and the back, weave the shoulders together and make the sleeves. Pish tosh, yeah, right. It takes me 17 minutes to knit two rows of this pattern at an easy pay-attention-to-what-I'm-doing pace.



Speaking of which, I think I shall get back to my knitting now.

Monday, November 29, 2010

My Lenten Pantry: Meal Inspirations Chunky Chickpeas


I was shopping at Costco on Saturday, and I found this little gem of a food product. Now, normally I don't go for pre-packaged food items, but the ingredients list was short and non-creepy, so I thought I'd bring them home and see what the family thought.

Here are the ingredients: Water, Chickpeas, Onions, Sunflower Oil, Garlic, Ginger, Coriander, Salt, Cumin, Spices

Looks OK to me. Bethany and Maia tried it today in a stir fry with some onions, cabbage, rice and radishes. The dish was a winner and these chickpeas with their spices were a hit. (Well, the radishes could have been omitted...)


It's like lenten, Indian hamburger helper. Especially if you love curries like most of our family does.

Check out Tastybite.com for more ideas, similar products and a store locater.

This is a product I will keep in my lenten pantry from now on!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Unsweetened


Unsweetened Low Carb Blueberry Muffins

These are for someone who is killing her sweet tooth, and has not had sweets in several weeks. I don't think the natural flavors would have been so pleasing were I not so strict with myself. As it is, the natural flavor of the coconut flour and the vanilla and lemon...with a few blueberries...oh, so good! After weeks of nothing but meat, eggs, cheese and vegetables, these hit the spot.

6 eggs
3/4 T. baking powder
1/2 stick of butter, melted
1 lid of natural lemon flavor
1 lid of vanilla flavor
1/2 cup of coconut flour
1/2 cup of blueberries.

Beat all in kitchenaid. Add berries last. Bake in paper lined muffin tin at 350 degrees Farenheit for about 25 minutes.

Makes 6.

These are obviously not "fasting friendly" unless your fast is...you know...something your doctor told you to do and your priest told you to do and....something you have a VERY HARD TIME STICKING WITH nonetheless.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

It's Nice to be Home

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday gathering with my side of the family. All the usual fixings, eight adults and eight kids...good times had by all.

On Thursday afternoon I took the longest nap of my life. I laid down for a few minutes in bed after lunch, and woke up to it being dark outside and everyone having eaten most of the pies. That's just fine, since I wasn't having any pies anyway.

I stuck with my diet. I'm proud. At least not losing momentum there. We'll see if I can keep things up until Christmas.

I was happy to see that the gerbils survived our two day absence just fine. They have so much food stashed underneath their bedding that we probably won't need to feed them for a week, he he.

Our journey home took lots longer than we anticipated due to a family member's car breaking down and Wes ferrying them home while the kids and I hung out at a McDonald's and waited. It was fun. I got lots of knitting done.

Did not get as much knitting done at the holiday gathering as I thought I would, since knitting lace involves counting and it's hard to count while engaged in interesting and lively conversation. Oh well, that's OK. Lively and interesting conversation is always worth a slow down in knitting activity, IMO. My BIL and I talked about blogging, and how to monetize, etc. His interesting and thoughtful blog is here, and I can truly say he is in deed a "Super Daddy". I don't think I'm going to monetize this blog anytime soon, but the thought does intrigue me.

Now it's full focus on the upcoming Christmas holidays. I hope I can manage to pull off some good festivities for the kids this year. Meanwhile, we fast.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Cake Disaster

I ought to tell you all about my most recent fiasco, since this blog is muchly about keepin' it real.

I decided to throw a baby shower for a friend of mine and I asked another friend to co-host it with me. And then we got our friend's godmother into the loop, so it ended up being a group effort. My part was the invitation and the cake.

I had, after all, taken a cake decorating class recently. Woot, woot! A chance to practice my new found cake craftiness! I was really looking forward to doing a cake.

Since we don't know whether our friend is having a boy baby or a girl baby, and since my cake skillz are still limited, I decided to do another Hydrangea cake, but to do this one with blue, pink, and pink/blue transitional flowers on it. I had visions of piping a tiny sleeping baby out of frosting and nestling him/her in amidst the flowers. It would be fabulous! It would be amazing!

It was not meant to be.

On Friday I was tired. That was the day to bake the cake. I thought I could make the cake and sit and rest while it was baking, and then go grocery shopping. I thought I had more energy than I did.

It's all my own fault really. I could blame my friend, C, who invited me to go to a midnight showing of the new Harry Potter movie on Thursday night/Friday morning. Perhaps I could blame JK Rowling, or Harry Potter himself. Or the evil Lord Voldemort. The movie outing was a blast, but boyoboyoboy have I been paying for it since! I got about six hours of sleep, which is what I pull on many bad nights, so I thought I'd be fine. Let me tell ya, midnight to six am is far better sleep than 3 am to nine am. But I digress.

So, what happened, is I'd planned this cake, and I wanted to do a ten inch layer with an eight inch layer on top...a tiered effect with hydrangea blossoms nestled all around and dripping down the sides-very elegant. But when it came time to get the cakes out of the oven, I was drifting off to sleep on the couch. My youngest daughter took the cakes out of the oven. I muttered something about getting them out of the pan myself in a few minutes (yeah, right!) which she did not hear and the bigger layer broke while she was removing it from the pan.

She was SOOOOO apologetic. So, she decided to make another cake. I, meanwhile, fell asleep on the couch.

I do NOT give good baking advice while I am sleeping. Apparently (I have no memory of this) A asked me if it's OK to just use regular milk rather than sour milk in the recipe. I told her yes. Wrongly, of course. I was probably drooling in my sleep at the time.

Secondly, Ariana overfilled the cake pan and batter spewed all over the oven. I awoke to stinky burning cake batter smells filling our home. Lovely.

So, eventually cake number two was done and it was also a disaster. It did not rise right and was sunk in the middle because the pan was over full.

But I still had that first 8 inch top layer and it was perfect.

Later that evening I went to remove the perfect 8 inch layer from the cooling rack and remembered why we weren't supposed to use cooling racks in our cake class...it of course had gotten thoroughly stuck to the cake, and the removal process resulted in yet another broken cake layer.

Oh well, I would make another cake after AHG at 9 pm on Friday night, after being up most of the night the night before and while being so wobbly on my feet I could barely see straight. Yeah, that's the ticket!

And while there was crud in my oven?

10 pm came and went and found me in a heap of tears on the kitchen floor, sobbing my eyeballs out. It was the realization that I'd have to clean the oven before I could bake in it that finally did me in.

Because in between the cake drama we also had at least one adolescent aspie kid melt down in which I realized that someone around here needs more from me and from life than what I've been able to give. And I felt low, low, low.

So, as my husband told me on Friday night: "Don't they have bakeries for this sort of problem?" Why yes, yes they do!

I wish all my problems were that easy to solve.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Behind the Scenes

I have fibromyalgia. People often ask me what causes fibromyalgia and I usually tell them that there's debate about that in the medical community. Then I tell them the theory of Dr. Paul St. Amand, which my own Rheumatologist who diagnosed me subscribes to. In short, Dr. St. Amand, who has been treating thousands of people with fibro for over forty years, who has the illlness himself, and who is NOT selling any supplements or programs or herbs, and who has scientific studies which begin to verify that his theory is pointing in the right direction, has observed that fibromyalgia is the set of symptoms that manifest themselves when there is a disorder in energy metabolism on a cellular level...system wide, on a cellular level. I will let you, dear reader, go here to learn more about that.

That whatever is wrong with me is wrong system wide on a cellular level I definitely can feel in my body.

Unfortunately, fibromyalgia is something that doesn't make me look sick...unless you can see fatigue. My hands look normal while I am typing this, but they hurt and are slightly puffy. Aches and pains are invisible. Fatigue is invisible. I don't have a stuffy face and a cough, or leg braces, or prosthetics...so it's not obvious to others that my body is ill.

In fact, as a busy mom, I learn to fake it and appear "normal" when I'm out and about. I have learned over the years how to manage my illness to the point where I can "go and do" and not have too many problems...while I'm out. Sometimes I might be a bit more propped up on the grocery cart than the woman next to me. Sometimes I might be out doing a chore and shuffling along just slightly slower than the next...but who knows, I might just be browsing, right?

But then I get home and sometimes literally fall to pieces. But you can't see THAT part (my family does, but you don't). I might come home too fatigued to move a muscle, or to finish the chores, or to do anything. Sometimes even too fatigued and in too much pain to sleep. I have the most excellent family. They pitch in, they help. They do.

You see, behind the scenes is where it all happens. When I go out I have my game face on and I do my best. A very observant person will perhaps catch me walking slower than usual because my whole body might be hurting, or I might have that sudden weird fatigue that happens where my legs suddenly stop working right and the feet drag against the pavement even though I'm telling them to lift and to walk. At that point, I can't walk. I can only shuffle...because there is literally no strength in my leg muscles to make them go. Often when I'm walking I can literally feel myself slowing down against my will.

And the painful thing is, I can't always predict when this will happen, but I can to enough of an extent to keep it pretty much at home.

I also have a worse time of day....from 3-4 pm until about 7-9 pm when in varying manifestations, I have an even worse energy dip. I can forestall this by taking a nap sometimes.

So, last weekend I was on an AHG campout and we went hiking Saturday morning. Two lousy easy miles through some woods, and that was there, and back again. On the first mile I cold feel trouble brewing. My legs were slowing down. I told my fellow leaders and went at the pace I could. On the way back, I forced myself. I made it, of course. I always do somehow. But it wasn't much fun.

Later that day, on an excursion to see a pioneer days mill, I got to the point where I was shuffling. I sat down in the rain in my poncho and waited for the rest of the group to finish what they were doing. I was done at that point. It was time to stop. But I was on a camp out and it was raining and there were four of us leaders and four girls and there was not much stopping. I rested when I could, but the rest of the evening turned out to involve breaking camp sooner than we'd all planned and driving and hour and a half in the dark in the rain to get home. I managed. But it was definitely pushing myself. I'd pay later.

I was grateful to spend the night in my own bed after taking a hot shower. Sunday comes...Church as usual in the morning. And in the afternoon, the activities of the day before came home to roost. My legs were so fatigued I could only shuffle very very slowly, and not walk. I knew that what my body needed was to sit and be still, to rest. But what my family needed was groceries. So Wes came with me, drove the car, and at the store I rode the electric cart thingy. And that's always a bit embarassing. I literally couldn't walk.

I've been on museum trips where sitting in a wheelchair was the right thing to do. I own a cane. I used to use it to help me stand up for Church at St. Athanasius. For some reason, I've not used them much since we've moved to Louisville because I'm too embarrassed. Lately I've been thinking about it. When I'm shuffling across a parking lot, going too slow for words, a cane sends a social signal that there is, indeed, something wrong with me and I"m not just being slow to irritate the cars that have to wait on me. I wish I had a handicap tag on my car. But because the symptoms of fibro come and go, because I have good days and bad days, good moments and bad moments, those are very hard to come by.

Last night at AHG someone told me I should move out of the Ohio Valley. That would cure my fibro. Perhaps if I went somewhere cold and dry I would find relief. Perhaps if I took a week long trip with my husband we could find out if my body does better elsewhere. Um...yeah. I have no money to follow up on her suggestions, partly because the reality of chronic illness in a family has an impact on that family's earning potential.

Another person suggested I should eat an energy bar. Egads! If, on a cellular level the Krebs cycle/energy metabolism is screwed up, eating an energy bar will only do one thing: Make me FAT. Or send me to the ER since I'm allergic to nuts and I've never seen a nut free energy bar.

And then there was the first person again, who also suggested that a clean diet would do the trick. yeah. Already working VERY HARD on covering that particular base, thankyouverymuch.

Why did the topic of my fibro come up so much at AHG last night? Because the girls were hearing a presentation about Venture Crew and the opportunities for high adventure activities at various Boy Scouts of America facilites around the country from Rocky Mts. adventures, Sea Base in the Florida Keyes, or Northern Tier in Canada: hiking, horseback adventures, rock climbing/repelling, wilderness canoe trips, winter camping, whitewater rafting, sailing, scuba and snorkeling. All the sorts of things I would LOVE to do if it weren't for this darned illness of mine. And yes, they do need parent leaders for these trips. So I was sad, and people were caring and observant enough to ask me what's wrong. And then I'm told to work on my fitness levels and to eat an energy bar. I'm told to move out of the Ohio Valley. I'm told to clean up my already clean diet.

Earlier in the day another person told me that fibro is caused by anger. Pfffft. That sounds like Scientology to me. It's all in my head or in my heart. And if I would just repent hard enough the problem would go away.

Um, no it's not and no it doesn't and no it won't!

I take medicine. I follow my doctor's diet (yeah, struggled with that one over the years. I'll admit) I am on a protocol to reverse this damnable disease but it is slow and it takes a very long time. And I pray. And I see a therapist.

I have more life than I have energy for. The kids and their needs can't be scheduled around my illness. On a daily basis I set aside my own needs in favor of the needs of others. I, literally, have rigor mortis (the chemistry in my cells is the same as what causes rigor mortis...'cept I ain't dead yet!) and yet I keep on keeping on as best I can.

I don't want to be the forty year old with the cane. I don't want to be the woman with no cast on her leg driving the sit down cart at the grocery store. I don't want to be pushed in a wheelchair when my family visits a museum for a day. I don't want to miss out on anything or be hampered by anything. But sometimes I am. And it makes me sad. I read an article one time that mentioned that in quality of life surveys, people with fibromyalgia came up with a much lower score than people with cancer who are undergoing chemo. Think about that. WORSE THAN CHEMO. Day in, day out. Invisible. Behind the Scenes.

Please also read this here about what it's like to live with a chronic illness.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Exapostilaria



Love this music!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My Letter to Santa

Dear Santa...(My Christmas wish list):
-I saw a pretty binder at costco for doing one's own recipe collection. I need to improve my cooking by using more/better recipes in 2011. That would be a nice gift because all the best recipes seem to be on-line these days.

-I have a huge box of pictures that needs scrap booking. DO I DARE ask for scrap booking supplies? I'm frightened of a new craft involving (gasp!) paper. I wouldn't know where to begin. But I have this yen to do something with some of them....

-nothing sparkly. I'm not in a sparkly mood this year. No jewelry this year.

-knives. I need knives...but knives are BORING UTENSILS, and I don't really want boring utensils for Christmas. (I remember the year my mom was thrilled to get a salad spinner for Christmas. I think all moms should get any kitchen item they want/need any time at all, but NOT for Christmas.

-I do NOT want a snuggy. I have hotflashes. Do they make wearable air conditioners?

But a pair of house slippers would be nice. Perhaps the kind with memory foam?

And while we are speaking of wishes and memory foam...I need a new bed. But I think that's way beyond a Santa miracle. That's all the way up to the top... that would be a God miracle, or a God via Saint Nicholas miracle. Dear God, I need a new bed. My back hurts. Amen.

-Dear Santa, something smell-good to keep my skin moisturized and someone nice to apply it to me regularly. Some nice Swedish/Norwegian guy, preferably. Yeah, him (the one I married).

-Dear Santa, what I don't have enough of is energy. Can I have some energy for Christmas?

-Oh, and maybe that energy could come in the format of me burning off all the body fat I'm currently lugging around. That would be great. A wonderful Christmas present. I'll skip the Christmas cookies if it would help. Will give them to you on a plate with a glass of milk. You can be fat and jolly. Personally, I don't find myself very jolly when I'm as fat as I am this year.

-Dear Santa...what I want most in the world is for my kids to grow up loving God and for them to be OK as they face the challenges of living in this world with Asperger's Syndrome and High Functioning Autism. So what I want for Christmas is the grit and the strength to keep on being the best mom for them, because none of us are getting any younger...and I'm SO TIRED almost all the time.

-Dear Santa, that purse you gave me last year is a bit heavy and large...but oh, so chic. I wish I used it more often. Perhaps I shall stuff half of it with light weight scarves to I won't be tempted to carry so many books in there and weigh myself down.

-Dear Santa, I collect tea pots. I don't own a Christmas themed tea pot. That would be nice.

-A pretty shelf to display tea pots on.

-I would also like a Nativity Scene, which I do not own. But darn it, where would I put one? Nevermind.

-And Santa, for some reason I always want a Christmas dress because I'm old-fashioned and weird and I want to dress up for Church. I always envision something beautiful and end up feeling like a frumpy ill-put-together cow on Christmas. That might have more to do with the lateness of the hour of Church than anything else, though.

-Dear Santa...most of all I want to not be sick this year on Christmas so that I can make it to the midnight Divine Liturgy for the Nativity of Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ: Christ's Mass.

Yours truly,

Alana

P.S. If anyone asks me if I believe in Santa, I tell them all about Saint Nicholas. More people ought to know the truth.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Notes from Mother Gabriella's Friday Night Talk

Given at St. Michael the Archangel Orthodox Church, November 5, 2010 "Longing for God"

Disclaimer: I tried to get a full sense of what she was saying and write down as much of what she said as possible. I was not able to write down full quotations of Fathers of the Church, etc. I will transcribe the notes here and put them into complete sentences as much as I can. As a result, the words will be mostly my own, based on what I heard her say and the notes I took. Bear in mind that Mother Gabriella's first language is Romanian, and English is her second language. This comes through in some of the syntax, and I let it stand in some of the notes, and covered for it in some other of my notes.


I hope the topic is not "new" because God is always the same and our spiritual struggle is the same. But it is new because we change. As Orthodox Christians we live in the present, and there is always something new in each moment. The purpose of our earthly journey is to draw closer, always, to God. This talk is to remind us of our purpose, and that we may be encouraged in our struggle and know why we struggle.

St. John Climacus, in the 3rd step of his book wrote that even more than hunger, thirst which can so torment someone in the desert, describes our longing for God. The Psalmist writes the same thing "As the deer pants for the water, so my soul thirsts after Thee, O God."

What is this thirst for God? It is the calling to the human vocation, which is to become like God by grace. When we fulfill this calling, that is when we live our lives to the fullest. Every human being is created to receive the glory of God-to become like God. Gregory of Naziansus describes us as being both earthly and heavenly, both flesh and spirit, animal and yet rooted in another, heavenly, land...

In human beings, heaven and earth are united together. (We see this also in the Nativity of Christ when God took on our flesh and became human for our sakes.) We are here but we are on our way to another land. (heaven).

The human vocation is to take the universe into itself, and offer that back to God in worship, in order to articulate the worship which the universe secretly offers. Because we contain God (made in God's image, filled with the Holy Spirit) we are bigger than the universe.

Humanity is the only aspect of God's creating that is made in the image of God. We are the only part of God's creation that bear the likeness of imperishable beauty. When we turn to God, we become that which He himself is. The mystery is, that although He holds the universe, he lives in us. God says He will live and move in us. We have the qualities that God has: Intelligence, spiritual, etc. therefore we are always drawn to eternity, to that which is like us, but superior to us. We are drawn to God. We have in us the grace of the Holy Spirit along with the freedom God has given us.

God offers Himself to us, but doesn't force us. His power is love and love wants the freedom of the beloved. He knocks at the door of our heart and waits. WE have the handle on the inside to open to him if we wish.

Man (humanity) is to reflect the image of God and love that exists in the circle of the Trinity.

But man chose not to live in communions with God, and fell from grace. Adam lamented after he fell. We have a hunger and thirst that no one but God can satisfy, a nostalgia for paradise, which is the state of being in full communion with God.

Man will never find rest until he rests in the Lord. David says this in the Psalms. "Find rest, O my soul, in God alone".

Proof of God's limitless love for us is the incarnation, John 3:16. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."

St. Athanasius in _On the Incarnation_ writes his famous line: "God became man so that man may become god."

The incarnation is the essence of Orthodoxy. God is a personal God who speaks face to face. The Holy Trinity manifests that God IS life in communion.

We need one another, and we belong to one another. The only natural way of life is to deny our-self for the person next to us, giving of our-self.

Likes and dislikes are the fruit of pride and selfishness.

Each family, community, nation, workplace, have their own vocation to become a living icon of the Holy Trinity. Our mission is to reflect the communion of God's love. As individuals we can't be true persons. "We are responsible for everyone and everything." --Fr. Zosima

We are not saved separately. If we had the courage to live totally for one another we would transform the world.

Christianity is not a philosophy, rather a life to be lived within the community of the Church. There is nothing that's in the Church that is lacking. Everything we need is here. It is a "saint factory", and God wants us to be saved (turned into saints). There's a saying that goes: "God has need of everything that He has made."

Therefore we accept God's will and trust in God's will. Faith and grace are a gift, but we need to assemble it, and cooperate with God. (here the word assemble, I think is an example of M. Gabriella's English not being native...perhaps the word acquire would do better?)

Saint is someone who is "set apart" for God. Set apart from the rest of the world. The world will hate you...love one another, as St. John says in his epistle.
Be God-pleasing, holy, virtuous, to die to self-these things are not the worldly way. God has given us dignity and potential to rise above what is base. We are expected to rise above the cares of everyday life. Life is beautiful and it is the way we are destined to go to God. Life is a gift from God to be lived for God and to be offered back to God.

So, we offer our day to God in the morning. Start small but be constant in the remembrance of God and our purpose in life. There is only one way to true happiness and that is self-sacrifice.

After doing the Christian things such as going to Church, daily prayers, fasting, confession, receiving the sacraments, etc., what more is there? Meditate on God! We are to discover the depth of who we are and grow closer to God. Our spiritual growth is infinite. There's always something new to look forward to. By learning who we are, we learn about God, too. We need to have that desire for God because that is where we are traveling-there will be a time when we see God face to face, not as in a mirror. We shall see Him as he is and He will se us and we hope to be recognized by Him. That is the joy and excitement of the Christian life. "My desire is to be with the Lord."-St. Paul.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Doll Clothes

I saw a doll at Costco today and since they don't always have the same items from week to week, I decided I'd better snap it up. ;-) It's a Madame Alexander. Madame Alexander dolls and I go way back to my very first doll (Baby Huggems) which I clutched to my chest at the age of 1 and did not let go of for several years. She's been living on my dresser now, for a while, and when I got her down to compare faces with the doll I bought today, I realized her body, long ago mended by my Meemaw, was literally falling apart.



So I had to remove the head and quickly create a pattern from the body before it utterly disintegrated. I know, I probably just vastly reduced the value of my baby huggems, but replacing the body with an exact replica will make it more fun. I plan on sewing a baptismal gown for this doll at some point, after seeing a baby huggems in a baptismal gown on a Madame Alexander collector's website.

At any rate, here are some shots of my new doll, and the dress and slip I made this week. I'll be delicate and refrain from showing the doll panties. They are of the same eyelet that the slip bottom is made of.

Господи помилуй

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Sitting on the Front Pew

Whenever my family is at Church, I feel like perhaps we are a bit of a freak show. Lord have mercy, but those are my feelings. We like to sit down front, so that the kids aren't as distracted by the mayhem around them, and can see the icons and hear the prayers better. Yes, the nave is that large.

But I've always been a front row kind of gal. I was the kid in school who sat up front right under the teacher's nose, and at our old parish we had our spot, close to the front on the left hand side, right under the Theotokos' nose.

At. St. Michael's we are on the right hand side. Right smack dab in front of Jesus (well, his icon at any rate).

But for the past several weeks I've not managed to stay there the entire service. Any parent of young children knows what it's like to have to take a child out during the service.

My kids aren't young, but I often still have to take a child out during the service. Week after week after week. And so we are in the narthex, in a parish that is still largely filled with people who are strangers to me. I feel like they know who I am because I'm the lady with the special needs daughter who has to go out of Church every Sunday and sit on the bench outside by the Incarnation icon and settle her down and then go to the bathroom for tissues and a face wash. We get sympathic looks and head nods. The same anonymous parents who are taking the same toddlers for a potty trip and the same older guys out for a mid-liturgy smoke (I don't judge). Sympathetic looks from teenagers whose names I don't know and whose names my own teenagers don't know.

I feel like we are, mostly, the untouchables.

Not that it's true. I have plenty of friends at Church. I am known and I know people. Just not everyone. And that's hard.

Part of the asceticism of my situation, then, is for me not to assume that I know what is in people's hearts. In a large parish it is impossible to know everyone within the span of two years. Having special needs kids that keeps them and me out of the normal loop of normal youth group activities and Church activities makes it all the more difficult.

But just because I don't know people doesn't mean they are mean, or that they are thinking bad things about us. Perhaps (and I will assume this to be true) people I don't even know are praying for us. And perhaps I can get beyond my own little word, and learn to pray for them, too. At any rate, I am learning to assume the best of people, even when all my vulnerabilites are out there for the world to see. And that is a good lesson.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Craft Day


Doll Pascha Goodies


Today I declared it to be "craft day" and we worked on all sorts of things. I still count it as school. As an adult, I earn way more money so far with my crafting skills than I do with my math skills, and it would be a crying shame not to pass on some of my vast knowledge to my kids.

So, I've decided to teach my girls to sew. We are sewing doll clothes, to save on cloth and to be able to do projects from my fabric stash. Why did I not think of this sooner? Maia is making a "hippie chick" outfit for her 18" doll, and Ariana, of course, is making the most complicated 18th century gown she could envision with lace and ruffles and the like, in THE most difficult fabrics (lace and satin) to be found in my stash. Oh well, she'lll learn to pin things diligently, then. Har har. Bethany is making her doll a flannel nightgown, but she didn't craft much today. (She's already very crafty) because her meds are making her sleepy and she's depressed.

And what shall Eric do?

He's not at all intersted in sewing. Or knitting. Or crochet. Of course. Those are "girl things".

Well, what does he like? Role playing games. Characters. Computer games. What craft would fit with that? Learning to model with sculpey polymer clay, perhaps? He got excited when I mentioned it.

He made a bird and a santa ornament, to practice.

Meanwhile, since we are dressing dolls (and I'm knitting doll tights), I decided to make some doll accessories out of sculpey clay. Today's efforts yielded the contents of a Pascha basket: Red eggs, a wheel of cheese, sausage and of course a kulich with removable beeswax candle. And grapes for transfiguration (or a snack).

Other ideas I have for sculpey doll accessories: Bowl of koliva, again with removable beeswax candle; Lytia bread, a birthday cake, roses for one's name day, palm frond for Palm Sunday, perhaps a cross on a tray with flowers around it for the feast of the elevation of the holy cross, etc.

Needless to say, I'm having way too much FUN with this. I'll be having craft days with my kids more often.

They all worked really hard. So hard that Eric was exhausted and grumpy during his piano lesson, and Ariana could barely keep herself straight at supper time.

And while the day was good and exceedingly productive, the evening was full of
bellowing sobs, crying, grumpiness and misery on more than one person's part.

And so, as you can see, the idyllic "good" degenerates into the realistic narshty of people just having been and done too much. Lord have mercy, once again!

P.S. I want a doll for Christmas. But I'd also like her, if she weren't so overpriced for a piece of cloth and plastic.

And I want to make hand knitted tights and cute clothes for my doll (it's all about the tiny-scale crafting) and then someday maybe I"ll be the coolest grandma ever, what with my nifty future doll collection and all.

Tomorrow I'll post pics of some of the cool things the other kids did with their sculpey clay: a praying nun, a bird, santa ornament, and an alien space ship.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Playing with Pippin



The kids think I bought the gerbils or them. Bwahahahaha!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Mantilla Musings: A Cross Post from my Other Blog.


I was at my sewing machine this evening, putting some lace edging onto a lace triangle I'd cut out (not a hard job) to finish off a prayer veil, and while I was sewing I got to thinking....

I've been pondering writing a post on this blog about how the meaning of women's veiling is different for Orthodox Christian women than it is for...oh, say....Mennonite women. I can say that, because once upon a time I was Mennonite. Now I am Orthodox. I liked covering then, but it came with a great deal of "baggage".

Instead of being called a prayer veil, often a woman's covering was referred to in Mennonite circles as a "headship covering" and it specifically symbolized a woman's place under the authority of her husband or father. Very patriocentric and very hierarchical.

In Orthodoxy, I don't find such a meaning attached to wearing a prayer veil, or prayer covering, at all.

When something is covered, it is done so because it is a holy thing. I'm thinking of the coverings that are draped over the Holy Gifts when they are brought out during the Great Entrance. (See photo above. Notice what the priest is holding: A covered chalice.) I'm thinking of the Holy of Holies, in the Old Testament. I'm ALWAYS thinking of the Theotokos (that's Mary, the Mother of God, for any readers who may not be familiar with the Greek word. It literally means God-bearer.) when I think of head coverings, for some reason. And I'm thinking of the angels. St. Paul writes that women are to veil "because of the angels." I'm not all the way sure what that means, fully, but we do know that when we enter the Divine Liturgy, we are joining the heavenly hosts in their continuous worship. Interesting side note: In Orthodox Iconography, women saints are ALWAYS depicted with a veil on their head. Angels have what might be misinterpreted by some as a "woman's hairstyle" with what looks like a head band. But angels are NEVER depicted in a feminine way, but rather as warriors.)

In a world that treats women pornographically, it is quite a bold statement to put on a prayer veil. It is a radical thing to cover up that which is uncovered and reduced to a sex object by the world. Covering is giving a woman honor, when the uncovering of women is all around us. (Seen any billboards or commercials lately? I rest my case.) It is precisely because women are sexualized by the world that they are veiled in Church. It is a radical thing, and an elevating thing to take a woman and say: "She should be veiled." Especially in the context of a religion that veils it's holy mysteries.

Now, I'm not saying that this means that women are somehow better than men, or above men. Not at all. St. Paul balances it out: Woman is for the man, man comes out of woman...it's a balance. And because of the Incarnation of Christ, and Mary's "Yes" to God we can boldly say that God also came out of a woman when He took on human flesh to save us from sin and death. We women are icons, in a way. Icons in the midst of the Church composed of male and female persons of what it means to be the Bride of Christ, who is Himself the Church's bridegroom. In our veiling, we have something spiritual to show.

It's a mystery.

photo credit here.

Original blog post: Here.

A Gentleman Jumping Into the Fray

A few posts down I mentioned that a friend of mine had written a blog post asking me, specifically, to defend women's role in ancient (Orthodox) Christianty, and why I would say that women aren't oppressed in the Orthodox Church.

In the comments to that post, Justin jumps in, and out of curiosity I clicked on his link and found he'd written an entire blog post on the subject. Here it is.

Check it out!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

1 of 10 UC Berkeley: Gary Taubes 11/7/2007



Here's a start. You can find the rest of the series on Youtube.

Tornadoes, Tired and Gary Taubes

Whenever the weather is turbulent, I feel extra tired. It's my fibromyalgia. I'm used to it.

Today I managed to run some errands and do some mending. What do you do when your rapidly growing girl outgrows the length of a pretty dress? Why, find another in similar fabric (bigger size) at the thrift store, cut the bottom off the bigger one, top off the favorite one, and sew the top onto the longer bottom. Problem solved. And I put a button on a shirt and did and a bit of mending on a blouse. OK, enough about my sewing corner. It was the type of afternoon where I kept spilling the trash can due to clumsiness, knocking over my thread holder and having to pick up, re-wind and re-stash multiple spools of thread....glad to be out of there.

There was a very exciting tornado warning in Jefferson County today just before noon. 80 mph winds and various twister clouds that may or may not have touched down. I put the kids in the hallway and watched the weather on the news. So glad we live on the downstairs level of our apartment. Ah, good times!

Currently reading (yep, I did it again...put down the book I was reading in favor of a library book) "Good Calories Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes.

Very thick and sciency. Not a diet book. I recommend it to all, but especially those who might be fluffier than they wish they were.

I'll post a video by Gary Taubes to serve as a good introduction. Well worth your time. Whether the reiteration of information I technically already know will enable me to apply it to my life in sufficiently stringent ways to get my very sluggish metabolism to actually let go of some of my fluff...well, we shall see. God's will be done.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thrift Store Score

Today's haul:

A bicycle for the kids. I promised the kids when I found one at the thrift store I'd buy it. Today was that day.

Bike helmet

Wooden bread box w/ harvest scene etching and "Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread". A "want" not a need, but will keep my kitchen tidier.

Corningware 9x13 casserole baking dish. Needed another 9x13 since my pampered chef stone one broke. One casserole dish for the family just doesn't cut it sometimes.

Small high quality stainless steel saucepan w/ clear glass lid Again, I needed this as I only had one saucepan, had been thinking of buying one new soon.)

A pink glass bell (to be used by sick people when stuck in bed and need help so they don't have to use their voice to call...like what my mom had when I was growing up.)

Sweaters for Eric (needed them)

Leggings for Ariana (2 pairs. She needed them and I was going to buy some someplace else this weekend. These were new w/ tags at thrift store prices!)

A pretty blouse for me (like I NEED more clothes...ha! But it was a soft ocean blue w/ pretty floral print and embroidery on it and I could not resist and it was only two and a half dollars, so there.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Projects in my Head

If you are like me, you have a mental wishlist of things you would like to do someday. For me, these include the following:

Reading through the big stack of books I have started but not finished-The Atheist Delusion by David Bentley Hart, The Gulag Archipelago by Solzhhoweveryouspellit, The Great Upheaval by Jay Winik and The Brothers Kharamazov by Dostoyevsky. Oh, and St. Necktarios.

For some reason, when reading is thick, I struggle to get through it. Whereas, when reading is lite, I can fly through a brain-candy book in no time at all. I have a really really bad habit of starting a book, and then starting another book, and another, and another. Of the above stack, I have started ALL of them and finished none. So I have picked up The Atheist Delusions and am forcing myself to finish it. And then the next and the next, and so on. So that's my stack of reading.

Then there's the stack of unfinished crafts. I have a sweater I'm working on, a child sized cardigan in purple, with cables. I stoppped knitting it when the pillow project came my way. Of course work I do for people takes precedence over my own personal projects and knitting is one of those time consuming things that can only happen when I'm not too tired, and when fibro is not making my arms and hands ache too badly. It's a miracle I get as much done as I do, I guess.

I also have in mind to make a quilt and have been collecting fabric scraps to that end. I'm not there yet, but the collection has begun. It's definitely a project in my head.

I would LIKE to knit myself a sweater or sweater jacket out of natural fisherman's wool. I think that will be my next thing, in the realm of knitting.

Oh, and I have in my head to design some American Girl Doll sized (18") ethnic costumes from other minority nationalities who have come to the United States: Greek, Russian, Serbian...you get my drift. There might be a small market for such crafts, perhaps?

And I have yet and still to open that etsy shop I dream about.

Oh well, I'm busy enough as it is.

So, those are the projects in my head. What are yours?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Marshmallow Gun of Forgiveness or "Laughter is the Best Medicine"

One of my kids, who shall remain nameless got reaaaaalllllly mad at another one of my also nameless kids. It was after Vespers tonight and it was just me and the two of them and I was inside doing confession and they were outside playing and wondering where I was.

So, I came out of the chapel, and there were happy kid noises and based on the shouts I heard, some kids were pretending some sort of wizard of Oz game because I heard certain voices trying to include nameless kid number one as the cowardly lion. Obviously, based on nameless number one's reaction, he/she did NOT want to be the cowardly lion and so nameless1 hit nameless2 TWICE and there was a bit of a frakas.

I made them apologize to each other, but nameless1 was really really mad. Way out of proportion to the situation. Part of me was wanting to scream and yell and holler "Just get over it already, it'd no big deal." It was an Asperger's Sydrome moment for nameless1 and he/she did NOT have the oooomph to get over anything and was actually quite raging mad. I managed to be patient.

That's the dark side of Asperger's syndrome: Rages. Those rages do frighten me a bit sometimes. But we've never really had anything violent happen in our family and I do feel blessed for it.

So, we got home and nameless1 contained him/herself fairly well and went into a private room. I sent Wes in to deal with nameless1 while I cooked dinner. At this point, nameless2 was completely over it.

So dinner is made, and nameless1 decided to eat alone in another room. Fine, let him/her. So we ate. After dinner I took nameless1 a cookie and told him/her that he/she HAD to forgive his/her sibling. I told nameless it was for the sake of his/her own soul and that holding on to anger will only damage oneself and not the other person. Nameless1 was holding a PVC pipe marshmallow gun.

"Do you think you can forgive your sibling?"

"Well, if he/she waves a white flag."

"Ok, shall I get a white flag?"

"No, I have plans..."

"And then what are you going to do? Shoot your sibling with the marshmallow gun of forgiveness?"

"Sure that works!"

So I fetched some marshmallows and nameless1 put a hand knitted white sock on an old walking stick with some string and nameless2 agreed to wave the white sock flag, kneel and try to catch the marshmallows of forgiveness in his/her mouth. Nameless2 did not quite succeed at catching them orally, but did eat them off the floor, and all was made right again as they giggled at the hilarity of it all.

Silliness, once again, seems to win the day at our house. I do want them to learn good lessons, no matter the cost. Even if the price is silliness and laughter. It is, after all, said to be the best medicine.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Get in on the Discussion

Over Here.

About women in the Church.

Western Christianity
Eastern Christianity
Ancient
Modern
Post Modern

This might get interesting.

Are you saved? - an Orthodox Christian answer.