Friday, July 31

Frugal Hacks: Pottery Barn...

A few days ago, I received my Pottery barn catalog in the mail. As usual, I flipped through it immediately and must have been looking through it with Little Man on my lap. Apparently, he has also been reading Meredith, and came up with his own version of their Vintage Wood Pedestal to set up a tablescape... who needs to spend $60 when you can raid the dollhouse?

Boardwalk Rides at Night...

Thursday, July 30

Thoughts on Homemaking...

If you have time, please head on over to Kyrie's blog to read this recent post entitled Start with a Clean Slate. How can you argue with a woman who likes to do one thing every night to make her home beautiful?
I haven't made these biscuits in a long time, but they were the perfect breakfast this morning. In addition to slathering them with butter and jam, we really like using them as the crust on our chicken pot pie!

Field of Sunflowers...

Tuesday, July 28

Blueberry Buckle...

We really like this moist cake topped with sweet and crisp crumbs. It is delicious for breakfast, a special snack, and even dessert!


1/4 cup Butter
3/4 cup Sugar
1 Egg
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 cup Milk
2 cups Blueberries, rinsed

1/4 cup Butter
1/2 cup Sugar
1/3 cup Flour
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon


Cream 1/4 cup butter with sugar; add egg and beat well. In a medium bowl, sift together 2 cups of flour, baking powder, and salt. Add sifted dry ingredients to butter mixture alternating with milk, beating until smooth. Fold in blueberries.

Pout into a greased 9" square baking pan. For topping, combine ingredients and blend well to form crumbs. Sprinkle topping crumbs over batter. Bake at 375 degrees F for 35 minutes.

Monday, July 27

Learning Basket: Sunflowers...

The theme of this week's Learning Basket is Sunflowers.

We are finishing up Katherine's Holy Apostles lesson plans this week so that we can start the plans that she has created for the Mother of God on August first.

I found a printable coloring book with pictures of sunflowers and little facts on them. Since Sugar Plum loves to color, I think she'll enjoy this.

We are planning on making a sunflower using these templates that I found online, yellow and green tissue paper, and sunflower seeds to make a sunflower to hang on our refrigerator.

We really enjoyed playing with the Wikki Stix last week, so I threw this in for a little extra fun this week.

I found this book on my shelf and it happens to have two pages on Van Gogh and his Sunflowers. I would have really liked to use the Van Gogh book in the Mini Masters set (we have two of the books in that series already), but I've used up my homeschooling money for this month, so it will have to wait!

We'll read some of books that have sunflowers in them and also read our High Five mag for this month (there's a poem about Sunflowers on one of the first pages). Our library system didn't have any of the books that I was hoping to read this week (one being Katie and the Sunflowers), so this is going to be a weak week when it comes to literature.

We are going to have our first taste of sunflower seeds this week.

I also pulled out this card set that I bought a few months ago. I think that Sugar Plum is ready to learn some of the games they suggest for three year olds. If not, good old fashioned matching games are always fun!

Finally, I am planning on taking the children to a farm stand where they sell sunflowers so that we can buy a few. Also, the local peach orchard has a field of sunflowers that are just beginning to bloom. I hope to stop there as well. It should be a fun week!

Edited to Add:

We went to story hour today and I found this book! We'll add it to our meager literary offerings this week... it looks great!

Doing Okay...

We had out dentist appointment earlier and found that Little Man is going to be okay! He has a great deal of bruising in his mouth (and of course he is also cutting five teeth as well!), so he'll be uncomfortable for awhile. The main concern now is getting him to drink. He's had some juice, a bite of ice cream, and the fruit pop in the picture so far. It is so sad to watch him suffer, but mouths heal quickly! Thank you for your prayers!

Prayers for Little Man...

Our poor little boy took a tumble yesterday and ended up having to take a ride in an ambulance to the ER. He has a cut under his chin that wasn't too bad - it just needed a bit of skin glue to keep it together. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for inside his mouth. We aren't sure exactly what injuries he has, only that one tooth seems to have been moved and there is a deep cut on his gum. We're headed to the pediatric oral surgeon today for a 10:30 am appointment to find out what is going on. I'm mostly worried because he has been unable to eat, drink, or nurse for 14 hours now. Please keep us in your prayers.

I'll update later and try to put up Learning Basket pictures tonight. Thank you!!

Saturday, July 25

Fruit Salad, Anyone?

Peaches were 88 cents a pound at the market yesterday, so I bought a bunch. We ate four yesterday and today, a certain little nineteen-month-old took nibbles from three of the remaining four while my back was turned.

Things are hectic this morning because we have a showing of our home sometime between 11am and 1pm. I'm tidying up and then we'll head out to run some errands. It should be interesting because that is the time my children take their naps usually.

I hope the house sells for the owners sake! Please say a little prayer for them.

Wednesday, July 22

The Life of Saint Brigid: Abbess of Kildare...

A few days ago, I received a copy of The Life of Saint Brigid: Abbess of Kildare by Jane G. Meyer to review. I am embarrassed to admit I knew nothing of Saint Brigid's life until I read the book. When the package arrived, I ripped it open and devoured the book right then and there (the children were napping or else I would have read it to them, too!). I loved reading about this saint and am so glad to know more about her!

One of the best things about this book is the content. Though the book is written in easy to understand prose, it is chock full of wonderful information about the saint. The book is clearly meant for children, but I believe that this is a book that every adult should own as well.

The illustrations for The Life of Saint Brigid are beautiful Celtic style paintings. I thought that it added so much to have the traditional style of artwork used to depict scenes from Saint Brigid's life. I really liked the icons that the illustrator, Zachary Lynch, painted alongside the Celtic knot work designs and illustrations of the saint's life throughout the book.

This children's book was written for little ones aged four and up. Our eldest child is three and while this book went a bit over her head, she did get something from it. She loved the part of the book that discussed Saint Brigid's pantry being blessed by God so that she could give food away to the poor. In addition, she was quite interested in the concept of becoming a nun - something I genuinely thought was beyond her comprehension. She was very drawn to one of the illustrations of Saint Brigid after she had become a nun and was dressed in white (I think because it reminded her of an icon we have of Saint Elisabeth the New Martyr).

A hard concept for Sugar Plum to understand was the fact that many of the illustrations showed the people and animals with expressions that she described as "sad" or "angry." The style of Celtic art is to use teardrop shaped eyes which often create that sad or angry look in the pictures. I believe that this was tricky for our daughter to understand because she often uses the pictures to help her understand what is going on in the story and the way things looked didn't mesh with the words that I was reading to her. I truly feel that we had difficulty with this because Sugar Plum is only three and the book is meant for slightly older children who would be better able to understand the differences in artistic style.

I really loved this book and am so happy that we have a copy for our collection of Orthodox children's books! I am very thankful that I now know about this wonderful saint and plan on finding an icon of her to hang in our kitchen next to one of Saint Euphrosynos the Cook. The life of Saint Brigid offers so much encouragement to us all! I hope that you will read and enjoy this book as much as we did!

Tuesday, July 21

Dinner Date...

For the past few months, Fr John and I have been enjoying one or two dinner dates at home each week. With two little ones, meal time can be chaotic, so our solution has been to enjoy a couple of dinners a week together once the children are in bed. We've kept things relatively simple: dinner and a movie or television show at the coffee table or dinner at the kitchen table while we chat. One thing that I'd love to do is string twinkle lights on the screened in porch and eat there. I am glad that we've been doing this because it is such fun to look forward to it during the day and plan out how to make it special. I do have to say that it doesn't take much... my husband is an easy man to please!

What do you do for your date nights? Let's share some ideas!

Monday, July 20

Learning Basket: Beatrix Potter...

The theme of this week's Learning Basket is Beatrix Potter.

We will be reading some of Potter's books and doing a few activities for each. In lieu of reading our little Peter Rabbit book, we will use stickers to complete the pictures in our Peter Rabbit Sticker Storybook and then read the story in that. We were given this Peter Rabbit stuffed animal for Sugar Plum's first Christmas and he will be perfect for retelling the story!

We will also read The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, use our hedgehog puppet for re-telling the story. It will also be fun to follow a rabbit trail to Jan Brett's Hedgie's Surprise.

Wikki Stix will be fun to play with after reading The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse (who finds wax left by the bees in her home!).

The Tale of Two Bad Mice is one of my favorites and I think that the little ones will enjoy coloring the picture of naughty Hunca Munca. I am going to see if Sugar Plum can loosely copy the colors that Beatrix Potter use in her illustration for on her coloring sheet.

We are working on Katherine's Holy Apostles lesson Plans and will be able to do even more now that our books have arrived. Sugar Plum loves to match the three part cards that Katherine created.

Finally, we will continue to work on our laminated Kumon books. I may laminate a few more pages for each book after I see how well Sugar Plum can do on the first ten lessons.

I do not think that we will get through everything we have in the basket, but I'd rather have more planned than not enough. Ideas and materials for this week's basket came from:

Sunday, July 19

A Year of Seasonal Themes for the Learning Basket...

I really like the idea of using themes that reflect the changes in the seasons for teaching pre-school. Expanding on Dawn's list of Kinderthemes, I came up with five themes per month that include the things that are happening during the month as well as one author that I'd like to focus on. I think that this will help my planning for my Living and Learning Lists as well as provide a focus for our week. Since I am planning this a bit far in advance, I am expecting to tweak things a bit as we go along. I am hoping to tuck the books, crafts, and ideas into a basket the week before we plan to learn about them and then we'll have a Learning Basket to work from at our own pace. I'd like this first year of homeschooling to be carefree but also a good foundation to future years when things will have to be a bit less spontaneous.

When September comes, we will also be using the booklist from Sonlight for 3/4 for more book choices and Kumon Books for our daughter's age and skill level. For our religious studies, we'll be following along with Katherine's Learning Through the Year of Grace plans as she writes them (of course we'll be keeping things very simple for our little ones). Finally, I am planning on ordering some of the pre-school materials offered through Handwriting Without Tears. Our daughter is not ready to learn how to write her letters yet, but I want to be prepared with this program when she is.

Without further ado, here are the themes that I would like to use for our Learning Baskets this year:


12 Days of Christmas
Ezra Jack Keats
Early Spring Flowers - Forced Bulbs

Helen Oxenbury

Barbara Cooney
Knights and Dragons
Alexandra Day

Patricia Polacco

Eric Carle

Independence Day
Beatrix Potter

Shirley Hughes

Tomie DePaola

Lois Elhert

Winter Beds
Laura Ingalls Wilder (My First Little House Books)

Saint Nicholas
Nativity and 12 Days of Christmas
Jan Brett

Stay tuned each Monday (hopefully!) with a peek into our basket for the week!

Saturday, July 18

Orthodox Driving...

From Father John's Weekly Bulletin, Source Unknown.

In these days when “road rage” seems to be such a problem, it might do us some good to think about our own attitudes when we drive. As in all other aspects of life, we are not responsible for the behavior of others, but we are responsible for ours, and driving in traffic is not too unlike every other human interchange. Nevertheless, driving, somehow, seems to be able to release in us certain behaviors we otherwise do not manifest, and the most notable of these is, of course, anger.

Since we tend to be alone in driving, we can have some opportunities to look at ourselves and ask ourselves why we react in one way or another, and whether it does or does not conform to behavior expected of a Christian, especially an Orthodox Christian, in the light of the Gospel and our experience of the Savior. And if we are reacting angrily at such times, we might not be surprised to find that it usually is because we are angry about something else; or that, as is so often the case, we have not forgiven someone somehow, and we are consciously or unconsciously holding a grudge. Perhaps, in the solitude of the automobile, we have opportunities to see our symptoms, and prayerfully come to a better self-understanding, opening the door to our own ability to forgive, and to be healed in heart.

The Ten Commandments for Drivers

I. Always begin a trip with a prayer, making the Sign of the Cross and entrusting yourself to the Lord.

II. Never drink and drive.

III. Never try to shorten the time of a trip. If you started out late, you will arrive late. Do not speed.

IV. Apologize to a driver whom you have interfered with, even when you did not intend to. After all, when we are walking, and bump someone, we apologize without thinking. So why should there be a different ethic behind the wheel?

V. Always yield was to someone who is in a great hurry, or is driving aggressively. If you do not yield, he will pass you, but the situation will be more dangerous.

VI. Give a wave of thanks to a driver who makes way for you.

VII. Drive in such a way that you won't fear seeing a police car. Remember that God is Watching, even if the police are not.

VII. Stay as far away as possible from cars that have dents or show signs of accidents. But be careful not to judge, or you may share in their misfortune.

IX. Never speed up when another driver tries to pass you, or get into your lane. Do not treat you neighbor in a way you do not want to be treated.

X. After every trip, thank God for its safe completion. Be thankful after any trip, and not just a successful one. After all, almost always it could have been worse!

Friday, July 17

French Summers...

On Saturdays in summer when I was a child, my mother would serve us a cold lunch on the shaded terrace overlooking the garden. The day would have started and ended, as it still does, with a tall glass of water. She took pains to be sure that we were never dehydrated; there would be a full pitcher, frequently refilled, all day long. Mother would bring a baguette. a couple of cheeses, some salami or ham, while I, with a visiting friend or two would go to the garden to pluck a few tomatoes, some radishes, and some fresh lettuce (we would rinse our pickings at the garden tap, never stepping foot in the house). That labor was rewarded later with free, exclusive access to the berry bushes; after eating our sandwiches, slowly of course, there was a digestive pause, and then we were each handed a bowl with which to forage. It's as if my mother knew we would otherwise just crouch there putting berries into our mouths without a thought for the others waiting at the table. We did, however. manage to make it back with bowlfuls for them, too. Afterward, we'd just sit and talk lazily til mid afternoon. Even with the doors and windows arranged for a cross breeze, it was simply too hot at midday to sit indoors,much less exert oneself outside. Evenings were when we played, and on the longest days it would be light out until ten.

We were left to our own devices in the big garden. Mid-afternoon, one of our neighbors, Madame Regnaud, would often come with a new children's nook she was reading to her grandchildren, and she would read us a story or two in the shade of the terrace; with our eyes shut we could hear nothing but her voice over the happy chatter of the birds. Mamie would reappear around le 4 heures for the afternoon refreshment, not a gouter (snack) but a glass of lemonade she had made fresh, mindful of our need for water, especially in summer. It was neither tart nor especially sweet."

from French Woman for All Seasons: A Year of Secrets, Recipes, and Pleasures
By Mireille Guiliano

Tuesday, July 14

Orthodox Children's Illustrated Bible Reader...

My parents bought this children's Bible for Sugar Plum in honor of her namesday earlier this month... it arrived just in time this evening! We've been visiting both sides of our family since Sunday and are returning home bright and early tomorrow morning. I am so excited about reading it to our little ones!

Monday, July 13

Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning...

So, what do you think? I have to say that so far it doesn't really thrill me...

Sunday, July 12

Mobile church on the move with Russian Army.. – July 2, 2009

The Russian Orthodox Church has ordered a mobile church from the Volgograd Heavy Transport Equipment Plant, has noted. The new church will join rail churches and floating churches already in service. It is built on a converted KamAZ truck.

The church is square and olive-drab in color when it is mobile, in keeping with government standards for military vehicles. But it opens up into a chapel that meets all the canonical structural requirements of the Russian Orthodox Church. A system of pivots and hinges allows it to unfold a cross-topped steeple. Inside, there is an altar and confessional. The total area inside the church is 40 square meters, room enough for about 50 people. There is also churchyard with a fo lding fence.

The mobile church has its own generator, air conditioner and heating system. It can be broken down and made mobile again within four hours, by two people. “Our church will be able to travel to the farthest military units and subdivisions in the most severe climatic zones and inaccessible locations,” boasted its chief designer. The mobile church made its battlefield debut earlier this month at exercises in the Nizhny Novgorod Region.

Saturday, July 11

Book Review: Pictures of God...

I saw this book in the latest Conciliar Press catalogue and ordered it right away. We ended up giving it to Sugar Plum on the Anniversary of her Baptism and it has been a favorite in our house ever since.

One of the things that I like the most about this book is that it can be read and understood at a variety of different ages. There is a brief "Notice This" section that is perfect for younger children and a longer section to the left with more detail on each of the icons presented. The icons that the author chose for this books are beautiful and very common to the churches in America (in my experience). I think that children who read this book with their parents will be able to pick out the icons that they learn about in Pictures of God in their own parishes.

The only thing that I found disappointing was the icon of the Saints of North America. They are missing Saint Raphael of Brooklyn! This book was published after his canonization and I wish that an icon including him was chosen.

I am very happy that we added this book on icons to our collection and think that it will help our children to understand icons and notice details in icons much more than they would have without reading this book. If you are looking for a book to add to your children's library, I don't think that you will be disappointed with this one!

Thursday, July 9

Lazy Days of Summer...

This week has been a very crafty sort of week. Sugar Plum often requests what she calls "art school" and will sit at the table for hours coloring, painting, playing with play dough, etc. Some of our favorite go-to craft items are watercolor pencils, beads, glue, paint, scissors, crayons, and markers. We're always on the lookout for other fun things to use. What do you like to work with?

Wednesday, July 8

Reusable Kumon Books...

I really like Kumon books and our daughter really enjoys working on them. Unfortunately, they are a bit expensive to hand over to Sugar Plum to work through when the mood strikes. I decided to follow a friend's advice and laminate some of the pages from each of the new workbooks I had tucked away.

Next, I punched holes in each page and put them into a slim binder. I carefully cut off the front cover and slid it into the front so we'd know what we were working on.

Now Sugar Plum can use wipe off markers and small squares of felt to use her books over and over, and over again! It works so well, I think that when Little Man is ready, we can use them with him too!

As Sugar Plum is able to work on harder activities from the books, I'll laminate a few more pages from each and she can build on the skills she already knows.

Also, I always considered a laminator to be an unnecessary expense, but I found my Scotch one at BJ's for $20 and each package of 50 laminating sheets is $7. We really like it and I definitely think it was a worthwhile purchase!

Tuesday, July 7

On Charity...

The bread you do not use is the bread of the hungry. The garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of the person who is naked. The shoes you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot. The money you keep locked away is the money of the poor. The acts of charity you do not perform are the injustices you commit…

Yet, at the same time, God considers Himself constantly obligated to repay you for whatever charities you do to your fellow men.

-Saint Basil the Great

Sunday, July 5

Saint Elisabeth...

Causing meekness, humility and love to dwell in thy soul,
Thou didst earnestly serve the suffering,
O holy passion-bearer Princess Elizabeth;
Wherefore, with faith thou didst endure sufferings and death for Christ, with the martyr Barbara.
With her pray for all who honor you with love.
God grant you many years, Sugar Plum!

Saint Elisabeth's life can be found here.

Independance Day...

Yesterday was so busy for us! We spent most of the day in the church parking lot helping out with a fundraiser garage sale. It was a great day filled with friends, fun, food, and finds! We rescued this little doll rocker for $3 and it has been a big hit!

We weren't able to go to see the fireworks, but the little ones and I baked a flag cake... it was really good and is doubling as a cake for Sugar Plum's namesday.

How did you celebrate our nation's birthday?

Saturday, July 4

Give Silence a Chance...

By John Kapsalis

We’ve all no doubt heard endless chatter about how our world has become busy and noisy with nary a minute of silence to be found. No need to search far to find some one or some study telling us that we should turn down our iPods, watch fewer channels on cable and try to escape to nature to de-stress ourselves. It all sounds good. After all, things can get pretty hectic even for the most monkish amongst us.

Well, religion can be a lot like that too. What with podcasts, websites, newsletters, sermons (yes, you might as well include this article), we seem to have become inundated with, dare I say, too much of a good thing. Not a day goes by without some church dispute hotly debated on a blog or some “expert” dispensing insight on how we should live our life. Really, it’s all become just too much.

Sure, we rush from website to podcast trying to absorb as much as possible, but we never have any time to actually live it all out. Besides with all the resources at our disposal, you would think that our faith in God would grow by leaps and bounds. But I am more convinced than ever that the opposite is true. I think we have to admit that all this wisdom and knowledge has not lead us to “progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly” (Philippians 3:10 AMP). In our hurried quest for knowledge we’ve left no time to taste that the Lord is good.


God created us for His glory. St Paul says that all things were created through Jesus and for Him (Colossians 1:16). So if we’re going to start savoring Christ in order to become more and more like Him, we need to stop filling every moment with something, even if that something is religious. In Psalm 46 we read: “Cease striving and know that I am God” (v.10). The key word in this short but powerful line is the command to “cease.” It is translated alternatively as: Stop! Calm down! Be still!

We need more than just moments of quiet. We need whole periods of time when we aren’t searching to debate church issues or solve ethical dilemmas. We need silence from striving to learn how to be better Christians. In short, we need hesychia—to keep stillness. St Gregory the Theologian wrote, “it is necessary to be still in order to have clear conversation with God and gradually bring the mind back from its wanderings.” If everything we do is supposed to bring us closer to God and make us more like Him, then striving after a quiet mind, St Gregory says, is the first step towards our sanctification.

Stillness as Communion
St Basil the Great said that it is in silence that we return to our true selves by slowly moving towards God. It is in these periods of quiet solitude that the essence of who we are and the mystery of our relationship with God is truly felt. After all, is this not the same call that Jesus heard time and time again as he retreated to the deserts of Judea, to be still and to be with God? The early Christians also felt this desire for a place of quiet—even stillness from the busyness of church life, to find communion with God, true communion. Because as St John of the Ladder wrote it is in stillness that we worship God.

Even in this age where knowledge can be had and discarded so easily, God still listens to us in silence. It is in silence that we get to know who God is and it is also where we discover who we are. When we “go away by [ourselves] to a quiet place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31 NLT) in the stillness of God, that is when God speaks to us the loudest.

A Gentle and Quiet Whisper
So, how can silence and stillness do so much? It’s hard to say. You can chalk it up as one of the mysteries of godliness. But there is a wonderful story in the Old Testament about the prophet Elijah that perhaps explains it best. Elijah was one of the greatest prophets of God. He was strong, faithful, and determined to do God’s bidding with a people who lost their way more often than not. In one compelling instance, Elijah was called upon by God to defeat the false prophets of a phony god by the name of Baal. Elijah did just that. But as a result, his life was soon threatened and running for his life, he escaped to the desert. Exhausted and despairing, Elijah asked God to take his life! He bemoaned how the people of Israel had turned away from God, destroyed the places of worship, murdered the true prophets and now were out to get him as well. Then, in Elijah’s moment of silence and solitude, it all made sense:
“Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by. A hurricane ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper. When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there” (1 Kings 19:11-14 MSG).

God didn’t speak to Elijah in the thunderous noise of an earthquake or fire but rather in the quiet of a gentle whisper. It is in these quiet moments, kneeling in silence, that we hear God. And it is also in those repeated moments, with our ear constantly to God that we become able to, as St John of the Ladder said, “live outwardly with men but inwardly with God.”

I know we tend to like a different way of doing things—more engaging and provoking—perhaps prodding others to move towards God. But even Jesus gave us a very different example. Remember, how He alone slept (on a pillow no less!) in the boat with the disciples during a violent storm? It was Christ’s stillness that calmed the waters (Mark 4:35-41). When we learn to also be still and silent, face to face with God, then I believe we too will be calm in the presence of the demands and expectations of this hurried life; we too will project our own inner stillness to a confused and noisy world.
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