Thursday, December 30

On the Sixth Day of Christmas...

Our friend, Alex, entertaining the little ones by juggling clementines!

My parent's Christmas tree waiting to be decorated for Old-Calendar Christmas.

It was a lot of fun to visit with my parents, sisters, and brother today. We even got to see Kate in her wedding dress! The visit was way too short, but we'll be going back for a few days for the bridal shower!

Wednesday, December 29

On the Fifth Day of Christmas...

We traveled up to see our parents and siblings for a very short overnight trip today. We spent the day with my in-laws and two of Father John's brothers and their girlfriends and enjoyed a delicious Christmas Dinner together: Roast Beef, Crockpot Pork Tenderloin, Mashed Potatoes, Green Bean Casserole, Gravy, and Garlic Bread.

Tuesday, December 28

On the Fourth Day of Christmas...

The fourth day of Christmas, we had errands to run that included a long visit to the bank for Papa. While we waited for him, he children and I ducked into the bookstore and used up a gift card on a few good books: The Snowman, Tracks in the Snow, Mama Do You Love Me?, and Snow.

Embrace Life...

This seatbelt advocacy video so touching!

Bonnet Tip: MommyLife

Sunday, December 26

On the Second Day of Christmas...

What is it about snowy days that makes time slow? It was so nice to snuggle down in our cozy home with hot chocolate in our mugs, Christmas lights on, and lots of time to dream and play. A day with nothing to do but spend time with each other is rare indeed, but so very welcome!

The Place of the Heart...

By the Very Rev. John Breck

"God reveals Himself in the silence of the heart." The early desert monks, followed by ascetic laborers of every generation, came to know this truth through their own, most personal experience.

We can acquire knowledge about God in many different ways, first of all through the Bible and the Liturgy. The question, however, is how we move from knowledge about God to knowledge of God, that is, to an ever-deepening communion with Him in love.

This is a critical question, especially when we find ourselves overwhelmed by some crisis or tragedy in our life that strains our capacity to believe. The same question arises, though, whenever we at-tempt to respond to some inner longing to know God personally and intimately. That longing is a gift that God bestows on us, one that corresponds to His longing for communion with us. As a contemplative Catholic sister once told me, "God has placed an insatiable longing for Him-self in the depths of every human heart."

The ascetic tradition tells us that such longing is met and satisfied at the core of our being, in the inner recesses of what the Psalmist calls "the secret heart." After Holy Friday vespers some years ago I was in the kitchen of one of our monasteries, eating toast and drinking a cup of tea with an elderly priest who had spent many years in prison during the period of Communist rule in Romania. His only offense had been to preach the Gospel and serve the people God had entrusted to him. We spoke a little about spiritual trials, and he alluded to those years and to their brutality. His eyes betrayed his emotion as he recalled the loneliness and the pain he had endured. For a few minutes he was quiet. Then he slowly made the sign of the cross and said, "I thank God for those years…. Because they made me go inside."

"They made me go inside." This man, and so many like him, could have given up to despair. Instead, by the mercy of God, he was able to enter the depths of his own being, the temple of the heart. That prison, with its bitter hardship and persecution, its loneliness and grief, was transformed into a spiritual desert. There he was able to engage in warfare with demons both within and without, and he emerged from it strengthened and renewed.

The thread that binds his experience with the intuition of the Catholic sister is their common focus on the heart. As holy people within the Body of Christ have always known, it is there that God most fully reveals Himself. After earthquake, wind and fire, it is there that His still small voice speaks ineffable words of consolation and peace. This is as true for ourselves, in the ordinary routine of our daily lives, as it is for a Father Arseny, a Mother Elisabeth, and all those who have suffered immensely, knowing they were bearing the Cross of Christ.

True knowledge of God is experiential. Reading the Holy Scriptures and spiritual writings, participating regularly in liturgical worship, devoting ourselves to works of love: these are indispensable if we are to acquire such knowledge. Yet much depends on our ability to read, pray and serve at the level of the heart.

To enter into that sacred space, in this culture and with the usual demands on our time and energy, is no easy matter. We may try to pray each day, read through the Prayer Book prayers, or open the Bible for a few minutes, all in an effort to "come into God’s presence," as though God were "out there" and had to be invited or coerced to enter our life. We forget that the heart is more than a physical organ. It is a temple, where the Holy Spirit dwells with grace and power. Our task is to enter the space of the heart, to descend into its sacred depths, and to stand in humble awe before Him.

To make that inner journey, it is sometimes necessary to put aside books, liturgical tapes, even the Bible, and to spend a few moments in silence. The early morning or the evening after dark are good times to go into our room, close the door, and light a candle before an icon. There in that stillness we can collect ourselves and focus on what is most important in our life. We can make our confession, begging God’s merciful forgiveness for our sins and shortcomings. We can offer up in thanksgiving the gifts of family and friends, of achievements and healings that we have received by His grace. We can make intercession, begging His mercy and healing for ourselves and for those we love, for our enemies and for all the people of His world. In that silence we can also allow Him to speak to us and to make Himself known.

Prayer of the heart is more than an oft repeated formula, more than a confession of faith and an appeal for mercy. The traditional words, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!" have extraordinary power. They possess the power of the Name of the Son of God, which "upholds the universe." Those words, however, like all prayers, find their most true and powerful expression when they flow from the heart, from the depths of inner silence.

We strive to move from knowledge about God to communion with Him. This striving, which arises from an insatiable, divinely bestowed longing, leads us finally to the place of the heart. Miraculously, in the stillness of that place and in the presence of the Holy, we enter, for a moment at least, into Paradise.

Saturday, December 25

On the First Day of Christmas...

Today was a wonderful day! We began our Christmas celebrations at 11pm last night with Matins followed by a midnight Liturgy and festal meal. It was wonderful and brought me back to my childhood! This morning was leisurely spent opening stockings, enjoying waffles, sausage, and hot cocoa, and opening presents. Father John scheduled Vespers at noon and then we came home for the little ones to nap and the preparations for our Christmas feast! I am happily exhausted! How was your Christmas?

Christ is Born!!

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God,
Has shone to the world the Light of wisdom!
For by it, those who worshipped the stars,
Were taught by a Star to adore Thee,
The Sun of Righteousness,
And to know Thee, the Orient from on High.
O Lord, glory to Thee!

Wednesday, December 22

Christmas Menu...

Christmas Menu

Pork Loin
Mashed Potatoes
Christmas Cauliflower
Green Beans
Cranberry Sauce

What are you serving?

Monday, December 20

Ice Ornaments...

When I saw GardenMama's ice ornaments a few months ago, I filed the idea away for when the weather got cooler. This past Saturday, I was about to toss Little Man's dead birthday bouquet, and I remembered the ice ornaments! Sugar Plum and I cut apart the bouquet and spread it evenly in a 12 cup muffin tin. We added a ribbon loop and some water to each cup and slid it into the freezer. Yesterday afternoon, we popped each ornament out (by running a little warm water over the back) and hung them on the tree in our front yard. Since the morning sun hits the tree directly each morning, we had a little melting, but now I think that they look even prettier!

Napping Girl...

The Tree of Jesse for Little Ones: Week Six...

Day Thirty Six Censer

Day Thirty Seven Angel

Day Thirty Eight the Theotokos

Day Thirty Nine St. Joseph

Day Forty Manger

Day Forty One Christ Child

Day Forty Two Radiant Light

Saturday, December 18

Learning Basket: Winter...

Cut Snowflakes out of Coffee Filters and Cupcake Liners
Fill Birdfeeders
Create Birdseed Ornaments to Hang on a Tree
Make Ice Ornaments for the Fenceposts
Plant Paperwhite Bulbs to Enjoy During the Winter
Make a Batch of Winter Playdough

Winter Playdough

2 cups of plain flour
2 cups of water
1 Tbsp. of cooking oil
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 cup of salt
Peppermint Extract (as much or as little as you like)
Glitter (as much or as little as you like)
food coloring, if desired

Place all of the ingredients in a medium size or large pot on medium-high heat. Stir it until the playdough thickens. Once the dough has thickened, turn it out onto a plate or cutting board and after it cools a little, knead it until smooth.

The Christmas Miracle of Johnathan Toomey...

In early November, we spent some time in Barnes and Noble (our son loves to play with the Thomas the Tank Engine table there) and I gathered up a few books to read while we were there. One of the was, The Christmas Miracle of Johnathan Toomey. I instantly loved the book and decided then and there that it would be the Christmas book I chose to add to our collection this year.

I was so happy when I read on Maria's blog that there was a good movie based on the book that she and her family really enjoyed. I ordered the book and the movie and today was the day that we sat down to read and watch as a family. We rounded out the afternoon by digging out our beautiful Willow Tree Nativity Set and setting it up on the mantle. I predict that this will be an annual tradition!

I wish that this movie was available for me to show you in it's entirety... it is that good! I will have to settle for the trailer and hope that you will be able to get your hands on a copy soon!

Friday, December 17

Friday's Feminine Tip: Homemaking and Mothering When You are Exhausted...

There are times when sleep isn't just going to happen (no matter what the reason) and tiredness can make simple activities like changing out of one's pajamas seem insurmountable! Here are some ideas to help rejuvenate and energize you on a difficult morning... at least until you can take a little nap!
  • Take a shower or a bath. Go all out and take your time shampooing and conditioning your hair, washing up with a sweet smelling soap, and even shaving. Feeling clean, smooth, and smelling fresh will go a long way in helping you feel good.
  • Dress in clothing that makes you feel your best.
  • Put on a little makeup and do your hair.
  • Tidy up your living space... make your bed, pick up your dirty clothes, and wipe the counters.
  • Eat healthfully and drink lots of water.
  • Keep your homemaking routine simple: A little laundry, keeping up with the dishes, and tidying up can work wonders.
  • Light a few candles and put out a vase of flowers.
  • Make a hot cup of tea and snuggle under a blanket with a good book while your little ones play nearby.
  • Sleep when the kids sleep or are having quiet time.
  • Stay home! Cancel shopping trips, library outings, and playdates... don't feel guilty at all!
  • Spend a little time in outside in fresh air.
  • Tackle a small project (like organizing a drawer) that will make you feel great when it is done
  • Utilize your crockpot or prepare simple recipes for healthy and filling foods that can be made quickly with minimal fuss.
  • Go to sleep early!
What are your tips for exhausted women?

Button's First Snow...

Thursday, December 16

Cupcake Liners and Coffee Filters...

Cutting snowflakes out from cupcake liners and coffee filters has been the big craft hit of the year in our house! We've been making them happily for three days straight (with only a small break to make paper chains!). It has been just the thing for us during these quiet days at home. I affixed them to the window with a tiny bit of glue from a glue stick and we all love the magical way that they look!

Tuesday, December 14

The Feasts of Saints Lucy and Herman...

Yesterday was the feastday for two wonderful saints in the Orthodox Church, Saint Lucy and Saint Herman of Alaska. I opted to keep things simple for us this year (the baby is teething and we all have colds) and stuck with reading the children a few books on each saint's life and having festive meals (fish, fish, fish for Saint Herman!). In addition, we decided to decorate the front door and mantle with our twinkle light garlands and plan on making this a special tradition every December 13th.

Books for the Day
Lucia, Saint of Light
Kirsten's Surprise: A Christmas Story
Hanna's Christmas
North Star: Saint Herman of Alaska
Saint Herman of Alaska

Make a Saint Lucy Crown
Cook a favorite Fish Dish for Dinner (Alaskan Salmon is a Fun Choice)
String Twinkle Lights Around the House

Sunday, December 12


Today was such a special day! Little Man turned three! It is so hard to believe... Remember how he arrived? We began the day with Liturgy and a special coffee hour (we brought chili and pumpkin bread to share) and then came home to presents. The little ones played the afternoon away and then Father John took us out to dinner. We told the waitress that it was Little Man's birthday and so they brought a tiny dish of ice cream out for him (and one for Sugar Plum, too!) with a candle stuck in it and sang to him. It was such a nice moment!

God Grant You Many Years Little Man!

Memory Eternal!

Please pray for the soul of the departed servant of God, Nicholas. He was a parishioner who suffered from a difficult illness for a long time.

Saturday, December 11

Children's Television Programming...

Though we do allow our children to watch television, we are pretty picky about what we allow them to view. If possible, we try to avoid shows with commercials (partly because we never know what will come on and partly to avoid the "gimmies"). In addition, our little ones are very sensitive and have a low tolerance for frightening things (something for which I am very thankful) so we aim for peaceful and gentle children's programming. Some of the shows we really like are Little Bear (which can be found on Amazon -On-Demand!), The Busy World of Richard Scarry (and Busytown Mysteries), and Babar (which can also be found on Amazon-On-Demand!). We also like some of the television shows on PBS (mainly Clifford, Caillou, and The Cat and the Hat) and the Scholastic DVD Collection (you can find these at many libraries!). I'd love to try The Beatrix Potter Collection sometime (hint, hint to our library!!).

How do you handle television/videos in your home? What are your favorite children's?

Friday, December 10

Love Little Things...

Love little things, and strive for that which is modest and simple. The Lord watches over us, and He is pleased that you long for His peace. Until the soul is ready, He will only sometimes allow us to see that He is present everywhere and fills all things. At these moments the soul feels such joy!… But then the Lord conceals Himself from us again, in order that we might long for Him and seek Him with our hearts!”
Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

Wednesday, December 8

Learning Basket: Gingerbread...

Gingerbread Baby
Gingerbread Friends
The Gingerbread Man
The Gingerbread Boy
Hansel and Gretel

.:A Gingerbread House Nightlight from Our Wonderful Neighbors:.

Gingerbread House Storytime at our Children's Bookstore
Decorate a Real Gingerbread House (at the Bookstore)
Create a Cardboard Gingerbread House and Decorate with Stickers
Decorate a Gingerbread Man with Candy Stickers
Bake Gingerbread Cookies
Watch Jan Brett Read and Draw The Gingerbread Baby

Monday, December 6

Happy Saint Nicholas Day!

We had such a lovely day that started with treats in our shoes and Divine Liturgy for Saint Nicholas and ended with a special dinner and our storybooks about this holy saint! How do you celebrate the feast?
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