Monday, December 12, 2011

Santa Lucia! Tomorrow! December 13!

Our little Lucy is growing up.  And, in honor of her being older, we are celebrating her name day more traditionally this year.  For those of you who have a daughter, here is the more traditional way of celebrating Santa Lucia in Sweden:

Your oldest (or youngest) daughter arises in the darkness of the morning before the household and dresses in a white gown with a red sash and puts a crown of candles on her head.  She carries a plate of Lucia buns and walks around waking the household while we sing the Santa Lucia song as we wake (granted, Pa and I are going to help her wake up this year).

There are many recipes out there.  Traditionally the recipe uses to saffron.  I will confess I have deviated from that in the past and used this recipe a few times (substituting soy milk) and the kids enjoyed it very much.

All right!  Baby needs a nap!  Blessings to you all!

Tree Blessing Prayer

Every year on the Sunday of our Forefathers and in honor of my husband's patron saint, Jesse, we buy our Christmas tree and bless it.  For those of you who would like to bless your tree, here is the prayer for it*:

Father or Leader: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: Who hath made heaven and earth.
All: All the trees of the wood shout for joy before the Lord, for He comes. 
Read Psalm 95.
All: All the trees of the wood shout for joy before the Lord, for He comes.
Leader: Lesson from the Prophet Ezekiel (Read Ezekiel 17:22-24)
All: Thanks be to God.
Leader: And there shall come forth a shoot.
All: Out of the root of Jesse.
Leader: In Him was life.
All:And the life was the light of men.
Leader: O Lord hear my prayer.
All: And let my cry come unto Thee.
Leader: The Lord be with you.
All: And with your spirit.
Leader: Let us pray. Holy Lord, Father Almighty, Eternal God, Who hast caused Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to be planted like a tree of life in Thy Church, by being born of th emost HOly Virgin Mary, bless, we beseech thee, this tree that all who see it may be filled with a holy desire to be ingrafted as living branches into the same Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in the unity of the HOly Spirit, One God, world without end. 
All. Amen

Sprinkle the tree with holy water and sing an Advent hymn.

*Many thanks to Nan, who in her research years ago discovered this prayer!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Orthodox Jesse Tree Activity

Jen (another contributor here) posted this link on facebook today.  I hope you don't mind me posting this link for you, Jen!!  We'll definitely be doing this activity here.  Especially since Jesse is my husband's patron saint!!!

Anyhow, you MUST check this out!!!!  Don't forget to check the links which provide all the printables.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Kicking off the Advent Season!!!

Happy Advent, everyone!

If you haven't already constructed your paper chain, here are the color layouts for this year:
Week 1: 6 green strips
Week 2: 7 blue strips
Week 3: 7 yellow (gold) strips
Week 4: 7 white strips
Week 5: 7 purple strips
Week 6: 6 red strips

Do the Sunday reading* on the Sunday following each color week with the "red" reading being on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

This past week a World Vision catalog came in the mail and the kids were very excited about the idea of giving an animal to a suffering family.  They decided they wanted that to be their gift to Jesus this year.   However, instead of Pa and I just writing a check, the kids are working to earn money to pay for their gifts.  What birthday gift are your kids/family giving to Jesus this year??

* (see the Nativity Fast section for more information on the weekly color schemes)

Monday, November 14, 2011

the nativity fast begins tomorrow!!!

Just in case you needed a reminder.

We were a bit distracted from our preparations though.... this little guy was baptized yesterday.
And since I'm sure you all had your own reasons to be distracted this last week, let me remind you of the different ideas we have on this blog...right on the sidebar...under the nativity fast link.  Or, you could just click this.

As I said, we are a bit behind.  But I will get started on that advent chain today!  The wreath probably won't materialize till later.

And just so you know, making traditions in your home takes time.

Don't expect to perfect it all in one year.

Some things will work.  Some won't.

During these early years, feel free to experiment and find out what works for your family.  It might take a few years to figure that out.

We're still in the process. And this blog started four years ago.

Just sayin.'

Monday, October 31, 2011

Quick Soul Cakes

For those of you wishing to celebrate the western All Souls Day and the Vigil of All Saints (a.k.a. All Hallow's Eve/Halloween) in a way that brings out the Christian (and Orthodox) significance of the day, I highly recommend for your enjoyment the tradition of making "soul cakes" (a.k.a. "doughnuts") with your children.

Before you freak out at the idea of making doughnuts from scratch, check out this short-cut version which I've adapted from Catholic Traditions in Cooking, by Ann Ball (see p. 129). All you need is a can of refrigerated biscuits, some spices, sugar, and oil.

These are called "soul cakes" because they are circular, signifying, in the unending arc of the circle, the immortality of the soul. Add a double whammy of catechetical instruction disguised as fun and yum, as you make the seven-spice mix with your children, teaching them the story and theology of creation (when human souls came to be).

Preheat oven to 375º.

Make 7-Spice Mix: Have your child(ren) help measure each spice and put it in the bowl as you talk with them about how the seven spices represent the seven days of creation and remember together what God made on each day. If you haven't read it recently, it may be a good idea to read the creation story in a children's bible before you begin your kitchen activities. (Note: You can substitute other sweet spices, if you wish, or organize them in another order. My ordering below is simply alphabetical and has no correlation to the respective day of creation being discussed.)
  • 1/8 t Allspice—1st Day: Light
  • 1/8 t Anise—2nd Day: Firmament (Sky)
  • 1/8 t Cardamon—3rd Day: Dry Land and Seas, Vegetation (Plants)
  • 1 t Cinnamon—4th Day: Sun, Moon, and Stars
  • 1/8 t Cloves—5th Day: Sea Creatures and Birds
  • 1/8 t Mace—6th Day: Animals, Adam and Eve
  • 1/2 t Nutmeg—7th Day: Rest (and Worship)
Now for the Orthodox theological kicker: Ask your children if they know about the 8th day of creation and then tell them all about it. The 8th day of creation is, of course, the Sunday of the Ressurection of our Lord, in which He re-creates, making all things new; it is the unending "Day of the Lord," which we enter mystically in every Divine Liturgy resting in the completed salvific work of the Creator. (For more on the Orthodox understanding of the Sabbath and the 8th Day, I highly recommend the one-page article on p. 219 of The Orthodox Study Bible.)

To signify the 8th day of creation and emphasize how it is the most amazing, blessed part of creation, pour into the spice mixture,
  • 3/4 C sugar—8th Day of (Re)Creation: New Life in Christ's Resurrection
Now you're ready to make the doughnuts!
  • 1 can refrigerated biscuits (Trader Joe's are the best).
Flatten and stretch biscuits, using your fingers to make a hole in the middle to form a doughnut shape.

Warm in a fry pan over medium heat
  • canola or other vegetable oil (enough to come up to midpoint on the biscuit cakes when placed in the fry pan).
When the oil is hot, place as many doughnut rings in the oil as will fit without touching, and fry until golden brown, about 1 minute on each side.

Remove from oil with tongs, allow excess oil to drip back into pan, and coat in sugar-spice mix. Place coated cakes on cookie sheets (covered with parchment paper for easy clean-up, if you'd like). Repeat the previous steps until all the doughnuts are fried and coated. Then bake until fully cooked through, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove to rack to cool.

Makes 6 to 8 soul cakes; easily doubled.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Vegan Cornbread

Now on to a more mundane topic: FOOD!  Mmmmm.

This afternoon, I googled vegan cornbread on a whim to go with our chili tonight and came across this recipe.

Did you catch that link?  If not, here it is again.

Because, seriously, this is the best cornbread ever.  Yeah.  It even beats the recipes I've tried that had the delightful ingredients of eggs and butter.

It is truly that awesome.

Now I did have to substitute a 1/3 c of semolina flour because I was exactly 1/3 c short of cornmeal and thought that would be the best substitute.  Maybe that contributed to its moist, cake-y goodness?  I don't know.  But I do know that my family efficiently demolished that pan of cornbread.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Church year timeline 2011-2012

**UPDATED below**

I don't know about you, but our family was finding itself so distracted by changes in our lives (new baby, new school situation, dissertation writing, etc) that we were finding ourselves completely out of sync and unaware of the church year.  Not a very good thing.

So this weekend, I attacked a church year timeline for our home and here are the results:

I decided to place it in the hallway right upon entering our front door.  This is the hallway that one must use to go basically anywhere in our house, and so I thought it was an ideal spot.  Included in the timeline are the 12 major feasts, name days and St. Nicholas.
 A close up:
 On each square is the name of the feast day, date, icon image, readings for the day and an activity to do together as a family:
I feel so much more aware now that I've done this very simple project.

**Here's a link to my document I created for this project.  Feel free to use it for your home or just for inspiration!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Nativity of the Theotokos Coloring Page

We celebrate the Nativity of the Theotokos on September 8, but begin, as is the Church's tradition, with a versperal liturgy on the evening before. In addition to implementing Jen Marie's great idea of making a birthday cake for Mama Mary, this year I'll be using the Nativity of the Theotokos icon coloring page from the OCA website to help my children understand and commemorate the feast.

To download the full-size icon coloring page (pdf), go here and scroll down a bit. (I am surprised that this icon is not included in the "Orthodox Christian Icon Coloring Book," as it represents one of the 12 great feasts of our Church.)

See Kelly's previous posts for the Scripture readings, links to articles, and other helpful ideas.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick Enlightener of Ireland

As a teenager he was kidnapped, taken from Briton (Scotland) to Ireland and forced into service as a shepherd. His response was a life of prayer. He prayed day and night. Let us strive to emulate Patrick who in the face of difficulties turned his thoughts toward God instead of ourselves. Let us be an example to our children by praying with them frequently and praying for them often.
Listen to the life of St. Patrick on the saint of the day podcast

You can read more at orthodoxwiki too.

Troparion - Tone 3

Holy Bishop Patrick,
Faithful shepherd of Christ's royal flock,
You filled Ireland with the radiance of the Gospel:
The mighty strength of the Trinity!
Now that you stand before the Savior,
Pray that He may preserve us in faith and love!

Kontakion - Tone 4

From slavery you escaped to freedom in Christ's service:
He sent you to deliver Ireland from the devil's bondage.
You planted the Word of the Gospel in pagan hearts.
In your journeys and hardships you rivaled the Apostle Paul!
Having received the reward for your labors in heaven,
Never cease to pray for the flock you have gathered on earth,
Holy bishop Patrick!

Prayer of Saint Patrick

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, and in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

To celebrate This day with your kids during lent you could eat like he probably did and have porridge and fish and flatbread. see web page re 5th century Irish diet.


1 cup large-flake rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup margerine softened
2 tbsp malt syrup or honey

In food processor, process oats until finely ground, about 2 minutes. In large bowl, whisk together oats, whole wheat flour, salt and baking soda. Stir in margerine and malt syrup to form soft, crumbly dough. With fork, stir in 1/2 cup (125 mL) water to make soft ragged dough.

With lightly floured hands, press dough into ball; cover with tea towel and let stand for 10 minutes. Divide in half.

On lightly floured surface; roll out each half into 16- x 12-inch (40 x 30 cm) paper-thin rectangle; prick all over with fork. Transfer to greased or parchment paper–lined baking sheet.

Lightly brush with water; bake in 400°F (200°C) oven, rotating halfway through, until golden and crisp, about 10 minutes. Let cool on pan on rack. Break into pieces. (Make-ahead: Store in airtight container for up to 1 week.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lenten Recipe Swap

Please share your recipes in the comments section!

Chickpea Apple Curry

1 small onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 apple, finely chopped
1 cup veggie broth
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 cans chickpeas, drained
salt, to taste
Curry Powder to taste (I used 2 Tablespoons)
1/4 tsp ginger powder

Saute onion in a tsp veggie oil until soft. Add garlic and apple. Saute till garlic is fragrant. Add broth, coconut milk and chickpeas. Bring to a simmer and add salt, curry and ginger to taste.

Serve over rice. Fun toppings include raisins, shredded coconut and chopped cashews/peanuts.

Very quick and easy (I made this whole meal in less than 30 minutes). Tastes even better the next day after the flavors have sunk in.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Virtue of Love

I really appreciated this lovely post on Lent by a catholic mother of 7.  A great reminder that what really teaches our children about Christ is the virtue of love, not arts and crafts and activities.  Those are all good, but those are 'extras' to do and not essentials.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A couple of Lenten ideas

This year, my 4-year-old is very excited about Pascha--already! It's hard for him to grasp how far it is away still. I saw this great magnetic door craft, but since we have a tiny fridge I decided to just do a paper chain this lent.

My son and I used a calendar to count down the days of "of preparing" left until Pascha. Weekdays and Saturdays are purple, Sundays are white with their name printed on them (ie. Orthodoxy Sunday, St. Mary of Egypt Sunday etc.), the Annunciation is in blue and Holy week is black.We are already enjoying the count down...hopefully our enthusiasm can last all of Lent!

I'm also doing a Lenten diary with my son. I cut printer paper in half, put a half sheet of purple on the outside, folded and stapled it in the middle. So far entries are: "What was your favorite part of Forgiveness Vespers?" and a tiny 4-year-old reflection on the story of St. Kevin and the bird's nest. The next question I'll try is asking him "Why do we clean things and ourselves?"

 I'm making up questions everyday because I'm not the most organized person, but next year I'll have it down! So far, I'm liking the result because it is also making me think about the things I do with him. Often I forget that I don't have to be reading my Bible or the Fathers to benefit spiritually...I just need to take even a little bit of time to reflect.

 May you all have a blessed Lent!

Simplicity: the lenten resolution

I am having a rough 4th pregnancy, and so this year, Lent is going to be simple.  Very simple.  So simple that I am afraid our home might not feel very 'lenten', but, alas, that is what life is calling for right now. So although this resolution will not be fast-free and will probably not save us money to give to charity, it will hopefully help us to have the time and energy to establish a prayer routine again (something that was lost during my rough first trimester).

Much of this simplification will be in terms of expectations (as in, allowing my house to be a little less perfect).  My other plan is to readjust my meal planning/cooking to reflect this.  Basically, instead of worrying about making everything from scratch (like yogurt and bread), I am going to suck it up and purchase ready-made items so that I don't over-fatigue myself and, hopefully, will not have to rely on my husband quite so much (a very dear man who is not only sacrificing a lot of time and effort to help out around the house and with kids, but is also trying to write a dissertation).

The one thing that we must do because my daughters requested it, it is an awesome idea, and I promised over a month ago is that we're going to bake cookies and give them to the homeless at some point.  I know it about the most unpractical thing to give to homeless people but I want to nourish the spirit of charity within my children.

While you establish your lenten routines, don't forget our list of activities that have been compiled over the last few years (that is, if you have the energy to do them)!

Monday, February 14, 2011

St Valentine

So, although the Eastern Church commemorates this saint on July 6th, Western culture celebrates this day on February 14th, the anniversary of his death.  Why?  Read here. (hint: his death coincided with a pagan feast). 

If it ain't broke, why fix it?  I have always thought that the way children celebrate Valentine's Day is sweet and don't see any problem with continuing with those same traditions with the addition, of course, of talking about St. Valentine's life.

Here's what we've done and are going to to do:

  • We made valentines last week to hand out at Wednesday school. 
  •  Today I have heart candies to give out during school lessons.  
  • We decorated our living room window with hearts hanging on string. 
  •  We're going to bake heart cookies to have with a Valentine's tea this afternoon (which is when I'll tell them about who St. Valentine is).
  • This evening, we're going to a family candlelight dinner.  Pa will present the girls with chocolate hearts and I will give one to the boy.
Any other activities that you recommend? (and my apologies for not posting this BEFORE Valentine's Day!!!).  Blame it on my pregnant, mothering brain.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Presentation of the Lord in the Temple

Tomorrow we celebrate how Joseph and  Mary fulfilled the law by taking Jesus to the temple with an offering. This blog has two wonderful posts (Thank you, Ma!) on this feast which talk about it in depth as well as offer fun ideas for enjoying this special day with our little ones. Since I'm not one to reinvent the wheel, I'm just going to talk about a couple things (born out of those ideas) I'm doing with my little ones (4 &1) this year.

This year my four-year-old is participating in a wonderful program at our Church called the Catechisis of the Good Shepherd. He has already been reintroduced to the story and has been allowed to "act it out" with models. The thing he focused on was the gift of two turtledoves given by Mary and Joseph. He was told that the gift would actually go to the priests for food. As we were talking about the Feast on the way home from Church he decided we should bring a gift to our priests just like Mary and Joseph did. He also wants to bring a gift to his Catechists (teachers), because "they work at the church too."

I thought it was a wonderful idea to bring a gift that the priests could eat/use, not only does it show them our appreciation, but it allows us to offer something back to God in a very tangible way.
My son wants to get a clock for the church (I wonder if he thinks it will help the priest keep his homily short? j/k). My idea- dove shaped cookies.

Another thing we will do is to take candles to church for the service to celebrate the Light "to enlighten the gentiles!" We have the battery operated ones, but in the next few years we will graduate to real candles. At our church the priests bless the candles during the service. And just like Ma's posts suggest, we will decorate them! :)

I wish you all a blessed feast!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


In the West we celebrate the coming of the wise men at Epiphany. My girls are very excited about giving gifts to baby Jesus tomorrow. Tonight is the 5th of January. We took the ornaments off the tree but left the lights on. We sat around the wreath with it's 5 white candles glowing and sang many Christmas hymns for the last time this season. Claire decided she wanted to give baby Jesus an star shaped ornament with the three wise men embroidered on it and Emily will bring a gold bell. We will add the three wise men to our crèche.