Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What Are You Doing New Years Eve?

"Ah, but in case I stand one little chance,
Here comes the jackpot question in advance:
What are you doing New Years Eve?"
Every year when we were younger, my parents would host an openhouse on New Years Eve. Over the years, I think the only consistent guests were the Firmes :) This year was a nice medium-sized gathering, and there was lots of food (and eggnog!) to go around. I love parties, and it's even better when you get to help prep for a party (as long as you don't have to do too much of the cleanup), picking out serving dishes, arranging the platters, laying the heeps of food on the table. I think it's grand! Also this year, we started the festivities around 4 pm, and it went till about 9--so we did an "East Coast New Years on the West Coast" thing, I guess :) 
In the way of victuals, we had homemade fruit punch, homemade eggnog (oh so delicious!), champagne!, all sorts of goodies (including a marshmallow holly wreath, two kinds of fudge, at least 10 kinds of cookies, homemade caramels, rum-soaked fruitcake, and lots of chocolates and candy), pulled pork with beans, turkey and gravy, bacon-wrapped brown sugar sausages, pastry puffs, spinach salad, smoked salmon... and I can't remember the rest, but I'm sure there was more. So much good food. Yay for parties at Momma's house!  Maybe I'll start a New Years Eve tradition.. What are you doing New Years Eve 2009?  
So we had a good evening and it was nice to spend more time with my CA sisters (but Vivian had already left for Long Beach, and we missed her terribly!).  
Here is a picture of Momma's Christmas Cactus--it bloomed for us this year!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

White Christmas!

Haha! Almost got you, huh? 
Oh well. Merry Christmas anyway!

Christmas Morning

Christ is Born! Glorify Him! 
BEHOLD a new and wondrous mystery. My ears resound to the Shepherd’s song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn. The Angels sing. 
The Archangels blend their voice in harmony. The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise. The Seraphim exalt His glory. All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven. He Who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.
Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices; and in place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every side, the Sun of justice. And ask not how:  for where God wills, the order of nature yields. For He willed; He had the power; He descended; He redeemed; all things yielded in obedience to God. This day He Who is, is Born; and He Who is, becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His. Nor yet by any loss of divinity became He man, nor through increase became He God from man; but being the Word He became flesh, His nature, because of impassability, remaining unchanged.
And so the kings have come, and they have seen the heavenly King that has come upon the earth, not bringing with Him Angels, nor Archangels, nor Thrones, nor Dominations, nor Powers, nor Principalities, but, treading a new and solitary path, He has come forth from a spotless womb.
Since this heavenly birth cannot be described, neither does His coming amongst us in these days permit of too curious scrutiny. Though I know that a Virgin this day gave birth, and I believe that God was begotten before all time, yet the manner of this generation I have learned to venerate in silence and I accept that this is not to be probed too curiously with wordy speech.
For with God we look not for the order of nature, but rest our faith in the power of Him who works. What shall I say to you; what shall I tell you? I behold a Mother who has brought forth; I see a Child come to this light by birth. The manner of His conception I cannot comprehend. Nature here rested, while the Will of God labored. O ineffable grace! The Only Begotten, Who is before all ages, Who cannot be touched or be perceived, Who is simple, without body, has now put on my body, that is visible and liable to corruption.
 For what reason? That coming amongst us he may teach us, and teaching, lead us by the hand to the things that men cannot see. For since men believe that the eyes are more trustworthy than the ears, they doubt of that which they do not see, and so He has deigned to show Himself in bodily presence, that He may remove all doubt.
Christ, finding the holy body and soul of the Virgin, builds for Himself a living temple, and as He had willed, formed there a man from the Virgin; and, putting Him on, this day came forth; unashamed of the lowliness of our nature.
For it was to Him no lowering to put on what He Himself had made. Let that handiwork be forever glorified, which became the cloak of its own Creator. For as in the first creation of flesh, man could not be made before the clay had come into His hand, so neither could this corruptible body be glorified, until it had first become the garment of its Maker.
What shall I say! And how shall I describe this Birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of days has become an infant. He Who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger. And He Who cannot be touched, Who is simple, without complexity, and incorporeal, now lies subject to the hands of men. He Who has broken the bonds of sinners, is now bound by an infants bands. But He has decreed that ignominy shall become honor, infamy be clothed with glory, and total humiliation the measure of His Goodness. For this He assumed my body, that I may become capable of His Word; taking my flesh, He gives me His spirit; and so, He bestowing and I receiving, He prepares for me the treasure of Life. He takes my flesh, to sanctify me; He gives me His Spirit, that He may save me. 
Come, then, let us observe the Feast. Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the Nativity. For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been brought back, the speech of kindliness diffused, and spreads on every side, a heavenly way of life has been implanted on the earth, angels communicate with men without fear, and men now hold speech with angels. 
Why is this? Because God is now on earth, and man in heaven; on every side all things commingle. He became Flesh. He did not become God. He was God. Wherefore He became flesh, so that He Whom heaven did not contain, a manger would this day receive. He was placed in a manger, so that He, by whom all things are nourished, may receive an infant's food from His Virgin Mother. So, the Father of all ages, as an infant at the breast, nestles in the virginal arms, that the Magi may more easily see Him. Since this day the Magi too have come, and made a beginning of withstanding tyranny; and the heavens give glory, as the Lord is revealed by a star.
To Him, then, Who out of confusion has wrought a clear path, to Christ, to the Father, and to the Holy Ghost, we offer all praise, now and for ever. Amen.
St. John Chrysostom, “Homily on Christmas Morning”
(No wonder he was called "Golden Tongue")
Momma woke up the sleepers today with her robo-raptor :) It's so cute to see her, remote control in hand, leading her toy dinosaur around the house to rouse a sleepy household! 
We had a lovely breakfast this morning of Kringle and tea.  We opened our stockings together. Morning Mass was wonderful. Everything was bright and sunny (it almost reminds me of Easter morning, but it's too cold!).  After Mass we came home and opened the rest of our presents... Christmas is a wonderfully cozy time. Hope you enjoy your day, too!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holy Supper

The Byzantine tradition on C'mas eve (which is the last day of St. Phillip's fast) is to serve 12 different dishes to represent the 12 apostles.  I know, some of you may be thinking, "How can you get 12 dishes in one meal that are meatless AND without dairy?!"  I have often wondered the same thing. Let's just say you can do a lot with potatoes :)

But this year, at my parents' house, we had a "modified" holy supper.  It was, indeed, meatless (Momma has always served all-you-can-eat shrimp on C'mas eve (because that's all she had energy for by then!)), but tonight we relaxed the no-dairy rule a bit!

Here are our 12 dishes: 
Leek soup (oooh! so yummy. It has a 1/4 pound of brie melted into the soup!)
Pine nuts
Lima bean hummus
Clementine oranges
Soy Sauce :D
Yoshida's Sauce
Apple sauce
Berry'd apple sauce
Black olives
French Fries
Fried Shrimp
Bread with garlic and honey
The table is set with a white cloth, to represent the swaddling clothes of the Infant Christ. Hay is strewn on the table to remind us of the stable where Christ was born. The candle in the center of the table is the Light of Christ. The bread reminds us of the Eucharist--the food for our souls.

As a side note...

It was always so wonderful to have a fancy dinner at my parents' house. Crisp linens on the table, laying out the china and fine flatware, arranging the napkins, getting out (and usually washing) the crystal, filling all the fun and elaborate serving dishes--it's so much fun!

I think of it as similar to decorating the Church beautifully on feast days. It's not that God will be better to you if your church is pretty, but He does appreciate it, right? If you make things beautiful, in any way, for the right reasons, someone always appreciates it!  On the beautifully-set table, you honor the people gathered around it; you recognize the love and fellowship present at the gathering. For me, particularly, most of my fine things are gifts, so I also get to remember and honor the gift-giver!

I guess it's all part of my understanding of sacramentality.  Physical things have meaning. If you remember and honor that meaning, and do not become too attached to the thing (for the sake of the thing), then it becomes be a recognition of God's goodness to us in all our many blessings.

So praise God for all the china at my parents' house (and there is a lot of it)--and Praise Him for all the familial good times it has witnessed! 

Monday, December 22, 2008

Golden Birthday

Today is Vivian's Birthday (happy, happy birthday!).  In fact, it was her Golden birthday! She turned 22 on December 22nd.  This year was T's golden birthday, too... 23 on April 23rd. (I had my golden birthday wasn I was six... I got a book about chickens and eggs.) Fun times :)
Anyway, Momma thought it would be a good idea this year, since 90% of our family is in town, to have our family dinner for Viv's birthday, rather than trying to coordinate C'mas Eve or Day plans. Momma made a delicious, fabulous, melt-in-your-mouth, maple turkey (so good!), and we had sweet potato souffle, Momma's stuffing, Mic's salad, homemade cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, lots of gravy, and (of course) lots of fun family time! 
Events of note during dinner: 
Michael bit the rim off his [crystal] glass. 
Bethany is really funny when she's pregnant. 
Giulia really likes to toast with fancy [crystal] glasses. 
Momma makes the best maple turkey ever. Yum!
Viv wanted a lemon cake for dessert (I know, kinda strange, but you gotta accomodate the birthday girl, right?) so I made her one.  I also made a nice lemon butter cream frosting.  As far as lemon cakes go, it wasn't too bad :) 
After dessert was, of course, presents. All the little kids were kind enough to "help" Aunt Vivian open her loot. Momma and Daddy got her a lovely cordial glass set with a decanter (though when Viv pulled it out of it's bag Taylor shouted, "A bong!" which was hilarious--you should have seen Viv's face. If the present had had a tag on it (To Viv Love Mom) she would have laughed it off, but the horror: "Oh no!  Did Taylor and Annie really give me a bong for my birthday?! What are my parents going to think?").  
It was a great evening. We enjoyed spending some quality family time--even clean up was fun! I realized that I miss my family a lot... However, I think I can say (without fear of criticism) that I don't want to "go back" to when we were all living at home together. I think that's largely because, as we grow as a family, it's much more fun to return and be together again, with spouses, children, new interests and knowledge, and the ability to reminisce about all the fun times we had as kids.  One is stuck with the family one is given--and I'm very blessed to be stuck with mine :)
[After presents, we had a surprise for Momma and Daddy. My oldest sister was inspired to create a Night Before Christmas book "at Grandmama's house" for my folks. We have been working on it since August, revising the original poem to be more specific to our family, taking pictures, formatting the book, and finally editing all the text and ordering it. It was a lot of work, but it turned out so well! We presented it to Momma and Daddy and Momma read it out loud to us all.  :) (I think we got video of most of it, so if any of you are interested, I'll try to post the videos sometime.)  The little kids, of course, were terribly excited to see their own faces in the book :) And the book was fun to put together, too. Thanks to all my siblings for helping make one of the greatest presents we've given to Momma and Daddy!]
And so, HAPPY BIRTHDAY Vivian! We love you a million-billion-six! 

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Kitchen Sink

It was Daddy's day off and Momma was at her last half-day of school for the year. 
"Taylor, you wanna give me a hand fixing the kitchen faucet?"
"Sure thing, Dad." 
Thus began the great saga of the Christmas Sink :) 
[Actually, it wasn't a saga. It only lasted three days; and half of one of those days was just waiting for silicone to dry. T and Daddy also were able to fix the light above the kitchen sink and install the old faucet in the garage sink. But--I digress...] 
T moved some of the dirty dishes (which we did NOT wash--it was just going to be a short job, right?) and cleared out the area under the sink a bit. He climbed under and began to tighten the bolts that held the faucet on. 
::twist, twist, twist, *snap*:: 
So they take the faucet off to examine it while Daddy calls Momma at school: "Well, Dear, now's your chance to get a new kitchen faucet if you want one."  
"Oh.. Well can I get a new sink that doesn't overflow onto the kitchen floor, too?" 
We all arrange to have lunch in town and then head to Home Depot (the blessing and bane of our household projects!) to pick out a non-overflow sink and new disposal for Momma and a tall-enough-to-fill-a-pot-under-it faucet for Daddy. It only took us a couple hours to find something everyone was happy with (we even had a bit of time to investigate the bamboo flooring a few aisles over!).  I'm happy to report that Taylor found the sink of Momma's dreams :) (It's sparkly, too!) 
The sink only came with one faucet hole drilled, so Daddy and Taylor bought a hole saw for the other four we needed. It was interesting trying to drill though half-inch thick granite composite.. but it worked out :) Even though the teeth on the saw wore down to nubs after the first hole, the particles of granite the sink gave off were abrasive enough to grind through the rest of the holes. 
Anyway, to make a long story short(er): Friday we spent picking out and prepping the sink. Saturday was installing the sink and disposal and drain basket and figuring out the pipes underneath; Daddy and T also installed the old faucet on the garage sink (which they had also disassembled on Friday) and Momma and I washed all the dirty dishes). Sunday was re-doing the drain basket (because we didn't let it dry long enough before testing the water tightness of the sink) and tweaking the pipes to not leak. All before Christmas. How's that for awesomeness?  
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Friday, December 19, 2008

Morning Walk

Daddy and T and I went for a walk this morning. It was rather chilly, but very pretty. 
Here are some pictures from our jaunt through the desert. 
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Thursday, December 18, 2008

California, Here We Are!

We made it safely to CA! Despite a slight delay at the Boston airport, and despite 150 knot head-winds in the Midwest (necessitating that our plane stop in Denver to refuel), we arrived in Long Beach and picked up our luggage and rental car with no trouble at all (I love small airports!). Then we hit up In'n'Out Burger--the best fast food ever.
Since we got to my folks' house, I've kept quite busy :) Momma and Daddy are working this week, so I woke up early today and yesterday to see Momma off (Sorry, Daddy--you get up way early!) and was able to help her get a few things together before she headed out. Do you know what a nice teacher my Momma is? She made COOKIES for all her students--all 200 of them! And she is giving them a little "goody bag" tomorrow, just for being her students. I stuffed them all last night, and the cookies will be very good :) She's also making goody bags for many of the teachers and staff at her school. What a nice teacher! After seeing Momma off, I went back to bed and conked! I was so sleepy! When T came in to wake me up 2 hours later (!), and I told him I didn't know why I was so tired, he said it was because the peacefulness of the house is helping me relax and repair... :) I think it's true--especially at Christmas time, my parents' house is very peaceful, warm, inviting, and comforting. It's not that we don't have a lot to do (quite the contrary), but it's so easy to just be at ease here. So we're here, safe and sound, and sleepy :) But we're catching up on the sleep, and there's so much to do to keep us busy. I'll be baking quite a bit today, and cleaning up. Should be fun!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Damp December

The story of my life this winter... and wouldn't you know it--it's snowing like crazy in Spokane this year. As soon as we leave (it did this last year, too) GU gets a snow day! :Þ Maybe I'll get a white Christmas next year if we're in CO?
In other news, we said "bye for now" to some of our good friends we made here in Boston--the Hallowells. They leave this afternoon for Sunny California and I gotta admit, the New England world will be a bit darker without them here to sympathize with about the East Coast.. :) But it's good that they're going home. The grandparents can't WAIT to see little Madelyn, who is (in my own, impartial opinion), one of the cuter little squishy babies I've seen :)
We had a potluck party for them last night, which went off very well, I think. I made roast chicken and potatoes and rice (with gravy to top it off), they brought ribs and mashed potatoes and chips and pitas and hummus; and there was wine, chips, cheese dip, and lots of cookies! Mandy even made a batch of super-duper chocolate chip cookies while Dave held the baby-kins. [I'll post the pics that Mandy took when she uploads them later.] It was a nice (relatively early) evening, and it's always good to spend time with good friends before take-off. 
T and I leave for CA tomorrow morning :) We're very excited.
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Friday, December 12, 2008


Today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I've always had a particular devotion to that particular aparition of Our Lady--maybe it's because I was raised in Southern CA? :) So many awe-some stories surround the tilma of Juan Diego, on which the image of Our Lady is forever imprinted. I get goosebumps every time I think of them! On November 14, 1921, someone placed a bomb a few feet away from the tilma. The explosion demolished the marble steps of the main altar, blew out the windows of nearby homes, and bent a brass crucifix, but the fabric suffered no damage. And I'm sure most of you remember the story of the photographers who, when examining the image of the Lady's eyes on the tilma, found a reflection of the room as Juan Diego opened his arms to show the roses he collected. There was a man who remarkably resembled Bishop Zumárraga, and various other individuals who were said to have witnessed the miracle. My favorite story, though, is about another photographer, later on, who wanted to photograph the image in Our Lady's eyes. At the church where the tilma is kept, he set up lights, brought all his big photographing equipment, and carefully placed a ladder in front of Our Lady. He climbed the ladder to take his picture, but he paused. And didn't take the picture. When he came down the ladder, the others present asked him what's wrong. He said, "She's there." "Of course she's there--it's the tilma, it's been there for over 500 years."
"No," he said, "you don't understand. She's there. I saw my reflection in her eyes, not that room 500 years ago."
The image of Our Lady behind the altar, underneath and just to the right of the cross.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

All I Want for Christmas

Our little apartment is as decorated as it will get this year. Since we're going to CA, we didn't want to get our own tree (sniff), but I did put up some lights in the windows and over the doorway into the kitchen. I love Christmas lights--at night especially, they make me feel like a little girl again. I love to get up in the middle of the night just to walk around the house and feel the coming of Christmas.
One of my favorite parts about going to my folks' house for Christmas is that the tree is usually up by the time T and I get there, late at night when all the other lights are out. It's so wonderfully welcoming to open the door and hear the hushed ancitipation throughout the house, illuminated only by the sparkling lights on the tree, reflected in the festive ornaments. Mm... Christmastime :)
And it wouldn't be Christmas without a plethora of nativity sets :) Here are some of my favorites (not all, by any means):
------ And this year I've got something extra special to wear to church on Christmas. A Christmas necklace from Taylor's siblings! Isn't it pretty?! (I did put it on a new chain, since I wanted to wear both necklaces at the same time, but the order and choice of beads is exactly as it was presented to me.) :) I love those kiddies!
Also, Happy Birthday to my brother :) WE LOVE YOU! And you're in our prayers. 
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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Heading Home...

It was time to go home. We chose a red-eye flight this time, thinking "as long as it takes "more" time to fly to the east, we might as well spend more time w/ the family and sleep on the plane." 
Well... now I'm not sure it was such a good idea. We're fine, really, but we were so tired yesterday! We went to bed at 7:30 pm, and slept until 7:30 this morning! And poor Taylor--his legs were so sore after the marathon on Sunday that he has been hobbling around everywhere. It took us 10 minutes to walk to our gate in Seattle :( And then sitting on a plane for 5 hours? We took the B line home on the T (even though it takes much longer than the other green lines) just so we didn't have to walk as far. He's a trooper, though :) And I'm still so proud of him! 
But we're home now.  Getting back into the swing of things... sorry this post comes so late in the game :)
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Calvin and Hobbes :)