Monday, December 21, 2009


T and I had our own little Christmas this Saturday. I know it's early, but our suitcases are already stuffed with presents we're bringing for other people, so we had to open the ones we had here now.  And if this mini-Christmas is any indication of big-Christmas, this year will be grand.

We had breakfast with the Vollebregts--two of our great friends from undergrad, and it was great to catch up with them! Their flights got in one at night and one in the morning, so Jake crashed at our place and we picked Jess up the next morning. A delightful visit with great friends!

After cleaning up the breakfast dishes, T drove me down to our favorite spot in Brookline Village so I could get some yarn (for the giving tree at St. Clement's) and he could get some oh-so-tasty coffee from KooKoo.  As we were walking into the stores, though, we noticed a "POTTERY SALE" sign on one of the shops. So we stopped in and I found this cute little jewelry holder, which T got me as an early Christmas present. I love it :) It's just perfect for my "pretties." And the purpley glaze in the well at the bottom adds a lovely touch!

When we got home, I made a quick lunch and sat down to knit a scarf. I hope it keeps someone nice and warm (via the giving tree and the Little Brothers of St. Francis). I used a bulky green wool and just knit knit knit the whole skein.

In the afternoon, T went to meet with some of his fellow law students, to commiserate? defy? discuss? anticipate? the impending last final of their first 1L semester (which is today--GOOD LUCK TAYLOR!!).  While he was doing that, I was making the house ready for our Christmas Date.

I cleaned up the living room, set the table, lit some candles, and arranged the presents we had on a table.  I tidied the bedroom, and made the bed.  I warmed up some leftovers for dinner (there's nothing better than a free date night where you also don't have to cook) and put the special Kris Kringle present (for the 6th Sunday of Advent) out with the other presents.

So Taylor came home and we had cabbage soup with bread for an appetizer. Then we had re-heated chicken pieces with baby bok choy and cous cous with tomatoes.  For dessert, we had leftover chocolate cake (but we didn't eat it, we were too full).

After eating we sat down to open presents. Taylor got me two FABULOUS pairs of new flats. I love them! There's a black/darn brown/deep purpley pair (y'know--the color that goes with pretty much everything), and he also got me a very fun pair of reddish-maroony shoes with a big bow on the toe.  They make me happy :)

We opened the Kris Kringle presents that T's Mum (so generously) sent us for each week. She gave Taylor a new Tolkien collection he didn't have yet (Tales from the Perilous Realm), which is a very nice edition of some of our favorite stories and poems! Great illustrations, too. For me, I got a collapsible salad spinner I've had my eye on for a while. Space is precious in a one-bedroom condo in Boston, and I loves me my salads--so this little contraption should be well-loved :)

My brother's family sent us our gifts here in Boston, so we also opened those.  In addition to some fun scrapbooking materials :) they sent us a book on Tolkien and Lewis, and a wall-quotation (that you can stick to your wall so that it looks painted on):
May the hair on your toes never fall off. 
How appropriate :)

We read Tales from the Perilous Realm to each other, and spent a very cozy evening together.  As we headed to bed, the snow started to fall...  All night the wind blew and more snow fell (through the screens on our windows, actually--we had a couple inches in one window sill! (between the inside window and the stomr window)), and in the morning, when we opened the curtains, we has frosted window panes.  Very beautiful, actually :)

And on my walk to the office today, it would seem the remaining students had a lot of fun with the fresh snow.  Or.. it could have been the Jesuits?! This hill is right outside the back door of their residence :)

 Happy Snow, Boston.  Thanks for snowing before we left--a White mini-Christmas--and stopping in time for us to leave!

Can't wait to go to CA. Just a few more hours!

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Night Before Christmas

We had some friends over for dinner last night, a night before Christmas, and one more chance to spend some quality time with awesome people.  I made fig and olive roast chickenapple sausage stuffing, and a spinach salad.  For dessert, I made a quick "dump and stir" chocolate cake, which was a big hit with the ice cream Kendra brought!  

We did, of course, have plenty of fine and tasty beverages, which we shared and sampled throughout the night.  

I have to admit, I've been very happy with the new arrangement of our living room--it lends itself much better to mingling and socializing without cutting off groups of people.  And because we have the table out of the kitchen now (a smaller butcher block prep cart in its place), there's even room for the inevitable friends who always seem to congregate in the kitchen :) Obviously, they think that's "where it's at." 

Finally, after much catching-up, conversation, and general good cheer, we settled down to play paper charades.  Anyone interested in the rules?  My sides hurt again from laughing so hard! What a great game for a fun group of friends :) 

Enjoy the pictures, folks!


In his Christmas letter this year, Fr. Joseph (the priest who married us) wrote some beautiful prose about the season which, for me this year, really hits home, in a deep way.

"Memories are rich, especially at this time of year, and thinking back on past Christmases and holidays, of the beauty of the Church and its Liturgy, of the love and warmth of family life, we learn to cherish these memories, which enrich our celebration even in this Holy season, adding an aura of warmth and love.  How lucky we are to have the glow of the Birth of our Savior to celebrate."

Christ is born! Glorify Him!


I've recently falling rather in love with Madeleine Peyroux's voice and lilting musical style.  When I first heard this song, listening via Pandora at work, I wasn't really paying attention the words.  Until I heard this verse:
I'll look for you in old Honolulu,
San Francisco, Ashtabula,
You're gonna have to leave me now, I know.
But I'll see you in the sky above,
In the tall grass, in the ones I love,
You're gonna make me lonesome when you go.

...and it made me think of Momma.

Here's the whole song, with the full lyrics below.

You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome (by Bob Dylan)

I've seen love go by my door
It's never been this close before
Never been so easy or so slow.
Been shooting in the dark too long,
When something's not right it's wrong.
You're gonna make me lonesome when you go.

Dragon clouds so high above
I've only known careless love,
It's always hit me from below.
This time around it's more correct
Right on target, so direct,
You're gonna make me lonesome when you go.

Purple clover, Queen Anne lace,
Crimson hair across your face,
You could make me cry if you don't know.
Can't remember what I was thinkin' of
You might be spoilin' me too much, love,
You're gonna make me lonesome when you go.

Flowers on the hillside, bloomin' crazy,
Crickets talkin' back and forth in rhyme,
Blue river runnin' slow and lazy,
I could stay with you forever
And never realize the time.

Situations have ended sad,
Relationships have all been bad.
Mine've been like Verlaine's and Rimbaud.
But there's no way I'd compare
All those scenes to this affair,
You're gonna make me lonesome when you go.

You're gonna make me wonder what I'm doing,
Staying far behind without you.
You're gonna make me wonder what I'm saying,
You're gonna make me give myself a good talking to.

I'll look for you in old Honolulu,
San Francisco and Ashtabula,
You're gonna have to leave me now, I know.
But I'll see you in the sky above,
In the tall grass, in the ones I love,
You're gonna make me lonesome when you go.

I love you, Momma.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


This is the season where we prepare for Christ's coming. First, we commemorate His arrival as the new born son of a virgin.  But also, we prepare ourselves for His second coming, robed in Glory, at the end of the age.

Sound apocalyptic?  Well, that's just the point. Christians are always thinking about the "end times" or the "last things."  At least, we're supposed to bear those things in mind always. It's not that we can't (or shouldn't) focus on the present moment, this small point in time where we, in our finite-ness, exist. But we are exiles here, in many ways, and we were created with a longing for Love that only Love Himself can satisfy. That's why we are always looking to His coming again.

What must it have been like, I wonder, for those who were present at His first coming?  for Mary and Joseph as they prepared themselves, as any other ancient couple would, for the birth of their first child?  I can imagine Mary touching her growing belly frequently, heart beating quickly, wondering how her life will change as her Child grows, but overwhelmed always with the joy of motherhood. And Joseph is falling more and more in love with his wife, whom he has been called by God to protect and shelter, as he shares in the pregnancy of the God-made-man.

For the wise men of the east who saw His star at its rising and came to do Him homage?  How long did it take them to find Bethlehem and the Child, bearing their precious gifts all the long way? What were they thinking, on the way, as they made an uncertain journey toward an uncertain end?

And the angels--all the host of bodiless warriors in God's court--who saw God incarnate!  What wonder they must have felt! What joy and mystification.  [How blessed we humans are, we bodily beings, who by virtue of our bodies can have the One God inside us!]  How the angels did adore and sing His praises!

So happy Advent, everyone. Make the most of your preparations for Christmas (heart, soul, and home)--it only comes once a year, but (as my favorite and now-most-annoyingly-stuck-in-my-head childhood Advent song says):
Stay Awake *snap, snap* 
Be Ready *snap, snap*
You do not know the hour when the Lord is coming.
Stay Awake! *snap, snap* 
Be Ready! *snap, snap* 
The Lord is coming soon! 

[Nativity set poured and fired by Momma; painted and photographed by me.]

You Think You're So Funny, Don't You?

ha, ha, HA, Boston.

I want you to know I don't think you're very funny.

Planning a snowy-white Christmas while I'm in the dry-bones dessert of CA, hmm?

It seems that every place gets a white Christmas.

Except the place where I am.

So here's to my 27th non-white Christmas...

maybe next year?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cozy Tea

I love it, you know. That cozy you made me.

It keeps my cup from Bar Harbor much warmer in my chilly third-floor-office.

The hobbit-y buttons make me smile whenever I look at them :)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Time is Here

...families drawing near...
Fun for all that children call
their favorite time of year."

I must confess, it doesn't feel like Christmas is on its way.. at least for me.  Maybe it's just the stress of the season (and T being in law school this year--this will be the latest we've left for home for Christmas yet).  Maybe it's that I've been preoccupied with so many things-not-Christmas lately. Maybe it's because many of our good friends (not all!) are far away and busy.

Maybe because this is the first Christmas without Momma.

Momma always made Christmas so special for all of us.  In the weeks before Christmas, she'd bake all sorts of wonderful goodies (sugar cookies, molasses cookies, biscotti, baklava, cream cheese cookies, Springerles, caramels, and more!). Sometimes she'd stay up late into the night baking for us, for her students, and for our friends. Last year, I helped her stuff 200 bags of goodies with three different kinds of homemade cookies, which she gave to her students. I wonder if she knew it was the last time she'd get to do that for them.

And there was something magical about the house at Christmas time. I remember the first Christmas I was in college, coming home to the house-already-decorated.  I got home late at night, so all the lights were out, except the Tree, softly glowing and sparkling in the front window.  Gifts were heaped underneath the boughs; all the decorations from my childhood memory were present and accounted for--the drawling "Jingle Bell" bell, the "Better Watch Out" music box in a Santa Face, Momma's wooden nativity set, her wax village, Western village, and Dickens' village all arranged with great care. She was up still, waiting for me to get home. She took me around the house showing me new decorations or nativity sets she bought that year. She always said Thanksgiving was her favorite holiday, because she only had to worry about food (not presents and decorations), but I know she really loved Christmas just as much. Sure it was a little more stressful than Thanksgiving, but she loved it. We all knew it.

But this year, I'm not "into it" for some reason.  I made some cookies. I've decorated our house (just a little, though, since we won't be here for Christmas). We've been doing our Advent prayers and snapping the ornaments on our tree calendar.  When we get to California next Monday, I'll have some shopping to do with Daddy. We will celebrate Vivian's birthday. Doubtless, there will be "house" projects we can work on (though not so many as Momma would have for us) :)  We'll have a Christmas Eve dinner--just Daddy, Vivian, Taylor and me.  I will make the Christmas morning Kringle, and we will open our presents and go through our stockings.

But it will be different without Momma. And I miss her...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

And the Virgin's Name was Mary

Today is the feast of the Conception of the Theotokos in the womb of St. Anne.  I've always thought this was a beautiful feast (maybe because I like to see priests wearing blue), but for a long while, I was pretty confused, too.  In the Roman rite, it's just called the "Immaculate Conception [of Mary]." But as a kid, I guess I assumed it was the conception of Jesus in Mary's womb.  I know--it doesn't make sense if you think about the timing, but really! The gospel for this feast is the Annunciation, it's Christmas time, we're all thinking about Baby Jesus.. my confusion was natural (up until I was about 9, when I finally figured it out) ;)

Traditionally, the story goes something like this (forgive me for any wrong details--I've only heard it a few times).  Anne and Joachim had been praying for a child for many years. One day, an angel appeared to Anne telling her she would conceive a child who would become a queen with great power. At the same time, an angel appeared to Joachim with the same message. They ran to tell each other the good news and they met at the city gates.  The image of the icon here shows their meeting (yes, there's a "couch" (=bed) behind them--it is the conception of Mary, after all).  Anne's robes are billowing out behind her in her haste to meet her husband; Joachim's feet are firmly planted--a strong, reliable figure.  Their faces are touching to show their love for each other.

Even the name, Mary, means "longed-for child" in Hebrew.  Truly Mary is a longed-for woman of the ages.  Through the grace of God, she was spared the stain of original sin, and through her consent to God's plan for her life, the Savior of the world became man and dwelt among us.  That's why the gospel for today is the Annunciation--because Anne's conception of Mary Immaculate points to the Incarnation of the Christ.

The nativity narratives tell us that "Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19).  I've always loved representations of Mary in nativity sets (maybe that's why I have so many?).  Each one, for me, is a different interpretation of that line. This year, Daddy decided that he would let each of us pick one of Momma's nativity sets for a Christmas present.  I chose Momma's hand-made red clay set. I've always loved the way the garments of the figures seem to flow and have such a warm grace to them.  Mary, of course, is my favorite. She's always been my favorite. I think this clay set captures well many of the emotions of that Holy Night.

The angel, so reverent and awe-struck at the God-Made-Man

The shepherd girl, with the gift of a bird, almost shy at what she's witnessing

The wise men on their camels, journeying from afar.  I love the "Byzantine" posture of these figures--arms crossed over their breast, bearing their treasures to the new-born King

And Mary, Star of the Sea. I can only imagine the wonder and joy you ponder in your heart as you gaze on your Son, our Savoir.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Nicholas the Saintly

Yesterday there was a divine liturgy in honor of St. Nicholas, Wonderworker, patron of the Byzantine church and of children.  T and I attended with our friend Matt. It was quite the pan-Byzantine service.  There was a Melkite priest, a Ukrainian priest, an Armenian deacon, a Ruthenian server, and a Ukrainian choir. And it was beautiful.

We celebrated in a chapel on the BC campus, "converted" to accommodate the liturgy.  Even though there were so many rites present, since we all celebrate the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and the various parts are all the same.  Sure, the translation into English is sometimes different, but you still can't really get lost.  It was wonderful to be in that familiar place, liturgically speaking. All the incense, the singing, the candles and icons and rich vestments.  Those friends of mine who are fortunate enough to attend Liturgy every Sunday are blessed indeed!  T and I can't wait to move back to the west coast--back to our Byzantine homes :)

I know Roman Catholics celebrate St. Nicholas day, too, but it's such a big deal for Byzantines--him being the patron of our church.  Kris Kringle came this morning and left us a book about St. Nicholas.  While I take issue with one or two words in the text (i.e. "Nicholas supposedly defended the faith with a magnificent confession.") the illustrations are beautiful and very Byzantine. It was nice to see the traditional representation of the Saint with his bishop's stole.  Of course, the book explains how today's Santa Clause arose from the story of Nicholas, and so we come full circle.  But it's still nice to hear about the beginning, as it were.

Happy Feast, everyone!

St. Nicholas, pray for us!

bountiful Father and special Patron of our Byzantine 
Catholic Church. You are a shepherd and teacher to all 
who invoke your protection, and who, by devout prayer, 
call upon you for aid. Hasten and save the flock of 
Christ from ravenous wolves; and by your holy prayers 
protect all Christians and save them from worldly 
disturbances, earthquakes, attacks from abroad, from 
internal strife, from famine, flood, fire, sword, and 
sudden death. As you had mercy on those three men in 
prison and saved them from the king's wrath, now also 
have mercy on me who by word, deed, and thought have 
sunk into the darkness of sin, Save me from the just 
anger of God, and from eternal punishment. Through your 
intercession and aid as well as through his own mercy 
and grace, may Christ our God allow me to lead a 
tranquil and sinless life, and save me from standing at 
"his left," but deem me worthy to stand at "his right" 
with all the saints. Amen.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Holly Jolly!

After work yesterday, I practically danced out of the office.  Taylor was taking me to a Holly Cole concert (as you may remember me mentioning) and I was way excited.  Of course, we were also going to hang out at a cafe, get mochas (mmm), and have a nice dinner at home together, so there were all sorts of reasons for dancing when I left work.

I knitted and T studied at KooKoo cafe for a few hours, sipping deliciously rich mochas.  It was fun to watch people come and go in the cafe, too. There was a group of college-age girls, getting together for some coffee before finals descended upon them.  There was a father and his cutesy toddling toddler daughter (who followed him everywhere--to the back of the cafe for a high chair, back to the front to sit down, back to the back for a book and a toy, back to the front when his coffee was ready. Ah, to be young again, right?  After a very (very) long week (longer because last week was so short), it was nice to simply sit and be with each other while the world passed by.

When it was time to go, we walked home and I made a pretty-darn-tasty tuna steak (with cous cous and grape tomatoes), which we ate at our cute little "breakfast table" (which is a butcher block kitchen cart with stools pulled up to it).

The concert was at Sculler's Jazz Club, so we got to get dressed up.  I love dressing up with my Sweet P'Taylor.  I know I get to "dress up" for work every day, but that's a wholly different thing.  First of all, dressing up to go out is lots more fun than dressing up to work.  Also, if I'm dressing up with Taylor, it means we get to go somewhere together, which makes everything better.

And Holly--you do not disappoint.  From the first time I heard Holly Cole in college, I've loved her voice. It's so rich and she has the ability to make "old" songs (good songs are never really old) fresh and new.

She told some fun stories, too.  Her brother studied at Berkley college of music--right in downtown Boston--and she hitchhiked from Canada one year to visit him... so she said Boston was very special to her. I loved that, too.

Here are a few videos that, I think, represent well her style and vocal ability. It floors me :) I love her!

Everyday Will Be Like a Holiday
(she performed this one at our concert--very well done)

Cry If You Want To
(she also sang this one for us--"for all modern lovers out there tonight")

And here are some more recent performances.  She didn't perform either of these for us, but here you can see how her style has changed, just a tiny bit.  T said it's the mark of a good artist if her style matures as she does.

Baby It's Cold Outside

Santa Baby

Monday, November 30, 2009

An Update [and The End]

My niece Rachel had a birthday in September this year.  Since she's in dance classes, I made her some legwarmers (and a hat to match).  Apparently Bethany has been trying to get a picture of her in them but she's been sassy about it and doesn't really want to wear them.
If this is her sassy face, it's also pretty cute, huh?
Maybe she'll start to wear them more when it gets colder and colder in the dance studio?

And so, this is the end of my blogging-every-day.  It's been a fun month, but I don't mind admitting I'm happy to go back to a more relaxed schedule :)

Looking back over my posts for this month, I am (oddly enough) struck by the many blessings I have.  Some people call it "human nature" to be always longing for something more, something else than what we have in front of us.  Some people think that it's all fine and dandy to lose sight of the present moment in all its moment-ous richness. I often find myself falling into those camps, forgetting that right now is what's most important. [I don't mean to say we shouldn't, for instance, keep our "sights" on Heaven and know that we are longing for God, etc, but as for living our lives, the present moment is all we have "control" over, if that makes any sense.]

I'd like to think that, most of the time, I'm "in the moment."  I'd like to think that I appreciate things as they come, and don't spend too much time looking wistfully into the future, or longingly back to the past.

So, at the close of this month of Thanks-giving, I give thanks for all the many blessings I have been given. A wise confessor (at World Youth Day in Toronto) once asked me: "What do you have that you have not received?"  The only answer is "nothing."  All is gift.  Therefore, all our breaths should be exhalations of thanks.

Grant it, O Lord.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday (Sunday, Someday)

Does anyone remember Strong Bad? He (and his ridiculous emails) were "all the rage" when I was in undergrad... Every time I write about Sunday, I think of this email :) too funny.

[Not to mention that a group of us actually went to a monster truck rally that came to Spokane. We dressed appropriately for the event, too. And, we finished many of the announcer's lines with "covered in syrup!" Good times.]

Um.. anyway :)

Today our Roman Catholic brethren begin Advent.  It's always a joy to see festive greenery in the church.  One of the hardest things for T and me in Boston is that we don't have a Byzantine church here. That is, there are lots of Eastern rite churches in the area, but no Ruthenian parishes.  Thankfully, the Roman church we attend (St. Clement's Eucharistic Shrine) is a beautiful church with a truly wonderful community, and we are very happy there.

But still, we miss our Byzantine traditions. As the altar server lit the first candle in the wreath, I couldn't help thinking "We're on week three already."  It's not a "we're better than you" thing--but I couldn't help feeling (just a little bit) that they were "catching up," if that makes any sense.  I don't mean to sound resentful at all (far from it), but I've been waiting for greenery in the church for two weeks. At any rate, I'm glad it's here now :)

After, Mass, we came home and had leftovers for lunch (is there anything better than Thanksgiving leftovers?). I tidied the house, finished a knitting project, and blocked my knitting for the first time.  I made a tasty turkey soup (based on this recipe) with buttermilk bread for dinner.  Then we headed downtown to Myers and Chang for their Dollar Oyster Night.  Tasty (cheap) oysters + great company = fun night for all.  T thinks oyster Sunday needs to become a weekly thing.. probably at least through finals :) Hope he survives!

And now, time for bed.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lazy, but Not Un-Productive

For some strange reason, I have always felt that sitting down and knitting is "lazy."  I'm not sure why (especially when so many of the items I'm making are gifts for other people), but whenever I sit down to knit I feel like I ought to be doing something more "productive."

But really, knitting is no less productive than, say, sewing.  So in the interest of banishing un-reasoned prejudices against knitting, I'm going to discuss my productivity on this lovely, relaxing day.

I finished a hat today.

And I finally figured out a piece of a mittens pattern I was stuck on.

I knitted a few rows of my lace knit cowl.
(Which is taking forever. I'm not sure how I feel about lace knitting yet..)

I started a little bitty bit of one hat.

I made good progress on a cable-knit scarf.

All the while sipping hot tea and deliciously aromatic coffee, listening to T type away at homework.

Miso soup for lunch; leftovers for dinner ( = minimal kitchen duty).

So, even though I didn't get any laundry done, or make the bed, or even exercise, I'm still going to call this a productive day.  It won't be forever that I can sit and knit knit knit all day, right?

Besides, it was ridiculously windy today and who wants to go outside in that sort of weather anyway? even if it's sunny.

Happy stitching! :)

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Waif-Away-From-Home Thanksgiving

Because T and I were in town for Thanksgiving this year, we decided to invite to dinner any of our friends who were unable to go home for the holidays.  A collection of waifs (first definition).

Now, that's not to say that we (or our guest) don't have any friends in Boston. Obviously not since we had 11 people for dinner last night.  But it's hard not to feel like a waif when you can't go home for Thanksgiving.  It was good to be surrounded by friends :)

We woke up early to get a good start on our day.  The best start, actually--we went to Mass.  What better place to begin the a eucharistic feast (as in: eucharistein--to give thanks) than by celebrating the Eucharist?  What a blessing it is to have our Lord in our midst, so clearly and so readily.

Refreshed from the Feast, we headed home and I started prepping the turkey.  We got a 21 pound turkey from the same farm where we get the rest of our (naturally raised, grass-fed, wholly organic and sustainable) meat.  It was a beautifully huge bird. And it was running around, happy as a... turkey.. just one week ago!  I used the maple-butter recipe that Momma used for Viv's Golden Birthday dinner last year.  Truth be told, I think I overcooked the turkey.  But the gravy was pretty tasty, and even overcooked turkey makes great leftovers.  Better overcooked than underdone, right? Finally, this is only the second turkey I've made. I'm not ashamed to admit I can keep improving :)

We also had apple sausage stuffing. I made a double recipe (well, we need leftover stuffing for our leftover turkey, right?).  I used a sour dough bread and did half ground beef/half sausage for the meat.  This was the highlight of my Thanksgiving.  I've never had better stuffing (sorry, Momma).  It was delicious!  We finished one (13x9") pan last night and T and I finished half of the second (13x9") pan for lunch today... so try it :) It's pretty tasty.

I also made (coconut milk) scalloped sweet potatoes, which were also very scrumptious.

Next on the menu: cheese (mmmm)

(no further description necessary, right?)

So are you wondering how we fit 11 people at our table?  We got two additional folding tables (raised with corks stuck in their legs (and still a little too short)) and put them next to our bitty table.  It was a squeeze, but we managed (and hey, we're all friends, right?).   The magic of squeezing is Friendship!

Again, a big thank you to our parents who have so graciously completed our china service for 14. The crystal was a wedding present, too.  We are indeed very blessed :)  Someday, probably when we have our farm, I'll have a big dining room with one table that can seat all our guests and you can all come over for a meal.  We will use the china and the crystal and have a good ol' traditional sit-down dinner and stay up chatting late into the night.

Which is what we did last night.  Our last guest didn't leave until after 1, and I (for some silly reason?!) decided I needed to start the turkey stock.  I picked all the meat off while our guests were still chatting and got the bones in the pot soon after they left.  What took so long was bringing the pot to a boil before reducing it to a simmer.  At 2 o'clock in the morning (this morning!) I turned off the lights and headed to bed.

All in all, I'd say it was a tremendous success.  For dessert we had a chocolate pumpkin pie, sugar cookies, a blueberry tart, a traditional pecan pie, a chocolate pecan pie, an ice cream cake, and ice cream.  Frankly, with a spread like that, who cares if dinner was a success? :)

If we are in town next year for Thanksgiving, I hope we can host another gathering.

And next year, I'll make a better turkey.

Happy Feast, everyone!  (and to all a good night)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

It's two o'clock in the morning.

Dinner was a success.

We served 11 people a sit-down dinner.

Dessert was a success.

We went through 20 bottles of drinks.

I've even picked off all the meat from the turkey and put it in the fridge.

The bones are in a stockpot, merrily simmering away.

All the dishes are done except for the handwash (which is soaking).

I'm going to bed.

Happy Thanksgiving :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Quiet

...before the storm that is Thanksgiving.

We have invited ten people to dine with us.  I know, those of you who have seen our house and our table are thinking: "How can she possibly feed 12 people a sit-down dinner?!"  Magic (and a few card tables). That's how ;)  After all, we do have a 21 pound bird. That should be enough for a dozen hungry students, right?  And a BIG thank you to our parents, who have so lovingly gifted us china (and serving pieces!) for 14... so we have room for two more, if you're in town :)

I have made the cranberry relish, and it's happily "mellowing" in our (new, roomier, and quite luxurious) fridge.

I have done the apple cider/maple butter for the turkey. It's heavenly :)

I frosted the sugar cookies.  They turned out rather psychedelic, and not terribly autumnal, but they are also tasty, which means they'll pass.

I made the filling for a chocolate pumpkin pie last night, but the crust was a flop. Tonight I tried a buckwheat crust, which didn't make it as a roll-out crust, but it seemed to manage well enough as a press-in crust. It's pretty enough, anyway :)

I made a blueberry tart, too, at Taylor's request.


sweet potatoes
and, of course, all those pesky little things like cleaning the house and setting the table.

I'm excited :) It should be lots of fun!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Holly Days

I've been a big fan of Holly Cole's music for a while.  I love her sultry voice and the fascinating rhythm in the arrangements of her songs.  She's able to take "old" music and make it fresh and exciting, while still keeping it familiar enough to not be weird.

Then I found her Christmas album, and I was completely hooked.  (I wish she'd make another one!) It's my favorite album to listen to during the holidays. It's bouncy, fun, playful, but still pensive and reverent and serious enough to be an all-around great CD.

However, since we can't will Holly to make another Christmas album, T is taking me to her Christmas concert here in Boston :)  I'm super-excited. Giddy almost!

So next Friday, December 4, I'll be on cloud nine, listening to some deliciously smooth jazz in the Christmas spirit at Sculler's Jazz Club.

I wonder if they'll let us dance at all? Hmm.. :)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pilgrim's Feast (hehe)


I know it's "too early" to be talking about Christmas (ha! not for Byzantines!), but I was very strongly reminded of it today.  We're having some friends over for Thanksgiving this year and I decided it would be fun to make sugar cookies to have for dessert.

I made the dough yesterday (being careful not to sample any--darn food allergies!) and stuck it in the fridge until this afternoon.  I wasn't expecting to be brought back to my childhood holidays. But there I was, remembering all the many times we'd made sugar cookies at Momma's house.

We'd make dozens and dozens of cookies, all shapes, all sizes, and for all the holidays. We'd have turkeys and pilgrims and leaves and pumpkins. There would be stockings and santas and Nativity figures and Christmas trees and presents and reindeer and sleighs.  There would be snowflakes and snowmen and bells and stars and gingerbread men (and women).  Then we would spend countless hours decorating them (with all different colors using only spoons and toothpicks!) for all the different holidays.  There were always sugar cookies around from November through January in our house. It was beautiful :)

So go ahead, siblings, try it. Make some sugar cookie dough, close your eyes, and smell it.  Then take a small taste, and you're in Momma's kitchen, elbows propped up on her butcher block table, kneeling on the bench, waiting to pick away (and devour) more scraps of sugar'd cookie dough.  Next thing you know, you'll be wondering where the sprinkles are so you can shake the sparkle-colored sugar over the lovely cookies before Momma puts them in the oven.  I can already taste the powdered sugar frosting she used to decorate them.

Momma's sugar cookie recipe
Cream in mixer:
--3/4 c crisco (or other solid shortening; using butter makes the cookies come out pretty soft, and more prone to breaking when you decorate them)
--1 c sugar

--2 eggs
--1 tsp vanilla extract

Sift together and add to liquid ingredients:
--2 1/2 c flour
--1 tsp baking powder
--1 tsp salt

Refrigerate dough for at least 4 hours (I did it overnight--it keeps a few days).  Roll out on to floured surface and cut cookies out.  Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 6-8 minutes at 400 degrees.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Frozen Socks

So far today, I'm feeling a lot better than I was yesterday evening *cheers and applause*   Since feeling better has persisted into the evening, I'd like to believe that I'm actually better. (We'll see tomorrow, though)

What did I do? Let's see:
  1. Let Taylor love me. Ahh, always the best medicine! 
  2. Rest. Though I didn't get into bed till 10:30 (see below for why), I slept until 8:30 this morning.  Sleep is the best thing for getting better.  ['Course, this becomes a problem when one is too sick to sleep well. Yuck.]
  3. Homeopathic remedies, including: neti pot; hot shower; lots of fluids (spicy soup, too); vitamin C, D, concentrated garlic, and fish oil; hot tea. 
  4. The "cold wet sock treatment."  Yes, this is also a homeopathic remedy. And yes, it does sound rather bizarre. I didn't even remember about this until I was already in bed (at 10 pm) but I'm glad I got up to do it. Bizarre, yes, but kinda fun. Here's how you do it: 
You'll need one pair of cotton socks and one pair of wool socks.  Prepare a nice hot water bath for your feet (add some tea tree oil or eucalyptus to clear your sinuses a bit).  You want it really warm, but not so hot as to scald you.  Before you soak your feet, drench the cotton socks in cold water and squeeze them out well. Put them in the freezer (yes).

Soak your feet for at least 10 minutes. You want your feet to be very warm and cozy.  When you're done soaking, dry your feet off very well and get your cotton socks out of the freezer and (here's the worst part) put them on!  Immediately put on the (dry) wool socks and bundle yourself up and go to bed under warm covers.  In the morning the socks should be dry and you should be feeling better.

The idea is to trick your body into heating itself up and killing whatever-it-is that's making you sick.  I don't recommend this treatment if you already have a fever.  Also with this treatment, the sooner you do it, the better.

Our (naturopathic) doctor told us this is what doctors used to tell their patients all the time "back in the day," before the advent of widely-available antibiotics and medications.  And it seemed to work for me this time (hooray!).

Of course, it could have been the special chocolate we got today
(because Sundays are always special)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bodies Are Funny Things

I slept in this morning (ooh, so nice!) and had breakfast with Taylor (also very nice).  We had some delicious coffee together and said our morning prayers.  Then he headed off to a tutoring session and I started my day...

I put the breakfast dishes in the sink and cleared off the table.  Then I cued up my exercise video (which, cheesy as it sometimes is, seems to be working well for me--highly recommended, as long as your TV has a mute feature (once you learn the exercises)) :) and did my exercises.

Feeling pretty accomplished, I decided today would be a good day to clean up the house. The whole house.  I cleared the floor in our bedroom and closet and swept thoroughly; made the bed; tidied my sewing area; re-organized our closet so we have more room in the entry closet for Viv when she comes [ = super exciting!]; dusted; and put all our clean clothes away.

I put new sticky-pads on the legs of our kitchen chairs; I vacuumed all our rugs and put some rug-stabilizers under them; I dusted the living room; swept everywhere (including T's study nook (under his bookshelf) and under the TV bookshelf); I organized my knitting and the magazines; and put away all our coats and scarves.

I even did my hair.

I dusted in the bathroom; cleaned the mirror; scrubbed the tub; swept the floor; and wiped down the toilet.

I moved to the kitchen and washed all the dirty dishes, dried them, and put them all away.  I wiped all the counters and the table and swept and mopped the floor.

Then I made dinner (broccoli soup and rye bread), just in time for T to get home from studying and a hair cut, and we sat down to eat in peace and cleanliness.  Didn't last long, though--I started sneezing and my nose was running and my head got really congested.  All in the space of 20 minutes. What gives?

It's strange to me that I felt so well all day and then, all of a sudden, descended to icky-ness. I guess my body figured: "Whew, T's home to take care of me now. I can relax--especially since the house is all clean, too."

And he is taking care of me :)  He's cleaning up the dinner dishes and getting our vitamins. He's so good to me, all the ways he loves me!

The soup was very good, though--with just enough cayenne pepper for a kick to my poor sinuses.  I've taken some medicine and am heading to bed, after I do the "cold, wet sock treatment" (curious? I'll explain tomorrow if people are interested) since I don't have a fever right now.  Hopefully I can nip this thing in the bud.  Who wants to be sick for Thanksgiving?!

Here's hoping!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Some Finer Things

One of the nice things about having a 6 week fast before Christmas (with T and me, at least) is that you get at least 6 Kris Kringle presents.

You might ask, "What are Kris Kringle presents?"  They're awesome, that's what they are :)  As kids, "Kris Kringle" always found the best presents and small gifts to give us.  On Sundays there would be a gift for the family, usually a Christmas book or chocolates--something we could all share and enjoy.  During the weekdays (it seemed to me, most often, on those days when my poor 3rd grade week was just too long to endure), we'd wake up and find a small treasure--sometimes wrapped, sometimes not--waiting on our pillow or on our dresser for us.  It was always such a treat, and so unexpected.

Two years ago, I decided Kris Kringle should come to our house, too.  And what'd'y'know? we found gifts waiting for us all 6 Sundays of Advent :)

The best part is that you never know where the present will show up, or even when.  We got this on on Wednesday--a special present. I guess Kris knew we needed a few things from the Body Shop.

Taylor really wished that he got a cut-throat razor to go with it, but I'm not so sure about those yet...

He really did enjoy his new brush, though--it was super cute, and, he says, "much better than that stuff from the can."  Well done, Kris Kringle!

And now we sit,
freshly brewed
oolong tea
in nifty
tidying up our day
before heading to bed.

The finer things in life
are usually very small.

But always fantastic.

Enjoy them :)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

One Dish Wonder

Writing again late at night, but this is a quick one, anyway :)

Everyone in my family remembers shepherd's pie.  It was one of Momma's leftovers dishes and pretty simple--ground beef, frozen peas, condensed tomato soup, mashed potatoes. Bake it to warm. Dish it up, salt and pepper to taste :)  Ahhh, memories.  I'm not sure how much she made each time, but when I make it, T and I easily eat up half of the recipe in one dinner.  How did she stretch her recipe for a family of 7?!  Maybe she used bigger pans...

Anyway, I've been "experimenting" with this recipe of late.  I added onion because I love onion :) it's completely optional in the recipe below.  I didn't have tomato soup one day (I know, Daddy--the SHOCK! [Momma and Daddy always had canned tomato soup on hand.. it was one of their staples]) and so I used some canned tomatoes I had.  Tonight, I didn't have any mashed potatoes ready, and figured dicing them would be less mess than mashing them (certainly less to clean out of the pan).

Really, though, the possibilities are endless--change up the vegetables, carrots instead of peas, pearl onions with the ground beef, a layer of scrambled egg, different potatoes, cheese on top, etc.  Experiment with your own ideas!

So here it is, my small twist on
Momma's Shepherd's Pie

1 pound ground beef (or turkey, your preference)
1/4 onion, chopped (or 1 T dried onion)
2 T flour (or arrowroot powder)
1 pound bag frozen peas
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
1/4 c chopped parsley
leftover potatoes (if you have leftover potatoes--diced, mashed, fries, hashbrowns, etc., this really is a one-dish meal.  You'll need 2-3 c potatoes [chop the french fries into smaller pieces]. If, like me, you don't have any leftovers, follow the instructions in brackets)
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Brown the beef in a large oven-proof skillet.  Add onion and saute until tender (or re-constituted).  Turn off heat, add flour and stir to combine.

While beef is browning, [bring a pot of water to a boil. Par-boil 3-4 diced potatoes until barely fork-tender (5-8 minutes).  Drain in a colander, rinse with cold water, and] toss potatoes with 1/4 c chopped parsley, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Set aside.

Layer the vegetables over the beef (in the skillet) in this order:
frozen peas

Place the whole skillet in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until juices are bubbling.

Serve warm.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

CHECKing In!

Look what I've done this week :)
  1. 4 of these:  CHECK (yes, I started with this one on purpose)
  2. 5 of these:  ALSO CHECK! (ok, I only had to "make" this one once)
  3. 5 of these:  CHECK
  4. 5 of these: Check-a-partial-one. Given the above three CHECKs, these don't seem so bad anymore :) 
  5. 3 of these:  Check a-partial-One!  Two and Three: pending successful completion of one. 
  6. 1 set of these:  Check part One and Two. Third part--in progress! 
  7. 1 of these:  No check. Coming up next, though! :)
  8. mail this: CHECK
  9. Order these: CHECK!
  10. 2 of these: nope, haven't started these either. 
In other news, it's been sunny here of late. Sunny. And Windy. And (therefore) chilly.

Why does everyone think Sun automatically makes it a "nice day"?  Having been raised in a desert, where it's sunny all the time, I'm here to tell you that premise if flawed.  Don't get me wrong--sunshine is great (really!) but what's wrong with clouds?

Anyway :)  Enjoy the sunshine, wherever you are!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

O Joyful Light

Advent is here.  That joyful season when we prepare to celebrate Christ's birth.  I've been thinking about Christmas for months now (homemade gifts + an ever-expanding family), but with the advent of Philipovka, it's time to prepare the soul (and body, and home) as well.

Yesterday, after work, I tidied up the house and got out the red cloths and candles for the icon corner.  I put away the familiar white cloth behind the crucifix, and I folded the fancier cloth that sits on the shelf, under our candles and icons and holy cards.  When our small red candle is lit for prayers, the red flame stands out against the golden icons.

I pulled our Star of David out from the shelf and unwrapped the six red candles I had saved from last year and set it up on our table. I placed our prayer booklets for meals, with matches and a candle snuffer, on the table next to the candles.

I unpacked the Advent Calendar and hung it on our bedroom door.


Now I'm ready to wait for Christ.

Menu planning for the next 6 weeks will be a bit different.  See, part of our Christmas preparation is to fast, and I need to factor that in to my meal schedule.  Oatmeal for breakfast, very small lunch or snack, modest dinner, no desserts.  I know that some people may think fasting is "old fashioned" and "unnecessary" but I firmly believe in its benefits (spiritually as well as physically).  By abstaining from certain foods for certain reasons, our bodies remind us to prepare for Christmas, to pray, and to give thanks for the gifts we have.  Abstinence makes the heart grow (fonder, more charitable, holier).  Also, how much more feast-ive is the Christmas day feast when the fast is broken and the much-missed foods return to the table!  If one can fast from good things, one is free from slavery to them, and thus, closer to God.

Over the next several weeks, I will decorate our house for Christmas.  We will put up our nativity sets, hang lights and Christmas pictures, find a tree, and decorate it beautifully.  We will hear readings at Church each day that increase the anticipation and excitement with a voice crying out in the wilderness, "Ready the Way of the Lord!"  The house will be full of goodies which only make an appearance at Christmastime (cunningly saved in winter tins to await the end of the fast).  We will play Christmas music and wrap presents and visit family and warm our hearts and souls and bodies against the cold with all manner of Good Things.

But for now, it is just the beginning of the journey toward Christmas, and we enter the wilderness for 40 days to make ourselves ready.

Last night we had lentil and sweet potato soup with a quick wheat bread (recipe from my birthday cookbook).

Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup

2 c. red or brown lentils (or combination) soaked overnight
2 medium sweet potatoes
3 onions (or 3 heaping T dried onion)
2 qt water (or combination water and broth of choice)
1/2 tsp paprika
juice of one lemon
dash cayenne pepper (add this after soup is done simmering! if it boils, it intensifies!)
salt to taste

Combine water [and stock], lentils, sweet potatoes, and onions in soup pot and simmer until veggies are tender.

Blend soup until smooth.

Add seasonings to taste.

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Bread
adapted from: From a Monastery Kitchen

1 c flour
2 heaping c coarse-ground whole wheat flour
2 T sesame seeds
2 T toasted wheat germ (I used milled flax seeds)
2 T rye meal
1 tsp salt
1 T brown sugar
1 heaping tsp baking soda
2 c buttermilk (dairy allergy/vegan? use milk substitute + 2 T vinegar)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix all dry ingredients together. Add 2 c buttermilk and stir until just combined (adding water if mixture is too dry--it should have the consistency of banana bread batter).

Grease bread pan. Pour mixture into the pan and bake for about 40 minutes. Cool (or not) and serve.