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