Saturday, June 29, 2013

Canada Comes To Me

I made my first
strawberry cream pie.
A dear friend of mine who
came to NYC with
a few friends
came for lunch.
She stayed with me right before
I married my beloved
Mr. Husband
and it was so good to see
her again.
It was a wonderful day....

Friday, June 28, 2013

Praying for Fr. Roman Braga

I woke up early
and soon discovered that
we must pray for Fr. Roman Braga.
See here for details.

Where to start to even tell you about him?
This interview by one blessed to know him
is a great start.
Also this by Kh. Fredrica Matthewes Green.
His books in English are well
worth reading.
The story of his mother praying in this transcript
is wonderful.

Michelle linked to these videos

Let us ask St. Nektarios for his prayers.

Let us light candles for a beloved

I still remember my first liturgy there.
It was my second communion,
the feast of Holy Dormition.
I was almost in the church one year
and did not know anything about this feast.
My friends were going and invited me to come.
It was just like that.
And so I went and Fr. Roman spoke to everyone before
communion of the fasting rules
and I remember all the people and the
wonderful meal afterwards
on picnic tables.
I was aware of many people, esp. women,
working to make it happen.
I remember getting brownies and lemonade.
I bought a small icon of the Theotokos
that I still have.
It was my first non-paper icon;
I was a poor student and did not have much.
They make small icons there,
beautifully mounted
that poor students can afford.

So just weeks after this
I went off to library school and to
my third Orthodox church in 1 year of stepping foot
in an Orthodox church for the second time
in my life.
Newly chrismated...

The icon above, by the way,
of St. Katherine is one from Holy Dormition.
That one I bought I remember when I was
in between jobs, running out of money and
sold some books and bought the icon
after staying in the room in the guest house
dedicated to her.
I was interviewing soon for a job at a university
and since I was in her room then
and knew her to be a special Saint for those at schools,
I was so happy to get this icon,
which I remember my spiritual father blessing..
The impact this monastery has had
for many is wonderfully diverse,
spreading out like rings around a stone
thrown into a pond,
echoing out and out and out.
It is the mercy of God
for us,
pouring out.

My first stay at the monastery was
back in early 2005 during Great Lent.
I did not then even understand why I needed to go.
I had spring break,
I almost was not able to go,
burst into tears on the phone unexpectedly
and suddenly there I was
staying in St. Nicholas' room in the guest house.
I did not know right away who Fr. Roman was.
But I watched him pray
the prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian
and suddenly realized I'd never seen anyone
pray it like they meant it before,
like that.
One person I know told me
that once he was at the monastery
and during the beatitudes
in the liturgy
when it was prayed
blessed are those who are persecuted
Fr. Roman's face was shining with joy.

I had the blessing of asking
Fr. Roman's blessing for my spiritual father
various years.
Talking to Fr. Roman, even briefly like I did,
was like suddenly finding oneself in a
sunlit field,
full of joy.
Once he welcomed me to his monastery and
to make myself at home there;
how consoling it was...
Let us pray for this beloved
monastic and be consoled by
the honour to pray for him!
Lord have mercy!
Lord have mercy!
Lord have mercy!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Life is like that

So I had to go out today early.
Won't go into details but
I came back exhausted and fell into bed again.

So then I got up and had the very adult
lunch of Cheerios with milk.
I know.
Very impressive.
So then I was in the kitchen, the place
I love, as you know from all the photographs
I take of it, and esp. of this windowsill.
Well, the icon above of the Theotokos was getting
really dusty so without much forethought,
I grabbed it,
the stand came with it,
promptly feel off right above my oil lamp
that was still burning
spilled the oil right then and there,
I hurriedly put the icon down,
righted the oil lampada and then saw that
the holder with candle wick was still burning
nearly in a pool of oil.
I grabbed it and blew it out.
Divine intervention right there I think.
Oil, fire, fabric soaking in holy icon oil,
emmm, sounds like fire hazard to me.
So I thanked God,
apologized for the word I said as the
icon holder crashed into the oil lampada,
and thought
life is like that.
I've been thinking a lot about this lately.
How we can try so hard
or sometimes feel like we struggle to try
as hard as we should
and things don't run according to plan;
we forget lunch dates or forget to
label an important envelope correctly until we
have mailed it and are back home
from the post office
or we have to change plans, cancel a tea date,
lose our patience, forget kindness or,
like I did a week or so ago,
stub one's toe so badly that two toes bruise up
and after a few days snap a picture on
one's smart phone, email it to a
MD relative for reassurance that nothing can be done
but the obvious ice, elevate and buddy tape if needed.
And you know,
I think life is like that when life is going well.
When it's not,
it's just plain hard and we have to try to pray
and beg for God's help to get us through whatever
trial has beset us.
Sometimes I think our prayers
are sometimes feeling so dismal or lacking
that we forget that God can hear
the groanings of our heart.
this is life.
Worth living.
Worth sharing.
Worth tending to.
Speaking of this sort of thing,
these articles on ordinary living
were so wonderful to me,
and at the same time made me feel
so homesick for the life I knew as a child,
I must share them.
So here they are:

Where not those articles wonderful?
I thought so too.
So I had this light pink table runner
still unused
from IKEA in Ottawa
when I was gifted with a IKEA gift card from
my beloved Ottawa parish and
suddenly had to use it right then and there
before I moved all my stuff to the States.
So I have this wonderful memory of
being with my Ukrainian mother
in Ottawa one last time.

After cleaning up the oil,
washing up the windowsill while I was at it,
I put this table runner down.
I rather like it for summer
though I think I will love it more than my
beloved Mr. Husband who is not so into pink.
Understandable of course...
However the other table runner
is drying well after being washed nearly immediately
after the above said incident.
I am thinking the pink will be there until the fall
when the darker runner is a more seasonally appropriate

I am loving the roses
that Mr. Husband bought me.
Did I mention that I am really blessed in
my husband?
Marriage as my friends assured me
is a lot of work and not always easy
but still,
I will continue to reiterate:
I know when I've been blessed.

Lighting candles for so many.
By the way,
if you can help,
Ancient Faith Radio could need some support.
AFR is such a wonderful gift to so many of us!

This little flower was given by our
near-by church on Mother's Day
to all women,
Mothers or not.
My beloved grad mug that
my Mom found at a garage sale
has a crack in it :(
and so it is now a flower pot,
since the crack is not all the way through yet...
The other day Mr. Husband and I were at our friend's place
and found that one of their neighbours was throwing away
a box of books.
You know I know I found the one for me when I find both
of us rummaging through the box,
finding treasures that I can't wait to read...
(They are in a sealed box at moment in garage to be sure no
squirmies are alive in it,
a precaution I have learned is good to have in NJ where
such infestations (bed bugs, ewwwwww) can
be lurking).
And so it is.
Life is like that,
not the perfect magazine photos calm and all put together
but beautiful and real.
And when I think of the many wars and horrible things going on,
having an ordinary life
is really
a most wonderful thing to have.
And that sea salt chocolate bar that I ate most of
after lunch,
well, it just makes life all the more cheery...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Those who are not alone have no fear

I have been thinking of my friend's
Mother-in-law who is
being given her last glances by her loved ones,
kissed, laid to rest on Friday.
I've been thinking of my Oma.
Of the conversations I had with my friend
about death.

How Mr. Husband and I walked the halls of
the Holland Home for the last time
when my Oma died.

Conversations with my friend...
how to break the news to her three year old son?
We talked about how dying is not dangerous
or something to be afraid of for us,
for those who hope in Christ's mercy. 

I told her of the book everyday saints
and how Fr. Raphael speaks of
the wonderfulness of dying in the bosom
of the church.
How her son's Grandmother died in
the arms of the church.

Years ago,
when I was new to Ottawa,
one of the first sermons I heard my spiritual father say
was how St. Nicholas had come to the dying man
whose funeral they had just been to.
How St. Nicholas comes to many who are dying
to bring them home to Christ or
to bring them back to earth for
the rest of the work they have to do.
He told us that we do not die alone.
That St. Nicholas, the Mother of God, they will come.
Our Guardian Angel is with us.
The prayers of the Mother of God
to ask her Son for mercy for us
do not go unheard.

My Mother remembers my Oma singing the
Psalms by heart, the beloved Psalter,
in Dutch as she mopped the floor.
I remember her repentance and tears
and how she served others,
her husband, her 8 children, her many
grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Her Dutch soup with meatballs.
Her peeling potatoes and putting on coffee.
How she did not knit on Sundays to honour the Lord.
How if she could not make it to church
she would watch the service on TV.
How she and her husband, my Opa,
read the Bible and a devotional after all three meals.
How God and prayer was part of their daily lives.
My Opa played the organ in church,
directed a choir.
I remember him playing hymns at home
on a old table piano that somehow
was still like an organ...
My spiritual father used to tell us that
the fear of death and of being alone in death
caused many people to sin.
How the devil likes to tell us that we are alone.
The best news is that the devil always lies
and that Christ never lies and
promises to never leave us,
that His Holy Spirit is there with us.

One of my friends told me how
one of her relatives saw Christ
just a month or so before dying,
her family praying in her room with her.

God knows the beginning and end of our days.
We are in God's hands and
He is with us when we die,
even if it seems we died unnoticed or alone.

My Oma was buried with a flock of relatives
all of her children by her casket.
I and Mr. Husband were not married yet
but we both were there and
we prayed for my Oma's soul
with faith and hope.
My cousin is a minister and he prayed the
final benediction over her as we lowered her into the grave.
In the church we do not die alone
but with the mercy of God,
the prayers of the Church,
the prayers of the Saints.
The best thing my friend told her son was that
her Grandma also was in heaven with Jesus
and that one day we will go home to Jesus too and that
is why we go to church, pray and seek to be faithful...
He wanted to go to heaven right then.
Children often understand how
things are and where our home is immediately
without question
and with truth that is always spoken in love.
A woman who we all loved in my beloved Ottawa parish
died some years back; the church was so full of people
and flowers, oh the flowers were overflowing.
We learned on her 5 year panakhyda that
she had such courage and had
so vanquished the fear of death
that she would show people where she was
to be buried and now is.
On Pascha I always think of her
wearing white in church.
How she was there though in great pain.
How much we still miss her.
One of her adult godchildren once told me that the
Bible studies she did were so alive.
When I had the interview for my first job in Ottawa
she asked me when the interview was
and told me she would pray and that I would get that job.
And I did get that job
and it was a trial by fire yet I had this peace in it.
I know it was her prayers.
When it was her 5 year panakhyda I remember how we all
felt here there and that the feeling I had at the
panakhyda and memorial meal after her burial
was the same sense I had 5 years later at her 5 year panakhyda.
They are with us,
those who die in Christ and we meet them in the church.
In the church the living and the dead are in one church
one Body, one Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
They are especially there for us on Pascha
but other times as well.
I have one living Grandmother.
I know my Grandfather who cared for her so much
is praying for her and that she is still being taken care of.
My Grandfather was involved in the building of houses
for much of his later life and my Grandmother
now has a rare corner apartment with extra windows
for which she is so thankful.
That my Grandfather always housed his wife with such care
and deliberation, it was no surprise that my
Grandmother is still being so cared for.
And it points to what we must remember.
Christ promises to never leave us.
Christ promises that He is preparing a home for us.
He promises no matter how great the suffering,
He is there and death is no longer to be feared
Christ who watches the fawns be born
is watching over us when we die.
We are never alone.

Books that change one's life

Today is yet another wonderful
memory of a year ago with
Mr. Husband.
We went to church for vespers a year ago,
it was a sunny beautiful day.
I am reading Kathleen Norris slowly
again.... her books plunged me into a new reality
and indeed opened the door for me
to be in the Orthodox church
ten years ago...
She opened the world of the early church fathers for me
and I suddenly was seeing everything
new and a lot of my old questions
fell right away ~
feminism for one.
It was such a gentle turning.
After years of studying literature,
stalking figures in books to see
how they portrayed men, women and
what it all meant,
suddenly I met many who lived long ago
like St. Jerome,
who Norris says 'feminists love to hate' and
his rich friendships with woman and her
deft exploration of these things
led me to see that feminism of today
is something that had not only narrowed things
but had lived only on the surface of things
and suddenly a brilliant complexity and
a much wider open world opened to me
and things were pulled away and
I saw a world where
freedom was and is
and saw that it surely was not
where I had thought it was;
the feminism I followed so long
through so many texts...
not realizing the worlds I was missing
by reading with such a narrow lens.

Beautiful Blanket Squares

I am working on squares for the
September School Blanket.

It has come time that I am now knitting some
smaller ones to fit it all together.
I have ordered more yarn and am
excited to knit a few more
red and green squares
once it comes!
(Ravelry here)
Every night I read the readings
of the day from the
Prologue of Ochrid.
This expert has stuck with me:

Fear in suffering and fear of not suffering -this is one and the same fear and it signifies the fear of a spiritual man as to whether or not God has distanced Himself from him. When St. Catherine suffered many and difficult tortures, our Lord appeared to her and she asked Him: 'Where were You until now, 0 Lord, to comfort me in so many sufferings?" The Lord answered her: ' I was here in your heart.' But as great a fear can come upon a spiritual man when, sufferings do not come his way for a long time. A monk once entered a church in Alexandria and saw a woman kneeling before the icon of the Savior and weeping tears cried out to the Lord: 'You have abandoned me O Lord, O Merciful One, have mercy on me!" Following the prayer the monk asked her: Who has wronged you that you so bitterly complain to God?" The woman replied: "Up to now, no one has wronged me, that is why I am weeping because God has abandoned me and for three years did not visit me with any sufferings. During this time, I was neither sick, nor my son, nor has any of my household livestock perished."
(from June 8).
What are you creating and reading?
Yarn along with us!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


I gladdened my librarian heart
by finally making a recipes tab for my blog
and adding a Google search button for my blog
so things are more easily searched.
Just thought I'd mention it to make it plain! 

Homemade Whipped Cream {for fruit and other such things}

So I wanted to remember
how I made my first whipped cream.

I ordered some heavy whipping cream,
added powdered sugar to taste
and a little bit of triple sec.

I whipped with
my kitchen aid whisk
on high speed and
it was done almost immediately.
{A hand blender would work too
but it would take longer.}
It's wonderfully thick
and I already have plans for a future dessert
And that is how I made my first whipped cream.
Next time I plan on adding more
of the triple sec
or perhaps some vanilla as well
{one of my culinary literary friends mentioned the vanilla to me...}

Dinner for my very loved Mr. Husband

My beloved celebrated
an anniversary of his baptism
of some wonderful number of years ago
last night.
I was so excited to have a small dinner
party for him in his honour.
In the end it was one
long-time friend of his
who came for the meal
and it was a great time of discussing
books, math, the working world,
kids, reading, music making, and I even
got to quote from Kathleen Norris'
Cloister Walk
that I am re-reading again,
much to my personal refreshment.

Colourful bright roses,
a bread chosen by Mr. Husband
(sun-dried tomato with olive oil),
A bowl of fruit with cream,
salad with goats cheese, golden raisins
and a balsamic vinaigrette,
Chicken Ala King
and a small cheesecake. 

The cream was made with
organic heavy whipping cream, powder sugar and
a bit of triple sec
(next time I will add more of this ~
adds to the loveliness of
the cream).
It whipped up in no time using
the whisk in my kitchen-aid mixer at full speed. :)

We started with salad,
moved into the chicken with rice
and ended with the fruit salad and
cheese cake.
Our dinner guest supplied a sweet
dessert wine
of which I had only a taste but it was lovely.

It was Holy Spirit Day.

We used my Grandmother's dishes.

The brightness of the roses
speaks towards the brightness of the Feast.
So many gifts shown here.
Including that my husband
even on his anniversary
is loving towards me ~ he cut up the strawberries,
prepared the salad
while I choose the dishes, bread platter and
using our silverware that
we found together last October.
The beautiful flower vase was our first
gift as a couple.
The greatest gift is that of the giving
of the Holy Spirit.
Today is the third day of the Pentecost and
we await with longing the deepening
that only God's Merciful Holy Comforting Spirit
can provide.

Chicken Ala King

Made a new recipe from one of my
vintage cookbooks.
I had this organic cream to use up
last week.
I decided I really wanted a
creamy chicken.
I baked organic chicken thighs for
40 minutes at 350 F.

I followed this recipe,
but did not have mushrooms or green pepper.

Nor sherry.
But I decide to have it over
white basmati rice and it was lovely.
Oh, and I threw in a bit of corn starch when the
cream was cooking in the double boiler...

This cookbook,
I love it.
Found and immediately snatched up at a garage sale
years ago in Michigan...
I love that someone before me used it
and it is loved, stained and well-used.

I was very happy with the results.
I tried it again,
yesterday, with fried mushrooms
and a bit of green pepper.
I had a lot more chicken so I added more milk
and cream... but a little too much I think,
so that it was not a thick.
But thankfully the chicken was so moist
I would say it was succulent and
the taste was just right ~
though I still find a dash of salt and pepper
from my salt and pepper mills to make it
that inch towards culinary perfection.
A pleasing result and yet another example of
why it is so wonderful to have vintage cookbooks...

Monday, June 24, 2013

Surprisingly nearing the end of June

I've knitted more for the
blanket I am working on.
I am realizing again how much patience
is required of me right now.
It sounds like the mono is still causing me problems.
This weekend was a bit of a new low for me
since getting sick in February.
I had hoped for a quick weekend to Ottawa this July
as two of my closest friends are
leaving, moving back to Romania.
So plans are changing and now I am hoping to
be able to go to BC as planned.
Tickets are bought, etc.
Today is a special anniversary for my beloved Mr. Husband.
We are having a friend over for dinner.
Dinner is made,
other than the sauce and rice.
Flowers are already gracing the table.
Hope to have pictures to show later.
Asking your prayers.