Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Sunny Morning...

I am slowly preparing for Pascha; 
I hope to prepare the house later, closer to Pascha...
(white table cloth, table runners, wooden and other eggs etc.).
This candle stand will stay out; it was a gift
from my Aunt M. at my family bridal shower.

I got our Pascha baskets out... 

And the basket linens too :)
Today I hope to work on my top secret
project for Mr. Husband's special birthday
and bake.... 
What are you doing this day?
I hope it is a peaceful one for you!

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Weekend of St. Mary of Egypt and St. Mary, the Mother of God

I am back from my overnight pilgrimage
with two friend who are biological sisters and are Serbian.
It was a really special and life-giving time.
I was given conversations and experiences that 
were all at once freeing, reassuring, instructive and refreshing,
as if I was literally drenched with God's mercy.
As if I had been in a desert and was suddenly 
in an unforeseen oasis full of light, water and all mercies.
I know enough, have been at monasteries enough, to know
that one cannot expect but only receive.
Just like a special experience is experienced by everyone
differently, so each time at a monastery is different.
I do not expect every time to be like the one I just had,
a time out of time that was like a tangible embrace of God's loving mercy.
This weekend was also the Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt;
lesson I made for my Sunday School kids that
others taught in my absence is here.
St. Mary of Egypt when she met the priest, St. Zossima,
they both fell to their feet asking the other's blessing,
and that image was with me this weekend...
'bless me' 'bless me'...
It's been a really different Lent for me this year
and I've been at times a little nervous about it - 
ironically because this Lent has not been full of either
sickness or continual stress; not that it's always been easy,
not at all.  But two Lents ago I had mono,
last Lent we were trying to buy a house with time running out on
where we were living.
This year it's been more peaceful and steady.
But I feel I've even been given a reason for that.
God's timing.
I just started re-reading the book on the Jesus Prayer
and it is so loving, I forgot how gentle, quiet and beautiful 
Here's what I read this morning, back at home:
"The process of healing takes a long time.  Even as we see 
reasons for hope, we simultaneously gain better understanding
of how far down the roots of sin can go.  It would be devastating to see the 
whole truth about ourselves all at once.  
Our compassionate Lord brings us along gently, allowing
some blissful ignorance.  Each layer of the onion is shed at the right time;
we encounter the next truth about ourselves when and how we 
can bear it, as our loving Lord knows best.  "I have many 
things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now." (Jn. 16:12)."   
(bold emphasis mine).
I had read on the monastery website that
I must ask the blessing to take pictures; so I did and
in the end was given the blessing to take as many pictures as I 
wished but not to publish them here.
Fair enough.  Sorry I cannot show you of course, but
I trust the blessing and instruction I was given.
So here's some pictures of how I am working
on transforming our home for the coming of
Holy Week and Pascha as well as
some special icons I got while 
I was on my two-day pilgrimage.

Lenten icons lit for one more week of Great Lent...

New monastery candles in my candle holder...

I talked to the two biological sisters about
how to have a Slava, the feast day of one's family's patron Saint.
Our patron is St. Phanourios, we were married on his day
three years ago this coming September. 
I had thought of having this from time to time and
found out that my beloved Mr. Husband was too,
as he asked me to pick their brains about how to have one.
I've also found some links since being back home, 
here and here.
One of the wonderful thing about being Orthodox
and an Orthodox convert like Mr. Husband and I are,
is that we can incorporate various Orthodox traditions 
into our personal practice at home.

This is a beautiful icon of the Mother of God
that I was able to get yesterday.
Once it is up and blessed, I will try to show it to you
again, as it is very beautiful but hard to photograph
when it is not hung properly and with a lampada.

I had been reading one of my Orthodox cookbooks on Pascha
and it said that a traditional Pascha basket has an icon of the Resurrection
and the only small one I had was too fragile (and personally irreplaceable)
to be used so I got this lovely one at the monastery.
 Once Holy Week starts this coming Sunday night
(we are one week behind the Western Church), I will not have time
to assemble everything for Pascha so I am trying to do this today if possible.
I am reminded of a lesson I was learning and continually being 
told in Ottawa a few years ago - 
be with God today.
I have a ton of things to do this week and that is what I am going to try to 
remember, just be with God today.

Friday, March 27, 2015


Saturday Morning, early, I will be waking up
to take a train to the Princeton area
to meet up with a local church friend 
and sister in Christ to go to 
evening and Sunday morning, leaving in the early afternoon.
We've been planning on this trip since before Christmas
and I've long wanted to go but had no way to get there.
So I treasure what feels like a once-in-a-lifetime or at
least once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity to go there.
Asking your prayers.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Beauty in these days....

I've been so grateful this winter
for all the sunshine we have had. 
It's been a huge blessing.
Another thing I am so thankful for,
and that adds daily beauty to my life,
is the kindness of Mr. Husband.
We do a load of dishes in the dishwasher
at night and often in the morning he will put the 
still-wet-but-clean dishes in the dish rack for me.
I had used my blue and white dishes
as I was feeling the need to be festive
during these days of Great Lent.
I am thankful for these beautiful 
ordinary days. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Touching Heaven & 2 blankets {textured and checkered}

I have done another 1.5 or so squares

I am almost done with Touching Heaven by the 
now Fr. John Oliver.
It is the story of how he and others went to 
Valaam Monastery in the early '90s and
how it slowly transformed him from a new
and still somewhat floundering Orthodox Christian
to someone who is beginning to grow towards
the quiet steady contemplative life that 
he saw in the Monks of Valaam. 
This book is really helpful in seeing 
what our North American society can do to a person 
and what encounters with monasticism
rooted in centuries of tradition can do 
to transform the same person.
I hope to do a book review on it in the future; 
as you can see from all the tabs, 
there are sections that I want to return to.
For now I would say if you
are looking for evidence of a Christian tradition 
of prayer worthy to replace and indeed to go beyond 
things such as Zen meditation and other 
popular forms of spirituality today,
this book can be a gentle 
and enlightening introduction. 

Back to the blanket I am making.
I am quite pleased with my progress;
I am mastering the moss/seed stitch and simple
ribbing... it's been fun to mix up the colours and 
stitches as I go along!

As you can see I am gaining ground on this
second section and have just 1.5 blocks to go!
And now to finally show you the blanket that
I finished months ago but was waiting
to give as a present.
It's now been given! 

It turned out well! 

It was a joy to knit!

It's a nice warm lap blanket,
perfect for a winter's day, with tea, book and perhaps
a bit of chocolate to enjoy!

Ravelry here.
What are you making and reading?
Yarn Along with us!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

{reflections} What lies before us

I've been listening to 
Ancient Faith Radio for years now.
I still remember when it was fairly new
and I would listen to it from my small blue studio apartment in 
Ottawa Ontario... 
Blogging was pretty new and my church
in BC, that at point I had left only a year before,
had a blog with various members blogging
and we would interact that way,
it was a real blessing as I 
had just been in London Ontario 
for one year that while very good was
hard in terms of being in a culture I was not familiar
and was dealing with various levels of loneliness.
I was really not sure, back then in London Ontario, where I fit in 
Orthodoxy; everything was still very new,
I was getting the now defunct magazine
The Handmaiden, 
was aware of having more head knowledge than heart,
though I would not of known how to articulate that then.
The stories of the Saints, esp. the martyrs 
were still very new to me and at times very hard to read;
how and why did people kill Christians like that!?
I had been a Christian all my life,
but no one had ever introduced me to the stories
of the early martyrs....
I re-read my two Kathleen Norris books a lot
during that time,
Cloister Walk and Amazing Grace: a Vocabulary of Faith.
These books gave me a lot of solace while I was in London Ontario...
I was attending a church
that was in the middle of a lot of growth 
and clergy changes; I felt lost and alone a lot of the time.
I had (and have!) a wonderful godmother
but I was in a new city, hours from her and everyone I knew
both in BC and Michigan.
I don't think I ever wrote much here
about that time in my life,
but at the time I was incredibly exhausted and confused.
I went to Ottawa not knowing what was what.
Well, my priest in Ottawa basically loved me back to health
as it were. 
I was able to sort myself out, 
made new friends, started this blog 
and worked on creating a life for myself in Ottawa.
Fast forward a few years and I was working in Ottawa
at a job that was not working on many levels.
I listened to Ancient Faith Radio a lot that year.
The summer before that job started,
I had broken my foot and was quite unwell
from an additional infection in the foot that happened 
and the antibiotics for that infection were
wreaking havoc on my system.
Whew, what a time!
But it was during that summer that I heard Fr. Thomas Hopko speak.
Wow, he was a powerful speaker.
Full of energy, life and enthusiasm. 
He had a lot of ideas on how he would do things
different and a lot of perspective on years of living
and service in the church.
I still remember him talking to my Ottawa priest
who had been his student; those years
when Fr. Thomas taught at St. Vlads seemed like the 
golden years to me and perhaps to others
who heard about them secondhand
and I do wonder what we have now before us.
55 maxims, is the day he passed away.
Well, now it is for a quick moment it is the present,
March 24, 2015 and Fr. Thomas Hopko was buried
which is the monastery that the one I go to in Michigan,
is from.  I have not yet had the privilege of being at
Holy Transfiguration Monastery but do hope to one day.
The candle desk man at our local NJ church is in his 80s 
and over the weekend, when we were talking
about Fr. Thomas Hopko's death,
he said that many years before he would go to 
Lenten Lectures where both Fr. Thomas Hopko and
Fr. Alexander Schmemann would give lectures.
He called them both stalwarts of the church...
It seems that slowly an era of people are passing by us.
I find this hard - I feel like the generation that I am either
in or close to is nothing like those who are leaving us;
who will show us the way and have such courage?
We are in such a new place as a culture and 
need wisdom like never before...
Well.  I was talking to my sister-friend this weekend
about an article I read about Fr. John (Krestiankin) who is featured in  
the beginning of the much-loved book Everyday Saints 
and I told her about reading this quotation:
“I went to the elder when I had to decide some important life’s questions. Just like on a road, I had reached a fork and didn’t know which way to go. And the elder showed me the way. Once I asked him, ‘What will we do when we are left without you? To whom should we turn?’ Fr. John replied, “Have faith in God’s Providence.” Yes, this is now our path. The Lord took our spiritual Moses to Heaven, and now we have to walk by ourselves.  (found here
I am thankful for the podcasts we can listen to 
on Ancient Faith Radio and that we have 
recordings to turn back to.
And more than this,
we have a God who is full of mercy
and who promises to never leave us...  

Days with Cleo the Cat...

I often do my computer work right in the kitchen,
with Cleo next to me...

The other day I had a green bag on that seat...

We see who loved to be in it!

That's my cute Cleo, 
the cat-blogger ;) 

One does wonder what she has to say... :)

Monday, March 23, 2015

{Vegan} Pasta with baby bok choy, portobello mushrooms & tomatoes

This meal was inspired by my Romanian friend 
A. who served me years ago 
 sauteed bok choy, tomato with spaghetti pasta and lots of 
garlic and olive oil.
It was wonderful.
I recreated it last week, using half avocado oil
and half coconut oil...
but olive oil would also work!
(I think Mr. Husband added some to his plated dish). :)

Whole Wheat Pasta.

Two chopped baby bok choi in
avocado oil. 

Two Portobello mushrooms, sliced and chopped,
and put in another fry pan with coconut oil.

9 garlic cloves minced and shared between the two pans.

I added the garlic towards the end and 
a bit of shaved and minced ginger.
When the two pans were sauteed and 
the pasta was done,
I mixed it all together,
adding salt and pepper to taste.

It was a warm and delicious Saturday lunch!

For the evening meal I added a can of 
drained calms and re-heated.
Also very good!

I added slivered almonds to mine both times
and salt and pepper.
It's a very good filling and simple meal!
Easily GF with GF pasta of course...
Any yummy Lenten recipes you are trying out this year?
Would love to hear!

Friday, March 20, 2015

{further adventures of Elizabeth}: the truck that almost ate us on our way to the craft store

Life is not always full with roses,
but thankfully the following adventure
left us shaken but unscathed....
My craft quilting friend came over to help
me with a secret project for Mr. Husband, and we 
ascertained that we needed to go to a craft store,
the nearest one being about 16 minute drive away....
After a near miss when a car came out of no where
right as I was turning left,
we were doing fine 
(my friend did tell me it was then that she understood
her life was protected by the Good Lord but
she is still my friend, which is a sign of true friendship)...
She did ask me 'how often do you drive'? somewhere
after that misstep in things.
But all seemed fine...
until we ended up meeting what I now call
the biggest truck in the world
otherwise known as an 18 wheeler truck with
hauling two trailers.

I need visuals to explain this unexpected
adventure, so welcome to my 
drawings on post-it notes. :)
As you see above, I was waiting for the red light
on a T intersection, 
I am sure my friend and I were talking and were
doing fine.
UNTIL the truck turned and was suddenly 
almost on top of us
and were looking into the truck's grill/bottom of the
 truck's hood and wondering what just happened
and why is the truck trying to eat us??!!!??
Sudden, Scary and...

There we were.
The truck could not, it seems, back up;
I and my friend were startled, scared and in a bit of shock;
at least I was!
The truck was so huge and lumbering that it had to turn into 
our lane to make the turn at all,
which you see by the pictures,
meant that if it went any further it would well, 
pretty much kill us and destroy the car. 

So jackknifed truck,
scared fairly new driver (me) and a very smart
driver behind me, in a brown minivan.
The person behind us backed up,
we backed up, 
the truck lurched forward, 
seeming ready to eat us at any time.
We had to do this maneuver 3 times...

Wow, nerve wracking.
I remember that I felt mad at the truck driver,
who I have no idea who the driver was,
too tall to see from being at the nose of our car,
as it were;
it felt like the truck was being a bit of a bully;
I think the driver hopefully was not a bully 
but totally miscalculated ... or... if was a bully
was really out of line.
My friend kept saying in all her driving she 
had never experienced something like this.

The truck, thanks to our backing up,
was able to get in his/her lane and we all kept going.
I was fairly anxious the rest of the drive to the store,
and I ended up being routed on a small, with stoplights,
highway but after nearly being 
eaten by that huge light green truck,
i.e. the biggest truck in the world,
even this small highway was nerve wracking for me!
We made it to the store,
and when we were just inside it,
I realized I was shaking and my friend 
made me look at her and do deep breathes.
I chewed some gum for the sugar
and eventually the knots in my stomach 
relaxed and we found what we needed.
Thankfully I was routed back a much easier way
and as always I prayed before I drove,
my friend prayed with me and it was 
a peaceful ride back
and an epic story about 
how the biggest truck in the world, painted a 
pale pastel green, 
almost ate our small mid-sized silver car.
I must say I was thinking that
Mr. Husband better appreciate 
his special present I am working on after
it nearly cost the life of his wife...

Vegan Vanilla Cake for the Feast of the Cross

Mat. Emily's cake is my inspiration for this 
cake for the Feast of the Cross.
so I knew I had it in me to decorate with strawberries again.

Here it is!
I have not made a vegan vanilla cake before,
I used the same recipe that Mat. Emily used,
save that I used coconut vegan creamer
in the frosting instead of soy.
It was amazing that this ...

...a rather pasty water white batter cooked to a lovely yellow!

The cake was well loved.

I also made it into cupcakes.
I did not know how long to bake it for so had 
some real learning curves and a few "oops-es" along the way...
I had been going by this rule of thumb for converting 
cake to cupcake recipes in terms of baking time... 
and erred on the 'less baking time' and had to add time.
When the toothpick came clean, 
I took them out...
but only to find out that the bottoms of these
cupcakes were too soft/undone.
So I quickly put in them in the oven on a flat plan,
tops down....

Yep. Oops # 2.! 
But you know the great thing is that no one knew
and two, it equaled more frosting per cup cake and 
I made lots and they were all gone! 

I made some chocolate ones too with
better success, using the tried and true recipe 
that I use for my St. Nicholas Cakes.
I am really pleased with now knowing the frosting trick of 
adding shortening - non-hydrogenated vegan shortening - 
I used earth balance.

I was so pleased to have a thicker frosting!
This picture is before I added the 1/4 cup of coconut creamer
and the vanilla.
It am going to add a bit less of the creamer next time 
and mix it also for less time as I found
by three minutes it was very soft, light and airy, which
is great and everyone loved it but I was looking for
a denser frosting. 

None the less it was a real hit and all the cake was gone
by the end of coffee hour!