Monday, November 28, 2016

...And we're back...

Mr Husband and I went to the Midwest for Thanksgiving this year,
meeting up with the rest of his siblings and his parents.
We stayed at a rustic lodge + old house.
We had nice visits, walks, games and good food.
The surrounding countryside was really beautiful. 
We got back later than we hoped yesterday, due to a
flight delay, but the house was pretty much in order,
with Cleo's substitute sitter doing mostly a good job; we did have
a very talkative MEOW MEOW Cleo to come back to.
Today begins the Nativity Fast for us who are on the Julian Calendar.
I both feel ready for this fast and not ready; as if life is just whirling 
so quickly that days are melting away before they begin.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Nearly Orthodox ~ a hurried review

Sometimes, you start a book, it grabs you and
you don't stop reading, other than for eating, sleeping 
and the next thing you know,
you've ingested the book whole,
faster than you can even eat that wonderful
Nearly Orthodox was that book for me.  At least this week.
Very well written, 
save a few times of repetition that was not 
as much a problem of poor writing but of personal and editorial taste. 
It's a memoir, really; if you are looking for 
a book about Orthodoxy and converting that
is more about facts or why Orthodoxy / Eastern Orthodox
Church is for you, 
if you were reading this book as someone trying to
figure out your own path,,
it's either going to be a perfect book for you
or not the one at all, if it is something more rigorous....
But if it is memoir, if it is a woman's honest recalling and writing of 
her struggles, her hang ups, of her personal journey,
than this one could be of help.
It could at least be an enjoyable read.
The closest I can get to categorizing this new-to-me author is 
sort of an Anne Lamott for Orthodox,
but with her own story, no one elses. Not Anne's, only Angela's.
I would say that Angela D. C. is in a tradition that is more
focused/traditional than where Lamont is; but the vibe I get,
the memoir voice, this is the closest I can come to - as in the book
is mainly story, like Anne would write;
at first I thought this author was going to be imitating Kathleen Norris,
my personal first hero in the writing memoir field;
but while she quotes Norris in one chapter, I find that
Norris' work uses more sources and introduces you to more;
of course Norris' book is also about 1/3 to 1/2 larger than Carlson's.
Though, as I have been Orthodox over 12 years now,
(christmated August 8 2004), it could be that I am just so familiar with
the basics of Orthodoxy, that I did not feel introduced to as much.
So, why did I love it so much, why did it grab me, 
why did I want to keep reading it?
First, it is very well written. 
She weaves metaphors and story very well;
I did find at times in the second half of the book that she stumbled a bit
with repetition instead of taking us one step deeper in the story,
as if you were listening to a friend who tells such good stories
but forgot that she told you part of one already and uses it again. 
Second, I could relate to her as an author and voice.
Now, she had a very different life and upbringing.
Cradle Catholic, Dad with PSTD after Korea and Vietnam,
a family broken, struggling, later divorced parents; 
she tries so hard to make a life for herself when she leaves
her hurting home, she's honest about it,
how she found refuge and beauty in punk rock,
how she smoked cigarettes, how in her 40s she liked tattoos 
(she's in her late 40s now, I am 1 month + some days from 40s
so I found this to be wonderful, hopeful)...
She does not want to reject her gay friends 
(she learns that EO positions do not entail rejection
by having a traditional stance); she mentions yoga, lots of questions;
she has lots of 
feminist woman questions; but she is working them out too;
I read quickly but carefully, looking for clues on how she was processing 
the issues that are so hard and hot buttoned in our culture today;
I would say she lands pretty traditionally within Orthodoxy,
with a bit of ambiguity about the whole woman/feminist/should Orthodox change?
in one chapter; but she was pretty clear that she did not know exactly what to think
on it/how to articulate it and seems committed to Orthodoxy as a tradition that
is larger than her, that she may not fully understand and that
she is still committing too.
I really got that.
I understood her surprise at NOT being bothered by Orthodoxy and it's
"patriarchy" - I never did punk rock/was a music person or smoked - or - had
confused dysfunctional before marriage relationships (remember, she wandered,
she came home, she was a lot of things as she wandered home to Orthodoxy) ... no,
I was never any of that but a student in my twenties, and late teens, 
with TONS of feminist questions, YES. I was THAT girl that only saw things 
by feminist light (binaries etc).  It took me a good 10 years about to work that through;
Kathleen Norris helped me a lot; as did studying Milton actually; 
There I was, in love with Orthodoxy, ready to be married to it,
and not at all bothered about Eastern Orthodoxy being traditional; 
even head-coverings, it just all evaporated for me.
So I could resonate with that surprising discovery of Angela's about
being able to become Orthodox after having such strong 
feminist questions.
I felt that in the chapter about Confession that the one thing she missed
in her narration was a sense of it as a Sacrament, as something that Happens,
that some how something is healed/relieved/happening
even though our confession list of our sins may not change that dramatically.
I loved how she dealt with her chapter on blood; 
won't go into it here, but I liked it and found that she was not
flinching from hard questions. 
My Husband laughed at me when I told him how this author
does not like to be told what to do 
(a church that you wear a skirt for! I don't want to!!!),
So he laughed because, while I wear skirts noooo problem,
I really don't like being told what to do.
So in this way you could say I found a writer-soul mate,
save the fact that I think most humans are in the same boat :)...
but even as a child, I admit, that my Dad says,
I never liked being told what to do.
I liked that she sees that she can't force her Husband to have the same
journey she is on; in this she was like Kathleen Norris, who 
was in a similar but different situation, with a husband who
was not really on the same exact spiritual trajectory.
I am finding that, even though I love Orthodoxy and am not only committed to it,
but find within it a fullness of truth that I have not found any where else,
that one cannot force another into the same path;
somehow everyone has their own path and often or perhaps always
only God can really discern what each person's life and path means....
I felt like I was reading a book by a woman who is,
while in process on many levels, is finding her voice,
finding her footing, finding her home in Orthodoxy
through struggle, through pain and writes about it.
So... that's all for the good, ... I would have one 
cavat and that is that you should know your young teen, if you 
are having a younger teen read this;
it would really depend on the person I think, 
for what book is right for them;
it's a question of timing here, while she
never goes into details of her live-in boyfriend who she broke up with,
or in depth about being in a punk rock band,
I have a feeling it could be pretty crazy and gritty at times.
It's important to have timing right and to know
what is best to give a child to read.
I don't know that I would of given this to myself at, say, age 13, 
but by age 17 or 18, if I had been ready for Orthodoxy,
and finding woman who were trying to be traditional Christians
and dealing with pain/questions/confusion, it may have helped;
hard to say; so, the book I just reviewed has a place,
but I would say if you are a Mother, read the book
and think on it before just handing it out,
but of course, I think, best case scenario,
that a parent should know and have a taste of what a child is reading
so they can do their best to relate and tap into where they are.
oh!!! and I should mention,
this author has home-schooled her children.
She's really quite diverse and covering
a lot of ground in her book.  She's very much herself
and perhaps that's why I liked it so much,
she shared herself with us. 

A Busy Baking Monday ~ sour cream cinnamon coffee cake + sour cream, yogurt double chocolate coffee cake

So, I made both recipes yesterday, posted above.
The cinnamon coffee cake with sour cream is lovely and light.
It's just right.
The chocolate one though I made into a double chocolate cake.
I added cocoa to the batter, 1/2 cup like in Smitten Kitchen's
double chocolate banana bread, which I was thinking of when
making this recipe,
plus substituted yogurt for 1\2 the sour cream in a doubled version of the batter,
with keeping the topping to about the recipe's proportion for the original (non-doubled) recipe 
it's a thick heavy batter, it's a really good deep moist chocolate cake; intense;
what I wanted in a chocolate coffee cake that has both sour cream and yogurt.
The topping I want to re-do; it's just too sugary.
It's still good.
Don't get me wrong. It's GOOD.
Just learning and it was the first time I really transformed a baking recipe
into my own, that I can remember; though I think I have done it before,
adapting a baking recipe....
Some notes:
for the frosting this is what I did:
1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
heaping 1/2 tbs of cocoa
1/4 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp in batter also...
So, it's good and the cake itself is on the deep not as sweet side.
With milk, it's a perfect ride.
(Also, I froze most of these, I am doing my first bit of
pre-Christmas gift baking here folks!)
When I was not baking, I was reading a book I'd had for a few months
but had not read yet. Until this week when I read it all in 2 days.
Yep. Hurried review coming soon!

Friday, November 18, 2016

"Every person in our epoch...

" overburdened.
Don't forget what I have already written to you:
'The curse of our age is haste.' "

~Elder Sophrony to his sister Maria
in Letters to His Family
(picture is the quotation as I wrote it in my


I have been pondering this and finding
it gives consolation and compassion to others.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Friend in Suffering

St. Phanourios is not only a Saint
who has become a 
friend in suffering,
but helps one find their way 
through the darkness.
His candle reminds me of the light of Christ
and the Lord really uses His Saints to 
help give us light.
I've just published my second essay on St. Phanourios
on just this...
It begins like this....

As it is for many, we often spiritually grow through suffering. Elder Sophrony, when writing to his sister Maria, writes about what suffering can give us:

Do you really think that my in my years of monastic life I have escaped periods when the vision of my ruin was so petrifying that it is not permitted to speak of it? But, strangely, when these visions were transformed into an opening up of NEW horizons, into manifestation of the INFINITE LIGHT of another world, could not find words to express my gratitude to God for my experience of hellish torments, because these spiritual events occurred in a sequence such that precisely these intense sufferings were an indispensable condition for the development of the very capacity to receive eternity.

I would never claim to have the level of suffering and consolation that God granted to Elder Sophrony.  But I did go through a period of suffering in my thirties that was incredibly pivotal in my life.  I began to see how St. Phanourios’ prayers and presence were part of what God used to save me.

You can read the rest here
or on my blog of publications, found here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A beautiful response to our struggling current cultural situation

I have not read such a beautiful, haunting, sublime 
poem in a long while.
It's one of those I can't say enough about it poems
that just up and grabs your attention and when 
you are done reading it,
you find yourself moved to 
a difference place, pondering.
It's weaving alone is worth the read.
The author wrote it in response to the struggles our
world (and this nation I find myself in) are dealing with.
It is called 
Crucifixion Night 2016
begins like this....


I had to get up out of the muck and mud
slinging – you can’t sling mud without getting
your own hands dirty – so I climbed up
the only thing high enough to be
looking down on the world, a cross.
I had some help up; some
friends who knew I needed
crucifying nailed me.
From up here I can see a lot
of other crosses, people
put there against their wills,
the people those on the ground
are fighting for but ignoring
as they cry weakly
“My God! My God! why
am I forsaken?”


read the rest here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

a revelation of the suffering of the whole world

I loved these words, 
Upon reading these, 
I found myself thinking back to when I was in Ottawa,
looking for work, running out of money and getting sick.
This was a very pivotal time in my life;
I gained a hint of something that could become one of
the greatest parts of my life,
the feeling of being connected with the suffering of the world,
feeling as one of them.
I can also sense who if one can keep this feeling,
one does not feel one's loneliness as something
that stings, but that which is shared.
I would say it is harder for me to keep this feeling
here, where I live now,
but I am thankful that I at least have a sense
the great truth of what
Elder Sophrony is speaking of...

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Cream & Beef Rice Casserole ~ inspired by the clever Peg Bracken

About 2 weeks ago, it was nearing dinner time,
I was tired and had no idea what to make for dinner.
After fortifying myself with some tea and a small snack,
I remembered the gloriously simple, clever, classy and quick
I still remember finding her first book when I was in London Ontario,
the woman at the cash register said warmly to me that she's great!
A cookbook that was called 'I hate to cook' and was done in a
witty conversational style and was retro = I was sold!
I have spent many moments enjoying her book and the many
clever ideas and her humour...she embodied for me what urban classy cooking
and hosting should be like; quick, clever and great tasting.
For all my years in Ottawa I used her chocolate cake recipe for my 
There is no mistake that her recipe is the FIRST one mentioned on my
recipe page! She has a long standing place in my cookbook loving heart.
So, after reading her recipe for 'Simple Burgers' 
with cream and Worcestershire sauce,
I knew I had found my answer!
My dinner woes for that tired Monday Peg solved in quick order!
I transformed her recipe into a warm, comforting:

Cream & Beef Rice Casserole
Here's the recipe:

Fried in butter: 1lb organic hamburger beef, onion, salt, pepper and a bit of Worcestershire sauce; 
set aside in toaster oven on 'warm' setting.

Cooked 1 cup of rice, used half of it.  (Saved other half for a later meal).

I fried up onions in coconut oil and then fried mushrooms with it.  

3/4 or more of a pint of cream simmered on stove in fry pan that the meat was in, with drippings still in the pan, added with 3 tbs Worcestershire sauce and some corn starch to thicken. 

As mentioned, 
I kept the fried meat in a toaster oven on warm 
while the rice and mushrooms were being cooked.

When done, I put half of the cooked rice in the blue serving bowl,
 then the still warm hamburger and 
then poured the still hot cream sauce on top, 
then added the fried mushrooms on top!
(not all of them, as I am saved some for a later fast day). 

It was really good! Creamy, savoury and warm! 
Will make again DV! 

It was so enjoyable!
 The Worcestershire sauce, caramelized onions 
helped make it so!