Tuesday, December 31, 2019

(127) New Years Eve

We got back just before Midnight last night
from being in Ohio visiting my Husband's family
(siblings + spouses + 16 nieces and nephews)
It was good, busy, tiring.
We took it easy today and went to vespers tonight and then
watched the Walton's and ate vegan yummy junk food. :)
I've done a lot of reflecting on life stages in the last years and 
even 10 years ago felt that a lot of life is a journey of forgiveness.
And acceptance of other people's limitations.
I am really deeply blessed to have great parents and grandparents.
But the only perfect person is Christ (and then His Mother if you look into it)
and each person on earth is made different, has a different set of
strengths and weaknesses + ways they are limited, to say it simply.
Myself included! 
I have had to accept my own limitations, as I know them, as well.
Like what I can and can't carry.
What I can do for others and what I can't.
How every person and every family is on their own journey
and you can love and support them but you can NOT walk their 
path for them or 'fix' the situation they find themselves in.
And sometimes all you can do is pray.
I have had situations where I can't help at all other than prayer.
Either I was drowning in my own situation or their own situation
was beyond my pay grade, as they say. 
I feel like this year had a lot of good for myself, personally.
Joining the subscription library, going to the AF writing conference, 
working on either a daily walk or daily (in summer) swim or walk,
I got my Christmas baking done, for the most part.
I read a lot of books.  We had the wonderful trip to Romania and Serbia. 
I have some new makeup, clothes and pretty hat. 
I had the eye tests and worries but am stable for now.
We did a lot of re-grouping from our 2 years of 
personal hard that got better nearly a year ago now. 
We will continue to work on re-grouping, I am sure, the rest of our lives, really.
I am hoping to finish some essays in the new year.
My Husband has a fairly big birthday this year and I am thinking about that.
I hope to keep active and build on this past year.
I am trying to figure out what and who I am as a writer;
I am drawn to cookbooks and food memoirs in a huge way.
I started my own food blog on this vein and have a litter of essays
half written... August with Cleo the Cutest Cat of all of Canada
declining and dying and then the trip planning and going and then
Thanksgiving, St Nicholas day (1 and 2), first Christmas and now gearing up for
second Christmas, I have not been able to get back to essay writing.
And I watched a lot of Perry Mason because of my loss of my Cleo Cat.
I still think I see her sometimes.  I miss her and love her.
I want to figure out how to nourish my spiritual life while thinking about
a new chocolate chip cookie recipe that I am creating.
I think this pretty much sums up that particular struggle of mine:
I dreamed of being an Orthodox Kathleen Norris
but my drive and desire is focused pretty deeply on hospitality, with
various dinners, lunches, teas and the like. 
For years I have thought about the fact that a lot of people are not ready for
a deep sea-change in their spiritual life and that all I can do,
since I can't feed them spiritually, is feed them physically and hope that 
the cup of hot soup will provide some amount of comfort, sustenance and even hope
for more in the future, even inward growth towards Christ. 
And I love feeding people. I love cooking and baking. I love the art of setting up
a table for something special. I love making everyday a celebration and the 
fasts and feasts are a big part of this. 
The day after my birthday went went to the Ohio Bookstore and DV these
books (plus more!) are being shipped to us next week... 
As you can see, cookbooks are one of my primary interests...

Seriously excited to read these and I hope to try more 
recipes in the new year.
Well, that new year 2020 is almost here!
No matter what life has brought you,
may Christ be your support, your refuge, your light 
for your life's path and struggles.
May God bless and help us all! 

Sunday, December 29, 2019


Today I am 43. I'm thankful for my life that God has given me. I pray that I live the life that God desires me to live. I pray that I will always live walking towards love, forgiveness, and hope.

Monday, December 23, 2019

(120) Busy Days

I got ALL of the Christmas baking out and in bags.
Bags for local church kept out and ready for this week.
The rest of the bags (the majority of them) are bagged up in 
gallon freezer bags and back in the freezer before the cookies were fully 
thawed out!  That was a lot of work... 
And then other gifts were delivered and I bagged up gifts for both a few
local church friends and then our main far-away church friends... 
So I was super busy with that today.
Tomorrow begins liturgies at our local church. 
We will be there this year for them, though when they have their
Christmas liturgy we will keep fasting, as we began the fast
with the Julian "old" calendar and will celebrate Christmas DV in full
on January 7th! This will be really nice...I am looking forward to that!
But before this second Christmas we have family visits coming up
and I won't be blogging much 
so don't worry if I don't write here every day!  :) 
I wish everyone a blessed Christmas.
I know the Christmas holidays can be difficult for many. 
May Christ, the one who came on Christmas day to save us, 
comfort each of us regardless of our current life circumstances.
God bless you, each and everyone! 

Saturday, December 21, 2019

(118) Please Pray

(Picture of church tonight).
About 4 PM L. called me from Rehab.
I had been meaning to call her; but with St Nicholas day on the 19th 
and we were in a hotel the night of the 18th so we could go to both 
vigil and liturgy, and then some unexpected challenges once we got home, 
better now but had to be dealt with as these things do, 
and I just could not catch a break to call her, as she would say.
Well, she called me and well.
She really had a setback this week.
Her neighbour P. had texted me earlier about it.
I did not realize the extent of the difficulties however and can 
tell that L. really has been distressed.
Dear friends, I wrote on Dec 6th St Nicholas day that she
I believe the pneumonia is better than it was but the new things
that have come up have left her sounding so weak and with a voice
that sounds rough with pain and distress.
I saw her weeks ago as she was wheeled out of OR, where she
had extensive surgery to deal with her severe hip fracture
and her voice was much weaker and more rough than when she was just out of 
the OR and was lucid but a bit groggy.
She does not have family at all.
Our priest is visiting her a lot, her neighbour and I do what I can,
which never is as much as I wish I could do.
We hope to see her tomorrow.
Please pray for her.
Obviously I can't write exactly what is going on 
for her but I can tell you that things are 
concerning and that she is really suffering.
And very disappointed that she is not able to be
home by Christmas like she hoped.
Thank you so much for praying.
May God have mercy on L. and on all those who
are suffering!
Lord have mercy! 

Thursday, December 19, 2019

(116) St Nicholas Day

O who loves Nicholas the saintly,
O who serves Nicholas the saintly,

Him will Nicholas receive,
And give help in time of need:
Holy Father Nicholas!
He who dwells in God’s holy mansions,
Is our help on the land and oceans,

He will guard us from all ills,
Keep us pure and free from sins
Holy Father Nicholas!
Holy Saint, hearken to our prayer,
Let not life drive us to despair,

All our efforts shall not wane,
Singing praises to your name:
Holy Father Nicholas!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The perfect doll, Nativity Set and dresses for Christmas

Grace makes such beautiful one-of-a-kind dolls!
Today she is offering a 15% off sale TODAY only! 
See her IG page here for the sale!
She also has deeply beautiful beeswax Nativity sets and two
super darling toddler dresses! 
Grace is a dear friend of mine and of many! 
She is a wonderful Mother to her children and a faithful
God-loving Christian!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

(114) Good

My Husband worked from home; 
cold nearly freezing temps rain all day; we stayed home;
he worked; I did laundry, cleaning; the dish washer is full
and running as I type this...
I began wrapping presents! 
I fought some feelings of sadness but feel positive because
I fought them by just being busy/doing the next thing
which included wrapping presents.
And preparing St Nicholas cookies to give out 
plus Koek and am feeling like God is working out everything
for us and if I just trust the process and the unexpected,
it all works out in the long term...
easy to say however when all is going fairly smoothly; 
I am old enough to know that this can change in an instant. 
Tomorrow we gear up for St Nicholas day, beginning with vigil
DV tomorrow night! 
I am grateful for these days. 
We are praying for the many who are sick, exhausted, struggling.
May God have mercy on us and save us!

A wonderful Christmas book! ~ The History of Christmas: 2,000 Years of Faith, Fable and Festivity

Heather's wonderful book on Christmas, 
came out this year!  I was given a copy to enjoy and give an honest review of it!
I had reviewed it on social media but never put my review here,
so I am doing so now!  

This book on the History of Christmas is wonderful! You learn a lot about the different era's of the Christian church and how Christmas is celebrated in the past 2000 years! Heather did a lot of research and includes fun lists of ideas of how to celebrate Christmas, do Christmas crafts and make delicious food from different eras and it is really beautifully illustrated! 

See @heather_winslow_lefebvre wonderful Instagram page and also you can get this book via Amazon! I'm sure Heather can tell you other places to get it as well! It's a wonderful gift and would be perfect for your Christmas this year! 

Heather's book, The History of Christmas: 2000 years of Faith, Fable and Festivity has beautifully illustrated pages that begin with a fictional story that draws the reader (or listener!) into the time of Christmas from various centuries.  It traces Christmas from the beginning of Christ's birth, to St Boniface, St Francis Assisi, to London England in 1066, to the early days of the USA and on to current times.  Each chapter has a story, an engaging discussion of Christmas in that place and time, interesting discussion questions and a page with a list of ways to do things at Christmas time like they would in the time period discussed.  I can see this book being enjoyed by many!  Heather is a God-loving Protestant so the book is written from this perspective but with a respect for the wider Christian tradition as well.  I learned a lot and enjoyed her book very much!  I can see this book enriching family Christmas time in both the stories and the ideas to practice Christmas from various eras.  It's a inspiring book in terms of creativity and also pondering what Christmas really is all about.

Monday, December 16, 2019

(113) A good but somewhat unexpected day

I have been enjoying cinnamon raisin  toast with PB 
lately... and hot tea...always hot tea...
I finally ordered my Christmas photo cards! 
I went to a lovely Asian Restaurant today and had lunch 
with a friend!

This clear noodle dish / soup hit all of my culinary
happy buttons... you should know, however, that for some it will be 
very spicy.  They use a lot of chili oil in it! 
It was so warming; the noodles were so good...

Clear glass noodles... this version was vegetarian from what
I understand... it was really good... we had scallion pancakes with it,
the best ones I have ever had... 
I had to use lots of napkins to blow my nose and had 3 or 4 glasses of water...
which will not help with the heat by the way....
if something is too spicy for you ... you need milk or yogurt or bread or plain rice.
It was such a flavourful noodle soup.
I did not have tons of the broth... my friend was amazed that I was able to eat it...
both she (she is Chinese) and the server did not think I would be able to eat it or that I
would like it...but I eat lots of ethnic food (a big change from when I was 18 or 19 I admit!) and
like heat in food.  That said... I had it again tonight...
the noodles had soaked up most of the broth...
and it was much hotter, so much that my lips felt that they were burning...
and I did eat more and I did enjoy it but could tell that it was a bit much even for me...
that said, I would get this soup again, it really hit all of my 
culinary comfort buttons, especially in winter when it is colder out... 
so warming, clears the sinuses in such a good way, so fun to eat,
such good noodles...a wonderful broth...
(my friend showed me how to eat it with chopsticks and was graceful
when I realized that I was holding them wrong, as in I had the bigger part of them 
in the soup instead of in my hands!)...
the restaurant was so incredibly attentive...
at one point I accidentally dropped my chopsticks, which I had resting on top of the bowl, 
onto the table.  The table, mind you, not the floor.  Within seconds I was handed a new 
set of chopsticks wrapped in a clean napkin and I gave the other ones to the server.
It was really nice to catch up with my friend and was a real highlight in my day!
Here are some recipes that are similar (but not vegetarian) that give a sense
of how it was made... hot and sour glass soup noodle soup  or 
It was such a wonderful soup and the scallion pancakes paired so well with it!
I felt like it was akin to the North American affinity for Chicken Noodle Soup for
warmth and comfort.... I love how different cultures give us the same thing
in such different (taste, ingredients, spice level) but similar way (soup, noodles)!
So that was that... I got another Asian cookbook at a book sale recently... 
I am already excited about it! I was reading some of it to Mr Husband...
I like Asian cookbooks esp for fast days and fast periods... and I have a lot of 
noodles from the Chinese store near us...so making something like this
(though being careful with the amount of spice) would be great... 
I need to look up my Asian cookbooks and think about making a new
dish sometime soon...
So the unexpected... 
well... we were all geared up to go to my Husband's holiday party...
but!... we found out that all of the ones we would know are not able to go...
and that was our biggest draw to it...
and it's going to be high of 37F and RAIN all day.  It's raining already actually...
and with the fact that we have St Nicholas vigil on Wednesday
(on the 'old calendar' of our far away church) and liturgy on Thursday... and I have 
to pack all of the baked goods for it tomorrow...so... super busy...
so we decided NOT to go to the party tomorrow...
I am relieved, given everything else.
Well, tomorrow is clean house day + St Nicholas cookies prep.
So many are struggling with sickness or loss or other great struggles.
May God help us and have mercy! 

Friday, December 13, 2019

(110) A Quiet Feast Day

This morning I went to liturgy for St Herman...
my very first Saint that I really knew of was St Herman,
as I went to a church dedicated to him...
when I would look at his icon in this church,
he always looked so worried,
like a Father looks on to a child... 
I love that the Alaskan people (St Herman was a monk
from Russia who lived in Alaska) called him Apa which means
He's a wonderful and loving Saint...
I was really tired after liturgy...
I went home, had some delicious hot oatmeal with dried cherries
and honey and tea and then had a nap
and later more food!
I made an impromptu meal for dinner... it was easy...we used what we had...
which was... a packet of miso soup, pre-cooked noodles, a can of clams (drained)...
packet of soup with 2 cups hot boiling water, mixed well.
Can of clams opened and drained.  Hot soup over noodles, clams on top.
Mix together.  And you have a soup!
It was pretty good.  We had a salad and crackers with vegan 'cheese' too!
I cleaned my favourite (green) teapot really well today with 
baking soda and hot water.  My friend S who is Russian reminded me of 
doing this and it worked great.  
I love hot tea so much, esp in the cold NJ/NYC winter days of rain.
Feels cold in the house on those days.
So tea is esp welcome! 
I am slowly getting more wash done,
finally washed the white thin rugs in the bathroom...
they look better!
Little by little, right? :)
I pray that each of you are well.
There is so much struggle in this life.
May God have mercy on us and give us His peace
in the midst of the difficult and the hard... 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

(109) Quiet and Cleaning + Vespers for St Herman of Alaska

Today was a quiet day.
Did I mention that our dryer needed repairs
and was repaired yesterday?
Sure is nice to be able to use it again!
Machine dried towels are just so much softer!
We went to vespers tonight for St Herman...
I drove...at night...most of the way there...
my Husband parks the car...city driving is not 
up on my things to do list!
So dark... but I made it and being at church was such a blessing.

(108) A Peaceful Day ~ Elder Ephraim's funeral observed ~ prayer and quiet

It's been a hard few weeks in so many ways.
I feel like I can't keep up with the number of people we know
who we heard who have died.
I feel that we are past a certain tipping point where
this is just going to be a lot more common.
We are of that age now I guess.
I had a much better day considering how difficult yesterday was.
I went on a walk; had good conversations; and watched Elder Ephraim's funeral 
on and off as I could amidst phone meetings and making dinner and such things. 
For those who wish to see it or could not watch it but wished they could have,
one of my friends shared where it is archived.
Here it is:

May Elder Ephraim's Memory be eternal! 
I watched parts of it that I missed and when I was watching
the monks and novice monks giving the final kiss
(in Orthodox funerals you kiss the Gospel and also often the 
hand and forehead of the one who has left us)...
I cried.
I cried thinking/feeling that I was seeing my own 
salvation because of the prayers of these present there.

I know/know of a few people who were at this funeral;
my Husband and I prayed for them again tonight;
it is a blessing to be able to share in this small way
in the momentous week for them of loss, of grief, of hope, of prayer. 
There is so much grief and loss in life.
May God have mercy on us and save us!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

(107) A Hard day, a peaceful end

I ended up having a up and down day
but it was better by the evening,
when Mr Husband listened to well to my day's troubles
that I felt relieved of them.
I am so blessed to have such a Husband.
There is so much to pray for.
Everyday now a death, a tragedy, a deep struggle
is discovered in a life of ones I know.
May the Lord have mercy on us!

+Elder Ephraim's funeral can be watched live tomorrow

Picture of Elder Ephraim from here, sourced from here.
Live services can be watched via the Monastery in Quebec,
the one that my Husband and I's relationship was so impacted by.
which is 3 PM Eastern Standard Time. 
Memory Eternal! 
Memory Eternal!
Memory Eternal! 

Monday, December 09, 2019

(106) Remembering ~ Reflections on what I have been given

You know how you vaguely know that there are many people you are not deeply aware of but how have touched or even changed your life?  
Or that you never stopped to fully consider the implications of that person? 
Or maybe you or I or all of us don't stop that much to think 
about the fact that there may be others in our lives, 
in our world, whose life was lived in a way that causes our life to be saved.  

I think we all love stories of how a person's kindness can impact another's life 
and then that person's life impacts another's life and 
somewhere along the line, someone's life is dramatically changed
 or spared because of a person who someone else who was impacted
by an person earlier on....  

I have been trying to think of how to explain a little of who Elder Ephraim is
 to you, dear friends and readers, who may not know a lot about 
Orthodoxy or Monasteries, etc.  
And I don't know (compared to others esp!) much about Elder Ephraim 
though I knew of his holiness for many years now; 
but perhaps this is better, that I know very little 
so I can explain to those who are not in the Orthodox Church...  

I don't even know how to really begin trying to explain how the Greek Monasteries 
that began by Elder Ephraim's work and guidance, have impacted my life.  
The main Monastery for me remains the Romanian one in Michigan 
that long time readers know that I love very much.  
My love of monasticism and monasteries began there.  

Well, when I lived in Ottawa, there was and is a Greek Monastery 
about 1 hour 20 minutes outside of Ottawa.  
I went there various times, including when I was really struggling 
(job-wise and health-wise).  
I don't have time to fully explain how God used this Monastery
 to bring my now Husband and I from writing to 
each other to professing our interest in the other 
and how we began dating because the Abbess told my Husband 
to come to her Monastery 
(and thus he said maybe we can meet there and I said, MEET ME you want to MEET me?
 Define Our Relationship, is something changing??)
 and within a few days, we were dating.
  I figured that meant marriage in a year (I was right or off by one week!)

Our wedding icons, our wedding crowns, candles... they are all from this Monastery.  
They were praying for us.  The Abbess gave me instruction on what to do at my wedding
 (pray the Jesus Prayer, i.e. Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me
and miraculously I was able to pray this.  
Miraculously I say because when I am really happy and excited
 I inwardly very bouncy and quite unfocused.  

My Husband has been to 8 or 10 of 17 North American Elder Ephraim's monasteries.  
This fact was one of the many that not only drew me to him 
but pretty much blew my "what I want in a Husband" list out of the water.  

Anyway, Elder Ephraim was a monastic from his early 20s on Mount Athos 
which is a peninsula in Greece that is inhabited ONLY by Monks, 
as in men monastics and only men are allowed on the island. 
 (It's been that way for 100s of years and is so that the men monks don't get distracted in prayer).  Anyway, Elder Ephraim prayed a lot and grew in the Holy Spirit to a great degree.  
He radiated the love of Christ to others and his deep holiness drew many to him.  
His love of Christ, deep prayer life, his humility and how the Holy Spirit 
was so strongly with him, helped him repopulate monasteries on Mount Athos 
there are many monasteries there; it's beautiful, 
my Husband has been about 2 decades ago, 
my friend AR from Romania just got back recently from 
being there again for spiritual refreshment). ...
Later Elder Ephraim was lead by God to move to 
America when he realized what spiritual poverty 
so many of his own people (from Greece) had come to there.  

And he began his work in America and Canada this way.  Like others "plant churches" he planted monasteries - both for monks (men) and for nuns (women). 

And his main monastery he planted in the desert of Arizona 
where there was no water known.  It was the desert after all! 
 One of the first stories I heard about
 Elder Ephraim was that God showed him where to find water there.  
Like he told the people who look for water (to drill for it) where to drill...
water, where no water is...


My dear friends, when my Husband and I visited in 2018 in March, being there was like being in a garden of Paradise.  You will see this by the pictures.  
This Monastery is in the middle of the desert and the water that was found,
and the prayer that was continually poured out, 
and the enormous effort and hard work, such beauty! Such gardens! 
So beautiful that tourists come by the the busload 
just to take a tour of the beautiful gardens.   

This does not even mention the beauty of the many churches and chapels there.  

1995 6 monks came there.  And now, this monastery! this garden! this oasis! 
You can see it from my pictures...the beauty of it! 
When I was staying there and my Husband was waiting for me on the path
(woman and men are in separate buildings there, it's really great actually,
it's like a sleep over with all woman friends or all men friends) and when I opened the door
on that beautiful sunlit morning, I literally felt like I was in a dream
and was seeing my Husband in a garden in Paradise... 

My Husband and I's lives are both impacted deeply because of Elder Ephraim's Monasteries.  Elder Ephraim's funeral is Wednesday.  

My local priest, who is my spiritual father now, said a beautiful homily recently and in part talked about how we are called to love, love love, 
to care and care and care, to give, give, give of our selves... 

I pray that by Elder Ephraim's prayers that we can love Christ more and have greater love and forgiveness and peace in our families, in our relationships with others.... 

Many many are coming to Elder Ephraim's funeral; I just know this.
His impact was very vast. 
I can't imagine the grief that others are in; though I know grief myself;
I recognize it; I see it and know that it with God one can be saved even 
in the flood of grief... 
Think of them this week, as they go to their beautiful oasis, the 
miracle of the garden in the desert.

I can only thank and praise God that He allowed me to be there at this 
beautiful Monastery with such gardens!
May Elder Ephraim's Memory be eternal!
May we grow in Christ through the prayers of this holy Elder Ephraim!