January 30, 2013

Koliva or Kutia

I put 4 cups of wheat berries in water yesterday and let them soak overnight.  This morning, I drained off the water (which smells bitter) and poured on fresh water.  I turned my stove on and let the wheat berries and water come to a boil, then turned it to medium-low and let it cook for almost 3 hours, when I noticed that all the water had been soaked up...and then I added a bit more water.  The berries were not like grains of rice any longer, but almost round, full of the water.  I ate a spoonful and found that they were a little rubbery and let them cook a little longer.
All water must be soaked up or drained.  I added organic Thompson raisins, cinnamon and honey.  Mixing it up really well and then put it in a nice bowl and arranged some raisins in a cross shape on top and put a candle in it.
We are taking this to church tonight.  It has been 1 year since Yuliya departed. She was only 42.  Cancer.

4 cups of wheat berries
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)

This is made for "Commemoration of the Dead,"  as well as Theodore Saturday, the first Friday of Great Lent.  Here's the beautiful story: 

"The tradition of blessing and eating Kollyva at the end of the first week of Great Lent is connected with an event in the reign of Julian the Apostate in 362 AD. The tradition states that the Emperor knew that the Christians would be hungry after the first week of strict fasting, and would go to the marketplaces of Constantinople on Saturday, to buy food. Therefore he ordered that blood from pagan sacrifices be sprinkled over all the food that was sold there, making it "polluted sacrificial food" (food "polluted" with the blood of idolatry), in an attempt to force upon the people the paganism of which he was an ardent supporter.
However St. Theodore the Tyro appeared in a dream to the Patriarch of Constantinople Eudoxios, ordering him to inform all the Christians that no one should buy anything at the market, but rather to boil the wheat that they had at home and eat it sweetened with honey."

January 28, 2013

Mariah, the cat

Let me tell you about the cat that my sister, Mary, and I brought home when we were 15 and 17 years old.  She was a cute little kitten.  A friend of ours had a cat that had kittens.  We picked this one out, she was a calico with long fur and mewed very loudly and high pitched, so we named her after the singer, Mariah Carey.  In the years that followed, we left for college and worked and got married...

I took pictures of her with a plastic purple egg on Pascha in April 2012.  She looked very good then.  She kept herself clean.
(My mom started and then my husband finished digging a hole for her.  She is now buried right by these wooden planters, where the mint and ground phlox grow in the spring.  It was one of her favorite places to lay.)
My parents kept Mariah at their house.  Now, it's almost 20 years later and Mariah is still mewing very loudly, but in the middle of the night, in the house and even outside, so that it wakes my parents.
Dad has Parkinson's disease and now a broken arm and the hours that he is able to sleep peacefully are limited.  Mom cleans up after Mariah, who in her old age has stopped cleaning her fur, it is matted and knotty, and even has some feces stuck to it...  It's my job, now, to help out.  I wanted to bring her to my home, but she has never known another home and we think she is going deaf and blind.  We also have a young cat, dog and 3 chickens...  I don't think Mariah would like it here.
So, we prayed for her to pass away peacefully in her sleep.  It didn't happen.  After talking about it, we called the vet and made an appointment to have her put to sleep.  When they examined her, they said that her kidneys were enlarged and that her muscle tone was very low...  They were very kind and explained that they would give her 2 injections, the first one, which would let her sleep, as they would give to any cat, undergoing a spay or neuter, then another injection that would stop her heart.  ♥  It was very hard to hear that and to not feel guilty about allowing this to happen.  I told my girls that animals don't have souls, that this is different from a human life, but I still felt badly.
I have to think of the life of an animal, as the life of a tree (maybe it was beautiful and bore peaches for many years and is now dying, shall we leave it or cut it down?) and there I feel like what I did was humane.
She would've been about 90 years old in cat years.  Most cats live 12-15 years, although some live quite long!  Mariah had a longer than normal life.
It was the first time I've ever had to do something like this...
I hope it is the last.

January 25, 2013


I lay awake in bed at 4am, it's been an hour...I can't go back to sleep.  So many thoughts running through my head.  Last Friday, I got a phone call from my mom saying she and Dad were at the hospital.  Life is very special.  Many of us have a good life, but we never know when that will end, maybe life will only be in the womb for a very short time...  It's been an emotional week as many celebrate, while I mourn 40 years of Roe vs. Wade.
Olivia and I finished reading The Giver last night.  She is 9 years old and I thought it better if we read it together and talked about it, while reading it.  It hit me hard this time.  My 11 year old daughter said she's read it 6 times.  It is definitely a great book, but there are so many issues...  euthanasia (of the old and young who don't "fit" into the society), government control, race (everyone sees in black and white, no colour of flesh), etc.  What are your thoughts on these issues?  If you haven't read it lately, why don't you check it out of your library? 
This is a wonderful documentary in Russian (with English subtitles) of good people, mainly monks and nuns, who are taking care of orphans.  The little boy who is blind and deaf, can only touch and feel love...  At the end, there is a monk who has 2 children helping him ring the bells, one who doesn't have arms, and uses his teeth to pull the rope!  So sweet. ♥  God bless them all!

It's been very cold all week here in Ohio.  I worry about our 3 chickens, outside in the freezing temperatures.  Even the "highs" have been below 32'F this week. They're doing fine, though still faithfully laying eggs.  Rob ran an extension cord out to their coop about 2 months ago, and so they get an extra 3 hours of light and warmth from a heat lamp bulb.  We're getting a bit of snow here, now.

January 21, 2013

My father broke his arm!

Friday morning my mom called to say that dad fell and they were at the hospital!  We found out that he dislocated his right shoulder and fractured his humerus.  No surgery was needed, no cast either.  BUT my father is having a hard time with the sling.  Parkinson's disease makes everything harder.  The pain medicine he was prescribed is interfering with his Parkinson's medications.  The dyskinesia are making it hard for him to keep his arm still.  ♥  Please keep him in your prayers.

January 16, 2013

Family of 18

My parents in the middle...their 4 daughters (and their husbands and children)!  ♥  The oldest is 67 years old and the youngest is 5 months.  Last week we were all together, all 18 of us, now everyone is back in their homes, one family in Portland, Oregon and another in Ottawa, Canada, and the rest of in Ohio.
My dear husband and my nephew Isaac.  It was warm last week, 60 degrees Fahrenheit.  My sister's husband who is Canadian keeps me on my toes, when he tells me the temperature in it was almost 20.  The kids actually ran around barefoot, climbing trees, no jackets, although it had snowed the week previous.

Now we are back to the cold weather (more typical of January in Ohio), it was 30 degrees Fahrenheit, which is like -1 degrees Celsius.  We went rollerskating together and then came inside and had hot tea and doughnuts in honor of my niece Juliana's saints day!  It is like a birthday to us.

January 14, 2013

Baking for St. Basil's day

 Here is the loaf before baking:
And nice and browned afterwards...  My sister, who is visiting from Canada, got the gold coin in her slice of bread!!!  ♥
(See previous post for recipe for this St. Basil's day bread, if you missed it!)
Olivia bought herself a pair of roller skates, yes, the old-fashioned kind.  Hannah has been using my rollerblades, as she wears an adult size 5 now.  I also love to skate.  I remember the days when my husband used to skateboard.
All the snow has melted in southern Ohio.  We're hoping for more.  It was really warm this past week, but got really cold again today!  The weather is so fickle.  I wish it were truly winter, and would just stay cold.
Tonight we're sipping hot tea and playing Scrabble. 

January 12, 2013

St. Basil's bread

St. Gregory and St. Basil were great friends and both became bishops in the early Christian church (ordained bishops in 370 and 372 A.D., respectively).

I am baking this bread with a gold dollar coin in it this morning (we follow the old calendar, so Jan. 1 is coming up, it is this Monday).
"The tradition of Saint Basil’s Bread dates to the fourth century, when St. Basil the Great, the father of philanthropy, wanted to distribute money to the poor in his diocese. He commissioned some women to bake sweetened bread, in which he placed gold coins. Thus the poor families in cutting the bread to nourish themselves were pleasantly surprised to find the coins. This custom is kept to this day among Orthodox Christians, who on Saint Basil’s Day, January 1st, place gold coins inside a loaf of sweetened bread in honor of the Saint’s care for the poor. The one who finds the coin in his or her piece is considered commissioned by St. Basil to carry on his work for the poor, and in exchange he will ask the Lord for whatever is needful for the New Year."

The recipe I'm using came from Food for Paradise published by the church of St. John the Russian in Ipswich, MA.

St. Basil's Bread or Vasilopita:
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup softened butter (I just used 1/2 cup, one stick)
1/2 cup lukewarm water
2 eggs, beaten, plus 1 for egg wash on top
2 packages of yeast (I used 5 tablespoons out of my jar of yeast)
6-7 cups unbleached white flour
sesame seeds

Heat 1/2 cup water to boil and add orange peel and cinnamon.  Remove from heat.  Warm the milk & add sugar, salt, butter.  Dissolve yeast in the lukewarm water with 2 tablespoons sugar and let stand about 10 minutes.  Add the warm milk mixture, beaten eggs and mix.  Stir in the orange water and add 3 cups flour, beating until smooth.  Slowly add the remaining flour to make a smooth dough.  Knead until elastic.  Let rise in a covered bowl for about 2 hours.  Punch down and knead quickly, then insert coin wrapped in foil.  Braid dough, or leave it in a nice circle.  Let rise another hour.  Brush with beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Bake in a preheated 350'F oven for 45-55 minutes.  It should be golden brown.  Let cool.  Whoever receives the slice with the coin is said to receive a special blessing from St. Basil.  It is served eldest to youngest!

January 11, 2013

Falling asleep...

My niece fell asleep in my arms...I am a very happy aunt.  ♥

January 8, 2013

Mini-cheesecakes ♥

For this recipe, you can use any sort of little cookie (I used gingesnaps, but you can try vanilla wafers...I even saw some with oreo cookies), place it in the bottom of the muffin cup, and then pour or scoop the cheesecake batter on top and then bake.  I used gingersnaps from Trader Joe's.

Mini-cheesecakes with cookie-crust:
  • 20 little cookies
  • 2 packages of cream cheese (8 oz. each)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Make sure the cream cheese is room temperature, when it is warm, it will mix better.  Mix the cream cheese until smooth in a bowl.  Then, add the eggs and sugar.  Blend until smooth and add the salt, sour cream and vanilla.
Put a cookie in each cupcake liner and pour cheesecake batter into each cup.  Bake at 325'F for almost 1 hour.  If it starts to brown on top, take out immediately and allow to cool.
Top them with a few blueberries or raspberries!  Then, enjoy with your friends ♥
(I got little matryoshka cupcake liners from TJ Maxx.  I used 20 of them, but they are smaller in circumference than the average cupcake liners, so you may only make 12 using this much batter if using the regular size ones).
I brought these mini-cheesecakes to church yesterday, as we celebrated Nativity (old calendar)!  It was a potluck dinner after the service.  Some of my favorite people in our church:
Many of you have been praying for my dad.  He is doing well, managing his Parkinson's.  In the mornings he is pretty good, using just his cane to get around.  In the afternoons and evenings, though he needs to use his walker most of the time.  He has 2 wheelchairs (one manual and one electric, that my in-laws gave us) but thankfully he hasn't really needed them!  I think the key is that he knows when he is able to do things himself, and when he needs to ask for help.  My mom does a lot to help him out and she ends up doing most of the chores.  May God bless her.  Last week, though my dad took the garbage out, so he is able to help sometimes!  I know he would like to do more.  

I'm reading a great book by Rohinton Mistry called Family Matters right now.  The main character, Nariman Vakeel, is 79 years old and in rapidly deteroriating health due to Parkinson's, when he breaks his ankle.  His step children who are grown adults, are living in the flat he owns with him and feel the burden of taking care of him, then get their sister, Roxana, who is poor, with a husband and 2 children to take care of him.  There are some very beautiful and poignant passage in this when the 9 year old grandson feeds his 79 year old grandfather, spoonful by spoonful and wipes his chin.
My husband took a photo of my parents with my sister and her 3 girls & me and my girls!  It was a lovely sunny day...with a little snow still on the ground, although it was warm, and it is all melting.

January 5, 2013

Crocheting a rainbow...

I am crocheting this rainbow as a gift for someone...
(inspired by this one)

 Velvet is a happy of her favorites places in our home, laying atop the warm heater.
The chickens don't seem to mind the snow.  Nutmeg here...Cinnamon and Pepper near the tire swing.  They are steadily laying eggs for us.  I have to dump out a chunk of ice in their water each morning, we've had quite a cold winter so far, compared to the warm of last year. ♥

I hope you have a wonderful weekend.  We are preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ this weekend, as Russian Orthodox Christians!!! 

January 1, 2013

Photo booth...

Remember photo booth pictures?  I've seen quite a few of those pictures mimicked lately and love the result, so we had some girls over for a sleepover, got crafty, made some:
  • hats
  • funky paper glasses
  • mustaches

Two 9 year olds and two 11 year olds...

We popped popcorn in the hot air popper, ate orange slices, candy necklaces...

They stayed up til midnight and had some bubbly apple cider to drink!