March 31, 2014

Spring in Ohio

I made more cards last week for Pascha, the feast of our Lord's Resurrection.  I left some of them blank so that you can color them in as you wish, or let your children help color.  Check them out in my etsy shop:
Friday our homeschool co-op went to the Krohn Conservatory, which is a giant greenhouse, and was so humid in the rainforest room that my camera lens kept fogging up, hence this fuzzy group photo:
One of the boys reaches toward a cacoa pod!  That's our chocolate starts off...pretty cool, huh?
The main room was Avant-Garde theme, lots of glass flowers and bowls in bold colors.
 In the cacti room, isn't this aloe stunning?
This is in the bonsai room! 
My friend, Anya, took this picture of some of us after church yesterday.  You can see 5 year old Sofia in her wheelchair and my Godson, 1 year old Timothy in his mom's arms. Her husband was working with the other men helping to assemble the new playground!  My daughter Hannah holding my nephew Timothy, who is now a month old!

March 27, 2014

Making scarves

A friend of ours showed us these pretty scarves she's been making.  Super easy and pretty ruffle scarves like this awesome tutorial.  I think she puts 4 or 5 loops on the hook before pulling it through, we did 7.  If you try this, you can do whatever look you like best, the more loops, the more fluffy your scarf will be.
So this is "art class" today.  This is the yarn (I ♥ Hobby Lobby) that Olivia is using:
 See how it stretches into a mesh?
And she just finished it!

March 20, 2014


Yesterday we made chapati.  We followed this recipe:
And will be making them again!  Very simple and delicious (best warm off the pan). 
I have a wonderful memory of my Uncle Jim sitting on the kitchen floor rolling out chapati in their Massachusetts kitchen when I was a child.  My Aunt Ellen and Uncle Jim were in Ohio this week.  That's what spurred my desire to make them, recollecting that first time I had chapati...
Aunt Ellen gave us a copy of Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian as a gift.  I look forward to trying many recipes in that cookbook!
Uncle Jim played several pieces on guitar for was especially beautiful by Fernando Sor.
This is my dad's sister, Aunt Ellen, with her husband Jim and our girls and Rob.  It's also the day we celebrate my dad's "namesday" as when he was baptised he chose St. Paul the Simple as his patron saint. 

March 18, 2014

St. Oliva

Today is Olivia's namesday (following the Old Calendar), the day we celebrate the saint for whom she is named, St. Oliva of Brescia, Italy, who was martyred under the Emperor Hadrian in 138 AD. This icon was hand-painted by Fr. Paul Akmolin and given as a gift from my parents to Olivia:
Since it is Great Lent, we are making an effort to go to more services, and give alms by helping  others.  Unfortunately, we are not able to attend as many services as the new church is much further than the old church was...
Olivia is collecting money to donate to OCMC (Orthodox Christian Mission Center), in this little box with a slot on top, that we got while at the homeschool gathering at Christ the Savior church.  I also want to start this prison ministry with my Sunday school class:

We were able to attend Holy Unction (the anointing of oil, for the remission of sins) while the Kursk icon visited our parish last week:

One of the passages from the Bible that is read during that service is:
"A certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him." Luke 10:33-34

And another (although the healing is not merely for those sick of the body, but those who are sick of the soul...whose soul is pure?):
"Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him."
James 5:14-15

Little 5 year old Sofia is home!  The surgery went very well.  Tomorrow is her little brother's first birthday! 

March 6, 2014

Sofia is 5

Our dear friends from church celebrating Sofia's 5th birthday together on Tuesday.  Please pray for her as she is having another surgery tomorrow, they will put healthy blood vessels from the top of her head into the part of her brain that was damaged from the stroke, so they can grow and repair.
Sofia and her grandma (or "babushka") who came from Ukraine to help out in January.  She leaves in a couple of weeks.
 Another dear family, little 1 year old Ksenia has an enlarged heart and is also in need of prayers.
Opening birthday gifts.  We gave her jeggings (you know soft jeans/leggings) and a teal blouse with stars on it:
I ♥ this picture...Sofia with her Ariel cupcakes and her mama and grandma with strawberries!
 The whole family:
It was truly a happy birthday.  The best thing was seeing little Sofia smile, as everyone sang happy birthday to her.  There is a lot of love here.  ♥

March 4, 2014

Starting fresh

Yesterday we started Great Lent.  First we started reading the Bible from the very beginning together.  Hannah read from the book of Genesis.  We lit incense as we said our prayers, which now include prostrations (bending our knees and putting our head to the floor) and the prayer of St. Ephraim:

O Lord and Master of my life, a spirit of idleness, despondency, ambition, and idle talking give me not. But rather a spirit of chastity, humble-mindedness, patience, and love bestow upon me Thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my failings and not condemn my brother; for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.

The following excerpt is taken from Ivan Shmelyov's Anno Domini, a wistful recollection of life in his pious, old-fashioned, well to-do home in pre-Revolutionary Moscow.
Clean Monday
    I waken from harsh light in my room: a bare kind of light, cold, dismal. Yes, it's Great Lent today. The pink curtains, with their hunters and their ducks, have already been taken down while I slept, and that's why it's so bare and dismal in the room. It's Clean Monday today for us, and everything in our house is being scrubbed. Greyish weather, the thaw. The dripping beyond the window is like weeping. Our old carpenter-Gorkin, "the panel man"--said yesterday that when Lady Shrovetide leaves, she'll weep. And so she is--drip...drip...drip... There she goes! I look at the paper flowers reduced to shreds, at the gold-glazed "Shrovetide" sweetcake--a toy, brought back from the baths yesterday; gone are the little bears, gone are the little hills--vanished, the joy. And a joyous something begins to fuss in my heart; now everything is new, different. Now it'll be "the soul beginning"--Gorkin told me all about it yesterday. "It's time to ready the soul," To prepare for Communion, to keep the fast, to make ready for the Bright Day.
    "Send One-eye in to see me!" I hear Father's angry shouting.
    Father has not gone out on business; it's a special day today, very strict. Father rarely shouts. Something important has happened. But after all he forgave the man for drinking; he cancelled all his sins; yesterday was the day of Forgiveness. And Vasii Vasillich forgave us all, too, that's exactly what Ire said in the dining room, kneeling: "I forgive you all!" So why is Father shouting then?
    The door opens, Gorkin comes in with a gleaming copper basin. Oh, yes, to smoke out Lady Shrovetide! There's a hot brick in the basin, and mint, and they pour vinegar over them. My old nurse, Domnushka, follows Gorkin around and does the pouring; it hisses in the basin and a tart steam rises a sacred steam. I can smell it even now, across the distance of the years. Sacred... that's what Gorkin calls it. He goes to all the corners and gently swirls the basin. And then he swirls it over me.
    "Get up, dearie, don't pamper yourself," he speaks lovingly to me, sliding the basin under the skirt of the bed. "Where's she hid herself in your room, fat old Lady Shrovetide... We'll drive her out. Lent has arrived .... We'll be going to the Lenten market, the choir from St. Basil's will be singing 'My soul, my soul arise;' you won't be able to tear yourself away,"
    That unforgettable, that sacred smell. The smell of Great Lent. And Gorkin himself, completely special--as if he were kind of sacred, too. Way before light, he had already gone to the bath, steamed himself thoroughly, put on everything clean. Clean Monday today! Only the kazakin is old; today only the most workaday clothes may be worn, that's "the law". And it's a sin to laugh, and you have to rub a bit of oil on your head. like Gorkin. I'll be eating without oil now, but you have to oil the head, it's the law, "for the prayer's sake." There's a flow about him, from his little gray beard, all silver really, from the neatly combed head. I know for a fact that he's a saint. They're like that, God's people, that please Him. And his face is pink, like a cherubim's, from the cleanness. I know that he's dried himself bits of black bread with salt, and all Lent long he'll take them with his tea, "instead of sugar."
    But why is Daddy angry...with Vasil Vasillich, like that?
     "Oh, sinfulness..." says Gorkin with a sigh. “It's hard to break habits, and now everything is strict, Lent. And, well, they get angry. But you hold fast now, think about your soul. It's the season, all the same as if the latter days were come...that's the law! You just recite, "O Lord and Master of my life...' and be cheerful."
    And I begin silently reciting the recently memorized Lenten prayer.
    The rooms are quiet and deserted, full of that sacred smell. In the front room, before the reddish icon of the Crucifixion, a very old one , from our sainted great-grandmother who was an Old Believer; a "lenten" lampada of clear glass has been lit, and now it will burn unextinguished until Pascha. When Father lights it--on Saturdays he lights all the lampadas himself--he always sings softly, in a pleasant-sad way: "Before Thy Cross, we bow down, O Master," and I would sing softly after him, that wonderful refrain:
"And Thy holy... Resurrection, we glorify!”
    A joy-to-tears beats inside my soul, shining from these words. And I behold it, behind the long file of lenten days--the Holy Resurrection, in lights. A joyful little prayer! It casts a kindly beam of light upon these sad days of Lent.
     I begin to imagine that now the old life is coming to an end, and it' s time to prepare for that other, life, which will be...where? Somewhere, in the heavens. You have to cleanse the soul of all sinfulness, and that's why everything around you is different. And something special is at our side, invisible and fearful. Gorkin told me that now, "it's like when the soul is parting from the body." THEY keep watch, to snatch away the soul, and all the while the soul trembles and wails: "Woe is me, I am cursed!" They read about it in church now, at the Standings.
    --"Because they can sense that their end is coming near, that Christ will rise! And that's why we're a-given Lent for, to keep close to church, to live to see the Bright Day. And not to reflect, you understand. About earthly things, do not reflect! And they'll be ringing everywhere: 'Think back! ..Think-back!..." He made the words boom inside him nicely.
     Throughout the house the window vents are open, and you can hear the mournful cry and summons of the bells, ringing before the services: think-back...think-back. That's the piteous bell, crying for the soul. It's called the lenten peal. They've taken the shutters down from the windows, and it'll be that way, poor-looking, clear until Pascha. In the drawing-room, there are gray slipcovers on the furniture; the lamps are bundled up into cocoons, and even the one painting, "The Beauty at the Feast," is draped over with a sheet. That was the suggestion of His Eminence. Shook his head sadly and said: "A sinful and tempting picture!" But Father likes it a lot--such class! Also draped is the engraving which Father for some reason calls "the sweetcake one"; it shows a little old man dancing, and an old woman hitting him with a broom. That one His Eminence liked a great deal, even laughed. All the house folk are very serious, in workday clothes with patches, and I was told also to put on the jacket with the worn-through elbows. The rugs have been taken out; it's such a lark now to skate across the parquet. Only it's scary to try--Great Lent: skate hard and you'll break a leg. Not a crumb left over from Shrovetide, mustn't be so much as a trace of it in the air. Even the sturgeon in aspic was passed down to the kitchen yesterday. Only the very plainest dishes are left in the sideboard, the ones with the dun spots and the cracks...for Great Lent. In the front room there are bowls of yellow pickles, little umbrellas of dill sticking out of them, and chopped cabbage, tart and thickly dusted with anise--a delight. I grab pinches of it--how it crunches! And I vow to myself to eat only lenten foods for the duration of the fast. Why send my soul to perdition, since everything tastes so good anyway! There'll be stewed fruit, potato pancakes with prunes, "crosses" on the Week of the Cross...frozen cranberries with sugar, candied nuts... And what about roast buckwheat kasha with onions, washed down with kvass! And then lenten pasties with milk-mushrooms, and then buckwheat pancakes with onions on Saturdays... and the boiled wheat with marmalade on the first Saturday...and almond milk with white kissel, and the cranberry one with vanilla, and the grand kuliebiak on Annunciation .... Can it be that THERE, where everyone goes to and from this life, there will be such lenten fare! And why is everyone so dull-looking? Why, everything is different, and there is much, so much that is joyous. Today they'll bring the first ice and begin to line the cellars--the whole yard will be stacked with it. We'll go to the "Lenten Market," and the Great Mushroom Market, where I've never been... I begin jumping up and down with joy, but they stop me: "It's Lent, don't dare! Just wait and see, you'll break your leg!"
    Fear comes over me. I look at the Crucifixion. He suffers, the Son of God! But how is it that God... how did He allow it?...
    I have a sense that herein lies the great mystery itself--GOD.
(Translated from the Russian by Maria Belaeff)

♥ And we clean our house, taking the bedsheets off all the beds, putting them in the washing machine, dusting, vacuuming and sweeping the house, shaking out the dog's bedding...
Today, we are washing the windows.