We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Modernity in the rear-view mirror

Wireless telephones and television, following naturally upon their present path of development, would enable their owner to connect up with any room similarly installed, and hear and take part in the conversation as well as if he put his head in through the window. The congregation of men in cities would become superfluous.


Democracy as a guide or motive to progress has long been known to be incompetent. None of the legislative assemblies of the great modern states represents in universal suffrage even a fraction of the strength or wisdom of the community. Great nations are no longer led by their ablest men, or by those who know most about their immediate affairs, or even by those who have a coherent doctrine.


We have the spectacle of the powers and weapons of man far outstripping the march of his intelligence; we have the march of his intelligence proceeding far more rapidly than the development of his nobility. We may well find ourselves in the presence of ‘the strength of civilization without its mercy.’

from "Fifty Years Hence" an essay by Winston Churchill reprinted by First Principles Web Journal.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Daybook - Tuesday, Dec 29th

outside my window . . . the sun gives an orange cast to the tops of the trees while the trunks are still in shadow. The sun will be up and bright soon. 25 degrees - c-c-c-c-old!

in the kitchen . . . Finally tried the "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" recipe and LOVE it. The bread is heavenly! It is so good I'm considering giving my breadmaker away. (well, not really)

around the house . . . Farmor (hubby's mom - that is swedish for Father's Mother) has finally arrived to celebrate Christmas! She lives in Virginia and got snowed in. It is fun to have the celebration continue!

on my iPod . . . Brothers Karamazov

from our studies . . . nothing this week - we are still enjoying our Christmas break. I do need to look over my plans for next semester and gather books, etc.

thinking about . . . 20+ acres, 1900s house, pond, and a 2 huge barns


listening to. . . my silly cat subduing a stray corn cob holder on the tile floor. (Why is a corn cob holder on the floor? Don't ask, I don't know!)

thankful for. . . hubby who has rescued my temperamental computer once again.

pondering the words . . . "For the real audacity of hope in politics is to know that our fondest hopes will not be realized through politics. Indeed, if our fondest hopes are such that they can be realized by politics, then our hope is a disordered hope."
First Things, March 2009 (somehow I missed this one - I was in Ghana when it came - so, I'm finally catching up on it).

reading . . . finally pulled the plastic off December's First Things. I'm planning a sneak-away coffee hour sometime this week to soak up some of the articles.

creating . . . a plan for getting our house ready for market


one of my favorite things . . . the old-fashioned looking knit stockings we purchased years ago from "Big Lots". The kids have their own, but these knit ones are for the adults. My mom even embroidered our names on them for us, so each adult has their own stocking.

milestones in the past week . . . Baby L had her first Christmas - at least her first with us. (I've no idea if there was a Christmas celebration where she was last year.) She really seemed to "get" the gift-opening process.

a few plans for the upcoming week . . . Today we hope to go back out to a property we are interested in (that'd be the 20+ acres). Middle son has a sleepover birthday party Wednesday. Hubby has some work to do on his non-profit organization before Thursday. I've got second semester planning to do. And of course New Year's Eve and Day are at the end of the week - no real plans for those, but we'll enjoy some champagne I suspect.

Enjoy more Daybooks at Peggy’s!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Yesterday, we went up into the NC mountains to enjoy Christmas Eve at Biltmore House. If you ever get a chance to visit Biltmore, do!

There was still quite a bit of snow from the snowstorm that dumped feet on the east coast last week which gave the day a truly "Winter Wonderland" feel. We had a wonderful time and decided it was a really good way to spend Christmas Eve. It kept kids occupied and tired them out nicely. I highly recommend it!

There are many Christmas trees at Biltmore, but this is the Biggest - easily 2 stories high!

We all hope you are enjoying a really blessed Christmas today!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Daybook - Monday, Dec 21st

outside my window . . . the sky is just slightly orange over the tops of the houses, fading to a clean, pale blue. A slight coating of frost is on the grass and the puddles from this weekend's "storm" (we got nary a flake) are edged in ice.

in the kitchen . . . Christmas cookie decorating today and my favorite Christmas bread tomorrow, Santa Lucia Bread. (scroll down for the recipe)

around the house . . . the decorations are up and lovely. All that is left are the tree ornaments and the Christmas Pyramid, both which will make their appearance on Christmas Eve. Today the Christmas dishes will come out and replace our everyday dishes.

from our studies . . . finishing up A Christmas Carol and enjoying some other Christmas stories.

thinking about . . . whether or not my mother-in-law will be able to make it out of her driveway. She lives south of DC in Virginia and got well over a foot of snow. Living at the end of a mile-long, gravel drive deep in the woods makes it hard for her to get out when she's been snowed in.


listening to. . . NPR's Morning Edition.

thankful for. . . Our Supper Club group. Our Supper Club has been together for quite a few years (some of us close to 7 years), and the friendships are dear between the adults and the children.

reading . . . my newest editions of First Things and Southern Living. Somehow that little reading list sums me up.

creating . . . just finished up 4 gift memory albums (digital) for Christmas and I'm now working on our family's annual album. Need to finish up another strand of crochet snowball garland.


to foster rhythm and beauty . . . we spent the weekend digging through the Christmas decorations and getting the house all lovely for this week. On Christmas Eve, we'll let Christmas really blossom with our festive Christmas Pyramid and all the tree decorations.

to educate faithfully . . . part of a good education is having time off to let all that learning soak in. We are enjoying a week of well-earned time off!


one of my favorite things . . . My "Twelve Days of Christmas" mugs. They are waiting patiently in the cabinet for Christmas day to be here!

a few plans for the upcoming week . . . Today: my mother should arrive. Tuesday: all last minute shopping and mother-in-law should arrive. Wednesday: off for a day trip to Biltmore (our family gift). Thursday: Christmas Eve dinner, service, and hopefully, glogg-making. Friday: Merry Christmas!

a picture thought I'm sharing . . .

Baby L enjoying her new favorite treat: a candy cane!

** Updated to add links to Santa Lucia recipe and info on Christmas Pyramids.**

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

In the early morning light . . .

In the early morning light, our little Sankta Lucia made her rounds. No Lucia buns this year (maybe in time for Christmas morning), instead we had iced orange rolls (you know, right out of the Pillsbury tube).

Here she is:

Daddy is up early in his office working, so he's the only one not served in bed:

Serving big brothers in bed:

Then when everyone came down for seconds, we enjoyed this traditional and authentic Sankta Lucia:

Monday, December 14, 2009

For the Feast of St John of the Cross

No time for more than a quick post, but I thought I'd share some quotes from his spiritual classic: The Dark Night of the Soul. Well, at least the first half of it anyway . . . I'm still slowly reading this one.

concerning the secret pride of beginners:

". . . being very fervent and diligent in spiritual things and devout exercises, there often comes to them, as a result of their imperfections, a certain kind of secret pride. (. . .) Hence, a certain vain desire comes to them, a desire to speak of spiritual things in the presence of others. They may even strive to teach these things rather than being content with simply learning them."

concerning spiritual gluttony:

"For many of them, lured by the sweetness and pleasure they find in such exercises, begin to strive more after the sweetness rather than the spiritual purity and discretion that God desires and accepts throughout one's spiritual journey."

". . . strive with all their nerves to obtain some kind of sensible sweetness and pleasure instead of humbly doing reverence and giving praise within themselves to God. When they have received no pleasure or sweetness in their senses, they think they have accomplished nothing at all. "

concerning solitude and quietness:

". . . it gives the soul an inclination and desire to be alone and in quietness, without being able to think of any particular thing of having the desire to do so. If the souls to whome this comes to pass knew how to be quiet at this time and not too troubled about performing any kind of action, whether inward or outward . . . they would delicately experience this inward refreshment that is found in ease and freedom from care."

concerning "A Ray of Darkness":

". . . the clearer and more manifest divine things are in themselves, the darker and more hidden they are to the soul. . . . the more we look at the sun, the greater is the darkness it causes in our vision by overcoming and overwhelming it through its own weakness. In the same way, when the divine light of contemplation assails the soul that is not yet wholly enlightened, it causes spiritual darkness within it. . . . when God sends the illuminating ray of His secret wisdom to the soul that is not yet transformed, thick darkness in the understanding results."

Daybook - Monday, Dec 14th

Feast Day of St. John of the Cross

outside my window . . . another cold, gray day. We are starting to wonder if we are in Charlotte or Seattle.

in the kitchen . . . time to start cooking and baking for Christmas. Decorated sugar cookies, gingerbread, and pepparkakor, I think.

around the house . . . sat down with the kids this morning and we divided up the various chores that need to be done before Christmas. I love it when they are so helpful. We listened to Vince Guaraldi Trio's "A Charlie Brown Christmas" while we worked.

on my iPod . . . enjoying learning a bit more about the Orthodox church through some Ancient Faith podcasts. Right now I'm listening to "Intersection of East and West".

from our studies . . . we have started our Christmas break (sort of - it is Official on Wednesday when our eldest finishes his last class of the semester). But we are still enjoying some read alouds. Last week we started Dickens' A Christmas Carol just in time to watch the classic 1951 (I believe) Alistair Sims' version. His portrayal of Scrooge is fantastic and kept the kids riveted! Even my 7-year old loved it. (black and white, typical slowish movement of an old movie, and fairly plain special affects)

thinking about . . . how much fun we had at our church's Women's Christmas party last night. We had a great group of ladies! We all brought angel ornaments to exchange. I got a sweet "gingerbread" angel.


listening to. . . and sort of watching "White Christmas".

thankful for. . . finding the entire "Little House" series at my homeschool consignment store (a Saint Nicholas Day gift). My middle daughter and I have started reading them together and it is such a sweet time!

pondering the words . . . "Faith is more like a novel than a textbook. We can read a math book and work at it until we get it. But when we read a great novel we come out with our lives changed. At the end of a great novel we come out, we don't say, 'I got it,' because it's gotten us." - The Rev. Dr. Craig M. Kaillio, St. Stephen's, Oak Ridge, TN (from The Anglican Digest)

creating . . . my crochet neck warmer turned out wonderfully - I've got the bug to make more, so I'll probably work on those and another strand of "snow garland" this week.


one of my favorite things . . . my hubby's super-warm wool "professor" sweater. (He's not a professor, but the sweater makes him look like one.) Problem is I like to wear it, too. :)

a few plans for the upcoming week . . . Tuesday: eldest has testing for a small private school we are considering for high school next year; Wednesday: we are doing our Christmas decorating after my eldest's last CC Challenge seminar; and our first Christmas company arrives Friday!

a picture thought I'm sharing . . .

my middle daughter with her stacks of Little House books.

Enjoy more Daybooks at Peggy’s!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Saint Lucia - a celebration!

Saint Lucia (or Saint Lucy) is traditionally feasted on the 13th of December. However this year it falls on a Sunday, so many will move their celebration to Saturday before or Monday after. Would you like to join in the celebrations? Read on for history, a description of how we celebrate, a recipe, and other ideas for her feast day. . .

:-: History :-:
In the days of early Christian persecution, St. Lucia is said to have carried food to Christians hiding in dark underground tunnels. To light the way she wore a wreath of candles on her head. Spurning marriage and worldly goods, she vowed to remain a virgin in the tradition of St. Agatha. An angry suitor reported her to the local Roman authorities, she was sentenced to death, and subsequently she became a martyr.

St. Lucia Day is celebrated on December 13th. In Scandinavia, a young girl in each family is awakened early in the morning, dressed in a white robe with a red ribbon around the waist and crowned with a wreath of candles. Her duty is to bring breakfast to her family: Special sweet buns flavored with saffron and coffee.

Because her name means “light”, she is a special saint to the Swedes who have a very long, dark winter. She is often called the “Queen of Light”.

:-: How we celebrate :-:
We choose to honor her in our family since she represents the two of the heritages in our family: Italian (my side) and Swedish (hubby's side). (Since she is an Italian saint who is especially celebrated by the Swedes.) And she also represents how living a sacrificial life allows Christ’s light to shine through us.

Our celebration this year will be on Monday. Early in the morning, I'll wake my eldest daughter (7) and dress her in a white cotton dress and red sash. In the past I've made her a "candle wreath" with glittery pipe cleaners. I suppose I'll do the same. Although, I've had thoughts of a real wreath with those flameless tea lights. (You can also make a a lovely paper St. Lucy crown..) She'll deliver saffron buns and hot cocoa to her brothers and father and then she and I will return to the kitchen for our own candlelight breakfast - just the two of us.

:-: A Recipe :-:
Here is the recipe I use for saffron buns. The dough is made in a breadmaker and then hand-shaped and baked in the oven.

The following recipe comes from The Ultimate Bread Machine Cookbook :

Add the ingredients in the order specified in your bread machine's manual. (Mine is wet first, then dry, then yeast)

3/4 c. plus 2 T milk
1 lg. egg

3 c. all-purpose flour
1 pinch salt
1/3 c. granulated white sugar
1/4 tsp powdered saffron (if you can only find saffron in "threads", just pulverize these as best you can then measure out 1/4 tsp. A trick I just learned is to use a bit of sugar as you pulverize with your mortar and pestle.)
3 T unsalted butter

2 1/4 fast-rise yeast

Place all in a 2-cup capacity breadmaker and set on "dough". At the end of the rise, punch down the dough and let rest 5 minutes before hand-shaping.

To handshape:
Lightly sprinkle work surface with flour. Divide dough into equal peices: 2 for 2 large breads, 4 for small breads, 6 to 8 for smaller buns. Lightly sprinkle with flour. Dampen hands and roll each piece into a rope. (18 inches for the 2 large pieces, 9 inches for the 4 pieces, etc.)

Lay a rope on a lightly-greased baking sheet. Curl each end, toward the center, into a coil. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush bread with egg wash (1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp. water). Bake for approx. 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a rack.

This bread freezes well and is excellent served toasted with orange marmalade. (We serve small buns on St. Lucy's Day and freeze a larger bread for Christmas morning.)

:-: Other ideas for celebrating St. Lucia :-:

:: Consider an Italian feast for dinner (she was a Roman martyr) or traditional Sicilian "cuccia" - which can be made MANY different ways (sweet or savory). (HT: Catholic Cuisine)

:: No time for saffron buns? Make or purchase some delicious muffins instead.

:: Instead of breakfast in bed, consider a candlelight breakfast for the family.

:: Decorate with traditional straw ornaments (St. Lucy is often associated with wheat and Scandinavians love to decorate with straw at Christmas) make a lovely addition to your tree - or on their own small tree.

:: A nice book to share more about these traditions is Kirsten's Surprise in the American Girls series.

:: Here are some other ideas from various countries.

If you post about your St. Lucia celebration, please leave a link in the comments!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Enjoy some Advent music

It is early morning and I'm working away on my computer, sipping my "Constant Comment" tea, listening to my advent music playlist (O Come, Lo A Rose Ere Blooming, In the Bleak Midwinter, etc). Doesn't that sound cozy? You want to listen, too?

Here's my playlist:
(email subscribers - if you can't see the embedded YouTube box below, come on over to the blog)

I will keep this in my sidebar until Christmas.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"We do not tremble when we think of Christmas, we are not always struck with the wonder of the Nativity. Instead, we buy gifts and plan parties, catching a glimpse of the joy of the Feast, but without a heart immersed in its wonder. Thus the fast becomes that which we must 'get through' in order to reach that joyful day. When we arrive there, however, if this has been our attitude, we are caught askance by the hymns the Church feeds into our hearts. We find ourselves joined to a celebration of triumphal release from bondage, but we little understand what that bondage means. We sing songs of joy for deliverance, but we do not truly comprehend how we are enslaved. We find ourselves suddenly transported to the mountaintop, but without having climbed there from the valley far below, the scene we see is only another beautiful picture casually set before our eyes, and not the vision for which we have worked and struggled and longed with all our being." From Monachos.net, On the Nativity Fast HT: Deb ??

Monday, December 7, 2009

Daybook - Monday, Dec 7th

Pearl Harbor Day

outside my window . . . Dimly gray, cold day. The trees are almost completely bare. . . but there are still a few hangers-on. My hummingbird feeder, hanging sadly from its tree branch, needs to be thawed and cleaned and put away for winter.

in the kitchen . . . the clutter of the weekend is still lingering. I have thoughts of making gingerbread in the next day or two.

around the house . . . do I say this almost every Monday? I think I do. . . my laundry is mounting. Time for a load or twenty.

on my iPod . . . I'm listening to some freebie downloads: The 4-Hour Work Week (interesting and with some good ideas, but on the whole mostly what you'd expect: how to get rich or at least live like the rich. Not quite my goal in life. But I do wonder if some of his ideas can't be used to create income that would allow one to do mission or charity work, or even just travel more with
the family. ) and The Brothers Karamazov.

from our studies . . . starting our Advent studies officially this week. Memorizing 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, reading old Advent hymns for poetry, enjoying reading a number of Christmas stories and reading about St. Nicholas.

thinking about . . . Christmas presents - I'd enjoy Christmas shopping more if my budget weren't so tight.


listening to. . . my kids play outside.

thankful for. . . a new part-time job that I can do at home on my own time and will give us a little extra cash each month.

pondering the words . . . from our Advent Lessons and Carols yesterday: Behold I will create a new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. Isaiah 65:17-18

creating . . . I finished my first strand of crochet Christmas Tree garland. It was so easy and fun! Instead of the star garland, I did a little puffball garland, so it looks a bit like mini-snowballs. I'm starting on an experimental crochet neck warmer that I made up when I ran out of yarn for a scarf I was working on. I'll let you know how that turns out.


to foster a sense of rhythm, reverence and time. . . there is something wonderful about pulling out old familiar Advent and Christmas items: books we've read many times, an antique advent banner cross-stitched with love, the playmobil nativity set, the familiar countdown chalkboard.

to live the liturgy . . . listening to Advent music while watching the candles burn and listening to the day's Jesse Tree reading. We finally (better late than never!) changed out our family altar colors. . . now we are all in purples.

to educate faithfully . . . trying to keep my eldest motivated in the last week or so before his Christmas break. It is hard when even the teacher (me) wants to just have that break!


one of my favorite things . . . my red crochet neck warmer (the accidental creation I mentioned above).

milestones in the past week . . . Baby L has a NEW WORD! She has started saying "Brubbie" for Brother! We all enjoy watching her work so carefully on forming that "B" sound - it comes out soft and cooing.

a few plans for the upcoming week . . . finishing up painting at our rental property today and tomorrow, holiday dinner with the ladies from my new job on Wednesday, Children's Theatre and playdate on Thursday, Girls' Bible Study Christmas Brunch on Saturday, Date Night with hubby to see Messiah (free at local church with a FANTASTIC choral group) and getting ready for St. Lucia Day (we'll celebrate on Monday).

a picture thought I'm sharing . . .

My advent centerpiece on our dining room table.

Enjoy more Daybooks at Peggy's place!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Preparing for Saint Nicholas Day!

This is an updated post from last year. . .

Do you celebrate St. Nicholas Day? Wonder how or why someone celebrates St. Nicholas Day? Would you like to? It's not too late to put together a nice celebration - St. Nicholas Day is on Dec. 6th. (See some excellent book recommendations at the bottom of this post.)

In many countries, St. Nicholas Day is the day on which children get their gifts, while Christmas is reserved for church services and family get-togethers. We've begun celebrating St. Nicholas instead of mingling Santa and Jesus on Christmas day. This allows us the fun of "Santa" without it getting confused with the Birth of Christ. Not that you can't enjoy "Santa" on Christmas, but for us it was getting hard to keep our kids focused on Christ on Christmas. And the whole Santa kneeling at the manger - bleh, no, not for me.

Here is how we've celebrated in years past:
On St. Nicholas Eve, the children excitedly and carefully lay out their shoes by the fireplace for St. Nick to fill. And they leave out a small plate of cookies and crackers, also. I've heard that in some countries they leave St Nick a nice beer (I think Belgium is where this is done) - that might be an addition to this year's celebration!

In the morning they found their shoes filled with a couple small gifts, sweet treats, and a chocolate santa (a tradition at our house - this year we are going to make these into Bishops with the directions from the Saint Nicholas Center). Even DH and I found our shoes had been laid out for us (by an elf, I presume) and filled with goodies and gifts!

Our favorite tradition is a true "feast" breakfast! We eat in the dining room with candles and special plates. The kids especially love the hot cocoa with a peppermint stick and whipped creme! Who wouldn't love that?

We have a small collection of Santa items that I put out as a display. This is the first of the real Christmas decorating we do. There are also some extra goodies from Mom and Dad waiting for the kids on the table, usually chocolate coins and fun Christmas pencils.

At each place, there is also a nice little postcard with a vintage Santa image. These are our "secret santa" good deed cards. A good deed is done and the postcard left behind. The card recipient then does a good deed for someone else and leaves a card behind. You could use any card - homemade or otherwise. And, it wouldn't even have to be a Santa postcard - anything seasonal you like would do well! We continue these for a day or so.

Later we snuggle up on the couch and read about Saint Nicholas. I especially love Ann Tompert's Saint Nicholas book (see below). This year I've added a new book: Santa's Favorite Story by Hisako Aoki (found in on the shelf at Barnes and Noble). This would be especially appropriate for a family that wants to continue celebrating Santa Claus on Christmas. It is a sweetly illustrated book. Santa shares his favorite story - of the First Christmas - with the woodland animals who respond by saying, "How silly we have been,' said the fox, 'to think that Christmas was only about presents." Then all the animals go back to Santa's house to help him finish his Christmas work.

Do you celebrate St. Nicholas Day? I'd love to hear about it! If you blog it, let me know and I'll link to your post.

Here are some book recommendations (see more at HERE):

(My favorite)