Fig bread grilled with pb&j

I used homemade blackberry jam and Adams peanut butter. Use olive oil and grill just like a cheese sandwich. The fig bread came courtesy of my good friends, Essiet and Sylvia. Thanks guys!


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Oranges are delicious.

I just ate a fully ripe, completely juicy orange for dessert. It was delicious. Oranges are deicious.

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Lunch today


Coconut/banana/avocado smoothie. Sautéed snow peas with soy and hot sauce. Fresh baguette with artichoke spread and kale/radicchio sauté.

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Just ate my second Lenten meal…YAY Aladdin Cafe!!!

Someday (I hope), I will begin Lent with a plan. And a fully stocked pantry. I imagine planning out menus and writing out shopping lists. I imagine sitting down to every meal, balanced and nutritious, served at the appropriate times of day, calm and cool, with a clean kitchen at my back. I imagine choosing from an assortment of baked goods, or a bowl of fruit salad, chilling in the fridge, whenever I get the urge to snack. Hmmm, do I want the vegan chocolate cupcake with the tofu frosting, or the vegan apple pie, or the vegetable samosas I made this morning? Hmmm.

Of course, that is just about the exact opposite of what actually happens. Here’s what happened today…I woke up at 7:15 a.m., I realized that Joey would be working at Aladdin Cafe today and so I didn’t have to fix him lunch (let Diyana feed him, I said to myself). Then I hit the snooze button.  Fast forward to 8:00 a.m.. Maddy’s gotta leave at 8:18 a.m.. She needs breakfast and lunch. Lenten breakfast and lunch. OK. Breakfast – toast with jam, and a cup of tea. And for lunch? Drum roll please…toast with peanut butter and jam! Yep! Not even a different kind of jam. And by the way, I may as well admit it, I would have put peanut butter on her breakfast toast if I wasn’t planning on putting it in her lunch too. And what did I pack with the pb &j? Nothing. Not the best start ever, gotta say. But she was really gracious about the whole thing, which was pretty awesome.

After walking her to the bus, I went to my yoga class. Then shopping! At least I made a start. I agreed to go to a Barre 3 class with my friend, Louise, at noon, and she found me walking home from the store, on her way to pick me up.  We got to my house and I said, “can I grab something quick to eat?” I offered her something too. And so we both ate…toast with peanut butter and jam.

On the way home from the Barre 3 class, (I’m gonna be sore tomorrow), inspiration struck! “Drop me off at Aladdin’s!” I said to Louise. Diyana to the rescue! Joey was just finishing his shift, and I sat and visited with him and Isam and Diyana, while she fixed me a sweet little lunch – hummous, baba ghanoush, tabbouli and freekeh! (Freekeh is green wheat, prepared here like a pilaf. Yummy!) I also bought five loaves of Arabic bread so I’d have some for dinner! Let me tell you, it pays to live three blocks from an awesome Syrian restaurant filled with delicious, Lenten food!

Anyway, by dinner, I had things much more under control.

Imjudra and chicken

As you can see, I was able to provide a full meal for those of us observing the fast, and those of us who aren’t. There was baked chicken, imjudra with fried onions, hummous (from Aladdin!), roasted cabbage, raddichio and zucchini (on my plate), tomato and cucumber salad, and bread! The hardest part for me is the part about leaving the table feeling as if you could have eaten a little more.  I still haven’t done any baking, or organized myself in any meaningful way, but that’s ok. I got through the first day, fully nourished, and prepared to start again tomorrow.

“Lord, thank You for this first day. Thank You for the lessons, the grace and the help. Thank You for Maddy’s gracious attitude and Diyana’s cooking. And thank You for the time I spent sitting in the sun, watching Joey’s baseball game. I know that I am truly blessed, in many, many ways!”


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Entering the Paschal Season, 2013

Well, hello there. It’s been a while. A year or two? Must be two. I recall spending last year remodeling a bathroom during Pascha. No major remodels in the works this year, and I have been blessed with time to be present in church a lot more this year.

And here we are – the beginning of Pascha again. Today is Cheesefare Sunday! And at midnight, Great Lent begins.

From this week’s bulletin:

“Last Sunday we took leave of meat as we began to prepare ourselves for the Lenten season of fasting and prayer. Today, Cheesefare Sunday, is the last day on which we eat dairy products of any kind until Holy Pascha (May 5). The Great Fast begins tonight at midnight. The tradition of our Church teaches us that during the weekdays of Great Lent we abstain completely from meat, eggs, milk and milk products, fish, wine (i.e. all alcoholic beverages), and (for those who keep the fast in its fullest measure) olive oil. On weekends wine and olive oil may be eaten. Shellfish (i.e. any aquatic creature without a backbone) may be eaten throughout the fast. In addition to abstaining from prohibited foods, it is also the teaching of the Church that during Lent we should eat less, abstaining from some meals entirely if we have the strength to do so, and regulating the amount when we do eat. A good basic guideline is that when we finish a meal we should always feel that we could have eaten more. Our Holy Fathers teach us that a moderate amount of hunger, when combined with humility and repentance, makes us more attentive to prayer and gives us strength to combat the passions. During Lent it is also expected within our Faith that we will commit ourselves more deeply to personal prayer, attend the special services that are offered in the parish, give generously to the work of the Church and to the poor, and make our Confession. May God grant us a spiritually fruitful fast that leads us to repentance, spiritual renewal and the joy of Christís Resurrection!”

I am always so excited at the beginning of Lent. I look forward to spending extra time in prayer and enjoy the increased awareness of all I have that fasting provides. I feel like every time I stop and choose very deliberately to abstain from eating or drinking what is, essentially, ALWAYS available to me (because really, almost everything is almost always available), I gain an opportunity to turn my awareness more closely toward God.

I was sorry to miss Forgiveness Vespers today – traveling home from the beach. I participated a few years ago – it’s really an amazing service. At the end, we say to each other, “forgive me, a sinner.” When you say it over and over and have others say it to you, it really hits home, how often we need forgiveness, and how alike we all are in this.

I found a great blog about Forgiveness Vespers,

And now, on to very practical matters – what to eat tomorrow!? I’ll have to get back to you on that one…

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This is my last post – and a bit late, at that.

Well, this is it folks. It’s been great sharing my Lenten season with you. Bright Week has come and gone, and I just want to share a few more thoughts with you.

I wanted to write about all the services of Holy Week, and I didn’t even get through Holy Thursday. Well. Maybe next year. I did want to share a little bit about the SOYO vigil Holy Friday. Our SOYO (teen youth group), usually spends the night in the church on Friday night, reading psalms before the tomb of Christ. Typically, we put up a sign up sheet and adults sign up for shifts too, coming and going from the church at all hours. This year (remember the podcast by Khouria about the importance of preparing for Lent!), I failed to put up a sign-up sheet. And so, nobody did come this year. And only three teens could make it. So.

It was me, my son, Joey, and his friends, Jordan and Hannah.  And it was really wonderful. I participated in the vigil last year as a SOYO parent, and took turns reading psalms, but at that time, there were several adults who stayed the night and sat awake in the church, ALL NIGHT LONG! I don’t know how they did it. Anyway, my point here is, I was with others the whole time, in the church. Not this year. It was just impossible for us to cover the whole night and stay awake (three teens and a middle-aged woman who loves to sleep?). No way. No how.  So we took L-O-O-O-O-N-G shifts. Basically, two hours on, three hours off. That doesn’t sound long on paper, but when you’re reading psalms in a dark, quiet church, at three in the morning, trust me. It is.

Well, I have to say that it was amazing. First of all, most of the time I was reading, I was alone. Completely alone. The boys were sleeping in Father’s office and Hannah was up in the cry room, and it was just me and the psalms and the tomb of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

The church was silent, and my voice was both hushed and strong, ringing out into the silence of the church. I love the psalms, and I often say that they are beautiful, and many of them are, however, I don’t know if people realize that many of the psalms sound very militant. Here’s an example:

“36 You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
and my feet did not slip.
37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them,
and did not turn back till they were consumed.
38 I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise;
they fell under my feet.
39 For you equipped me with strength for the battle;
you made those who rise against me sink under me.
40 You made my enemies turn their backs to me, [5]
and those who hated me I destroyed.
41 They cried for help, but there was none to save;
they cried to the Lord, but he did not answer them.
42 I beat them fine as dust before the wind;
I cast them out like the mire of the streets.”

Wow! I don’t know as much about the Bible as I should, but I’m hoping this is metaphorical! Of course, there are also psalms of praise:

“1 I will extol thee, my God, O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever.
2 Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever.
3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable.
4 One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.
5 I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works.”

I also want to say that part of the amazing part for me is that three teenagers CHOSE to stay up most of the night, READING PSALMS IN CHURCH! Isn’t that awesome! Literally, as in “inspiring awe.” 

Now that Easter is over, the midnight liturgy, the Easter gathering of family and friends, the malted eggs and peeps all gone, (still hiding a few peanut butter eggs. hee hee.), life has returned to normal. I no longer have to think about everything I put in my mouth, I no longer fix multiple things for dinner to satisfy the fasting and non-fasting members of my family. There are no longer extra services I’m trying to attend.  But hopefully, I will carry this Lenten season with me now that Lent is over. Hopefully, I will carry with me the lessons I learned about myself and my relationship to God.

I have spent a lot of time working on forgiveness, both forgiving and being forgiven. As is so often the case, I have been presented with the opportunity to forgive someone who has wronged me and my family. This is not imaginary. This is a real, concrete and clear wrong. Done intentionally, and with the full intent of harming us, willfully and spitefully. Hmmmm. There is also a much smaller slight against me that I have been stewing about for a few days. Ironically, I was watching “Fiddler on the Roof” about a week ago, and the other night, after the first, more minor slight occurred, the song “Wonder of Wonders” got stuck in my head. And stayed there. And stayed there. And finally, it was gone yesterday morning. Then the big whopper came. The big, huge, serious wrong that has damaged us concretely. With clear spite and malice. And last night, the song came back. And I heard it in my head ALL NIGHT LONG, even in my dreams. And when I awoke this morning, I said, “ugh, why won’t this song go away!?” and then I remembered that I had prayed last night, asking God to help me forgive these people and to pray for them too, and I realized why I kept hearing the song over and over again! Here is the part of the song that was on autoplay:

But of all God’s miracles large and small,
The most miraculous one of all
Is the one I thought could never be:
God has given you to me.

And I knew that God had given them to me! To forgive, and to lift them up in prayer. And in lifting them up, I too, was lifted. And just like that, the song disappeared, and I couldn’t remember the sound of it even when I tried!

I want to end with a prayer here, but this is all I have (but perhaps, it’s all that’s really necessary).

“Thank You, Lord. Thank You.”

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It’s a miracle! I’m waking up early in the morning!

This is a post from Holy Thursday that I didn’t have time to finish:

I don’t know what’s going on, and really, it’s probably only a minor miracle, because it’s not really that early (6:30 am), but somehow, I keep spontaneously waking up before the alarm goes off, and NOT falling back asleep again. Generally speaking, my alarm goes off at 6:45am during the week. I shlep out of bed and make Joey and Maddy’s lunches, then return to bed as quickly as I am able so I can snooze some more. Joey comes in and says goodbye at 7:15-ish. Then I snooze some more. Then up at 7:40 am to wake Maddy. Then, snooze until 8 am. She comes up for breakfast, I walk her to the bus stop, then my day begins. Lately, it begins with a yoga class three days a week. Sometimes, with coffee with my friend, Lesley (woohoo for coffee (and a soak!) today!!!).

Now, in all fairness to me (all you people rolling your eyes at my morning laziness, you who practically spring out of bed at the break of dawn. You know who you are.), I generally don’t go to bed until midnight. And except for the 30 minute rest I take almost every day after lunch, I tend to move constantly during the day. So trust me when I say, getting up early is an accomplishment for me! But I take no credit for yesterday or today, it’s just a great thing really. I woke up at 6:30 am, before the alarm went off, and I didn’t even a little bit, feel like going back to sleep. This HARDLY EVER happens. And I’m glad it did, because the next few days tend to be a whirlwind!

First, let’s back up a little and talk about Holy Thursday.  As I said, there are two services on Holy Thursday.  The first is what the kids and I have always call the Pancake Liturgy, although I’m almost positive that there is another, much more official sounding name for it. I’ll look it up on the OCA (Orthodox Church in America) website in a minute. Obviously, the Pancake Liturgy, as its name implies, is a morning service. The second service is the Service of the Twelve Gospels. Yep. That’s right! Twelve. Gospels. Now I know what some of you are thinking (well, I really don’t, but I can guess. In any case, I know what I’m thinking): Wow, really, TWELVE Gospels! That’s Amazing. That’s Incredible. That’s really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really long (twelve reallys, I counted).

So, just what is this Pancake Liturgy all about (besides the pancakes). Basically it is a Divine Liturgy, but a breakfast is served in the hall, following the liturgy, and every year pancakes are served, hence the term, “Pancake Liturgy.” This Divine Liturgy commemorates four specific events leading up to Christ’s crucifixion. This is from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America website:

“On Thursday of Holy Week four events are commemorated: the washing of the disciples’ feet, the institution of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, the agony in the garden of Gethsemane, and the betrayal of Christ by Judas.”

Of course, the Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion) and the betrayal of Christ are pivotal events, but I would like to say something about the washing of the disciples feet, and the agony in the garden.  These two events really speak to me about my own relationship with God and Christ.

We learn in the church to serve others. I try to practice serving others in my own way, mostly by cooking for my family, but also in the way I help my friends. Nonetheless, I must say that I get a fair amount of esteem out of doing this. Often, when serving, I am praised, or I simply feel good about myself for what I am doing. However, when I serve people in less glamorous ways, I often feel much less than willing. For instance, when one of the kids has the stomach flu, and I’m cleaning up the kitchen floor at three in the morning. There is definitely no one there to appreciate my service. And I am not necessarily feeling very giving. No, not feeling very giving at all. I am pretty much grumbling, and not really feeling like I want to serve at all!

The example that Christ sets for us in all things, in the Bible, is truly remarkable. He speaks to our very humanity and shows us the way by His own actions. As parents, we are taught that “actions speak louder than words,” and that we should “teach by example.” And that is exactly what Christ does for us. There’s a reason why we speak of “God, the Father.” Like any good parent, He leads by example and shows us, by Christ’s actions, what is good for us.

Christ knelt at the feet of His disciples and washed their feet.  Many people in American culture may not understand the significance of this action. In Middle Eastern culture, you could insult someone, simply by showing them the bottom of your feet. The only people who typically washed someone else’s feet were the lowliest servants in the household. So for Christ, the leader of all these men, to get down on His knees before them, and unstrap their sandals and wash their feet, was an act of utter humility in service. Not just service. Humble service. When I contemplate this Scripture, I am humbled by it. I am reminded of how utterly wrapped in pride so many of my acts of service are, and of how unwilling I am to perform what I consider to be tasks beneath me.

What I love about Christ crying out in the garden, is the real humanity of His cry, “Lord take this cup from Me.” But then He goes on to say, “yet not My will, but Yours be done.” It’s so hard to say to God, not my will, but Yours be done,” when what I REALLY mean is,”please let Your will be the same as mine!”  But as I stated in a previous post, I have learned the error of my arrogance, and so, even though I quite naturally FEEL the desire to have God go along with whatever harebrained scheme I’ve got in mind, I would really prefer to submit my will to His. Really. I would. But this passage is a great reminder of my natural tendency, that is, my NATURE, which is full of arrogance, and quite foolish optimism toward my ability to make healthy choices all by my lonesome!  

“Thank You Lord, for the examples You provide. Thank You for Your guidance, Your patience and Your love.”

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