A Restoration

I always forget what binge watching, rich food, and alcohol right before bed do to me. I routinely ignore all those tips about how to get a good night’s sleep–no screens, no food, no caffeine, no alcohol–and then wonder why I can’t sleep all night.


Then, right on schedule, the church calendar reminds me that I was created for a higher purpose than watching too much and eating too much and drinking too much. My purpose is to be in communion with God and with my fellowmen and women, yet her I am, out of whack, off-kilter, unbalanced.

I need restoration in my relationship with God and with my fellowmen and women. How  exactly is this accomplished? Self-restraint, prayer, and giving.

Regarding self-restraint, the rules are clear. Orthodox folks are vegans for about half the year. Between the four fasting periods and the Wednesday and Friday cycle, we eat lots of beans and rice. Or pasta and sauce. Since we live in an era of plenty, this is not difficult.

What IS difficult is keeping the fast. Not because of food availability (you can get veggie burgers anywhere), but because of our tendency to rationalize our cravings: we often opt out of fasting, which is one of the greatest tools for spiritual growth.

Saying no to ourselves and our desires helps us say yes to God and to good things. Saying no to ourselves builds our souls and aligns them with God. Saying no to ourselves restores us to creation and to each other.

The other thing, prayer, is a gift from the church. It’s so hard to give up food and activities without putting something in its place. Voila! Church!

The first week of Lent is filled with the Canon of St. Andrew. The following five weeks, depending on the practice, has either two (OCA practice) or three (byzantine practice) or more church services to attend–Great Compline, Pre-Sanctified Liturgy, and the Akathist. The prayer rule at home changes with prostrations and additional prayers. For some of us, Lent reminds us again that personal prayer is as important as corporate prayer, so we renew our prayer rule at home.

This additional prayer restores our relationship with God and with each other. It humbles us. It reminds us who we are. It silences us.

Finally, giving helps us to see outside of ourselves.  In addition to our gifts to the church, the money we would have spent on meat, milk, eggs, and cheese is given to the poor. Some people say they spend more on lenten food than they do on non-lenten food; however, if you are eating simply, you will notice a big difference in your grocery bill. Instead of finding meat and dairy substitutes, eat in-season vegetables and grains. It won’t kill you, I promise.

Like the additional fasting and prayer, giving restores us to God and to each other. We see the person who is hungry not as a person who doesn’t work hard enough or a person who needs to prove they deserve food or a taker rather than a maker; rather, we see the person as a fellow traveler on the road of life who needs our help. We see the other person as an icon of God because that is what she is.

Great Lent only works if I work it. I see no change in my life if I fast but don’t pray, or if I give but don’t fast, or if I pray but don’t give. All these things are for our growth and for our change. They are for our restoration, to God and to each other.

Blessed Lent!

Sophie, the Graduate



Photo courtesy of the talented Bailey Archer

I didn’t want to home school her all the way through high school–really I didn’t. But here we are and the third child has up and graduated. There’s a grand graduation party in the works. She really blew us all away, what with her perfect grade point and scholarships for her academics and scholarships for her amazing voice.

Small, but mighty, that’s Sophie.

I spent the morning of the graduation making Spinach-Filo Roll-Ups for the reception after the graduation, and sloppy joes , potatoes, and cole slaw for our family dinner after that. Not content with one item in the food line, I had to try a new cake recipe  also, and of course, I had to quadruple the recipe, which ultimately led to the cake entering the oven right around the time we needed to leave in order to be there an hour before the ceremony.

I sent Mel and the kids out the door and begged the cake to hurry up and bake. Guess who left the house before it was done? Me. I turned off the oven with the not-quite-done-cake and hoped for the best.


Have you seen my mother?

As it turned out, I was there ten minutes before the ceremony, so I wasn’t super late. My tardiness proved to be my undoing, however. I sat at the end of the aisle rather than at the first seat. The diploma was on that first seat, which wasn’t important until we were ready to award her with said diploma. From across the room.

Having no way to retrieve the diploma and since she was the first one to receive her diploma, we walked on stage without it.Guess who got a hug instead of her diploma?


Awkward attempt to disguise our forgetfulness.

It all ended well, though. Mel snuck it over to her–I’m sure no one noticed–and she walked across the stage after that tassel was moved and after the class (of nine!) was introduced. Our beautiful third baby, all grown up and stuff.


We match!

Many blessed years, kid. Many blessed years!

P.S. The cake was delicious, by the way. It lasted for a whole week.

Getting Ready for Christmas

I am such a tree hugger! I just love recycling, especially blog posts.

What's Cooking

IMG_6857 Comfort Christmas, 2012

It is almost November, and around here, that means it is time to get ready for Christmas. Now before you envision me hanging lights, putting up a tree, and baking cookies, let me  clarify. In the Orthodox  church, our Christmas preparation is spiritual and has three disciplines: restraint from certain foods, increased almsgiving, and additional prayer. These three disciplines help us to focus on what really matters during the Christmas season–Jesus Christ.

The first thing I do to prepare for fasting is a fridge and pantry evaluation. It’s important to figure out how much fasting food I need to purchase because it’s really hard to fast if you don’t have good food on hand. There are six of us eating, so I buy in bulk. I make sure to have a 3-liter container of olive oil, half gallon of honey, 5 # of peanut butter, a variety of legumes…

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Do Not Power Off: Installing Update 24 of 183.

2014 Oktoberfest with Addelaide

2014 Oktoberfest with Adelaide in tow.

I make these ridiculous deals with myself about not doing X until Y is complete, which is exactly why I haven’t written all summer.

At some point, probably in July, I decided that I would not write until we closed on the house and had photos of the new house, at which point I planned to blog about how bad the house looked, how we were going to renovate it, and many other exciting how to things.

I neglected to think about how I would cope with nothing going my way:

Like the time our loan company wanted every scrap of paper in the house faxed to them. Twice. With signatures and initials.

Or the time we had a garage sale on the hottest day of the year, and 20 people came, which includes the Amish neighbors and their 13 kids.

Or the time my mom backed into my garage door two days before the house went on the market.

Or the time we mowed the tomatoes because who needs tomatoes?

Or the time we had our first showing on the second hottest day of the year, and our house is without benefit of air conditioning.

Or the time the entire state cancelled all poultry exhibits. Oh, wait. That was good news.

Or the time the loan company wanted our second born child as collateral. Faxed and signed.

Or the time I decided to not sign up the kid for travel team soccer since we would be moving, and then we didn’t move.

Or the time we were supposed to close in August.

Or the time the potential buyers cancelled the appointment to make an offer one hour before said appointment. During fair week.

Or the time it was discovered that the septic for the new house was old, and we had to pay for a new one.

Or the time that I had to tell the loan company it was unjust to charge us $400 additional dollars every 14 days to hold a rate that was too high anyway because everything about septics and permits and signatures was completely out of our hands.

Or the time we didn’t close in September.

Or the time that the cook for the festival had to work all week, so I was the fill-in cook for five, 12-hour days in a row, even though my only qualifications are that I love food and I love talking about food.

Or about the time I ruined my favorite pair of jeans being fill-in cook.

Or the time that everyone in the county had to sign papers and couldn’t figure out how to walk down the hall and hand it to the next person to sign.

Or the time that I contacted the utility company and put the utility in our name because we were closing, then had to pay the bill even though we hadn’t closed.

Or the time that I had to call the loan company and explain the process of how the property description is recorded AFTER papers are signed, and that for real people! Just let us get on with it!

Or the time we thought we were going to close in two days, and it’s the best birthday present every, and really, I am sorry for not writing.

It’s just that I’ve been a little busy with things not going my way.

The Best Meal Ever

Thanks, Kayla for the great photos! Here’s my favorite meal that I will be making for myself today.

What's Cooking

ellie and yummy food Ellie likes meatloaf! (Photo by Kayla)

From A Christmas Story:

Randy: “Meatloaf, smeatloaf, double-beatloaf. I hate meatloaf.”
The Old Man: “All right, I’ll get that kid to eat. Where’s my screw driver and my plumber’s helper? I’ll open up his mouth and I’ll shove it in.”

When I was  a kid, my favorite meal was meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, and baked beans. My mom made this meal on Sundays and any other days that necessitated a ready dinner upon arrival. She made the scalloped potatoes in a big blue roaster and the baked beans in a 1970s avocado green oval casserole dish, both of which she still owns. The beauty of this combination is that it’s filling for growing teenagers, and it can all be baked in the oven at once, which frees you up for an hour or so to do something fun. Like laundry.

Here’s my take on…

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Chili, Vegetarian or Not, Here We Come!


Disclaimer: This photo has nothing whatsoever to do with chili. The chili photos looked disgusting, so we are going with BBQ photos from our family vacay in GA. #notarealfoodblogger #ohwell (Photo by Troy Wilson)

The season of soup has arrived, or at least the season has shown itself. Lower temperatures scream, “Make banana bread, bake cookies, eat soup!” These voices are heard only by those who do not inhabit air conditioned houses, which is why most people make breads, cookies, and soups year round. For the rest of us who avoid using the oven and high heat when it’s crazy hot, this time of year is so much fun.

Last night, I made vegetarian chili since it was Friday. Today, I fried up some ground beef, added chili powder when it was finished, then threw in about a cup of medium salsa and let that cook for five minutes. I added that goodness to the vegetarian chili, and we had an awesome lunch with very little effort.

If you don’t have leftover vegetarian chili in your fridge, here is a basic chili recipe. I’m pretty sure everyone has their own standby variety, but my kids use the blog, so this is for you guys, Bailey and E-hee.

Chili (serves 8-10)

2 pounds grass fed beef

2 onions, diced

1 cup peppers, diced (I use a few bell peppers and at least one hot pepper)

1 can (4 oz.) of chopped chilis

1 tsp. cocoa powder

1 Tbsp. cumin

3 Tbsp. chili powder

1 Tbsp. oregano

1.5-3 tsp. salt (or less)

1/2 tsp. pepper

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 cans (28 oz. each) diced tomatoes

2 cans (15 oz.) kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups of water (or more)

squirt of honey

  1. In a frying pan, brown ground meat on medium high heat until cooked through. Do NOT drain the fat if it’s grass fed beef; if not grass fed, drain the oil into a container and throw it away when it is cool.
  2. At the same time in a soup pot, sauté the onions and peppers on medium heat until the onion is translucent. When that’s finished, add the can of diced chilis, juice and all.
  3. Add cocoa powder, cumin, chili powder, oregano, salt, pepper, and garlic to the onion/pepper mixture. Sauté on a medium heat until the herbs are fragrant (about 4-5 minutes).
  4. Combine the meat mixture with the onion/pepper mixture in the soup pot. Add tomatoes, drained and rinsed beans, water and honey. Stir until mixed and set the heat on medium heat.
  5. Stir frequently until heated through. Serve with grated cheddar, sour cream, corn bread, and saltine crackers.

With Lemon


Three beauties

Ethan requested the lemon chicken recipe and the lemon rice recipe when we last talked on the phone–I guess he has a hankering for lemon. I make lemon chicken when there’s an occasion to celebrate. Both recipes are guaranteed to make little and big kids very happy.

Broiled Lemon Garlic Chicken (The Joy of Cooking) 4 servings

1/4 cup strained fresh lemon juice (or from the bottle if you’re desperate)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. dijon mustard

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

4 chicken breasts, defrosted

1. Mix ingredients for marinade in a flat container, suitable for holding the meat.

2. Rinse, pat dry, and cut  chicken breasts into strips. Place strips into marinade, turn to coat well, and refrigerate, covered, for one to three hours. Honestly, I’ve even let it in the marinade for 20 minutes, and it’s been great; however, do NOT exceed three hours: lean meats (like chicken) will get tough in a marinade if left for too long.

3. Turn oven on high broil, put strips on the broiling pan, and bake on each side for 4-6 minutes.

4. This is great as a main dish for a meal, but the leftovers are awesome on salad, pizza, or just straight up cold from the container.