Sunday, November 04, 2018

Sausage, a Praying Mantis, and Fruit Cake

This was a very busy day.  At church today I cooked lunch.  Father Basil was gone but there was still a big crowd.  I cooked super hot cajun sausage and cut it up and put toothpicks in it for an appetizer.  Then I had a couple of big trays of bratwurst and polish sausages in sauerkraut, and then a huge platter of Italian sausage in caramelized onions.  Someone else made dessert, and someone else made a salad, and someone else made mashed potatoes.  It was a good meal for the last Sunday before the start of the Nativity fast.

Kathleen is so pretty.  Is it wrong to feel pride when she goes to church with me?  I feel like I got the pretty girl.

After church I dropped Anselm Samuel off at work then picked up Basil at his mother's house (it used to be my house) and we went and worked in the garden.  He pulled out the last of the summer squash vines, cut them up and put them in the compost bin, and helped me plant radishes.  It might be too late in the year to try for radishes.  We'll see how it goes. 

We watched a huger praying mantis hunting.  It spied a flower stalk covered in aphides from about 15 feet away and slowly moved toward it, and up it, and began feasting on the aphids.  It was fun to watch.   I am pretty amazed that it saw the aphids from so far away.

After working in the garden we set to work making fruitcakes.   The first time I made fruit cake was 10 years ago.  It is hard to believe the time goes by so quickly.  I didn't cause any explosions this year but I did burn the hair off the back of my hand when the whiskey in the oven flashed.  Basil and I made 12 fruitcakes.  We'll make more throughout the month and give them away on Christmas.

It has been a long day and I have a hundred fifty kids to teach tomorrow.  Goodnight.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

This and That

This morning I took out the tomato vines.  There were lots of green tomatoes but the days are too short and cool so they weren't getting ripe.  I planted garlic in their place.  Then I emailed an assignment to a professor.  I am taking a break from grad school now until I finish this internship.  Lots of paper I have to write while doing it.  No way to work on a masters degree at the same time.

Last weekend we harvested most of the squash and took those vines out.  Parsnips, carrots, and radishes were planted in their place.  There is still one acorn squash and two spaghetti squash ripening.  Maybe another week before they are ready to pick.

The potatoes were a bust.  After all that care we just got 9 little potatoes.  I think it is because I used store-bough potatoes for seed.  I heard they spray those with a hormone to keep them from reproducing.  In the spring I'll make sure to use seed potatoes from a nursery and not just buy them at the super market.

Basil Wenceslas, Kathleen,  her kids, and I are going to Half Moon Bay today to get pumpkins; we always go here.  Maybe you, dear reader, remember seeing the picture from when my boys were little.  I made a picnic for us.  Sharp white cheddar and romain with homemade curry mayo (cumin, carlic, tumeric) on baguette, braeburn apples, San Pelegrino, potato salad (my sister's recipe.  I'll post it later.), some of the pickles I made back in the summer, and for desert Daelman's caramel bites.

After that we are going to vespers in Felton.  I am so excited about this.  It will be the first time in months and months since my boy has been in church.  I worry and pray so much my lips are wearing out.

Well, it is time to go get in the car and drive over the hill.

Friday, October 05, 2018

A Garden Update

We have taken out the the cucumber vines and most of the tomato vines.  The pumpkins, cantaloupe, and watermelons have all been harvested.  There are still a few tomatoes ripening on a couple of vines.  We have acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash growing.  Actually, the butternut are, probably, ready to pick now.  I know the potatoes are ready.  Tomorrow, when son #4 is here we'll harvest them.  That should be fun.  A few Days ago Basil and I planted a row of cabbage.  Once all the tomatoes are gone we'll plant more.

It seems the prayers and the lithium have been helping Basil.  He is happier and his personality seems to be back to normal, the way he was three years ago.  I still worry and pray.  Last weekend he and I did all night security at the parish festival.  It was good.  We just played games all night.  The best part was vespers.  I think it was the first time since Holy Week he's been to church.

Anselm is working at Starbucks and going to school.  He seems to be doing well.  It is hard to know.  I worry about the friends he is making.  I don't know them but we live in Sodom or Ephesus.  I pray to St. Michael for him constantly.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

A blog for school

One of the classes I am taking at National University has me writing a blog.  If you are interested, you can take a look at it here

Monday, August 20, 2018

Have Internship. Will teach.

Last week I worked three days as a sub at a middle school.  It was a lot of fun.  Not at all like the bad school I subbed in last March.  That was a hideous affair and I wasn't sure I'd ever be a teacher after that month.  I had to file three sexual harassment complaints, a student going through a gang initiation tried to have me fired, one girl put another in the hospital.  It was the worst ever.  I felt like a total failure at the end of that assignment.  But when I walked into work last Wednesday the Principal greeted me and told me she and all the other principals in the district had heard about what a great job I did at that school and that she was amazed I lasted more than two weeks (no teacher had made it even one week in that class) and that she was thrilled to have me at her school.  Then last Friday she offered me a job for the rest of the year.  So, I have an emergency  internship credential (so I won't have to work unpaid for a semester) and meet the requirement for a real teacher credential.  When I told my students today they all clapped and gave me flowers.  It was surprising, to say the least.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Secret Christian Man

I had two conversations in code with students today. 

Incident 1.
Me: "Your name is Lydia. Do you like purple?"
Her: "Yes, how did you know?"
Me:  "I just did."
And three students pulled crosses out of their shirts.

Incident 2.
Him: "I chose the tulip."
Me: "Why did you choose the tulip."
Him: "Because of how it was designed."
Me: "Designed?
Him: "Yes, designed."
We looked at each other silently, just for a heartbeat, and each knew the other knew. He looked relieved.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

A High School Graduate

Well, he did it.  It took three months of intense study but Anselm Samuel passed the CHSPE and he is free of high school two years early.  He spent all summer working at Camp Hi-Sierra so he wasn't home when his diploma arrived in the mail a couple of weeks ago. 



I had wanted him to start next week at  SVAE to learn to be a welder (it pays about $20 to $30 per hour in California; not bad for a 16 year old.) but the classes conflict with his Boy Scout schedule.  He is on a pretty tight schedule with them to make Eagle Scout rank before he is 18 (He has earned Star Scout rank over the spring and summer.  along the way he also picked up the 1 mile swim patch, the lifeguard patch, the gardening merit badge, and the lifeguard merit badge) so, he has delayed welding at SAE until January, when he will be able to take a 13 week break from the weekly troop meetings and complete the welding program.  So, what is he going to do until January?  Well, today he applied to De Anza College, where both I (liberal arts, 1992) an and my mother (early childhood education,1978) went to school.  He says he wants to study something technical, such as machining or automotive, it depends on what classes have openings.  He has already arranged to try out for the water polo, wrestling, and rifle teams. 

But I am worried.  I am worried because one of my neighbors is a 15 year old girl and she has her sights set on my son.  That wouldn't be a big worry for me if he was already trained and in a career.  But he isn't.  So, I am pushing the welding program in the Spring.  Boys Scouts will work around his schedule in the spring but they can't do it in the fall, and because the welding classes are at night they won't interfere with his day classes at De Anza.  Oh, he looks like a man, he sounds like a man, but he is just 16 and not ready for life.  I have to hurry.  I really wish I had the money to send him to St Herman Seminary in Kodiak for a year so he could do the reader program and find an Orthodox girl.  Why can't there be any girls his age in my parish?!

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Today in my life: Pickles, Tomahawks, and a Name Day.

I woke up this morning to the smells of Kathleen making breakfast.  Coffee, omelette with baccon, cheese, bell peppers, and onions. They are the best omelettes I have since I was in the Army.  Truly amazing. (We are on day two of the Dormition Fast but I do not keep the fasts.  Because of my living situation it feels pharisaical when I fast.  But maybe fasting would help me solve this problem.  I don't know.)

Kathleen and I moved one of the watermelon vines, watered, and picked tomatoes cucumbers and summer squash.  I ate a couple of the squash then pickled two pints of squash and cucumbers.  Then I cleaned Anselm Samuel's rifle, sharpened the the boys' tomahawks (One could shave with them now), smoked my pipe, and read the day's entry in the Prologue of Ohrid.
Today is my youngest son's Name Day.  He is named for St. Basil of Moscow.  I think I'll pray an Akathist for him now.  Oh, and I have to finish a TPA.
Today's Harvest

Tomahawks

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Summer So Far

Kathleen and tri-tip
Billy and I
Kathleen at Light House
I've taken three trips so far this summer.   The first trip was Paso Robles, Santa Maria, and Pismo Beach.  I think that was in early June.   In Paso Robles we visited my son Billy's grave and prayed for him.  Even saying his name hurts.  In Santa Maria we ate tri-tip at Shaw's.  in Pismo Beach we played in the ocean.  We drove down on Hwy 101.  The drive home through the Santa Lucia Mountains and Santa Cruz Mountains was much longer but beautiful.  But it was also sad to see gorgeous productive farmland in Monterey county being turned into tract houses.  Before actually heading into the Santa Clara Valley we spent one night with a Kathleen's friend who lives on on the overlook La Selva Beach.

The second trip I wrote about a few days ago.

The third trip was to San Mateo County where we drove through mountains, ate a molten chocolate bundt cak Alice's Restaurant, visited a goat farm, played at the tide pools where Kathleen gathered salt at an evaporated pool, ate amazing artichoke soup, and visited a light house.  This might be the best day I've had in a year.  It's hard to believe it was all done in one day.


At the goat farm
Oysters and Artichoke Soup
In other news, Anselm Samuel (AKA the little boy) got his CHSPE results and is now a high school graduate two years ahead of schedule.  He will start a welding or machining course in a few days when he gets back from the Boy Scouts Camp Hi-Sierra, where he has been working as a life guard for the past few weeks.  This is a big achievement.  But his life has been full of achievements.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Service Schedules

I was just thinking, "I wish there were a vesper service going on right now that I could go to". Then I had this idea, and I think it's a pretty good one: All of the Silicon Valley parishes could change their calendars so that their mid-week vespers services happen on different days of the week. 

There could be a schedule like this: 


Monday: Reedeemer (Los Altos Hills), St. James (Milpitas) and Holy Cross (San Jose)

Tuesday: St. Herman (Sunnyvale) and St. Michael (Saratoga)

Wednesday: St. Basil (San Jose), Holy Virgin (Palo Alto), and St. Christina (Fremont)

Thursday: St. Stephen (Campbell) and Nativity of the Theotokos  (Menlo Park)

Friday: St. Nicholas (Saratoga) and St. Nicholas (San Jose)

of course, everyone already does services Saturday night and Sunday morning, and that means - BOOM! - the whole valley has coverage!

Sunday, July 08, 2018

A little vacation in a free RV

Kathleen, her kids, and I went to Donner lake for a week.  We left San Jose last Sunday after church and drove in a motor home.  Let me tell you about the motor home.  We got it from https://www.freervrental.com/ and it was a dream.  It has less than 60,000 miles on it, everything works, it is super well equipped with everything you can imagine needing on a camping trip, (I especially like the outdoor rug the company provided so we could sit out side and not get dirty.), and it is spotless.  This company is so excellent that Kathleen did a lecture about them in her economics class.  We get one more free week.  I can't wait for Kathleen to tell me where were are going to go next.

We had to pick up the RV in Morgan Hill so, from there we left the bay are via the Pacheco Pass over the Diablo Mountains.  Of course, we stopped at Casa de Fruta.  It was the first time Kathleen and her kids had ever been there.  It was fun to watch them enjoy it for the first time.

Coming down into the San Juaqin Valley I began to feel very nostalgic.  Sometimes, I think California holds too many memories for me and that is why i have to leave.  If there were people in my life to whom I could say, "remember when Uncle Fred burned himself with the pressure cooker?" Or "remember when Bryan and I  went swimming in the pigs' watering hole?"  Or "remember when I taught Billy and Devon to shoot a pistol in the eucalyptus grove?"  "Remember when Ken almost drown in that irrigation canal?" "Remember when the fog was so thick on 99 that everyone had to drive 5 miles per hour?" But my parents are  dead.  I don't see my siblings much.  I'm divorced from the women with whom I made the most memories.  My oldest son is dead.  I haven't seen my second son in years.  So, here in  California there are a thousand things each day that prompt me to ask, "remember when?" but there is no one to answer.  But I still have a couple of decades left, maybe.

Kathleen took me somewhere I have never been; someplace that doesn't make me remember anything.  For this trip we stayed at Tahoe Donner.  Kathleen's dad (He's a real knight.  Not something you come across very often in America.) owns a house there so she is a member and has access to all the amenities. For example, we parked the RV, ate most of our dinners, and played volleyball and table tennis at the campground. We swam, saunaed, jacuzzied, steam roomed, and flopped on super comfy couches at the Trout Creek center.  We swam, and ate pizza (my first pizza in a very long time.  I won't do that again.), played bocce ball, and shot arrows at the Northwoods Clubhouse.   On Independence Day we drove up to the top of the ski slopes at Tahoe Donner and watch the fireworks over the lake.

A friend from Reno came up the mountain and spent one afternoon with us at the Northwoods Clubhouse.  Another day we walked around Truckee.  One morning we went fishing but were not successful.  I am sure our poor angling performance was due more to all the powerboats on the lake than any lack of fishing skill on our part.  Kathleen and I left her kids at the campground and went to Reno for a couple of hours.  We took some pictures under the famous sign on Virginia Street.  Had coffee in one of the casinos but did not gamble.  The best part of Reno was buying old post cards at an antique store to mail to Sons 3 and 4 (Son three is staff at a Boy Scout camp all summer and Son 4 is not well enough to travel.  Although the doctors have him on lithium now and he seems to be doing better.) ,  Kathleen bought a wallet for me there, and I bought her a turquoise necklace.  Oh, I can't forget stopping on a tiny Indian reservation to buy pipe tobacco.  It was 40% less than I would pay in California and the profits went to the descendants of the first people who grew tobacco.  It was a win-win!  We also went to Squaw Valley and listened to a blues band in the little village.  They might have sounded better if we had been drinking.

We cooked out over a fire almost every night.  My food is kind of boring now - just meat and low carb vegetables - so I won't write much about it.  But I did make some desserts for Kathleen's kids.  I showed them how to wrap bananas, marshmallows, and chocolate chips in aluminum foil and set it in the hot coals to cook.  I helped them make s'mores almost every night.  I also tried to make a giant chocolate chip cookie in a skillet over the fire, but I forgot to adjust for altitude.  It came out like a giant souffle!  Everyone said it was amazing good but it wasn't what I was trying to make.  Oh, well.

On the way home from the mountains today I stopped in Roseville to pray at St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church.  It is a beautiful town; clean like San Diego or Disney World.  And the church was super welcoming.  There is something so beautiful and comforting to walk through the doors and instantly be in Heaven.


Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Memorial Day, 10 Years for Billy, and Some Other Things






On Memorial Day Kathleen and her children, Anselm (aka the little boy), and I went to the grave yard and heard some speeches, saw the local politicians, and honored the fallen.  It was good.  This year we sat in the shade.  There was a female Air Force sergeant who sang the Star Spangled Banner.  It was the best job singing it I ever heard.  She sang it exactly as written; no embellishments.  I appreciate that.  It's the national anthem, and to jazz it up is the equivalent of jazzing up the Flag or the Great Seal.  It shouldn't be done.  Kathleen's son and daughter enjoyed climbing into the tanks and helicopters more than the speeches.  My son seemed more interested in a female bagpiper.

On Pentecost, Anselm and I drove up to San Francisco for the Vigil at Holy Trinity Cathedral.   It was good to see so many old friends.  Anselm's godmother didn't recognize him!


Last Wednesday was the 10th year since my oldest son died.  It was hard.  There is not a day that goes by that I do not weep for him.  The sorrow and regret is always just below the surface.  People said when he died that it would get better.  I think what they really meant is that I would just get used to the pain.  It doesn't go away.   My friend Jeff (the same Jeff I used to blog with), my oldest brother, my sister, Anselm, Kathleen, her children, and some people from the parish came together to pray the Trisagion for the Departed for my son Billy.



On the weekend of All Saints Day Anselm was at Camp Hi Sierra going through his Ordeal.  He made it to the end and is now, just like like Archbishop Benjamin, a member of the Order of the Arrow.  I am proud of him.
Kathleen posing with the latino big-butt  manequins
Ski-Ball


On the Sunday of All Saints I over-slept!  I don't know how but I slept right through my alarm and didn't wake up until 10 minutes after the Divine Liturgy had started.  So, Kathleen and I went to the flea market.  The San Jose Flea market is the largest open air market in the United States and has been in operation since 1960.  It was my first time to be there since before i started kindergarten.  I still remember going all those years ago.  I remember the plastic swords my cousin Brian and I got but that is about all.  It was 45 or 46 years ago.

Kathleen bought me some hurache sandals (as mentioned in the Beach Boys song).  She bought herself some camping chairs.  We played ski-ball. We got some avocados and mangoes for lunch. 


Basil Swimming.  It is deep.
Yesterday Basil, my youngest son felt like getting out of bed so we went down to the creek where he swam and we worked on a fort.  Mainly we cleared brush.  He has plan to plant bamboos for walls.  The water is polluted with all kinds of chemicals and heavy metals, but I am just so happy any day he is brave enough to get out of bed.  I think it will work out okay.             
The geese were nonplussed


  Oh!  I should mention that Kathleen did something pretty neat the other day.  For almost 30 years I have been buying The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco as a present for people.  I think it is one of the best books ever written.  Well, the other day the author was in town and Kathleen went to the book signing and got a copy of the book autographed for me!  Isn't that sweet?


Kathleen with Patricia Polacco












Sunday, May 13, 2018

Sons and Gardening

Anselm and me at Scout-O-Rama
Anselm Samuel seems to be doing okay.  He spends a lot of time with me now.  We work on math and English so he can pass the CHSPE.  Why the CHSPE?  Because in the years since the divorce he has failed lots of classes and has no way to complete high school before he ages out.  But when, he passes the CHSPE he will get a high school diploma and be able to enroll in a community college.  Right now he says he is interested in welding program at Cabrillo College.  It would be pretty amazing if he winds up with a high school diploma and a welding certificate before he is even 18 years old.  He didn't know what he wanted to do until he looked at help wanted ads and saw a local company's ad: "Perfect job for new welders! No experience necessary! Just pass the drug test and start working tomorrow. $26 per hour to start."


A shot of most of the garden
Watermelon vines

Yesterday was the Scout-O-Rama.  (I remember the first one we went to, when Anselm was six years old and Basil was two.) Anselm went yesterday and had a good time.  Basil would not leave the house. I couldn't even get him to leave his bedroom.  I am very worried about him.

Basil is not doing well.  I won't say a lot about it here.  He is not thriving.  In fact, I think it is accurate to say that he is withering.  I have had to step back from trying to help him because it was only giving him an opportunity to act out.  I no longer invite him to do anything with me.  All I can do for him now is pray.  I pray akathists for him and have him commemorated at liturgies. I informed his godmother of the situation so she can pray too.  Other than that, I don't know what to do.  His mother and I disagree even regarding the root problem; there can be no team effort regarding the solution.

Our garden is doing okay.  I enjoy working in it.  It's not a farm but it is good enough for now.  The first tomatoes were harvested last night.  Many more are on the vines and will be ripe soon.  That's pretty amazing considering it is only mid-May.  The watermelons are doing amazing.  Anselm started them from seeds the last week of February and they are ready for transplant.  I think I might not have enough ground for them; watermelon vines grow long.

We weren't going to plant corn this year but Anselm really wanted to.  So I gave him a pot and some

Corn and beans
soil.  It sprouted a couple of weeks ago.  Then one day, when I was out watering, I remembered the story of Squanto.  So I planted a bean at the base of each corn stalk.  Now the beans have come up.  I hope the corn starts growing faster or else the beans won't have a stalk to climb!

Of course, we have planted lots of wild flowers for the bees and butterflies.  I've seen a few of each.  Not as many as when I was a boy.  I learned an interesting fact yesterday while at the Scout-O-Rama:  As late as 1960 fully 60% of the western hemisphere's fruits and vegetables were grown in the Santa Clara Valley, where I live now.  I know change is inevitable, but I have trouble seeing concrete, tract houses, skyscrapers, and freeways, and tilt-up computer factories as progress when it means bulldozing fruit trees and ridding the valley of bumble bees and butterflies.
Red leaf lettuce.

Romain lettuce
Kathleen planted lettuce.  She likes to munch on it when she's in the garden.  None has yet made it to the table, but it makes her happy.

We also have three kinds of squash, two kinds of cucumbers, cantaloups, onion, leeks, two kinds of sunflowers, garlic (I use the garlic in the kitchen all the time.), sage, and oregano growing.  Today I bought two grape vines: merlot and zinfandel.  We had some last year but we had to pull them up because of a virus.  I'll sprinkle the new vines with holy water and ask God to protect them.  Hmmm.  I wonder if Fr. Basil blesses gardens?





Wednesday, April 11, 2018

After Pascha and a Peanut Butter Pie Recipe

Pascha was glorious, as per usual.  I had many obstacles to attending holy week services but I was able to make it to the Thursday night Matins of 12 Gospels.  I was at a little Romanian parish in East San Jose. Beautiful building but the whole service was in Romanian. It wasn't a problem for me since I know the service but I think they are going to have trouble growing in that neighborhood.  That side of the city is mostly Spanish and Vietnamese speaking.  But, it was gorgeous, and heartbreaking, no matter the language.

On Saturday night Kathleen and Anselm went with me to Paschal Matins and Divine Liturgy at St. Nicholas.  Then on Sunday afternoon was Agape Vespers.  Then, and I think this was the first year to do it, I attended Bright Monday's Paschal Divine Liturgy.  I really enjoyed the procession around the outside of the church building with the four stops to read the resurrection accounts from the Gospels..

I changed the paskha recipe.  In years past I have had a problem with it being too soft.  So, this year, I made it a day earlier, added 8 oz of cream cheese, cut the farmers cheese by 50%, and doubled the amount of sour cream.  It turned out close to perfect.  I also made two peanut butter pies for the pot luck after Agape Vespers.   Here is the recipe for peanut butter pie.

Use two Keebler chocolate pie crusts or make your own. The filling is one cup of creamy peanut butter, 8 oz cream cheese, 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar beaten together, then fold in 8 oz of cool whip (refrigerated but not frozen).  The filling is enough for two pies.  Top with whipped cream.  I like to whip 8 oz of heavy cream with 1/4 cup powdered sugar.  That way it doesn't separate as quickly as it would otherwise.

One of the things I am enjoying about Bright Week is praying the Paschal Hours instead of the usual prayers.  It is a welcome break from looking up the daily troparia, the Psalms, the hymns and prayers for the weekly commemorations, etc. every time I pray.  That reminds me:  years ago, Jeff asked me how I could stand singing the same songs and praying the same prayers and singing the same songs all the time, and I was amazed.  Gosh, so much changes, depending on the day of the week, the day of the year, the liturgical season, that this calmness of unchanging glory during Bright Week is a welcome sameness.  It is a happy resting period.

In other news, my long term assignment at the bad school is over, and I am back in Palo Alto for the week.  I really like it here.  And this morning I found out that, in a survey of all the teachers in the district, I am one of their highest rated substitutes.  That makes me happy.  I want to find out what I am doing that they like so much so I can keep on doing it.

And finally, I have now made it through the two biggest drinking holidays (Nativity and Pascha) without a drop of alcohol passing my lips.  It. is not easy.  Every day I think about drinking again.  But I don't.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Getting Ready for Pascha

The paskha and kulich have been made.  I changed the Kulich recipe a little but this year.  I added cream cheese and more sour cream, and reduced the amount of farmers cheese.  Hopefully, it turns out okay.  It was weird to only use four ounces of brandy then pour out the rest of the bottle but that is what I have to do now.  (The desire to drink is unrelenting.  Other people have told me that it gets better with time.  I hope they are right.)  Anyway, we are getting ready for Pascha, as much as I can, anyway.  (I'm not really part of the Church because of my living situation.  It is difficult, but St. Paul was not ambiguous.  I hope I figure out a path forward soon.  I need Communion, and I need Holy Unction.) In addition to the paskha and kulich, today I bought Karoun braided cheese, the Molinari salami, and sardines for the boys' Pascha baskets.  Sadly, I have no red eggs or an opportunity to make them.  I don't have time for the onion method, and I went to the one store I thought might have the red dye but they said they ran out yesterday.  I love the store, The International Food Bazaar, though.  It might be my new favorite place.  Of course, the day after the Catholic's and Protestants' Easter I took advantage of the clearance sales and bought some chocolate bunnies, Cadbury creme eggs, and Reese's peanut butter eggs (those are the best!) for their, baskets.  Well, Matins of the 12 Gospels is about to start so I had better stop writing in my blog and get ready.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

No Hats. No Food. No Drinks. No Talking.

My First Day
I'm back at the bad school. They offered me a long term assignment teaching 8th graders for an extra $15 per day.  I accepted the offer and started today.  It was a rough beginning.  I have 17 kids on lunch time detention tomorrow.  And I have one female student who keeps saying obscene things, and even touched me.  I didn't get a chance to talk to the principle about it today, but as long as I report her within 24 hours I'm okay.  Its just annoying to have to deal with that kind of crap.

So, about the class:  It's four periods of kids who have grave difficulty reading.  Many of them just misbehave to avoid having to do any school work.  And don't even think about asking them to rad aloud.  Today was all about getting to know them and letting them get used to me.

So, what is the deal with me doing a long term assignment as a substitute when there are credentialed experienced teachers available?  How is this possible?  This is how it works.  The State of California gives the school district money for each student.  But these are lousy students.  9/10 of them are going to drop out as soon as they are legally old enough.  They've been getting F's since the 3rd grade and are going to get F's no matter who their teacher is.    And they are trouble.  Two of my students got in to a serious fight today.  One girl sent the other to the hospital with a concussion.  And did I mention I have 17 kids doing lunch time detention tomorrow?  The school district just needs to be able to say they are doing the legally required minimum to educate these kids.  So, why should the school district hire a credentialed teacher for these kids when they can hire a bunch of subs and pocket the difference? 

I am not complaining.  I like my job and I am happy with the money.  Who I feel sorry for are the kids who are really good kids and who want to learn but are stuck in classes like mine.  For example, I have this Ethiopian girl who just seems terrified by her classmates.  I grouped her with two other okay kids today.  I hope they are able to concentrate on their work and ignore all the garbage that goes on in the classroom.

And yes, that is my Phi Theta Kappa pin in the picture.  I've been a member since I was a sophomore at De Anza College back in 1991.  This is the first time I've worn the pin.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

It isn't the money and it isn't race: Good and bad schools

As a substitute teacher working all over the county and teaching in 7th to 12th grade classrooms I have a little bit of insight into why some schools are good and why some are bad.  This is what I have noticed.  It isn't the money.

There is one little town, Gilroy, near the southern edge of the county that is 99.9% Latino.  I have subbed in their high school, their middle school, and their very tiny "continuation school", e.g. the school for problem kids.  And it is a joy.  The students, for the most part are engaged, excited to learn, and not a disciplinary problem.  There are always one or two problem kids in every school but even at the continuation school the students seem diligent and focused on getting the work done and earning their diplomas.  I love teaching there.

And I have subbed in Palo Alto, Saratoga, Cupertino and Los Gatos the richest areas in the county where most of the students are Chinese, White, and Indian.  And the students are even more focused than they are in Gilroy.  It is not unusual for me to walk into a classroom in those schools and find half of the students already at their desks a quarter hour before the bell rings. (I should ask them how they get into the classrooms?)  Its a little bit boring for me, since the kids already know everything and don't really need me but these cities are a huge and needed break for me when I spend day after day at another city's schools. 

Those schools are, for the most part, hideous.  No, I don't mean the buildings.  Those are well maintained.  And I don't mean the teachers. they are, as far as I can tell, competent. (Though some of them are too political; decorating their classrooms with propaganda.) The problem is the students.  Like Gilroy the population is mostly Latino so I don't think it is a racial issue, but I think it is an economic point of view issue.  In Gilroy the population is Latino but has a much higher proportion of recent immigrants.  Immigrants are people who have hope for the future, who believe they can change their lives.  They are more likely to believe the American Dream is attainable.   But the other city is opposite. 

A few days ago, I was working at one of the bad schools in that other city.  This particular school has had a bad reputation for more than 40 years and is a major reason parents in the area send their kids to private schools. It had been a rough day and I had abandoned any idea of teaching anything; all the kids were doing whatever they wanted.  I was just trying to keep them from destroying property or hurting each other. I kept hearing this one ugly word being said over and over again at one of the tables in the classroom.  I walked over to them and said something like, "I've heard that word more times in the last 5 minutes coming from you at this table than I've said that word in the last 20 years.  You have to know that the decent people of the world will have nothing to do with you if you talk like that.  I only tolerate it because I'm being paid to be here with you."  In response to that a girl said, "This is a ghetto school.  If you don't like it you shouldn't be here."  To which I replied, "This is not a ghetto school. We spend more money on this school and per pupil than any middle school in the county." (the school is gorgeous, well outfitted, lacks nothing technological, and is adorned with gorgeous original works of art.) and then the girl said something profound,  "Ghetto isn't about money."  I said, "Even it it is ghetto, you don't have to be ghetto.  You don't have to live down to that standard."

I was talking about it with Kathleen.  She said the school has been like that all her life and needs to be torn down.  I think, I agree with her.  50 years of failure is enough.  It would be sad to lose that beautiful building, but as long as it stands it will be an emblem of ghetto-ness.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Higer Ed Hell

This is a complaint.  I have spent scores of thousands of dollars and thousands of hours working toward graduate degrees and am nowhere near getting a degree.  I have 15 units in theology, 30 units in ancient history, and 30 units in education theory; with a cumulative GPA of 3.8.  That's two and a half years worth of graduate school with high marks.  That's twice the amount of work most American M.A. programs require. The problem I have is that it has taken me so long that my units are expiring.  I have no way to finish a 1 year masters degree program without spending another $10,000 and taking another semester of courses.  It makes me crazy!  I think I'm just going to declare that I have a M.Litt. degree and stop going to school.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Smaller Every Day (and other health stuff)

I weighed myself this morning:  267lbs.  That's down from a high of 339.  All of my clothes hang on me, even the clothes I had taken in by a seamstress.  I hate buying new clothes so I'm just going to look like a circus clown for a few months; at least, until summer.  I don't actually have a goal weight.  I just want to feel good again. And I don't want to die from diabetes or go blind or lose limbs, etc.  I'm still not drinking alcohol.  That is hard.  I am sad all the time, I feel burdened and worried about everything.  Except for church, I don't enjoy anything; not food, not sex, not other people's company, not my work, not my family, not my friends, nothing.  For the sake of those around me I try to act pleasant and happy.  All I want to do is stay in bed all day and listen to audiobooks. I think I am still suffering from depression but I didn't know it when I was drinking.   I am going to talk to my doctor about going back on the Prozac.

Walking for Life

Yesterday was the West Coast Walk for Life.  The boys and I, and 50,000 of our closest friends walked through San Francisco; from City Hall to the Ferry Bldg.  The police were nice.  I was chatting with one officer for a bit who said the pro-lifers are his favorite demonstrators.  We are not as loud, never violent, and we don't make a mess.

I picked the boys up at their mom's house (it used to be my house, too) at seven and we drove up to Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church for Divine Liturgy.  They got a kick out of the pews and kneelers.  It is a beautiful building.  The deacon doors are as big as barn doors.  The boys want to go back there for one of the Holy Week services.  I'll try.
Basil, Anselm, & Me at Walk for Life2018

After the Divine Liturgy Archbishop Benjamin blessed us with oil from the myrrh-streaming icon of Hawaii.  Thus prepared for the walk we; the boys and I, Archpriest Basil's daughter, and the newly-illumined Roy took an uber car to City hall.  We joined up with other Orthodox and were lead by Archbishop Benjamin in the walk.  Not all the groups were Christians.  For example, there was a group of Chumash from Nipomo playing drums and chanting in their language as they walked.  But the crowd was, by far, mostly Roman Catholic.  (The counter demonstrators were vociferously anti-Roman Catholic.)  I am surprised more Protestant churches are not involved in the Walk for Life.  They might not be aware of it.  Hmmmm.  More marketing might be needed.

My youngest son, Basil still has very grave problems.  I won't go into them in public.  But, if you have a chance, say a prayer for him.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Starbucks

I drove by this Starbucks today.  It's in Willow Glen.  When I saw it I was suddenly very thankful.  I don't go to Starbucks very often anymore.  I just drink black coffee made at home, now, but after the divorce I spent a tremendous amount of time there.  I would spend all day nursing a grande cafe latte while using the complimentary WiFi to search for work.  And most importantly, I would take my two youngest sons there.  We would play cards for a couple of hours.  I would drink coffee.  They would drink hot chocolate, or passion tea lemonade.  It was something to do so I wouldn't become a stranger to them.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Be Wary

I have been working at a local high school since November; teaching U.S. history, government, and economics.  Every day I've walk into that classroom with one goal for the students; that they will learn these words and take them to heart.

"Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficial. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greater dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding." —Justice Louis Brandeis, Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 479 (1928)

Tomorrow is the last day of my assignment at this school.  I hope I have succeeded with some of them.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Kathleen and I have been talking about moving to Maine.  There are a lot of reasons to go there:  Land is inexpensive (1/8 acre in San Jose, California is about 300,000.  10 acres in Penobscot County Maine is $150,000), teacher pay is only a little lower than it is in California, taxes are lower, and her brother lives there.  Of course, I love the idea of living on a place with at least five acres (1 acre of grass = 1 steer and 10 chickens), a barn, and a fire place.  What is holding us back?  Two things, mainly: Custody agreements with ex-spouses, jobs. 

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Christmas Review

THINGS I MADE
1 pomander (My thumb was sore for days from pushing the cloves into the apple.)
6 fruitcakes (I ate one but shouldn't have)
2 date nut breads
2 cranberry walnut breads
1 ham
1 crown pork roast
1 goose
1 Astro Weenie Christmas Tree
1 melting cheese man
6 tiramisu (first time to make it)
1 chocolate cake
1 carrot cake

SERVICES I ATTENDED
Nativity Vigil
Nativity Divine Liturgy
Sunday after Nativity Divine Liturgy
Circumcision of Jesus/St. Basil's Day
Theophany Great Blessing of the Waters at Lake Elizabeth

SERVICES I MISSED
Royal Hours
Vigil for Sunday after Nativity
Vigil for Circumcision of Jesus/St. Basil's Day
Vigil for Theophay
Divine Liturgy for Theophany

PARTIES ATTENDED AT OTHER PEOPLES HOUSES
Christmas Day Dinner at my sister's House

PARTIES I HOSTED WITH KATHLEEN
Pre-Christmas for a friend visiting from out of town (the ham)
6th Day of Christmas/Mid Christmas (the goose)
9th Day of Christmas (the crown pork roast)
Twelfth Night (the melting snowman)

MOST UNEXPECTED THING
Kathleen game me a Thermos.  I was instantly a little boy on Christmas 1975 watching my Dad open a Thermos and thinking it was the neatest present ever.  I started to cry.

BEST MEMORY TO TAKE WITH ME INTO THE FUTURE
Calling my sons at their house on the nights they weren't with me and reading children's Christmas books to them over the phone.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Christmas List for the Man Who Has Everything

Lots of famous people make lists of things they think you should give as Christmas presents.  Oprah has one.  Martha has one.  Hef used to publish one.  Mine is different.  Mine is the list of things you should give to men in their late 40s.  They are not things anyone needs.  They are merely things that make life a little more comfortable and a bit more happy.

1. Because even though he is older now he remembers being a boy and boys dress up like their heroes you will want to buy him a deerstalker from CitySport Caps in Belgium.

2. In North America Christmas comes just before the coldest days of the year.  And no matter how well insulated the house is, he will want a nice sweater to wear in the evening.  He probably remembers the comfortable and durable sweater he wore in the field when he was a soldier, or maybe he only saw soldiers on the big screen wear them.  It doesn't matter.  He will get many winter's wear out of this army-inspired Infantry Sweater from Duluth Trading Company.  The company has a well-earned reputation for making long-lasting and comfortable clothing.  He is sure to wear it often.

3.  He probably doesn't smoke (does anyone smoke anymore?) but he will still get lots of joy from a crystal table lighter that will remind him of when he visited his elegant friends in Miami.  Since no one smokes anymore no one makes gorgeous crystal table lighters anymore.  But you can still find brilliant Waterford lighters on eBay.

4.  What is comfort?  A leather wingback club chair.  This is one is one of the best.  It's made with hardwood and top grain leather.  No yellow pine and bonded leather for your man.

5. "Tobacco is an Indian weed.  The Devil's the one who sewed the seed. It yellows your fingers and dirties your clothes and makes a chimney out of your nose."  But that's no reason for him not to have the cigar store indian of his dreams.  The highest quality antique indians go for $50,000, $70,000 or and even more, but isn't he worth it?  And there are deals to be found on eBay.  With a little searching and a little luck you might find the perfect one for your man's favorite room.

6.  It's his favorite lamp from his favorite Christmas movie.  Why not give it to him?  Doesn't he deserve a major award?

7. Seriously, who doesn't want a working miniature canon under the tree on Christmas morning?

8.  He never bought a class ring because he was doing things like paying for diapers and bicycles.  And he would never buy one now because it would be an act of vanity.  But if you bought it for him it would be an act of love.  So go to the Josten's website and order a class ring for him.

9.  You might think it's nuts but he would really like the standing squirrel nut bowl.  He'll set it on his desk and admire it.  Trust me.  He will.

10.  In the age of digital, when everything is lights and screens and plastic, does anything say luxury and civilization like a dictionary lectern?  Just imagine this beautiful piece of furniture supporting the OED or, perhaps, Noah Webster's first dictionary

11.  He's not just a reader who likes to sit in his chair and read old books, he's also an outdoorsman who ties his zebra midges and klinkhammers beside those cold Sierra streams so they match the hatch.  Therefore, get him this beautiful (for it's functionality) fly-tying kit.

12.  Sometimes, usually in the summer, when the bass and crape are biting in the lakes, he'll want to be out on the water, not wading in it.  For those times a wooden canoe is just what is needed.

13.  Sometime or other the power is going to go out.  It might be because of an EMP, the zombie apocalypse, or who knows what.  But when it happens the cell phone map app won't work.  He's going to need a case to cary his paper maps in.  Why not give him the map case that won WWII?

14.  You never know when he might need to shoot somebody, but when he does don't you want him to do do it like an American?  Of course you do.  That's why your going to give him a Taylor.

15.  He loves Christmas movies and even watches them in the middle of July.  Among his favorite is The Santa Clause, so what better gift to give hem than a snow globe?  But not just any snow globe.  The best snow globe in the world!  And Gump's sells them.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Day after Thanksgiving

Fruited Molasses Balls and Cranberry-Walnut Pie
    On the 21st of November was the feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple.  In the West the same feast is called Presentation, which is nice because I made poached pears to celebrate, which means that they were Presentation Poached Pears.  I like alliteration.  It's fun.

     Also, on that day I began a 30 day assignment for San Jose Unified School District.  I'm teaching government, economics, and American History.  It is much fun.  My students haven't had a teacher since school started (lots of substitutes who only stayed one or two days in the classroom) so they are far behind. 

     Yesterday was Thanksgiving.  Just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong.  So I won't dwell on it.  Well, we did get up to SF and back without incident so that is something for which to be thankful.  And Kathleen cooked an amazing acorn squash.  I am thankful for that, too.
Harley with gold flake paint
   
    Today, everything went right.  Kathleen and I woke up early and went to Savers, a second hand store, to take advantage of the black Friday sale.  She got amazing deals.  I found a bunch of tins to use for Christmas cookies.

     Then we went shopping for a motorcycle.  I think we found one.  I think she likes it more than I do.  I'd prefer gold flake paint but she likes this one with the maroon paint more.   Also, it has the features we require:  plastic frame leather saddle bags big enough to carry laptop computers, papers, and books, a passenger seat, a sissy bar with mini-luggage rack, and an engine guard because all motorcycles wind up horizontal on the pavement at least once.
Kathleen and I on a Harley

We didn't buy it.  We'll probably wait a couple of weeks.  But the mini-van I've been driving isn't going to last long (It has billions and billions of miles on it.) and it only gets 17 mpg, so we'll have to purchase soon.

After shopping for a motorcycle and getting the salesman all excited we gave him our contact information and left to got get my sons, Anselm and Basil.

When we got home it was time to make fruited molasses balls and cranberry walnut pies to give away.  That is my favorite thing.  I love cooking and baking for other people.  And being able to cook and bake with my sons is even better. I'm not able to eat any of it, or the four fruitcakes that are aging downstairs, or the Christmas cookies I'll make tomorrow, but I do love making all of it and giving it away.

     Oh, I should mention that I still haven't had any alcohol since 7:35 a.m. on August 24 and have lost 70 pounds.  Kathleen emailed my doctor about me (I didn't know until today) and the doctor wants me to go in for lots more tests.  It seems I am, a medical curiosity; most people who quit alcohol after drinking as much as I was drinking have heart attacks and stuff.  Well, when I have time I'll go see her.  But right now I have no symptoms of diabetes and my weigh is still going down a little but each day so I'm happy.

     While the first batch of yum was in the oven the boys went out to the garden and planted another bed of celery, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.   Then we played cards; Kings Corners, a game my mother used to play with me when I was a boy, while pies baked.

It is evening.  The boys are at their mother's house now, and I am grading papers from last week.  I am very thankful.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

An Autumn Reading List

Some of the radio stations to which I listen, and some of the magazines I read often suggest summer reading lists.  The books they recommend are always new books, often light fare masquerading as deep literary fiction.   The authors are typically named Sheldon, Collins, King, and Higgins Clark; all renowned for writing page turners that can be picked up while sunning at the beach and put down again to play in the waves with children. But to the best of my knowledge, no one ever suggests reading lists for the Autumn.  Maybe, this is because autumn is a serious time of year; a time when the crops are brought in, and one has to face the fact that winter is just around the corner and if there isn't enough food in the barn by now winter is going to gnaw.   Autumn doesn't lend itself to fun reading.  It is a time for more serious words that require lengthy digestian.  So, here is the list of books I recommend for autumn.

1.  Graham Green's The Quiet American reveals the naiveté of America at the beginning of the Vietnam War.

2.  Reynolds Price's Blue Calhoun, a story of a discontent middle-aged man and a too young woman bears the distinction of being the only book I ever bought because of a review in the Wall Street Journal.  

3.  Marcus Porcius Cato's Di Agri Cultura is the oldest existing work of Latin prose. (There are really good English translations.)  I first encountered it when I was working on an M.A. in ancient history and was researching the wine trade.  I fell in love with the books practical advice and smile evoking insights, such as when Cato tells his reader to visit a farm more than once before buying it, "and while you visit and inspect", because sellers will pressure you to buy right now, "leave yourself a way out." 

4. The Camomile Lawn by Mary Wesley gets it's name from the aromatic lawn at the house where all the main characters are gathered decades after they were all together the last time, on the eve of WWII.  It has been observed that people who lived through that war divide time by saying, "...but that was before the war", "...but that was during the war". and "... but after the war we...".   This book is another literary example of that phenomenon, and a very good one.

5. A.S. Byatt (Her real name is Dame Antonia Susan Duffy (She is a DBE and so is her sister.), wrote a very good book.  No. That is not correct.  Possession is a marvelous book.  It is two, no, three stories as two historians working without knowledge of each other research two Victorian poets.  I know, it sounds boring but it is a love story and mystery and a guide to the world of academic research, and all of this is given to the reader in various types of literature; poetry, narrative, epistolary, and more.  It is worth every penny you will pay for it.  It will keep you awake at night.

6. In some ways, Earnest Hemingway is a summer writer; his stories are often set in Phaethonic (Yes, I invented that word.  Not even Shakespeare tried to adjective-ize that pagan god's name.) climes that stir up a longing for extended holidays in Spain or the Caribbean.  But unlike the fiction usually recommended for summer, Hemingway's short stories compel reflection.  I mean, a man dying alone in a bull ring, or just trying to get through a hot night without crawling inside a bottle is not the light airy entertainment of, say, a Cussler.  Hemingway is the man who in six words wrote the saddest story ever I've ever read:  "For sale.  Baby shoes.  Never worn."  I am not recommending any of his novels, rather his short stories, and in particular, the Finca Vigia edition.  Reviewers didn't like this collection (it wasn't orderly enough for them) but I do.  I have no idea how the editor made his (or her?) decisions but some of them were truly genius.  For example, one of the short stories is broken up and the different pieces are placed between other stories.  It recreates the feeling of a serial, like the Lone Ranger serial that used to be screened at Saturday matinees.

I doubt anyone will read all of these books in one autumn, but I hope some of my readers open at least one of these books.  Happy reading.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Good Little Monkeys

Another cartoon I've liked ever since the first time I saw it is Good Little Monkeys, also dating from the 1930s.  My mother had a little ceramic statue of the Goodie Goodie Monkeys that I always liked. (You can find them for sale on eBay.)   Gosh, I don't think I've seen it since I was 7 or 8 years old.

Anyway, when I was a kid I used to walk around singing to myself "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, No. We're the goodie goodie monkeys everywhere we go."

The concept comes from the teachings of Confucious which when translated into Japanese is 
"Mizaru, kikazaru, iwazaru" ("don't see, don't hear, don't say").  And since "-zaru" sounds like "saru" (Eng. monkey) the Japanese made these little statues and called them The Three Wise Monkeys.

I don't know how the monkeys became popular in the United States.  Perhaps, they were brought over the ocean by immigrants. 


Of course, all three of the monkey behaviors are presaged in the Bible:


See no evil -  "I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes"  Psalm 101:3


Hear no evil - "A wicked doer giveth heed to false lips; and a liar giveth ear to a naughty tongue." Proverbs 17:4


Speak no evil - "Let no corrupt communication come out of your mouth..." Ephesians 4:29

One of the things I really like about this cartoon is the role played by books.  The books step in to rescue the monkeys from the Devil.  There is a lesson there.



Happy Harmony*** Good Little Monkeys (1935... by andythebeagle

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Health improvements

Back in February I weighed weighed 339 (or 336, I don't remember) pounds, was wearing size 5X shirts, could barely walk, was experiencing frightening breathing problems, was drinking a couple of gallons or more of hard liquor a week, and was experience diabetes symptoms.

Now I weigh 299, am wearing a 2X shirt, am able to walk, am breathing fine, and haven't tasted alcohol since August 24.  Best of all is having no diabetes symptoms.    My goal weight is 190.

I made it through withdrawal without to much suffering and only two hallucinations.  The only problem I seem to have from doing that is cloudy thinking.  For example, addition and subtraction is difficult right now.  But I read that that will improve over time.  I hope so.  It's a little bit embarrassing.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Planning for Christmas

Kathleen and I have been planning for Christmas.  We talked, briefly, about traveling to New York for Christmas but decided against it.  I've completed most of my Christmas shopping.  I am not a big fan of buying lots of Christmas presents so it's not very difficult for me to do.  I prefer Church and food and good stories and singing to presents, though it is pleasant to see them all under the tree.

The biggest thing accomplished so far is planning the menus.  It looks like a lot but it is spread out over two months, and we hope to have guests over for most of these meals.  And we might be going to my sister's house on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, so we might be making an Astro Weenie Christmas Tree to take over there with us.

Below are the menus we have decided on.  You might notice several appearances of mashed potatoes.  They are Kathleen's daughter's favorite food.  And because both of Kathleen's children were born on Theophany I am going to bake two birthday cakes for them.  Anyway, here are the menus.  I think it will be much fun.


First day of Nativity Fast (November 15)
Cracked crab (November 15 is the first day of crab season in California)
Steamed artichokes

St. Nicholas Day (December 6)
St. Nicholas buns (for breakfast)
St. Nicholas Shells
Green Salad
Bishop’s bread

St. Hermans Day (December 13th)
Salmon steaks
Broccoli orzo

Christmas Dinner (evening of December 25th)
Roasted boar’s head (We will be singing the song) Roasted turkey
Cranberry walnut pie
Spicy orange salad Mashed potatoes GravyGreen beans with walnuts Cranberry sauce
5th Day of Christmas (Dec 29)
Good Old Meat Pie
Peas
Mashed potatoes GravyPineapple Upside Down Cake (pineapple slices standing in for the 5 golden rings)

New Year’s Day/Saint Basil’s Day (January 1)
Prime Rib (I've never made this and am a bit worried.)
Cranberry salad
Mashed potatoes
Gravy
Brussel’s sprouts
Vasilopita
Pecan chocolate chip pie
12th Night (January 5) (just before we run out the door to church)
Fruitcake
Theophany (January 6)
Crown Pork Roast
Stuffing
Mashed potatoes
Gravy
Fruited Molasses Balls
Birthday cakes (French Vanilla Cake & Carrot)