Friday, December 17, 2010


Tonight I read this story to Anselm.  He didn't understand it.  Someday, I hope, he shall.

A Christmas Present for a Lady
Myra Kelly

    It was the week before Christmas, and the First Reader Class, in a lower East Side school, had, almost to a man, decided on the gifts to be lavished on "Teacher." She was quite unprepared for any such observance on the part of her small adherents, for her first study of the roll book had shown her that its numerous Jacobs, Isidores, and Rachels belonged to a class to which Christmas Day was much as other days. And so she went serenely on her way, all unconscious of the swift and strict relation between her manner and her chances. She was, for instance, the only person in the room who did not know that her criticism of Isidore Belchatosky's hands and face cost her a tall "three for ten cents" candlestick and a plump box of candy.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Christmas Tree

This afternoon, after a mostly unrewarding day trying to talk to car dealers, we drove up into the Santa Cruz Range, and into the cloud cover that has blanketed our valley all day.  We were racing the sun, trying to get up "The Hill" before sunset.  We barely made it, and were very excited.  We drove through fog and rain, through dense forest, on winding single lane roads.  We sang Christmas carolson the way.  I was feeling grouchy, though.  It was difficult for me, even on this happy occasion, to be pleasant.  I could blame lack of sleep, a slight feever, sore lungs, and worry about work, but  none of those were the real problem.  The real problem was "the passions".  Only later, when we got home, and I began to be thankful, and to pray for my family did my grouchiness go away.  I still have a headache, a slight fever, and sore lungs but those don't have to make me a grouch.  Jesus was full of love, as ever he was, when the nails were pushing through his feet and hands.

When we got to the farm there was no one there.  But that was okay. They operate on the honor system.  Near the trees were some saw and a box in which to put money.  Athanasia picked out a white fir, I felled it, and tied it to the roof.  Anselm and Basil asked for a small tree for their bedroom.  We gave our assent and brought home the two trees, together with many scrap boughs with which to deck the halls.  The boys were soaked from running around in the dripping trees.  I was damp from the fog.  Driving down "The Hill" after dark with foggy windows from all the water in our clothes was not exaclty relaxing.

At one point we caught a glimpse of Silicon Valley through two peaks.  It isn't something we see at night very often.  The lights were beautiful.  Basil, at first, didn't believe me when I said that we lived down there.

When we got home we trimmed the tree and decorated it.  Isn't it interesting that I remember where we got every ornament?  The the largest single source was my parents.  I carried them out of their last home when my mother died.  Then there are the ornaments Athanasia and I bought after we were married.  And the ornamnets Athanasia and the boys made.  And finally, a few that were given to us as gifts.

We had mulled cider after the tree was put up.  And Athanasia and the boys worked on some Christmas presents they are making.  Then, I read to them.  Since my wife has, lately, been knitting mittens,  I read "The Mitten Tree".  And I read tonight's portion of "The Advent Story Book".  And at last I read to them a story from "The Animals' Merry Christmas".  They are all asleep in bed now.  I shall join them.  Good night.  Blessed Advent.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Make and Age

Last year I made this fruit cake.  It was an amazing experience.  The alcohol vapors kept exploding, blowing the oven door open and rattling the windows.  I over cooked it but it was super good.  It is adapted from a recipe that was adapted from the Joy of Cooking.


-4 cups all-purpose flour

-2 tablespoons cinnamon
-1 tablespoon nutmeg
-1/4 teaspoon ground clove
-1 teaspoon mace
-1 1/2 teaspoon salt
-7 pounds dried fruit (I used 1lb mission figs, 2lbs dates, 1lb raisns, 1lb currants, 1lb appricots, and 1lb cranberries)
-1 pound brown sugar
-1 pound butter plus one half stick
-15 eggs
-1/2 cup red wine
-a 750ml bottle of Evan Williams bourbon

This recipe makes about TWELVE POUNDS OF FRUIT CAKE!!!  I baked it in disposable aluminum loaf pans: a small one that holds about 1 pound, and a large one (almost full bread loaf size) that holds about 2 pounds.  


-Pastry brush or paper towel for buttering pans
Electric mixer
-Loaf pans
-Mixing bowls
-Big paper bag
-Scissors (they are really good for cutting up the fruit quickly)


-Preheat oven to 300F
-Put one cup of flower in the paper bag
-Cut up the fruit, remove pits, and put the fruit in the paper bag
-Close the bag and shake until the fruit is coverd with flower (You'll be sorry later if you skip this step.)
-Put one pound of butter on the stove (use low heat) to melt.
-While butter is slowly melting, sift remaining flower and all the spices into LARGE mixing bowl
-Mix brown sugar into the melted butter
-Mix the flour/spices, eggs, and wine into the LARGE mixing bowl and mix with the electric mixer until completely smooth
- Dump the fruit from the bag into the LARGE mixing bowl annd mix mix mix
- melt the 1/2 stick of butter and use it to grease the loaf pans
- Plan on baking for two hours.  Every 10 to 15 mintues you haveto splash the loaves with bourbon. DO NOT LET THE TOPS OF THE CAKES DRY OUT!!!

When you take them out of the oven pour more bourbon on the cakes.  When they are cool enough to dump out of the pans wrap in plastic foodwrap andaluminu, foil.  Every day for a week add more bourbon.  Not a lot, just enough to keep the loaves very moist butnot soggy. If you run out of bourbon GO BUY MORE!!!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A Date Which Shall Live in Infamy

If you were wondering why the flags were at half staff today, this is why.

Sunday, December 05, 2010


We were up so late last night that we didn't get the boys up for church today. It would have been waaay too difficult managing them in the service.  So, Athanasia stayed home with the boys and I went to the Divine Liturgy.   I delivered Christmas wreaths to people at church who ordred them.  (Hopefully, tomorrow we'll deliver the last of the wreaths.)

After the Liturgy the parish had a fund-raising lunch for Our Lady of Kazan Skete in Santa Rosa. I was surprised by the amount of money raised.  It was such a huge amount that a couple of women started dancing in the hall.  Much happiness for Mother Susanna and the sisters at the skete.

During the dinner Matushka sat next to me and we talked about many things.  I had heard she makes excellent mincemeat so I asked her for the recipe.  She explained that there isn't enough time between now and Nativity to age the mincemeat so SHE GAVE ME A QUART JAR OF MICEMEAT she made a few months ago!  There is an inch of beef tallow at the top of the jar. I've never had real meat-containing mincemeat before. I can hardly wait to taste it.

After I got home from church we concentrated on cleaning the house in anticipation of Nativity.  Also, Anselm worked on part of his Cub Scout stuff.  He had to plan, shop for, and cook a meal.  He made sushi, shrimp cocktail, fillets of cod, asparagus, and baked french fries.  (Can you tell it's a fish day?) I was very impressed.  He had no help other than his mother keeping him on schedule.

After the table was cleared we chanted the Vigil  for the Feast of St. Nicholas.  It was just a readers service since we aren't priests but it was good.  Anselm Samuel read the Trisagion prayers, Athanasia read the Bible readings, Basil Wenceslas was responsible for all the instances of Glory to..., Both now and ever..., and Lord have mercy.  I read the rest.  Then we played music on our recorders and sang some songs, followed by my reading to them this night's installment of "The Advent Story Book".  Then the boys put their shoes by the front door, spread out their sleeping bags to wait for St. Nicholas, and I put "A Christmas Story" on the computer for them to watch.  They made it to the end of the movie but have been asleep for about 1/2 an hour.

Well, I have to wake up in 5 hours and catch a train.  I better put candy in those shoes and go to bed. Good night.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Advent, work, and other things

We have been so busy.   Yesterday and today we delivered Christmas wreaths Anslem sold for his Cub Scout Pack.  He sold more, by far, than anyone else in the Pack, and that is really great for him and the Pack.  But the downside is having a house full of boxes of Christmas wreaths and delivering them all over the place. Oh, there is also a nice feeling when we drive up and down the streets of our neighborhood and see the wreaths on front doors.

Anselm has been busy with school in addition to Cub Scouts.  He made a diorama and wrote a report about oceanic life.  He did a good job.  It interesting to me how things change.  When I was in the third grade my big report was on WWII in general, and the Battle of Britain in particular.  I'll never forget what the Queen said when asked if her children would be evacuated during the blitz: "The children won't leave without me, I won't leave without the King, and the King will never leave."  Such bravery.  They whipped the Nazis in 6 years.  We haven't defeated the Taliban in 9.  Something is dreadfully wrong.

We drove to SF tonight.  Had to deliver some Christmas wreaths and we got to have dinner with my God daughters' family.  That was much fun.  The kids made ginger bread houses.  They are so cute.  The one Anselm and Basil made even has Hansel, Gretel, and the witch.

I've fallen behind in my Advent reading.  I only just finished Mark.  I need to catch up.  Hmmmm.  I havn't noticed these fasts making me any better or stronger or spiritual, just more aware of the fact that I really need improvement.  I guess that's something.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Happy Hanukkah!

 Then Judah, his son, who is called Macabee, arose in his stead...and gladly they fought Israel's war.
~ 1 Macabees 3:1-2

Hayo, haya, melech rasha, melech rasha.
Charbo chada, umlutasha, umlutasha
Mihu? Antiochus, Antiochus.

Let us remember reign of terror, reign of terror
King who murdered pain forever, pain forever
Who then? Antiochus, Antiochus
Antiochus, Antiochus

The blood he spilled, Jerusalem, Jerusalem
So many killed, gone all of them, gone all of them
Who then? Antiochus, Antiochus

Our hearts he broke, he burned the Torah, burned the Torah
Ash and smoke, the crushed menorah, crushed menorah
Who then? Antiochus, Antiochus

Arise our hero, Judah save us, Judah save us
Prize so dear, the vict'ry gave us, freedom gave us
Who then? Macabeus, Macabeus

Oh sing our songs and praise the Torah, praise the Torah
Right the wrongs and light menorah, light menorah
When then? Chanukah, Chanukah

~Traditional Jewish song with new words by Peter Yarrow and Robert DeCormier