Sunday, November 30, 2008

Baking Church Bread (Again)

So one of the things I'd hoped to accomplish over this long weekend was to complete my assignment from the little prosphora-baking class a couple of weeks ago. That assignment was a 2-parter: to do this on my own (outside the watchful eye of the prosphora-matron of our church and her daugher who are our parish's resident experts), and also to try and get a decent looking seal on the bread.

In the middle of my Sunday afternoon nap, I awoke and realized that I hadn't yet done this, and that I probably wouldn't have time again until next weekend (if then, as weekends sometimes get away from us) so I got up and got to work.

The mixing was as easy at home as it seemed to be at the little tutorial, thanks to the dough hook on our mixer. The machine did the most laborious of the work, the kneading. Rolling out the loaves was a snap - the only challenge being to get pieces of the same size together.

We had a resin prosphora seal which has belonged to DearHusband since some year BC (before -C) and then last weekend a fellow-class participant gave me an extra wooden one that she had - we'd heard that wooden ones were best. The pattern on the seals is slightly different, but I decided that since the recipe makes 4 loaves, I'd stamp 2 loaves using each of the seals to see which one turned out better.

The loaves seem to have turned out OK! They're still hot, and I'm leaving them to cool now. But the imprints seemed to turn out about equally well on all of the loaves - and more importantly, the image is pretty clear on all of them. I just wasn't planting the seal deep enough the first time, I guess. ElderSon is the only member of the family who gets an up-close look at the prosphora each week, and it seemed to pass muster with him.

I found a great website with some helpful hints about baking church bread. I loved the following from his introduction:

A word to the beginner...
Baking is an art. That means, just because you followed the recipe doesn't mean the bread always comes out the way you intended. Just like singing or painting icons, it takes some practice and still there will be mistakes. Go easy on yourself as you learn. Don't pour holy water in the dough or make long prayers in front of your first loaf, since you will more than likely be feeding it to the birds or wishing you could put jam on it as you eat your mistakes. You are not in the 5th century, so you don't bake bread daily. If you do bake every day, then your prosphora probably comes out pretty reliable. For those of us in this century, it takes years to acquire the skill...and still we have problems. After all, yeast is a living creature. Most of all, enjoy learning! It is the Christian calling to grow in the life with God, and so try to grow as a baker and continue developing your skills all your life. Learn from your mistakes, glorify God for your successes and never cease to relish the feel of well-kneaded dough!

So, my class assignment is finished, except we will have to eat one of the loaves for supper tonight. (They might look OK, but who knows? They might be completely raw inside or something!) So tonight for supper - salmon, cauliflower and practice prosphora.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Apostle Andrew, the First-Called

Let us praise Andrew,
the herald of God,
the namesake of courage,
the first-called of the Savior's disciples
and the brother of Peter.
As he once called to his brother,
he now cries out to us:
"Come, for we have found the One
whom the world desires!"

The Rite Thing

A response to Steve, from a conversation begun here. (I know that for the occasional visitor to this blog this post is sort of coming out of left field. Forgive! But as I contemplated this response, I realized that my own blog is a more appropriate forum for my thoughts as they are personal in nature.)

Steve writes:

"... Are we really so parochial that one can't or ought not, when shown the fidelity and integrity of a doctrine from another denomination, incorporate that doctrine into ones own tradition so long as it isn't in fundamental disagreement with ones received doctrine?"

This is a rhetorical question upon which I'd like to comment:

Yes, of course one can. But speaking only for myself, I eventually wanted to incorporate more and more all the time - so much that it just made more sense to stop asking "how can I incorporate this tradition/doctrine to enhance my own faith life," but to ask instead, "why am I not a part of this faith tradition - what's holding me back?" When the answer to that question seemed to be not doctrinal but sentimental sorts of things which pointed to what I want, prefer, like, and am accustomed to and comfortable with, for me, those were just not justifiable reasons to remain (that doesn't mean they aren't perfectly justifiable reasons for someone else to remain - but it wasn't enough for me.)

Over time I had developed a sort of dual-personality in my church life. I was happy enough in my Lutheran parish and very comfortable, but I grew to want - and need - things from it that it simply couldn't deliver. I was not being fair to myself or to my parish.

I didn't leave the Lutheran Church to worship a different God. I became Orthodox to worship the same God I had always known in a fuller way, and to reclaim for myself those things of the church which are my birthright as a Christian; things the Lutheran Church had abandoned long ago in the name of sola scriptura. I found such things to be important and necessary for me as I feebly work out my salvation here on earth. (Now there's some words which made me squirmy as a Lutheran!!). I left because I had come to find more agreement doctrinally with the Orthodox than I had with the church in which I was raised (the faith which baptized and nourished me for half a lifetime, for which I will always be grateful).

It took a bunch of years for me to realize that I had become, in fact, a closeted Orthodox Christian - and that all that was keeping me from being Orthodox was my own pride, stubbornness, emotional attachments, and fear (and to know me is to know that I have plenty of each!). But remaining in the closet was killing me, spiritually.

So yes, one can incorporate such helpful things into one's personal journey and faith life. But when these things are not also incorporated by the Church, it sort of separates one from the church body, no? I eventually realized that I had become a dismembered part of the Lutheran body - and so I left it to find wholeness (and for a myriad of other reasons). It wasn't an easy thing to do, but it is, as I told Dwight in a private email, the most important and honest thing I've ever done.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Practical Pet Possibility

OK, last spring I mentioned in this forum that I thought it might be sort of neat to have a couple of chickens to supply and support my Lenten pysanky habit.

Then this past summer, when DearHusband and the boys were visiting his mom in southwest MN, he learned that his brother is keeping some chickens (to supply his really-fresh-egg-eating habit.) These chickens are being kept in the garage on the QT - for some reason this little town has an ordinance against residents keeping chickens. During that visit, DearHusband visited his brother's house and got a look at his chickens - 4 Buff Orpingtons (he also snagged a dozen eggs to bring home and found them in every way to be better than the old grocery store eggs).

So when he returned from his visit home last summer, DearHusband waxed eloquent about his brother's chickens - how quiet and sweet they were, and how lucky his brother is to have fresh eggs so close at hand.

Well, today on our visit to DearHusband's hometown for Thanksgiving, I took my brother-in-law aside and asked him about his chickens (because, of course, my mother-in-law has no knowledge of these fugitives), and he told me to hop in the car and he would take me to see them for myself. Because his invitation came precisely at the beginning of the great washing of Thanksgiving dinner dishes, I accepted his offer.

Well, I must admit that I could see why DearHusband took an instant liking to these girls - they were sweet, indeed - affectionate, even , with my brother in law. There were 4 fresh eggs waiting for him when we arrived! They were quiet and beautiful. He told me all about how to take care of them and also about what good pets they actually are, too.

So now I think I might want a couple of chickens. Not a whole coopful or anything, just a couple - maybe 3.

I'm not sure what our own city ordinances allow in terms of chickens. I do know of a couple of urban chicken farmers in Minneapolis. But we are actually in a suburb of St. Paul, so I'm thinking I have to check with the city to see what the rules are. So I'm going to call tomorrow and see.

Just for good measure, DearHusband encouraged me to call from my cell phone and not the land line (City Hall's only 2 blocks away) ...

Listening and Hearing

I'll get a bunch of listening time today as the Transposzing family journeys to southwest MN to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends there.

I'm hoping that it will be a good opportunity to listen to The Path to Prayer, the much-raved-about podcast series presented by the OCA's new Metropolitan, +Jonah.

DearHusband graciously downloaded this 5-part series to my MP3 player, and I have listened to the first of the five parts. In fact, I've listened to that first part three times. And the truth is I could listen to that first part about 3 more times and still hear things I missed (such is the way of life for this distracted Christian). This first part speaks so directly to many things in my life at the moment - and at all moments, really.

If the other 4 parts are anything like the first part, I will have edifying and very helpful listening material for the next year.

May God grant me ears to hear.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Fasting Time Favorite

One thing I look forward to during fasting times is our regular visit to Que Viet on Saturdays after Vespers.

Their hot & spicy mock duck is awesome - almost too much of a treat to eat during the fast.
(But we eat alot of it during those times!)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Happy Feast!

"Truly this woman is the abode of heaven."

From the Kontakion for for Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Weekend in Review

Friday - Our 15th wedding anniversary, and a perfect reminder to me that I am the luckiest woman in the world. We went out for a lovely dinner together with ElderSon (YoungerSon was playing at a friend's house that evening) - a nice way to celebrate the day.

Saturday morning - With much sadness, the Transposzing family said goodbye to our sweet old cat, Bob. Bob had been failing noticeably in the last couple of months, and then dramatically in the last few days. Our sister in law - a veterinarian - graciously made a housecall on Saturday and ended his suffering in the comfort of his home. He was the last of our original family of 5 felines (when we got married, DearHusband had 3 cats and I had 2). For the first time in our lives together, our family is down to 1 cat and 1 litterbox. He was a fixture in our family. We miss him.

Saturday morning/afternoon - I was delighted to participate in a little baking seminar. The prosphora-matron of our parish and her daughter hosted a tutorial session for those who wanted to learn to bake church bread. So a few of us gathered for an educational and fun afternoon of baking. We prepared 2 batches of bread, one kneaded by hand and the other utilizing the kneading dough-hook of a Kitchen-aid mixer (OK, I'm glad that we have one of these! Mixing food with my hands has always been a bit weird for me. I can do it, but I am averse to being up to my wrists in dough - I just don't like stuff on my hands. My mom always warned me that this quirkiness would render me useless as a bread baker). Anyway, the prosphora seemed to turn out fine, but I gotta work on the imprint a bit (the imprint on mine completely disappeared during rising and baking. Guess I have to push the stamp in a little deeper).

During the rising and baking, we enjoyed a delicious lunch together, which was a fun opportunity to get to know each other a little better. After baking, we sent one batch of 4 loaves to church for Sunday's liturgy, and we divvied up the other batch of 4 loaves among the participants, with the instructions to take it home and eat it (most of our loaf was gone before Vespers that afternoon!). My assignment from the class: go home and try again to get a decent imprint on the loaves, and when I get that down, call the prosphora-matron and get a spot in the baking rotation. Okay, then.

Sunday - Having just received notification that our cookbook proof was on it's way, I spent Sunday afternoon and evening madly printing out all of the original recipes I'd received for the book by email, and assembling them with the hard copy recipes that I'd been handed, in order that the proofing crew can compare the original submissions and the cookbook proof to be sure that all is in order before the book is printed. (Other committee members used coffee hour after iturgy to do some quick recruiting of a proofing crew, but we discovered when the proof was delivered yesterday that it was only a proof of the cover - so the heat's off that crew for about a week, it seems. But still, I'm very happy that I got it all done on Sunday anyway).

Monday - a return to my regular schedule, which I welcomed.

I am a hopeless creature of habit and routine.

Monday, November 17, 2008

4 AM: It's the New 5 AM

The whole Daylight Savings Time thing always screws me up.

I'm usually an early riser, anyway. I always set the coffee to start brewing at 5 AM and most mornings end up manually turning in on shortly before then.

So out goes daylight savings time and now I'm up at 4. It'll be months before my internal clock gets used to it.

I gotta start staying up later.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Book Meme: Round Two

Emily has tagged me in what for me is the second round of the Book Meme.

Results from Round One can be found here.

So once again, here are the rules:

Pick up the closest book to me and:

1. turn to page 123
2. count the first five sentences
3. post the following three sentences

From Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Called by God by Elizabeth Raum (borrowed from a friend)

"His resistance work required him to travel through Europe trying to convince church officials to support the Resistance fighters in their plot to overthrow Hitler. Dietrich's success depended on his ability to convince church leaders of the truth of his claims. These church officals, in turn, would try to convince the political leaders of their countries that the German Resistance was at work and in need of assistance."

I couldn't think of 5 who hadn't been tagged when I played the first time last January - I am having even less luck now.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Many Years

... to the OCA's new Metropolitan, +JONAH.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

To Everything There Is A Season

Except that these days we seem to have a bit of confusion over exactly what the season is.

Eager to make sure that we have enough time to have ALL of our figgy pudding and to eat it, too, it seems that Christmas in America is now upon us. How did that happen? Christmas carol jingles on the radio, Christmas gift and toy catalogues with the morning paper, and Facebook - with it's ideosynchratic weirdness - has friends doling out virtual Christmas gifts and virtual Christmas trees and virtual Christmas ornaments to one another in grand gestures of holiday generosity. And this has been going on for at least a couple of weeks! The celebration of the feast is apparently upon us. So much for letting "every heart prepare him room."


Dickens' Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (from "A Christmas Carol") might just have been on to something.

And just when I thought it was safe to turn the television back on.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

When Your Kid Wants to Paint an Icon

What do you tell him?

I wasn't sure.

I'm in a sort of practice period iconographically-speaking. I'm between classes at the moment, wanting to paint, to improve technique and to - well - get better at it. And so I've been spending some time painting icons. YoungerSon, who has always been rather artistic, has lurked about alot while I'm painting, asking all sorts of questions. Some time ago, he asked if he could paint one, too. I initially hemmed and hawed a bit and tried to put him off, uncertain just how all that works for kids (I'm still trying to figure out how all that works for grownups!)

So, not getting a clear answer from me, he plowed ahead and began to search for a prototype (he'd already picked the saint he wanted to paint). So I figured it was time to either give him the go ahead or put the kibosh on it for the time being. I sent an email to my priest, and explained that YoungerSon has been nagging me to paint an icon, and I asked him if it was OK for me to share what I know and allow him a chance to try it here at home with me, until an appropriate class comes up for him.

My request was met with enthusiastic support from our priest, and so we jumped right in. He is learning much from this experience! (So am I!) I worried initially that he would become very frustrated very quickly and just bag it - but he seems to be more persistent in this endeavor than in his other artistic ventures (where when he doesn't like where a drawing is going he simply throws it away and starts over - or not). He is struggling a bit to get his hand and brush to duplicate what he sees in the prototype, but he's sticking with it.

When I initially contacted my priest for a go-ahead, he suggested that I also contact the iconographer who painted most of the iconography in our church, who is a friend of his and a friend of our parish, to see if he had any advice about how to approach iconography with an inquisitive 11-year old.

His response:
"Let him paint, paint, paint. This should be done with joy and enthusiasm. When questions come, answer honestly and clearly.
This advice goes for you and me too, and for all of us children dabbling out our attempts to paint the divine. If a spark is glowing in an 11 year old, don't hinder the Holy Spirit from blowing on it."

Wonderful advice for YoungerSon, and also for me.

Accent? I Don't Have an Accent!

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Northeast
The Midland
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

OK, I do call carbonated beverages "pop."

St. Peter the Aleut

A native of Kodiak Island, Alaska, Tchounagnak, whose Christian name was Peter, worked at the Russian outpost of Ft. Ross in California. When the Spanish colonial government ordered the expulsion of the Russian-American settlers in 1816, Peter was arrested with 13 other Aleuts. Jesuits came to the prison at night to torture them to renounce Orthodoxy and embrace Romanism. They cut off Peter's fingers one joint at a time, then his toes, until they had cut off his hands and feet. He bled to death. Upon hearing this from one of the surviving Aleuts, St. Herman stood before an icon and pronounced, "Holy New Martyr Peter, pray to God for us!" He is portrayed in his baptismal gown. He is holding a Cross to show his martyrdom. His hand is raised to show that it is fully restored in the resurrection!

Text source: Come and See Icons

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Looking for Salvation in All the Wrong Places

If we, as Christians, have placed all of our hope in a political candidate - whether it is the candidate who won the election or the candidate who lost the election, then we probably deserve to have that hope dashed.

Obama isn't going to save us. McCain wouldn't have, either.

This is the blanket comment I would like to leave in all of the comboxes of those who are either ecstatic with the election results or who are abysmally depressed over them.

Outta Whack


Seems I'm sort of under construction here. I'm not sure how my blog layout got all outta whack - but it did. I've been thinking that perhaps it's time for a facelift anyway, as I've been inspired by a couple of my regular reads who have lovely new layouts!

I've changed the template so the material is readable for the time being, and will see if I can come up with something a little more aesthetically pleasing over the next few days ...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Post-Election Wisdom

From Fr. Stephen Freeman of Glory to God for All Things:

The Death of Religion

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Sis is looking for a canine companion to replace the beloved boxer that she lost several months ago. I'm not sure just how she ended up with these 2 adorable sisters (Australian Shepherd-Lab mix littermates), but she's got them both for a week. Even though she isn't looking for a puppy - and especially not 2 puppies - she's fostering these pups for the next week, sort of being a practice-puppy-parent. She will have the option of keeping one or both of them at the end of the week if it works out.

She brought them over to our house to see if we could discern a preference for one over the other. Indeed we could! DearHusband preferred "Spot" and I preferred "Brownie" (not their real names, of course - because to name them is sort of a commitment, and she isn't willing to make a commitment just yet.)

It was a bit of a frustrating day for the Transposzing family today. ElderSon got "clotheslined" this afternoon while running through the neighbor's yard (he saw the lines that were pulled tightly, but didn't see the sagging line, which caught him under his nose as he ran, knocking him backwards on his bum and sending his eyeglasses flying into the leaves somewhere. We looked and looked and could not find them.

Shortly thereafter, while DearHusband and YoungerSon were taking a friend home from post-church play, they were riding in our van and randomly, one of the huge side windows in the van just shattered. There is no evidence of a hole in the window from a rock or (heaven-forbid!) a BB or bullet of any kind - but every inch of the window is shattered. Weird.

Thankfully, the 1-hour eyeglasses place from which we purchased ElderSon's lost glasses was still open and in their last open hour of the day, made him a new pair of glasses.

Thankfully, YoungerSon had moved out of the seat next to the shattered window and up to the front passenger's seat just moments before the window shattered - so no one was hurt in that strange incident.

Sadly we are out $160 for new glasses plus whatever it will cost us to get the van window replaced.

But thankfully, Sis brought these delightful girls over for a bit this afternoon, which sort of makes these and the other frustrations of the day melt away for a bit. What's better to take your mind off your frustrations than a couple of puppies?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Apostle Thomas

The grace-filled Apostle and true servant of Christ cried out in repentance: Thou art my Lord and my God.

"Many deride Thomas for his unbelief in the resurrection of Christ, thus we have the expression that someone is a "doubting Thomas". But it was through his honest expression of doubt that we were given a greater proof and knowledge of the reality of the bodily resurrection. Thomas touched the wounds of Christ and exclaimed: "My Lord and my God!" (John 20) After Pentecost, the lot fell on Saint Thomas to preach the Gospel in India. He was dismayed at having to journey so far from home, but Christ comforted him. He founded a Church there and converted many to the faith, ordaining priests and bishops. When the Mother of God reposed, the Apostles were miraculously borne to Jerusalem for her funeral. Once again, God used Thomas' late arrival to reveal precious truth. He arrived after Mary had been laid in her tomb. He went to reverence her body, but when they opened the tomb, it was empty. Christ had taken His Mother to his heavenly home. Two of Thomas' converts were the sisters Tertiana and Mygdonia, who were both wives of Indian princes. They were reviled by their husbands for their faith, who then divorced them. Tertiana's husband, Prince Misdaeus, was so outraged with Saint Thomas for baptizing his wife and his son, Iuzanes, that he sent five soldiers after Thomas. They ran him through with their lances."
Text source