Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Blessed Pascha (Happy Easter)!

I hope you like my version of the beautiful Russian painting below.  (I gave my photo an antique setting for effect.)


Now, about the Lemon Ricotta Almond Flour-less cake I mentioned in my last post...

It turned out beautifully, even though I realized halfway through the recipe that the sugar should have been divided (adding the second half to the beaten egg whites),  and halfway through baking it that the 325 degree temperature was for a convection setting!  Thankfully I have a convection setting, and was able to switch it over and up the baking time a little bit.

It made it safely into my Pascha basket, and we'll be enjoying it today with coffee and half-and-half for dessert!  Christ is Risen!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

You Won't Believe These Easter Eggs!!!!

Easter Egg Labyrinth Vajdahunyad Castle Budapest, Hungary
Giant Easter Egg near La Scala Opera House
Mosaic work of the Virgin Mary by Ukrainian artist
Oksana Mas, on a wall of the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev
The panel was made with 15,000 traditionally painted Ukrainian eggs.
(Getty Image:  source)
Easter Egg Museum in Kolomyya, Ukraine
Decorating Easter Eggs in Old Town Prague

A fun book by Jan Brett...Which bunny can make the most beautiful egg for the Easter Rabbit?

If a little bunny named "Hoppi" can make the best Easter egg, he will get to help the Easter Rabbit deliver the eggs on Easter morning. But it is not so easy. 

Discouraged, he goes into the woods to think when a blue robin’s egg tumbles out of its nest.  What happens in the end may surprise you!

Listen and watch as Jan Brett talks about the making of her book, The Easter Egg...

Friday, April 18, 2014

Quiet Activities for Holy Friday and Saturday

[source: Pravoslavie.ru]

When my kids were young, we tried to plan a few nice quiet activities for them to engage in with us in anticipation of Orthodox Pascha (Easter), between the church services we attended during the day on Holy Friday and Saturday.  I perused my Pinterest boards yesterday, and I think I found some pretty good resources to share with you.

Make an Easter Story in an Egg Carton - go here to learn how to make this easy project.

Read Bible stories with them.  There are so many great illustrated Bibles for children.  One of my favorites is the Children's Bible Reader, available here

Craft beeswax candles out of eggshells to give as gifts - step-by-step instructions here.

Or decorate candles for Pascha - source here.

Bake!  Make a cake for your Pascha (Easter) basket.  Lots of traditional recipes out there, but I'm going to try this Lemon/Ricotta/Almond/Flourless Cake because it's gluten free!

Decorate Eggs - I love these beautiful Easter Eggs dyed with lace...

These last days leading up to Easter are a good time to decorate your Easter Egg Tree - we let our children choose a glass or handblown egg from our collection to hang on our "tree" each day of Holy Week, so by Pascha it was full.

Easter Egg Symbolism and Trivia:
  • The dyeing of Easter eggs comes from the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic tradition of coloring eggs red to represent the blood of Christ. The egg's shell represents the tomb of Christ, and after the Paschal liturgy parishioners crack their eggs against each other's proclaiming, "Christ is Risen!"
  • Historically, as part of the Lenten Fast, eating eggs was forbidden. But this didn't stop chickens from laying, so households hard-boiled the eggs to keep them from spoiling and ate them quickly after Easter arrived.  
  • In the Ukraine, during Holy week, women traditionally blew out the egg insides, and decorated the empty shells with dyes and wax, a beautiful folk art known as "Pysanky".
  • Started by Dolley Madison in 1814, the annual "Easter Egg Roll" on the White House's South Lawn is a race in which children push an Easter egg across the grass with a spoon. However, rolling Easter eggs traces its origins to Europe as a symbol of the rolling away of the boulder from Jesus' tomb before the Resurrection. 
  • The famous FabergĂ© eggs were intricately jeweled and gilded pieces created for Russian royalty before the 1917 revolution. The House of FabergĂ© crafted the first in 1885 by request from Tsar Alexander III as an Easter gift for his wife, Empress Maria.  The tradition was famously continued by the Romanov family, most notably, Nicholas II and Alexandra.                         [source]                                                        

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Was the First "Easter Egg" Red?

EASTER BOOK GIVEAWAY! Revised 4/12/14: Giveaway over - Congratulations to Anne Lawson! Today I'm giving away a beautiful new children's book from Ancient Faith Publishing: The Miracle of the Red Egg, by Elizabeth Crispina Johnson and illustrated by Daria Fisher.

Whether or not you encourage the "Easter Bunny" and egg hunts in your family, Christians have long viewed eggs as symbols of the Resurrection - as an egg lies dormant, it contains a new life sealed within it, just as Christ's body was resurrected to new life from a sealed tomb.

At "Pascha" (Easter), Orthodox Christians all over the world dye and bless RED eggs.  And finally there is a children's book about how this tradition started...

Way back in apostolic times, there was a blessed miracle that involved St. Mary Magdalene, an unbelieving Roman Emperor named Tiberius, and an EGG that turned RED.


I think your whole family will enjoy this wonderful new book for kids that brings to life the reality and power of Christ's Resurrection...

You can preview a little more of the book here.  The story is very nicely told by Elizabeth Johnson (What Do You Hear, Angel?), with pretty pastel illustrations by Daria Fisher (Lucia, St. of Light).  At the back of the book you'll find an icon image and hymn for Mary Magdalene's feast day, a prayer for the "Blessing of the Eggs", the Paschal Troparion and Greeting, and a historical note.

Want to dye your own red eggs? You can order a $6.00 kit imported from Greece from Ancient Faith Publishing as well.  The book is available to order by clicking the link here.

To enter for a chance to win my review copy...
-Post a comment here on my blog post
-Comment on my G.B.F.Y.S. Facebook page link for this post
-Mailing address must be within the U.S. 
Giveaway ends this Friday (April 11, 2014) at 11:59 PST.  
Winner announced on Saturday, April 12, 2014.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Mid-Lent: Finding Comfort in the Cross

This past Sunday - the third Sunday of Lent - Orthodox churches everywhere celebrated the feast day of the "Adoration of the Cross".  And today I happen to be reviewing the book, Every Time I Do My Cross, from The Orthodox Children's Press about the ancient Christian practice of making the sign of the Cross as we pray.
Each year during the service mentioned above, I can't help but notice how the children especially are so reverent, bowing down low in prostration as the Cross is brought in a solemn procession to the center of the church (where it will remain for the entire week), a reminder and encouragement that we have reached the "halfway point" of our journey towards Christ's Resurrection.

Children understand the Cross, with its deep message of power and comforting assurance, and I think they will want this brand new picture book that reflects just that on their bookshelf!

With simple, yet charming text and illustrations, Every Time I Do My Cross, by Pres. Angela Alatzakis, seeks to show children the reasons for making the "sign of the Cross" as they pray.  The author brings us along to watch a little boy using the sign of the Cross during his various daily activities as well as at church.

Every time I do my cross it's for a different reason;
whether to thank God,
or to pray for help
with a big decision.
It doesn't matter the time or day
or even where I am,
when I need to say a prayer, 
doing my cross is where I begin.

Every Time I Do My Cross is available here from The Orthodox Children's Press.  Presvytera Angela (Married to Fr. Thomas Alatzakis) started this publishing company and Every Time I Do My Cross is her first book.  She has been a teacher for many years, and has always loved reading children's books.  She attended Hellenic College, receiving a degree in Human Development; Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, with a Masters of Theological Studies; and The University of Massachusetts, with an M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"S" is for Shamrock: A Fun St. Patrick's Day Read-Aloud for the Whole Family

S is for Shamrock by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Matt Falkner, is part of the Discover the World book series by Sleeping Bear Press (2007) - and is a perfect read aloud choice for your family this St. Paddy's Day!

 "P" is for St. Patrick...
St. Patrick taught the fish to jump.
He drove the snakes away.
It seems the whole world honors him 
on each St. Patrick's Day!

 "W" is for Writers...
There are so many writers
that it's hard to name them all.
How could they have fitted
in a country that's so small?

The reason I'm recommending this blarney book as a family read aloud is that the full page spreads for each letter of the alphabet have short rhyming verses that are fun for younger kids, while parents and older children will enjoy the further information and historical details given in the sidebars.

For example, on the "W" is for Writers page (pictured above), the author notes that long ago Irish storytellers, shanachies, went from house to house telling their tales and were welcomed and revered by the people of Ireland.  She then shares about some famous Irish storytellers from modern times.

So sit down, brew yourself a pot of Irish Breakfast tea, and read this book with your kids on March 17!  (Go here for my other book recommendations for St. Patrick's Day.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Blog Post Roundup: LENT & EASTER

photo source
Book Lists For Lent -
"Dig In...to Lent...With Books" - go here
"The Legend of the Cross" - go here 
"Learning to Wait With Little Chick" - go here

Holy Week -
"Willows, Palms, Crosses, and Donkeys for Holy Week" - go here 
"Holy Week: The Miracles of Christ" - go here
"Holy Week: Journey to Pascha" - go here

Getting Ready For Easter/Pascha
"Why Eggs for Easter?" - go here
"Bright Colors in my Kitchen" - go here
"Pysanka, A Ukranian Celebration of Life" - go here
"Russian Pascha Treats for Bright Week" - go here
"Egg Crafts and Traditions for Easter" - go here
"Book Themed Easter Baskets (They're Sugar Free!)" - go here
"The Feast of Feasts, Holy Day of Holy Days" - go here