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)

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mother's Day Giveaway (Times Three)!

Ancient Faith Publishing is offering to send three of my lucky readers Annalisa Boyd's The Ascetic Lives of Mothers!  In case you missed my review of this brand new book, you can check it out here (on yesterday's post).  UPDATE: GIVEAWAYS OVER
To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on my review posted yesterday, here at the end of today's post, or on my Facebook page link to these posts (sorry, "likes" don't count).   You can also send me an email (found in my profile info) - I'd love to hear why you'd like this book.

Already ordered yourself a copy?  Enter to win a second - this book would make a perfect Mother's Day gift for a mom, wife, daughter, grandmother, or godmother!

Enter as many times as you'd like until Friday (May 3, 2014) by midnight. Giveaway winners announced on Saturday, May 4, 2014.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

One for the Mamas

Just in time for Mother's Day - Annalisa Boyd has put together a beautiful collection of devotional thoughts, prayers, and saints' stories, for you Mamas, in her newest book The Ascetic Lives of Mothers. [Update:  I'm giving away THREE copies - leave a comment to enter! Winners announced 4/3/14] 5/3/14 - Giveaway now over.  Winners: Sophia, Chris, and Adriel.  Congratulations!

 Annalisa opens the first chapter with this reflection:

"I heard it said once that motherhood is a type of asceticism.  Like the ascetics, mothers find themselves in a situation that requires their utter devotion, self-denial, daily emotional exercises, facing extreme challenges, and much prayer."

A Quick Note About the Title:
What is asceticism?  The word comes from the Greek word for "training" or "exercising"; but pursuing an "ascetic lifestyle" is not just for monks and nuns!  As Orthodox Christians, the purpose of disciplining our minds and bodies through prayer, reading of Scripture, and fasting is to help us draw closer to God and bring us back into communion with Him.

The fruit of asceticism is something all Mothers strive for, in themselves and their children: the fruit of the Holy Spirit... But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. [Galatians 5:22-23]

What You Will Find in this Practical Book:
After a discussion in Chapter I of the Virtues - or "good spiritual habits" - taught by the Church, Annalisa moves on to a frank look at despair in Chapter III, "Tea Time at the Abyss: Prayers in Times of Trouble".  She offers Scripture verses and prayers about everything from anger, anxiety, and difficult pregnancy to envy,  financial strain, and infertility.

I especially appreciated Chapter VII, "Prayers Through the Stages of Motherhood" (it included prayers for Grandmothers),  and Chapter VIII, "Prayers for Godchildren and 'Bonus' Children" (with lots of good tips regarding the responsibilities of Godparents.)  She includes an honest look at Stepmothers and "bonus" children, asking: "Did you ever think of the fact that the Theotokos was a stepmother?"

This prayer book would make a perfect Mother's Day gift for Mothers, Stepmothers, adoptive or foster Mothers, Grandmothers, and Godmothers.  These Mamas would all benefit from the Orthodox treasures found in this wonderful new offering from Ancient Faith Publishing - here.

Annalisa Boyd knows motherhood!  Married for 21 years, she and her husband have 8 children (through birth and adoption) and have fostered 31 (so far.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bright Week Treasures With My Grandson...

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. 
But for children, play is serious learning. 
Play is really the work of childhood.” 
- Fred Rogers
"Somebunny" is learning to be careful with precious things...his small 18-month old hands love holding, digging, clapping, and "being gentle".  I love this age!
Yesterday I got out a few Easter decorations for my grandson that his mommy used to play with.

I also took out a book to blog about...next year my grandson will be ready to sit and listen to The Paintbrush Bunny, (published in 1976 as The Easter Egg Artists) by Adrienne Adams.

The story is about Orson Abbott, a young bunny - "These Abbotts are rabbits. The rabbit Abbotts make the designs on Easter eggs." 

Orson learns the importance of hard work by doing what he loves...when he shows an interest in being an artist, his parents let him develop his own style. He starts painting practically everything in sight!  
By the end of the book he surpasses his parents' talent, designing his own line of comedic Easter eggs.  
His mother calls him an "Easter Egg Artist", and Orson helps his parents paint over 1200 eggs - just in time for Easter.

I've had fun displaying the book in my cloche with a cute father and son bunny I found - could it be Orson and Mr. Abbott?  Do you have any special treasures you bring out every Easter?

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 here...

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.