Saturday, March 31, 2012

St. Innocent, Equal-to-the-Apostles and Enlightener of North America

O Holy Father Innocent
In obedience to the will of God
You accepted dangers and tribulations
Bringing many peoples to the knowledge of truth.
You showed us the way,
Now by your prayers help lead us into the Kingdom of Heaven.
[We will be having a memorial service at the graveside this morning. Thank you all for your prayers.]

Thursday, March 29, 2012

More skirts

 Every girl has two new skirts now. I can take my time and have fun with the next ones. I let them choose the fabrics and styles for the skirts they have now (except for Ribby's first skirt - I'll get to that later) and I'm going to please myself with the next round. It's fun having this much fabric to play with.

I already did a post on the first skirt I made for Duchess. Here is her second one:

It's a very simple skirt - the typical rectangle sewn into a cylinder and gathered with elastic in a casing at the top. The only slightly different thing I did was make some large bias tape out of yellow gingham instead of hemming. She wanted a wider swath at the bottom but I persuaded her to accept a narrower one because she was already pushing it with two plaids. (:

Ribby's second skirt is exactly like the one above except for the different fabric and the wider stripe at the bottom (a few inches wide).

One thing I did (once I remembered to) was to double stitch the side seams to both prevent fraying and to encourage the seam to stay flat. It makes it look neater.

Flopsy's first skirt (I never posted on it) is here. It's the same pattern but it has a ruffle at the bottom. I cut the ruffle twice as long as the skirt to give it fullness. She's a ruffly sort of girl. (I know it needs ironing...try to ignore that part...)

Her second skirt: Have you noticed that none of my daughters shy away from color and pattern mixes? I did prevent a few serious clashes but I like their choices overall. This skirt had the widest facing at the bottom out of all of them.

Again, I made it just like the others such that the material was essentially turned into gigantic bias tape so I didn't have to do any hemming or facing. 

Tomorrow I'll post on Ribby's first skirt. I'll also get a photo of the girls actually wearing their skirts.

Laundry room / Mud room

We live in a small house and I don't have a laundry room. Considering the amount of laundry we generate this is no small issue. What I do have is a stacked washer and dryer by the back door. The trick was storing the laundry essentials so that they were both convenient and not visible (detergents and stain removers are not usually ornamental).

As you can see, there is no room to either side of the washer/dryer. That's the back door and immediately to the left is the door to the girls' room.

Here's a long view of the whole area. The door on the right goes to the boys' room but we blocked it off. They didn't need two doors and people tended to use their room as a pass-through (which they, understandably, didn't like). The bookcase on the left holds cookbooks, plastic cups and plates and overflow children's books. I tried to dignify the area by adding a berber runner which also has the effect of defining the hall. [As a bonus, it catches dirt that the door mats, indoor and out, didn't catch before it can be tracked through the house.]

The view from the back door looking down the hall into the kitchen. There's not much "hall". 

So many things need storing by the back door. Umbrellas, for instance. I corral them in a decrepit old laundry basket. Flip flops live there in season. The toy bench we picked up at a church garage sale several years ago. When we were rearranging the boys' room I decided it was just what I needed by the back door.

It makes a convenient rest for the laundry basket between loads.

And inside it holds detergent, dryer sheets, stain removers, etc. It also holds the birdseed.

Here are the clothes pins and a small trash can to hold lint and old dryer sheets (I always tear them in half.)

The little shelves were already there, built in. I hung the key rack there so we won't chase keys around the house. The little flower pot holds spare change from the dryer - handy for grabbing on the way to church for candle money. The shelf below is a perfect rest for my purse.

What I haven't figured out is what to do with all the coats in the winter...

Words from the Optina Elders

  There never was and never will be a place on earth free from sorrows. The only sorrowless place possible is the heart, when the Lord is present there.
 -St. Nikon of Optina

  Despair is a mortal sin. Flee from it! And believe in the Merciful God, and our Mediatrix, the Mother of God and the saints. They can do all things. But it is absolutely necessary to humble oneself and be patient.  
-St. Anatoly of Optina

Monday, March 26, 2012

Fake Gored Skirt - No Pattern!

 As I mentioned in a previous post I made some skirts for the girls last week. About all I can handle today is posting on one of them. (: Sewing tutorials are not really my forte so please ask questions if something isn't clear.

The skirt I made for Duchess was a little different from usual. For one thing, I didn't simply turn a rectangle of fabric into a skirt by running elastic through the whole length. Frills and fullness don't suit her well - she needs a more tailored look. (She's also really thin.)

I did, in fact, start with a rectangle of fabric, but I made some immediate changes. I didn't feel like cutting pie-shaped sections for an A-line skirt so I faked it. Oh, I also hate using patterns if I don't have to. (c;

In my not-so-nice diagrams below you can see what I did. I didn't use a pattern but I didn't dare try to pull this off without taking some measurements first.

A= circumference of skirt at bottom - if you have a skirt that has the fullness you like at the bottom, simply measure it. Add 1-2 inches for seam allowance and fudging room.

B= length of skirt - Just drop the tape measure from the waist and figure out where you want it to fall. To that measurement add 2 inches if you will be making a casing out of the top of the skirt. Add an additional two+ inches if you are hemming the bottom. (You may be asking, what else would I be doing? I'll show you a bit later.)

C= hip measurement + at least 4 inches for easing - Not waist measurement?? No, you'll need to know that for cutting the elastic, but not for cutting the fabric. Being able to actually get the skirt over the hips is rather critical to wearing it. You don't want to go to all this trouble and have to give the skirt to someone thinner. Salt in the wound.

figure 1

figure 2

Now, here comes the math (don't run away!): Take your measurement C and subtract it from A. That's how much you've got to get rid of from the top to make it look like figure 2. Now, divide that number by 4. Got it? Great, hang onto it. We'll be calling it "X".

Now, grab some pins and your measuring tape again. You see those little "x"s at the point of the "V"s on figure 1? That's where you're going to want to pin. Start in the middle of A (easy to measure) and put a pin about 2/3 - 3/4 the way down the fabric from the waist. It really doesn't matter. Just note how many inches either down from the waist or up from the hem it is because you want to be consistent. Now, put a pin at this same level on each short side of the fabric (B). Exactly halfway between the middle and the edge pins put another pin (total of 2). You should have five pins now. (This can also be done with seamstress chalk but it wasn't showing up well on my particular fabric.) To make the next step much easier, put corresponding pins at the waist of the fabric.

figure 3

I promise we're almost done pinning. Look at figure 3 which is just a close-up of figure 1. You already have the two pins in that you see there. Now take that number you came up with a moment ago (X). Divide it by two (Y) and put two pins that many inches on either side of the top (waist) pin. The edges are a little different and this is important for the look of the skirt. Look at figure 1 again. Those "V"s on the edges are actually half of a "V" each. All you do is measure out Y inches from the top corners and put a pin in. You should now have a total of 11 pins in the waist.

Done pinning! Get your scissors. Cut in a straight line from each pin you put at Y to the pins you put 2/3 to 3/4 the way down the fabric. In other words, cut out those "V"s. Congratulations, you can now put all 16 pins back in the cushion.

Now for sewing. For the next step you won't need the iron or any more pins. You're going to sew the sides of the "V"s together so that your piece of fabric looks like figure 2.

figure 2
Just a technical point on the seams you're sewing: If you're sewing from waist to point of "V", when you get close to the "V" don't just run the seam straight off the edge. Curve it a little to blend it in to the body of the skirt. See figure 4. This keeps you from having "points" in your skirt.

figure 4

close-up of seam from right side

Now, if you're not doing anything fancy you'd make your casing at the top by folding down the waist of the skirt, hem the bottom, and sew the side seam. But...

...I decided I wanted to do something a little different. I had some coordinating fabric (This one is "matchy-matchy" but I'll do another post on some skirts I'm making that aren't.) and I just turned it into giant seam binding. I cut a strip of fabric as long as A and folded it in half lengthwise, ironing it. I then turned the raw edges under to the wrong side the same amount (this is important) and ironed that. I had something that looked a little like figure 5.

figure 5
Then I slipped the bottom edge of the skirt into it, pinned it in place (only because I didn't want to have to get the seam ripper out five minutes later) and ran a seam very close to the top edge of the border. Below is a close-up of that seam.

Here is a view of the inside of the border. No raw edges! Your seam binding, hemming and facing all done in one step!

I did exactly the same thing for the casing at the waist. The length is the same as the waist, C. I just cut it wide enough to run the elastic through. I followed the same steps as above, slipping the waist of the skirt into the casing and running a seam very close to the edge. Below are views of the wrong side and the right side of the waist, respectively.

I sewed the side seam, ran the elastic through the casing (this is where you need your waist measurement), sewed the elastic ends together and sewed the casing shut where the elastic went in.


Sunday, March 25, 2012


Joyous Feastday!!


Troparion - Tone 4

Today is the beginning of our salvation, 
The revelation of the eternal mystery! 
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin 
As Gabriel announces the coming of Grace. 
Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:
 Rejoice, O Full of Grace, The Lord is with thee!

Kontakion - Tone 8

O Victorious Leader of Triumphant Hosts! 
We, thy servants, delivered from evil,
sing our grateful thanks to thee, O Theotokos! 
As thou dost possess invincible might, 
set us free from every calamity
So that we may sing: Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Jupiter, Venus and Crescent Moon

(top to bottom) Venus, Jupiter, Moon

Orion (couldn't resist)



The Samsonite Code: a short story

A few years ago I went to visit my dad and step mom in Tulsa, Ok. It was one of those trips where I came home with more than I took, so my stepmom sent me back with an old suitcase of hers that she no longer wanted.

I got home and unpacked it, then put it in the attic where it has been for a few years. I have no use for it. It's an old style with tiny wheels. It is large and taking up too much space, but I have a terrible time getting rid of anything that has useful life left.

So a few weeks ago a person posted on Google groups that she was looking for an old suitcase to take on a mission trip. She wanted one that didn't have to be returned if it were ruined or lost. Perfect! I responded right away. When she got to my house I got out the suitcase, and it was then that I realized it had a 3-digit combination lock on it. I tried all the obvious possibilities (my dad's area code, part of the zip, address, etc.) with no luck. I even called them but they didn't remember it. The woman took the suitcase anyway, thinking perhaps she could get the lock off the suitcase.

A couple of weeks later the suitcase was on my front porch when I got home, still locked. I can only assume she found a different one to take. I didn't even bother to take it back up to the attic. It has been by the front door for a while waiting for me to get rid of it! So today, fed up, I decided that there were only 1000 possible combinations and how long could it possibly take to flip through them?

Read the rest!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Using Seasonal Local Flora in Church

(see bottom of post for explanation of photo)
If possible, I think it is a good thing to use local herbage to decorate the church - whatever is in season. Sometimes due to drought, other weather issues, or the season of the year one may have to supplement with something grown somewhere else. Historically one could not run down to the local florist to get a bunch of carnations.

Last year and this year I used azaleas for the Sunday of the Cross. They bloomed a tad early this year and were past their peak (to say the least) when I gathered them to decorate the cross. I did the best I could, but by Wednesday this week they were absolutely dead. Awful. All except the mock orange blossoms of which there were a few scattered throughout. They were as fresh as the moment I picked them.

I didn't take pictures of this year's cross at the beginning of the week, but this is what I did last year:

Sunday of the Cross, 2011

For the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14th), I had to hunt around a bit. You can click on the photo below to enlarge it and see what I had available. I used the last of those indefatigable zinnias.

Exaltation of the Holy Cross, 2010

For Christmas around these parts we have white camellias, nandinas (the red berries) and cedar.

Christmas, 2010

We also have magnolia leaves.

Christmas, 2010

At our old house we had a cedar tree in the side yard and holly in front of the house. 
(I don't have a picture of the holly.)

Christmas, 2009

So that brings us to today. You may notice that something critical is missing in the photo below (the cross) but it will be put in place once the flowers are brought to church. The cross will be taken back into the altar today so this effort was for one day. The mock orange blossoms are lovely although it does make it look rather resurrectional. (: I used new-growth box around the perimeter.

I almost hated to cut the flowers today because they're so lovely on the bush. They remind me of Innocent since they were blooming when we buried him and I gathered some for a bouquet for his grave. We're back to that time of year again. He died around today or tomorrow, a year ago. On March 31st it will have been a year since we found out he had departed this life and his first birthday will be on April 10th. The closest I can come to giving him these flowers is to place them around the cross of Christ, at whose feet he is kneeling.

Sunday of the Cross, 2012

Sunday of the Cross, 2012


     Having risen from sleep, I hasten to Thee, O Master, Lover of mankind, and by Thy loving-kindness, I strive to do Thy work, and I pray to Thee: Help me at all times, in everything, and deliver me from every worldly, evil thing and every impulse of the devil, and save me, and lead me into Thine eternal kingdom. For Thou art my Creator, and the Giver and Provider of everything good, and in Thee is all my hope, and unto Thee do I send up glory, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

--St. Macarius the Great, Morning Prayers, prayer III

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Urgent prayer request [Updated]

Please pray for a woman I will identify only as P. (I am posting this with her permission.)

She is pregnant. Last week at five weeks she started bleeding and within a few hours was at the doctor's office. They did an ultrasound and found "an irregularly shaped sac and possibly a clot". She was told she was miscarrying and given a prescription for Cytotec, a drug to induce miscarriage. She took the drug that night but the bleeding actually stopped and nothing else happened. I found out about this the next day and immediately told her she needed to wait and have another ultrasound done. That at five weeks you usually can't see anything but a sac anyway and I didn't think she was miscarrying. I felt it was divine intervention that the two doses of Cytotec had done nothing at all as I had never known that to happen.

A few days ago she went back to that doctor and had another ultrasound. It appears that she had been pregnant with twins and spontaneously lost one last week. The other baby is still alive. However, she has taken two doses of Cytotec which is associated with possible birth defects. (If someone is interested in knowing exactly what defects and exactly what risk is associated, let me know and I will pass that information along.)

She is considering aborting the baby now because of the possible birth defects since she already has one special needs child (she has five children) and she doesn't know that she has the resources to support another.

I told her:

1. The baby could be perfectly fine or have extremely mild defects. She would be killing the baby based on a possibility.

2. She has an airtight case against the doctor for negligence and harm. This is an inexcusable mistake on his part. Even I know that much. Any medical student should know that much. She could recover damages through a lawsuit that would enable her to pay for therapy and care for a child born with severe problems. [I am not one of those lawsuit-happy people, but this is serious malpractice. She should have been told to monitor herself for increased bleeding (it stopped) and return in a week for another ultrasound. They should also have started to draw beta hCG levels every two days to see if they were rising or falling.]

3. She could put the baby up for adoption and he or she could bring someone else joy.

Please pray for P., her husband and the surviving twin.


"I went to the doctor today. We (my doc, husband and I) have decided to move forward with the D&C. I consulted several specialists and they all had the same response- These are very serious birth defects. Surgery is scheduled for tomorrow. This has been one of the hardest decisions I have had to make. I know a lot of people may not agree with my choice but it is what is the best for my family."

Lord have mercy...

Covering our neighbor's shame

Father read me something from the news this morning.

I guess I need to explain a little. We don't have cable and I stopped reading (online) the news several months ago. It was a habit, I never learned anything I really needed to know and it destroyed my peace. It's blood & gore, sex, corruption, crime, trivia, sensationalism, and a host of other nasty things, all wrapped up in a dirty rag with "NEWS" stamped on it. There are places online where you can actually read decent news, but I was reading FOX and CNN. Not good. "But it's your civic duty," is of course the rejoinder to that, but I bet none of you knew I wasn't reading the news and your local and national governments haven't fallen apart - or at least, any worse than they were doing all on their own. We all have to make choices for ourselves and the best course of action for me was to cut it out entirely. I internalize what I read to a very great extent and I didn't need to be internalizing that garbage. On a similar line, I cut out any argumentative/contentious blogs, any sites which only got my blood pressure up, and all sites containing too many triggers, however good the site might be. My life has been a lot more peaceful because of it.

So, back to the story.

He read to me the "Etch-a-sketch" incident involving Mitt Romney's staffer. I groaned as soon as he read what the staffer said and thought that staffer is now out of a job. I felt some compassion for Romney because, oh my gosh, what a dreadfully unfortunate thing to happen and he had no control over it. Father then told me about the Democrats' response (obvious) and the other GOP candidates' responses. I can, of course, see the comedic potential here, but it's sad that no candidate took the high road. The absolute best response from any other GOP candidate would have been to say that his views on Romney hadn't changed based on a thoughtless remark from a staffer and that it's not fair to capitalize on someone's humiliation. Obviously this would have been best from the view of saving that candidate's soul, but it would have also been the best campaign move. If you can't see why, then there's no point in my explaining it.

Last night at Presanctified one of the OT readings was from Genesis. It described Noah's unfortunate experiment with grape juice which wound up with him passed out cold on his bed, sans clothing. [Genesis 9:20-27] Ham walked in unawares and then came out laughing and told his brothers Shem and Japheth. Instead of joining in the laughter they walked into Noah's tent in such a way that they did not see him and covered him with a garment, thus covering his shame. Borrowing from Father's sermon last night, he said that the Church Fathers have unanimously agreed that from this we are to learn to cover others' sins rather than mock them or publicize them. I agree that this is troubling if you apply it to something like child molestation, but I think what is referred to are the type of sins which tend to affect us personally (like getting drunk, taking everything off and then passing out) or are merely humiliations (like having your staffer make a poorly thought-out remark on national television). There are entire television shows dedicated to uncovering and mocking people's sins and humiliations. When we watch them we are joining in with Ham.

How sad that every candidate (to the best of my knowledge) followed the example of Ham and not Shem and Japheth.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Infinitesimal Beauty

Stop sometime today and look at something small. 
Get close. Crouch down on the ground. 
Marvel at how much care God put into his creation 
that even the tiniest things, 
often crushed beneath our unseeing feet, 
are beautiful.

(Taken this morning near the porch. The top flower is less than 1cm.)