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This was our second year for baptisms by boat.  Back in my day (which I realized is nearly 20 years ago!) we were baptized off of the pier in the pond, with the priest kneeling on the pier and us about to be newly-illumined holding onto the side as we tested the murky bottom of the pond.  The pier fell apart, and was not replaced (I assume) because we want to restore the natural wetlands.  For a few years we had a really lame solution – taking a big tub out to the side of the pond and baptizing adults there.  Frankly, it was sad.  Having been a pond-baptism myself, I believe in the importance of suffering through some algae to reach a state of illumination.  I’m not sure the holy fathers would agree with me on this…At any rate, the solution reached last year was to launch out a priest and a subdeacon in a boat, with a rower and perhaps someone else for ballast, so the priest doesn’t end up in the water when he reaches over the side to dunk people.  This makes for very entertaining watching from the shore.

I did an hour of vigil on Saturday morning, so I was hanging around the church waiting for the service, with a chance to appreciate the suddenly-warm weather and watch the boat arrive.  Then we went inside to begin the liturgy, and then back out to the church steps to begin the baptism process.  Since I don’t remember my own baptism clearly (being 7) I love to attend other baptisms because I feel like it rubs off.  I get to relive the experience and understand the words that I didn’t quite grasp when it happened to me.

I also got to admire our bells and notice for the first time that there are icons on the two largest ones.

Then to the pond, where the water is blessed and the boat launches.

Last year was chilly, so we had great sympathy for those heading into the cold water.  This year the sun was deliciously warm and lost our sympathy.

There were eleven baptisms.

Then back inside, for the bay leaves and the banging pots and pans and the chrismations, and finally the port and fruit and nuts in the church.  I don’t like to take out my camera much in church, but here is a picture from after last year’s Agape vespers, when it was rainy and chilly and we didn’t tramp across the lawn.

Easter weekend always feels like one long day – staying up till 4 am will do that to you, although 4 is nothing compared to the year Annie and I stayed up till dawn.  That was all of what, three years ago?  Yet I feel so much older and wiser.

Things kick-started with my egg dying on Thursday afternoon.  It’s been untold years since I dyed an egg, but in those days it was all gentle pastels and little kits and those little wire contraptions to lower the egg into the dye and gently lift it up again.  We used to do hard boiled eggs and blown eggs, which we hung on an egg “tree” – a branch from the pink flowering tree in the backyard.  My parents probably still have cartons of those blown and dyed eggs in with our old Easter baskets and such.

This year it was red eggs, traditional for handing out at the end of the midnight service.  You start out with brown eggs (otherwise you end up with hot pink, not red eggs, or so I’m told) and a packet of the most intense dye you’ll ever see.  I think it said it would make enough to dye 50 eggs.  I only did 24.  I was also careful to wear red in case of splatters.

That’s my large stock pot, full of dye.

Here’s the “before” shot:

I spent a lot of time getting distracted by taking pictures of the eggs.  Not only are eggs delicious, they are also lovely to behold.  I only wish I could have used some of Kate’s egg excess, but alas she is far away.

Here’s “after”:

This was before they were “lightly polished using oil and a cloth” while I watched The Namesake.  By then it was dark and the lighting wasn’t as good.  I wonder if the oil polish helps to stop the dye from rubbing off on your hands, or if it’s just for shininess.  I got an unpolished egg from the basket on Pascha morning, so I was unable to test that theory.  I certainly ended up with dye on my hands.  Fortunately my kitchen didn’t turn too pink in the dying process, although I imagine my drain will never be the same again.
I love red.

I’m in between church services – I got home from the baptisms less than an hour ago, and I’ll go back in 4 or 5 hours.  I’m worn out and a little giddy and probably slightly tipsy on some delicious port wine – we ended up with a bottle of the good stuff, sitting out on the porch steps afterwards, thanks to Q’s father.  Holy Saturday is the only day of the year where we eat in church – bread, dried fruit and nuts, port and juice.   On an empty stomach, it’s something else.

The sun came out and shone upon us today, in some sort of minor miracle, removing any sympathy we had for the catechumins wading into the ice cold pond to be dunked.  I have pictures, but I don’t have the energy to sort through them yet.

I ought to be doing some of my much-neglected school work, but all I want to do is bake a cake and take a nap.  I don’t need to bake anything, since I have cheese and bread and salami to take to the potluck, but my heart cries out for a chocolate sour cream bundt cake.  I’ve done so little baking lately, I think I’m going through withdrawal.  So I just might trot over to the store and get some sour cream and go to town.  Maybe I could listen to some lectures while I bake…

A trip to the Children’s Museum with some lovely ladies.

I mean, silly ladies.

Stationary.

Color.  (I never use my colored pencils, I just like to admire them.)

And a few things without pictures:

Plane tickets for four to Colorado, to visit our fifth.  We won’t have been all in the same room for nearly two years.  I can’t wait.  This feels like a necessary extravagance.

Children of God.  It happened.  I’m addicted.  Again.

A grocery list that includes 3 dozen eggs.  Two dozen for dying red and taking to church, one dozen for ME.  Also salami, cheese, and butter.  Just writing out the list makes me happy.

It’s Holy Week.  You might think I’d be eager to finally reach Pascha and go back to eating “real food” and all that, but I feel like I need more time.  Fr. M suggested yesterday that we try to exceed our usual Holy Week attendance, but I’m going to do the opposite (what is the opposite of exceed?)  Going to school took up all of my vacation days this year (and that little trip to California in the fall!) AND I’ve managed to use up all my sick days (thanks, stomach flu) so my only option is to ask for unpaid time off.  And more than a third of my workgroup was recently fired or took a medical leave.  So.  If I’m lucky, I’ll get one night off this week.  Oh, the old “it’s a religious holiday” card.  I’ve often wondered what would happen if I tried to use that card for every feast of the year.  I’d miss an awful lot of work, for sure.  One year we ought to have all the services in the middle of the day, the benefit of those that work odd hours.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to come and rant.  I meant to come and talk about better things, like how Holy Week immediately throws you into a different mindset.  Each year it feels like you’re slipping into a groove, overlapping all of the previous years and adding on to them.  Which is appropriate since the feasts are supposed to be timeless – we sing everything in the present tense, as though we are present at the original feast.  As though we are living through the events, not commemorating them.  Which I love.  Last night at the Bridegroom matins, it turned into almost a feeling of deja-vu.

I mean this in a spiritual sense as well as in the way I crack up over the same things every year.  There’s one line that goes “O prosper Thou our handiwork,” and I think I had the same reaction last year – that would make a great name for a handicraft business.  A yarn store.  An etsy shop.  Wouldn’t it?  It’s like the benediction for knitters everywhere.  It has now replaced snippets of the music from Sweeney Tood as the thing stuck in my head.

On to books: I finally finished Elijah of Buxton (the end had me in tears, after not really getting into the book for a while) and I need to write up a little review.  I’m listening to The Subtle Knife in the car and was WAY too entertained by the reference to Plato and shadows on the wall of the cave.  It’s moments like that when I truly realize what a dork I am.  Also, I started Children of God, after holding off for several weeks.  I’m afraid of getting sucked back in – we’ll see how I do this time.

I finally finished listening to Suite Francaise, which is a week overdue.  For shame!  But since library staff recently lost the no-fines privilege (look at us being so ethical!) I feel slightly less shame since I will have to cough up $1.75 for the extra week.  Before I felt guilty when I kept something overdue; now I am just your average fine-paying patron, keeping the library in business with my small change.  But that’s all beside the point, because it was a great book and well worth the $ to finish it up.  The audio version was excellent, and I only wish she had managed to finish the planned 5 parts instead of just 2, because I was hooked.  I didn’t necessarily like a lot of the characters, but they were quite vivid and a bunch of them are still hanging out in my head.   Does that happen to anyone else?  I really wanted to know what happened to Lucille in Paris, and more about the family that worked at the bank, and Madeleine.

Latest pet peeve: book reviews that spend most of the time talking about the author and/or doing plot summary.  Particularly on Goodreads.  Sometimes I’m sure I’m guilty of this – and it makes sense to do those things when your review is existing independently, say in a newspaper or on a blog.  But when your review sits up against a plot summary on a site like Goodreads, don’t repeat what’s already in the summary.  Expand on what’s already there.  Give me some opinion.  Why did you think it was worth that number of stars?  Why do you think it’s worth someone else picking it up?  Maybe this is because I’m not a huge plot person – sure, I enjoy a good plot.  But I don’t often pick up a book just because of the plot.  I’m more interested in how well it was written and in what personal value it had to people.  Or because the characters were memorable or the language delicious.

I finished watching season 2 of Rome, which is good because I need to start allocating more time to school work.  Oh wait, I’m blogging instead.  Anyway, it’s fascinating.  And leads to lots of bizarre conversations about Roman history around the apartment.

On the horizon: Holy Week.  Why do I suddenly feel so unprepared?

I live for moments when academics and fiction overlap perfectly.  This happened last quarter with The Exception and my management class.  Now it happened this quarter, with The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and a discussion about ethics and privacy.  Awesome.

Here’s my Goodreads review of Frankie:

From the outside, this looks like a classic boarding school story about friendships and pranks and a secret society and rebelling against authority. But it gets much more thoughtful than that, and turns the genre – and the typical high school romance plot-line – inside out. Lockhart isn’t afraid to throw in big ideas (and some hilarious conversations about grammar and language), but at the same time the story has its light and funny moments, some disreputable history, a teen crush, plenty of pranks. Frankie really questions things – her relationship, the way boys and girls interact, school rules – in a way that isn’t superficial and doesn’t come to a nicely resolved, tidy ending. Frankie is in a constant inner struggle between what is nice and easy and what is difficult but ultimately proves her character. While I sometimes sympathized more with Frankie’s crisp-baking roommate than Frankie herself, she is one of the smartest YA heroines I’ve run across, and the world needs more like her. Definitely one I’ll recommend

So, Frankie talks about the panopticon as it relates to life in a boarding school (did I mention this was a brainy book?)  I don’t even know if I’d ever heard that word used before, but I immediately recognized its meaning – that sense of always being watched, and of behaving as though you were always being watched.  I know that feeling well.  Oh yes.  Then today I’m plowing through my readings on privacy and again the panopticon rears its head.  If I’m being constantly watched, whoever’s doing the watching likes to push coincidences my way.  I’m okay with that.  But then, of course, I’m blogging this, which is just contributing to the Internet panopticon, as it were.  Now I only have myself to blame.

Saturday was like a day stolen from summer. Warm enough to sit out in the yard, with short sleeves and bare feet, and soak up the sun until it was too warm and time to move into the shade. Warm enough to think I should’ve planted a garden already, and admire the sunflowers that are popping up in tiny clusters of leaves (and thin them out). Warm enough to eat dinner out at the picnic table, with a cold glass of wine and good company. Warm enough to leave the door and windows open until bedtime. Blissful. Especially when only the other day, I’d been wearing a wool coat and sleeping with a hot water bottle.

Of course, now we’re back to regular, chilly April weather, but everything is turning fresh spring green, the trees committing to having leaves, the daffodils and ending and the tulips are coming up, and each walk through the neighborhood offers more signs of better weather to come. We ought to have lilacs for Pascha – which is less than two weeks away! And I just might manage to avoid freezing to death in my new dress, if I’m lucky. Last year it rained, and the egg hunt was indoors, and there was no romping around the church property, but hopefully this year the weather will show its sweet side, like two years ago.

(I really need to start busting out my camera more – it’s been ages since I took – and posted – new pictures.)
Also, if anyone is in the Portland, Oregon area and would like to come to a bone marrow donor drive, there will be one this Saturday, April 19, 2008 from 1-5 pm. I have more information – leave a comment and I’ll email you. This is in support of a friend’s sister, who is 19 and was recently diagnosed with leukemia. The drive will be sponsored so you can be tested and added to the registry for free, although donations will be welcomed. It just takes a simple cheek swab to be tested – nothing painful!

A fast-forward update on The Most Important Topic in the World: what I’ve been reading.

I really liked The Monsters of Templeton.  I was more articulate about it here.

I didn’t care for Strange Relations.  The dialogue made me cringe.

I’m head over heels for The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.  I like me some smart YA.  And all the inpeas.  I predict that my later review will pugn the book.

Gary D. Schmidt’s latest, Trouble, is on its way to my library in-basket.  I didn’t think it was out till later this month, but I looked it up and it was available.  And it’s all MINE.  Based on my near-adoration of The Wednesday Wars, I’m looking forward to this one.

And in unrelated news, after a flirtation with the stomach flu, I can now eat normal foods (and keep them down).  You don’t realize how much you appreciate this until it’s gone.

And with that, it’s time to head to work.

It’s Baking Day, again.  I’m using the same recipe for Oatmeal Maple-Honey Bread (see recipe a few posts below, I’m too lazy to link).  My right arm is SORE from kneading, although not my left, which makes me think I need to balance the workload between my arms more.  Yup, really deep thoughts for a Monday morning.

The first week of April was a whirlwind of travel and school and socializing – I had a social activity planned every day from Wednesday to Sunday, which was great and I wouldn’t have missed any of them, but on top of 2 fulls days in a classroom and about 8 hours in the car and 6 hours at work?  I’m glad it’s Monday and I don’t have to go to work until 4.  Of course, spring quarter started so now I have homework, but I need some recuperation time before I throw myself into that.  Oh, the joys of being introverted.

March was a pretty good month for reading – I managed 17 books, 5 of them audio books.  Four were grown-up books and the rest were childrens’ or YA.  And I really liked most of them, which gives the month a nice feel in my mind.  To look back over all the lovely titles and not regret the time I spent with them.  The Sparrow was my favorite for the month, hands down.  But there were some other good ones – Before I Die was a classic tearjerker, I, Claudius was pretty fab, The Golden Compass and Bloody Jack were great audio productions.  Okay, I’d better stop before I mention every single book I picked up.

I finished A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce yesterday, which I enjoyed but was never quite won over by.  I’d been looking forward to it – I do like my fairy tale retellings, and Rumpelstiltskin has a fond place in some of my earliest memories – and maybe I never fell for it because the reading was stretched out – a few minutes before bed here, a few minutes on the bus there, and most of it while I was dead tired.  It reminded me a lot of Robin McKinley’s Beauty, but without the same sense of magic to it.  I mean that more in the sense of writing magic than fairy tale magic, but I guess it’s true in both senses.  I think I also liked the character of Beauty more than I liked Charlotte Miller, although I really wanted to like Charlotte.  They have a similar sense of responsibility and loyalty and hard work, but…I lost patience with Charlotte.

Now I’m reading Lauren Groff’s The Monsters of Templeton – I have no idea where it’s going, but I’m enjoying being along for the ride.  I’m also listening to Suite Francaise in the car and Born on a Blue Day in the house.  And (finally) reading Elijah of Buxton.  I know I’ll like it, but I’m finding myself drawn to more grown-up/YA stuff lately, and it’s languishing.  It cracks me up every time I open it up, but I’m not compelled to finish it.

And, in completely unrelated news, I picked up a calendar at church the other day and realized it’s only THREE WEEKS till Pascha/Easter.  For some reason that doesn’t sound long at all.  If you think “it’s only 2 weeks till Palm Sunday” it sounds even shorter.  And if you think “next Sunday is the last Sunday of Lent” it sounds like nothing at all.  And then an inexplicable desire for Lent to last longer comes over you, and you beat your head lightly against the wall to try to get rid of that thought.  I’ve been running out of ideas for what to eat (other than lots and lots of bread and jam – Frances is always with me) but yesterday I had one of those conversations where you swap ideas and come away feeling all inspired.  Now I just need to go to the store and gather supplies.  It’s time for a vat of soup.  Or maybe just a small pot, because I inevitably get sick of soup before I reach the bottom of the vat.

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