Review: Two more wonderful Potamitis books!

I’m not exactly sure what the current etiquette is regarding posts of this nature, but it seems like a lot of people are prefacing them with hashtag ad. I don’t think this completely counts as an ad though. Potamitis Publishing put out a call for people willing to review their books a bit ago and I said I would love to do it. It’s right up my alley of being a former journalist with wonderful Orthodox children’s books as the subject. They sent me this book and the one I previously reviewed, but they did not pay me to write.

So, we received their coloring/activity book My Synaxarion – August (number 8 ) while we were on vacation and it kind of got buried under a pile of mail that I only just now got to. Oops! I love all the illustrations in the book for kids to color! I have made line drawing coloring pages of various saints from Potamitis books that we already owned in the past by using a light box and tracing paper. One of my secrets of homeschooling read aloud success, which I apply to catechism too, is giving them something to do with their hands while I read the story or information to them. It is usually compiled of a coloring page or hands on activity and copy work (for feast days I use the Troparion of the feast). With these books, there are so many great feasts and saints already done for me, no need for me to take extra time to trace. I think I will probably getting some more of these from them now that I have seen how many saints/feasts there are in each one to make life a little easier on myself!

I also wanted to just take a moment to show off and review another highly anticipated Potamitis book that was released this year that they did NOT send me to review, My Holy Queens and Princesses. We’ve had a copy of My Warrior Saints for years and this was meant as a follow up of that for girls. So when I saw they were coming out with this one, I knew I would be ordering a copy. The book is absolutely gorgeous and just as full and wonderful as My Warrior Saints. I especially love all the ornamentation which I’ve always appreciated about My Warrior Saints too. In this book, it definitely has a feminine flair to it with more floral motifs.

I can tell both of these resources are going to be well loved in our home!

Easiest Gluten Free Phanouropita

Probably a little late for this feast day as it is already 9:30pm here in California, but not too late for the next time you want to be thankful for a lost thing found. Side note: am I the only one that is forever going to hear “The Place Where Lost Things Go” from Mary Poppins Returns when thinking of St. Phanourius? Because it’s been in my head ALL DAY LONG!

Easiest Gluten Free Phanouropita

Ingredients:

• 1 bag Pamela’s Vanilla Cake Mix (I chose Pamela’s as the base because they give me the most consistent results, but if you have a favorite gluten free cake mix or from scratch recipe, you could tweak it like I did)

• 3 eggs

• 1/2 cup olive oil

• 2/3 cup water

• 1/4 cup brandy (some recipes use orange juice instead or both. I had brandy, not orange juice, so I used brandy)

• 2 tsp ground cinnamon

• 1/4 tsp ground clove

• 1/4 tsp ground cardamom

• 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (most recipes use walnuts, but I like pecans)

• 1/2 cup golden raisins

Directions:

(Basically, you just add the spices and brandy and then follow the same instructions that are on the bag, told you it was the easiest👩‍🍳)

Preheat oven to 325*F. Mix ingredients until well incorporated. Grease a 9” baking round and/or line with parchment paper. Pour batter into pan. Bake 30-35min. Cake is done when it springs back with a light touch or toothpick comes out almost clean. Do not over-bake, as it will cause dryness. When cool, dust with powdered sugar and serve.

So why is he the saint of lost things? From the OCA’s life of the saint: The saint’s name sounds similar to the Greek verb “phanerono,” which means “to reveal” or “to disclose.” For this reason, people pray to Saint Phanourius to help them find lost objects. When the object is recovered, they bake a sweet bread and share it with the poor, offering prayers for the salvation of the saint’s mother. Her name is not known, but according to tradition, she was a sinful woman during her life. Saint Phanourius has promised to help those who pray for his mother in this way.

Additional Resources:

When St. Phanourios Finds Lost Things

Learning About the Saints: St. Phanourios (Commemorated on August 27/September 9)

Fanouropita and my take “with tahini” (vegan cake)

The Tradition of Phanouropita (Phanourios Cake)

Greek St.Phanourios’s Cake

Saints, Cakes, and Redemption

St. Phanourios

Saint Fanourios Cake ~ Fanouropita

Fanouropita – a Greek olive oil and orange cake for the patron saint of lost things

St. Phanourius Commemorated on August 27

Saint Fanourios Cake for Lost Things (Fanouropita)

Transfiguration and the blessing of grapes

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Transfiguration is really what got me started on this whole journey of sleuthing out the traditions associated with various feast days. Back when we had our tiny mission, Transfiguration was one of those special feasts where even though we shared priests committed to their larger parishes, we still got to celebrate because one of them was on the Old Calendar. The first time I showed up though, one of the other families was like, “Where are your grapes? You’re supposed to bring grapes to be blessed!” Honestly, I was so confused. Once I got past that, it started to be one of my favorite feasts because as you can see above, our priest had a joyous flair for feasts involving him blessing things with water.  Nowadays I just buy a case of grapes and don’t think much of it, but it really threw me for a loop that first time. There are some pretty heady articles out there with quotes from canons, saints, and bishops on the reasons why we bring and bless grapes, but what I can surmise it boils down to is the symbolic offering the first fruits to God (with all the hybridization and varieties as well as the ability to export and import things from all over the world we lose the seasonal sense of this, but a lot of varieties of grapes begin to ripen at the beginning of August) and because grapes are “transfigured” into wine and then wine along with bread is transfigured into the body & blood of Christ during the Liturgy for communion. These images are from some of my past attendance at Transfiguration services. Sadly our mission parish closed its doors some time ago, but we’ve kind of followed our priest that was on the Old Calendar since then so we’ll try to make it to Liturgy down there on August 19 instead. I did buy a case of grapes to have with dinner tonight though because I just can’t seem to completely adapt to the Old Calendar quite yet. 

More resources:

St. Oswald, king and martyr

If you are really into the pre-Schism UK saints and history, then St. Oswald is one of your guys! From spending his formative years with the monks of Iona to his friendship and missionary journeys with St. Aiden, this humble and charitable king was an important figure in UK Christian history. We kept things simple tonight by reading the life of the saint from the OCA’s website and then the little tidbit about his feast day in Cattern Cakes and Lace during dinner. Then we enjoyed our favorite allergy free store bought ginger cookies for dessert. Back when churches had earthen or stone floors, hay and rushes (cattails) were used to warm and soften the floors for kneeling. The hay and rushes were changed out before major feast days and with Transfiguration being tomorrow that’s probably how “rushing ceremonies” became associated with St. Oswald’s feast day. When the book was written (copyright 1987) it was still common for young girls called “rush maidens” and the church choir to process to the church with fresh rushes in a handwoven linen cloth as well as mats woven out of rushes and decorations for the church woven of rushes and flowers. After church, parishioners would eat gingerbread stamped with the image of St. Oswald.

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More resources:

Peg Dolls for my own kids

Every few months I sell a set of my multicultural priest peg dolls in all the liturgical colors and I mean to make some for my kids. I also mean to try out a few other ideas I’ve had floating around in my head. I usually just wind up getting the order done and then putting it all away though. My shop is on vacation right now because I needed an end of summer/beginning of school year reprieve, but as I was filling my last few orders I noticed Etsy had made more policy changes and so I am now also reevaluating whether I want to continue with them or not. Anyway today I finally made my kids their own peg dolls! When I was nearly finished with the priests my daughter begged for a Lucia doll because, “There are no girls! Harrumph!” She even sketched out her idea for it. I had been wanting to make one of those anyway and next thing I knew I was having a go at all my other ideas that have been on hold: Archangels Micheal and Gabriel, an Abbess, and a monk/priest in just a cassock instead of the full vestments.

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August 5-9 Books and Traditions

firstweekaugbooksThese are our books for the week for three different feast days. I’m hoping to be a little more regular about posting and share what we do with them on each of the days as well, but I am including a little overview on this post just in case life happens.

Tomorrow (Monday) we have St. Oswald. According to Cattern Cakes and Lace, he is the patron saint of a church in the village of Grasmere in the Lake District, Cumbria, England. It is traditional for young girls to participate in a procession carrying woven decorations made of the greenery of cattails/rushes and flowers to the church. After services they enjoy eating pieces of gingerbread stamped with the image of St. Oswald.

Tuesday we have Transfiguration where grapes and stone fruit are usually blessed and eaten after church services. According to Feast Day Cookbook, Armenians also traditionally enjoy a lamb rice pilaf recipe (a pilaf recipe sans lamb could work with our current fast).

Finally, on Friday we have the summer version of the feast of St. Herman so we will read North Star and some of us like to make spruce tree shaped sugar cookies on his feast day too. Maybe a drive to the forest is in order? 

Review: Panagia Tsampika of Rhodes from Potamitis Publishing

Hello! I’ve been far more active on Instagram, Facebook and my Etsy shop and keep forgetting to add content here too. Oops! I had a few more thoughts on this sweet little book than Instagram could contain so it was the perfect time to pop on here and add them.

Dormition is right around the corner and I don’t think you can have too many books about the Theotokos for that. In perfect timing, we received this copy of Panagia Tsampika of Rhodes from the Potamitis Publishing company’s series Holy Icons of the Panagia (another Orthodox name for the Theotokos which is the feminine form of “All Holy” a title given to Mary as the supreme example of the cooperation between God and man).

This was a really interesting story about an icon of the Theotokos that disappeared from a monastery on the island of Cyprus and was found by a shepherd and his fellow villagers hanging from a cypress tree with a lampada on a hill on the island of Rhodes. I thought the pages surrounding this initial finding were funny as the shepherd gets his fellow villagers together to go find the source of the lights flickering up on the hill. The villagers all marching along with their farmer tools made me think of the scene in the Disney movie “Beauty and the Beast” when the villagers are in a panic and going to go hunt Beast down.

I could imagine that same kind of mob mentality in this story and think it would have been hilarious to see the looks on the faces of the villagers in real life when they discovered the icon.

We love the Potamitis books in our family. The illustrations are especially beautiful, having a similar style to iconography, but with principles of story boarding design that advance the tale.

I asked my eldest to read the book and give some of her thoughts too since she is the bookworm in our house.

As a Protestant convert, iconography was a big hurdle for me so my natural inclination is to think that is so for everyone else too. I asked her if she thought it was weird that the icon kept going back to Rhodes every time they tried to take it back to Cyprus or if it made the story hard to believe, “No. It just made me think that icons are that much more special than I already thought they were.

She also said her favorite part was where it talked about the icon helping couples facing infertility issues, “I liked how it showed all the kids that got to be born because it makes me sad when people can’t have babies that want them.” I don’t know how much we’ve really talked to her about our own struggles with infertility and how she’s one of our rainbow babies, but, wow, and it just makes it that much more meaningful coming from her as a result.

Lastly, I love that they include both the Apolytikion (like a short hymn) of the Panagia Tsampika and the Akathist to the Theotokos in the back as it is often said that the way to our Orthodox faith is through the prayers and immersion in the services.