My top 10 most-read posts of 2020 contained some surprises. Some new posts made the top 10, along with some of the first blog posts I wrote.


Number 10: Pascha baskets and Pascha basket covers

This post was #6 in 2019. It includes history and traditions related to Pascha baskets, and a link to a free embroidery pattern so you can make your own Pascha basket cover!

Pascha baskets at St. Michael Orthodox Church
Today, most of us think that bringing of Pascha baskets loaded with meat and cheese and other rich foods to church is a Slavic custom. But it wasn’t always so. It was once the universal practice of the Church. In the early days of the Church, on the Great Feasts, families brought baskets of food to church, where the baskets would be blessed and the food shared. Read more …


Number 9: St. Irene and the apples of Paradise

St. Irene Chrysovalantou’s long life took many unexpected twists and turns, from the fairy tale beginning to her death at age 102.

Icon of St. Irene Chrysovalantou shows her dressed as an abbess, holding the three apples from paradise, with an angel speaking to her and a tree bowing to her.
St. Irene Chrysovalantou’s life starts out like a fairy tale. You know how, in certain fairy tales, the king sends out his emissaries to find the fairest woman in the land? They’re hoping to find someone for the prince to marry. Oddly enough, that’s something that parents of princes once did in the real world, not just in fairy tales. Read more …


Number 8: When Pope Leo met Attila the Hun

When Honoria, the emperor’s sister, wanted to escape an unwanted marriage, Attila the Hun came to save her. And Pope Leo came to save Rome.

The meeting between Pope Leo and Attila the Hun, a fresco by Raphael
The meeting between St. Leo the Great, Pope of Rome, and Attila the Hun was brief. The story of what led up to that meeting takes somewhat longer to tell. It started in the year 450. Honoria, the older sister of Valentinian III, emperor of the western Roman Empire, was frustrated. Her brother the emperor had decreed that she could never marry and must remain forever celibate. He was worried that if she had sons, they might try to take the throne from him. Which was not an unreasonable thing to worry a Roman emperor. Unfortunately, Honoria wasn’t inclined to celibacy. Read more …


Number 7: Matushka Olga, Healer of the Abused and Broken

This was my number 1 post in 2019. I learned a lot about being a mother from Matushka Olga.

In the icon, Matushka Olga is wearing a light blue garment and a dark blue headscarf. She is wearing a small cross on a chain around her neck. She is holding a small bowl of water in her left arm, which is draped with a white towel embroidered with a blue cross.
Matushka Olga Michael died on November 8, 1979. And already, there are people who honor her as a saint. (The Orthodox system for canonizing saints, if you’re not familiar with it, is bottom-up rather than top-down. The bishops follow the veneration of the people, rather than the people following the designation by the bishops.) Because she’s remembered as Matushka Olga, I always thought she married young and spent her whole adult life as a priest’s wife. But I was wrong. Read more …


Number 6: St. Modestos, Patron Saint of Animals

Here’s how St. Modestos became the patron of the animals that we love, and that love and serve us. And a bit about other saints that had special relationships with animals.

Kudzu, a large cream-colored goldendoodle.
Lately, I’ve been pondering why God had Adam name all the animals. It seems that, when we name an animal, our relationship with it changes. Has it been that way from the very beginning? Read more …


Number 5: Holiday gift guide for Orthodox families

My annual holiday gift guide includes mostly handmade gifts from Orthodox artisans, artists, and craftspeople. If you’re on the Old Calendar, you can finish up your Christmas shopping here. And even if you’re on the New Calendar, check it out. You’ll find gifts for birthdays, name days, baptisms, and more.

My husband and I love Christmas shopping. We skip the malls and go to the small, eccentric, family-owned brick-and-mortar shops that have unique and meaningful gifts. And we fill in with gifts from small online shops. This year’s going to be different, though. It looks like our shopping will all be online. Read more …


Number 4: The best picture books with disabled characters

As you know, I’m a passionate advocate of children’s books that include disabled characters. If you’ve had trouble finding wonderful books that include disabled characters, this list will help you diversify your bookshelves!

Four large stacks of books that have no disabled characters, plus two very small stacks with major or minor characters who have disabilities
The Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin – Madison analyzes the children’s books that publishers send them every year. IN 2017, they received 698 picture books. Just two of them – TWO out of 698 – had main characters who had disabilities. What about the picture books at your house? How many do you have? Read more …


Number 3: Justinian and Theodora: A love story

This story is always one of the most popular on my blog. It was #2 last year, and #1 the year before. And, of course, I adore St. Theodora. Most of what we know about her was written by her enemies. And yet, her strength and courage and love shine through.

Icons of Saints Justinian the Great and Theodora
In the sixth century, you don’t find many love stories. You might have found a love match among those who were free but poor. If neither you nor the other had anything to give or trade, then perhaps hearts could be given freely, wherever you chose. But we don’t know the stories of the poor. The rich and powerful were a different matter. Marriages were political and commercial transactions. They bolstered trading relationships, secured alliances, removed competitors. What did love have to do with it? And yet … and yet … Read more …


Number 2: St. Nicholas and Arius at the Council of Nicea

Did St. Nicholas really slap Arius at the Council of Nicea? For a long time, I would have said, “Probably not.” But I’ve changed my mind. Read the story, and see what you think.

St Nicholas slaps Arius at the church council in Nicea.
It had been a dozen years since Nicholas had walked out of the Emperor’s prison and walked back to Myra. He’d doubted, sometimes, whether he’d ever live to see the world outside the prison walls. But he’d never for a moment doubted where he’d go or what he’d do if he were ever released. God had called him to Myra all those years ago, and made him the bishop there, even though he was too young, even though he was too inexperienced, even though he just wanted to disappear into silence and obscurity. He’d had silence and obscurity in prison, and he was glad to have left it behind. He was the Bishop of Myra. He had to get back to his people. Read more …


Number 1: Celebrating Holy Week and Pascha at home

I rather optimistically called last year’s celebration of Holy Week and Pascha a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For some of us, that may be true. Others may have to celebrate at home again this year. In either case, there may be ideas in this, my most-read post of 2020, that you will want to take into 2021 and beyond.

Tiny flowers in an eggshell vase; in the background, an icon of the Theotokos and a loaf of Easter bread with a candle
Most of us will be celebrating Holy Week and Pascha at home instead of at church this year. And if we focus on what we usually do, what we want to do, what we can’t do, it may feel like we’re not having Holy Week and Pascha at all. We can’t re-create our beautiful church services at home. We can’t replace the celebrations we’re missing. So we’re just going to have to focus on what we can do. Read more …


Read more

17 essential picture books for Orthodox Christian kids: This post was #2 in 2018. I’ve updated it a few times since then. Orthodox Christian children don’t often get a chance to see themselves in their books. These 17 wonderful picture books can change that for the little ones in your life.

Loving an autistic child at church: This was one of the first posts I ever wrote for my blog, and it has almost always been one of the most read. It was #2 in 2019. If you have autistic children in your parish, you need to read it.

When an autistic adult goes to the hospital: This was my #3 post in 2019. It feels like one of the most important I’ve written. And I’ve updated it for the pandemic.

Buy the Books!

Catherine's Pascha and The Saint Nicholas Day Snow

Catherine’s Pascha

Catherine doesn’t like vegetables. She doesn’t like naps. She doesn’t like it when her mom combs her hair. She loves hot dogs, chocolate cake, and her best friend, Elizabeth. Most of all, she loves Pascha! Pascha, the Orthodox Christian Easter, is celebrated in the middle of the night, with processions and candles and bells and singing. And Catherine insists that she’s not a bit sleepy.

Celebrate the joy of Pascha through the magic of a book: Catherine’s Pascha. Available on Amazon,, and my webstore.

The Saint Nicholas Day Snow

Shoes or stockings? Horse or sleigh? Does St. Nicholas visit on December 6 or on Christmas Eve? Will a little girl’s prayer be answered? When Elizabeth has to stay at Catherine’s house, she’s worried about her grandmother, and worried that St. Nicholas won’t find her. The grownups, though, are worried about snow.

Celebrate the wonder of St. Nicholas Day through the magic of a book: The Saint Nicholas Day Snow. Available on Amazon,, or my webstore.

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