Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lord Chaitanya's Birthday!

Yesterday we celebrated Lord Chaitanya's Appearance Day! Here is a brief description of what that is for those of you that are confused. :)

This festival celebrates the appearance anniversary of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. It is observed annually (in late February, early March) by Krishna devotees all over the world—especially in the area of Mayapur, India, the place where He appeared in the year 1486. This year, Gaura Purnima falls on Saturday, March 19th (in the western world).

Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krishna Himself, appearing as His own devotee, to teach us that we can gain full enlightenment simply by chanting the holy names of the Lord:

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare

Those who witnessed the Lord's pastimes saw Him dance and chant with ecstatic love for God, the likes of which had never been seen before.

Lord Chaitanya encouraged everyone to follow this same process. He taught that anyone—regardless of background or spiritual qualification—can develop their innate love of God and experience great spiritual pleasure by chanting the Hare Krishna mantra.

The present-day International Society for Krishna Consciousness continues the work begun by Lord Chaitanya, who predicted that the chanting of the holy names of Krishna would spread all over the world.

Gaura Purnima means "golden full moon," signifying that:
1) Lord Chaitanya was “born” during a full moon, and
2) The Lord blesses everyone with the soothing, moonlike rays of His sublime teachings.

His followers generally observe this festival by fasting and chanting the holy names all day. At moonrise, a special multi-course feast is offered to the Lord and then enjoyed by all.

I was asked to make his birthday cake and could not have been more honored! It was QUITE a stressful morning though. Luckily, I had baked the cake the day before so all that I had to do was decorate it. Sounds simple, right?! Boy, was I wrong. I was pretty disappointed in the way it turned out. Everything I did to it, seemed to go wrong and none of the design worked out the way I wanted it to at all. I was upset with the color scheme, etc. I worked on this from 9am until 12:30...and this was the result. 
This was the largest cake that I've ever done. I didn't think that I needed to shave the roundness off of each layer because it didn't look that bad. The car ride to the temple proved me wrong. This thing shook like a bowl of jelly the ENTIRE time. If felt each and every crack in the road and I have never been so nervous driving in this lifetime. I was in need of a back massage after we arrived and it was in one piece. Whew! So glad that was over!! It turned out that the colors complimented the altar very nicely. Everyone seemed to love it and it tasted quite delicious! :)

The temple was quite full when we arrived at 3. Usually everyone comes in slowly in the first hour that the festivities we were surprised to see so many people there promptly at 3. So awesome! 

Our little rascal...

He looked so cute!

The Bharat Natyam dancers did a beautiful job (as usual)! I was waaaaayyy in the back so I couldn't get a good shot! 

The Sunday School Class reciting a story about Nimai. 

Little Gopi Mary Catherine. This was MC and Liam's first time to the temple and they had a great time. Liam was exploring outside pretty much the entire time. I think he had a fall in the (shallow) creek early in the day...but was having so much fun that he didn't mind his wet clothes throughout the day. Poor Liam. haha. 

Getting ready to bathe the deities. (Abhisheka)

An explanation:
During an elaborate bathing ceremony a Deity is bathed not only in water, but also with milk, yogurt, butter milk, honey, clarified butter, sugar, and all kinds of fruit juices. After this bathing, the sacred image is dressed, ornamented, fed and praised with hymns accompanied with bells, drums and other instruments.

Gracie and Mary Catherine in line to bathe the deities. 

Our little Gopi's! :)

All dressed up for the play. This is Nimai, Kamala, and Gracie. 

During Mitra's nice lecture...

Again, I was far in the back and unable to get good pictures. The play began and Gracie was quite nervous. She did so well though. I was a proud mata. :)

The temple seemed to swell as the day went on. It was so nice and everyone was so ecstatic during kirtan!

 Kirtan practice involves chanting hymns or mantras to the accompaniment of instruments such as the harmonium, the two-headed mrdanga or pakawaj drum, and karatal hand cymbals. 

Quick, quick shot of the birthday cake on the altar. I didn't get a good shot of the deities and I'm so sad about that. If anyone has a nice one, please forward to me. Thanks so much! :)

After the (HUGE) feast...we wandered outside for the fireworks and the "Super Moon" :)

Doesn't look so "Super". It was quite impressive in person, but my lame lens (and juvenile photography skills) did not capture it. It was a foggy sky also. Oh well! Hopefully we will be around for the next one and I will have had a few photography classes under my belt. :)
Hope you enjoyed! 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy 9th Birthday Gracie!!!

On Sunday, we celebrated Gracie's 9th birthday at Dan Nicholas Park! We absolutely LOVE that park! If you haven't been, I suggest that you do it soon...while the weather is nice! There is so much to do there. There are also paddle boats, petting zoo, playground and mini golf that we didn't get to do yesterday. We had a blast! Onto the pictures...

This was Gracie's Ladybug cake that I made for her. The cupcakes looked cute originally, but they had a rough car ride! They were melting and some had crashed and burned on the trip. Oh well. They were still quite yummy! :)

This is Gracie and her cousin Natalie! 

Paul's cousin Jeannie (mom of Natalie)...and her youngest daughter is Caroline. 

One day he will learn to smile on cue, until then, we will enjoy his cute faces! :)

Some of the kiddos...

It was so windy out and we almost didn't get all of the candles lit...but Paul finally worked it out. "Happy Birthday to You!"

Make a Wish! :)

Present time! This little girl racked up! She has a total of $60!!! (and some awesome gifts to go along with that!)

She was so excited about this game from PawPaw Corne and Nana Marsha!

This is my cousin Sydney! She came with her mom Susie and my grandma! We were so surprised when we heard that they were coming and we were so happy to see them! We only live about 1.5 hrs away, but it is so hard to plan a day to drive down and visit everyone. Thank you guys for meant a lot! :)

My sweet birthday girl! <3

When we went to Dan Nicholas for Jai's birthday party, we didn't get to go to the Gem we made sure to do it this time. Gracie loves mining for all sorts of stones. She has quite the collection! The kiddos loved this! :)

Paul has been growing his beard since October, I believe. He has been going until the warmer months! He mentioned yesterday that a trim may be in the near I wanted to make sure I got a good picture of it. 
Love this guy! <3

Time for a family shot! Gracie asked for a family picture (for her birthday gift) that she could frame for her room. She is such a sweetie! 

This was an awesome book that Auntie Sandy brought for Gracie. It's so cool...each page is a puzzled picture from the movie. 

This is Miss Molly! She is so adorable! We were so happy that Sandy, Rinn, and Molly could come. My cousin Neil couldn't make it because he was into the Duke/Carolina game! Shame on you, Neil..hahah! Just kidding! I hope it was a good game, but we enjoyed your family! :)

Thank you to everyone that came out and celebrated with us. We had an AWESOME time! :)