Carrots for Michaelmas: Musings of a Catholic Wife, Mother, and Occasional Redhead

Lenten Sacrifices and a New Swing
February 20, 2010, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Fasting, Lent

This year during Lent, Daniel and I are reading Signs of Life: 40 Catholic Customs and Their Biblical Roots by Scott Hahn.


It’s divided into 40 small chapters, (Baptism, the Mass, Marriage, Confession, Pilgrimage, etc) and so fits perfectly in the 40 days of Lent if we read one chapter a day. Hahn explains that in our Lenten sacrifice, be it food or otherwise, “We return it all to God for forty days, not because any of it is ‘bad,’ but because it is indeed very good. Only good things should be offered in sacrifice to God; only the best of the harvest could be offered as a tithe. We give them to God so that we learn not to put anything in God’s place in our lives.”

In other news, Daniel set up a swing for Little Bear.


He loves it almost as much as the basketball he found in the yard the other day.

Or the flowers he has discovered can be picked.

Not to mention eaten…

Ok, fine. He tries to eat the basketball, too.

Why We Live in Community
February 19, 2010, 3:51 am
Filed under: Community, Farm Life

 For the past three years, my husband and I have lived in community. For two years we had two housemates. This year we moved out to the country and have five housemates. We rent a house together, share household tasks, tend to a garden, and cook and eat together as schedules allow. And we have four sheep.

They’re a bit skittish but will get closer for some yummy sheep feed. We used to have chickens, but you probably know what happened to them.

One of the reasons we choose to live with others instead of just as a family (my husband, myself, and our son) is frugality. By sharing a house and groceries, we all save a lot of money. Another reason is that none of us have extended family in our town. So in many ways we try to be family to each other during this post-grad transitional phase for all of us. This has been particularly important for us this year after having our baby. If we didn’t live with friends, we probably wouldn’t have any. Hiring a babysitter on a regular basis isn’t really in our budget and so after 8pm we are home to stay while most of our pre-baby friends begin their evenings.

Although living in community has been a great experience for us, due to several factors none of our living situations have been the ideal communal living experience that we would someday like to have. Often it just feels like we have housemates rather than live in community. This is probably due to several things. One of which being that some of our housemates came into this situation with different expectations and demanding schedules which makes it difficult to maintain community living. To be a community and not just housemates, intentional time and energy have to be spent on cultivating relationships with your community and contributing to the maintenance of the household. It is a commitment that some people are ready for in their 20s and some are not. Also, it’s hard to get settled and commit to participation in a temporary community. None of us planned on settling or putting down roots with this household and it’s difficult to invest when you know you’ll be moving in a year. Also because we have always been the only married couple, responsibilities often fall to us by default. We are usually in charge of collecting rent checks, writing checks for utilities, chore schedules, house meeting planning, etc. Maybe some people enjoy that sort of thing but we are not those people. So that can honestly be incredibly frustrating. Another ideal of living in community would be for our household to have regular daily prayer together. But due to many very busy schedules and only some of our housemates being interested, that hasn’t happened. My parents gave us a beautiful St. Benedict’s Prayer Book which we have been praying with as a family and we have really enjoyed doing evening prayers with a couple of our housemates (and an honorary housemate who often joins us for dinner).

Yet even with some disappointments, living in community has been a wonderful experience for us and is certainly a way of life that we would like to continue in the future. Particularly the time spent preparing food and eating together has been really beautiful. We have enjoyed all of the folks we’ve lived with and are still friends, which says something.

Speaking of household maintenance, have I mentioned that I have a new laundry assistant?

St. Scholastica and a Snow Day
February 12, 2010, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Farm Life, Feasting, St. Scholastica

Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of St. Scholastica, twin sister of St. Benedict. Her feast day is actually February 10th, but Wednesday wasn’t my day to cook (we live in community and take turns cooking, more on that some other time). So we celebrated late. I’m not sure that’s allowed, but at least I’m honest.

We used recipes from here:

And here:

Have I mentioned that I love these cookbooks? I love them.

I made St. Scholastica Soup from Twelve Months of Monastery Soups with stock made by boiling one of the chickens whose demise is explained in Chicken Doomsday of 2009. The chickens were too old for their meat to be tender but they make great stock and organic chicken stock isn’t cheap. I also made the bread pudding for the feast of St. Scholastica in Sacred Feasts. Yum.

Brandy, Heavy Whipping Cream, and Maple Syrup...How could it not be good?


My husband also taught me how to make Pain Ancienne which turned out pretty well. He is quite the breadmaker, I am not. It was a lovely evening. Roaring fire in the fireplace, sweet snuggly baby, warm bread, hot soup, tasty bread pudding, and a good friend as our guest. But best of all….IT SNOWED. In Texas. Not just a few measly flurries but lots of beautiful snow! Yes, I am overly excited about this, but as a Floridian turned Texan, snow is quite the novelty. So this morning, we played in the snow.

See how they're looking about in awe? We really don't see much snow.


Yes, that is our Christmas tree which we just took down. Please be distracted by the cute baby with blue bear ears on his hood.


Happy boys and the snowy back pasture.


I even braved the cold to take a walk down our country lane as the snow started melting.

Red barn, snowy lane.


Taking time to remark on the snowy weather with some neighbors, of course.

Like these guys.


And don't forget this guy.


Seriously, snow in our part of Texas is an event.

Cloth Baby Wipes: An Attempt at Green, Frugal Living
February 11, 2010, 6:37 pm
Filed under: Children, Green Living

My lovely friend and housemate Ellie gave me a baby gift of adorable jungle print cloth baby wipes made by her good friend Lindy. See how cute they are?

Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to get started with them, yet. (Yes, I do know that my son is now a toddler and this is pathetic, but I have a valid excuse!) Until now, I have been working full-time at a local University doing copyediting, formatting, and customer service for a quarterly publication on Christian ethics as well as planning and coordinating a medical ethics conference. It was a lovely position but I found it dreadfully hard to be away from my baby boy all week.  When I did get home I wanted to spend the three hours before his bedtime enjoying my son and not doing extra loads of laundry. So, I didn’t start using them.

But now that I have the wonderful opportunity to be at home with my baby, I’m going to give them a shot. I think I’m going to stick with disposable wipes for the dirty diapers and use the cloth wipes for only wet diapers.

Here’s the ingredients for the solution to soak the wipes in before using them:

1/8 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon baby shampoo (we use California Baby, which I have loved)

4 drops tea tree oil

8 drops lavender oil

3 cups water

Mix the ingredients together and pour over wipes slowly.

Squeeze out the excess and pour it back over the wipes. Repeat. Make sure all the wipes are saturated.

Store in an airtight container.

So I’m planning on tossing them in the washer every two or three days maybe along with some towels. Any ideas for how I should store them in between use and the wash? A cloth bag, maybe? Is it ok to wash them along with bath towels or is that gross? Thoughts?

I never got started with cloth diapers, either, is it too late to start with them? Do you use cloth diapers? Is it worth it?

I’ll let you know how this experiment goes…

UPDATE: I love using cloth wipes. They clean so much better than the disposables and I know I’m not putting anything nasty on my baby’s body. After trying to put them in an air tight container with the solution (they kept getting a moldy smell), I decided to store them dry in one of my changing table drawers and have a spray bottle handy with the solution. And I usually make a ton of the solution all at once and store it in one of those giant glass organic apple juice containers and just refill my spray bottle every couple of weeks.

Wordless Wednesday
February 10, 2010, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Misc


Little Bear playing at the Museum where our friend Drew works.

See far more beautiful pictures of the museum at my lovely friend Holly’s blog Times Two.

I occasionally wake up to hot coffee and cranberry scones...yes, my husband is superhuman.

Happy First Birthday, Little Bear
February 8, 2010, 4:11 am
Filed under: Children

Dear Baby Boy,

One year ago today your Papa and I held you for the very first time. We heard your first hearty cry and kissed your precious face.

You arrived just before 8pm after a long long LONG labor. Your Papa and I were both exhausted that night but even after days of laboring I was too excited to sleep. I stayed awake and tried to memorize every inch of your sturdy 8 lb body and watched you sleeping swaddled in your blankie. You were perfect—plenty of beautiful black hair, rosy skin, steel-grey eyes, healthy as a horse.

We had been waiting for you for months. We had loved you for months. But the night you were born, we became a family. Since your arrival, ours lives have been so very full.

I love your pink cheeks and your big brown eyes. I love your squeals of delight when Papa tosses you in the air.

I love your red-brown hair when it sticks up in the morning. I love the way you walk with your hands behind your back like you’re trying to keep them from mischief. I love the babbling noises you make when you read your books. I love when you’re sleepy and you rest your head on my shoulder. I love holding your hand. I love when you wrap your blankie around your shoulders like a cape and giggle as you toddle around. I love how you call our sheep “Baa”s and the cows “Moo”s.

I love your laughter when you splash Papa during bathtime. I love snuggling with you during bedtime prayers and kissing you goodnight. I love being your mother.

 Happy First Birthday, Little Bear. We love you so much.


And now for some birthday party pictures!

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting! Success!


My family!


The Birthday Boy...obviously.

A little bit nervous about everyone singing "Happy Birthday" to him.

Our wonderful housemates and friends!

Obligatory first piece of cake picture

Silly face!

Sweet Birthday Boy!

Polenta for Candlemas!
February 4, 2010, 4:26 am
Filed under: Candlemas, Feasting

February 2nd is the Feast of Candlemas. It celebrates the presentation of Christ at the Temple and the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary forty days after Christmas. This is the event described in the Gospel of Luke when the Virgin and St. Joseph present Jesus at the Temple and the faithful Simeon and Anna behold and recognize Jesus as the Messiah they have been waiting for.  After seeing the infant Christ he had been promised to see before death, Simeon prays the Nunc Dimittis in Luke 2:29-32:

Lord, you now have set your servant free to go in peace as you have promised;

For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior

whom you have prepared for all the world to see,

A Light to enlighten the nations, and the glory of your people Israel.

I’m not sure if this emphasis on Christ as the Light of the World is what began the tradition to bless candles on this feast day, but it would make sense.


In order to celebrate this day, we made candles with wax and cloves (see above)  and cooked dishes from Brother Victor Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette’s Sacred Feasts which is fantastic. He is the author of 12 Months of Monastery Soups our friend Marianna gave Daniel for Christmas last year and which we have used frequently this year. What I particularly like about Sacred Feasts is that because the author cooks with foods from a monastery garden the recipes correspond to vegetables that are in season and are simple and inexpensive. The author also includes beautiful introductions to feast days that I find really helpful.


Eleanor, Kaitlyn, and I made Squash Polenta and a Vegetable Tian from Sacred Feasts and the Pioneer Woman’s Mashed Potatoes. Daniel made homemade bread and Heather made a Pear Tart.

We shared a meal and blessed the candles using this blessing from The Catholic Home:

Lord Jesus Christ,

Pour forth your blessing on these candles and

sanctify them by the light of your grace.

May our hearts be illuminated by your light,

May our actions be guided by your light,

so that when our lives here are finished, we may come into the ternal presence of your redeeming light.

We pray this in the name of the Father, and of the Son,

and of the Holy Spirit.

You’re also supposed to remove any remnants of Christmas décor on Candlemas. We did take down the ornaments, but the 11 foot Noble Fir is still in the living room.

Here’s a picture of our little boy that Daniel took last week:

Please pray for Daniel’s grandmother who broke her hip in a fall this week and had surgery tonight.