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

The Feast of the Archangels: Michaelmas 2010
September 30, 2010, 1:47 pm
Filed under: Community, Fasting, Feasting, Michaelmas, Saints, Seasons | Tags:

We feasted on what turned out to be a mini-Thanksgiving late last night with four friends and my brother. It was lovely to feast and celebrate St. Michael and the Archangels and share lots of orange, autumnal, beta-carotene-packed edibles at the change of season. And speaking of the change of season, Michaelmas is a feast that comes after the fall Ember Days (last Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday) during which Christians traditionally thanked God for his creation and the bounty of the earth and fasted penitentially. These days are no longer mandatory fast days but I love the idea of connecting the liturgical calendar to the natural seasons. I’d like to be more intentional about observing the Ember Days this coming year. The next ones are observed just after St. Lucy’s feast in December.

Benjamin and I couldn’t find any real Michaelmas Daisies so we consoled ourselves with this pretty fall Mums which we’ll plant tomorrow. Our friends Thomas and Kellie brought an awesome bouquet of carrots which is oh so apropos for the day (read about the carrot custom in last year’s post).

Daniel roasted the bird last year, but was working a twelve-hour shift yesterday, so this was my first attempt at roasting a chicken. Luckily, Thomas and Kellie are chicken roasting pros so I nagged them into showing up a little early to help me figure out if the chicken was done (a goose was not to be found! maybe next year!). Here’s a picture:

They’re newlyweds. Aren’t they cute? This is probably the right time to say that I’ve known Thomas for almost 20 years. Our families eat Thanksgiving together and we share childhood memories of creating bizarre nerdy board games together that no one would ever want to play. I was wearing my Laura-Ingalls-Wilderesque-Pioneer-Style-Black-Lace-up-Boots when we met. I can say this with confidence because I wore them with every outfit I had for years. And Kellie is his new bride and we like her an awful lot.

Our friends Elizabeth and Daniel brought bread and stuffing which was just delicious but I failed to get any pictures of them or of my brother. Sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking. I guess I was distracted trying to capture a picture of Little Bear, but all i got was this one of him picking his nose.

yeah, i know, it's blurry, but the kid is always MOVING.

Speaking of Little Bear, I think he’s going to be Dobby the House Elf for Halloween. Costume suggestions are welcome.

We topped the evening off by sitting on the back porch in the delicious fall weather and consuming the Pioneer Woman’s Blackberry Cobbler recipe with Vanilla Ice Cream. Check out last year’s post if you’re curious about blackberries and Michaelmas.

More appetizing than the picture make it look, promise. It's all gone.

My brother Garrett decided to go the extra mile  with a Georgia Peach Cobbler Ice Cream addition. No one understood him when he asked if anybody else had “Double Cobblered it.” I think we’ve cleared it up, though.

A happy Michaelmas, it was!

Preparing for Michaelmas
September 27, 2010, 3:45 pm
Filed under: Feasting, Michaelmas

It’s been a year since I started this project to document our lives and celebrate the Christian Year. Due to job changes, a move across the country, grad school, buying a house, moving in and setting up, starting new jobs, and having all our books still in boxes, it’s been a pretty sporadic project. But since Michaelmas is where it all began, I’m going to try to celebrate the feast again this year. If you’d like to learn more about Michaelmas you can view last year’s post here. If you want to see pictures of our feast last year you can view them here.

I’d really like to take Little Bear to our favorite local nursery and find some Michaelmas Daisies for us to plant together.

“The Michaelmas daisies, among dede weeds,
Bloom for St Michael’s valorous deeds.
And seems the last of flowers that stood,
Till the feast of St. Simon and St. Jude.”

I’m planning on making the same Glazed Carrots as last year from the Pioneer Woman’s recipe. I’ve made them two or three times for other special occasions and anything with that much butter and brown sugar has to be good.

And I think I’m also going to turn to the Pioneer Woman’s Blackberry Cobbler recipe for this year’s blackberry dish.

I haven’t done any big planning for the rest of the meal. Anybody know where I can find a Goose in Tallahassee? Last year we just roasted a turkey but a GOOSE…now that’s ideal.

The weather has turned fallish just in time for Michaelmas which marks the change of season into autumn. Benjamin and I were playing on the porch this morning and he said, “cold!” with a look of surprise and confusion.

A Quarter of a Century Day
September 27, 2010, 11:41 am
Filed under: Feasting, Husband

Working more (due to subbing and assisting with Nutcracker rehearsals), a miserable cold, and the immediate threat of tons of pumpkin from our CSA to roast, puree, and turn into bread have gotten in the way of posting pictures from my 25th birthday. We celebrated with our families early in the week and shared amazing food including some treats from my favorite place in the world, delightful local French pastry shop: Au Peche Mignon. We count ourselves lucky to have such amazing families in the same town. How we ever got through Little Bear’s first year without grandparents nearby is beyond me.

Ever since our housemate Kris got one for Christmas and I spent the rest of the year coveting his gift, I’ve desperately wanted a KitchenAid and Daniel’s folks made my dream come true. It is awesome.

From my Mom I got a precious movie that I recently watched and adored, Ballet Shoes, and the original book by Noel Streatfeild.

I’ve only just started the book but I can already tell that it’s wonderful children’s literature and I can’t wait to have daughters to share it with. It warms a ballet teacher’s heart and as for the movie: Emma Watson… need I say more, Courtney? Speaking of, I hope you’re as excited as I am about the new Harry Potter movie coming out in 52 days. I’ve watched the trailer at least 12 times in the past 24 hours and if that doesn’t make me a nerd, checking for update on mugglenet twice a day definitely does.

Daniel gave me this beautiful icon a few days before my birthday.

Sorry about the bad quality iphone pic. My camera was out of battery and I was lazy.

We are the worst at saving gifts for the actual day. I get too excited about the presents I get for him and give them early and then I get too excited about the presents he’s gotten for me and beg to open them early. That’s customarily how it works.

On Saturday of birthday week I had to spend about 3 hours assisting with auditions for the Nutcracker in Thomasville, GA, so Daniel and I made it a date and drove up a few hours early.

We visited our favorite coffee house in the world, Grassroots Coffee, and wandered in and out of an enchanting bookstore and various strange and delightful shops.

Historical downtown is seriously cool. Each establishment has a small plaque outside describing the original use of the buildings in the mid to late 1800s like “Green Grocer, 1852.” I made that one up, but you get the idea.

This is me in front of the taxidermy/smoke shop. Yes, you heard right.

Seriously, this town rules. You can read Daniel’s take on the day here.

Shrimp and Grits! How I adore southern seafood.

Gingerbread Salmon. Yes, please.

After auditions were over we ate delectable seafood at Jonah’s Fish and Grits and then headed back into town to pick up our Little Bear from his day of fun at “Ooma and Oompa’s” house.

“See ya later, Mom,”
September 22, 2010, 4:10 pm
Filed under: Children

…said Benjamin as he put the handle of the bucket over his shoulder. Do I say see you later whenever I put my purse over my shoulder?

Some September Reads…
September 21, 2010, 4:16 pm
Filed under: Books, Farm Life, Green Living

I’m still plugging away at Wendell Berry’s agrarian essays: The Art of the Commonplace. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to read them. Each one is brilliant.

“We need better government, no doubt about it. But we also need better minds, better friendships, better marriages, better communities. We need persons and households that do not have to wait upon organizations, but can make necessary changes in themselves, on their own…A person who undertakes to grow a garden at home, by practices that will preserve rather than exploit the economy of the soil, has set his mind decisively against what is wrong with us. He is helping himself in a way that dignifies him and that is rich in meaning and pleasure. But he is doing something else that is more important: he is making vital contact with the soil and the weather on which his life depends. He will no longer look upon rain as an impediment of traffic, or upon the sun as a holiday decoration. And his sense of man’s dependence on the world will have grown precise enough, one would hope, to be politically clarifying and useful.” – excerpt from “Think Little”

“…it seems likely that the identity crisis is a conventional illusion, one of the genres of self-indulgence. It can be an excuse for irresponsibility or a fashionable mode of self-dramatization. It is the easiest form of self-flattery—a way to construe procrastination as a virtue—based on the romantic assumption that “who I really am” is better in some fundamental way than the available evidence would suggest.

The fashionable cure for this condition, if I understand the lore of it correctly, has nothing to do with the assumption of responsibilities or the renewal of connections. The cure is “autonomy,” another illusory condition, suggesting that the self can be self-determining and independent without regard for any determining circumstance of any of the obvious dependences. This seems little more than a jargon term for indifference to the opinions and feelings of other people. There is, in practice, no such thing as autonomy. Practically, there is only a distinction between responsible and irresponsible dependence.”-excerpt from “The Body and the Earth”

I’m also reading Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes. After getting a Ph.D. from Cornell, Hayes and her husband moved back to a family farm to grow their own food and be self-sufficient. Katherine suggested it to me and I’m finding it fascinating. As she warned me, I don’t agree with all of it but I would heartily recommend it.

“Committing her life’s energy to an employer has not made a truly ‘liberated woman.’ A homemaker’s primary job is not to be a consumer. The choice to cultivate self-reliance, curb consumption and live well on less money drains only the extractive economy, but feeds a life-sustaining economy. The pursuit of affluence, the ennoblement of excessive work and hyper-individualism are not manifestations of the American dream, but causes of a national nightmare.”-Radical Homemakers

One of the themes I’ve picked up from this book is the modern disdain for and even fear of labor. Working to grow food and cook it yourself, for example, is considered drudgery while sitting in an office all day doing a job you don’t like so that you receive a paycheck and buy processed already-assembled meals is respectable. It reminded me of the labor of delivery. Women are taught to be afraid of the pain of birth and so opt for drugs or an elective c-section. They trade the sacred experience of birth for a less painful (or pain delayed) version of delivery in which they are less involved or even uninvolved. Obviously, some interventions during birth are truly necessary and done in order to save mother and baby from great danger but the fact that one in three women deliver by c-section makes it clear that ALL of these interventions are not needed. The value of labor and pain are diminished as is our experience of life and living.

Some September Highlights…
September 21, 2010, 3:22 pm
Filed under: Children

Benjamin and I have been trying to spend lots of time outside now that the weather is not as hot, the humidity is lower, and the mosquitos have mostly disappeared. I’m a bundle of anxiety about mosquito-borne illnesses since we’ve had a couple of deaths from encephalitis in the area this summer and lathering Benjamin up with Burt’s Bee’s bug repellant gives him a weird herbal smell all day that I’m not sorry to say goodbye to.

On lazy days when we don’t want to go anywhere we just set up on the back porch and collect pine cones, look for spiders, play with bubbles, draw with chalk, and most recently paint with watercolors. Here are some pictures from Little Bear’s first watercolor experience:

It started out pretty well...

but promptly took an unconventional turn as Bear started painting the cement...

The whole "dip-the-brush-in-the-water-then-the-paint" seemed inefficient so Bear went straight to the source...

Our very fastidious Bear was concerned about the consequence of his method...

When I asked him if he wanted the brush again, he explained that he was "fingapainting." Fair enough, Bear.

On more adventurous days we go to see the “aminals” at the Tallahassee Museum. Benjamin LOVES this place. There’s a old-timey farm section with cows, pigs, geese, sheep, goats, turkeys, and chickens and then a natural habitat trail with birds, otters, red wolves, bobcats, a panther, skunks, grey foxes, a bear, and alligators. I always want to take out-of-town guests there because the place just screams “Florida” to me. Real Florida, not Disneyworld Florida or Miami Florida. We just had my phone when we were there the other day so here are some iphone pics:

Much of the trail is made of wooden boardwalks over the water. It’s beautiful and it helpfully corrals my little man as he runs around looking for animals.

Mysterious swamps with cypress knees make this Florida girl’s heart go pitter-patter.

Can’t you just imagine Hernando DeSoto and his companions canoeing past on their way to pillage Indian settlements and exploit the native peoples? Maybe you prefer not to…fair enough.

This is Benjamin trying to hurry me up so we can go see the Bear. Not sure why he gets so excited about the Bear since every time we’ve gone it’s sleeping soundly in the back corner of the habitat…

I’ve been thinking for the past three weeks: “Next week it’ll feel like Fall,” but Autumn hasn’t arrived yet. I’ve tried making hot meals and wearing sweaters but it remains elusive. We have a big pumpkin from our CSA this week that I’m planning to cook for dinner and maybe that’ll do the trick.

Our House, Part III: The Vegetable Garden
September 16, 2010, 2:44 pm
Filed under: Children, Farm Life, Green Living, Our Home

While choosing a house, one of our main concerns was having enough yard space for a large vegetable garden. Growing our own food has become really important to us over the past three years and it is so fun to watch Little Bear be excited about the garden.

okra flower!

Daniel planted some okra, peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes right next to the house as a start and then added 8 raised beds. The okra has been prolific but the peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes haven’t produced very much since we planted so late and its been so very very hot.

(weird iphone pic)

The first three raised beds are starting to produce nicely with beans, squash, pumpkins, herbs, etc. Daniel put in the other five a couple of weeks ago and greens, leeks, carrots, and more are just beginning to come up.

Benjamin is obsessed with watering the garden.

The hose is the best thing of his life.

Our House, Part II: The Kitchen
September 15, 2010, 3:43 pm
Filed under: Our Home

So I waited for a day when the kitchen was somewhat tidy to take some pictures. This post is primarily an attempt to make John, one of our previous housemates, jealous and convince him to move with his lovely wife to Tallahassee and come cook with us. We miss you, Sterchis!

Our house was built in the 40s but the kitchen was recently renovated and we adore it. This door opens into the laundry room. The other side of the kitchen is open into the dining room.

I love the stainless steel appliances, the oak cabinets, and the original pine floors. Don’t you want to come visit, John?

There is tons of counter space to store yummy veggies from our CSA or our garden!

Gas stove, John! Buy your ticket, already! Make us a lemon souffle! Of note: the bottom cabinet to the right is empty and Benjamin has claimed it as his own. He likes to climb in, close the door, and pop out with a sneaky grim.

I love cooking in this kitchen. It’s really where we spend most of our time. And it will be even more fun to hang out there when the weather turns cool and the warmth of the oven is enjoyable instead of oppressive. Are you sold, John? When shall we expect you?

There are no pictures of the sink and opposite countertops because I was too lazy to dry the dishes and put them away. Sad, but true.

Our House, Part I: Benjamin’s Room and Benjamin, the Artist
September 7, 2010, 2:29 pm
Filed under: Children, Our Home

Folks have been demanding pictures of our house. We bought a precious house built in the ’40s in midtown Tallahassee in June and we are loving having our very own place. Now that I’m done with my classes I am actually getting some house things done, like unpacking us, which is very exciting and we’re almost done with painting.

I’ve taken pictures of Little Bear’s room which was a despicable peachy vomit color. We chose a pale yellow for the walls and a bright blue for the built-ins.

It’s still pretty bare and I haven’t done a window treatment yet. Any ideas for that? I love the pirate map of Florida that Daniel’s folks gave us and we have since added a beautiful icon that Brandon gave to Benjamin last Easter.

I love these built-ins, a huge closet and big drawers, because they have amazing storage and look pretty so a lot of furniture like dressers, etc is uneccessary making the room look big.

I keep most of Benjamin’s diaper stuff in the bottom left drawer and just change him on the changing mat in the bottom left corner. He’s always been so squirmy that we have been changing him on the floor or on a bed since he learned to roll over.

Here’s Benjamin “chilling” on the mat Marianna gave us. I put chilling in quotes because he obviously still MOVING like always, kicking his little legs. And I love the precious diaper holder my mom got us.

A Portrait of the Artist and his Creation. Benjamin was playing with our homemade playdough in the kitchen floor while I made dinner last night and he decided to stick all his little fisher price animals in his “pie” as he called it.

Here’s a close up. Looks like Lion is having some trouble.

Little Bear had very strong opinions about where each animal should go. I tried to place the sheep somewhere and the Artist clearly expressed that no, indeed, the sheep’s place in the animal pie is somewhere else entirely.

A Tale of Woe and Vomiting
September 5, 2010, 3:08 am
Filed under: Children, Motherhood

Whilst we were enjoying a shepherd’s pie at our house tonight with friends Jeni and her precious baby Jax, Benjamin suddenly lost it. Just fell apart in completely uncharacteristic wails. He was inconsolable and unable to vocalize what the problem was (quite unusual since he talks nonstop all day, every day). I decided to take his temperature just to be safe and sure enough, 102. Even stranger, he fell asleep while I was sticking a thermometer into his bottom. Sleep does not come easily to our Little Bear, especially if he is being prodded in the bum with the “tempatures” as he calls the thermometer. So, the fever and the strange behavior convinced me something was quite wrong. He proceeded to fall into a restless sleep full of whimpers on my shoulder and I did what anyone with wonderful family does when their little boy is ill and their husband is working a 12 hour shift: I called my folks. My brother, who lives down the road came over to thumb through my baby medical book so I could hold the sleeping, feverish toddler and my mom and dad arrived to give more experienced advice. One look at Benjamin’s HIGHLY unusual lethargy which was promptly interrupted by violent vomiting convinced us all that we needed to head to the only urgent care clinic open on a holiday weekend. So, off we went to sit in the waiting room for a bit. The last time we took Benjamin to the walk-in clinic the task of keeping him in a chair in the waiting room was a Herculean feat, but tonight he just whimpered in my arms and occasionally lifted his head to vomit. The poor angel.

My mom gave me a beautiful antique Rosary and I prayed with Our Lady to the Lord while we waited. Prayers, the presence of my sweet parents, and the distraction of tending to my sweet boy, was all that was holding me together. But a few tears did escape. Maybe it sounds dramatic, but you don’t know fear until you have a child. You have no idea. NO IDEA. Furthermore, Benjamin has never really been sick before. A couple of runny noses, but that’s about it. Once we went back to see the Doctor, Benjamin started to talk again, respond to us, and regain a little spunk. The Doctor was fantastic with him and thought he had a viral infection of some kind, a little bug, but did a strep test just to be safe. Turned out negative. So we went back home and after vomiting again, Bear really perked up and started to act like himself again. We gave him a bath (Daddy was back from work by this time) and read books and pushed the pedialyte to get him rehydrated. He was quite thrilled with his “special juice” as he called it and really seemed back to normal. I checked his temperature again and it had gone down two degrees. Daniel and I moved his big alphabet mat into his room and put a comforter on top to make a bed for Mama and Benjamin to sleep on. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep in a separate room tonight because I’d be worried he’d get sick in his sleep and I wouldn’t be there. So we snuggled down and the little guy is slumbering soundly on our special makeshift bed. 

I cannot express my relief to see my spunky little busybody return to us after the scary unresponsive lethargy. And I’m so lucky to live close to sweet family who loves him just as much as I do. I hope my sweet boy is all better tomorrow!