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

Red Curry Squash Curry
December 31, 2011, 3:20 pm
Filed under: Feasting, Husband

Benjamin had a sleepover at Daniel’s folks house last night so Daniel and I had a date night in and he cooked delicious Indian food and we drank some ice riesling, the kind of wine we had when he proposed. Liz and Sara requested the recipe for the curry and for poori so here ’tis.

Daniel’s Red Curry Squash Curry

1 red curry squash

2 cloves garlic

1 can coconut milk

2 carrots

green onion


½ lime

1 tbsp red curry paste

salt and pepper to taste


Chop red churry squash after seeding.  Chop carrots.

Fry diced garlic in oil with TBSP red curry paste. Mix together. Add coconut milk and mix. Add chopped vegetables, cook until veggies are done. Add lime juice, some cilantro, and green onion. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook for one minute. Serve over rice or couscous or eat with poori.



1 and ½ cup whole wheat flour

1 and ½ cup all purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 TBSP shortening or butter

1 cup milk

Mix flour and salt. Mix in or cut in shortening or butter. Add milk and mix together.  Knead together on floured surface. Separate into 20 pieces and roll each into a thin 4 inch circle. Heat oil in sauce pan on high. Drop each rolled circle into the oil. Turn it over when it begins to puff up. Remove from oil to paper towel to drain, add salt on top.

The red curry squash curry was fantastic and we added mussels to make it extra yummy. The poori recipe was super easy but they didn’t puff up very well so I wasn’t crazy about it. Anyhow, Sara, it’ll do in a pinch.


Our Year in Pictures: 2011!
December 30, 2011, 5:28 pm
Filed under: Advent, Birth, Children, Christmas, Easter, Motherhood, Thanksgiving | Tags: , , , ,

I think Daniel and I both agree that 2011 was our best year to date. Here’s some highlights (which turned out to become a monstrously long post with mostly pregnancy pics, oh well).


Daniel got a new job and we hoped to get pregnant again. Benjamin continued to amaze us with the joy he brought to our world.


In February we celebrated Benjamin’s 2nd Birthday (A Farm Birthday Party) and two days later found out I was pregnant.


Our garden produced some great food and Benjamin loved “helping” Daddy tend to it. I was really, really, sick for the whole month with 24-hour morning sickness. Daniel and my mom picked up all the slack for me. Don’t know what I would do without them. Look how tired I look, holy cow:


Our first Easter back in Tallahassee and the anniversary of our Confirmation. Benjamin made a little best friend named Ulee from library storytime. His mom, Zemi, and I hit it off and the boys enjoyed playing at the Jr.Museum (Tallahassee Museum) together.

I started looking really pregnant and the nausea started to get a little bit better, although I was exhausted from growing Ms. Lucy.


A busy month of leading company rehearsals for the Spring ballet and getting my little students ready for their recital dances. Benjamin and I started doing summery things like going to the pool and Daniel and I celebrated our 5th anniversary by a weekend away at the Animal Kingdom Lodge where we spent our honeymoon. Why we didn’t take one picture…I don’t know.


We took Benjamin blueberry picking and we fell into a wonderful routine of morning outings for the summer: park, pool, jr. museum, pool, brogan museum. Such a happy time! And I got bigger:

At the end of June we had the best family vacation ever: a trip to North Carolina for my wonderful friend Jane’s wedding and then a week split between resting and reading at my grandparents mountain home and visiting my wonderful cousins, aunt, and uncle, in SC.


We returned from vacation just before the 4th of July and I was suddenly hugely pregnant. My good friend, Beca, was in town for the summer and kept me company. We also said farewell to the Harry Potter film series with a party and a midnight movie. That wouldn’t be a major milestone of most people’s year, but…well, you know how we feel about Harry Potter.


August was pretty miserably hot, although nothing near the infernal summer they had in Texas this year. I was getting SO BIG and so excited about our baby girl. Our dear friends, Brian and Lois, moved into our third bedroom while raising support for their mission work in Nepal. We also started to get really plugged in at our parish and starting making some wonderful Catholic friends, something we’d never had before, including my friend Colleen who has been such an encouragement to me this year.


I turned 26 this month and started to have Braxton-Hicks contractions all the time. My due date was October 13th but we were sure she wouldn’t wait so long to come since I was already dilated…we ended up waiting, waiting, and waiting some more. I did some pretty nutty nesting to get ready for our sweet girl and we rearranged the house to prepare for her arrival. My friend Erin was visiting for a couple of weeks and kept me distracted with Downton Abbey.


We had a scare when Benjamin caught Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease (a mild illness for toddler but dangerous for newborn if the mother has been exposed). He had to be quarantined away from me at Marmee’s house for over a week. Thankfully, I didn’t catch it and neither did Lucy when she FINALLY arrived almost two weeks past her due date and met her incredibly proud big brother:

I love this picture so much, despite the fact that I’m still so puffy from late pregnancy and labor. I think Benjamin’s expression is precious and he’s been just as sweet and gentle with his sister each day since.

And SHE. Well…we’re so in love her. From day one she has been the most precious and sweet of babies. She’s so easy, so adorable. So happy and smiley and SLEEPY. Praise God.


We started learning how to live life as a four-person family. Sleep-deprived and full of joy, we celebrated Lucy’s baptism and the anniversary of Benjamin’s baptism.

We hosted Thanksgiving at our house with Daniel’s folks, my folks and brother, and some dear friends.


In late November and December we were all pretty miserably ill with colds and sinus/throat/ear/eye infections. Even sweet Lucygirl. But it’s still been a wonderful Advent and Christmas. Having two precious babes is a gift I am thankful for every minute.

Can’t wait to see what 2012 has in store…Praise God from whom all blessings flow.


Books I Read in 2011
December 29, 2011, 12:36 am
Filed under: Books | Tags: , , ,

So, I’m always inspired by Katherine‘s end-of-the-year reading list. Katherine is my childhood friend John’s high school sweetheart wife and now a very dear friend as well. If I had my way, John and Katherine would be our next door neighbors and Katherine’s sister Beca would live on the other side. Unfortunately, they all currently live in the freezing tundra of the Northeast and I have to pine away in between their visits home.

I know my reading list isn’t impressive but since all but two weeks of the year I had pregnant-brain and then newborn-brain, I don’t think it’s completely embarrassing.

1. Kristin Lavransdatter: The Wreath by Sigrid Undset

2. Kristin Lavransdatter: The Wife by Sigrid Undset

3. Kristin Lavransdatter: The Cross by Sigrid Undset

I absolutely loved these books. I read the first one years ago but never finished the series and they were all a delight. Including some of my favorite things: 11th century Scandanavia, Catholicism, and a strong female protagonist, I was completely drawn in. Undset won the Nobel prize for literature for these books and she’s considered one of the finest Norwegian authors of all time. She’s also a Catholic convert, so I feel like we have something in common. The books are medieval historical fiction but so well-researched and legit. I really think they’re some of the best 20th literature out there. Read ’em.

4. Catherine of Siena by Sigrid Undset

Ok, so I was a little bit of a Sigrid nut this year, but this one was great, too. It’s a biography, or I suppose, a hagiography of St. Catherine of Siena drawn from primary sources. I’m not usually one for biographies but this one was so good and included a lot of Italian political and religious history that I didn’t know anything about. If you’re looking for a good Saints Life book to read, check this one out.

5. The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris

Norris is a good writer and I enjoyed sections of this book but all-in-all it was a little too self-indulgent for me. I couldn’t help being bothered by a subtle smugness that permeated the book. Maybe I’m crazy, but it wasn’t my favorite.

6. Great with Child by Beth Ann Fennelly

My sweet friend Helen (one of our fellow collaborators at Feast!) gave this one to me when I was pregnant with Lucy. It is a collection of letters that Fennelly, a poetry professor, wrote to a pregnant former student who had become a dear friend. It is simply beautiful. I lent it to two friends this year who were also pregnant and they loved it, too. Gorgeous.

7. The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding by Sheila Kippley

Obviously not very interesting to those without babies, but a really interesting book about the benefits and practice of exclusive and extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, etc. Benefits include reducing your risk of breast and ovarian cancer and naturally spacing your pregnancies (in addition to the well-known and obvious benefits of breastmilk for babies).

8. Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood by Sheila Kippley

This one is less about the practical side of breastfeeding and focuses instead on the theological facets of motherhood and nourishment. There are some great thoughts by various popes and clergy. Made me so glad to be part of faith that supports and values motherhood.

9. The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton

Merton’s autobiography. It’s a bit lengthy, but overall I really enjoyed it. One of the themes that jumped out at me was the grace of God that is every pursuing and guiding us, something I have been learning in my own life.

10. 10 Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen

If you are a parent, hope to be a parent someday, or would like to revive or develop a love of learning, this is a MUST READ. I can’t say enough about it. It is so good. Esolen is a genius and you will take a long, hard look at modern thought and education. I will probably read this one again next year as I get more serious about developing curriculum for Benjamin’s education. Please read it, whoever you are. It is delightfully funny and enlightening.

11. Glittering Vices by Rebecca DeYoung

We read this one as part of a book group at my folks house with some grad students at FSU. It’s a wonderful introduction to the seven deadly sins. It’s very accessible and readable but full of ancient sources that are woven in perfectly. I might read it again next year as part of my lenten preparation.

12. The Art of the Commonplace by Wendell Berry

These agrarian essays are amazing. Some are better than others but this collection is worth reading for anyone who wants to consider how to live well. I will probably look back on this book as one of the most formative of my life.

13. The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke

I LOVED her novel, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and was thrilled when my bestie Eleanor gifted it to me. It is a collection of Clarke’s short stories set in England during the Napoleonic wars. It’s full of fairies. I adored it. But, if you haven’t read Jonathan Strange, yet, start with that one because it’s grand.

14. Anne of the Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery

This was a re-read. Actually, a re-re-re-re-read. If you know me at all, you know that I love the Anne books. I consider this one part of my “bathtub reading” that doesn’t require too many brain cells to complete. I love to brew a cup of tea and curl up with a book in a hot bath after the babies have gone to sleep. What could be better?

15. The Grey King by Susan Cooper

Just some good old YA fantasy fiction. My first Susan Cooper book and I think I’ll complete the series. Another bathtub book, for sure.

16. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Like everybody else, I read The Help this year. Haven’t seen the movie yet because I don’t usually feel like leaving my nursing little one behind and taking her to the movies sounds stressful. I liked it. Definitely a fluffy bathtub book.

Devotional Reading

17. Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales

A re-read. So good. I will probably be re-reading this for the rest of my life.

18. Watch for the Light 

A collection of Advent and Christmas readings by various authors. I always intend to read it all and never do because I always get sick during Advent. Maybe next year, right? Some of the selections are not so great but some are fantastic.


19. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I have the one read by Jim Dale who is my favorite reader ever. I listen to this one every Christmastide.

20-26. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

As you know, I’m a little obsessed. I fall asleep to these audiobooks, also read by Jim Dale. I don’t think I need to say anything else about this.

27. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Another re-re-re-re-re-read. Obviously one of the best novels in the English language. Philosopher Alasdair McIntyre once said he didn’t trust people who didn’t like Jane Austen. I feel exactly the same way.

28. Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Yet another re-read. I listened to this one on our drive to North Carolina in June. It’s another one of the “Anne” books. So good.

29. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Listened to this to help me fall asleep during my pregnancy when I always have a little bit of insomnia. It’s a re-read. If you have a hankering for Jane Austen and Magicians at the same time, this would be a good bet.

And now for books I plan to finish or read in 2012:

1. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

I love the miniseries and so far the book is just as charming. My in-laws bought me a copy in the clothbound Penguin edition and I adore it. It’s too beautiful to read in the bathtub which might be why it’s taking me so long to get through it.

2. Arthur by Stephen Lawhead

Well, if you’re going to read Arthurian legend fiction, this is the series to delve into. I’ve read Taliesen and Merlin in the series but haven’t ever gotten to Arthur. It’s my current bathtub book.

3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

I want to re-read this one before the new film adaption comes out. And I have the clothbound Penguin edition so…what’s not to love?

4. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

Gifted to me by Katherine this Christmas, I can’t wait to start it. I watched the miniseries with Toby Stephens in it and liked it immensely.

5. Redwall by Brian Jacques

I keep meaning to finish this one and haven’t yet. I read it years and years ago and want to read it again to Benjamin in a couple of years but thought I should preview it to see if it’s as good as I remember.

6. The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Baeur

This isn’t really the kind of book that you finish since it’s full of reading lists that would take a life time to complete.

7. Anne’s House of Dreams (audiobook) by Lucy Maud Montgomery

One of Daniel’s Christmas gifts to me. Can’t wait to listen to this one which I remember being one of my favorites of the series. He also promised to watch the Anne miniseries with me and drink raspberry cordial. Be still my heart!

8. Praying with Icons by Jim Forest

Another Daniel gift. Can’t wait to start it.

What books did you read this year? I’d love to know what your favorites were. What do you plan to read next year? If you wrote an end-of-the-year book post, please leave the link in the comments. I’d love to read it!

Ero Cras
December 24, 2011, 7:18 pm
Filed under: Advent, Children, Christmas | Tags: , , , , ,








ERO CRAS: I will be there tomorrow.

I love a good old timey Latin Advent acrostic!

We are having a relaxing Christmas Eve day before going to my folks house for Christmas Eve dinner.

Our sweet boy has been dying to put the ornaments on the tree for weeks and will be so excited for the chance to decorate it tonight. Tomorrow we will eat cinnamon rolls, light the Christ Candle in the center of our Advent wreath, go to Christmas Mass, and then spend the afternoon with food and presents at Daniel’s parents house. I’m so grateful we’re not traveling one bit!

I’m so excited for Lucy’s first Christmas! She is the happiest and sweetest of babies and I can’t get enough of her precious baby scent and amazingly goofy smiles. I cover her little face with kisses all day and night.

She’s getting nice and chubby!

“Every baby is the sweetest and the best.” Name that quote.


3ft Movie Critic
December 24, 2011, 4:09 pm
Filed under: Children, Films

So I started a tumblr to document Benjamin’s awesome toddler film reviews. It’s a little bit awesome because his reviews are hysterical. Check it out: 3ftMovieCritic.

…That Mourns in Lonely Exile Here…
December 23, 2011, 4:07 pm
Filed under: Advent

I wrote this reflection last year during Advent, but never posted it. Here ’tis.


O Come, O Come, Emmanuel has always been my favorite carol. I love the ancient chant-like melody and the images it conjures: monks singing by candlelight and waiting to celebrate the coming of the Light of the World while a cold, dark winter lingers on. It has many beautiful verses but the first and most familiar is:


O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel


It is, of course, a particularly fitting verse for Advent when we prepare for the coming of Our Lord. This Advent I have come to understand better what it means because it’s been a dark Advent. In November dear friends lost a child at birth. Their incomprehensible grief and the loss we have all experienced as we miss their daughter we will never have the opportunity to know, made the uncertainty of this life more present. We are not guaranteed lives free of pain, in fact, quite the opposite. We wait in exile. And in exile there is grief. So I have struggled with the darkness of our exile. How do we live in a world of grief, pain, and uncertainty? How do we love those around us knowing that we might lose them? What does it mean to wait for Jesus?


St. Bernard of Clairvaux writes of three advents. One is in the past: Christ was born to the Blessed Virgin Mary when God Incarnate came to rescue the world. One is in the present: now is the time to prepare our hearts for Christ’s dwelling. And one is in the future: Christ will come again in glory. During the Advent season I usually only consider the past Advent, Christ’s Nativity. After all, it’s complete and all that I need to do is remember what has happened and celebrate on Christmas morning what Our Lord has done. The other two advents require more of me. How do I prepare my heart for the Son of God to enter it? And perhaps even more difficult: How can I bear waiting for Christ’s return in exile, amidst grief, pain, and uncertainty?


In the advent carol the first step is to long for Christ. O come, O come, Emmanuel, God with us. We long for Him because we have come to understand the difficult reality of our situation. Until we realize that placing our security in anything of this life is fruitless, we will not be able to long for Christ as we ought. We are captives in this exile and we must understand our helplessness and need of a Savior. I remember Zechariah who was struck dumb during the miraculous pregnancy of his aging and previously barren wife, Elizabeth. Waiting. Yearning for new life as he anticipated the birth of his son, John the Baptist. And ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here… Our exile. It seems very dark. But we have been given a gift, a promise that our exile will not last forever. We have been given hope. And our hope is a Living Hope for it is Christ himself. What makes the darkness and the waiting and the pain bearable is that it will come to an end. Zechariah will speak at the end of nine months. A woman in labor will not be in pain forever. Until the Son of God appear… In the darkness of our exile we wait in joyful hope because He is coming. He HAS come. And He IS here. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. The redemption of the world has happened in the Incarnation, it is happening in us and in the world, it will be fulfilled and completed.


How can we bear our exile? I think I am learning that the answer is hope. With hope we can say with Lady Julian of Norwich, even through our grief…And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.


Hail, Holy Queen, mother of mercy:

Hail, our life, our sweetness, and our hope.

To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve;

to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.

Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us;

and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.

That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Advent/Christmas Books and Music
December 14, 2011, 2:43 pm
Filed under: Advent, Books, Christmas

Since Benjamin was born I’ve tried to collect books and music that are special for Advent and Christmas. My mom was always very intentional about Advent even though my parents are Protestant and we always listened to special music and had an Advent wreath. Here are some of our favorites:


Handel’s Messiah: This is the music that I remember listening to the most during Advent and Christmas as a child. I think we even had a record of it before the digital age. Since I was 8 years old, my mom and I would always attend try to the Tallahassee Messiah Sing, a December tradition at a local church where the attendees are the impromptu chorus (we’re always in the Alto section). I’m 26 now so that’s a lot of Messiah Sing-Alongs. I missed a few years but…still…we can Hallelujah Chorus with the best of ’em. This is really a MUST HAVE Advent and Christmas album. The music is simply incredible and the biblical readings used as the lyrics are so beautifully woven together. I also love that it includes songs about the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Advent is, after all, a little Lent. And the Incarnation and the Crucifixion/Resurrection are parts of one story.

Bach’s Christmas Oratorio: I just discovered this one this year when Daniel and I took Lucy to see this performed a few weeks ago when we needed to get out of the house after some new baby cabin fever. Sweet girl slept through the whole thing and we loved it. It’s made of six cantatas that were performed beginning on Christmas Day up to Epiphany. It’s really great. I do love me some Bach.

photo by Denny Renshaw from

Sufjan Stevens’ Songs for Christmas: A compilation of EPs of Christmas songs Sufjan recorded as Christmas presents for his friends. I first heard one of these amazing tunes in 2003(?) and then listened to them nonstop when they were released five or six years ago. There are some beautiful versions of some of my favorites: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” as well as some of Sufjan’s original Christmas songs (some of which are amazing and some are…eh.) I start listening to this album as soon as it’s Advent because I can’t make myself wait until Christmas and rationalize it because there are a couple of Advent songs.


The Friendly Beasts by Tomie dePaola: I love Tomie dePaola and I love this Old English Christmas carol. Daniel’s mom got us this for Christmas two years ago and it’s still one of Benjamin’s very favorite books. The illustrations are gorgeous and now we’ve all memorized the song which Benjamin frequently requests at bedtime.

George Balanchine’s The Nutracker: I love the beautiful photographs and Benjamin is a little bit obsessed with Drosselmeier. “Isn’t Drosselmeier WEIRD?!” he’ll ask/tell me.

The Nutcracker Doll by Mary Newell DePalma: Daniel and Benjamin brought this one home from the library the other day and I think it’s absolutely precious. It’s about a little girl’s first year in a ballet company and her first Nutcracker

A Little House Christmas by Laura Ingalls Wilder: A collection of Christmas stories from the Little House books. Benjamin isn’t quite ready for this one yet but I can’t wait til he is. Because I love Laura Ingalls Wilder.

The Donkey’s Dream by Barbara Helen Berger: I don’t own this one yet but I need to add it to my wishlist. My friend Marianna showed this one to me when I was pregnant with Benjamin and I’ve meant to find a copy ever since. It’s about the donkey that carries the Blessed Virgin Mary to Bethlehem. It’s so lovely.

Jingle, the Christmas Clown by Tomie dePaola: Another Tomie dePaola. This one’s about a little clown in an Italian circus. It’s precious and there’s a recipe for special Christmas cookies in the back that I plan on making this year with Benjamin.

The Mitten by Jan Brett: I love Jan Brett’s illustrations so much. This one isn’t really about Christmas, just winter. We actually need to buy a new copy of this one because when Benjamin was a baby he drooled over this one so much that it completely fell apart.

Trouble with Trolls by Jan Brett: Same story with this one. Not a Christmas tale but lots of snow.

Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson: This was Benjamin’s favorite favorite book for the longest time. And I still like it after reading it a million billion gazillion times. Like the Brett books I mentioned, it’s just a winter book.

Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson: A new one that some sweet friends gave Benjamin at Thanksgiving. I really like it and so does he.

What is your favorite music for Advent? For Christmas? What books do you like to read? Which ones do you read to your kids? We want to know!