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

Life Update: Housemates, Date Nights, Friends, and a Question
August 21, 2011, 12:58 am
Filed under: Children, Community, Feasting, Saints

Well, we found them: the world’s greatest housemates. Our dear friends, Brian and Lois, moved into our third bedroom/library a couple of weeks ago and will be with us as they raise support for doing long-term missions in Nepal. It is so fun to have them around to share meals with and they could not be more helpful and great. This is our fourth endeavor into communal living and we feel like we are finally experiencing what we’ve always hoped it could be. They do awesome things like deep-cleaning our bathroom, weeding the garden, and cooking delicious meals without even being asked! It feels like we are really living in community, rather than attempting to run a household while having folks renting a room. And perhaps most amazingly, so far, 5 people sharing a bathroom hasn’t been half bad! Does that mean we don’t shower enough?

Because Baby Lucy’s arrival is only 7ish weeks away (eek!!!), Daniel and I have been trying to have as many special dates as we can, just the two of us, in the remaining weeks. Last night after Benjamin went to his weekly slumber party at Daniel’s folks house (yes, having grandparents in town is THE BEST!), I picked up Daniel from work and we went to Mass before our dinner date. At Mass, I ran into a friend I had done some musicals with in high school–Colleen. She and her husband have a baby and just moved back to town. It was fantastic to reconnect with her and she promises to hook us up with other Catholic friends our age. We really don’t have any Catholic friends in town which is hard. So the prospect of having some is thrilling!

When we got home from dinner, we were pleased as punch to read the splendid post about the Feast of St. Helena of the True Cross that our new contributors to Feast!, Joseph and Helen Thompson wrote as their debut post.

Read more about the Thompsons here in the About section of Feast! We are so excited to have them on board.

I have been so bad about getting our camera out and taking good pictures of Benjamin lately. Here’s just a few low quality iphone pics to tide you over until I get it together:

Silly boy “helping” with the dishes. He always want to help do real work: with the chickens, in the garden, cooking, etc. “I want to do some work, Daddy!” is his rallying cry.


Losing his two-year-old mind over his excavator from Uncle Garrett!

So this blog is about to reach 10,000 views…not a whole lot for a blog, I know. But, I was thinking it called for some kind of giveaway. Thoughts? How do you do a giveaway? What would you want for a giveaway? Cheese? Books? Books about cheese? Chime in, please.

Pregnancy Update: Week 30
August 2, 2011, 10:53 am
Filed under: Community, Motherhood, Pregnancy

I can’t believe that I’m 3/4 done with this pregnancy (if I carry until 40 weeks, that is ). I still feel pretty great, although I start to lose energy by around 8 or 8:30pm. I think the prenatal yoga is helping to keep my lower back from hurting too much as I carry this growing little girl around.

All good news from our midwife last week: no gestational diabetes, just need some more iron so now I’m taking supplements. Baby Lucy’s heartbeat is strong and she seems to be growing just as she should. My blood pressure is still good and so far everything looks low risk. We’re so grateful. Please keep praying for continued health and safety for Lucy and I during our last few weeks of pregnancy.

Here’s a couple of articles I’ve read this week related to faith and womanhood/women’s issues:

Why I Nurse at the Mall…and at Mass by Kate Wicker:

“I realized that if, as I strongly believed, nursing was a part of God’s plan for helping mothers bond with their babies and a way of using my body the way He designed it to be used, then of all places, I should feel comfortable breastfeeding my children in God’s home. Christopher West, the Catholic author best known for his insightful commentary on John Paul II’sTheology of the Body, describes a nursing mother as “one of the most precious, most beautiful, and most holy of all possible images of woman.” So why should I feel ashamed nursing in church – in the presence of the Most Holy Eucharist – but not at the mall? Do I believe breasts are made to feed babies or are they just meant to be squeezed into rhinestone-clad bras for surfers to ogle on the Internet?”

God’s Fatherhood After Feminism by Matthew Milliner

“After all, that God is “Mother” is not nearly so daring as the orthodox Christian assertion that God has one.”

In other news, our dear friends, Brian and Lois, are back from Nepal and will be moving into our third bedroom today! What an adventure! I’ll keep you abreast of our latest experiment in communal living.


Baby Jonah and a Delicious Friday Night
February 12, 2011, 4:01 pm
Filed under: Children, Community, Fasting, Penance | Tags:

This is Baby Jonah and his Mama, Tryna. They accompanied Benjamin and I to  the Museum of Florida History downtown. Between the fully reconstructed Mastadon bones, animatronic giant armadillo, and steamboat exhibit, Benjamin had plenty to delight and amaze him. Benjamin is still talking about the “Museum of Flo-rida HIStory!” We will need to go again.

Last night, my brother and our friends, Thomas and Kellie were coming over for dinner. I wanted to try to recreate the sauce from the Stuffed Tilapia at El Siete Mares in Waco but I’ve never created my own recipe before. So I was nervous and hesitant.

But I forged ahead and created my own recipe for Baked Tilapia with Spicy Cilantro Cream Sauce. It was seriously delicious. Not a bite remained.

As you can see, our plates are emptied of the scrumptiousness.

I posted the recipe on Feast! and started a series of “Fish Friday” recipes.

Eating by Season: Why I Like Having a CSA Share
October 25, 2010, 12:53 pm
Filed under: Books, Community, Farm Life, Green Living, Seasons

I’ve had a few people ask about the CSA we have a share in, so I thought I’d post about it with some background on eating seasonal foods. In the past couple of years I’ve gained great appreciation for the rhythms of the Christian Year and the way that by observing it, the story of the Gospel unfolds. One way to participate in the Christian Year is to feast and fast according to the traditions of the Church which, obviously, involves food. Sharing food with family and friends should ideally be a daily reminder of sacred things: The Last Supper, the Holy Eucharist, and the Wedding Feast of the Lamb (all connected, of course). If we consider the partaking of food not as a mundane event but as a sacred rite, then what we eat, where it came from, and who grew it becomes important. Something we are trying to add to the rhythm of our lives is the practice of eating seasonal food. It seems elementary to eat according to what’s in season but I for one was completely unaware of when foods were in season–they’re available at the grocery store all year round!

A few books have been really helped me understand some of these food issues.

Wendell Berry’s collection of agrarian essays: The Art of the Commonplace has been changing my life. Please read ASAP.

Barbara Kingsolver’s farm memoir: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a wonderful introduction to eating local and seasonal foods. I don’t agree with every little thing she says but it’s a delightful read and will make you want to plant a garden immediately.

I’ve also got some cookbooks that are divided by season that have helped me start to get the hang of seasonal foods.

One is Simply in Season, in the same line as More with Less. Not all the recipes are great (some are a little bit bland), but it’s still incredibly helpful for foundational ideas for cooking with seasonal fruits and veggies.

And I adore Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila Latourrette’s cookbooks which I think I’ve raved about before.

Our friend Marianna gave us Twelve Months of Monastery Soups and I ordered and love Sacred Feasts. I want to get From a Monastery Kitchen and some of his other books. I have never made a recipe from “the monk” as Little Bear calls him that didn’t turn out delicious. These cookbooks join the efforts of observing the Christian Year and eating according to seasonal rhythms because the author cooks frugally with the contents of a monastery garden for monks who are observing the Christian Year.

Having local seasonal foods available through our own vegetable garden and a share in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) also has really forced me to eat according to season.

Benjamin loves harvesting okra.

We’re still eating okra from our prolific plants in our front yard and our fall/winter garden of greens, leeks, herbs, carrots, etc, is coming in nicely. We divide a full share (enough veggies for four people) from Orchard Pond Organics with my parents and pick it up once a week. This is what our half looked like last week:

We got Spinach, Bok Choy, Bell Peppers, Butternut Squash, Summer Squash, Zucchini, Eggplant, Radishes, Cucumbers, fresh Basil and Eggs. I’m starting to lose hope that we’ll be able to eat it all before Wednesday when we get our next share. My plan is to try to use up everything but the butternut since they will last a good while.

My brother and I took Benjamin to the farm tour this weekend to see Orchard Pond. He loved seeing the chickens that lay our eggs. I took some pics with Garrett’s phone but I’m not sure if we got any good ones. I’ll post them later.

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!

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?