Meals and More

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Meals
Sunday: chocolate chip cookies and black tea
Monday: upcycled some leftover basmati and couscous into Mediterranean fried rice with mushrooms, sweet potatoes, Sultana raisins, shallots, olive tapenade, cumin, anise seeds, and saffron
Tuesday: bookclub potluck
Wednesday: Cuban coconut rice, chicken, black beans, and fried coconut chili bananas
Thursday: Italian wedding soup
Friday: too much sushi (guilty as charged…)
Saturday: meatloaf, sweet peas, and goat cheese mashed sweet potatoes

More
•Christian art can be the most sublime or the most awful. Melissa Musick has good things to say. As does Sufjan Stevens.

•On a long rainy drive to my parents’ house this week, I turned on the radio to this and it transported me to a sunnier state of mind.

•Have you ever had an idea but wanted someone else to run with it? Boom. I wish I could become a wealthy patron for this sort of thing.

•the ever-inspiring Erin posted this and it reminded me of this which made me feel guilty about all the disposable diapers we’ve been blowing through even though I have a cloth stash I’ve been too apprehensive to break into. But I took the leap a few days ago and it was surprisingly seamless (except for the night I goofed with the inserts and my baby let me know just how angry he was to find himself soaked through and through at 1am). This is the brand we’re using and loving!

Meals and More

Meals and More

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Meals
Sunday: Thai takeout for V-day
Monday: Japanese meat and potatoes–because this cookbook really is the gift that keeps on giving
Tuesday: sweet potato and black bean taquitos
Wednesday: cheesy jalapeño enchiladas
Thursday: lame, tiny, overpriced salad chased by a polenta and refrigerator scraps bowl at home
Friday: Chinese takeout (we’re clearly really bad at Lent around here…)
Saturday: fish cakes with sautéed spinach, bell pepper, and leeks

More
This BBC piece has been making the rounds and Melinda Selmys gets it right as usual:

“It should be no surprise then that John Paul II had intimate friendships with women. Indeed, his personalism would seem to demand such relationships as a sign of healthy spiritual and emotional growth. The man who cannot relate to women without lusting after them is prevented from having healthy opposite-sex friendships precisely because he is incapable of seeing women as persons. The same is true, of course, of a woman who cannot have chaste friendships with men.”

•On my sometimes-run-mainly-walks I’ve been listening to podcasts. This one on creeds was especially good:

“In the darkest hours of life, you’ve got to believe something specific and that specification is the task of the creed.”

•I’m thinking we need to start adding some papal favorites to the meal rotation.

The Paris Review linked to this article about George Eberhard Rumpf, the inspiration for Barbara Cooney’s Miss Rumphius, and it was music to my interdisciplinary and folklore loving heart:

“The mix of fact, folklore, legend and speculation in Rumphius’ entry on the sea coconut is typical of his work. He lived at a time when the boundaries between disciplines hadn’t yet been clearly drawn. He was much an ethnographer as a biologist, as much a linguist as a scientist.”

Meals and More

Book Review: Simple Matters (plus my thoughts on minimalism and holiness in the home)

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A certain grumpy baby subjected me to marathon nursing sessions the other day so I took the opportunity to scarf down a book I had borrowed from my sister, Simple Matters, by blogger, Erin Boyle. And I was surprised by how much I loved it. I admit to prejudging the book thinking that it might be another curated minimalistic and unattainable lifestyle on display to make the rest of us feel second-rate at mothering and homemaking. Instead, I found Erin’s practices for simple living to be not only attainable but also deeply thoughtful and, in many ways, cohesive in a Catholic vision of ideal homemaking—which is the vision of a domestic monastery.

Domestic monastery–those words get thrown around often and I always think they sound lovely but am unsure of what a domestic monastery is supposed to look like and what are practical ways for making it happen. Erin’s book offers a way to achieve some aspects of that vision.

Though my lay vocation as a spouse and parent limits me from renouncing the world in the radical way that a cloistered monk or nun might, I can still echo specific vows and practices of monastic life in our homes.

For instance, I can emulate vows of poverty by rejecting consumerism in concrete ways such as questioning how and where the things I buy are made. Consequently, this would keep me from being caught in the cycle of indirect exploitation that I so easily fall into.

“When we make a commitment to using our purchasing power wisely, we set off a chain reaction that affects people we’ve never met and places we’ve never been for the better.”

I can also be a good steward of my home by practicing domestic virtues of thrift, resourcefulness, and organization. To do this, it’s necessary to adopt habits such as the continual evaluation of the things in my home that so often become a part of the visual landscape and unconsciously cause stress. Erin shrewdly points this out: “We’re under the false impression that we’re not in control of our spaces when the opposite is true.” When we strip unnecessary things away, we create an environment of calmness and order, which of course is supposed to be the environment of a monastery–one conducive to prayer and reflection.

While the book deals mainly with decluttering and minimizing what we own, Erin makes it clear that it is equally important to properly value those things we do choose to allow in our home. She tells her readers, “I genuinely like stuff. I appreciate good design. I enjoy keeping a beautiful home filled with beautiful things. Not lots of things. Nice things.”

In the Catholic vision of homemaking, this speaks to me of a sacramental mentality–that material things can hold immaterial import.

Our children’s first education is through their senses in the home. The textures, colors, smells, sounds, and tastes they experience, whether it’s through something as explicitly religious as a home oratory or as simple as freshly laundered linens or candles at the dinner table as Erin and her husband have made a ritual of having, should never be underestimated in their power to instill a sense of wonder in a child.

What I really love about this book is that the author is reasonable. Erin isn’t asking you to konmari-the-shizz-out-of-your-home so that you’re left with nothing and no budget with which to start over. She gives practical tips and exercises for simplifying your life, and she acknowledges that the lifestyle changes she suggests are a gradual process.

The only thing I would have liked to see differently is how these ideas might realistically be put into practice for a larger family, especially since I currently only have one child who is still easily contained. However, one day I hope to have a bunch of little humans and I’d like the reassurance that this whole ordered and simplified life/domestic-monastery-in-practice is, to some extent, feasible.

There’s so much more I could say about this book, but this would probably end up being equal in length to the book itself. And anyway, I should stop writing and go make the author proud by cutting up holey t-shirts to make into reusable kitchen rags.

(Update: Jenny’s got us covered with the large family/minimalism aspirations)

Book Review: Simple Matters (plus my thoughts on minimalism and holiness in the home)

Meals & More

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Meals:
Sunday: Superbowl snacks
Monday: Sausage and white bean gratin from this gem that always delivers.
(Fat) Tuesday: Pizza and wings takeout.
(Ash) Wednesday: Miso soup with green onion, baby bok choy, mushrooms, and soba noodles.
Thursday: Spaghetti and meatballs (which is probably not lenty enough to abide by my resolution to eat like a peasant these forty days)
Friday: Grilled gruyere and goat cheese sourdough sandwiches and store bought tomato soup.
Saturday: Hamburgers and s’mores around the (first!) annual bonfire at chez grandparents.

More:
• Almost a year ago I was telling my husband I didn’t need to take a pregnancy test. I knew I was pregnant. But then I did and those two lines made me go, “Oh sh**!” as all the happiness and fear of suddenly being made a mother hit me. So I loved this. Because it’s okay to be scared. Though I wish people would stop asking the question, “Was it planned?” Why does it matter?

• I loved majoring in English but these programs are making me wish I could go back in time:
The Berry Farming Program
The 51st Summer School of Slovak Language and Culture
A New Architecture Program at Benedictine

•When I tutored writing in college, I reviewed one too many papers from Masters of Education students saying that the key to fixing problems in education is to throw more technology at students. No and no. All the smartboards and tablets in the world won’t teach anyone to be a more intelligent or better person.

•I would so be in favor of communal living for these reasons. And on a related note.

(Handwriting and housing articles via LMLD)

Meals & More