Reading, Eating, Etc.

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Good reads, eats, and lots and lots of rambling:

Reading

One of my Lenten resolutions, the only one I’ve been keeping faithfully, has been to read only spiritual reading. I drag my feet to do it because fiction is so much easier to sink your teeth into, but it actually has been a beneficial exercise. So, I read The Screwtape Letters (for my bookclub) and it was an excellent examination of conscience and I’m still working my way through I Believe in Love (also a bookclub pick from way back in December). It’s slow going but I may actually end up adding it to my life-changers list because it really does come back to me on a daily basis and affects the way I think and act. I can’t wait for Easter though, because I have Middlemarch on the dock.

Articles

-I loved this post on Dominicana Journal about being Homesick for Heaven. It’s good to remember, when all the blogs and ig feeds you follow try to convince you otherwise, that no place, not the English countryside nor the streets of Paris, and no home, not a charming brownstone in a bustling city or a bright and airy one hundred year old farmhouse can cure us of the homesickness of heaven: “We shall be haunted by a nostalgia for divine things, by a homesickness for God which is not eased in this world even by the presence of God.” (And also, good to remember when you’re tired of the flat, hot, noisy city you live in or of shuffling from apartment to apartment that as St. Samthann says, “Heaven can be reached from any place on Earth.”)

-I don’t know what our children’s education is going to look like. I often think of how much richer my education would have been if I had gotten to follow a classical curriculum. But you know, private school=tuition, homeschooling=being solely responsible for your children’s education=ahhhh. Anyway, I know we will at least be having culture hour once a week.

A lovely article my sister sent me and also full of good reminders about raising and educating children.

“The pressure to achieve can corrupt the activity itself…not just playing the piano. If we fail to recognize the dangers, we can become enslaved to the world’s standards of value. What matters is not the richness of an individual’s experience, but the degrees earned, prizes won, schools attended, articles published, patents filed, movies made, books written. And this is true for religious people as well as secularists. We tend to become part of this culture of achievement even if we don’t mean to. And it’s increasingly true for children, who sense early on that they must make something of themselves and find an identity in some sort of accomplishment.”

-Are you an HSP? I’d heard the term floating around and thought, “Oh yes, I’m probably that.” But then I actually started reading more about it and dude….it explains so much about my whole life. The fact that I couldn’t deal with the seams on my socks when I was in Kindergarten, that anytime I’m in a tense situation, whether it’s just being in the presence of arguing people or sensing any sort of danger, I feel like I’m going to completely shut down or lose it, that my one customer service gig with a stressful boss and rude customers gave me so much freaking anxiety, that bad memories stay with me foreeeever, that I absolutely cannot handle any remotely scary movies or shows because those images stick in my mind, that I felt like I was having a mental breakdown every day when I was regularly watching my five month old nephew and my two month old son at the same time, that when Leo won’t stop whining, I have to shut myself in a room for a minute and scream into my hands. So I guess I have to figure out how to deal with it now…

-Joe and I are on a marriage panel tonight for our alma mater’s Theology of the Body club. I feel like we are so not qualified to talk about marriage because we’ve only been at it for three-ish years now, and frankly, I suck at the whole putting other people before myself part of marriage…which is like the main part of marriage. But I suppose that’s the point of an event like this. Not to show how easy and marvelous marriage is, but to admit how hard but good (and even still marvelous) it is. But anyway some other people talking about marriage who have better things to say:

The Benedictine Confessional

“Christian marriage—like any marriage—is hard work. It’s ascetical. It’s about the halting, faltering effort to unlearn selfishness and gradually grow in love—not just love for another human being but love for another sinning human being…’Your marriage is a covenant that must stand firm even if your spouse becomes a threat to your tranquility and personal fulfillment, even if the time should come when you feel that the other who shares your bed has become—for the moment, at least—your enemy. Jesus has taught us to love our enemies.'”

You’re still a bride after your wedding day, even when you don’t feel like one.

Know this: married dreams brought down to earth are good; your calling specifically heralded at this moment in time. It’s okay to feel like your wedding is a lot to come down from, and that you walked into a new, unfamiliar version of yourself as you walked out the church doors. Imagining married life in broad strokes is easy and it’s dreamy, but it’s the subtleties life layers on that pave most of our road to holiness.”

Can marriage work with all those kids?!?!

“Yes, kids are hard,  Yes, we work harder at our marriages with little people around, but don’t lose sight of the all important fact:  Love propels us into this crazy thing of marriage and family life, and Love will see us through all the many challenges because as St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians: Love never fails.  Or at least, if we don’t let it!  If we don’t resist or reject Love, it never fails us.  This is the hope we carry with us as we make our vows to each other.”

-Last one, I promise! This article from Eve Tushnet reflecting about a Catholic understanding of the body seems particularly appropriate for Holy Week.

Eating

Celebrations

-My roommate and her husband were in town for a couple hours on St. Patrick’s Day so I made this beer cheese soup (not a very Irish recipe but I used Kerrygold cheddar and nixed all the peppers). We enjoyed it with Irish brown bread and together they were crazy good.

-Another one of my dear friends had a birthday last week and I got to make the cake. Her only request was that it be chocolate so I went with another “best ever” recipe. It got rave reviews even though I forgot to frost the middle.

Comfort food

-Sometimes you just need a giant pile of noodles. One of my best friends/Leo’s godmama came over for dinner one night and we made shrimp lo mein and scallion pancakes (inspired by Katherine’s post.) Everything was gloriously comforting and oily.

Turkey bolognese and spaghetti squash with toasted panko and pine nut topping. (loosely based on this recipe.) Joe got home late that night so I ate beforehand and had a really hard time not eating all the bolognese out the pot before he got a chance to have dinner.

Brunches

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I have a thing for brunching fancy at home. It started when Leo switched to one nap a day and I didn’t get to sit down to eat until 11. I munch on dry cereal first thing in the morning but if I try to sit down and eat breakfast, Leo (who’s already eaten his fill of scrambled eggs and oatmeal) finds it unacceptable and cries and claws at my legs. Sweet child.

Anyway, I celebrate my daily two hours of silence by trying to make fancy things out of fridge leftovers. And when I can turn out something worthy of going on a bistro brunch menu, I give myself a little pat on the back, snap a picture, and upload it on the gram. Morning rituals and all that. Favorites have been:

whole wheat couscous, basil, cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, sundried tomatoes, a soft-boiled egg, balsamic vinegar, and tuna (the good kind packed in a jar with capers and olive oil–makes all the difference.)

Roasted artichoke, shallot-mustard compound butter, and poached eggs on top of sourdough toast.

Biscuits and gravy. My mom gave me Red Lobster biscuit mix when I went over to her house and I’m never one to turn away free food. Oh man, this combo was good. For the sausage I just fried up ground beef and added maple syrup, brown sugar, and some spices. For the gravy I threw butter, flour, and water into the ground beef mixture and let it all come together.

Leftover Korean beef and rice with a fried egg on top. I would actually cut the sugar down in the beef recipe if I made it again. It was too sweet for me, but with the egg it did taste like asian takeout, so that’s always a win.

Breakfast tacos. Always, always. So easy to throw together and so satisfying.

I don’t eat like this every day. Some days it’s cold pizza or cereal. Today it was just a piece of toast. And really, this is a celebration of nap time, so whatever the meal, it’s still every bit as luxurious.

Etc.

Wishing everyone a blessed Holy Week, Passiontide, and Easter Sunday/Season!

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Reading, Eating, Etc.

Weekly Edit

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Gifts from the Internet

On childhood and how we’re overcomplicating it:

  • Completely agree with this. I have very real memories of being stressed out about homework in elementary school.

“I believe that play should be the only work that kids do as homework,” said Karen Fitch, a Silicon Valley mother of a third-grade boy, and a former teacher. “Children are in school for hours on end; they don’t need to work on school subjects at home.”

  • Kids need less. Less toys. Less extracurricular activities. Less technology. This article is feeding my minimalistic aspirations for all stages of life:

“We enroll [sic] them in endless activities. And fill every space in their rooms with educational books, devices and toys with the average western child having in excess of 150 toys. With so much stuff children become blinded and overwhelmed with choice. They play superficially rather than becoming immersed deeply and lost in their wild imaginations.”

  • I don’t know how much I feel comfortable sharing about my child on here, which is why I tend to err on the side of caution. But I do follow plenty of bloggers who share all about their children. Many of these blogs made me less afraid and more excited about becoming a parent, so I’m very grateful to them and I wonder if I’m being too cautious. On the other hand, my child is his own person and I wonder how he will feel ten, fifteen, twenty years from now if I’ve put no limit on what I put out there about him. Of course, his entire generation will probably be dealing with these issues. Here’s some more food for thought on this issue:

“With the first babies of Facebook (which started in 2004) not yet in their teens and the stylish kids of Instagram (which started in 2010) barely in elementary school, families are just beginning to explore the question of how children feel about the digital record of their earliest years. But as this study, although small, suggests, it’s increasingly clear that our children will grow into teenagers and adults who want to control their digital identities.”

  • Lastly, something that I do struggle with. I want to be the sort of mother who can just be with her six month old all day absorbed in the wonder of all his tiny developments buuuut then I’d be a saint. Which I’m not. Technology dependency is such a vicious cycle in which the more I spend on social media, the more I feel the need to be on it when I’m not. I really don’t want my son’s first memories to be his mother hovering overhead eyes glued to the phone in her hand or said phone all up in his business snapping away photos. But this is pretty much the case currently.

Yums!

One of the challenges of domestic life that I tackle with great fervor is the leftover game. I relish the opportunity to upcycle them in as creative and delicious a way as possible. Sometimes, I’m like “Daaaamn girl! You can cook!” and sometimes it’s more like “Well at least we saved on groceries…” This week was all about leftovers.

  • I cooked chicken breasts, the last of an artichoke heart jar, and onions in last week’s aioli with a clear-the-fridge chopped salad (celery, sweet peppers, carrots, grapes, goat cheese-balsamic dressing). It probably would have earned a respectable 3.5 star rating except that I tried to quick defrost the chicken and the texture made me want to swear off chicken for good.

 

  • We made fajitas last weekend. I was in charge of the refried beans and Spanish rice (neither were great for the record.) I only had saffron chicken stock on hand (another leftover) so the rice so was more paella style. And then we just couldn’t seem to eat our way through it over the next few days so I thought: what if Spanish food and Sicilian food had a baby? What would that look like? Arancini de paella that’s what. I just added an egg to the rice, refrigerated it for a few hours, and used this as a guide for the rest of the process. 5 stars (at first it was 3.5 and then I couldn’t stop craving them and they improved upon reheating).

 

  • Then we couldn’t eat our way through the rest of the fajitas (By the way, here’s the secret for impressing people with tex-mex: homemade tortillas. Not actually daunting. You just need this and water and then you’ll be given lots of honor, praise, and glory.) So I made tortilla soup: threw the chicken and vegetables in more of the saffron chicken broth, boiled, simmered, shredded the chicken, loaded with cilantro, lime, avocado, queso fresco, and toasted tortilla strips. I will not lie. I had a daaaamn girl moment. 5 stars.

Other honorable mentions from this week:

  • In honor of Elizabeth’s 90th, we had Queen Mother’s Cake from our fave Queen Mother of desserts.
  • I married into the last name, Ramos, which has, as a perk, being able to call the Ramos Gin Fizz my signature drink. So, this email from a friend for a cocktail based on a Ramos Gin Fizz and named in honor of my son made me laugh (and enlist my resident mixologist to make me one):

“I give you…the Gin Léon

a shot and a half of gin
two and a half shots of almond-coconut milk
a half shot grand marnier
the juice of a large slice of lemon
about a teaspoon of honey

Mix thoroughly and enjoy.

This drink is the child of a Craving for a Ramos Gin Fizz and the Limitations of What I Keep in My Apartment. There’s definitely no fizz, and it’s not a fully grown Gin Ramos. So it’s just a Gin Léon.”

et cetera

 Let’s talk music. Because I love music recs. Which is why it’s helpful to have a friend who writes for an Indie music magazine and a husband who sends you songs while he’s at work with captions that he thinks you’ll appreciate. (e.g.: “If I were a funky astronaut, this would be my jam.”“To brighten your day.”, “Hipster advice to live by.”) Here was our week in music:

  • Monday was rough. I was taking care of my nephew and my son and had plans to load them up in the car, drive to my parents, and enjoy grandparent time. I timed leaving the house perfectly for when they both needed naps…and then I couldn’t find my keys. Which was fine until my perfect putting off of naptime meant errbody was getting cranky. So I turned the house upside down frantically asking…no…demanding that St. Anthony reveal where my keys were. The keys were not found and we all cried it out. Then I turned on some music and we all bounced about and felt better. So if some morning you find yourself a prisoner of your own home treating St. Anthony like a culprit with your charges nonstop howl-whimper-wailing, you might try turning up the music and letting your inner aerobics instructor go wild. This is my go-to Spotify playlist on such occasions.

 

  • On the other hand, maybe you’re looking for something to satiate your inner romanticist. This playlist has been our sweet naptime jam.

 

  • Not music but a further ode to the role Spotify plays in keeping stay-at-home mom life sane–did you know there are audio books on there? Like really, really good audio books. I’ve been trying to decide whether to get rid of my premium subscription because the subscriptions are piling up (but I hate hate hate hate hate hate hate ads). With Ogden Nash poetry read by the man himself and Shakespeare recited by Alan Rickman and Ralph Fiennes, I think I’m now listening enough to justify the subscription. No more trying to submit my ears to a whiny-voiced (though oh so generously volunteered!) librivox recording for me. The best discovery so far has been the collection of Oscar Wilde fairy tales. These are some of my favorite stories in the world and the recording by Basil Rathbone is sublime. Particularly, The Selfish Giant. Listen and try not to be moved by it.

……………

Happy Feast of St. Pius V, a man whose list of accomplishments is both inspiring and exhausting. And also of St. Joseph Cottolengo, whom I had never heard of before but whose love for the marginalized pulls at my heartstrings.

Weekly Edit