Cheater’s Michaelmas

I know, it’s still a day early for Michaelmas. But tomorrow we have plans that we can’t get out of that involve not being home all day, so we’re celebrating today and hopefully our dear St. Michael won’t mind much. On the up side, since I’m posting a day in advance, you can totally steal my oh-so-complicated and original feast day ideas. 😉 [Edit: It actually took me so long to get this written up that now it really is Michaelmas. Whoops!] Confession: I came up with these very cheesy ideas, did the shopping, and THEN found some super delicious-sounding and legitimately traditional recipes online that I simply don’t have the time, money, or energy to produce. So feel free to call this a “Poor Man’s Michaelmas Dinner.”

Firstly, a little history (because learnin’ is important):

Fierce.

Fierce.

St. Michael the Archangel is the angel who fought satan during the great battle. And won, of course. My favorite tidbit about him actually stems from the fact that he was so named because when the evil one, who was the highest of the Seraphim (thusly named Lucifer, “light bearer”–think the light of God) heard that God the Father intended to have a Son who would be human, a being far beneath the angels in honor and glory, he became enraged. He was so offended because, as far as he was concerned, he was the closest to God and would never be so foolish. He started to believe that he was not just very close to God, but rather like God. Which of course he wasn’t (and isn’t) remotely. “Michael” means “Who is like God?” Please note the question mark. Even though ancient Hebrew has no punctuation, it’s important to establish that it was a (rhetorical) question and not, as it’s often mis-translated, “he who is like God.” Because obviously, no one is. That’s the point, yes? In short, that question became the battle cry of Michael and the other good angels during the battle.

Good story, right? What’s that, you already heard it? Only someone else told it better? Well aren’t we catechized. Good job. 😉 In that case, here’s some other fun facts about the angels that you might not already know.

-You know how every person is assigned a guardian angel when he or she is born? Well, each family is also assigned one during the Sacrament of Marriage. Boo-ya. (Good thing too, ’cause I need all the extra angels looking out for me that I can get.)

-Devotion to the angels is supposed to be a mark of predestination. Which makes me feel like I should start asking for their help a little more often.

-The nine choirs of angels are divided into three hierarchies which are (highest to lowest): Seraphim, Cherubim, & Thrones, Powers, Principalities, & Dominions, Virtues, Archangels, & Angels. Although apparently it’s more traditional to list them in ascending order. But I thought this would make more sense.

-Michael shares a feast day on the new calendar with the other two canonically-mentioned Archangels, Raphael & Gabriel.

* All fun facts from the totally awesome book, St. Michael and the Angels. You should get it.

Beautiful image of the choirs, yes? Can you guess who that is in the middle?

Secondly, here’s some fun recommendations of my favorite angel items from the store. You should get them.

Cold-Cast Bronze Statue. This company has the most detailed statues I've ever seen.

Cold-Cast Bronze Statue. This company has the most detailed statues I’ve ever seen.

An amazing book put out by TAN Book Publishers. It's basically a 30-day devotional to teach you all kinds of traditions about the angels.

An amazing book put out by TAN Book Publishers. It’s basically a 30-day devotional to teach you all kinds of traditions about the angels.

OK, we’re finally on to the food part. Here’s how we celebrated our early Michaelmas this year (in truly cheesy literal cheater’s fashion):

Yummy, yummy, in our tummies.

Yummy, yummy, in our tummies.

Angelhair Pasta with three colors of peppers to represent Michael, Raphael, & Gabriel. It was crazy good. Initially, I’d intended to make my own white parmesan sauce for this, but it was late and I’ll confess I cheated. I got to try out one of those new recipe starters. It was great. And went very well with the wine. Also, it was way less expensive than roasted goose, which is apparently the real traditional Michaelmas dinner.

Drool.

Drool.

For dinner we had–of course–angel food cake! And since my husband informs me that apples are totally in season right now, I cooked some apples in a bit of butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. That’s a scoop of frozen coolwhip, by the way. But it tastes like ice cream. And, yes, it was even more delicious than it looks. Especially after we caved and drizzled the caramel sauce on top.

Happy Michaelmas!

Advertisements

Epic Road Trip Pt 4: Coming Home

I know you’ve all been such troopers sticking with me through my ramblings about road trip after road trip. Probably you’re just grateful that you’re not anywhere near my laundry pile right now and are ready to hear about something more interesting. Hopefully we’ll get to that. But until we tackle the biggest and most important trip of the batch: our trip home to Atlanta for my birthday.

I’ve mentioned in an off-handed sort of way a few times that I’m a Maryland transplant from Atlanta, Georgia. I was born there, but my family is originally from New York, so I spent most of my childhood feeling slightly displaced. I don’t say “y’all” more than about four times a year when I’m so tired that I’m probably actually trying to say something else anyway. I have no Southern accent. I can put on a decent one, but it’s really not natural at all. (Actually, when I’m really groggy, I sound like I’m from Brooklyn. You can thank my grandpa.) I don’t speak slowly or like to be outside in the Summer (ok–Southerners don’t really like this. They like their air conditioners.) I don’t have a fried chicken recipe that I swear by or eat chitlins or do much frying in general. I have no relatives who fly confederate flags from the backs of their pickup trucks. While I do know how to make a nice pitcher of sun tea, I don’t like to tell people that I’m fixin’ it.

Deep, deep, down, I think I’ve always wanted to try a hoop skirt.

It wasn’t until I moved to Maryland that I began to actually feel Southern. Most likely this is a result of many a heated argument that my husband and I have had regarding whether Maryland can be considered “the South.” He’s from here and defends this little state’s Southern-ness (yes, not really a word, but it’s been too long a day to care) tooth and nail. He argues that they wanted to secede from the Union, but mean ol’ Mr. Lincoln incarcerated the entire voting body so they couldn’t vote to do so. He’ll remind you that it’s technically south of the Mason-Dixon line. He’ll even quote a president as saying that Baltimore was a city of “Northern charm and Southern industry.” (Nice, huh?)

It wasn’t until I moved here that I started getting defensive about what’s really the South. Here’s my argument: None of the cashiers at the grocery store strike up a regular conversation with me while I’m unloading my cart. Eighty percent of the restaurants and fast food chains have pepsi products (shudder) instead of Coke. “Sweet” tea up here tastes like unsweetened tea where I come from. For that matter, in the real South, when you ask for a tea, they just bring you a sweet tea (a fact that used to drive me crazy when I lived there and wanted a cup of hot tea and had to phrase it as such.) Every building there has central ac–no matter how cheap the rent is. The grocery store’s policy is that they carry your bags out for you and you’re not allowed to tip the guy. There is a Waffle House on every exit. The Braves are, and always will be, America’s team. I could go on, but I’m sure you’re already convinced.

Just try to tell me this doesn’t make you want to be a Braves fan.

We usually compromise by agreeing that Maryland is not the “deep” South. For the health of our marriage.

All this is to say that after our miraculously short drive down (13 hours down driving overnight), I was ready to soak up every last bit of my semi-Southern/semi-New York Italian & Irish hometown and family as possible. We did it right folks: two Waffle House trips, a Zaxby’s stop (how I wish they’d open one up here!), two big family parties, and going directly from our air-conditioned rental car to similarly arctic conditions wherever we were going. We had a blast.

The best part, though, was seeing my family for the first time since Christmas. We were supposed to go down for Easter, but between my surgery and the husband’s new job having just started, there was just no vacation time. We made dinner with my mom and sister, stayed up late talking and drinking tea (hot tea with milk and sugar for the record–Irish style) as we’ve always done in my family, and watched baseball movies.

Why yes, my husband did get the owner of Waffle House to personally send me two mugs for Christmas this year. I'm so lucky.

Why yes, my husband did get the owner of Waffle House to personally send me two mugs for Christmas this year. I’m so lucky.

We also had a family party to celebrate all of the birthdays from August and September (5, if you’re curious. Although we added the one October kid in to make it 6). I adore our family parties. There’s something about being just this one simultaneously very important and not really important at all person in a loud, loving, swirling mass of aunts, uncles, cousins, and children of assorted ages. I feel more grounded, more me, and more at home than I do just about anywhere else.

As long as I can remember, we would have one birthday party a month for any family members born during it (hey–it’s expensive to feed that many people,) except for the horrible, sad gap between New Year’s and Easter. There are only four birthdays during this gap and because we’ll have just lugged out the big bucks to afford Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s parties back-to-back-to-back, we have to take a break. It took me years to realize that I would often sink into a mild depression during this time of year because I needed the madness of my beautiful and crazy family to recharge. Turns out, I needed the physical closeness and volume and food and jokes and hugs to feel connected to my sense of self.

Our modern secular culture would not like my family or my reliance upon it. This culture constantly tells us that we’re supposed to be entirely self-reliant, self-contained, and self-important. Our identity should never be wrapped up in someone else, it says. We must be independent! Chase our dreams! Sacrifice for no one!

But guess what? Our faith teaches us that being interdependent, being consistently generous, and emptying ourselves for the love of others is how we get to Heaven. What my family taught me, without knowing it, is that it is better to be part of the love and madness of a family than to be self-contained. They taught me that sacrificing my eardrums and my personal space and spending hours over a hot stove to prepare a meal for twenty-something people to show them that I love them is the best thing in the world. When I’m home, I am just one very loved but singular component of the great, big, wonderful thing that is my family, for which I would give whatever is required of me.

My family prepared me for my vocation as a wife and, hopefully some day, a mother. Because the unconditional and sacrificial love that I’m overwhelmed by and surrounded by during a regular family dinner is a sign, a dim reflection, of the beatific vision that I’m stumbling towards, Heaven. And it’s a great thing if I can focus on yearning for that Heavenly home the way that I yearn for this earthly one.

Epic Road Trip Part 3: Of Sweat & DJs

Turns out that taking 6 major road trips, most of them out of state, in about a month’s period of time makes me very sleepy, behind on laundry, and least surprisingly: a slow writer. Whoops!

Where were we? I believe we’d just arrived back home from the Catholic Marketing Network show on a Thursday night (late, late at night) to discover that our air conditioning was still not fixed. Turns out, I am a Georgia girl after all. A wilting little flower who needs her cool, dehumidified air blasting from every direction lest I sweat through my clothes, gross everybody out, and whine everyone to death. Don’t get me wrong, I’m trying hard to offer up my suffering for the Holy Souls and I do pretty well with pain, exhaustion, and seemingly endless cleaning, but make me sweat when there’s nothing to dry it off and cool me down…and I’m a big old baby.

This is me. But cuter. Also, the illustrator’s blog that I found this picture on looks adorable.

The AC had been out in our townhouse for the entire week with no windows having been open or fans being blown (we were fortunately gone, remember?) It was a sauna in there. And my husband, the only person on earth who hates humid heat more than (or even as much as) I do, was my hero. He rigged an old ac unit that we’d been trying to sell on craigslist all summer to blow directly at our pull-out couch where we slept for the rest of the weekend. Because his Friday morning phone call to the leasing office only elicited a weary, “We’ll get there when we get there and it probably won’t be today” type of response. (In his defense, he was shaking so hard with trying not to lose his well-earned temper with the couldn’t-care-less office staff that he had to just hang up to keep from yelling at them. He has more patience than I do.)

So we sweated out the weekend and probably learned some really valuable lessons about how much we’d like to spend as little time in purgatory as possible. Actually, I’m hoping that at least the 24 hours of that where the weather got well into the 90s will count towards our stints. Of course, this brings up the question of if my vocation is to get him into Heaven, should I be turning off the AC more frequently? Oh, I hope not.

This is what I should have been picturing while we melted. I just love pictures of Holy Mass like this.

To wrap up a rather boring and gross half of the story: He called the office again on Monday morning asking not if, but when TODAY our air conditioning that had been broken for over a week would be fixed. And this time it worked magic. He must have been speaking to the right person, because not only did they come to fix it right away, but they also fixed our alarm, our blinds, and will supposedly be giving us a new microwave touchpad that we did not ask for or complain about very soon. Actually, I kind of like our weird microwave. It has buttons for baked potatoes and popcorn. I don’t know why they want to fix it. Suffice it to say that he got all the things fixed just in time for us to pack our bags back up (still no unloading from the last time, just washing dirty clothes) and head back out on the road.

Leg three of our adventures took us back up past where we’d just been and all the way to New York. A college friend of my husband’s was getting married at a beautiful college chapel just north of the Bronx and it was the most beautiful weather for a wedding ever. I prefer to cover my head in the presence of Our Lord, so after much awkward shuffling trying to figure out whether it was, in fact, a Catholic chapel (we were trying to see if the Blessed Sacrament was reserved there–it was, but waaaay on the side and boy were the bride’s parents confused at my leaning around door frames looking for a tabernacle), I grabbed my spare hat from the car and we rolled in.

After a lovely wedding that we were grateful to have been a part of with only one pretty dramatic appearance of the bride’s ex-boyfriend from across the country who is still friends with my husband, we settled into what was the most delicious reception ever. The food was fancy, tasty, and was passed around on plates the entire time. Maybe it’s low-brow to admit this, but I’ve never partaken of anything so fancy-shmancy. We parked ourselves by the kitchen door so we could get first-dibs, of course.

The reason that I harp on the wonders of the food is that eventually I’ll have to tell you about the horror that was the MC for the reception. Yes, I said the MC, not the DJ. Because there was a separate DJ who played music that, while not at all my taste for either listening to or for dancing to at weddings or elsewhere, many people there seemed to enjoy. The gentleman with whom we took exception was, it turns out, only there to yell into his microphone every three minutes (if someone was giving a particularly sentimental toast) or every thirty seconds (if music was playing), “PUT YOUR HANDS UP! LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE HAPPY COUPLE! CLAP YOUR HANDS RIGHT NOW OR THEY’LL NEVER BELIEVE YOU LOVE THEM!” I mean it. He wanted us to clap our hands and yell, “Woohoo!” every. thirty. seconds. We just wanted to dance.

This is kind of what it looked like to me. Fair warning, I wasn’t brave enough to follow the link after the google image search. I have no idea who this guy is supposed to be. Besides creepy.

We love to dance. I am a very blessed woman who has a husband who loves, loves, loves to dance with me at weddings. I’m usually the one who needs a rest first. But you can’t really dance when some dude is screaming in your ear about how you need to let go of the handsome man you’re dancing with a CLAP! The last straw, however, was when said MC took it upon himself to really bring the party to the crowd by shoving through all of the guests on the dance floor while bouncing up and down screaming some more about clapping. And by shoving through the crowd, I mean rubbing himself up against any female in a pretty dress, myself unfortunately included several times. At long last (by which I mean after two rub-bys during the first half of a single song), we stepped outside to get away from the flashing lights madness and had ourselves a nice romantic dance by our lonesome (or is that lonesomes? I need a grammar nazi to help me out here.) And that’s how my husband refrained from punching the MC’s lights out for the rest of the reception.

Also, in a flash forward to real-time, I think I just discovered my new calling: golf. Or more specifically, hitting golf balls at the driving range while someone else bends over to replace my just-hit ball instead of me. We went for the first time last Saturday and it was one of the most fun and cathartic times I’ve had in a while. I guess I just really like hitting stuff for no apparent reason while a man in a big cage drives around and picks up after me. (Read into it what you will; I’m not sure there is a defense.)

This was me.

Anyway, as it turns out, I’m pretty good at it! Or at least I’ve got great beginner’s luck. Now, I don’t understand what I was doing well enough to impress anyone with the distance or technical details of my golf-ball-hitting-glory, but my husband and the male friends we went with seemed pretty impressed. And just so you don’t think I’m bragging or anything, I royally stink at duck pin bowling (strange Maryland thing, the oddness of which deserves its own post,) tennis, watching football, braiding hair, and not burning things that I bake. Now it’s ok to say that I was pretty good at hitting the crap out of some measly golf balls, right? Right. I can’t wait to go hit some stuff and not get in trouble or have to clean up again. Spoken like a grown-up.