Making Friends with John Henry Newman

Maybe, like me and J, you took awhile to find your home in the Catholic church. After a not particularly well-catechized childhood in the Catholic church, I spent four years as a newlywed pilgrim in the Anglican denomination before finding my way back to Rome. Later on, my husband read and debated himself into Catholicism after stints in the Evangelical and Anglican churches. Maybe that’s why, after years of debate and vacillation, when my husband finally crossed the Tiber, he took Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman as his patron saint. Read More »

Candlemas, Kinship and Firstborn Sons


I’m not entirely sure when I met my sister-in-law(-in-law).* But I think it was at the Evensong nights that sprung up about ten years ago. I had no idea of her future importance in my life, of course. She was just a college friend to both my new husband and his little brother.

And now she is someone I will see, in all likelihood, every Christmas for the rest of my life. She is aunt to all my children, and godmother to one. And last month, she gave me my very first nephew.Read More »

Commonplace Book, 38 (Week 35)

What is a commonplace book? For me, this is a space where I post interesting links, reflections on what I’m reading, and the newest recipes I’ve been trying out — a collection of miscellaneous micro-posts.

What I’m fixing:

Almost Certainly Inauthentic St. Michael’s Bannock


  • 1 1/4 c all purpose flour flour
  • 1/4 c old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 c rye flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 scant c cream + 1 Tbsp plain white vinegar (to make buttermilk substitute)
  • handful of raisins — I used a mix.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine dry ingredients. Cut in cold butter as you would biscuits – with a pastry knife, two forks, or your fingers. Add buttermilk mixture. Mix until mostly combined. On a floured surface, knead the dough until smooth, then pat into an 8 inch round loaf, and bake on a greased cookie sheet for 40 minutes.

  • You can put french fries in the bottom of your frittata and it’s pretty good. This has been a third trimester PSA.
  • You can put olive tapenade on frozen cheese pizza and it’s also pretty good. This has been a third trimester PSA.
  • Things are rapidly degenerating here on the culinary front, obviously.

What I’m reading:

  • Baby’s cells can manipulate mom’s body for decades. Even with the potentially creepy sibling ramifications at the bottom of this piece, I just find the idea so comforting: that however briefly you get to know your child earthside, she stays a part of you. That even when your child is totally exasperating you and you feel such distance, you still carry evidence of him in your body. It’s beautiful, and worth remembering this month, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
  • Vindication! Study says parents aren’t to blame for picky eaters.
  • The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings, which was given to us as a gift from Scout’s godparents last fall, and which we started to read aloud to each other, but then I got pregnant and sleepy (story of my life). Now I’m listening to it on Audible, and while there isn’t a lot that is revolutionary for me, Inklings nerd that I am, the passages on Oxford are dreamy and it’s nice to use my brain, at least moderately, in this sleepy chapter of life when I’m often reaching for the remote or just going straight to bed.
This is what happens when you take a nap and neglect the ciabatta dough.


This year I found myself in an overstuffed car on Epiphany, brimful with Christmas gifts and children and a dog and spilled Apple Jacks. I had worn second-day tights to the early Mass in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, that morning, and we’d stepped delicately over ice to load up into the car, and finally, after three weeks of travel, we were on our way home.

I’m not sure I ever noticed Epiphany before I became a mother, but when he was a baby, Pippin’s godmother thrifted him a copy of The Third Giftwhich at first mostly caught his attention because the protagonist looked to him like Aunt Beca. (At the time she was sporting a pretty great pixie.)


The plot is merely a footnote or preamble to Epiphany: the life of a boy who apprentices his father in the collection of myrrh, and how some of that myrrh is sold to strangers from far away. It’s simple and lovely, and brought to life Epiphany for me in a new way, especially Bagram Ibatoulline’s concluding illustration: a little cave-like barn, on the horizon, the glow of the city; and in the barn, clustered haphazardly, mysteriously, those central figures we’ve seen all Advent, all of it looking like chance.

The story of the three kings has a sort of quiet fairytale beauty after the high drama and tinsel of Christmas, doesn’t it? That frisson of fear with big, bad King Herod looming. The mysterious star, the moonlight. Strangers on a strange landscape. An improbable meeting. Everything pointing to a future no one yet understands.

And maybe it was thinking about the little myrrh-gatherer that made the thought occur to me, but what became of those gifts? If Jesus is truly the child of the poor, a soon-to-be refugee, are the gifts hocked on the run to Egypt? Or do they later fund his ministry? Are they given to adorn the Temple? Or do they endure in secret long past Jesus’s death, tucked away in a basket, pored over by she who pondered these things in her heart?

In this little episode, we get all the otherworldliness and everydayness that is Christ among us. And we get Epiphany on the tail of our own gift avalanche, with its enduring tokens of far away people who love us, crammed inelegantly into our humble, aging car, pointing to the magic and beauty that lingers in the chaotic Christmas aftermath.