A dragon for Michaelmas

Happy Michaelmas: a day for talking about angels, symbolically slaying dragons, and (apparently) blowing the dust off one’s long-neglected blog. Phooooot. Michaelmas is a new one for me, but in the spirit of slowly embracing/incorporating more of the church year I thought we’d give it a go. So I made a dragon. And then we killed and ate it. Good times!

The recipe is pretty easy:

1. Start with whatever basic biscuit recipe you’ve memorized. You have memorized a biscuit recipe, haven’t you?

2. Add half a cup of sugar. Yum.

3. Increase the liquid and butter a bit to make up for the added half-cup of dry ingredient.

4. Oops, too much liquid. Better add some more flour.

5. Sprinkle sprinkle, stir stir, sprinkle sprinkle, stir stir, sprinkle sprinkle, stir stir, why the sam-hey is this not coming together?

6. Make a dragon shape anyway. Get dough all over your hands because it’s really too goopy to do this. Fend off design criticisms from the preschoolers.

7. Decorate with whatever you have on hand: dried fruit, in this case.

8. Pop that baby in the oven. When your husband peeks in and asks “That’s a dragon?” tell him yes.

9. When the timer goes off, realise you’ve burned the dried apricots but the centre still isn’t baked through. Cover with tinfoil and return to oven. Forget to reset your timer.

10. Pull when it seems done. Eat dinner and talk about angels and the great war in heaven. Say “after you’ve finished your dinner” about eighteen times.

11. Slay that sucker and dig in.

Hallowe’en and All Saints

Sometimes I mostly write a post and then forget about it. Rescued from my drafts folder, an account of some of our Fall:

This year we took the kids out trick-or-treating for the first time! We had previously let the holiday pass by unremarked — not out of any particular objection to Hallowe’en, but just because it seemed a lot of work for kids who were to small to get much out of it (or even eat candy, for that matter).

Anyway, our glorious run of non-participation came to an end this year as Anselm was old enough to clue in to the fact that something called Hallowe’en a) existed and b) looked like fun. Fortunately for me, neither of them has yet realised that children usually get to pick their own costumes, so I was able to (enthusiastically) inform them of what their costumes would be, after I looked around and figured out something I thought I could make relatively easily and cheaply.

Behold, a scarecrow and a bird:

For Anselm’s costume, I cut down an old shirt that my husband was getting rid of anyway, bought a cowboy hat at Party City, and the rest is just strips of yellow felt cut into fringes and glued to the insides of his shirt. The fringes around his ankles are just safety-pinned together with a regular pair of jeans over them.

For Perpetua, I started with a blue t-shirt a few sizes too big for her (I wanted both costumes to fit over a couple of inside layers for warmth), and cut and glued teardrop-shaped felt onto it for her front plumage. I measured her from the middle of her neck down to her wrists and cut two large wings for the back that would be long enough to come down and cover her hands; those were also just glue-gunned in place, as were the little wrist cuffs. The headpiece was all felt: a wide band with two cartoon-eyeball-shaped projections at the front, white and brown felt glued to that to make the actual eyes, and yellow felt cut like a slightly rounded triangle and then folded and glued to more or less look like a beak. I also glued blue feathers sticking up from the inside of the headband — you can just see a few of them in this picture on the sides.

The night itself was a success; we went out after dinner, and they got totally tuckered out after the first two blocks. Little legs get tired! We carried them home, sorted the candy, and that was that. Except, of course, right after Hallowe’en comes All Saints, so we were still celebrating the next day!

Our All Saints was very simple: I put a tablecloth on the table (nothing says “special dinner” like digging out a tablecloth, amirite?), made pan de muerto, and we talked a bit about the saints. Oh, and ate a bunch of candy from the night before, of course. The end.

I used this recipe for pan de muerto again, with a few adjustments. I was able to get my hands on some aniseed this year (last year I left it out), which added a really lovely flavour. I cut the recipe in half to get a more manageable size for our family of four, and I decided to skip the glaze. Last year the glaze tasted good, but it made the whole loaf crazy-sticky, which made it hard to cut and even harder to get off little fingers. The bread is sweet enough on its own, really. I forgot to get a picture of the loaf after it was baked, but here are my crossed bones during the second rise:

And that was that.

One of the most satisfying things to me as we build our family and liturgical traditions was realising that nothing has to be extravagant to be special. Simple works very well, as long as simple is different from our regular days. I look forward to continuing these traditions as our children age — even if it means that they will get to choose their own costumes one day!

A feast for All Saints

One of the things my husband and I have been thinking about over the past couple of years is how to live our family life in greater harmony with the liturgical church calendar. We belong to a liturgical tradition rich in seasons, fasts, and feasts, and so want to start living those rhythms not just on Sundays but in our weekday lives as well. We started doing a more deliberate celebration of Advent when Anselm was about a year old — nothing complicated, just lighting Advent candles at dinner and singing a verse of O Come, O Come Emmanuel at the end of the meal. This year I decided to dip our toes (as it were) into the great feast of All Saints Day on November 1st.

What helped me want to do this was the recent realisation that 0% of celebrating the Christian year has to be elaborate; it just has to be different enough from our ordinary life that we sit up and take notice. The internet is full of very pinteresty blogs where you see homeschooled Catholic families of eight all dressed as their favourite saints and singing Salve Regina in perfect a capella counterpoint around the sumptuously decorated dinner table … and, well, that’s just not how we roll right now. And that’s perfectly fine. So instead of trying and failing to do something elaborate, I put out a table cloth, told the kids that the (regular) dinner I cooked was a special feast, and engaged in a little cultural appropriation synthesis by making pan de muerto for dessert. We read the Collect for All Saints and… that was about it! But it was enough.

I used this recipe for the pan de muerto — save the anise, which neither I nor my neighbours had on hand — and was pleased on the whole with how it came out.  It’s super yummy. The only thing that really surprised me was how large the loaf came out:

That was way more bread than I was expecting. I wonder if it needed to be punched down after the second rise? From the size I might guess so, but then again the interior texture was just what I expected it to be, so who knows. Maybe someone with more bread experience can tell me. We ate our fill, gave some to our next door neighbours, and used the rest for bread pudding so none of it went to waste — all the same, next year I think I will halve the recipe.

And yes, I think we will celebrate next year. Perhaps one day we’ll graduate to pinterest-level liturgical living. But for now, a table cloth and some special bread will do us just fine.