Category Archives: Mmmm …. books

Announcing The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion


Bobblehead Pope Francis is as excited as I am.

Bobblehead Pope Francis is as excited as I am.

Life has been so busy this year  with Taste and See getting out there in the world that I haven’t mentioned anything about another, very exciting book project: The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion.  This fat little book with a gorgeous cover is the brainchild of editors Lisa Hendey and Sarah Reinhard, and I am honored to have been one of many women (and even a few men) who helped write it.

This is a daily devotions book that you can pick up and start anytime.   Each day has a short reflection (sometimes inspired by Scripture, sometimes by the life of a saint, sometimes by a holiday or a meaningful quotation), a prayer, and a way to integrate the ideas of the devotion into your own life.  Short and sweet!

When I got my copies last night, I tried to keep myself from reading days’ worth of devotions at once, and I failed miserably.  It’s just so fun to read the collective wisdom of so many wonderful writers, each with a unique voice but all united around the shared goal of helping moms feed their souls and nourish their faith.

So if you’re looking to establish that new routine now that the kiddos are back in school (or almost!), check out this book.  It’s a great one to read in those few minutes while you sip your morning coffee, or to have in your bag as you wait in the carpool line.


Why you should never, ever throw anything away

Downsizing is hot these days.  Just ask Marie Kondo, who is surely a millionaire a few times over.  And I like sorting through the things I don’t need and creating more space in my closets, drawers, and just generally in my life.  I’ve tried to do that over the past nine months, with some success.

But tidying up has its limitations.    If I had downsized too aggressively at any point in the past thirty years, I would not still have the utterly awesome Mickey Mouse Cookbook I had as a child.


I loved it when I was young and I kept it for sentimental reasons lo these many decades.  You know what?  I’m darn glad I did, because this summer, my own children rediscovered it and were utterly fascinated.

And so we embarked on a summertime project.  I decided to teach my boys a little bit more about how to cook, with the help of Mickey and the gang.

Over the summer, I’ve let the boys take turns picking recipes from the cookbook, and we’ve worked on making them together.  I should add that we’re not exactly talking about Julia Child here; the recipes are remarkably easy, some of them more about dumping in a pan than actually cooking, but it doesn’t matter.  The boys have loved the challenge, and whether it’s Big Bad Wolf’s Brownies or Cinderella’s Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, I’ve loved tasting their creations.


There was even one evening where I actually found myself sitting on the couch with a glass of Cabernet while someone else made dinner.  That someone else was my nine-year-old, who was making Chip n’ Dale’s Triple Decker Sandwiches with great concentration and skill.  I enjoyed the rare sensation of not being in the kitchen at 6 pm and  thought: Wow, I sure am glad I kept that cookbook.

So the moral of the story is to never ever throw anything away because you never know when it might be useful.  Just kidding, of course; I think the moral is to carefully weigh what you keep and what you give away.  Just because you have had something for over thirty years doesn’t mean you need to keep it forever, but it also doesn’t mean you need to get rid of it, either.

Listen to your gut, and if the book makes you smile after all these years, consider that it might make your own kids smile, too.

The Book Pile: Summer Vacation edition


Well, Mr. Darcy, I’ve been doing a lot of extensive reading these days.  Summer vacation means that the time usually earmarked for grading gets repurposed for other, more enjoyable pursuits, such as cracking open a good book.  Here are a few of the ones I’ve enjoyed lately.


The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

This one started off at a very leisurely pace, sort of like a summer afternoon …. so leisurely that at first, I wondered where the book’s sense of urgency was. But I kept going, and before long, the story and characters had me hooked.  Read this to immerse yourself into life in a small  English town at the time of WWI.


East Lynne by Mrs. Henry Wood

Sometimes you just want to dive into a thick Victorian saga.  When I’m in that sort of mood, I usually go for something by Wilkie Collins (try The Woman in White if you’ve never read him before).  This time I tried East Lynne, which has all the expected components: English country houses, unsolved crimes, hidden identities, unprincipled rakes, women in a swoon.  Great fun.


The Devil’s Advocate by Morris West

What makes a saint?  What is the definition of “holy”?  This was a very different sort of novel, about a dying priest who is sent to a small remote Italian village to investigate the life of a dead man who is being called a saint by many.  Each of the people in the village has his/her own memories of the deceased, as well as his/her own motivation for wanting the investigation to proceed in a certain way.  It raised good ethical questions, and provided a lot of food for thought.  If you liked Graham Greene, you  might enjoy this one.


Kingfishers Catch Fire by Rumer Godden

Rumer Godden was an Englishwoman who spent a lot of her early life in India, and this novel is apparently heavily drawn from her own experiences.  It’s the story of a well-meaning English widow with two children who decides to go live in a remote village in Kashmir, seeing it as a sort of Eden in the mountains.  Her optimistic naivete and her inability to honor (or even to perceive) the cultural differences between her family and the villagers leads to conflict and, ultimately, a near-tragedy.  I’d call it required reading for anyone going to live in a different culture, whichever culture it is, because it’s a case study of how even a well-meaning person can really mess it up.  And Godden’s prose is, as always, breathtaking.  This was my favorite of the summer so far.


Why Bother Praying? by Richard Leonard, S.J.

I heard Fr. Leonard speak at LA Congress last year, and he was wonderful.  I happened to pick this up at a retreat center a while back, and it’s a very engaging book about the many effects of prayer.  There’s wonderful wisdom in here, along with a bunch of memorable personal anecdotes (some of them hilarious) that really ground the book and make it speak not just to the head, but to the heart.


Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

This was the perfect book to take a long cross-country flight.  The effortless narrative voice and the engaging plot (it’s about a young woman at a professional dead-end who takes a job as a companion to a quadriplegic) all made for a very fast six hours.  That said, I’d have given the book a different ending — if you’ve read it, you’ll know what I mean — but still, it was an excellent summer read and I can safely say that Moyes has a new fan (and, as my younger son pointed out, only one letter separates her last name from mine.  I love how kids notice these things.)

What are you reading now?  Do tell!


A rose is a rose is a rose …


Sometimes I wonder which phrases my kids will associate with me in years to come.  Which sayings do I repeat over and over?  I’d guess “Be careful!” and “Did you remember to flush?” are two of the most common ones.  I hope, though, that “Look at those roses!” is right behind.

I’m a rose junkie.  An entire chapter of Taste and See is devoted to them, not just because they offer such beautiful sensory experiences but because they invite me to think about how humans can co-create beauty with God. (We humans are the ones who have hybridized and come up with all these different marvelously colorful varieties, tapping into the Creator’s artistic genius.) So now that it’s summer and rose season is in full bloom, I thought I’d share a little visual complement to that chapter and share some of the glorious beauties I’ve come across lately.  (No, these aren’t from my yard – though I wish they were!).

Let’s start with red:

Pink more your speed?  There are no lack of those, either.




I know the Yellow Rose of Texas has its own song, but the Yellow Roses of California are pretty nice, too:




Purple isn’t the color I naturally associate with roses, but they are striking as well.

White has its own purity and grace:


And I love this one, too — sort of peach, sort of yellow:


Where are you seeing beauty lately?

“Taste and See” has arrived!

Thus far, my week of spring break is notable for two reasons, one bad and one good:

1) I came down with the worst cold I’ve had in at least five years

2) My new book is here!

The good news is that #2 is so exciting it even makes up for for #1 (and, given the awfulness of this cold, that’s saying a lot).  The box of books from my publisher arrived on Monday afternoon, and I had to wait until last night to open it (Scott was out of town, and I wanted him to share in the big unveiling).  It was hard, I tell you: it was kind of like those kids and the marshmallows in the classic psychological experiment.  I had to draw on reserves of willpower that I haven’t used in a while.

But at last he came home and at the first opportunity I dove into the box.













And here it is!











I had seen the cover before in a digital format, but there is nothing like seeing the real thing.  It’s so pretty; the colors just pop.  (I love that Loyola Press design team – they are so insanely gifted.)

Front cover (I am never far from Kleenex these days)

Front cover (I am never far from Kleenex these days)








The design of the back cover is gorgeous too ... I love the circles.

The design of the back cover is gorgeous too … I love the circles.








As is fitting for a book about the senses, I immediately opened it and breathed in the marvelous new-book smell, gulping it down like oxygen. (I will try that again when the cold is gone — not sure I got the full effect through my congestion).

So it’s here in three dimensions, this book that has meant so much to me.  In a lot of ways, it’s the book I’ve been wanting to write my entire adult life.  Now it goes out into the world where it will hopefully entertain and encourage others.

Starting with Scott.