Another Trip to San Francisco

If I can say one thing with certainty about my third trip to San Francisco, it’s this: my photography skills have improved since last year’s trip. (If I do say so myself–we’ll see if y’all agree with me!)

THURSDAY

We took a second trip to San Francisco to visit Teddy in February 2019.  It was another all-day journey, this time with a connection through Chicago, pictured above.

As usual, I am not a big fan of flying.  I pray the rosary non-stop until we are safely in the air.

We reached the city with daylight to spare, and found ourselves on the 11th floor of the Hyatt in the Financial District, with this beautiful view. (Thank you, Priceline!)  Teddy came to meet us and we walked into the Little Italy area to have dinner with him and one of his Notre Dame buddies.

Afterwards, we relaxed in the hotel lobby for awhile.  Though we were tickled by the names above, I actually just ended up with coffee.

And then it was time to rest up for the busy day we had planned.

FRIDAY

It was a beautiful morning! After breakfast at the hotel, we started walking toward the starting point for our big adventure.

We were heading for Pier 33 to board a ferry for Alcatraz Island.  I had to buy these tickets before we left Knoxville, as they sell out well in advance.  We purchased a ticket for Teddy as well, but something came up at work so we were on our own.

The sky darkened as we approached the island.  And it did in fact rain heavily during our visit there, but happily we were inside when it happened.

One of the cool aspects of our Alcatraz tour is that it covered the entire history of the island, from its beginnings as a fort to the 1970s when Native Americans took over the island to draw attention to their unfair treatment at the hands of the U.S. Government.

Since the prison is what Alcatraz Island is most famous for, I was surprised and fascinated by all the history shared by the Park personnel and the movie we watched at the beginning of the tour.  It is also a surprisingly beautiful place, if a little dilapidated in spots.

The self-guided prison tour, accompanied by headphone narration, was masterful.  Voices of former prisoners and guards provided the commentary as we walked from site to site within the prison.

One of the hardest aspects of confinement at Alacatraz was the nearness of the city, always a visible reminder of the world outside.  Sometimes sounds of laughter and music would drift across the Bay.

Our visit to Alcatraz took most of the day.  I feel like this was the evening we went to see Teddy’s apartment–he had moved with a friend into a place closer to his office–but I can’t remember what we did for the rest of the evening.

SATURDAY

Saturday was a busy day for me and a mostly restful one for John.  I started by leaving the hotel (above) in search for some good coffee (below).

On our last visit, Teddy had made it a point to take us to several local coffee establishments, which were all excellent.  Philz was the closest to the Hyatt, and I enjoyed my first ever avocado toast along with the coffee.

After I took John some coffee and breakfast, I went back out and headed for the Ferry Building and the Saturday market I had enjoyed so much on my last trip to San Francisco.

I bought some souvenirs to take home and then went back to the room, where I discovered John had neglected to pack his preventive asthma medication, which necessitated many calls to find an open nearby Walgreens and to get an emergency prescription transferred there.  There were many within walking distance, but because we were in the Financial District, most were not open on weekends.  So my next task was to go on a walk and return with the medicine.

By the time I returned I had already walked about three miles.  And it was time for more walking, since the day’s plan involved my meeting Teddy at the Museum of Modern Art, some distance away.

We didn’t have enough time to see the entire museum, but we saw a lot.  Here are a few things that stood out:

After the museum, we walked to Chinatown to meet John and to eat and stroll about.

I convinced John we should walk back to the hotel afterwards.  It was downhill all the way, which was a good thing since I ended up having walked around 12 miles all told.  We had drinks in the lobby and stared, mesmerized, at the giant sculpture below, which changes colors frequently thanks to an array of lights that are trained on it.

SUNDAY

The next morning, we met Teddy behind the Ferry Building to catch the Sausalito Ferry.

We didn’t take the ferry for the view–although it was lovely.  We had a purpose for our trip.

We ate a quick lunch at a nearby cafe, and then hopped on a bus (tickets purchased in advance–this is not something you can do on the spur of the moment) for our trip to Muir Woods to see some giant redwoods.

It was, as you would expect, beautiful and peaceful, and very different from the forests on our side of the country.

After our bus ride back to Sausalito, we walked along the water in search of dinner.

We ended up at Scoma’s, which is funny since we ate at the one on the San Francisco side of the bay on our last trip to San Francisco and we did not know there was one on this side until we happened upon it.

Then it was back to the city to rest before our final day.

MONDAY

Before we left the eleventh floor for the last time, I wanted to record the terrifying drop to the lobby below.  We were grateful not to have any small children with us, particularly considering the small children we once had, who would almost certainly have tried to climb over the drop if they had an opportunity!

We checked out but left our luggage in storage, and took a nice walk along the waterfront, making our way to the Maritime Museum, where we had planned to meet up with Teddy.  Here are some sights along the way.

The museum itself was incredibly cool and I’m a little surprised I didn’t take any pictures of its art deco architecture and decor.  Pictured below is the tiny craft in which a young Japanese man once crossed the Pacific to reach San Francisco.  Please take the time to read his words in the second picture, which I found incredibly moving.

We ate lunch at a nearby restaurant before heading to the San Francisco Maritime National Park, just a couple of blocks away.  This included a museum showcasing displays on the history of the city, and admission to the Hyde Street Pier, with its fleet of historic vessels.

The Eureka, pictured above, was my favorite–a ferry that carried people (and cars!) across the Bay every day until the bridges were built.  Below are a few more pictures of her.

Below is Hercules the tugboat:

And there were older ships as well:

I got some nice shots as we left the pier:

From there, the three of us headed to the Buena Vista Cafe, famous for Irish Coffee.  Teddy had treated me to one during our epic walk on our last trip to San Francisco, and I wanted another one.  That was the last thing we did together before Teddy left us to go back to work.  We made our way back to the hotel to get our luggage and head to the airport, where we ate dinner before taking another redeye flight home.

And tomorrow we will be heading out for our third trip to San Francisco.  The most important item on the agenda this time is meeting Teddy’s girlfriend. 🙂

You can follow along on Instagram or wait till I post about it here!

The Globetrotters Are Coming! (Sponsored)

I grew up watching cartoon versions of the Harlem Globetrotters on Saturday mornings, and now, thanks to U.S. Family Guide, I will get to see them in person!

They are coming to Knoxville this Friday, and I’ll come back here to tell you all about it (giving my honest opinion, as always, although I’ve been given free tickets in exchange for promoting their tour).

My readers can save on tickets to upcoming appearances with this code:

Save 25% Off Harlem Globetrotter Tickets Any Game 

Here’s what U.S. Family Guide has asked me to share with my readers:

All-New Harlem Globetrotters Pushing The Limits World Tour

This is more than a basketball game. It is more than a show.  It is the one and only Harlem Globetrotters in an all-new, larger-than-life world tour.  You’ll be on your feet, out of your seat, laughing until it hurts and loving every moment. The 5th Quarter – The game isn’t over after the final shot! Meet your favorite Globetrotter courtside after the game to get an autograph and photo. Don’t miss out – get your tickets today and save SAVE 25% for ALL Harlem Globetrotters Games with promo code FUNFAM Must purchase 14 days before Game Date.

Find the schedule for your area here.

 

Trip to San Francisco

A Trip to San Francisco

My first trip to San Francisco was also my first plane ride and my first time away from my family.  It was 1981 and I had just graduated from St. Joseph Elementary School.  My godfather had business in California and invited me along to keep his 12-year-old daughter–who was more like a cousin to me–company.

Almost 40 years have gone by but I still remember parts of that trip with clarity–eating shrimp cocktail at Fisherman’s Wharf, attending my first baseball game (that went to 14 innings!) at Candlestick Park, dinner in Chinatown (my first Chinese food!), the cold and the fog for which we were totally unprepared . . . I truly left a bit of my heart in San Francisco and longed for years to return.

Then in July 2017 a piece of my heart left for San Francisco, giving me a suitable motivation for traveling there.  We visited Teddy in February 2018 and 2019 (on his birthday, which has conveniently fallen during the three-day President’s Day weekend) and will be returning next month.  I love San Francisco even more now than I did then, and I’ve taken many pictures that I want to share.

Originally this was going to be one big post, but then I saw I had nearly 100 pictures from our 2018 visit.  So let’s just start with that one, shall we?

THURSDAY

One cannot fly direct from Knoxville to San Francisco, so it took us all day; we arrived after dark and took a cab straight to our hotel.  After meeting Teddy for a late dinner (very nice Greek restaurant, his treat), we explored a little before bed, and took the pictures below.

Both of those are shots of the Ferry Building.  Before bridges crossed the Bay, ferries were the only transportation and the Ferry Building was a busy place.  Nowadays it’s mostly retail space after a period of desertion and disrepair.

The Embarcadero used to be a raised freeway.  San Francisco redefined progress by removing it and reconnecting the Financial District to the waterfront.

Of course we had to walk down to the water and get a picture of the Bay Bridge.

FRIDAY

I got up bright and early Friday morning to do a little exploring.  We stayed in this hotel in the heart of the Financial District, because it was close to where Teddy worked at the time.

I was so excited that I just kept on walking until I found myself in Chinatown.

And while there I happened upon a parade celebrating the Chinese New Year! It was a complete surprise to me!

There is a Catholic church in Chinatown.  It’s staffed by the Paulist Fathers, just like my own parish church.  Now called Old Saint Mary’s, it used to be the San Francisco Cathedral.  I took lots of pictures:

I was on a roll by now.  I wanted to see if I could climb to the very top of the hill I was on, so I did.

Pictures don’t really do justice to the hills.  That last one, with a view of Alcatraz, comes closest.  I am not exaggerating when I say that I was scared to walk back down and was grateful that some of the sidewalks actually have steps cut into them.

I decided to walk back another way and here are a few of the sights I saw:

Above are two views of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church.  Below is St. Francis of Assisi, the first parish church in San Francisco.

Below is a cool view of the Transamerica Pyramid (which was how I found my way back to the hotel–you can see it from everywhere) juxtaposed with Columbus Tower aka the Sentinel Building, owned by Francis Ford Coppola.

Later in the day John and I walked along the Embarcadero down to the Fisherman’s Wharf area, where we met Teddy for dinner at Scoma’s, an amazing seafood restaurant on the water.  Here are the pictures I took that evening:

SATURDAY

I headed out first thing in the morning (while John slept in) to the big outdoor Farmer’s Market at the aforementioned Ferry Building.  In addition to food, many artisans ply their wares on the street leading to the market, so I purchased souvenirs to take home.

I snapped the above photo behind the Ferry Building during the Market.  I cannot now recall why this statue stands there, but I like it nonetheless!

Below is my photo of a poem that brings tears to my eyes when I read it, describing the destruction of the elevated freeway that formerly divided the city from the waterfront.

I returned to the hotel and John and I took an Uber (this was the trip where we learned all about Uber!) to Teddy’s house, which he was sharing with four other young men.  After he showed us around, we went out to explore the neighborhood(the Marina District).  I took the following pictures at what Teddy called his favorite place, the Palace of Fine Arts.  Note the random person in the picture below to understand the scale.  It is an amazing sight.

After lunch at a neighborhood pizza place, we took another Uber to Golden Gate Park.  We did not have any idea how big it is or what we would do there.  It’s definitely somewhere I want to revisit, specifically to see the Japanese Tea House, which was closed when we were there.

We thought it would be fun to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, so we got an Uber across.  After taking a few pictures, though, we realized that we had just missed–by seconds–the deadline to get onto the bridge before security locked it for the night.

After this disappointment we decided that since we were already across the bridge we would Uber to Sausalito for dinner.  We found a nice little Tuscan restaurant, then headed back to the city for ice cream at Ghirardelli Square.

SUNDAY

Sunday morning I thought it would be fun to drink my coffee on the roof of the hotel.  Which it was until some guy came up there and started smoking weed.  At like 9 a.m.  Smoking marijuana is legal in SF, but not out in the open.  But everyone does, and the smell is EVERYWHERE.

We went to Mass at the church I showed you above.  Father Tom Tavella is the pastor.  He was formerly at our parish, and in fact baptized Teddy, so that was a cool reunion, and his homily was just as good as I expected from past experience.

We wanted to have lunch in Chinatown, and Father Tavella suggested a place nearby.

After lunch we did a little sightseeing and shopping.

I then wanted to re-attempt to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge.  John wanted to go back to the hotel and have a rest.  So we agreed to meet for dinner, and Teddy and I took another Uber to the far side of the bridge.

This is the only picture I snapped while on the bridge.  It was so windy that I was frankly afraid to take my phone out.  It was a little scary honestly but I am glad to have done it.  I would like to do it again on the opposite side some time.

After the bridge we just kept walking.

Past the National Cemetery.

All around the Presidio.

By this statue of Phineas Farnsworth.  And around Fort Mason.  And back to Teddy’s house in the Marina District.  And to the gym so he could work out for a few minutes.  In short (it was not short) we walked all the way back to the hotel.  I was not going to be the one to stop! By the end of the day I had walked 12 miles.  After we finished dinner (we ate at the very nice restaurant attached to our hotel), I had a difficult time getting out of the booth and up to the room!  Teddy and John went to a movie but I was happy to rest.

MONDAY

We checked out of our hotel Monday morning (leaving our bags in storage) and hopped on a double-decker tour bus for one of those two-hour tourist trips around the city.  That was when I snapped the above picture.  Later we met back up with Teddy and went shopping for ingredients so I could bake him a red velvet cake for his birthday (a bit difficult as the kitchen was not fully equipped for baking, but it still turned out okay).

Then it was time for good-byes, a trip to the airport, and the red-eye flight back home.  We managed to have fun until the end with this cool exhibit at the airport:

And that’s the end . . . but I will post the pictures of our 2019 trip in a few days.

2019 in Review: Your Favorites, My Favorites

It’s become a yearly tradition for me to highlight the year’s most-read posts (according to WordPress stats), and also to share my favorite posts from the year.  Many of the most-read posts are oldies-but-goodies, and I choose to celebrate their staying power rather than worrying that perhaps I’ve lost my touch.

But I’ll let y’all decide.  Let me know your favorites in the comments.

YOUR FAVORITES

Dear Mom in the Pew

This post is from 2010 (yes, I have been blogging that long!), and has made this list almost every year.  It also inspired my first viral video!

If during Easter Mass some cranky submarine Catholic turns around and tells you that your babbling toddler is “ruining it for everyone else,” (and yes, this once happened to me) I want you to know that if he thinks that he doesn’t know what “it” is and he is the one who is ruining things.

How to Celebrate Advent When Everyone Thinks It’s Already Christmas

I love writing about Advent.  This 2016 post, which was originally part of the Catholic Women’s Blogging Network monthly blog hop, contains links to many other posts on the topic.

We could shut ourselves away from the world and refuse to participate, but that’s not much fun, is it?  The Christmas concerts and television specials, the tree lightings, the pageants and parades–they will all be over after Christmas Day.

So how to reconcile what the world teaches with what the Church teaches?  How do we keep Advent when the world says it’s already Christmas?

Southern Grammar: It’s Got Rules, Y’all!

Newsflash: I’m a Southerner. 🙂 And I am also a grammar fanatic and lover of language in general.  This 2012 post is dear to me and I am glad it was popular this year.

If you aren’t a Southerner, you may laugh at “y’all,” but you probably say “you guys” yourself.  There are other regional variations–you’uns, youse, you people.  What it comes down to is we NEED a plural form of you and y’all fills the bill nicely.

Mary, My Mother: Quotations and Images

A 2017 post of inspirational Marian quotations paired with photos of statues and portraits of the Blessed Mother.

Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Go

A couple of years ago I started creating quotation images of the Blessed Mother to share on my blog’s Facebook page during the month of May.  I’ve been meaning to gather them into one post, and this month’s CWBN blog hop, with a theme of Mary, My Mother, is the perfect occasion for that.  All the photographs are mine, taken with my iPhone.

Liturgical Music II: The 70s

This is another post from way back in 2010, making its second appearance in an end-of-year list.

And as I look back and can see that the songs from the 70s weren’t particularly good songs, while it may be fun to be snarky, it’s important to remember that people were doing the best they could without much guidance to come up with new songs for the new liturgy.  And as for me, even if the songs were “bad” I loved singing them and remember them fondly.

MY FAVORITES

Thirty Years: A Marriage in Pictures

This year my husband and I celebrated 30 years of marriage, and I commemorated the occasion with one picture for each year.

On August 12, 1989, we emerged from Immaculate Conception Church in downtown Knoxville, immediately after the ceremony.  Like any newly married couple, we were starting a journey that we couldn’t have imagined or predicted. 

Illegal or Unthinkable: One Pro-life Catholic’s Perspective on How to End Abortion

I was really scared when I published this one, expecting it to be controversial.  But it seemed to fly under everyone’s radar.  Perhaps I will regret including it in this list.

I know that most pro-life people really do care about babies, but I also understand why many Americans don’t believe that.   When we vote to end abortion but for caging migrant children,  against health care reform,  for removing welfare funds, and against family leave, we don’t seem pro-life.  We don’t look consistent.  We really make it look like “controlling women’s bodies” is all that we care about.  If we can demonstrate through common-sense, compassionate legislation that we really love them both and that our opposition to abortion is rooted in our respect for ALL life, I believe that’s when we will start to change hearts and minds.

Fall Break in New York City

The Fall Break in this post was in 2018, but I didn’t manage to write it up until almost exactly a year later.

Y’all, I may have gone a little crazy taking pictures of the Statue,  but you know what? I don’t care.  I could have stayed there with her all day.  This was by far the most meaningful part of our whole vacation to me.

When to Say Yes and When to Say No: Respecting Your Spiritual Gifts

Short, sweet, and important!

Every ministry in a parish is important.  Every baptized Catholic is gifted in some way for ministry.  Every parishioner should be offering time and talent in service to the Church.  But heed this PSA:  There is nothing wrong with saying NO if you are asked to participate in a ministry that does not align with your God-given gifts.

Five Steps to a Catholic Social Justice Newsfeed

Since I now do most of my reading on Facebook, it is important to me that I curate what I see there.  I have learned a lot by following the steps I write about in this post.

I need more from my Facebook feed than pictures of artistically arranged food and smiling babies and adorable kittens (not that I don’t love those things).  I rely on Facebook for information and spiritual enrichment too.  Because as a faithful Catholic I am passionate about social justice, I purposely create a Facebook feed that forms and informs me regarding what I care about most. 

If you’d like to read highlights from previous years, see below:

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

12 in 2019: A Year in Pictures

It is time for the first post of 2020, and one of my favorite annual traditions, the past year in pictures! As always, it is difficult to decide whether to choose the most artistic picture of the the month or the one that is most representative of the month, so what you see below will be a mixture of both.

JANUARY

On January 12 my sister had a baby!  This is a picture of William meeting his cousin for the first time.

FEBRUARY

John and I went to San Francisco again in February to visit Teddy.  My next big picture post will be about our visits because I have taken so many beautiful pictures there.  So I am sharing this picture that I took at the Chicago Airport on the way there because I think it is cool.

MARCH

After the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Knoxville, Lorelei and her cousin Ella had fun posing and taking pictures in this art-covered alley.

APRIL

I had fun experimenting with the Portrait option on my iPhone this year.  I took this picture of dogwood blossoms during one of my rosary walks before morning Mass.

MAY

Our precious nephew and Godson, Leo, made his First Holy Communion at Sacred Heart Cathedral in May.  I just love his sweet expression.

JUNE

This was taken at one of the parties during my 30-year college Reunion–from the top of the Watergate Hotel, with the sun setting over my alma mater.

JULY

John and I went on a cruise–our -first–to celebrate our 30th anniversary.  This photo was taken in Bermuda.

AUGUST

We went on an impromptu family vacation to Myrtle Beach over the Labor Day weekend.  I love this colorful shot of the boardwalk.

SEPTEMBER

I continue to enjoy sitting on my front porch, even with this nightly visitor, who was inches away from my foot when I took this picture.  I have learned to make no sudden moves, and all has been well, although our cats have not always been so lucky.

OCTOBER

My kids REALLY get into Halloween.  Look closely and you will see that our porch visitor was undeterred by the spooky decor.

NOVEMBER

A rare early November snowfall decorates the first berries ever on this nandina bush, which I transplanted from my grandmother’s garden several years ago.

DECEMBER

Christmas 2019.  All the Sholly kids were home and enjoyed brunch at the Crowne Plaza downtown.

To see photo essays from past years, click the links below:
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018

I am linking up with Revolution of Love.  Click below to see pictures from other bloggers!

Quote Me: Cast Your Cares on God

I’m excited to share that I was recently a guest on a podcastLindsay Schlegel interviewed me for the last episode of the first season of Quote Me, in which guests discuss a favorite quotation and its impact on their lives.

My quotation was “Cast all your cares on God; that anchor holds.” It is from the poem Enoch Arden by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

That’s not where I first read it, though.  Listen to the podcast to learn more, but I’ll say this much:  it’s related to my obsession with The X-Files.  Once upon a time I wrote fanfiction, and the story I refer to in the podcast is right here, should you be interested.

I hope you will give my interview–and the rest of the season–a listen and let me know what you think!

How to Fit Regular Prayer into Your Busy Life: It’s Not What You Think

For most of my adulthood, my prayer life has consisted of Mass on Sunday, various random calls on God on the saints as necessary throughout the day, and petitions in bed at night–if I did not fall asleep first.  I would marvel at folks who attended Mass daily, or said the rosary regularly, or woke up early for quiet time with God.  How on earth did they find the time?

Over the past few years I have experienced a real longing for holiness, a desire to spend more intentional time in prayer.  And I’ve had some limited success, with help from prayer journaling, a schedule that facilitated weekday Mass attendance, and even Facebook!  A schedule change this year, though, meant I had no reason to leave the house until afternoon.  And without that little boost, and with always so much work to do at home, I just haven’t been able to make myself go to morning Mass even though I really enjoyed it.

Every article about having a regular prayer life says to schedule time with God:  have a prayer appointment at the same time each day.  So I tried.  First I got up earlier in the morning to pray, but fell asleep in my chair the first few mornings and started hitting the snooze button instead.  I tried praying every night before bed (not IN bed!), and I fell asleep then too.  I considered scheduling prayer time mid-morning once I was good and awake, but I just couldn’t make myself go back upstairs (where my prayer space is located) once I had already gotten involved in my work.

As I type all that it sounds pathetic, but I am just being honest!  And this post does have a happy ending (at least for now!).  Here’s what I did:

  • I let go of last year’s schedule.  Just because I had a great thing going last year doesn’t mean it works this year, and that is okay.  Next school year will be different and maybe morning Mass will work for me again.
  • I made a commitment to FIT PRAYER IN.  I chose certain practices, and promised myself I would do them every day, but not necessarily on a particular schedule or at the same time every day.
  • I found tools to make regular prayer as easy as possible.  You can read about them here.
  • I found accountability partners.  Right now I’m participating in the 33 Days of Merciful Love challenge with Catholic Fit Moms for Life.  Regular prayer is one of my goals for the challenge, and the challenge itself includes spiritual reading and journaling.  I am registered for the Pray More Advent Retreat, which will overlap just a bit and then take me all the way to Christmas.

So what does this look like right now?  Once I’m alone in the house, I will usually do my journaling for the 33 Days challenge.  Then I will work for awhile before taking a break to say what I think of as my morning prayers, which I have saved on my phone so I don’t even have to leave my desk.  I listen to Pray As You Go in the car on the way to pick up the kids.  After dinner, when I used to sit on the porch and read, I now retire to my prayer space and do my reading for the challenge and use Hallow to meditate.  And I still say those bedtime prayers.  And if I don’t get to do all those things on a given day, I don’t feel worried or guilty, I just resume on the following day.

And you know what? By my prioritizing fitting prayer in somewhere, somehow, rather than attempting to schedule it, a schedule more or less naturally fell into place on its own!

So if you are a busy person who wants to pray more, and a prayer schedule hasn’t worked for you, try just committing to fitting it in and see how that works for you!

Merry Christmas Gift Guide

Now, I am not one to start Christmasing early.  We celebrate Advent hard and save Christmas for its proper 12 days as much as possible in today’s world.  But part of having a peaceful Advent for me is doing my Christmas shopping in November.  If you want to get an early start too, I’ve got some ideas for you!

Many of the products below were created by folks I know, or were given to me to review in the past.  There are a few (very few!) affiliate links among them.  In many cases I have included links to my reviews so you can learn more.

Let’s start with Catholic gifts. 

I used to think my only option for Catholic gifts was the local Catholic book and gift shop.  It’s still a great option when I need something right away, but there is so much else out there, much of it handmade by Catholic artisans.

I love, love, love Pink Salt Riot products.  You cannot go wrong shopping for your favorite Catholic woman here!  My top recommendation is the design your own bracelet:I wear the one I created most days!

I also love my St. Peter bracelet from Kindred Forest Co.

Visit them for a wonderful product line geared toward helping you be friends with the saints!

I am crazy about SockReligious (especially the clever name!).  There are so many choices that I can’t pick a favorite.  Maybe these?

Stay Close to Christ is another source for all kinds of Catholic gifts, including these adorable tiny saints.  You can get one for free with your $10 purchase if you enter the code LESLIE at check out.

I found these and many other favorite Catholic products via the CatholicsOnline Directory.  Click on the logo to learn more.

The talent of the artisans listed is truly a gift from God and I have been blessed by the products I have purchased.

A couple of my favorite Etsy shops I discovered via Catholics Online are Saongjai (I have bought sturdy, beautiful rosaries there) and No Heart Untouched (love her style and my husband loves the coffee cup I bought for him!).

There are always books on my Christmas list

I’ve already written some posts on Christmas-themed children’s books.  And here’s a link to non-Christmas picture books I love.

The following are a few Catholic books I have reviewed and can recommend.  Links to purchase are in each post:



And here are links to a few that I have not reviewed:

Be Yourself: A Journal for Catholic Girls  (The boys’ version is coming out soon!)

The Gift of Invitation (this is one of a series of Stay Connected journals)

Becoming Holy, One Virtue at a Time (another of the above series, to pre-order)

Made for Greatness (a growth mindset journal for Catholic kids)

Now for a few secular options!

I love the ring I purchased from Mama’s Jewelry, which contains the birthstones of all my children.  There are lots of styles to choose from and they are surprisingly affordable!  

This is the best lipstick I have ever owned.  It’s no longer available from the seller in the linked review, but you can purchase it here.

This next one is a bit pricey, but Healtop health and wellness products are amazing.

Finally, for those-hard-to-shop-for-people-who-have-everything, visit Uncommon Goods.  Honestly,  I love almost everything they sell (especially the candles)!

Let me know in the comments if you found anything here for your Christmas list!

Visiting Zoo Knoxville

As the mother of two animal fanatics, I have visited many remarkable zoos all over the country.  I am especially fond of (and proud of) Zoo Knoxville, which I have watched transform over the past 40+ years since my first visit on a school field trip.

We have had season passes off and on over the years, and now William is an official zoo volunteer, so we go to the zoo often.  I hope you enjoy the pictures of some of our favorite animals and the beautiful habitats created for their enjoyment and visitors’ education.

In my earliest memories, most of the animals were in cages or concrete bunkers.  Now, the majority live in habitats that suit the needs of the animals and please visitors too.  Something new is always under construction:  right now it is a state-of-the-art herpetology facility.  The current home of the reptiles is one of the few things left that has not changed much since my childhood.

The Chinese Alligator above is one of William’s favorite creatures at our zoo.

Many, many years ago the circus came to town and left a gift–a bad-tempered African elephant named Old Diamond.  He later became the father of the first African elephant born in captivity.  Old Diamond lived in a concrete enclosure.  Nowadays the elephants have much nicer digs, with inside and outside viewing areas.

William loves the petting zoo, especially the donkeys.  He is going to have the opportunity to start volunteering there in the next few weeks.

Lorelei especially likes the river otters, who are native to East Tennessee.  They can be elusive, though.

Besides the petting zoo, there are a lot of other “little kid” exhibits and activities in the Kids Cove area of the zoo–where all those concrete bunkers once were! Here are some of the animals you might see there:

Our zoo is known for raising red pandas, and we have a great indoor-outdoor exhibit of them.  I wish I had a better picture, because in my opinion they are about the cutest animals in the zoo and I wish I could cuddle one.

Below are some more of the animals you will see at Zoo Knoxville, as well as some examples of the attractive exhibits and landscaping.  I’m saving my very favorite pictures for the end of the post.

A pile of painted dog pups
These are NOT pigs; they are peccaries, a close relative
No one is really sure how old Big Al is, but he is well over 100

And now for my very favorite exhibit, the Asian Trek.  I just think it is beautifully done, and I love how close you can get to its inhabitants, as you will see.

I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of Zoo Knoxville!

Saturday 9 November and Sunday 10 November are $5 days at the zoo, and parking is free, but you must purchase tickets ONLINE.

Five ObamaCare Facts and a PSA

For this year’s ObamaCare update, I am sharing five ObamaCare facts.

  1. The Affordable Care Act and ObamaCare refer to the same thing. I hope that’s obvious to you, but it isn’t to everyone–I have seen many a “man on the street” video with folks saying how awful ObamaCare is while in the same breath raving about the healthcare they receive under the Affordable Care Act.
  2. One ObamaCare provision requires your insurer to pay you back a portion of your premiums if they fail to spend a certain amount of their profits on patient care.  This is the second year I have gotten an unexpected check in the mail.
  3. ObamaCare includes a yearly cap on out-of-pocket expenses.  Once you reach that cap, all your care is free.  The cap varies by insurance plan, and this year some of us will should be getting free care in December.
  4. The Affordable Care Act benefits you even if you don’t buy your insurance from the Marketplace or a state exchange.  The ACA made it illegal for insurance companies to refuse to insure you or charge you more due to pre-existing conditions.  This is a big freaking deal, and it is just one example of protections put into place by the ACA that apply to everyone.
  5. Enrollment is NOW OPEN at Healthcare.gov.  If you are already covered by an ACA plan, it’s time to re-enroll.  If you are currently uninsured or unhappy with the insurance you have, you can sign up until December 15, 2019.

For more of my writing on the Affordable Care Act aka ObamaCare, see below and click away!

The $64,000 Question, Answered
Who Are the Uninsured?
Uninsured No More
ObamaCare Update
ObamaCare Update 2
ObamaCare:  My Latest Update
ObamaCare Revisited
More on Our Journey to Health, Brought to You by Obamacare
It’s Good to Be Insured: An ObamaCare Update
Obamacare in Practice:  An Update
An Open Letter to My Friends Who Want to Repeal ObamaCare
Obamacare Update: Good, Bad, and Ugly
Not Repealed and Not Imploding:  An Obamacare Update
ObamaCare Endures, and for That We Are Grateful