The Year in Review: Your Favorites, My Favorites

I’m shamelessly stealing this idea from another blog.  I’m going to share the year’s five most popular posts (according the the stats provided by WordPress), and then I’m going to share five of my personal favorites (difficult to do because, frankly, I am a fan of my own writing, and I’ve already wasted way too much time today re-reading posts).

YOUR FAVORITES

1.  And This Is Why They Call It Gallaher View

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How fitting that my top post should be about a graveyard, a subject to which I devoted many hours this year.  This particular post owes its popularity to the enthusiasm of the wonderful Facebook group, “You Know You Are from Knoxville If . . .” which never fails to suck me in whenever I risk visiting.

“Entering a new graveyard is always a little adventure.  There are almost always surprises, stories, mysteries.”

2.  Rocky Hill Baptist Cemetery:  Appearances Are Deceiving

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The number two post owes its page views, unfortunately, to a misunderstanding by someone who was offended by what I wrote.  Ah, the price of fame. 🙂  Seriously, I hate to hurt anyone’s feelings but I was gratified that most people who read what I had written did not see it that way.

3.  Songs of Innocence and of Experience

innocence and experience
I wrote this in 2011 and I have no idea why so many people are still reading it–or clicking on it, at any rate.  Rereading it today, though, it seems almost prescient, given that it was written shortly before our family passed through the literal flames of experience.

“So in my paper I talked about innocence, experience, and wisdom in Blake’s poetry, in William Wordsworth’s Prelude, in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles, and in Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield.  I defended it successfully, and I got that Honors degree.  Did I understand what I was writing about?  Probably not.”

4.  The Living and the Dead

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This post was written in response to the furor over #2 above.  In it I talk about WHY I write about cemeteries, and how I approach the task.

“If I’m in a smaller cemetery, I try to read every gravestone.  I think about the people there, wonder about them.  Sometimes, especially if they are babies, I pray for them or even talk to them.  I tell them that today, even if only today, they are remembered.”

5.  The Terrifying Teens

My teenagers sample fried gator while visiting my sister and her husband in Texas
My teenagers sample fried gator while visiting my sister and her husband in Texas

This is another old post–from 2010!–that is still very close to my heart, so I’m glad it’s being read.  After the mid-point of February, I’ll be down to just one teenager!  I had three when this was written.  Making it through their teen years was even harder than I thought it would be when I wrote this.

“I don’t think teenagers are terrible at all–I enjoy mine very much; it’s exciting to see the beginnings of the adults they are slowly on their way to becoming.  But I don’t look too hard for the light at the end of the parenting tunnel for fear that it may be an oncoming train.”

MY FAVORITES

I’m only going to pick from ones I posted this year.  I tried to pick a variety of representative posts.  Another time perhaps I’ll do a roundup of my favorites of all time.

1.  Obamacare:  My Latest Update


I wrote a lot of posts about Obamacare this year and you’ll be hearing more about it this year.  I’m proud of these posts which are relevant and also personal, and which I realize open me up to some judgment and criticism.

“There shouldn’t be a set of assumptions about people who are on TennCare which influences the care they receive.  There shouldn’t be different levels of care for people who have insurance and those who don’t.  But that was our reality, and Obamacare has changed that for our family.”

2.  Cuttin’ Footloose

footloose kevin bacon
I love this short story of the memories and feelings a favorite movie can evoke.

“Maybe it wasn’t the movie itself.  Maybe it was just the joy of being young and with close friends, out alone at night under our own steam, having friends who were driving and a couple who even had their own cars.  But for me the way I felt that night is inextricably linked to the movie and always will be.   I felt . . . empowered.  Like I could do anything.  Like life was good and all of it was ahead of me (that part at least was true).”

3.  Back Home Again

GU 17
This is the third of a three part series on the college reunion I attended this year–my 25th.  I love Georgetown.

“The Eucharist is the source and the summit of all that we do as Catholics, and the Reunion Mass is the summit of the weekend for me.  I worry sometimes at the naysayers who proclaim Georgetown is not “Catholic enough,” until I come back and see and feel how very Catholic it is.”  

4.  Forty Years of Yo-Yo Dieting

Me at age two, before hopping on the diet treadmill
Me at age two, before hopping on the diet treadmill

This was very personal and hard to write, and I shared it as part of my writing on my journey toward being healthier.

“What that first diet was I don’t remember . . . Some of them worked better than others, but I never lost ALL the weight.  I never weighed the magic number the weight tables told me I should.”

5.  Dust to Dust

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This was the beginning of my cemetery posts.  I’ve enjoyed visiting them, photographing them, learning about them, and sharing them with my readers.  Expect many more of these posts in the new year.

“See, as long as your name remains visible on a stone, and as long as someone comes by to read the names, and wonder about the people who bore them, how they lived, why they died–you are still a part, albeit a small one, of the living world.  It’s important to me, that these dead people be remembered.  That the living remember where we come from.”

If you enjoyed this sampling of posts above, please feel free to share this with anyone else you think might enjoy this blog.  Thank you for reading and special thanks to those who take the time to comment.  Happy New Year!

Five Favorite Cities

It’s time again for Five Favorites, which is now a traveling linkup, hosted this week by Mary at Atelier.
five favorites
Today I’m going to write about five of my favorite cities.  Now I’m no world traveler or anything, so don’t expect anything obscure or unusual!
1.  Mobile, Alabama
I’ve been hearing stories about Mobile since I was a little girl, in which it was presented to me as akin to an ancestral homeland.   That’s because not only was my grandmother’s mother born there, but we could trace our roots there back to this guy:

My ggggrandfather Confederate General James D. Hagan, who was born in Ireland.
My ggggrandfather Confederate General James D. Hagan, who was born in Ireland.

My mother visited cousins there often as a child, and told us stories of swimming in the Mobile Bay.  My grandmother, too, spent summers there as a child, and well into her elder years used to drive down there occasionally to see family and bring home crab for gumbo.  I vaguely recall two visits there when I was a child.
When Emily decided to go to college there we were absolutely thrilled, and I know Mima would have been too.  What with dropping her off and picking her up for various breaks, and attending Family Weekend at Spring Hill each year, we had ample time to visit and explore Mobile, which offers streets lined with restored historical properties, a nearby beach, and delectable seafood.  We miss our frequent visits and are considering going down for a weekend just for the food.  Seriously.
USS Alabama

Detail from Felix’s Fish Camp, one of Mobile’s many restaurants

2.  Charleston, South Carolina
I’ve been to Charleston twice.  The first time marked the last vacation I ever took with my parents and sisters; the second was a Spring Break trip with my roommate and then-boyfriend-now-husband my junior year at Georgetown.  I’ve been wanting to get back there ever since.  Through the nostalgic lens of the past the place has taken on a mythical significance, probably helped by my devotion to Pat Conroy’s writings.
This is the only picture I have handy from either trip:
John in Charleston, not doing a very good job at simulated hopping, March 1988
So that doesn’t exactly demonstrate why I loved the place.  Things I remember include the architecture, the near-deserted beach at Wild Dunes (the resort where my family stayed), the terrifying bridge (now, I believed, replaced), and The Trawler, an incredible restaurant at which I ordered a seafood platter that had absolutely everything on it and remains the standard by which I judge such things 30 years later.  (It’s closed now, but I suspect there are still a few good seafood places in Charleston!)  John and the big boys visited Charleston for a Cub Scout outing that included a night spent on a battleship, but that was ten years ago, so I think it’s time we got back down there!
3.  Savannah, Georgia
Our whole family fell in love with Savannah when we visited a few summers ago.  There is something for everyone in or near Savannah:  architecture, history, beaches, shopping, and FOOD! (You are probably seeing by now what is really important to us in picking a vacation destination.)
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4.  Washington, D.C.
It’s an obvious choice, I know, but even after living in D.C. for four years and just outside it for another, I never get tired of visiting.  So many people make the mistake of thinking they can “do” D.C. in five days, but it just isn’t possible.
Everyone knows about the Smithsonians, of course, and that they are free, but in your rush to the Air and Space Museum, don’t forget the Botanical Gardens, or the Holocaust Museum, or the National Archives.  A person could spend days in any one of the museums.  As for the monuments, touring them at night is the best.  As for food, D.C. is an international city with every kind of cuisine you could want or imagine.  I recommend 1789 in Georgetown for an unforgettable French dinner (if you can afford it–we’ve done this exactly once!).
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5.  Knoxville, Tennessee
I bet y’all knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?  You can read just a few of the reasons here.  Other than that, I’ll just let some of these images do that talking for me.
Storm over Knoxvillemarket square
Downtown Knoxville from the River
What about you?  What are your favorite cities?  And for more favorites of various kinds, you can visit the linkup here.
 

Five Favorite Saints

Five Favorite Saints
So for my Five Favorites today, I would like to share five of my favorite saints!
1.  Saint Peter

Saint Peter by Paul Rubens

Peter is absolutely my favorite saint.  He’s so endearing.  I find myself shaking my head and smiling when listening to his exploits at Mass.  So enthusiastic.  So clueless!  So like us.  Peter blathered about building booths for Jesus and company at the Transfiguration, leading the Gospel writer to opine, “He did not really know what he was saying.”  Peter denied Jesus.  Peter tried to walk on water and sank instead.  But Peter also was the first to name Jesus as Messiah, and he was the rock on which Jesus chose to build His Church.  How inspiring for all of us that Jesus chose this imperfect soul to be the first Pope, demonstrating that faith and love, not education and ability, are what count most.
2.  Saint Monica
Saint Monica by John Nava

St. Monica’s feast was last week and it was then that I suddenly realized I should be praying to her!  My kids are nowhere near as wayward as St. Augustine was in his wild younger days, but all mothers pray for their children and who better to be our patron than this mother whose prayers were answered in such  a spectacular fashion?
3.  Saint Bernadette
Saint Bernadette

I chose her as my Confirmation saint after reading (and re-reading and re-reading) The Song of Bernadette.  My visit to Lourdes as a teenager remains a highlight of my life. An uneducated peasant girl who never sought out sainthood and who was unexceptional in every way before her visions, she is a reminder to all of us that God can use anyone and that anyone who accepts a mission from God will be given the grace to carry it out.  I’ve written more about her here.
4.  Saint Patrick
saint patrick
Even if you aren’t Catholic, you probably know all about St. Patrick; he’s that popular.  But aside from the fun of St. Patrick’s Day, I feel a special debt to him which you can read about here.
5.  Saint Theodore the Written Upon
Saint Theodore

If you went to Catholic school you probably recall being made to dress up like your patron saint for All Saints Day.  Coming up with costumes for these occasions for my kids has always been a challenge since I am not what you would call crafty, but I was very pleased one year to send Teddy off to school wrapped in a sheet and with the first few lines of the inscription that was carved into the head of this poor martyr written on his forehead in red ink.
Who are your favorite saints?  You can tell me in the comments below.  And check out Mama Knows, Honeychild for more favorites!
five favorites

Five Random Favorites

This is a pretty random list of favorite things that are on my mind this morning, so that I can link up with Mama Knows, Honeychild!
five favorites
 
1.  This popcorn popper

So we have lots of people in this house who are popcorn-crazy (also just crazy, but we won’t post about that) as you could tell if you came to see me because of all the popcorn in the couch cushions (and everywhere else too if we don’t clean up before you come).  And so we had been buying and eating lots of microwave popcorn, which as we all know is one of the unhealthiest things in the whole world.  Then I found a stove-top crank-operated popper we inherited from Grandma, but that thing was labor intensive, and heating oil on the stove to high temperatures is always a little scary.  And it was a pain to clean, so it was always sitting around in the way because I could re-use it without taking it apart and washing it but I couldn’t put it away like that!  Plus I was afraid to let the kids use it, so anytime anyone wanted popcorn (all the time) it was all on me.  So I looked on Amazon, ordered this, and my life was changed.  It requires no oil, and the little kids have already learned to use it themselves.  And old-fashioned popcorn is cheaper, so there’s that.
Which leads me to another favorite . . .
2.  These popcorn bowls

photo credit: sharsuniquefinds via ebay

Now, I would never in a million years have bought these, as darling as they are, because I don’t believe in buying single-use things that then have to be stashed away somewhere taking up valuable space and like as not getting ignored in favor of something more convenient most of the time.  But these came with the house–the prior renters left them, unused and still in the box, in the garage.  And we have a cabinet right over the stove that is too high and inconvenient to store things we want to use all the time in, but still accessible enough to get to.  So we use these every day, and the big one conveniently fits right under the opening of the air popper, and holds exactly the amount that 1/2 cup of kernels pops into.
Of course we put real butter on our popcorn, which leads me to another favorite . . .
3.  My butter dish
butter dish
I like to leave my butter sitting out on the counter.  Before you start worrying that it will spoil, please understand that between cinnamon toast, popcorn, and using it for cooking, we use about a stick each day.  And hard butter won’t spread, which is such a nuisance.  So I used to just leave it sitting out on a small plate.  But the cat would lick it whenever he got a chance.  I’ve seen the other things he’s had in his mouth, so there was no salvaging that butter!  Now the lid keeps the butter safe.
4.  My new coffee cup
red coffee cup
Emily bought this for me at Wal-Mart the other day, just to be nice.  That’s enough of a reason for me to like it, but I also like the way it looks sitting on the counter waiting for the next cup of coffee.  It makes me happy.
And now I am seeing that this post really does have a theme after all, so I will add one final favorite . . .
5.  My red kitchen

food tomatoes
You can read more about it and see more pictures here.
That’s it for this week!  Please visit the linkup for more favorites!

Five Favorites: Books That Change Lives

I’m a day late, but hopefully not a dollar short, to Five Favorites, hosted by Mama Knows, Honeychild.
five favorites
Let’s talk books today.  I don’t know how I would go about making a list of my five favorite books ever, so instead I will call this Five Favorite Books that have changed my life.  And if that sounds like an exaggeration, it’s really not.
1.  Humanae Vitae

If you are Catholic, this book should need no explanation.  It SHOULDN’T.  But sadly it probably does.
This is the papal encyclical issued by Pope Paul VI which confirmed the Church’s condemnation of artificial birth control.  But it doesn’t just condemn; it also explains, and does so beautifully.
Of course I grew up knowing that the Church was against contraception.  But in spite of 12 years of Catholic school, no one ever once explained WHY.  I went into college thinking that this was just some sort of old-fashioned and unimportant idea that I should feel free to ignore.
Then I took a Christian marriage class at Georgetown and read this book, and my life was changed.  And the change went deeper than just my understanding of this one issue; it also affected my relationship to the Church.  Because it was in reading this that I realized that Church teachings have explanations, that they aren’t just pronouncements from on high.  I decided right then that before ever disagreeing with the Church, even in matters of conscience, we must first read and reflect on its teachings.
2.  Let’s Have Healthy Children

When I found out I was pregnant with Emily, the first thing I did was go to the library and look for books to check out.  This was in the first batch, but I soon bought my own copy and annotated it heavily.  Adelle Davis’s findings remain a topic for debate today, but I remain convinced that the regimen of vitamins that I took while pregnant and breastfeeding are responsible for my children’s vibrant good health.
When my kids were babies I introduced foods to them the way Davis suggested too.  I have continued to believe that nutrition is the key to good health even when I didn’t always follow Davis’s guidelines.  The effect of the dietary changes I have recently made on my health confirms this belief!
3.  Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing
breastfeeding and natural childspacing

Besides the practical advice Sheila Kippley provides on breastfeeding, her stance on mother/baby togetherness formed the way I parented my children.  I didn’t know then what attachment parenting was, but Kippley told me that babies should be fed on demand, that nursing wasn’t just about food, that extended nursing was normal, and that mothers and babies shouldn’t be separated.
Before I read this book I thought of breastfeeding as something you did to give a baby a good start before weaning to the bottle at six months or so.  I would never have imagined myself nursing children until three or four years of age, and I wouldn’t have understood the parenting aspects of breastfeeding that go far beyond nutrition and shaped my mothering as well as my children.
This book also changed my life because it turned me into a breastfeeding advocate, which led me to develop online friendships with like-minded people that endure to this day, after our breastfeeding days are done.
4.  Childbirth without Fear

I never did have the all-natural childbirth I dreamed of when I first read this book, although I got closer each time.  Still, this book changed my life by influencing the way I viewed childbirth, by encouraging me to be skeptical of all interventions into this natural process, by leading me to read further (Painless Childbirth; Thank You, Dr. Lamaze; The Experience of Childbirth; Open Season), to take Bradley and Lamaze classes, and to become an advocate for myself in this area.  This book set me along the road that led to two successful VBACs after three C-sections.  It led me to connect with others who felt the same way who were a support for me and taught me so much.  And it contributed to my attitude toward medical intervention in general, because it became clear to me that doctors can be life-savers but that we have a responsibility to learn about our own health and advocate for ourselves, not just blindly follow medical advice “because doctor said so.”
5.  Kids Are Worth It!
kids are worth it

If you’ve read this book, and you know me, you’re probably thinking, “What’s she talking about?  She doesn’t parent her kids anything like what this book says!”  And you’d be correct.  But we all need something to aspire to, right?  I know that this is the best parenting book I’ve ever read because I keep coming back to it and quoting from it.  I don’t disagree with one word in it and I only wish I’d read it before I had so many kids and was already overwhelmed and making every possible mistake!
Still, even when I don’t follow the principles of this book, I can see where I’ve gone wrong and why, and that’s something, isn’t it?  There’s always hope.  And especially as my kids have gotten older I take comfort and advice from this: “Is it life-threatening? Is it morally threatening? Is it unhealthy?”  That’s helped me pick my battles.  Now that William is 13 I probably should re-read the teenage section of this book and see how I can improve this time around. 🙂
That’s it for this week.  If there are any books that have changed YOUR life, I wish you’d tell me about them in the comments!

Five Favorite Marriage Tips

Because today is Tuesday (Five Favorites day) AND it’s our 25th wedding anniversary, it seems like the thing to do is to post five marriage tips.  Because 25 years qualifies me as an EXPERT, y’all.
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1.  Never ask “whether,” only ask “how.”
This one comes straight from the homily at our wedding, and it’s the one thing that John and I both remember.  To expand, Father Spitzer said that once you are married, you should never question whether you should have gotten married, but only ask how you could STAY married.  That advice has helped us stay committed through some difficult times.  Whether is a pointless question if you want your marriage to last forever.
2.  Grow together, not apart.
So how do you do that?  Most important, make time to be together.  Don’t tell me it’s impossible.  We had three kids in four years, and we got a babysitter and arranged to go out regularly.  When I had a nursing baby, we just brought him or her along.  Our life as a couple did not end when we became parents.  We’ve made it a point to celebrate not just our wedding anniversary but also the anniversary of our becoming a couple.  We hold on to little rituals and traditions.  But at the same time we don’t just cling to the past.  We make it a point to be involved in each other’s lives, so that even as we have separate friends and pursuits, we each know about and are interested in each other’s passions.
john and leslie
3.  If you are really mad at your husband and you need to vent, call his mother.
Maybe you are laughing as you read that, but I’m serious.  Complaining about your husband to your friends and family can be very destructive to your marriage, and to the relationship you want your husband to have with the important people in your lives.  But your mother-in-law is going to love your husband no matter what he does.  And if you have a really good mother-in-law like I do, she’ll fuss at him on your behalf.
4.  Communicate
Well, duh, right?  What do I mean?  Talk about everything, good and bad.  And if you are having trouble with this, don’t be ashamed or afraid to seek professional help with your communication skills.  Problems don’t just go away if you don’t discuss them.
5.  Endure
It’s hard, hard work to live day in and day out with another person, someone who is not your blood relative and who you are bound to by choice.  There are bound to be times when you don’t get along at all.   But check this out:  “on average unhappily married adults who divorced were no happier five years after the divorce than were equally unhappily married adults who stayed married when rated on any of 12 separate measures of psychological well-being. Moreover, two-thirds of unhappily married people who remained married reported that their marriages were happy five years later. Even among couples who had rated their marriages as very unhappy, 80 percent said they were happily married five years later.”  So hang in there!  Chances are, things will get better, especially if you are using tips 1-4.
Those are my top five–at least today!  For more favorites, visit the linkup at Mama Knows, Honeychild!
5 TIPS for a mariage that lasts a lifetime

Five Homeschooling Favorites

Just a quick Five Favorites post today because 1) I’m late and 2) I’ve got too much to do today!
five favorites
I’ve got homeschooling on the brain these days, what with school starting (UGH!) on Monday, so today I’ll share five favorite things about homeschooling.  Not necessarily THE favorites, but the ones that rise to mind at this time of year when I am only having to get one kid ready for school instead of two.
1.  No uniforms.
Don’t misunderstand–I’m all for uniforms.  But normally this time of year would involve trips to Educational Outfitters to check sizes, and then a trip to the school Swap Shop to check what used things are available (and also trying them all on because sizes vary), and then a trip BACK to the uniform store to supplement the cheap stuff, and then possibly the agony of finding someone to hem things.  And of course I didn’t mention lots and lots of money.  This year, the only uniform rule will be no pajamas.
Lorelei at Target
2.  Pajamas
Didn’t I just say no pajamas?  Well, that rule is for Lorelei, not for me.  This year John will be taking William to school (which used to be my job while he took Lorelei).  So I don’t have to go out of the house and I plan to take full advantage of that by continuing my lazy summer habit of working in my pajamas until noon.  Or even later.
3.  I pick the school supplies.
I am not subject to the tyranny of the supply list, with its strange requirement for green pens which I can never find and its endless demands for things like scissors which ought to stay at school and be reused from year to year.  I won’t have to brave the madding crowds at Wal-Mart!  Lorelei’s supply list this year included pencils, markers, paper, and folders.  And I ordered it (along with William’s) online so that 1) I wouldn’t have to go to Wal-Mart and 2) so I could use my PayPal balance!
4.  No meetings.
I am a firm believer that even when meetings at school are stupid or boring or when you’ve heard it all a thousand times before (and if you have five kids, that goes without saying) it’s important to attend them.  So we go to them all, and the novelty wore off long ago.  I won’t miss them this year.
5.  No homework or projects.
Believe me, having to supervise William’s homework is cross enough to bear.  Not having to deal with Lorelei’s stressed out meltdowns is going to be sooooo nice.  And the projects?  Last year for All Saints we had to make a saint out of a two-liter Coke bottle.  The year before that we had to dress up a pumpkin.  I kid you not.  This year, maybe I’ll have her write a paragraph about her favorite saint.  If I feel like it.  Last year, book reports involved things like dioramas.  This year, they will involve writing a report.  Maybe drawing a picture too.
Umm . . . there are other reasons for homeschooling, of course.  Reasons that benefit Lorelei and not just me. 🙂  But y’all knew that already, right?
For more favorites, visit the linkup at Mama Knows, Honeychild.

Five Favorite Low-Carb Things To Eat

five favorites
Y’all, I used to scoff at low carb.  But now I’m a believer.  I’ve lost weight but more important I reversed those pesky numbers which were inching up into critical territory.
I love to eat, and that hasn’t stopped.  So herewith I share with you five favorite low carb things to eat.
1.  Apple slices with peanut butter.
This is my bedtime snack these days.  Crunchy all-natural peanut butter because we have ALWAYS used all-natural peanut butter and Kroger brand because we are thrifty.  Okay, I know you aren’t supposed to eat right before bedtime, but I used to eat a big bowl of carb-filled cereal every night before bed.  So I’m getting better.
2.  Hummus with just about anything dipped in it.
Except pita bread because carbs.  Usually it’s celery, occasionally it’s baby carrots, sometimes it’s mushrooms or red or yellow peppers.  You can buy big containers of all kinds of hummus super cheap at Aldi.  Trader Joe’s also has good deals.
3.  Nuts.  All the nuts.
Oh, nuts. So high in fat.  So bad.  At least, that’s conventional diet wisdom.  Y’all, I eat great quantities of nuts and so far I am still losing weight, but if I stop it will be because of the nuts I’m pretty sure.  I buy the cheap mixed nuts from Kroger, peanuts, cashews, sunflower kernels, almonds, and cashews.  Whenever I get hungry between meals I grab a handful, which is roughly a serving.
4.  Eggs.
Another perfect food with a bad reputation.  Eggs have all the good things in them and they are cheap.  Well, except when you start feeling guilty and buy cage-free.  We consume way too many eggs to be able to afford to pay $4 a dozen, so we compromise and buy one dozen of those for Emily, one dozen of the super high omega-3 kind for me, and three dozen of the cheap kind for Teddy.  No, I am not kidding.  That’s six days’ worth.  I sometimes wonder if the grocery clerk thinks we own a restaurant or run an orphanage.    Anyway, I eat two scrambled eggs for breakfast EVERY morning.
5.  Steak.
I love steak.  It’s one of my favorite foods period.  And suddenly it’s not a forbidden treat–it’s a staple!  We buy steaks by . . . I don’t know, the ton or something . . . from this guy who sells them off his truck for ridiculously low prices.  So there’s always steak in the house, although it disappears more quickly when Teddy is home.
I plan to write a longer post some time in the next month or so on my current diet (and my past diets) so we’ll call this a teaser post.  Head over to Mama Knows, Honeychild for more favorites!

Five Favorites: Just for Me

five favorites
Linking up again this week with Mama Knows, Honeychile to tell you my latest five favorite things.
A while back I decided that I needed to spend some time just on me, doing things that I wanted or needed to do or simply enjoyed doing.  You know how it is, all wrapped up in the kids and the house and your job, and being the one who is in charge of ALL THE THINGS, right?  You know who usually gets left out while everyone else’s needs are being met?  If you are a mother, of course you do.  Anyway, I was feeling unhappy and taken advantage of (not that anyone had ever said I couldn’t do these things).  I needed to give myself permission to take care of ME.  And today I will share with you my five favorite things to do for myself.
1.  Going out for the evening all by myself
I have actually been doing a version of this off and on since my big kids were little kids.  For years and years, Monday nights were my night.  John and the kids would go have an adventure, and I would head out to do my own thing.  What “my own thing” was has varied over the years–working out at the Y, doing research on our old house in the McClung Collection, writing X-Files fan fiction at the Golden Roast–but what was always the same was that I got to be alone, something that has become more and more vital to me over the years.  At some point, though, this quit being a regular thing.  I’m not sure when or why.  Once a month or so I would say to John, “I really need to go out by myself–what night this week is good?” and I’d go, but it wasn’t weekly or predictable any more.  As of a couple of weeks ago, I have changed that.  Having a regular day doesn’t work any more, but I am taking one night, whichever night, for myself.  I go down the road to Panera Bread, have dinner, do house business, and then use the remaining time to write.
2.  Taking long baths
Spa Bath
That’s a spa tub right there, folks–with Lorelei for illustrative purposes since I’m not going to put myself up there!  This was an unexpected delight when we found this house, since I’d been missing my claw footed tub from the Victorian house.  In the winter, I spend hours in here, reading and even taking a nice nap.  I do this right in the middle of the work day, and I’m not apologizing for it either!
3.  Taking Saturdays for myself
Saturdays have been a problem for me for years.  Maybe you feel the same way?  If you are a churchgoer, it’s the only truly free day of the week.  Should you sleep late?  Or get up early so as not to waste it?  Should you run errands and accomplish things?  Or take your family out to do something fun?  So many expectations to put on one 24-hour time period.
Added to all that, there’s the problem that what John likes to do on Saturdays is sleep.  A lot.  And he really needs that catch-up sleep in order to function the way he does for the rest of the week.  But even though I enjoy sleeping later on Saturdays, there are limits.  And sitting around twiddling my thumbs waiting and waiting for him to get up to do something with me has always been a source of stress.
So several months ago I got up one Saturday and decided to quit waiting and do what I wanted to do.  What I wanted to do on that particular Saturday was to go take a look at a couple of cemeteries I was always driving by and never had time to explore.  After that I started my current Saturday routine:  sleeping till a decent hour (ten, usually), going on one of my long walks in the Urban Wilderness with Emily, and then hitting another graveyard if I have time.
nd 14
melton hill 1
4.  Having a beauty routine
That sounds a little goofy (especially for someone who rarely uses make up!), but what I mean is that I have an array of nice lotions and creams and I anoint myself with them morning and night.  This, too, is something I used to do years ago and then got away from.  It’s easy when you are in a hurry or tired to skip doing this, but I make myself do it every time.  I don’t know whether it makes a physical difference, but it feels good to take care of myself.
5.  Singing in the choir
People have been telling me for years that I should sing in the choir.  I DID sing in the choir in college, and I love love love to sing, as anyone in my family can attest.  But I always had little kids in the pew who needed me more than the choir did.
But most of those kids are big now, and even the littler ones can behave properly in Mass without me.  Plus our new choir only sings once a month and practices twice, so the
commitment is not huge.  Singing makes me happy, as does finding a new way to contribute to my church community after several years of being somewhat . . . dormant . . . compared to earlier years.
IC with Green Tint
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Five Favorite Restaurants

Linking up with Heather at Mama Knows, Honey Child today with my third Five Favorites post!
Five Kids
Oh, wait a minute . . . those are the WRONG five favorites!
Today I am writing about my five favorite restaurants.
Now, I don’t mean the five best restaurants I’ve ever been to, I mean my tried and true favorites, the ones where they know our names and what we like to order.  You know the kind.  Or at least I hope you do!
1.  Sitar

Photo from Trip Advisor

The observant among you may notice that Sitar is an erstwhile Captain D’s.  We did not come to love this restaurant for aesthetic reasons.  Actually, though, they’ve redone the inside very nicely.  My little kids especially like the pictures of peacocks.  All our kids love this place–they’ve all been eating Indian food since they were very small.  One of William’s first words was naan!  The waiters know and like us and don’t seem to mind our noise and our mess.  We all have our favorite meals here–mine is Chicken Tikka Masala.
2.  Hashi Japan
Photo from Yelp

This is a tiny little place in a strip mile three miles from our house.  It’s also practically right next to Knoxville Catholic High School, which was how we started going there, while waiting for our kids to finish things, or to grab something to ear before heading home.  Now that we live right down the street, it’s our go-to spot, especially since super-picky William  (I mean really, he is WAY pickier than your kid) loves Asian food.
Another nifty thing about this place is that it is really two restaurants.  There are two doors, two names, and two menus.  The other half is a Chinese place called The Lotus Garden.  We eat on the Hashi side when we come with the kids, and on the Lotus side when we leave them at home.  We’re weird that way.
This is another place where we can . . . ahem . . . be ourselves without fear of being ejected from the restaurant.  And another place where they know our preferences without our having to explain them every time.  My usual order here is Garlic and Black Pepper Beef.
3.  Kaya
John’s best friend from childhood is Korean, and John grew up eating home-cooked Korean food.  He started taking me to Korean restaurants in Virginia when we were dating and I was hooked.  When we go to Kaya, it’s almost always my idea.
What I love at Kaya are the Korean side dishes.  I could make a meal on those alone.  I love kimchi so much I always have a jar in my refrigerator.
We always order the same things at Kaya:  bulgogi, pictured below.  If we are very hungry we order two, but usually we just get one and split it, and fill up on side dishes.
photo credit: foodspotting.com

4.  Naples
Photo from Trip Advisor

Surprised you, didn’t I?  Yes, we eat other cuisines besides Asian.  Although I admit I am drawn to restaurants that prepare dishes I cannot make at home.  Naples is a family-owned Knoxville tradition.  Just look how inviting it is!  It’s the kind of place where people come to relax, hang out for the evening, and enjoy excellent food and wonderful service and stimulating conversation.  I don’t have just one favorite meal here, but I do have a favorite dessert:  creme brulee.  I love love love creme brulee, and they have different special flavors on their menu each night.
5.  Panera Bread
One of these things is not like the others, one of these things doesn’t belong . . .
I know, I know, I’m spoiling my list by including a big, bad chain restaurant.

But, y’all, everyone has to have a place to go to be comfortable and relax, right?  Different places have served this need for me over the years.  I’m a creature of habit and back when I went out every Monday night while John did something fun with all three big (little at the time!) kids, I always went to the Golden Roast on the UT campus.  I still love it, but tend to feel just a tad out of place there almost 20 years down the road.  When we lived in North Knoxville, I used to frequent a tiny coffee shop near the Duck Pond called Cafe Noir.  But it went out of business.
There wasn’t a huge variety in North Knoxville, so when the first Panera was built we were all excited and I thought I would give it a try.  And you know what? I love it.  I just feel myself kind of relax the minute I walk through the door.  I try to get there by myself every couple of weeks, and I always get a You Pick Two, changing my soup and salad selection depending on my mood.
That’s my Five Favorites for this week!  You can visit the other links here.