Summer Fun Update

I’ll be honest–it’s getting harder to come up with something to do every day, and now I am laboring under Lorelei and William’s expectations as well.  It’s not that I don’t have plenty of ideas–I have a page-long list, in fact–it’s having ideas that fit in with the weather, our finances, my energy level, and whatever else I have to accomplish on a given day.  So here’s what we did this week:
On Monday, we went to the Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum, which I have written about before.  This place is one of Knoxville’s best-kept secrets, a true treasure.
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There are lots of new paths since I was last year and although the spring flowers are gone, there were wild flowers, trees (with identifying markers, too, so you can learn something while you walk), and, most exciting to me because I’ve never seen one, a small wheat field!
Tuesday I had to scrap my original plans because something came up, so I took the kids to Wild Love Bakehouse for a treat.  I kid you not, this place in nationally renowned and if you come to Knoxville you will want to pay it a visit.
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After our treat, which we shared with friendly sparrows on the porch, we walked down the steps to investigate one of my favorite places–Mid Mod Collective.  I cannot afford one stick of the restored vintage furniture they sell here but boy do I wish I could.  They also have retro knickknacks and even vintage clothing.  Mostly it’s just fun to browse and feel like you’ve gone back in time.
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Mid Mod Collective shares space with The Book Eddy, a vintage book store that’s occupied various spaces in Knoxville over the past 20 years or so.  We had a great time browsing there.  My big finds were a board game from my high school years and a 1945 edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette.
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These places are all located in the Old North Knoxville historical district so our last activity was to spend a little time driving around the nearby neighborhoods and talking architecture (Victorian and Craftsman, for the most part).  Lorelei is obsessed with House Hunters recently and had asked me about Mid-century Modern, which gave me the idea for these activities in the first place.  Who says television can’t be educational?
We visited the Knoxville Museum of Art on Wednesday.  The museum is free, there is abundant free parking, and besides their permanent collection and the local artists they showcase there is always a new exhibit to see.

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The KMA Gardens

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Lorelei playing with a giant Lite-Brite

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Posing with one of their favorite pictures, a painting of the Grand Canyon by Daingerfield

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Looking at one of the Thorne Miniatures

Take special note of that last picture.  The Thorne Miniatures are absolutely amazing and the KMA is fortunate to have nine of them.  They were housed in the Dulin Gallery, predecessor to the KMA, when I was a child, and I am not the only one to have fond memories of them judging by the reaction when I shared pictures of them on Facebook.
I don’t have any pictures of our Thursday jaunt, which had to be a short one due to a dentist appointment.  I took the kids to Starbucks for Frappucinos, using up some gift cards I’d been carrying around!  They had never set foot in one before, so this was actually more exciting than I thought it would be.  Then we went to the Dollar Tree, which is always a hit.
Friday’s fun consisted of our drive to Beech Mountain, North Carolina, where we are vacationing with friends.  I couldn’t take any pictures since I was driving but WOW was it a beautiful trip.  I’m sure I’ll have lots to share when I write this up next week.
Catch up on our other summer adventures here, here, and here!

Coffee: A Love Story


It all began in the summer of 1986.  I was home after my first year at Georgetown, working as a waitress at Cracker Barrel, a thankless job if ever there was one.  Each evening, around 9:30, my exhausted fellow waitresses would retreat to a smoky cubicle equipped with a table and two chairs for their “coffee break.”  I didn’t care for coffee, so I abstained.  I’d tried it, of course.  A couple of times when I was a pre-teen my mother and I stayed up all night for a treat, and she made me a weak mixture that was mostly sugar and milk.  My little sister had always loved coffee, was always trying to steal sips of Mima’s instant.  At Granny’s house, people drank pots and pots, always black.  It was a mystery to me, this stuff the grownups seemed to love so much that tasted so bad.
But that summer, I was serving it constantly, despite the heat, and I felt I was excluded from some big secret that I just couldn’t comprehend.  When I wasn’t running from table to kitchen and back, I stood by the coffee station keeping an eye on my customers, and when I would get in the car at the end of the day my mother would breathe in the coffee aroma that clung to my hair and my uniform and exclaim about how wonderful I smelled.  Finally, wanting to try again to understand what it was that I was missing, and wanting to join in on some level with the camaraderie amongst the mostly much-older and somewhat streetwise staff, I poured myself a cup with a lot of cream and sugar, and I was lost.
Throughout the rest of my college career, I was a morning and sometimes (if a paper was due) evening visitor to Wisemiller’s, the local convenience store/deli within a short walk of most of the places I lived.  I consumed countless medium styrofoam cups of coffee with double cream double sugar–the Wisemillers’ girls stopped asking me how I wanted it before long.
After college, coffee was a required morning stop at the 7-11 on my way to work, even if it made me late!  Back in Knoxville and expecting baby #1, there were of course no 7-11s–but it didn’t matter as at that point I gave up caffeine for the duration of my pregnancy, a feat I have never even attempted again.  But post-baby I looked forward to my afternoon coffee break, reading Time magazine or watching Bob Ross and relaxing while she napped.  Later, with three kids under five, Weigel’s cappuccino became an evening treat for my husband and me.
I was in graduate school when the coffee shops started popping up.  I grew to love The Golden Roast on campus, and went there for my regular Monday Mommy’s Night Out for years, learning to love the more exotic varieties like Ethiopian Yirgacheffe and Blue Nile.  I also enjoy the Mexican roast at Java on the rare occasions I go there.
I have been informed that the coffee at Starbucks is an acquired taste, and I can’t seem to acquire it.  Nor do I have any interest in learning to love frou frou coffee drinks like lattes and frappuccinos and whatever else.  When I have no alternative to Starbucks, I cannot even bring myself to ask for a Venti or a Grande.  I just say, “Whatever you call medium around here.”
These days my go-to coffee hangout is the Panera Bread in Fountain City, and honestly I don’t like their coffee. Except the hazelnut.  I know exactly how much cream and sugar I need per cup, and I was annoyed when they got new cups and I had to figure the whole thing out again.  So you see, I am not a coffee snob.  I enjoy the coffee at Shoney’s more than just about anywhere else, and for home drinking a prefer JFG Bonus Blend, or perhaps JFG Special Coffee.  Because for me, it really is “The best part of the meal.” 
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Update:  Coffee is still the best part of any meal (best part of the DAY, if you ask me!), but these days I take it with plenty of cream but no sugar at all.