what we're reading

So I belong to a book club and it’s pretty awesome.  For one thing, it’s located right next door, so the fact that drinking wine is a large part of the meeting is not a problem.  A book club that sends its members home tipsy is kind of cool, don’t you think?  Second, we have an eclectic and fun fix of people who attend–men and women.  Third, my neighbor makes lots of yummy treats, so the meeting doubles as dinner.  Four, no one cares if you read the book or not. Five, we don’t just stick to one thing–we read all kinds of interesting stuff. Six, of course we talk about the book, but we also get off topic and talk about all kinds of things.  Seven, our meetings have been known to go on until midnight!  Seriously!

This is all to lead up to what I am reading Wednesday although to be honest it should be called what I might be reading LATER on Wednesday, because I haven’t even borrowed the book (there’s another perk!) from my neighbor yet.  But I do plan to do so later today, and since our meeting is Monday I should be able to tell you all about this book next week:

In the meantime, I got the idea that it would be fun to re-read all my Patricia Cornwell novels in order. (See, that’s the kind of thing I do.  That’s why I’m always waiting till the last minute to read the book club book.)  These are some of the few books I salvaged from the fire, plus I’ve added new ones since.  I’ve just gotten started, so I am reading this one:

I also finished up the Love Inspired romances I was reading last week, but you don’t want to hear about those. :-)

If you want to see some other good books, check out the other entries in the linkup here.

Family Ties

We were away for the weekend on a mini-vacation–one that was full of family, even though we left almost half of our own family at home to fend for themselves. (Can you guess which half?)

On Thursday, we left home relatively early and made our way up to Winchester, Virginia where we lodged in a motel that provided what we consider the necessities (pool, free wi-fi, free breakfast) and precious little else.  The next morning, after availing ourselves of both breakfast and the pool, we drove 40 minutes to West Virginia to visit my first-cousin-once-removed, her husband, and their FIVE little girls.  What a welcoming committee they were!  Lorelei was in heaven for several hours, and then they all came outside to wave us along our way . . .

Forty minutes back the way we came, to Berryville, to start the weekend’s main event:  a yearly reunion of the descendants of John and Ella Neighbors.

family tree 6

John and Ella were my husband’s great-grandparents.  They had ten children, four of whom I was lucky enough to get to meet, but all of whom are gone now.  Gathered for this weekend were eight members of the third generation, four from the fourth, and three from the fifth. (Plus all the spouses, of course!)

I didn’t take any pictures at the actual reunion, because I was too busy having fun and talking to everyone!  These two shots below were taken by Martha Miller Nicholson, John’s first-cousin-once-removed, who is an excellent photographer.

Here’s most of the group:


And here are the youngest attendees:


Left is Lexi, who is actually in the same generation as John! Lorelei and Ella, along with William, were the only fifth generation members in attendance.

The Neighbors family originated in Lynchburg, Virginia, where many of its members still live, and we have attended reunions there before.  Next summer we are supposed to go to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and if we can convince everyone to make the trip, maybe we will meet in Tennessee the next year!

While the reunion was definitely the highlight of our little vacation, we took a couple of side trips.  We went to Mass on Sunday at Holy Cross Abbey, also located in Berryville.

Holy Cross 2

Holy Cross 1

After Mass we went to look at the gift shop but it was closed (we did come back later in the day).  We enjoyed the flowers and the stray cats (that, of course, was William’s favorite part).  Apparently the monk who runs the gift shop is VERY fond of cats.  There were cats, cat houses, cat beds, and cat food EVERYWHERE.  We didn’t get any pictures of the kitties but here are some of the flowers:

Holy Cross 3

Holy Cross 5

Holy Cross 4

After the abbey, we went on a little drive to see (the outside of!) Mount Weather, a nearby secret military installation.  This is the one where all the important government types will go for safety if the White House is under siege.

Mt W 2

Mt W 1

Now we are excited for the end of our X-Files marathon, in which Mulder breaks into Mount Weather!  Perhaps we can head to Area 51 on our next vacation. :-)

So that was our long weekend (Thursday through Sunday).  We didn’t get to explore much of Winchester, which is apparently chock full of historic sites and has a nifty little downtown shopping/dining area, because we had to get some work done on our car.  But there’s always next time.


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

To see more Favorites, visit the linkup!


Homeschooling Win!

I’m not sure I’ve mentioned to y’all that I plan to homeschool Lorelei next year.  She’s going to be in fourth grade, and I’ve done that before, so I already have a lot of resources, and I’ve slowly been gathering others over the last several months.

There was one place I was stuck, though, and it’s kind of an important place!  I couldn’t find a religion book that I liked.

The religion book I used for Jake and Teddy was actually my own religion book from way back in 1976-1977. (Yes, I saved those kinds of things and I’m glad!) While it’s true that catechesis in the 1970s was a mess, this book was pretty good.  St. Joseph’s School switched to a new program the following year–I still have that book–and it was dreadful, practically content-free.  But this one covered all the basic fourth grade stuff–Commandments, Beatitudes, Works of Mercy, and more–that is still being taught in fourth grade today.

And because I was using it for William in 2011, and it was in his backpack in the living room of what we now call “the burned down house,” it’s gone forever.

But you can find anything on the internet, right?  But I couldn’t remember the name of this book.  I knew what it looked like, and roughly when it was published, and what grade it was for, that’s all.  And no book that looked like that EVER appeared, not once, in many, many months of off-and-on searching.  I even asked the school if they had a record of what book we used back then–no dice.  I conducted research on Catholic publishing companies and looked up every book that was published around that time. My head swam with publishing companies (Sadlier, Benziger, Loyola) and their various programs.  Nope.  I spent hours on this, y’all.  I really had my heart set on that book.

Surely, you ask, there are plenty of other fourth grade Catholic religion textbooks out there?  Why, yes, yes, there are.  But I didn’t want to risk an old one that I hadn’t seen before because, as I mention above, many of the ones that were around back then were just bad.  And I don’t like the modern ones I’ve seen which are too jam-packed with information and fill-in-the-blank pages.  (Honestly, I just don’t like modern textbooks.)  What I liked about this one is that it was very simple with short chapters that I could then expand on.

I finally found one that seemed similar in content (by looking at a screenshot of the Table of Contents) to the one I remembered.  I thought I could maybe try to make do.  But when I went to order it on Amazon it was about $25–kind of a lot to spend for an unknown.  I searched for it again and found some really cheap copies put up by someone who did not even bother to include a picture of the cover.  So that’s what I ordered.

Have you figured out the punchline yet?  We came home from a short vacation yesterday and my package was waiting for me.  As I tore open the bag I saw not the book I was expecting but the ONE I HAD BEEN LOOKING FOR.  Apparently, it was just a different edition of the one I thought I was ordering.  Some of the material has been rearranged, and of course it has a different cover.  And to sweeten the pot, it’s not written in (which of course mine was) AND it’s a teacher edition with all kinds of other good stuff at the end.

religion book

So that’s a propitious omen for my return to homeschooling.  I look forward to sharing my other adventures with you this year!

For more of my writings on homeschooling, see below:

Old-Fashioned Homeschooling

Homeschooling for Dummies

Are you ready for another installment of Answer Me This, hosted by Kendra at Catholic All Year?


1. What’s something you’ve won and how did you win it?

Oh, gosh, y’all, I have won so many things.  I’m kind of lucky like that it you believe in that sort of thing. When I was a kid they were having a giveaway for a lamp at, I think, the drugstore in our neighborhood shopping center.  This was the kind of drugstore you really don’t have any more, that sold a little bit of everything, and had its own charge account system, and delivered medicine, and had a soda fountain in the back,  Anyway I remember I wrote my name all different ways and put it in the drawing.  I didn’t even put my address but when they drew my name they knew who I was because that was the kind of place this was.  Anyway, it was a pretty ugly lamp.  I’m not sure where it;s gotten to but it was in the family living room for years.

2. Do you save old greeting cards and letters, or throw them all away? Why?

I used to save every letter I ever received.  Boxes and boxes of letters I had from college.  Then they all burned up,  This was a crushing blow.  Now I really don’t have the heart to save things like I used to.  Maybe I learned something, or maybe I’m just afraid of having things that can be lost.  Anyway, I only save cards from my husband and children, unless someone writes something really special on one, then I might save it,

3. When you’re at home, do you wear shoes, socks, slippers, or go barefoot?

I used to always go barefooted, because I grew up in a house with wall to wall carpet, and we pretty much went barefooted indoors and out as soon as my mother said it was warm enough because this is the South, y’all.  My husband is from Baltimore and doesn’t understand this hillbilly habit (his word) and is always fussing at our kids to put on shoes.  All of our houses except this one have had hardwood floors, and I got tired of wiping grit off my feet all the time and started wearing shoes or slippers all the time.  Now that we have wall to wall carpet, I tend to go barefooted again, unless I have shoes on when I come home that would be a pain to remove.  I keep a pair of shoes by the front door for quick trips outside when it’s too cold for bare feet, or if I want to drive somewhere and don’t feel like looking for my shoes.

4. Who’s the most famous person you have ever met?

I’ve been in the Rose Garden with Jimmy Carter, and in Gaston Hall with President Clinton, but did not actually get to meet them.  I have, however, had my picture taken with Barry Williams (that’s Greg Brady to the rest of you).  When I was thirteen my we were at a motel in Chattanooga where for some reason that will be forever unknown to me there was some sort of B-list celebrity conventions.  We also got to meet Ron Masak and Trini Lopez (I still don’t know who they are really but my parents said they were famous) and Pat Boone (who was the least friendly).

5. What has been your best work of art?

My children, of course. :-)  I did draw a lot as a child–like all the time, in the margins of my workbooks at school!  I loved drawing horses and ladies in old-fashioned dresses.  I had a sketchbook in high school where I used to draw (from pictures) sketches of my friends and illustrations for a book I wrote.  Those were probably my best technical work.  I don’t know why but I lost interest in drawing after high school.

6. What’s your strongest sense?

That’s a difficult question but I am going to go with touch.  I can feel remember the way things feel in my head more strongly than I can remember smells or taste.  When I do this it’s almost like I am really feeling them again.  Maybe this is no big deal and everyone can do that?

That’s it, friends.  If you want to read more entries in this linkup, or join in the fun yourself, please go here.

It’s Wednesday so that means it’s time for What We’re Reading Wednesday with Housewifespice.

what we're reading

Do you indulge in “guilty pleasure” reading?  I know I do.  Sometimes I wonder why we call it that–I mean, are there really rules about what we should be reading?  SHOULD there be rules about this?  Isn’t reading ANYTHING better than not reading at all?

Yet, I do feel at least sheepish, or maybe just inferior, when I see what books other folks post on their online book lists.  They are reading history, biography, theology, or other books that aim to educate or improve.  Now, I HAVE books like that.  Y’all have seen a picture of my stack (and I can use an old picture because the size of the stack does not get any smaller.  Ever.), and it’s chock full of great literature and all that other stuff:


But nine times out of ten I don’t gravitate for the good stuff.  I’m eating really healthy these days, y’all, but when it comes to reading I go straight for the candy.  So here’s what I’ve been reading this week.


I found this at McKay’s recently and I was so happy.  If you’ve heard of Lois Duncan, a most prolific author of young adult fiction from my youth, you are probably most familiar with I Know What You Did Last Summer, which might have been the first of the many books that followed after about teenagers ruining other people’s lives by making foolish choices and then suffering terribly while trying to keep the guilty secret.   A Gift of Magic is more innocent.  I’m pretty sure I ran across it when I was in the 3rd grade.  We had a lot of books in the classroom that year, and since I was always done with my work early, I read a lot of them.  This was one of my favorites and I read it over and over again.  I love reading books over and over.  I know I should be checking new books off my list instead, but there it is.

OK, y’all, promise not to laugh.  I’m not even putting a specific book up here, because to tell you the truth, I’ve already forgotten the one I read a couple of days ago and I will probably forget the one I am reading now shortly after I finish it.  Almost without exception, these go straight to McKay’s as soon as I finish them.  But I still enjoy reading them (and they are usually free, obtained from my mother-in-law or as free samples).  What they are is Christian romance novels.  Some of them are a little too preachy, and all of them are formulaic, but they are feel-good happy-ending easy reads when I want something to read in the tub and that I can put down without a qualm in order to get back to what I’m doing.  They lack the love scenes that frankly started boring me a long time ago.  I wish that there were some Catholics in them, but my absolute favorites are the ones about the Amish.  Despite my love of my computer and my iPhone there is something about the simplicity of the Amish lifestyle and about the people themselves that draws me.

See, y’all, I’m not hopeless.  I’m reading this one too.  And it’s interesting.  But a lot harder work.  I’ve been reading it for awhile and I’ll tell you more about it when I finish.

What are YOU reading?  Dollars to doughnuts it will be more interesting than what I’ve shared!  So tell me in the comments.  And for more books, check out the linkup above.

It’s Tuesday and that means it’s time for Five Favorites, hosted by Mama Knows, Honeychild.

five favorites

Today, I’m going to share five favorite quotations.  Not necessarily my five most favorite, mind you, because I’m not sure if I even know.  But just five that have stayed with me and are meaningful to me.

1.  Faith is constant assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see.

Sunrise in our neighborhood

St. Paul wrote this in his letter to the Hebrews.  I’m not sure which translation this is, but it’s the version that is stuck in my head and I guess I was lying up above because if you asked me my favorite quotation ever, this is what I’d say.


2.  Cast your cares on God:  that anchor holds.

Immaculate Conception Church, Knoxville

This is from Enoch Arden by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and I have chanted it like a mantra or really a prayer in dark times.


3.  Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and discover that they were the big things.

William at Tybee Island

Robert Brault said this, but I’m pretty sure I found it in the “Quotable Quotes” section of Reader’s Digest about 25 years ago.  I used to have a quotation gallery inside my kitchen cabinets, and this is one of the ones that I taped there.


4.  Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things.

Lorelei wading at Melton Hill Lake

This quotation by Frank Clark also came to me from Reader’s Digest, and along with the one above formed what I thought of as a life philosophy at that time–a philosophy that I really feel like I need to reclaim.


5.  Each of us in the result of a thought of God.  Each of us is willed.  Each of us is loved.  Each of us is necessary.

john and baby william

I love this quotation from Pope Benedict XVI so much that I used it in creating Lorelei’s birth announcement.


I would love if you would share your favorite quotation with me in the comments!  And for more fun favorites, please visit the linkup.


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