Five Favorites – Kitchen Tools. Hand-Held. Non-Electric.

I love to cook, and I love me some kitchen gadgets. I have all sorts of cool things to make cooking easier and more fun. This is largely because my husband likes to buy me cool kitchen things for Christmas and birthdays. Check out what he got me for my birthday this year:


A machine for cooking sous vide style!! I used it this week for the first time to cook pork chops, my culinary nemesis. And they were actually pretty good! By far the best pork chop I’ve ever cooked. And by that, I mean they were edible. I have some refining of technique to do, but I am so thrilled with my new toy (I’m going to try poaching eggs in there next!).

Now, as cool as some of my fancy gadgets are, most of them get used only occasionally. The things I use more frequently are usually much more simple. And today I’m putting them together here to tell you what my very favorite, used-almost-every-day, hand-held-and-non-electric kitchen tools are. Top five. Ready?

5. My garlic press

IMG_3856I really hate mincing garlic, and I also hate having noticeable chunks of garlic in my food. The garlic press is my very favorite way of dealing with garlic. I have had many garlic presses over the years. All of them were kind of hard to clean and got rusty or broke after not too long. This garlic press is the best. I’ve had it for many years now and it’s easy to clean and it gets the job done. Fave.

4. My measuring cups and spoons from Pampered Chef.


They have little notches on the handles, so they snap together. They don’t get lost in the drawer, and I don’t have to mess with getting them on and off a ring. Plus the spoons are shaped so that they fit into a lot more spice jars. Measuring spoons here. Cups here.

3. My apple corer/slicer.


My kids really love apples and pears, but they aren’t big enough to eat a whole apple each. I have an aversion to getting out my cutting board unless it’s absolutely necessary. So this corer thing is perfect. I don’t really even know what brand mine is or where I got it. Scratch that. I just googled it and found mine on Amazon. It’s this one. I probably got it from Target. I’d really like to get one like this that cuts the slices more thinly, because I always end up cutting each of my sections in half lengthwise. But the one I have is fine.

2. Paring knives like these.


I have a choking phobia. I cut food up a lot. I love my cheap little paring knives for this purpose. When I use my apple slicer, I grab one of these guys, cut out any remaining core, and then slice the segment down the middle lengthwise.Quick and easy and without getting out my cutting board. These knives are small and versatile and dishwasher safe. The last part might be my favorite. I like not having to hand wash one of my fancy knives every time I need to cut something (which happens about 34 times per day).

1. My all-time favorite – the wooden spoon.


I always cook with a wooden spoon. It doesn’t scratch my non-stick. It won’t melt. And I just love the feel of my wooden spoons. The only downside of them is they aren’t good for serving, because they don’t scoop up much. My mother in law has a handmade wooden ladle that I covet. I think she found it at some roadside market in Appalachia or something. I’ve never seen another one like it, but it’s a dream of mine to someday have my very own wooden ladle.

I’m inking up with Rachael from Efficient Mama for five favorites.


Tell me your favorites in the kitchen!!


Five Favorites – Grandma and Grandpa’s House

Life is always good when I’m at my parents’ house. My girls are happy to be with Grandma and Grandpa. My husband is happy because he’s fishing. My parents are happy because they get to spend time with my girls. And I’m just happy about all of it. Everyone wins.

Today, I’ve got five of my favorite things at my parents’ house:

1. This stove.


My husband and I are building a new house, and we’ve looked at a lot of stoves over the past year or two. I have never in my life seen anything like this one anywhere else. This stove is older than I am, but check it out. It has double ovens. It has a little shelf at the back, and the stove top slides forward if you need to use more than the front two burners. It’s yellow, for pete’s sake. I have many happy memories associated with this stove. I love it.

2. And along with the stove, my Dad’s cooking.


Don’t be fooled by that look. He likes cooking (though perhaps not having his photo taken). He was a firefighter and cooked at the firehouse for many years and got good at it. He spoils us by cooking for us all week when we’re here.

3. This bed:


My Dad made it for me when I was little. This trip is the first time any of my girls has used it. Both of the bigger girls sleep in double beds in the same room, and this one was the last bed available for little Sis. She’s almost too big for it, but I’m savoring her in it for now.

I’m also (mostly) loving that my girls are all sleeping in the same room, which is a big treat for them. As I’m typing this, I can hear them laughing and talking and playing in their room, though they’re supposed to be winding down for sleep. They’re all exhausted, but it makes me happy that they’re having so much fun together.

4. The weather.



Unless it’s the middle of summer, the weather here is always better than it is at our house.

5. The time.

Time together as a family. Time with Grandma and Grandpa.




Time for me and my husband to go on an overnight date in Nashville. Time for me to be with my Mom.


^ Her first ever selfie when we went antiquing this afternoon ^

 Being here makes my heart feel so full.


Head over to Call Her Happy to see what things other folks are favoriting right now.

Musical Reminiscing and Songs to Listen to When Cleaning House (5 Favorites)

A while ago, my husband and I began talking about music and the memories that can be associated with certain songs or artists. It’s a fun topic. I love thinking about how hearing a certain song can instantly transport me to another time and place in my memory.

Ben and I are both big music lovers. I have always been awed by the ability of a song to capture a feeling or experience perfectly, through its lyrics or arrangement, or both. I learned about my husband’s love of music the first time he came to visit me when I was in graduate school. He pulled out his guitar within minutes of his arrival and began playing and singing “Pencil Thin Mustach.” We’ve had a very musical relationship ever since.


A few weeks ago, he and I got to talking about the music of our childhoods: the music our parents listened to, and when we got a little older, the artists we chose and songs we loved.

My mom had an 8-track player. The artists I remember her playing the most were Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, Barbara Streisand, whom I called Barbara Susanne Stripe because of this album cover (which doesn’t look anything like I remember it):

And Johnny Mathis at Christmas, of course.

My husband has vivid memories of his mom playing the “Beaches” soundtrack. And of course:

As I got older and began making my own musical choices, I grew to love Michael Jackson, Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, and of course, the scandalous Madonna. My mom tried to shelter me from unsavory influences, so I wasn’t allowed to watch MTV or listen to the “hard rock” radio stations. I got a clock radio for Christmas one year that had a “Sleep” button so I could listen to the radio when going to bed at night. It turned off by itself after 30 minutes, which seemed sooo high tech back then. I was only allowed to listen to the “soft hits” station at night. I don’ t think my mom knew that that radio station had a Dr. Ruth talk show on every Sunday night, right at my bedtime, which made for some interesting listening for an eight year old. . .

Anyway, Ben and I were discussing the music from when we were kids and also the music that our daughters will remember, hopefully fondly, from their own childhoods. Now with digital music, and iTunes, and playlists we don’t usually listen to specific albums from one artist straight through. So our girls might have a bit more eclectic experience of music than what we had as kids.

Right now their favorites include “Achy Breaky Heart” (which Lass calls Knacky Bracky Heart), “Yellow Submarine,” “Red Solo Cup,” “Fishin’ In the Dark,” “Sweet Dreams,” and “Love Shack.”

One day last week we rocked to Love Shack in the car, upon request, and they all yelled the “Bang, Bang, Bangs” right on cue. Then Lass said, “Mom, I think in the love shack they make lots of Valentines. And give lots of hugs and kisses, right?” Yes Sweetheart. Yes, that’s what they do.

It makes me smile that my girls love music and dancing as much as their Dad and I do.


In my opinion, music makes all things better. Especially housework and home improvement projects. I love to put on my headphones, select my playlist of girl songs, and rock out while cleaning or home-improving. My favorite songs are those I can sing at the top of my lungs that lend themselves to dancing with a vacuum or using my paintbrush as a microphone (I’m sorry for the unfortunate visuals). Yes, I do sing at the top of my lungs while wearing headphones. My kids love it. Fortunately with my headphones on I can’t hear them whine-yelling, “Mo-om, stop singing!”

My favorite songs for this purpose? The top five, right here

5. All I Wanna Do – Sheryl Crow

4. Papa Don’t Preach – Madonna

3. Miss You Much – Janet Jackson

2. Love is a Battlefield – Pat Benetar (anyone else love the old shimmy-walk move?)

1. Cool Rider – Michelle Pfieffer

I used to really, really want one of those jackets.

Anyone want to take a guess at how old I am from this list? Haha!


I’m linking up with Call Her Happy today for Five Favorites! What are your favorites?


Five Most Popular Posts and Five Favorite Ones from 2014

When I wrote my 12 photos in 2014 post last week, I spent a lot of time looking back over the past year, rereading old posts, and remembering things I had forgotten. I remembered some of my favorite posts that I wrote. Then, just for fun I looked at my site stats from the year to see which of my entries were viewed the most. I promise I’ll move on to current/new posts soon, but I’m not quite done reflecting on 2014 yet. Bear with me 🙂

Here is a quick recap of the five most popular posts (of those I wrote this year) and and then my five most favorite ones.

#5 Beginning at the Beginning – My Conversion Story, Part 1

This post was really hard to write. It was the first post where I shared the painful experiences that were the spark to my conversion. I debated for a long time whether to write about my first miscarriage and my husband’s vocal cord paralysis. It seems like I opened the floodgates with this post, as I’ve since written about plenty of personal experiences since.

#4 How I Really Found God

Like I said, I opened the floodgates with the first post about my conversion, as evidenced by this post (and several others since then!). This post was basically the third part of my conversion story. So the first part and the third part ended up as two of the top five most popular posts. But the second part didn’t even make the top ten. Weird?

#3 When Your Friend is Infertile – The Dos and Don’ts

This is a post I was very hesitant to write. It rattled around in my thoughts for months before I finally felt like I just had to sit down and type it out. I think because it’s such a personal and individual issue, I was reluctant. But the response to it was amazing. I got messages from women in the combox, via email, and in person that let me know that it was a post that felt helpful to many. Based on the conversations I had after the fact, I probably did miss a few things, but I don’t think I offended anyone (at least not that I know of). I’m glad I wrote it.

Infertile egg image

#2 Edel – A Different View

This is another post I was reluctant to write, about how I felt being in the unusual position of looking pregnant, and technically being pregnant (with a non-viable pregnancy), in a room full of lots of pregnant ladies and new babies at the Edel Conference last summer. I’m sure a lot of the popularity of this post was due to Jenny sharing it on her blog Mama Needs Coffee in this post (thanks Jenny!).

#1 Why I Don’t Threaten My Kids with the “Naughty List” at Christmas

This post had more clicks in two weeks than any other post I wrote last year! I’m certain that was because Kendra from the wildly popular blog Catholic All Year shared it on her Facebook page (thanks Kendra). Again, I was unsure about whether or not I should write this one.

It’s interesting (to me at least) that so many of the posts I didn’t want to do ended up being favorites. I am often hesitant to write about topics that I think will be controversial or might offend someone. I don’t like to sound judgmental or be a downer. Maybe I should make a resolution for 2015 to just write what I feel I want or need to write and get over all the hemming and hawing about it.


On that note, I’ll move on to my top five posts. If I’m honest, most of the posts listed above, with the exception of the Santa one probably, are among some of my favorite entries. But, there are several more that were not hugely popular, that are at the top of my mental list of posts that I most enjoyed writing and like to revisit still.

#5 Come Join the Wild for a Moment – A Labor Day Party Recap

This type of post is never going to be terribly popular. I usually get a ton of hits on my Labor Day post right after I put it out there, because everyone in my husband’s huge family wants to see the photos and relive the party again. I love this post and all the memories it contains. And the photos. It’s one of my favorites to revisit.


#4 Received into Full Communion

This post about my experience of the Easter Vigil last year is another favorite to reread. I don’t want to ever forget what it was like to be baptized, confirmed, and receive first communion with my husband at my side.


#3 On Prayer and Getting it Right

About how hard it has been for me to learn how to pray and how to teach my children to pray. I really liked writing this post, and it’s something I’m still learning, and still feel uncertain about.












#2 Adoration and the Kindness of a Stranger

This was one of my favorite posts to write ever. It still makes me cry when I reread it.

#1 Untangling

My Grandma has taught me some amazing lessons in my life. This one was definitely the best. I need to reread this post at least once a month to remember that hour with my Grandma and what I learned from it.



Are there any of these that you liked? Hated? Which was your favorite??

I’m linking this up with Jenna at Call Her Happy.

Five Favorites – Kids’ Toys with Staying Power

I’m using today’s (late) 5 Favorites post to share with you some of my favorite toys, that my kids also love. None of these is a flashy, make-them-scream-and-jump-up-and-down-when-they-see-it toy. There are no sparkly Elsa dolls or dresses on this list, though those gifts certainly have their place (and my girls will be getting a few such gifts this year). These gifts aren’t flashy, but they do have staying power. The things I’m sharing here are the things my girls go to over and over and over again. They play with these things in so many different ways. They’re just brimming with possibilities.

I thought I’d share them with you in case you’re not sure what in the world to buy that special little person in your life for Christmas. This isn’t me hinting for someone to buy these things for my kids. We already have all this stuff. I’m just trying to be helpful for all of you.

5 faves collage (1)

1. Magna Tiles

A friend of mine got these as a gift for Miss one year, and since then I think all of my friends who have seen them at my house have purchased these for their kids. These are the best building toys ever. They’re versatile. They store in a small space. And no one is going to scream obscenities while hopping around on one foot after stepping on one of these.


I have always had the hardest time figuring out what to buy for Christmas for little ones in the 0-2 year range. I’ve never been fond of the idea of buying tons of baby toys that they’ll outgrow in six months or less. This is one of the best gifts to buy for this age group, in my opinion, especially if you have older kids and are already overflowing in the baby-toy department. The little ones love to sort these and stack them and chew on them, and the tiles last and last. I got a box of these for Sis for her first Christmas to add to the box we already had. And I bought more for them for this Christmas.

All of my girls, ages 2 to almost 6, love playing with these. They’re a little on the pricey side, but I’ve purchased all of mine at great discounts. Amazon has them half-off from time to time, and the ones I bought this year were cheap on Zulily. And they’re so worth it.

2. Play Silks

My girls play with these so much, ours are starting to tear and fray. Lately their game has been to tie them all together and string them around the playroom in an elaborate way, or pull each other around with them, or pretend they are looong pet snakes. These have also been used for all sorts of dress up, as blankets to wrap baby dolls up in, and to pretty up a blanket fort.

DSC_0533 DSC_0531 IMG_2800

These are fabulous for any age.

3. Sticky Mosaics


My older girls spend hours doing these. Then they play with the finished product. They started with the beginner ones and quickly advanced to the more difficult ones. I know these aren’t exactly the best activity for encouraging creativity, but they are great for learning numbers and fine motor coordination. And for keeping them busy, independently, for several hours. I’d say these are good for the 3 and up age range. A three year old would probably need a decent amount of help on the easy mosaic. The harder ones say they’re for 5 and up, but Lass can do them just fine (she’s 4).

*Note – The gems on the advanced ones don’t stick very well. I help the girls with these and we put little bits of glue on the help them stay. Kind of annoying, but we haven’t had any mosaic sets that are predominantly covered with gems. I think these might make me change my mind about the brilliance of this item.

4. The Rody


I love the Rody. Each of my girls has one. This is another great gift for the really little ones that will grow with them for several years. Miss is probably too big for hers (she’s almost 6), but she still rides it anyway. And the girls play other games with them where they line them up on their sides and stand and bounce on them while holding the counter. Rody also makes a good veterinary patient.

I’m pretty sure my girls will have exceptionally strong leg muscles from all the time they’re spent bouncing around on these guys. I’d say age 18 months to maybe 5-ish (I wouldn’t buy this for a five-year-old though, as it would be outgrown fairly quickly).

5. Schleich animal toys

My girls are crazy about animals, especially Lass. We have a ton of plastic animals that they play with all the time.


Quite a few of our animals are not made by Schleich, and come from the dollar store or the dollar section at Target. But you can only buy so many cows and lions before you need to branch out to something with a bit more variety. Schleich toys are so well made and they have so many to choose from. When Lass asked for an Okapi toy? I found one from Schleich.


They have everything. Except an oarfish, which is one of Lass’s latest interests.

These toy animals are wonderful for all ages. They have knights and fairies and other fantasy creatures too.

Now, please share. What are your favorite toys with staying power for your kids?

Check out more favorite things at Call Her Happy’s link up.

Five Favorites – Etsy Shops for Kids

Have I ever mentioned that I love Etsy? Once or twice, yes?

(just for fun, type “Etsy” into the search bar on the side of my blog and see how many posts come up. . .)

Well, since Christmas is coming up, and I always love to get a few sweet handmade/non-mass-produced things for my girls, and because there is a new hostess of the Five Favorites link up so I want to give Jenna some love, here are my five favorite Etsy shops for kids’ stuff.

I adore Etsy so much, that I don’t think I could narrow down my favorite shops to just five overall, so these are just for kids. And maybe later I’ll share another post with my tops shops for grown up gifts and/or home decor. Then maybe another time I could share my five favorite party supply shops. Or five favorite shops for vintage stuff. Five favorite jewelry shops?

Yes, I love me some Etsy. So, without further ado, five favorite shops for kids’ stuff, in no particular order:

1. Huggie Saints – These soft saint dolls are so snuggly and very well-made. Sis has a Saint Brigid that she sleeps with every night.

DSC_0070 DSC_0071

Super Friend got a Saint Philomena for her youngest daughter, which is just as cute as can be too.

2. Nana’s Sewing Closet – These dresses. I just can’t even explain the cuteness. We have a Minnie Mouse dress, a Snow White dress, and a Cinderella dress (though ours is made of cotton and is quite different from the one linked to here). And I can’t even get over how sweet the work dresses, or “raggy” dresses as my girls would call them, of Cinderella and Belle are. We have cute, comfy dresses like these from another shop too, but I like Nana’s better because hers are less expensive and she has the biggest selection of different character dresses to choose from (plus the other shop closed!).

This is my favorite type of princess dress, because the girls can wear them any day, not just for dress up. They are comfortable and easy to wash.

DSC_0782 DSC_0826

I couldn’t find any good photos of our dresses. The girls wore them to Disney World, but it was so cold they were covered up with coats the whole time. Just trust me. They’re adorable.

3. and 4. Pray With the Saints and St. Luke’s Brush– These little saint peg dolls are so fun. We have dolls from both of these shops, and both are wonderful. Pray with the Saints dolls are less detailed, but also less expensive. St. Luke’s Brush dolls are amazing in their detail (check out his Blessed Mother Theresa!), and he has a larger selection. We have Saint Cecilia, Saint Therese, and Saint Brigid from St. Luke’s.


Maggie from Pray with the Saints was delightful when I requested a custom order doll for Miss’s birthday last year. Miss had been begging for a Saint Anne-pregnant-with-Mary doll, and I couldn’t find one anywhere (not surprisingly). She also wanted Saint Anne to be holding a rosary (not historically accurate, but she was only four when she was imagining this doll!). Maggie was so accommodating and asked lots of questions to get the doll just right. She even asked what color Miss’s eyes are to make the doll’s eyes match.


Perfect for St. Nicholas feast day presents!

5. Three Yellow Starfish – The reversible pinafores from this shop are darling. The fabric selections are gorgeous and the sewing is flawless.

Three Yellow Starfish pinafore

They’re reversible!

Poppy Final-1020

Though this isn’t really the time of year for little dresses like these, they look adorable over a long sleeve shirt with pants underneath too.

Any guesses which of my girls that is ^^?


Two more shops that I am very intrigued by, but have not personally purchased anything from (yet):

Whole Parenting Goods – I’ve been stalking this shop for a while. If I had a baby, I’d be all over this stuff. I almost want to snuggle my computer screen when I look at Nell’s blankets and scarves. She just added leggings to her list of items, so I might need to get some of those for Sis (they don’t come big enough for Lass or Miss). The bandit bibs are so sweet, and would have been much cuter than the ugly, stained bibs I had during Miss’s crazy drooling phase.


I also have to add that Nell is a blogging friend, and you can check her out here.

Catholic Inspired – I’m especially intrigued by these rosary mats. What a great idea. Finally a rosary that Sis can’t break (at least, I don’t think she could break it).

Now, you must tell me – what are your favorite Etsy shops?

And, check out others’ favorite things at the link up, now going on over at Call Her Happy.

Five Favorites – Anticipating Edel

Tomorrow morning I’m getting on a plane and heading to the Edel Gathering for the weekend. This will be the first time since having children that I’ve taken a vacation by myself. I’m excited and nervous, and I kind of miss my girls already. Whatever. Here are five favorite things in anticipation of a fun and relaxing weekend:

1. I’m going to be meeting lots of women whose blogs I enjoy reading. Of course Jen and Hallie are the hostesses of the event, but Kelly, Haley, Heather, Kate, Dwija, Bonnie, Kathryn, Jenny, and Cari will also be there, along with other bloggers I’m sure I’m forgetting and many, many other lovely Catholic moms, and I know it’s going to be fabulous. I’m kind of excited.


2. I will be flying without children. I will have only carry-on baggage. I will not have a stroller or car seats or sippy cups to manage. I will get to check in online and print my boarding pass before I get to the airport. I kind of don’t remember what it’s like to get on a plane and have it be a sort of relaxing experience.

(My husband is laughing at the idea of flying with me being a relaxing experience, even before kids, because he is remembering all the times I forgot my wallet and/or driver’s license and realized it while pulling into the parking structure at the airport, 45 minutes from our house. But tomorrow? Tomorrow will be relaxing).

3. My two older girls helped me create my shoes for the “crazy shoes” competition tomorrow night.


Miss: “Mom, are you wearing these for a contest?”

Me: “Yes, Honey. It’s a contest for who can wear the craziest shoes.”

Miss: (doubtful) “I don’t know if these shoes are the craziest.” (adoring) “These shoes are beautiful.”

I won’t share a photo of the finished product until after the contest, but I already have a built-in response for her if I don’t win. I’ll tell her the shoes they made were just too beautiful.

4. I have a traveling companion. Super Friend is coming with me!!!!!


My husband is a little afraid I may not come back. Which brings me to number five, and my very most favorite favorite:

5. My hubby is watching our girls so that this trip is possible for me. And he’s doing it cheerfully and with a big, “You-deserve-it-Honey” kind of attitude. I love him.

DSC_0107If you’re going to Edel, I can’t wait to meet you!