March 10, 2012


Now that I check Pinterest (an online pin board, where you can keep track of interesting things you find online), I feel a greater need to make things. Or I get inspired to make new recipes, crafts with the kids, etc. Or feel pressured to be more crafty. Not sure what the exact motivation is, actually.

Some time back I saw these things called yarn wreaths. I thought it was pretty, seemed easy to do, and would make our door look nice. I have a friend who makes felt flowers and is selling them (along with other items) in a work from home business she's started. I picked a yarn color I liked from among the yarn I already have, decided on some felt flower colors, ordered them from my friend and bought them. I had a coupon for the wreath so I got it for less than $3 at Michaels! Someone gave me the yarn, meaning all I really paid for were the felt flowers. Good deal.

I followed the pretty basic directions from the blog I linked to above. It took a lot longer than I thought to wrap the yarn around the wreath, and it was very awkward to do. But I love the result!

I think the colors are good for every season, so I don't have to be one of those crazy people changing my decorations every couple of months. This one will do me until the fall, then I have a Christmas one, and back to this. So I'm only a little crazy. :)

I used a ribbon I've had for years, and always knew I would find a use for, to hang it on the door. Look at me bein' all domestic!

March 6, 2012

Going home!

I got a little behind in the daily updates about Nashville, and I only had one left! I figured I should write about coming back home after such a trip.

My flight on Tuesday was early, it left at 8:05. So, I had to get to the airport early to check in, etc. The Nashville airport isn't too large, so thankfully it didn't take too long to get around. But they didn't have a few of the convenience options, like an unmanned kiosk to print out my boarding pass, so it took a little longer to get my bags checked. Security moved quickly, but I figured out a little too late that they use one of those new body scanners. I wasn't sure if they had one at Midway and was steeling myself to refuse to go through it on my trip out. I don't usually like to make a fuss, but those scanners (which produce a very immodestly accurate rendering of your body) freak me out and I find them highly inappropriate, unnecessary and invasive. They just had a regular metal detector, though. The machine in Nashville was different but I didn't know what it looked like, and wasn't sure if it was THAT machine.

After security, I ran into Joni's friend Chris, who had an eight o'clock flight to New York that day. I asked him if it was the scanner that I had heard about and he confirmed it. Now I can't shake the icky feeling that the big, weird security guy, and possibly the other passengers behind the machine, saw my scan. And of course there is the fear that the scans get saved, because I know that was an issue when the machines first came out and you can still find images online. *Shutter*

But on to happier things. It was fun to run into Chris at the airport and we had a nice talk before going to our gates. On the flight home, I did not sit by talkers, so I got a last dose of quiet and read for the hour.

James and the kids were circling the airport when I got in and it was so nice to see them again when I got outside! I kissed each of them and got in the car (since you can't wait around or you get in trouble). S was smiling like crazy when he saw me and James said that he had just started asking for me that morning and was excited to know that I was coming home. When I didn't take him out of his car seat to hold him, though, he got mad at me. I tried just  holding his hand or touching his leg while sitting in the front seat, but he got all snippy and pushed me away. My drama boy!

We went out to Cracker Barrel to celebrate being the four of us again. I got to hold S in the restaurant, get some cuddles, hug K and talk to all of them. I gave them the presents I bought for them (amazing wood carved toys for the boys that were made and sold by a woman at the flea market, a funny shirt and Nashville-made chocolate for James). We had a great meal and had fun talking.

The rest of the day was pretty relaxing. We just enjoyed being together again, and I got unpacked and acclimated to home.

It was the perfect amount of time away and so needed! Now that the kids are getting older, I need to do a better job of taking time for myself here and there. It's easy to forget how much we need to have personal time, adventures, and time with friends in the midst of caring for young children and their never ending needs. I feel refreshed and invigorated by my little vacation and am so grateful I got the opportunity! (Thank you James and Joni!!!!)

March 3, 2012

Nashville, Day 4, or Downtown Girl

For my last full day in Nashville, I decided to spend a lot of it downtown. [Warning: this post has a lot of pictures!] Joni had to go back to work (it WAS Monday after all), so I stayed home for the morning. I slept in and slowly and quietly got ready for my day.

I have to say that it was absolutely beyond wonderful to have so much calm, quiet time to myself on this trip! I'm an introverted person who needs alone time to recuperate and regenerate. I never feel like I get enough of this time, though. The kids are always with me, and often touching me too. It's quite draining. I like going to work and having the quiet of my office for a lot of my day. I sometimes get to go out to run errands alone in the morning or evening when James is home. Occasionally I get to go out to Starbucks or to see friends. I try to make sure James gets these times too, and that we can sometimes go out as a couple.

But nothing compares to the time that I  had in Nashville! I got to stay out late and know that I didn't have to wake up during the night OR in the morning. I only had to worry about packing and maintaining my own stuff. The only person I had to clean, dress, feed and get out the door was ME! Activities didn't have to be kid friendly or be decided by a whole group of people. I got a chance to just be myself. It was a breath of fresh air. :)

Back to the day, though. Joni picked me up at her lunch break and we went to a place called the Copper Kettle. It has something called a Meat and Three, which I hadn't heard of before. It's where you can pick a meat and then three sides as your meal. Pretty self explanatory. And pretty delicious! The day was sunny and the warmest of my time there, so we ate on the patio.

After lunch, she went back to work and I walked over to a coffee shop called Crema. I noticed from the lunch place and the coffee place (and then from my walking around time) that there are a lot of dudes in Nashville! The Copper Kettle had at least six guys working behind the counter (though I did see a girl a little later). Crema had five guys working there and no girls. I'm guessing there are so many because a lot of people come to that city to get music careers going, and a lot of musicians are guys.

After lunch and the coffee shop, I started walking.

[View from the pedestrian bridge.]

[View to the other side of the bridge.]

[Another view from the bridge, farther along.]

[James kept asking for pictures of me instead of just stuff, but I think I kind of surprised myself with this shot.]

[X marks the spot!]

[From the center of the pedestrian bridge, looking back at where I walked up.]

[One of the streets. Broadway, maybe?]

[I liked this Printer's Alley sign.]

[Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. I didn't go inside, though.]

[New opera house.]
I spent the whole afternoon walking around, taking in the skyline, city streets and a few shops. One very noticeable thing about Nashville is that there is live music everywhere and at every time of day. Every pub had bands or singers inside, with varying degrees of talent. When late afternoon came around, there were people playing on the sidewalks (along with suddenly appearing homeless people with signs). I didn't write about it in my first post, but there was even a live band in the airport pub when I arrived to the city at noon!

Funny things I saw on my walk: a set of identical twin older men in matching outfits (shirts that said "Bang This!" on the front and had an orange dot on the back), with matching cowboy hats, long grey hair and grey mustaches, cowboy boots and jeans (I saw them three times that day); two Hooters waitresses playing "catch" with a football outside of the restaurant, with a douchey looking guy who was obviously their manager "directing" them; a bunch of skater boys by the river heckling a guy taking pictures;  lots of people in cowboy hats (most of whom had clearly just bought them that day).

Joni met me near the Hard Rock Cafe when she was done working. We did a little Jolie-ing in a cool alley-ish space between buildings:

Then we went to Jack's BBQ for brisket, which I don't think I've had before.

In keeping with James's well researched theory, places where the animal being served (this case, pig) is portrayed on the sign whimsically (flying, eating, etc), then the food is good. If the animal on the sign just looks like its normal self, not as good. Jack's sign is whimsical, thus food = yummy!

We walked around for a bit downtown since we had some time before the Predators hockey game (Joni's friend gave us tickets!). We stopped by the store for Hatch Show Print, which is the place that has always made these iconic concert flyers:

The flyers/posters are made with an old press where you place each letter and roll the ink on. Joni said most people get them made to sell at shows, rather than waste them on telephone polls or bulletin boards. It was closed when we got there, but still cool to see!

This is the Ryman auditorium:

It was originally a church that was then purchased and used for the Grand Ole Opry. GOO (my own abbreviation) has since moved to a larger location. However, this is where a lot of famous people have performed and is still used as a concert venue. Next time I'm in Nashville, I'd love to go see something there!

[Corner of the Ryman and a view up the street.]

[Looking back on the Ryman at dusk.]

Then we headed to Bridgestone arena to see the Preds play. Neither of us are huge hockey fans, but Joni's been to some games and I like sports and have watched quite a few Blackhawks games in the last few years.

They had a funny saying all over the arena, "Hockey Tonkin'", which is very hard to say properly, but a pretty clever little motto.

[Joni and I at the game.]
Earlier in the afternoon, at least three hours before game time, I saw tons of people in Predators jerseys heading for the arena. There were a lot of people there and everyone was very into the game. They had their own cheers when their team got a goal and they did lots of those big screen shots of the audience. People were SO funny with it! Almost everyone was a big ham and it was highly entertaining to watch what people did with their moment in the spotlight. Dancing, kissing, funny faces, signs, surprised faces, kids shoving into the frame, everyone nudging the people who didn't see themselves on the screen at first, people getting shy and covering their faces, etc. It was a blast!

After the game, we were done for the day. It was an amazing way to end the trip and included tons of stuff that I either really wanted to do, or wouldn't have even thought of doing but had a blast with anyway. By that day, I was starting to miss James and the boys more and ready to go home. The time frame was perfect: enough time away that I was able to relax and have fun, but also refresh me and get me ready to get back into real life.

I love adventures!

March 2, 2012

Nashville Day 3, or God and the birth of Jolie-ing

Sunday morning dawned sunny and warmer in Nashville. I went with Joni to her church for the morning. It's a beautiful, old-looking but newly made building up on a hill.

I went to the Sunday School class with Joni's friends (some of the ones I met on Friday night) while Joni taught in the three-year-olds class. The teaching in Sunday School was very solid and challenging, which I love. Church for me is about learning just as much as feeling. God is real to me on multiple levels and I love when I can learn more about Him! It was a little different in the presentation since I haven't spent much time at Presbyterian churches, but people were more than happy to answer any questions I had.

After Sunday School we all went to the sanctuary for the service. The attention to detail in the sanctuary was stunning! In a new building, you don't always expect to see such beautiful stained glass, wood carvings, etc. But it looked just like a lot of older churches I've been in.

There was a children's choir to start the service and a large adult choir later. The music was beautiful, and when a building is created with such great acoustics, you get the treat of enjoying it all the more.
I had a few questions during this service as well and enjoyed the experience very much.

After church was another great lunch at a Mexican restaurant called La Hacienda. We got more time with the Friday night group of friends. 

Joni was trying to make sure that I got to do a lot of things while visiting her, so we had thought of going to hike/walk around somewhere for the afternoon. We were both a bit tired, though, and I ended up taking a longer nap than I intended to. So, the hike didn't happen. Sometimes you have to just rest when you need it though!

We made a relatively quick stop at a going away party for one of the pastors at Joni's church that afternoon. More good food and fun times and talking.

That evening we went to another of Joni's friends' houses for an Oscar Party. I'm not sure if I've ever really been to an Oscar Party before. This wasn't a themed one or something, just a group of people watching together and eating. And it was so much fun! We enjoyed the outfits, laughed at the bits and funny moments and got to see the birth of Jolie-ing when Angelina Jolie did her crazy one-legged pose while presenting an award, and then the winner of the award copied it when he got on stage. Joni is very up on Twitter and let us know when Angie's Leg started a Twitter feed quickly after the moment. Funny stuff! I liked a lot of the interesting other presenting jokes, like Emma Stone's over the top enthusiasm and Robert Downey Jr's Tebow-ing and pretending to be filming a documentary.

I had decided to bring Joni a piece of Chicago. I know she likes Portillo's chocolate cake shakes (since they are AWESOME) and I couldn't make a cake shake last all the way to Nashville, so I just brought two pieces of the cake. On Oscar night, we bought vanilla ice cream and made homemade cake shakes for everyone to try! They weren't as good as Portillo's, of course, but close enough! It was a fun addition to the night.

March 1, 2012

Nashville Day 2, or Flea, Graves and TV

Of course I woke up on Day 2 at a pretty normal hour for me, about 7:30. BUT I went back to sleep until 9:30! Then Joni and I decided to meet up with her friend Chris to go to the Flea Market. My family (well, my dad in particular) has always enjoyed good flea markets. This one was HUGE! The first pavilion area is seen here, behind me:

and we went into a couple of indoor areas. But there was always more to see. I got turned around pretty quickly, but Joni and Chris were professionals and knew where we were and guided us all over. I found great hand-carved wooden toys for the boys and a couple of pieces of the antique china set that Jim's grandmother gave us. 

All the walking got our appetites worked up, so we had Thai food for lunch. I ate so well on this trip! And never needed a high chair or kids menu options.

After lunch, Joni and I spent a a little time at home to rest and talk. This is her cozy living room.

Then the two of us, with her dog Lincoln, headed out to the Carnton plantation and Confederate Cemetery near Franklin, TN. 

Side note about Lincoln. He was extremely interested in me. The first day I was there, he kept licking my pants and hands and trying to trap and eat my feet. He's a gentle dog and never got overwhelming or hurt me, but it was pretty funny. I thought maybe he liked my lotion, which has orange, lemon and other oils in it and thus might seem food-like to a dog. But he kept doing things like licking my elbows, face, feet and clothes the whole time I was there-even after the lotion would have been washed off of me. I have a new friend!

Joni had recommended the book The Widow of the South before I came to visit and I got it out of the library and read half of it before leaving.

[Some of the land around the plantation.]

 It's a fictionalized account of a woman named Carrie McGavock and her family. Their house became a hospital after the Civil War battle in Franklin, where over 9,000 soldiers died in about five hours' time! We went to visit Carnton Saturday afternoon.

[Back of the house.]

[Sitting on the back porch. Do I look like a Southern lady? No? Didn't think so.]

[Joni posing in the front walk of the house.]

[Front of the house.]

[Some of the slave quarters.]

[Garden near the house.]

[McGavock headstone for Carrie and her husband John, in the family cemetery.]

Carrie and John McGavock had the bodies of about 1,500 Confederate soldiers moved from a mass grave on the battlefield when the owners of the land were planning to use it and probably disturb the graves, to their own land to be buried. They knew the names and where a lot of the men were from so each little marker is numbered and cataloged. This is the gate to the cemetery for the soldiers from the family plot.

There are many beautiful old trees all around the property. It truly is an idyllic and restful location for men who died in a very brutal way. Very moving.

[Here is another grizzled  old tree with the plantation house in the background.]

[A place for reflection.]

[View from the end of the cemetery.]

We were too late to take the tour of the house, but it was very interesting to see the grounds and cemetery. I'll have to go back sometime to see more!

The rest of the day was pretty calm. We hung out with Chris again, at his house. His living room was featured in a new HGTV show so we got to watch his room on TV, while sitting in the room! It was a pretty crazy little experience. And we got to hear all the dirt and ins and outs about how the show was made, which is always fun. Joni is very connected to Nashville and there seem to be a lot of semi-famous people all over (along with a lot of very famous people-"That's Nicole and Keith's Starbucks." "That's where a lot of people see Taylor Swift." Etcetera.). A lot of the people she knows are involved in the city in many ways and have connections to music and TV. I felt very cultured!

Day 2 was just as varied and fun as Day 1! James was missing me a lot and I definitely wished he could have shared these things with us. Thankfully, the kids seemed to be fine without me. They liked having Daddy time and doing things with him. It helps that he and K can bond over things like video games and that James is very creative and fun with how he does everything from making dinner to coming up with art projects. I was able to enjoy my adventures without feeling guilty about having them without the kids, so that was nice. No sneaking feelings that made it hard to have fun, as can sometimes happen!