Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pass through the mountains

My applications for residency are due tomorrow.  The dance of being a wife, mother and medical student is behind me.  Before me, the leviathan of residency looms.  There are moments when I struggle to enjoy present joys while the future is unknown, moments when I am both certain and uncertain of the path to take as the roads before me diverge.

"Let obstacles only make you bigger.  The grace of our Lord will not be lacking: 'inter medium montium pertransibunt aquae!' -- 'through the very midst of the mountains the waters shall pass.'  You will pass through mountains!  What does it matter that you have to curtail your activity for the moment, if later, like a spring which has been compressed, you'll advance much farther than you  ever dreamed?" ~St. Jose Maria Escriva The Way, 12

The best place to rest is, as always, the Truth:

"I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; 
I will turn the darkness into light before them 
and make the rough places smooth.  
These are the things I will do; 
I will not forsake them." 
~Isaiah 42:16

Thanks to T for the visual inspiration.

Now that is a promise.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Baby Bear at 4 Months

Hey there, Baby Bear.
You know what your momma loves?

I love your belly laugh and your sweet little giggle,

your happy eyebrows and that great big smile,

and your big, brown eyes. 

 Thanks for working so hard to get my attention.  You make me feel like a movie star.
I love all your snuggles.  Be careful, because you may make your daddy jealous ;)
Just kidding, it just makes him want to nuzzle you more.

You're a man on the move, rolling over on your mat, splashing in the bath, giving your chew toys a nice big chomp.  Your smile delights even the crabbiest of Bears around here, so keep it up.  

We adore you.

Thank you, Lord for 4 months of our Baby Bear.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Grocery Bag

Whole, free-range chicken was on sale this week at our grocery store!  The deal was too good to pass up, so I have a chicken cooking in our crockpot this morning.  Crockpot chicken is a great, energy efficient (and low cost!) way of cooking a whole chicken.  I cook mine 8-10 hours on low, or 5 hours on high, until the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees.  The meat comes out wonderfully moist and practically falls off the bone.  After removing the meat, it's time to make broth!  I put all the left over parts back in the crockpot, cover them with water (10-12 cups), cook on low for 10-12 hours, and voila! homemade organic chicken broth.  I'll use broth and chicken in these recipes this week and stash the rest in the freezer.

Day One
Coconut Curry Shrimp from Everyday with Rachael Ray
with basmati rice and sliced peaches
The chicken is cooking today to be ready for tomorrow.
This recipe will be quick and delicious tonight.  I'll throw some bell peppers in too.

Photo and recipe from

Day Two
with spinach salad
I know what you're thinking, but this pizza is awesome.  

Photo and recipe from

Day Three
with basmati rice and apples
This is a family favorite, way better than takeout.
Use broth rather than water to make a more flavorful rice, and save some for the frittata later this week!

Photo and recipe by Queen B

Day Four
Black lentils from The Indian Slowcooker
with homemade naan and yogurt
This is a hearty lentil recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks.

Photo and recipe from Indian as Apple Pie

Day Five
Lemon chicken frittata from Everyday with Rachael Ray
with lime & peanut coleslaw from 101 Cookbooks
In the frittata, I'll use rice left over from earlier this week.
Photo and recipe from
Photo and recipe from

Blessings on your kitchen this week!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Grandfather Mountain

Ah, the road to Grandfather Mountain, 

could there be anything more beautiful?
It felt like the road to heaven.

It was quite fitting that we found St. Bernadette's at the foot of the mountain,
the perfect place for us to go to church before our trip to the top.

Looking into the the clouds from St. Bernadette's, we could see the mile high bridge!  
We couldn't wait to get up there ourselves.

After Mass, we made a brief pitstop for lunch and ice cream at the charming Old Hampton Store.  We enjoyed it so much, it deserves it's own post some other time.


Next it was time to tackle the mountain.  The drive to the top of Grandfather Mountain is wooded and beautiful.  It really is amazing that you can drive to the top of it's spectacular heights.  During the course of our ascent, the temperature dropped 10 degrees.  E-Bear and G-Bear had to borrow mommy and daddy's sweaters :)  Nevertheless, we were all thrilled to get to the top!

There was so much to enjoy and so much to see from the top of the mountain.  
It was really very family friendly, in spite of the warning signs.

Freshly four months old, Baby Bear was the youngest tourist at the top.
He has scaled great heights for such a young guy!

The Blue Ridge Range sprawls across the landscape from the summit.  
On a clear day, you can see all the way down to Charlotte, NC.  

Of course, we had to pose for pictures at the bridge.  

The kids loved to run across the bridge, not seeming to mind the 100 ft. drop visible through the metal planks.  Yikes!  I had to hold my breath and remember the bridge is quite safe.

The mountain was a perfectly spectacular way to end our special trip.  
When we pointed ourselves toward home, our journey had one last treat in store,
because we left the same way we came:

We have such a beautiful country!  We were blessed to get to enjoy it's wonders in such a special way last weekend.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Our Tweetsie Railroad Adventure

Tweetsie at the station, picking up passengers.
As part of our family vacation to Blowing Rock, NC last weekend, we spent a day visiting the Tweetsie Railroad.  The attraction is a wild west themed amusement park nestled in the mountains and centered around a real railroad train, #12, called Tweetsie.  While planning our trip, T read a review of the park saying that it was the land of four foot tall people, meaning that it was dominated by children ages 4-8.  We knew then that the Tweetsie Railroad was the perfect place for us to visit.  We were right.

The park includes the Tweetsie train and it's track running around the mountain, as well as a western-themed town and two areas of amusement park rides, shows and other attractions.  We spent the entire day, from 10am to 5 pm, at the park, which gave us just enough time to do nearly everything once.  The park was large enough to keep us walking and active all day, but accessible for us to tackle without a stroller for G-Bear and E-Bear.  We brought a picnic lunch but certainly could have enjoyed the food at any one of a number of themed restaurants or food stands.

We found Tweetsie at the perfect time in our lives.  Thanks mostly to E-Bear, we are a family of train enthusiasts.  We love Thomas the Tank Engine & his friends, and our train table is one of our most beloved places to play.  An amusement park centered around a real-life train was just too good to be true.

We all loved Tweetsie the Engine,

each in our own special way.

As the above picture would suggest, Tweetsie's whistle is a real whistle, and her coal burning engine is real too.  Riding the train is a real steam locomotive experience and we loved it.  After our train ride, we watched a clogging show and then headed up the mountain via chairlift to try some of the rides.

One of the unique parts of the park is that many of the rides have maximum rather than minimum height requirements.  There are certainly plenty of rides that accommodate adults, but many more are for children only.  After about age 7-8 there are definitely rides that will be off limits.  Thankfully, that was not a problem for our half-pint crew.

We enjoyed the airplanes immensely.  G-Bear announced that she was flying to MoMo's house.  E-Bear chimed that he was going to Papa's.

The boats were next, complete with individualized bells to ring wildly.

G-Bear and E-Bear certainly impressed me with their bravery.  It seemed that the faster the ride, the more they loved it.  The "twister" ride and the "tilt-a-whirl" were two favorites:

Thankfully, T took tilt-a-whirl duty, because I definitely would have gotten sick.

After a wildly successful car ride with dad,

we tackled the helicopter, 

(which, by the way, ended rather badly...note to self, don't put the Bears in the same helicopter with the choice of going either up or down via pushing or pulling the restraint bar.  There are bound to be differences of opinion regarding which direction to go)

and finally, a lightning fast ferris wheel.

I might be smiling, but I was sure we were going to wheel right off this ferris.

Not pictured, but also thoroughly enjoyed, were the animal petting zoo area with goats, deer, ostrich, and llamas, the climbing tower on the top of Miner's Mountain, a miniature train ride, a playground, the carousel and several other attractions.

Our wheels started to drag just as the day was coming to a close.  We were pleasantly exhausted and thrilled with everything we had tried.  T and I couldn't have imagined a more perfect amusement park for our crew.  

We waved goodbye to Tweetsie as she pulled her last train load of passengers of the day.
"By, train!"  yelled E-Bear and G-Bear.

Like I said, definitely worth repeating.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I am pleased to report that we all survived our first earthquake experience today!  The kids and I were having a pre-resttime snack when the refrigerator started shaking and the floor started moving.  It is quite an unsettling feeling to have the ground move when it's not supposed to!  Poor T was in the basement of a large building, missed all the excitement, and didn't get to feel a thing.  Maybe next time :)

Reports are that there hasn't been an earthquake in the area for over a hundred years.  How did we get so lucky?  Quite the welcome to NC....

Our weekend in Blowing Rock, NC

This past weekend was a huge treat for our family.  It was, so far as I can remember right now, the first time we have taken a vacation away with just our little family.  We love going on trips and get-aways with family and friends.  But this weekend was different, relaxing and special in a new way.

Before our weekend, I would have never guessed that a place called Blowing Rock could be so wonderful.  Having retreated to the mountains of North Carolina, I now understand why they are so popular.  Our weekend was a perfect mix of amusement and relaxation, spectacular and kid-friendly.  It is worth repeating.  Take our word for it, the Ridgeway Inn is a friendly, charming value (with a great breakfast!).  It's in the heart of lovely Blowing Rock, and as we walked to a Friday night lawn concert we saw a multitude of other adorable Inns with tables set and beckoning.

On Saturday morning, as I walked around the town with my coffee in one hand and early bird Baby Bear tucked in my Ergo carrier, the mountains were already hard at work creating the restful, peaceful morning air.  We had a weekend of fun ahead of us that left us with tired and smiling.

Here's just a taste, because there's a lot more to share.

Thanks to G-Bear for this great picture of T and me!

There's more to come about a train called Tweetsie, a mountain named Grandfather, and our family enjoying them both!