Wednesday, July 27, 2011

7 Quick Takes: Burgers, Books, and Blogging


The other day Curly says to me, "Ya know that snake skin Moe brought home from Shenandoah? He wasn't supposed to do that 'cuz it's illegal to take things from a national park."


And just the day before when they wanted to collect sassafras on the hiking trail to make tea with back at the campsite, I wouldn't let them because we're not allowed to do that in a national park.

It's against the law to play with sparklers there, too. As I suspected.


After the 5 pm Saturday Mass at Our Lady of the Valley, we decided to check out the town of Luray and find something to eat. When we saw a sign that read, "The Best Burger in Virginia" outside the Artisan Grill on East Main Street, we just had to try it. Larry, Curly, and Joe all got burgers (Larry had the barbecue burger and Joe and Curly had the bacon cheddar; they all loved them), and Moe and I, because of our food restrictions, each ordered a bowl of the buffalo chili. Other than the beans being slightly undercooked, it was delicious. I also decided to try the Caprese salad--sliced tomatoes sprinkled with goat cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette. The tomatoes were obviously of the local, fresh variety--big, thick, slices with that unmistakable fresh tomato flavor. I wished there had been a little more cheese on them, but even though I was already full from the chili, I ate almost every bite.

We also checked out their daily dessert selections, and Larry and Joe decided to try the panna cotta. We had never heard of that--it's an Italian dessert made with cream, milk, sugar, and gelatin. It kind of reminded me of a cross between Jell-o and creme brulee. Larry got raspberry and Joe got amaretto. Of course I had to mooch a bite from each--both were amazing; although I liked the raspberry better. They also had small-dairy ice cream on the menu; Curly ordered chocolate and I ordered vanilla. This was definitely NOT factory-made ice cream, and the chocolate was even better than what we had made the previous weekend.

If you're ever in Luray, be sure to check out the Artisan Grill!

And there you have my first ever restaurant review.


This past weekend I started reading C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters. I've read almost half of it now. It's definitely not what I expected--instead of reading like a novel, it's a series of letters written by a demon (Screwtape) to his nephew Wormwood, offering advice on how best to turn a good man to the Dark Side. Very eye-opening. Screwtape could easily be talking about me.


I finished Stieg Larsson's Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy, and I'm glad I did (a couple of times the graphic sex and violence almost made me quit reading. Almost.) I've decided that the main character, a troubled young woman named Lisbeth who has multiple piercings and tattoos and doesn't relate to people very well, is a female version of Jack Bauer. On second thought, she is a combination of Jack and his computer-savvy friend Chloe, without whom Jack would never have survived many of his run-ins with the bad guys. Not only does Lisbeth habitually hack into other people's computers, but she manages to survive a number of brutal attacks--including (SPOILER ALERT) being shot in the head point blank and then buried alive. My favorite part of this series? When Lisbeth (ANOTHER SPOILER) is about to be murdered by a monstrous villain who feels no pain, and she grabs a nail gun and shoots nails into the guy's feet, pinning them to the floor. Brilliant!


Moe is spending this week with Joe's parents. For about two days before he left, I kept finding myself on the verge of tears thinking about how much I would miss him. He's having a great time with his grandparents, of course, and even with only one of the boys gone the house seems quiet. He calls us every night and tells us about his day, and I know I won't sleep well unless I get a chance to say good night to him. I'm feeling a little guilty, though, because yesterday when I made my homemade hamburger buns (I've posted the recipe on Cooking Nick's Books here and here), I realized I could use a REAL EGG and REAL MILK since there wasn't anyone in the house allergic to them. We excitedly went to Chick Fil-A for lunch; a place we usually avoid because they fry their stuff in peanut oil. And the other day at Costco I grabbed a bag of tortilla chips--not our usual brand, but one we like better but never get because they're cooked in (you guessed it) peanut oil.

He's coming home Saturday, and I can't wait. Having everyone home is much better than getting to eat at Chick Fil-A.


I've been thinking a lot lately about this blog and how it has evolved over the past 2 1/2 years, whether for good or bad. My little byline reads, "I am a person who has a lot to say," but lately it seems I haven't had a whole lot to say. I don't know if that's a bad thing, necessarily. If you go back and look at some of my earlier posts, you'll see my thoughts and opinions about certain hot-button issues, or what I think about this or that public policy decision, interspersed with a few little anecdotes about my family and the joys and struggles of being a Catholic mom. Recently, maybe over the past year or so, I've been blogging about more light-hearted, even superficial stuff (even in this very post): How We Spent Our Family Vacation, Look At This Beautiful Church We Visited Last Sunday, Let Me Tell You About This Great Book I Just Read, Here's A Great Recipe You Just Have To Try.

The thing is, I like blogging about these things, and it's much easier and certainly less controversial than, say, writing about what I think about the gay marriage issue, or about Planned Parenthood and their diabolical agenda. Today when I went to daily Mass (for the first time this summer), I heard about how the Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, and someone finds it and goes off and buys the field; or like a pearl of great price that a person sells all that he has in order to obtain it. In his homily, Father L reminded us that if we focus on the treasure and the pearl-- eternal life with God--we can have the courage to stand up for what is right and true.

I need to find the right balance. This blog may be due for a makeover.


Which brings me (at the risk of being a navel gazer) to the question, "What Kind Of Blogger Do I Want To Be?" One of my favorite bloggers is Matthew Warner of Fallible Blogma. He's a frequent columnist for National Catholic Register, and recently he published a couple of articles (this one and this one) about being an authentic Catholic and what that means. He says that we need more Catholics online who don't claim to be perfect or know everything about Catholicism, but who are genuinely trying their best to follow the teachings of the Church and don't pretend to be all holy and pious when they're not. I've seen lots of those holy-and-pious blogs online, and they make me either a). envious of them, and wish I was as holy as they are or b). roll my eyes at their almost certain hypocrisy.

I follow lots of blogs, and between them and the bloggers I have on my Twitter feed, I know what kind of blogger I'm not--I'm not one of those who posts a daily biography of the saint whose feast day it is, or my reflections of the daily Mass readings, or someone who has an opinion about every single thing I see on the news. Frankly I don't have time for that, and thank God for the people who do. (For some, it's their job. I'm kinda jealous of them, actually.) And I don't think--at least I hope not--that I'm someone who comes across as a holier-than-thou Catholic; I'm just about as un-holy as you can get.

Matthew Warner says that our blogs should be a reflection of who we are. Maybe the question I need to ask myself is, "Am I the Person Who I Want To Be?"

In a future post I'll share links to some of my favorite, most authentic Catholic (and maybe even some non-Catholic) blogs. They are the people who inspire me to keep doing this.

For more Quick Takes, be sure to visit the Authentically Catholic Conversion Diary!!

UPDATE: I posted 7 Quick Takes over at Cooking Nick's Books, too; check it out if you're so inclined! Much obliged! :-)


  1. Enjoy the allergens while you can! No reason to feel guilty about that. :)

    As to your more serious later thoughts: I have struggled with a "mission" for my blog before. I set it up to be a platform-builder for my writing, but it turns out nobody cares what I have to say about writing. (Except this week, for some reason. Weirdness.) I am unapologetically eclectic in my topics. I'm trying to be a Catholic who blogs, not a Catholic blogger. I take C.S. Lewis's quote to heart, the one about needing more Christians who write on other topics. Sometimes I feel bad about that, but I'm never going to be one who hooks the Catholic bloggers you're talking about. My opinions on liturgy drive them away. :)

    At this point in my life, my blog is a chance to Journal, which I don't otherwise have time to do, and to put some seeds & leaven out there in the hopes that something I say can evangelize someone who would never consent to read a "Catholic blog."

  2. Really intrigued by Screwtape Letters! I added it to my to read list on Goodreads. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Kathleen, I liked what you said about being a "Catholic who blogs, not a Catholic blogger." I like to blog about a lot of things, including my faith, but lots of other things as well. I've thought about using it for journaling, although in the past when I've kept a journal, I've tended to write things I wouldn't necessarily share with other people. And right now I really don't think there is a specific type of person I want to "hook." Maybe that's my problem, ha ha!

    Linda, I hope you like Screwtape Letters! I'm reading it slowly, because it's on my iPad, and there is so much to distract me there... :D


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