Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Weather Outside is Frightful . . .

Snow is falling rather heavily. The forecast is for up to 10 inches. And of course, I'm supposed to be hosting a dinner party tonight for 10 people. The good thing is that the invitees are all local, so there's not really any travel involved. The snow should be ending about the time the party begins, so if I keep my fingers crossed, it should all work out. If worst comes to worst, we can just have the party tomorrow night. My menu is easy, and can be put off. The main entree is a super easy and delicious! I'm just going to double this -

Roasted Chicken, Sausage, and Potatoes
Serves 6

6 chicken breasts (the real thing, with bones and some skin)
1 lb sweet Italian sausage, cut into 1 inch pieces
6 potatoes, quartered
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

Mix seasonings together. Spray a shallow roasting pan with a nonstick spray. Layer potatoes on the bottom of the pan, and sprinkle with half the seasoning mixture. Cover potatoes with sausage and chicken. Pour olive oil over all; sprinkle rest of seasonings on top. Cover pan with foil and bake at 425° for 1 hour. Uncover, lower oven to 375° and bake for another 30 minutes or until browned.


I'm serving this with a broccoli salad, glazed carrots, cranberry sauce, and rolls. My guests are bringing the munchies and the dessert. I like the way our group of friends celebrates --- someone offers the house and does the main part of the meal, and the guests bring the hors d'oeuvres and desserts. Everything is casual, relaxed and enjoyable.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Back to Normal?

Life is back to normal - or what passes for normal around here! A typical Christmas break Monday is in store. I am enjoying my first cup of coffee, just after 8 am. When I'm through with blogging and reading emails, I'll eat a light breakfast, and then start in on some long overdue housework. My plan today is to declutter the living room, and dust and vacuum in there. We're hosting a casual party on New Year's Eve, so some spit and polish could be useful there. I may also do the same in the dining room today. Tomorrow I'll get the shopping done and tackle the bathroom. I will head in early afternoon westward over to the nearest shopping city in this southwest corner of the state, and use a Borders gift certificate, collect a repaired piece of jewelry from the jewelers, and find some grosgrain ribbon to face the button bands of the sweater I'm finishing. Then I'll meet my DH at home and we'll go to our 5 pm water aerobics class. Somewhere today I'll have to drop off my library books at the library too since they're due today.

There is still so much cleanup to accomplish from the ice storm. Our yard is littered with the remains of trees, as our roadsides. The warm weather and rain the last couple of days has removed quite a bit of the 2 ft of snow we received last weekend so the debris is being uncovered. What a mess! It's hard to believe that we lost power for so long. It's a good wake up call for us all. What always shines through is that despite all the apparent evidence to the contrary, people are kind, thoughtful, and generous. Neighbors really do look out for each other, and people share their resources with others who need them when push comes to shove.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Book #105

I had a goal of reading 50 books this year. I hit that goal early on, so set it for 100. I must admit that most of my reading is candy. But it's a major way for me to relax and escape, so it's cheap therapy!! I've been introduced recently to the China Bayles mystery series by Susan Wittig Albert. Here's the 3rd book in the series which starts with Thyme of Death, and Witches' Bane.

Hangman's Root (China Bayles Mystery, Book 3) Hangman's Root by Susan Wittig Albert


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
I am enjoying this mystery series. China Bayles is an ex-attorney turned herb shop owner in a small Texas town. She is enjoying life now that she's stepped out of the fast lane. She has several good friends, and a developing relationship with Mike McQuaid, an cop who also has retired from the field and now teaches at the local college. In this installment, China investigates the murder of a prominent science professor at the local college and tries to clear the name of another professor who's been accused of the crime. While I guessed the identity of the real murderer, there were enough plot twists to surprise me. I'm now looking for #4 --- my library has to get them on interlibrary loan.


View all my reviews.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

AT LAST!

12:16 pm Dec. 24th

The lights came back on. Thirteen days without electricity. How vulnerable we are!


It's now 2:30 pm. Two loads of wash done, Christmas morning pound cake is in the oven, Swedish meatballs are simmering in the crockpot. Our Los Angeles son is home, and our Rhode Island son is on the way. Now it can be Christmas.

Thanks all of you who have kept me in your thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Different Sort of Waiting

Advent is about waiting, anticipation, and preparation. Waiting for the birth of a Baby, anticipating the Gift of Love, and preparing room in my heart and life for this great Gift.

This year my Advent has been highjacked by a different sort of waiting. I am literally waiting for light, and electricity. I am growing impatient, cranky, and much more full of self-pity than I care to admit. I know there's a sermon in this somewhere . . .but I'm too annoyed to find it.

There are still about 3000 of us without power, 12 days after the storm. We are tired of filling generators, using laundramats and friends' homes for showers and laundry, tired of "camp-style" meals, tired of the generator's noise and gas odors, tired of the inconvenience. Even though we know we are relatively safe, relatively warm, and not going hungry, we are inconvenienced enough to be cranky and annoyed. Many of us have had to put our holiday plans on hold --- no baking, no special meals, no lights on the tree or in the windows of our homes.

If I could just focus on the coming of God's Light, instead of human's light, I'd be a happier woman.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Tis the Season

For a change of pace from my recent tales of woe:


Welcome to the Christmas edition of getting to know your friends. Okay, here's
what you're supposed to do, and try not to be a SCROOGE!!! Just copy (not
forward) this entire email and paste into your blog (or even an email)Change
all the answers so that they apply to you. Let me know if you play!

Tis the Season to be NICE!


1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
I use both --- usually gift bags for people to whom I'm personally bringing gifts. Wrapping paper for gifts I'm mailing. I recycle gift bags!

2. Real tree or Artificial?

Definitely real, and only balsam fir need apply. Our tree is always nice and fresh, about 8 feet tall.

3. When do you put up the tree?

I like to get it up about by Dec. 15th, but the last two years has been the weekend before Christmas.

4. When do you take the tree down?

We usually take it down on Epiphany - there are 12 Days of Christmas, after all, and I was taught to wait til the Three Kings came on Jan. 6th.

5. Do you like eggnog?

Yes. Especially with rum or whisky!


6. Favorite gift received as a child?

I can't name one --- I always loved my presents, and usually got what I really wanted. I think I loved opening my stocking the most.


7. Hardest person to buy for?

Definitely my husband. He doesn't ever ask for things, doesn't have a hobby, and is the kind of person that if he needs something, he goes and gets it when he needs it. My younger son is getting hard now too.

8. Easiest person to buy for?

Anyone who gives me a list, or who has a definite hobby. Every year though I have the problem of finding lots of perfect gifts for one person on my list, and nothing for anyone else!

9. Do you have a nativity scene?

I have 3. A small stained glass one my sister sent me one year, a traditional creche with fixed figures, and my favorite - the Willow Tree Nativity my mom bought me the only time she came to spend Christmas with me.


10. Mail or email Christmas cards?

I mail cards. I don't particularly like email cards, because I can't hang them up as part of my decor.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?

A guitar when I was in college. I wanted a record player (portable stereo) for my dorm room. My father bought me a guitar --- my sister wanted one, and he got a deal. He bought each of a guitar. I never even tried to play it.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?

I absolutely love The Christmas Story --- the one where Ralph wants the beebee gun. "You'll shoot your eye out!!" I hate "It's a Wonderful Life,". I do like the original, Miracle on 34th Street.


13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?.

I make a half-hearted attempt to do some shopping in late summer or early fall. I say half-hearted, because it's not usually intentional. A friend and I go outlet shopping a couple of times a year, and I will sometimes make an effort to look for gifts then. Most of my shopping is done between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and 90% of it is done on-line. I abhor malls.


14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?

I don't think so.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?

Cookies -- Ginger crinkles, cranberry almond biscotti, Mrs. Greenhill's shortbread, and my sister's butter cookies. And for Christmas breakfast -- Best Buttermilk Poundcake from my mom's recipe files via Farm Journal.

16. Lights on the tree?

Definitely -- small, multi-colored, and non-blinking.

17. Favorite Christmas song?

Depends on what mood I'm in. I favor traditional carols. I love O Holy Night, Do You Hear What I Hear, and Angels We Have Heard On High. Joy to the World, too. My favorite Christmas recording is a very old record --- from the 60's The Harry Simone Choir. I loved the traditional carols, and the scripture passages quoted between the songs. I also love an Ed Ames Christmas album from that time period also.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?

Usually stay home. When the kids were really young, we would travel to my parents' in Indiana, but once they got school age we stayed home. Santa had a really hard time then.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's?


Absolutely




20. Angel on the tree top or a star?

Definitely a star. We sing: "Last year on top of our Christmas tree, we had a lovely star. It made us think of the wise men three, traveling from afar."


21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?

As kids we opened one tiny present on Christmas eve, but oh, Christmas morning!!! It would start with our stockings. Santa left them outside our bedroom doors, or at the foot of our beds. We were allowed to stay in our rooms and open them. We would have to wait for our parents to wake up before we were allowed downstairs to see what Santa had brought. Santa was always more than generous with presents for 5 kids. He brought unwrapped gifts that were spread around the tree. We also had a huge pile of wrapped gifts from our parents, aunts, each other. With 7 people the mound was huge. We took turns opening gifts, one at a time, and the opening would last several hours. We still open presents on Christmas morning. But it's only 4 of us, and we have pared down the parcels over the years. . . .My parents didn't buy us much throughout the year, but they more than made up for it at Christmas.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?

Christmas commercials and decorations that are up before pumpkins and Pilgrims.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color?

Our ornaments are eclectic and often sentimemtal rather than traditionally beautiful. Their beauty is in their memories.

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner?

For Christmas Eve --- Swedish meatballs and egg noodles.
For Christmas Day --- a rare roast of beef --- either a standing rib roast or other luxury cut.



25. What do you want for Christmas this year?


Right now? Electricity!


26. Who is most likely to respond to this?

My blogging friends.





Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I'm Trying to Stay Positive

This is getting old. We are into Day 10 of Life with a Generator. I'm very glad that we purchased one several years ago, but when we purchased it we were thinking it was for those power outages of 12-24 hours. Not 10 days. We are fortunate because the generator runs the oil furnace and our well pump. Our hot water is through the furnace so we are warm and clean. We have a few lights -- in the bathroom, one in the dining half of the kitchen, and one in the living room. We have an outlet that works in the kitchen too, so we can plug in a crockpot, or electric skillet, or the coffee maker. Just not all at once. I can't boil water, though, so no noodles, spaghetti, rice, or worst of all -- no tea. I do drink both tea and coffee --- I NEED coffee in the am, but in the afternoon, I crave a cup of strong Earl Grey or Ginger Peach black tea. I'd love a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast too --- or a soft-boiled egg. I know that my husband, God bless him, is getting tired of the daily trips to the gas station to buy the gas that powers the generator. I should be thankful that gas prices have dropped since we need to buy 10 gallons of gas a day to run the generator. He has to fill the generator twice a day too. We got 10 inches of snow Friday, and the forecast for today is 12-18 inches, plus they've posted a wind advisory. We went out EARLY to get the gas, and to stock up on one-pot meal ingredients. I splurged and bought some Walker's shortbread. I always make shortbread for Christmas, so at least this way, I have something, even if it's not "Mrs. Greenhill's Shortbread." (a recipe from my sister's 1960's 3rd grade classroom cookbook). We did see evidence at last that the power crews have reached our region of NH. We did see lines of repair crews -- just not in our immediate neighborhood. As we passed the crews I sent waves of mental telepathy beaming my address to them. But I also know that we all need relief, so I'm not TOO jealous . . .The other good news is that finally our town has made the power restoration list with an estimated date of 95% repairs of 12/22. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that we're in the 95%, but my husband is telling me not to get my hopes up. So, I'm trying not to get too optimistic. . . .

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ever Wonder How Jesus Spent His Youth?

Try reading this book!

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore


My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
I loved this book! It's funny, serious, provoking, interesting, and not at all sacrilegious. How did Jesus spend his youth? What's the "true" story behind some of his parables? Biff, (otherwise known as Levi) narrates this life of his best friend, Joshua (Aramaic for Jesus, the Greek rendering) and traces their adventures from Nazareth to China, to India, and back again, and on to Jerusalem and the Crucifixion. Joshua and Biff journey to study with each of the 3 wise men, and then come back to Galilee in time for Jesus to start his ministry. The author states "This story is not and never was meant to challenge anyone's faith; however,if one's faith can be shaken by stories in a humorous novel, one may have a bit more praying to do." p. 443. I say "Amen" to that!


View all my reviews.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Five: Countdown to Christmas Edition

From Songbird at RevGalPals

It's true.

There are only five full days before Christmas Day, and whether you use them for shopping, wrapping, preaching, worshiping, singing or traveling or even wishing the whole darn thing were over last Tuesday, there's a good chance they will be busy ones.

So let's make this easy, if we can: tell us five things you need to accomplish before Christmas Eve.

So much of what I "need" to do is dependent on whether or not we get power back! So this is a mix of what I think I need to do, what I have to do, and what I want to do.

1. A must: Get clean sheets on the beds for my sons. The last time the beds were used, they were not stripped when the guest left --- one of the those things I was going to get to later. Since I can't use my washer I will have to trek them down to the laundramat sometime before Tuesday. I'm waiting til almost the last minute as I'm ever optimistic that maybe "today will be the day" the power returns. I guess I could go buy some new sheets, too.

2. A must if the party is still on: Make a dessert for a dinner party we're invited to on Saturday night. I have a no-bake dessert in mind, and I have the ingredients --- An Icebox Cake. You take chocolate wafers and whipped cream and assemble a cake with them and refrigerate for a few hours before serving. I'm planning to crush candy canes (the ones I bought for my students, but don't need now that there's no school til Jan. 5th) into the whipped cream. I also need to be sure I can find my hand-powered eggbeater to whip the cream. However, we're supposed to get 12 plus inches of snow tonight, and so many of us don't have power, that we might postpone the party.

3. Finish purchasing stocking stuffers for my sons' and husband's stockings.

4. Plan (and purchase) an alternate Christmas menu if we don't have power. It's kind of hard to cook a rib roast without an oven. Needless to say the Christmas baking is out.

5. Purchase and decorate a tree. No lights this year. Last year at this time I had pneumonia. My husband purchased the tree, but I never had the strength to do more than get the lights on it. This year, I plan to decorate, but have pretty much decided against putting the lights on it. Doesn't seem to make sense!!

6. I know we only needed 5 things: I need to find my Christmas spirit --- I was struggling even before the ice storm. I am not ready inside to celebrate the Gift that is given.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Day 6 - Ice Storm Aftermath

I had a few moments of frustration and tears yesterday when I logged on to the power company's website and learned it might be next week before we get our power back. I'm mostly concerned about Christmas. My sons are coming home from RI and Los Angeles, and I won't be able to provide the traditional meals -- Swedish meatballs and egg noodles on Christmas Eve, and a rib roast on Christmas day. No "Best Buttermilk Pound Cake" for Christmas breakfast, and worst of all, no ginger crinkles, "Mrs. Greenhill's Shortbread", or "Crissie's Sugar Cookies". I'm very frustrated that I can't do any baking. So for a few minutes, I indulged myself in a good pity party.

But, I am over that. I am so very deep down grateful for what I do have -- heat, hot water, and some light. I have an extended vacation - our schools are shut down til Jan 5th. I can get out to stores. I can go to a laundramat. I am able to offer hot showers to some folks who don't have hot water.

For us, this IS a major inconvenience, and a major disruption of our holiday plans. But that's all it is. When I think of all the folks in the world who live in conditions worse than this I realize how selfish my frustation is. When I think of all the people whose lives were torn apart by disasters like Katrina, I feel ashamed.

We're safe, we're healthy, we have inventive minds. We will create memories of Christmas 2008.


Here are some pictures. There is a terrible beauty in the ice too. Click on the photo to enlarge.


From December 12 2008 ICE STORM



From December 12 2008 ICE STORM



From December 12 2008 ICE STORM


From December 12 2008 ICE STORM



From December 12 2008 ICE STORM


From December 12 2008 ICE STORM



From December 12 2008 ICE STORM

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

#102

One of the books I've read during the ICE STORM AFTERMATH:


I Shall Not Want I Shall Not Want by Julia Spencer-Fleming


My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
This series just gets better and better! I think the author does a superb job of creating realistic characters. They are flawed, but "good" people, just like most of us. While most of us don't find ourselves in the kinds of situations that Claire Fergusson ends up in, (after all this IS fiction), the depiction of her relationship with Russ Van Alstyne, and her struggle to find her calling as a priest seems extremely realistic, and this is what drives my interest.


View all my reviews.

ICE STORM




We're in Day 5 of Survivor:Ice Storm. We were hit on Thursday/Friday with an inch or so of ice covering everything. It brought down just about every power line, topping poles, and downing 1000's of trees. We have been without power since 2 am Friday morning. Fortunately we have a generator that provides us with heat, water (we have a well), refrigeration, a few lights and outlets through which I can run the computer, a crockpot, a coffee maker, and/or an electric skillet. Our phone line went down sometime early Saturday morning and was restored today. I have dial up internet so I can get on-line again. We haven't received any word yet as to when our power will be restored. I can't complain because I have my basic necessities - and I can read and knit. Our schools have been cancelled until Jan. 5th giving us 7 extra vacation days. I've always wanted the week before Christmas off -- I just wish I could do my baking! I'd also like to be able to do laundry. This storm is unprecedented ----- almost 70% of our roads were impassable for several days due to trees and wires across them. We lost many trees. Fortunately none of them hit our house. It's incredible to see how vulnerable we are ---- businesses were unable to open, the grocery store had to throw out most of the perishable food. While most roads are open, you have to drive slowly watching for dangling wires, leaning poles, and limbs. We had a huge branch dangling from the wires that cross our road in front of our house until yesterday. Large vehicles couldn't pass without hitting it. That's the main reason why schools are closed --- the buses can't get down more than 50% of the back roads. It is just unbelievable.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

ONE HUNDRED BOOKS READ!

Here is book #100 -

Incantation Incantation by Alice Hoffman


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
This gripping novel is set in 16th century Spain. The Spanish Inquisition has reached 16 year old Estrella deMadrigal's village. The short, but intense story follows Estrella as she comes to terms with the betrayal of a friend, as well as the betrayal of all she thought she knew. I would recommend this novel to older students (8th grade and up).


View all my reviews.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

#99 and a Few More Items Crossed Off my List

I got all the window candles in place and I think all the timers are set. I also did a bit of school work, and managed to do some baking. And I finished book #99 while eating breakfast!

Aunt Dimity Goes West (Aunt Dimity) Aunt Dimity Goes West by Nancy Atherton


My review


rating: 2 of 5 stars
Not the best book in the series. Not terrible, but not particularly attention-holding either. Lorie is vacationing with her boys in the Colorado Rockies to recuperate from her near miss with death in the previous book. There's really no mystery to solve, no moral dilemma to resolve, and not much of a plot. It's almost as though the author was recuperating too!


View all my reviews.

Progress Report

I actually made quite a dent in my list yesterday. I finished all the items under the first 2 categories, and knit 3 inches on the back of the sweater I've started. I even managed to put a holiday tablecloth on my kitchen table, and I vacuumed the rug that's under that table. I couldn't stand the gritty crunch underfoot anymore!

My husband's off to the grocery store, and when he returns I will start the baking. Each grade level (6-8), plus the Unified Arts and Special Ed teams, rotate turns for taking care of the teachers' room. We also provide occasional treats for the rest of the staff. Our team decided to provide a hot drinks buffet every day -- not as difficult as it sounds. We have a huge coffee urn that's used to heat water and we have a huge selection of teas, cocoa, and flavored instant coffees. There are 8 of us on the team A(when we include the associates) and 4 Mondays this month, so we paired off and pair is bringing in some treats on our chosen Monday. I'm bringing a couple of loaves of home-made banana cranberry bread and a home-made poundcake, and my partner is bringing a fruit tray and some veggies and dip. I've actually got the banana breads done and just need to do the pound cake.

I just realized I need to find the Christmas cards I bought on sale last year for this year. I'm also searching unsuccessfully for my box of Christmas CD's. I have almost 50 of them, and they've gone missing!! Hmmm. If you were a crate of Cd's and someone actually got organized enough to store them in a logical place, where would that logical place be?? I have a faint recollection of having a brilliant idea last July when I was in an organization mode, and I put them somewhere out of sight, but logical. Don't suggest a closet --- my house came with only one closet. (It's an OLD house).


Well, on to some more items on my list.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

My TO DO List for the Weekend

MUST DO:

For my husband's business:

1. The monthly billing (it's a week late)
2. Balance the books

For the educational association (I'm secretary/treasurer)


1. Type minutes from last board meeting
2. Reconcile state association bill with district deduction list
3. Monthly financial report for Thursday's meeting

Personal

1. Pay bills
2. Balance checkbook

School

1. Check students' Renzulli portfolios and project plans
2. Plan grammar lessons for the week
3. Bake treats for Monday's faculty room (each grade level takes a month to
provide treats

Church

1. Talk to moderator about next week's congregational meeting.

REALLY WANT TO ACCOMPLISH

Christmas:

1. Wrap long-distance gifts and package so they can be shipped
2. Order or buy rest of long-distance gifts
3. Buy Christmas tree
4. Put up window lights and outdoor lights
5. Get out my nativity set

Errands:

1. Return pants to JCPenny
2. Take ring to jewelry store for repair

REST, and RELAXATION

1. Knit
2. Finish book #99
3. Go to church fair and take the holiday house tour

OTHER

1. Wash kitchen floor
2. change the sheets
3. Vacuum downstairs



Maybe I should just give up now!!!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Almost There! #97 and #98

I'm almost to my goal of 100 books in 2008.

Chat Chat by Archer Mayor


My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
It's a good entry in the Joe Gunther series. I haven't read the Joe Gunther series in a while, so it was good to get re-acquainted. This was a gripping mystery-suspense up to the last few chapters where it seemed to lose steam. I enjoyed it anyway.


View all my reviews.


Trojan Gold: A Vicky Bliss Mystery (Book 4) Trojan Gold: A Vicky Bliss Mystery by Elizabeth Peters


My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
I am an ardent fan of Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody series, but I don't remember reading any novels featuring Vicky Bliss before. On the down side, this isn't the first book in the series, so there seemed to be a great deal of backstory that I've missed. On the up side, the book made me laugh in several places. It is a mystery-adventure, and there is murder and mayhem, but there's farce too. A nice escape!


View all my reviews.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mitts and More Mitts

Here's what I've been knitting this past week or so.

IMG_1153

These are "child" size mitts, not meant for adult hands. They are knit of Mode Dea Sassy Stripes -- 2 pairs from one skein, with some left over, on size 5 dpns. The pattern is by Amanda Gill at Gaea Creations.


They join the larger family of previously knitted Princess Mitts:

IMG_1154

A Couple of Things That Make It Worthwhile

I've been having a tough year so far at school, and some days I've been really wondering why I do the work I do. I was reminded today, on two different occasions, why I love my job, at least most of the time.

I have an open-door after school work/help session policy with my students. I invite kids to spend time with me after school to work on homework, get help, etc whenever they (or their parents) need to stay. I've made arrangements with one parent that her student will stay with me on Mondays. Student is not happy about it. While Student is very bright, and quite capable, school is not at the top of Student's list of priorities, and therefore instead of great grades, Student receives the dreaded average grade and the "not working to capacity" comment. Student is not concerned, but Parent is, and I too know Student could do better. So Student stays reluctantly. Yesterday I received one of those terrific notes from parents -the ones that don't come as often as we like. The parent thanked me for making this time available, and for continuing to push Student to excel. It's a rare treat lately for parents to commend us -- we've really been berated a lot lately for a number of things (that frankly are beyond our individual control). So that was the reminder #1 of why we do what we do.

The second reminder brought me to tears. A student from last year arrived in my room after school yesterday as I was feverishly trying to clean up, and I was also trying to get sub plans done since I will be at workshop on Monday. He was a student I really enjoyed having, and he usually stops by my room to say hi a couple of times a week. On this occasion he came in and started pouring his heart out to me. He was nervous about the holiday since it was the first big one since his parents' divorce. He shared with me that he'd been in therapy since the middle of last year (something I knew, but he didn't know I knew) and that although he hated going, he knew it was helping him a lot. He went on to tell me about all the things he liked about my classes, and told me that even though reading/language arts was not a subject he liked, I had made it interesting and fun, and "you picked good books for me to read." It was one of those conversations that make you know that you had really connected with a student. As I said, the tears were right there, and again, it was one of those rare moments where you know you've made a difference.

These moments go a very long way to help alleviate all the down sides of our jobs as teachers. And fortunately, these reminders come when I most need them. I am grateful for them!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Closing in on 100 --- #95 and #96

All Mortal Flesh: A Rev. Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mystery All Mortal Flesh: A Rev. Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mystery by Julia Spencer-Fleming


My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
Another gripping read! And a zinger of an ending. I may have to break down and buy the hardcover of the next one because I don't think I want to wait for the paperback to be published.


View all my reviews.


And the second book I just finished is:

The Land of the Silver Apples The Land of the Silver Apples by Nancy Farmer


My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is a sequel to The Sea of Trolls, and it continues the story of Jack, an apprentice bard. This time his sister Lucy is kidnapped by the elves, and Jack's task is to rescue her. He meets some new allies -among them a Pict and some hobgoblins, and he discovers some startling truths about himself and his family. While I enjoyed this book, I liked the first one more. I will read the final installment when it's published, next spring, I believe.


View all my reviews.

Mix, blend, stir, and shake!

A timely Friday Five from the RevGalPal blog.

1) Do you have a food processor? Can you recommend it? Which is to say, do you actually use it?

I have a Cuisinart food processor which I really like. I use it fairly frequently -- when I'm in a cooking mood. My life is so busy that we use many more "ready-to-go" so I don't need to use the processor as much.

2) And if so, do you use the fancy things on it? (Mine came with a mini-blender (used a lot and long ago broken) and these scary disks you used to julienne things (used once).)

I use several of the discs and blades. I used the shredder blade for cole slaw and to shred carrots, and I use the large blade for general processing.

3) Do you use a standing mixer? Or one of the hand-held varieties?

I have a Kitchen Aid standing mixer. I use it very frequently. I chose the brick red color. I even have the meat grinding attachment but I've never used that feature. It was free.


4) How about a blender? Do you have one? Use it much?

I don't have a blender anymore. It died. I did buy a handheld Oster puree machine which I like for soups.


5) Finally, what old-fashioned, non-electric kitchen tool do you enjoy using the most?
I use my pastry cutter a lot, and I also use my whisk several times a week.

Bonus: Is there a kitchen appliance or utensil you ONLY use at Thanksgiving or some other holiday? If so, what is it?

I use a cookie press at Christmas for "spritz" cookies.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Book #94

Someone asked me how I find time to read so many books. Well, I read everyday, even it's only for a few minutes. Since I eat breakfast alone, that's my prime reading time most days. I do read quickly, so as long as it's a novel, I can usually read a chapter with my coffee and breakfast. I also keep a book in the car. My husband and I go to our local wellness center three times a week. He meets me at school between 4:15 and 4:30, so about 4:15 I head out to my car and wait for him. That's another reading time. Sometimes I get to read during reading class too --- when I do reading workshop with the kids, I'll pull out my own book for 5-10 minutes, before I start conferencing with individuals.

Anyway, here's book # 94

To Darkness and to Death (A Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mystery) To Darkness and to Death by Julia Spencer-Fleming


My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
I have enjoyed all of the books in this series, so far, but I found this one to be the most gripping. The overall tone of the book feels a little darker in some ways, and yet some of the plot twists seemed almost farcical. the love affair between Rev. Claire and Russ is becoming more open, too, with a startling declaration at the end of the book. . . .


View all my reviews.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I Needed This

Today was Veterans' Day, and we had no school. I needed today. I spend all weekend working --- about 7 hours on Saturday, and another 5 hours on Sunday. I had some grading to do, and a lot of prepping for my science classes. I also had to modify some spelling units for my IEP kids. And of course there was the business bookkeeping. That takes me about 10-15 hours a month, and of course, always coincides with my busy school weekends. Needless to say, I never got any down time this past weekend.

So today, I devoted to rest and recuperation. I played some Pathwords and Scramble on Facebook, I did some reading, I did a little laundry, and I did some knitting. I read a couple of wonderful blogs postings and articles about Veterans' Day too.

Here are two knitting projects. The first are the Princess Mitts from Clara Parkes' Book of Yarn. I used some Nashua Creative Focus Superwash.

IMG_1146



The second project that I'm still working on is the Rainy Day scarf and I'm using Fiesta Swoon. That's a wool/silk blend, and it's really luxurious feeling.

IMG_1149

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Finished Object


sylvan pleated scarf
Originally uploaded by dswgr6
I finished this scarf recently. It's a pattern from Green Mountain Spinnery done in their Sylvan Spirit. It was fun to knit, and I love the way it pleats.

sylvan pleated scarf

Friday, November 7, 2008

Book #92 ( I think)

Stalking Ivory: A Jade Del Cameron Mystery (Jade del Cameron Mysteries) Stalking Ivory: A Jade Del Cameron Mystery by Suzanne Arruda


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the second book in the series. I enjoyed it as much as the first. Jade Del Cameron is not your average travel writer and mystery solver. It's the 1920's and she's a former American WWI ambulance driver living at present in Africa. In this novel, Jade is attempting to photograph elephants in the wild, when she stumbles into ivory poachers and a plot to overthrow the Abyssinian government. Sam Featherstone, an American would-be movie maker, and former pilot, becomes her ally and potential romantic interest. Suzanne Arruda knows her time period, and evokes post-war Africa quite well.


View all my reviews.

A Not-So-Wonderful-Week

Just some of the week's notable moments:

**Two parents publicly bashing our team in general, and some individual teachers specifically, saying we don't do enough for their children

**Recording an awful lot of D's and F's on report cards - due to the fact that some of our students refuse to do any work either in school or out of school

**Ten students (out of 19) not putting their names on their paper

**Only 30% of a class completed a reading assignment (10 pages in 2 nights)

**A student erased a note in his planner that Mom never saw


These are the kind of weeks that make me question whether or not I can make it another 5 years.

It kind of overshadowed the excitement and joy of the election.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Testing, testing

I love taking these quizzes! Must be the teacher in me. I'm never sure how accurate they are though, and sometimes the answer choices don't give an option I'm totally comfortable choosing. But this one was fun!

Your result for The Best Thing About You Test...

Intelligence

Intelligence is your strongest virtue


Intelligence (also called intellect) is an umbrella term used to describe a property of the mind that encompasses many related abilities, such as the capacities to reason, plan, and solve problems. And you? Your brain shines. All 7 virtues are a part of you, but your intelligence runs deepest.


It is likely you're a smarty-pants. And it's likely (but not necessary) that your discipline score is high also. It takes a certain resolve to maintain all those neural thingies.


Intelligent famous people: Einstein, Shakespeare, Da Vinci.


Your raw relative scores follow. 0% is low, and 100% is perfect, nearly impossible. Note that I pitted the virtues against each other, so in some way these are relative scores. It's impossible to score high on all of them, and a low score on one is just relatively low compared to the other virtues.


YOUR VIRTUES


40% Compassion


56% Intelligence


13% Humility


33% Honesty


50% Discipline


43% Courage


33% Passion

Take The Best Thing About You Test at HelloQuizzy

Sunday, October 19, 2008

From Church to Knitting to Church -- All in A Weekend

I've been on overdrive since I got home from work Friday. Left school at 3:30 and did a few errands, ending up at the church to meet up with my co-worship planner for next Sunday. We are pastor-less right now --- our settled pastor left 2 years ago, and our interim resigned a month ago. Our search team has just put our profile out into the denomination, so we hope that in the next 2 or 3 months, we can find a new settled pastor. Meanwhile we either get a "supply" pastor, or create some lay=led services. Next Sunday is a one such laity service. It's Reformation Sunday, and we will also be acknowledging All Saints' Day a week early. (We're participating in a joint service on Nov 2nd with a neighbor church) So my co-planner and I spent almost 2 hours mapping out the service and locating resources. We decided early on to focus the children's moment on the gifts given to the church in memory of our previous "saints". We'll set up the communion table which was purchased in memory of a beloved deacon, and place various other gifts - candlesticks, lecturn Bible, carillon tapes, hymnals, etc. The joint sermon (which has yet to be written) will somehow tie the birthing of the Protestant church and our Puritan "saints" to all the "saints" and personal spiritual heroes we all have. We'll ask the congregation to write the name(s) of their own personal spiritual heroes on sticky notes, and bring them forward to stick on some beautiful posters from the church school curriculum of Moses, the apostles, and other spiritual leaders. Got home late and made myself a grilled cheese sandwich and soup for dinner since my husband wasn't home.

Saturday my Knitting Friend and I boarded a chartered bus for a 3 1/2 hour drive to Rhinebeck at 6:30 am. This was our first trip to the NY State Sheep and Wool Show, and we had a blast! The weather was chilly but otherwise perfect for a fall show. The place was mobbed too. I drooled over many skeins of hand-dyed yarn, especially the gorgeous skeins from Ellen's 1/2 Pint farm. But Knitting Friend and I have made a pact not to buy any yarn unless we have a specific project in mind. We both have a long, long queue of projects all set to knit, except for having the time to do it. I did buy an Addi Turbo lace needle, size 7, for a project I started but have been having problems with because I didn't have a sharp enough needle. I also bought a pattern from Foxfire Fibers where we met Melissa Morgan-Oakes which was really cool! This was our first time here, so we just really enjoyed the day. We got home about 10 pm, and then I had to do some typing for my husband who had to have it done before he left on business at 8 am this morning.

Today has been busy with church - I was lay reader, and then I had to moderate the church council meeting. That was an interesting experience, since I'd never done that before. (I was recently appointed as vice-moderator). And something happened today that I've never experienced. One of our older members fainted during the Prayers of the People. The guest pastor was wonderful as 911 was called, and the ambulance crew showed up. He kept everyone calm, led us in prayer for her and her family, and didn't blink an eye. We think she's all right, but they are going to be running some tests. Then, after church, I had to do the grocery shopping since my husband wasn't around to do it! So now after some relaxation, I have to start my school work for tomorrow. Definitely no rest for the weary.

So now it's time to do my homework, not to mention maybe some housework, and then it's time to start the whole workweek again!

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Very Pleasant Day Off

Today is a day off from school. The kids have today and Monday off, we teachers just have today. Today is also officially Teachers' Convention day. Years ago, it was a normal school day like any other. If you wanted to go to the teachers' convention, you had to take a prof. dev. day and get a sub. Teachers would go to the convention because it was one of the easiest ways to earn credit towards recertification. Apparently in the past, so many teachers asked for the day off, the district couldn't get enough substitutes. So it became a "workshop day" and teachers had to either attend in-district training or go to the convention. Kids had no school. Then in a convoluted set of contract negotiations, the day became a "float" day. You could choose to work as one of your contracted days, or you could take the day off, and work that day at the end of the school year. In another set of convoluted negotiations, the local educational association got the right to vote every year as to whether it was a workshop day, a normal school day, or a day off. For the past 5 years, the association has voted to take as a day off. However, we have to work on the official Columbus Day holiday. It makes no sense to me, because many of us have kids off Monday, or spouses off Monday, but we have to work. Our spouses are working today. Be that as it may, today was a very pleasant day.

I went shopping with a friend. We visited Cheshire Goldsmith, our favorite jewelry store, where she dropped off some earrings for repair work. We tried on several bracelets and I fell absolutely in love with a multi-colored sapphire tennis bracelet that I absolutely can't afford. I also found a gorgeous white gold and diamond bracelet that looked a bit like two strands of silver braided together which, although much less expensive, was also more than I can spend. But it doesn't hurt to dream. And I do have one or two treasures from that store that I have received as special anniversary gifts. I really like this family-owned store. They not only offer quality jewelry but super customer service. I inherited an antique ring that's too small for me. I took it into the shop to be resized. The owner told me that it couldn't be done without major risk of destroying the architecture of the ring. He also said that even if the resizing was successful, the alteration would devalue the its worth. I appreciated his honesty and so the ring is now in my safe deposit box for a future granddaughter or daughter in law. Next we visited a great yarn shop, The Knitting Knook. I went in to buy a needle, and came out with the needle, 3 skeins of Plymouth Suri Merino, and 2 tubes of beads to make a beaded scarf that we saw on display. We then headed to the local JC Penney's and took advantage of some great sales. Then it was on to Bed, Bath and Beyond and Borders, to use some gift certificates we both had. We enjoyed a relatively light lunch at the Olive Garden and then headed for the NH Liquor and Wine Outlet to stock up on our supplies. Aside from the fact that I always have a great time with my girlfriend, the only thing we bought that was an unplanned purchase was the yarn. And in our minds, that doesn't count!!! And everything else, including the wine, was on sale.

So, all in all, it was indeed, a very pleasant day off. And, I have 2 more days of weekend ahead!!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Good Thing, Considering I Have to Teach a 6th Grade Math Skills Group!




You Passed 8th Grade Math



Congratulations, you got 10/10 correct!

Book #86, I think

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney


My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a terrific book that captures the middle school experience perfectly. It's written partially in cartoons and "hand printed" script, and is the story of Greg and his best friend Rowley. Told from Greg's first person point of view, the novel covers an entire school year. Greg shares his triumphs, disappointments, and most embarassing moments in a chatty format. There is lots of humor, and several of my students who have read the book, mentioned that they found it easy to identify with Greg. The cartoons "Greg" draws are very funny too!


View all my reviews.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Friday at last!

Another week is done, and the weekend is finally here. It was a fairly calm week for a change. I am dealing with a couple of student issues, and progress reports had to be finished this week, but otherwise it's pretty much business as usual. Next week is a 4 day week, but 2 of the days are state testing. There's a lot of pressure on us because we're a school who didn't make AYP in math 2 years in a row.

This weekend will be busy --- bookkeeping for my husband's business, church - I'm in charge of communion this Sunday, and of course, the grading and planning. We're supposed to be going to a play tomorrow night, so that should be a fun evening with friends.

More later.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Knitting Content

 
Posted by Picasa


These are the Francie Sock. I found the pattern here, and I really enjoyed knitting them. I used Valley Yarn's Huntington from WEBS. They are different -- there's a textured foot, and the gusset decreases were done from the bottom of the foot rather than from the instep. I knit them exactly as the pattern was written. I only did 1.5 repeats for the leg, and they fit perfectly. I wear an 8.5 wide shoe and have very thick ankles and calves. I haven't worn them yet as it hasn't been wool sock weather just yet, but I am looking forward to wearing them a lot.

Don't Read -- It's too depressing

It's been a long, exhausting, emotionally-draining, and spirit-deadening week. On Monday I was told that starting in mid October I will now have another prep -- this time, a math skills group to teach every day. It's not just me, all the teachers in my school will have to teach math skills during our mandated skills block. I guess that ordinarily I wouldn't fuss so much, but I'm already teaching 2 classes outside my area, and am spending most of my time prepping for a new curriculum area for me. I'm not sure where I'll fit the math prep in. I'm now teaching 2 science classes, 2 reading/language arts classes, and now will add the math class. I am certified as an elementary teacher, but I teach in a 6-8 middle school. For 15 years I've taught reading/language arts and social studies --- my specialty areas, and in addition to my elementary certification, I'm HQT in both. Math isn't my strong suit, but I did take 4 college math courses, plus my math methods course, so at least I feel comfortable with doing that. But we have teachers who hold secondary certification in social studies or language art who have NEVER taught math, so they are spooked!

We also had to deal with the sudden death of an elementary student in one of the district schools. We live in a small community so that hits us all hard. Last winter a high school student died in an accident, and then we had a middle school student die from flu complications last spring. So this week took quite a toll on many of us emotionally.

And then of course, all the usual stuff --- too much paperwork, too much grading, too many students needing too much attention. It wears you down, sometimes.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Book #80

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key (Joey Pigza Books) Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
Laugh out loud funny, and yet there is an undertone of sadness. My 6th graders love this book which I'm reading to them now as a read-aloud. Joey had ADHD and is constantly getting into trouble in school. Quite accidentally he injures another student and is sent to a special school "to learn how to behave." The sadness for me, comes from the fact that so many of our kids today face the realities that Joey faces -- a single parent, dysfunctional family life, alcoholic parents. Yet Jack Gantos handles these realities with a light touch, and kids can identify with Joey who sometimes feels like a warm Coke bottle that has been shaken up and might burst. (a paraphrase, since my copy of the book is at school.) It elicits some good discussion about special ed programs too.






View all my reviews.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Back to School Friday Five -- even if it's Sunday

From the RevGalPals
It's time for a Back-To-School Friday Five!

1. Is anyone going back to school, as a student or teacher, at your house? How's it going so far?

I'm a teacher so I am back to school as usual. It's been a tougher than usual return. I'm in a new room, with a new teaching partner (who is terrific, thank goodness!) and I'm teaching a whole new subject for me. I've always taught social studies and reading/language arts. This year I'm teaching science and reading/language arts. I'm not happy about the change, and I'm really struggling with not teaching my favorite subject in the world. And I'm also struggling with teaching a subject I don't know very well. We also have a new schedule including a Skills block to prep for, as well as new curriculum for our Academy block. Too many new things over which I have no control. The kids are really nice, but VERY needy academically and socially.

2. Were you glad or sad when back-to-school time came as a kid?

I always loved school! While I loved vacation, I loved being in school as much.

3. Did your family of origin have any rituals to mark this time of year? How about now?
When I was really young, my mom took "back to school" pictures of us, dressed in our new clothes. She continued with this tradition, probably til my youngest sibling (11 years younger than me) went to first grade.

4. Favorite memories of back-to-school outfits, lunchboxes, etc?

I remember a gorgeous maroon and plaid flannel dress I wore the first day of 4th grade. I loved the dress and insisted on wearing it on my first day in a new school in the community we'd just moved to. However, as is usual, that first day was about 90 ° and I roasted. I also got off at the wrong bus stop (1st time I'd ridden a school bus) and had to walk about 3 miles home in the heat. I always had a new lunchbox, too, with a thermos. I kind of miss the old metal lunchboxes!

I also remember wearing rubber boots and rubbers to school on rainy days. Remember the sucking sound your rubbers made as you tried to pull them off your shoes?? I graduated high school in 1972, so we weren't allowed to wear pants for almost all of my school years. I think pants began to be allowed when I was a junior in high school.


5. What was your best year of school?

I think I'd have to say freshman and sophomore years of high school. I'd found a niche with a small group of friends - kind of nerdy but not techno-nerd, rather more like literature nerds. We spent our free time in the library, writing notes to each other in Elvish, and spouting great bits of 1776, Shakespeare, and Ray Bradbury at each other. . . .

Saturday, September 6, 2008

School Daze




We've completed 7 days of school. Of course, we've had 7 brilliantly sunny, warm, gorgeous days --- after a summer of rain, rain, and more rain. That's usually what happens. The first September of retirement (2014?) I plan to take a vacation sometime during the first or 2nd week of school because I can count on great weather!



I'm settling into my new classroom. There's more floor space than I expected, and the room is actually almost square shaped. I have one wall of solid windows, another wall of fake whiteboard (shower stall sheets) and 2 cinder block walls. There is no storage space of any kind, so I have a collection of scavenged bookshelves, tables, and crates, some filing cabinets, and lots of boxes under tables. The biggest challenge right now is the fact the windows are south-facing and there are no shades. It's so bright that I can't use any sort of projection device which totally changes how I teach. Plus, it's hot. I've been keeping track of the heat because we just spent almost $10 million to build an addition, renovate existing space, and upgrade ventilation systems. Only 2 of my windows open. On Thursday, at 6:15 am my classroom was 78°F -- and I'd purposely left my windows open overnight. By 8 am my classroom was 85°F and at noon it was 89°. And that reading comes from the wall thermostat on the hallway side of my room where the direct sun doesn't reach. The cheap thermometer I bought at the dollar store on Tuesday over by the window side of my room was 5-7° warmer at any given time. On the positive side, I made administration aware of the problem, and they're trying to resolve it. I just wish the architect had asked the teachers who inhabit the classrooms what they needed!



Monday is science lab experience #1 for me. It's an easy experiment, but it's the first time I've ever done a lab with kids. I don't need a lot of materials -- ice, hot water, thermometers. I got creative --- since I don't have a sink in my room, I brought in a large coffee urn to heat the water, and I will bring in a small cooler with ice. I have a bucket to fill from the sink in the hall. So all I have to do is set up the 5 lab stations for each class, instruct the kids on safety procedures, and then . . . have at it! Wish me luck!

I just finished looking over assessment data on my kids, and I realized I have to have 3 spelling groups this year. About half my kids can use the regular 6th grade spelling program, but I will have to either greatly modify the program for about 1/4 of them or find something else for them. The other 1/4 will need something quite advanced -- I'll probably have them use a vocabulary program I have. They are above grade level by 3-5 years, while the lower group is 3 years below grade level. I'm teaching 2 sections of reading/language arts this year so I'm dealing with just under 40 kids. I run a reading workshop in my classroom, so it's a little easier to differentiate the reading than it is the "formal" spelling. What's tricky for me this year is that I have only 50 minutes daily to teach reading, writing, and spelling.

Oh and finally --- a sight that probably won't be seen again soon -- a clean desk!

Friday, August 29, 2008

What's for Dinner? A Food Meme

I found this at Cathy's Grace Notes:

This is fun, and everybody's doing it. Andrew put together a list of 100 foods he thinks any good omnivore should have tried at least once. Andrew is British, so his list doesn't include some things this Yank might believe to be must-tries.


How the Omnivore's 100 works:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.

2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.

3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

4) Optional: Post a comment at Very Good Taste, linking to your results.

My theory is: I'll try anything once.

MY OMNIVORE'S 100

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile (I have had alligator, though)
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PBJ sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes (rhubarb, and black current wine, most recently)
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (not the cigar, though)
37. Clotted Cream Tea
38. Vodka Jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat, (grilled, though, not curried)
42. Whole insects (I'm sure I've eaten parts, not purposely!)
43. Phaal
44. Goat's milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth $120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV Oh, yes, try 14%
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. kaolin -
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (how 'bout all of them?)
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang Souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom Yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. 3 Michelin Star Tasting Menu
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers(nasturtiums, violets, pansies, roses)
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

What about you?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I Finished my Nantucket Jacket

It took me just over one month to knit this:



This is Norah Gaughan's Nantucket Jacket. I really enjoyed knitting this. It was actually easy. The fit is pretty good. As usual the shoulders are a bit too wide, but everything else is good. This next photo isn't a good one -- the jacket kept swinging as I tried to photo myself. Someday when there's another photographer around, I'll try to get a better picture.



While I really like the double crochet scalloping along the collar, I don't like it all the way down the front. I think I will redo the edging, leaving the sides with just a single crochet edging. The colors are little grayer in the picture than in real life.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Friday Five - On Saturday Morning

From the RevGalBlogPals, courtesy of RevSongbird:
Here are five things to ponder about dates. I hope you'll play!

1) Datebooks--how do you keep track of your appointments? Electronically? On paper? Month at a glance? Week at a glance?

I mostly keep dates in my head. This is getting a little more difficult as I age. I also use a little pocket calendar that I get courtesy of my local education association. At home we have a regular wall calendar with boxes big enough to write on. I love searching for the perfect calendar - it has to have beautiful photography, and the photos have to suit both my husband and me. So no tractors or trucks, no joky or cartoons, no advertising, etc. I usually go with wonderful travel photography, national parks, flowers, or my favorite - a calendar featuring a Psalm quotation and a photo of God's glorious creation. I used to use a Palm Pilot, but then forgot to look at it. For school, I use my plan book to note things like assemblies, field trips and deadlines.

2) When was the last time you forgot an important date?

Last spring. I totally spaced a meeting of the local education association executive board. I finished up at school earlier than usual, and decided to take advantage of the "free" time, and went home early for a change.

3) When was the last time you went OUT on a date?
Date? What's that? To be honest, my husband and I never dated, if you can believe that! We met in college and spent a lot of time together as part of a group. None of my friends had a car on campus. He was a couple of years older, working on campus, and he had a pickup truck. He used to take a bunch of us out on Saturdays to a local pizza place. He and I spent a lot of time talking on the phone, getting to know each other that way. We joke that our first date was after we got married and went to a movie together. I guess I could say that the last time we went "out on a date" was last May when we went to see the newest Indiana Jones movie. If you asked my husband, he'd say our last date was grocery shopping together though.

4) Name one accessory or item of clothing you love even though it is dated.

I have a pair of culottes that I live in when it's hot. I have no idea how old they are, but definitely in the 10-15 years old era. I also have a knit dress that is equally as old, but doesn't look dated. It's got an empire waist, and is sort of A-line with short sleeves. I love this dress, but it's wearing out. It's very flattering too --- looks great when I'm thinner, but still looks good when I'm not-thinner.

5) Dates--the fruit--can't live with 'em? Or can't live without 'em?

I LOVE DATES! My mom used to make the best date bars, but I can't find her recipe. We used to have stuffed dates at Christmas too -- stuffed with cream cheese and/or walnuts.

Tick, tick, tick . . . .

The hours of "freedom" are speeding by. The freedom of setting my own schedule, dawdling in the morning, staying up late if I choose to, sitting on the porch knitting in the afternoon, are over as of tomorrow. It's back to the hectic routine - leaving the house at 6:30 am and returning at 6:30 pm. Then the chores, then phone calls to parents, then maybe a really short knitting session before I head to bed to start all over again. I will miss the summer.

We were finally allowed back in the building this past week. Due to renovation and construction, the building has been off limits all summer. I spent 3 days of my free time this past week - 3 glorious, sunny, warm, beautiful days -- in my classroom trying to make sense of a new space with no storage. The room itself is decently sized, and it's a regular, almost square room, with lots of natural light. I get the sun from dawn to just after noon, so it's quite a warm room. We have brand new windows too, across an entire wall; however in their infinite wisdom, only 2 of them open. At 2:30 Friday afternoon, I'd managed to unpack and arrange the last of the boxes. At 2:35 Friday afternoon, 11 more boxes that had been in storage since January, arrived. I have no place for the materials in these boxes. Two of them I pawned off on another teacher since they contained resources for a subject I won't be teaching this year. (More about that later). Two of them I lugged down to my car since the contents contained personal items I had collected for the subject I won't be teaching. The rest contain project supplies --- beads, feathers, cellophane paper, clay, paints, etc. I have to find storage for these items. One of my grade level teachers in the other wing has offered me some shelf space in her closet but unfortunately the boxes are too big for the shelf. I will have to unpack them. I don't know when this will happen. Monday is our first contracted day and most of it is scheduled with meetings. Monday night is the annual ice cream social for our incoming students and families. Tuesday has more meetings/trainings scheduled and then the students arrive on Wednesday. I haven't had time to even consider the 'decoration and beautification" of my space --- it's all business right now.

I'm more stressed out over the fact that I am teaching a new subject this year instead of the subject I love, trained for, and have taught for 15 years. I haven't been trained in the new subject, and do not have the background or wealth of knowledge that the students deserve. I will truly be "one step ahead" of my students this year and that makes me genuinely sad and unhappy. I will do my best, but I fear my students will be short-changed. I'd be happier about this if I had had the chance to discuss this with administration, but that never happened. The overriding concern was that it was decided that "small learning communities" are better for the students, even if it means 3 of us are teaching outside our areas of expertise. On the plus side, I am thrilled to be working with the teacher I'm going to be teamed with. He's a really good guy and great teacher. He's young enough to be my son so our kids will get the benefit of two generations!

So as the year starts, I'm not a happy camper. I am trying to get over the negativity though, and I do look forward to meeting all my new students! I could use a few prayers and good thoughts sent my way though!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Final Countdown

The last week before school starts is here. It's incredible how slowly the last weeks of school creep by, and how quickly the last weeks of summer fly by. (Sort of like Mike Phelps!)

I haven't accomplished many of my summer goals. My house still is completely unorganized, I've lost control again with my diet, we still don't have a home office/library set up. . . . but I did get some knitting accomplished and oh, how I've read. I've kind of lost track of what # book I'm on. I think I just finished #73. I've got my complete list of 2008 books here at Goodreads. The weather this summer has been extremely wet, and relatively cool. We've had a only a few unbearably hot, humid days so I am grateful for that. We've had over 30 days of heavy rain though since June 1st which is really unusual. Normally we get around 45 inches of rain per year, and in mid July we'd already reached almost 40!

So this week looks rather busy:

1. A day trip with a good friend to Green Mountain Spinnery, Basketville/Putney Winery, and L.A. Burdick - yarn, wine, chocolate, what could be better? These are all in the same neck of the woods, and only about 45 minutes from where I live.

2. Into school to start unpacking the boxes that have been moved to my new room. Our school has undergone major construction and renovation, and I had to move out my wonderfully spacious, though oddly shaped room last April to one of the brandnew huge classrooms, and then repack for a move to a freshly painted, tiny "old" classroom with absolutely no storage. Not only to I have to unpack, I have to figure out how to set up this classroom for maximum efficiency. I will be teaching language arts (as I've done for the last 15 years, and science which I taught once 16 years ago at another grade level.) I have no science supplies, and tons of social studies resources which I will have to sort through, passing on the school bought resources to the teacher who is teaching social studies for the first time. This change is not of my choosing at all! This will probably consume most of my free mornings this week.

3. A new teacher luncheon/workshop on Thursday is on tap. I'm part of the local education association executive board and will help host the new teachers and help them understand the benefits of joining the association.

4. I have to get a copy of the science curriculum and GLE's (grade level expectations) and familarize myself with the textbook. And somehow figure out what I'm doing with science. Of course, I have to start planning the details for the activities of the first 2 weeks of school. We have a general outline, but I have to nail down the specifics of things like "Getting to Know You" activities, preparation for our first field trip on Sept. 3rd, and introducing our 6th graders to the middle school.

5. Finish my Nantucket jacket, block it, sew it together, and hope it fits! I've got one more sleeve to do.

6. Assist my husband with last-minute administrative details for his start of the school year. I do the bookkeeping and secretarial work for his school transportation company. In my free time, of course!


So, all in all, a busy week.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Girl with No Shadow - #69

Wow!! What a novel!

The Girl with No Shadow: A Novel The Girl with No Shadow: A Novel by Joanne Harris


My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is definitely one of my "best books." It's a sequel to Chocolat, picking up the story of Vianne Rocher. She's in Paris now, in a new identity, and she has abandoned her magic, and instead has concentrated on "fitting in." Into her carefully constructed life, comes Zozie de L'Alba who turns everything on its head with her hurricane life. Joanne Harris tells the story from 3 viewpoints - Vianne, Zozie, and Anouk, and weaves an intricate tale. Identity and seduction are the main themes. What are the costs of living as your true self? The costs of living a lie? What is worth having? What is true safety? There are several threads woven into this story: mother/daughter conflict; adolescent rebellion; a love triangle; identity theft. Joanne Harris descriptions of the Montmartre neighborhood bring it to life, and I could smell and taste every confectionery, as well as see the cobblestoned streets, and Zozie's bright red seductive shoes. I didn't "read" this book however, I listened to the Harper Audio version. I honestly think that I experienced this book more deeply listening to it than if I had read it. Listening forced me to slow down . . . I couldn't set the pace myself. Sometimes I think I miss subtle nuances when I read because I read so quickly. I know that I have a very well-constructed and fleshed-out visualization of the setting, and if I could draw, I could create a vivid picture of the chocolaterie and the Montmarte neighborhood. This is making me think about how I teach reading in my classroom. I've always done a lot of read aloud, and knew it had value beyond sharing a story.


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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Book #67 and #68, I think

I read 2 more Aunt Dimity books this week. I'm still listening to The Girl with No Shadow which I hope to finish later today ---- Here's some commentary about one of the aunt Dimity's.

Aunt Dimity's Death (Aunt Dimity Mystery) Aunt Dimity's Death by Nancy Atherton


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
Aunt Dimity's Death is the first book in a long series of cozy mysteries. Actually "mysteries" is probably not quite accurate. The stories are more like puzzles that the protagonist, Lori Shepherd sets out to solve. So far, only one of the books involves a possible homicide. Most of them seem to involve tracing missing relatives. I finally found this first installment in a used bookshop and read it after reading about half of the series. It didn't seem to matter. I enjoyed the "back story" as it were of how Lori and Dimity "got acquainted." If you haven't read this series, you need to know that Aunt Dimity isn't really Lori's aunt, and in fact, Dimity is dead. She is a spirit who communicates with Lori through a journal, giving her advice and suggestions. Lori inherited Dimity's cottage in the Cotswolds, as well as Dimity's Westwood Trust that supports a huge charitable empire. These books are full of gentle humor, "slice of life" episodes, and I find them thoroughly enjoyable.


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The 2nd Aunt Dimity book was this one:
Aunt Dimity and the Next of Kin (Aunt Dimity (Paperback)) Aunt Dimity and the Next of Kin by Nancy Atherton


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
I love the Aunt Dimity books by Nancy Atherton. They are gentle stories, with humor and just enough puzzle to keep me reading. I haven't been able to find all of them at my library and I've been reading them out of order. But I don't think it matters. Aunt Dimity is actually a spirit who communicates to her adopted niece, Lori, through an old journal. Lori is an American who inherited Dimity's cottage (and fortune) in the Cotswolds and lives there with her American lawyer husband and their twin boys. Nancy Atherton, the author, depicts village life with its positives and negatives, and also creates a not-quite-so-perfect heroine. They are somewhat formulaic, but that's part of the appeal! This particular addition has a main character who dies early in the book, leaving a puzzle for Lori to solve. It seems very like the first book in the series which introduces all the characters.


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