Friday, December 30, 2011

In Which I Learn Something New

I never knew you could sprain a jaw.  Apparently I have done so.  For the past 10 days or so, the left side of my jaw, at the joint, has been sore to the touch.  I thought I had a swollen gland since I've also been fighting the ubiquitous cold.  Then it started to hurt to open my mouth wide - like when you take a big bite of something, or when you yawn.  Last week I decided that if it still hurt after Christmas, I'd call my doctor. On Tuesday, I saw the nurse practitioner who diagnosed an undetermined infection (perhaps a sebaceous cyst infection) so she put me on an antibiotic.  She told me that if it didn't feel better after 24 hours on the meds,  I should call my dentist. Yesterday I called the dentist, and he fit me in right at the end of the day.  He examined my jaw thoroughly, eliminated a number of possibilities, and then took a panoramic xray of my jaw.  After examining it, he hurriedly left the room.   When he returned, he told me that he'd made me an appointment with an oral surgeon for today.  He said "I maybe an alarmist, but there's something not right and I want a surgeon to look at it."  Of course, that made me feel quite calm (NOT!) and I spent a sleepless night.  My husband changed his work plans so that he could accompany me to the oral surgeon (about an hour's drive away) so I knew he was equally worried.  The oral surgeon did a thorough exam of my jaw, took a 2nd Xray, and finally told me that he was 99% sure it was a variety of TMJ and that I had sprained my jaw!  So for the next week, I am undergoing a regime of ibuprofen, warm compresses, and soft food.  If there is no improvement, he will set me up with some physical therapy - who knew you could get PT for a sprained jaw!  If that doesn't help there's an expensive diagnostic test he can do.  I asked him if he was sure enough that it wasn't something scarier because I'd be willing to pay for the test if he thought there was a strong possibility I would need it.  He reassured me, but also told me that it could take weeks for my jaw to feel better.  He did tell me that USUALLY he sees this in athletes or trauma, but very occasionally it's stress related.  He also said there might be a possibility that it's an arthritic condition, in which case, the treatment would be similar.

So I learned that you can sprain a jaw, and that you can get physical therapy for it.  I was also reminded of how much I like my dentist - he was worried enough to send me to a specialist, but also honest enough to tell me that he might be overreacting.  I also learned that I don't mind waiting in a doctor's office when the receptionist tells you the surgery the doctor was performing was taking a bit longer than usual, so he was running about 20 minutes behind and then she checks in with you twice to let you know what was going on.  Plus there was a help-yourself Keurig with many varieties of Kcups in the waiting room, new magazines, and lots of lovely plants.  And when the doctor finally sees you he apologizes for keeping you waiting.    As I told him, I'd rather wait than have you hurry the surgery!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Unachievable Goal: My Year in Books

I set a goal this year of reading 125 books.  I am not going to make it, and I may not even get to last year's level of 109 books.   I was probably overly-optimistic when I set it.  I did read a lot however, this year, and if I kept track of numbers of pages, I probably read  many more pages this year.  I realized that quite a few of the ooks I read were longer-than-usual books.  One of my achievements this summer was to read the entire George R.R. Martin Song of Ice and Fire series - those books totaled over 5000 pages.  Another goal I'd set was to read more nonfiction.

 I read 14 nonfiction books --- from a knitting memoir to a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer to a history of the number zero--- quite a variety of topics and quite frankly, several were somewhat challenging reads.  (Especially Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea.  The writing was terrific, but the abstract mathematics got to me eventually.) A couple of the nonfiction books I read stand out:  Rin Tin Tin: The Life and Legend , which described not only the dog(s) but chronicled the changes in American culture, and Packing for Mars:The Curious Science of Life in the Void.   I was fascinated with the descriptions of astronaut training, and I learned a lot about space travel.  I especially like books which answer questions I didn't know I had!

 I discovered  some new-to-me authors and series this year.  I especially enjoyed Louise Penny's Inspector Armand Gamache series, and I loved Mark Schweitzer's Hayden Konig series!  I can't wait to read new works by either author.  I continued to read the Charles Todd Inspector Rutledge series and continued visiting with Martha Grimes' Richard Jury, and Lindsey Davis' Marcus Didius Falco.

Staying abreast of middle school literature is a professional goal as well as a personal goal.  I read a number of books that either appeal to my students or that go along with our curricula.  I read several books about the Holocaust when I was teaching 7th grade.  Hana's Suitcase in particular stands out, and I also read it aloud to my students.  I was also very impressed by the 7th grade novel Swallowing Stones.  This book was a page turner and it really appealed to my students with its accurate depiction of adolescence and the moral dilemmas.

So what are  my goals for this year?  To keep reading of course.  I will probably keep the 125 books read as my goal, and see if I get any closer!

To see more in-depth reviews of the books I've read, check my books out on Goodreads. com . You can access them by clicking on the Goodreads button at the left.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Knitting Content


I have been knitting this sweater since last spring, but I finally finished it last week.  Now that the Christmas entertaining is done, I have started it blocking.  It's from Family Circle Easy Plus Size Knits  (Ravelry link) where it's called "A Sweater for All Seasons."  It's also in another FC book where it's called Lace Notes.  I used Valley Yarns Goshen.  in Colonial Blue. It was a fairly straightforward pattern, and an easy stitch pattern to memorize.    My only fear is that it is going to be too big.  We'll see.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!



Before . . . .Notice, I never got beyond getting lights on my tree.  No matter, it's the lights I like the best anyway.

Considering that only 3 people are celebrating together in this home this year, there seems to be quite a few gifts under this tree.  



And the after shot . . . .Most of the boxes have been recycled for several years.  Part of the fun is wondering   how many other gifts the box has held!  I mailed my sister her gifts in a box that someone sent us last year.  She mailed her gifts to us in the same box!

We had a lovely Christmas Eve with 2 friends we'd invited over for dinner and Elder Son.  We talked to Younger Son (in CA)  last evening, and again this morning.  Later we will call far-flung siblings.   We've been laughing a lot --- some very unique gifts from my husband!    All in all, an almost perfect day --- (Perfection being having the whole family here!)



Saturday, December 17, 2011

Stop the Clock, Please!

I had to take a sick day yesterday . . . a stomach bug laid me low for about 15 hours.  I was up all night, and at 5:15 am I requested a sub.  Then I had to pull together some sub plans.  On the rare occasions I'm out sick, I usually have some warning.  Usually I go in to school and realize by the end of the day that I might need plans so I have something ready to go and all I have to do is email the plans in.  Not so yesterday.  Not only did I have to pull some stuff together, I had to physically go into my classroom to pull out things the sub would need, and to clear off the mound of stuff on my desk!  I have a terrific husband however. He offered to drive me in and help me.  And boy, did he.  He ran the copy machine and stapled a packet together while I wrote plans, and then he drove me home.  I immediately went to sleep and except for some rapid trips to the bathroom, that's all I did all day.  With all that being said, I lost a most of the day to oblivion, not an ideal way to try to get ahead of all the holiday tasks.

I did wake up today energized, and feeling really good.  I've gotten a bunch of stuff crossed off my list, but of course still keep finding more things that should get done.  I wrapped and mailed all my niece and nephew gifts, and then went with my husband on a shopping expedition to find stocking stuffers, and few last select gifts.  I think we're done.  Now it's time to tackle some holiday cleaning and the usual laundry. I hope also to get some holiday baking done.  I just realized that Christmas Eve is next Saturday.  We have invited some dear friends over for dinner so I need to decide on the menu.  What's really got me a bit edgy about time, is that we have a full week of school . . . .no day before Christmas Eve off, to do the baking and last minute grocery shopping.  All that will have to be done after work this week  --- on top of all the regular weekly commitments.  So, my ardent wish right now is to get the clock to stop ticking, or at least to tick much more slowly  --- as long as I can continue working at a fairly quick clip!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Five: To Do Lists

Over on RevGalBlogPals the invitation is to list the things on your Christmas To Do list:
Ever since I was little, I heard that Santa is making a list and checking it twice. I can see why he has to keep checking it, because there is so much to do before Christmas! Only nine days left, and I don't have church services to plan, but there is much left to be done. My daughter-in-law tells me that she feels behind, which is how I have been feeling.
No matter how organized you are, there must be some things you still need to do. For this Friday Five, tell us five things on your Christmas "To Do" List. Include anything you have decided to skipdoing this year. As a bonus, give us something that helps you remember why this season even exists.


Here's my list as of today:


1.  Wrap and mail gifts for my nieces and nephews.
2.  Wrap gifts for my husband.
3. Purchase gift(s) for Elder Son and something for Younger Son.
4. Get the tree lights on the tree -- maybe even get the tree decorated.
5. Clear the dining room and buffet of STUFF so that we can eat Christmas Eve dinner (with guests!) and Christmas Day dinner on it.
6.  Bake cookies  
7.  Oh ... I was supposed to list only 5!


Skipped:  Decorating the interior of the house except for the nativity scene and the Advent candles.  I haven't even started listening to my huge collection of Christmas CDs, tapes, and vinyl.


And lighting the Advent candles in the middle of the kitchen table nightly helps me focus on the season.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Chocolate Crinkles - A New Cookie Favorite!



While I've eaten these cookies before, I've never made them because I never had a recipe for them.  When this recipe was posted on SimplyRecipes.com I had to try them.  They are yummy.  The chocolate flavor is super intense, and they almost melt in your mouth.  The recipe made 3 1/2 dozen and I admirably put a dozen and a half in the freezer for Christmas.  The rest . . . well, they went to a couple of eager stomachs!

Here's the recipe:


Chocolate Crinkles

If you want, you can jazzify these cookies in a number of ways. Add some cinnamon to confectioner's sugar. Roll the cookies around in colored sprinkles or sugars. For something a little more exotic, pulse the confectioner's sugar in a food processor with 2 teaspoons of Earl Grey, chai tea, or matcha powder.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

METHOD

1 In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (though you can do this with a wooden spoon, too) beat together the cocoa powder, white sugar, and vegetable oil until it comes together into a shiny, gritty, black dough of sorts.
2 Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds each. Add the vanilla and beat in thoroughly.
3 In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder if using. Mix into the chocolate mixture on low speed until just combined. Do not overbeat. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill the dough for four hours or overnight.
4 Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the confectioner's sugar in a wide bowl. Using a rounded teaspoon get clumps of the chilled dough and roll them into 1-inch (2.5 cm) sized balls using your hands. Roll the balls in the confectioner's sugar and place on the cookie sheets (you should be able to get 12-16 on each sheet). Bake for 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool a minute or two on the sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Yield: Makes approximately 50 cookies.
Simply Recipes http://simplyrecipes.com

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Friday Five: Random

This is from Friday's RevGalBlogPal post. I'm a little late.

 I don't know about you, but my life seems to have a lot of random surprises lately.  Just little things,
like the doggy in the picture, who was rescued by a Good Samaritan from running into traffic, who then brought him to the police, who brought him to my neighbor's house.  I took the doggy, now named Scout, to the vet on Monday, and the woman behind the desk said, "This dog looks so familiar.  Were you here last week?"  I told her no, that this particular dog is a stray, and she looked at me, and said (use your best Boston accent here), "Oh my GAWD!  I rescued that dog on Satuhday!  I took him to the police!" and then she proceeded to tell me the story.  She was Scout's angel.    

Random, right? 

So, for our Friday Five, I invite you share five random things about you, or five random thoughts, or five random surprises in your life. 

Just be random!

1.  I got a few Christmas preparations completed this weekend.   We bought our tree, and it's in its stand sans lights and decoration.  But it smells good.  I bought a wreath for the door too.  The first time in 30+ years that I didn't buy it at our church's Christmas fair last weekend.  One of the very few times I didn't attend that fair.  I completed a very few Christmas cards earlier today.  I LOVE getting cards, but the past few years I haven't gotten around to sending any.  I 'm trying to get them out this year.

2.  We went to visit Eldest Son down in MA yesterday afternoon.  It's about a 2 hour drive, and it was nice driving home and seeing the Christmas lights.  I noticed a two trends.  Many homes have carried the all-white theme to extremes.  White candles in every window, white lights on every bush and tree. White deer and tree and Santa "sculptures" in the yard.  Too much white, not enough contrast.  The other trend were how many people have the shrub netting over bushes.  It a lot of cases it looked too rigid.  We have a wreath, (just purchased) and yellowish candles in the windows.

3.  There are 2 full weeks of school left.  This year we only have one week of break.  

4.  We received the last CSA produce basket Friday.  No more until June.  We got a bushel basket filled with root veggies, potatoes, garlic, and squash.  I will especially miss the greens.

5.  I am not going to make my 2011 reading challenge goal of 125 books.  I'm in the middle of book #96.  I don't think I will even surpass last year's total of 109.  However, I did read more nonfiction this year than I have in past years - 14 titles in all.  I do read nonfiction more slowly than fiction, and many of the fiction books I read were in excess of 500 pages.  My husband says I should count pages, not books.  


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Friday Five: Intentionality

It's a busy season and our minds get caught up in lots of different things (a shiny new baby, in my case). We all know that especially during this time of year we have to be intentional about the things that are important or we can lose them. What are five things you try to be intentional about, whether it be for this season specifically or in general?   


This is the challenge this week over at RevGalBlogPal and it's a great one.  Rather timely too as I've been trying to recommit myself to some things that I've let go, and to rethink how/why I do other things. Here's my list:


1.  Both my husband and I are trying much harder to DE-CLUTTER our home.  We are packrats and we are sloppy.  When you combine those traits with long work weeks, a dash of laziness, and a home with few closets, you can get chaos.  We're also sentimental so we keep things, like a rock one of  our kids painted in kindergarten to look like Frankenstein (but of course we can't remember which son, and neither can either of the kids!)  And we're thrifty so we don't like to throw away things that might come in handy SOMEDAY.  We are trying to spend at least a few minutes of every weekend to really think about the multitude of things that fill our shelves and drawers and corners, and why we are keeping it. 


2.  I am trying to slow down when I can -- to do ONE task well, rather than 2 or 3 without thought.


3.  I am making sure that I take at least a few minutes everyday to just sit and breath, paying attention to the tension in my body and the intentional relaxation of those taut places.


4.  For Advent, I have been lighting the Advent wreath and using a devotional reading.  


5. Exercise.  It's something I've let slip, and I'm the worse for it.  I don't feel as well, my body isn't working as well, and the scale isn't working in my favor.  Life has gotten so crazy that it's been very easy to skip my classes.  I'm trying to find other ways to get exercise in if I can't make class.


6.  And an extra:  A dear aunt on my mother's side recently passed away.  During her last few months, as we realized she was slipping away, I started recognizing easy it is to let family connections slip, especially when they don't live nearby.  I've re-established contact with some cousins and an aunt whom I haven't seen in years.  They are all that's left on my father's side of the family, and I've realized that I want to keep that connection.  So I've been emailing them regularly and I've talked to my aunt a couple  of times.  I've also tried to email/talk with my own siblings at least once a week.  None of us live close by so it's easy to forget to talk them.  Suddenly it's been a month, and then two . . . NO more.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Book Reviews

I have been reading, but I just haven't gotten too many of my reviews posted here.  I do write about all the books I've read over on Goodreads, so if you're really interested you can check out my thoughts by clicking on the links over to the left.  Between lack of time and my intermittent internet service, I run out of time.

Here are a couple of my most recent comments:


The DovekeepersThe Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I couldn't put this book down!  Alice Hoffman has imagined the lives of four women who found themselves living at Masada in 70-73 C.E.  The novel is broken into 4 parts, each part of the story told from one of the women's perspectives.  The tragedy and triumph of Masada is brought to life through the lives of these women.  Hoffman's writing is beautiful. Her descriptions of sight, sound, and sense bring the reader to the place and time.  It's clear that Hoffman has thoroughly researched the time period and the culture of the first century Jewish community and its attempt to survive amid the onslaught of Rome.  I will admit that I think the book was a tad too long, but I was sorry when it ended!


View all my reviews


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was mostly a fascinating story, but it was also partly a nostalgic trip.  Although I was born the year that the TV series "Adventures of Rin-Tin-Tin" first aired, I do remember watching black and white episodes of the show as a youngster.  I did not have any idea however, that there had been a real dog named Rin Tin Tin, and I had no idea of the immensity of the Rin Tin Tin persona (if a dog can be said to have a persona!) In some ways this is a sad story:  Lee Duncan, the WWI soldier who rescued Rin Tin Tin and his sister Nanette in France, was singularly possessed by the dog, and by the idea of the dog.  When he died, he was still trying to make his dreams come true.  Later, Bert Leonard, Lee's heir apparent, died a broken man after his efforts to revive the legend failed.  Yet there is a lot of inspiration in this story.  Two intelligent men seized opportunity and ran with it as long as they could.

I learned quite a bit from this book too.  This story is in part the story of the transformation of animals, and dogs in particular, from working animals to family members.  At the start of the 20th century, dogs rarely lived inside the home.  They were relegated to the shed or the back yard or to a kennel.  They were not considered pets; rather dogs had a job to do - herd animals, protect property, not be a companion or playmate.  After WW1 and during the next decade or so, the dog/human relationship changed.  As Rin Tin Tin and other animal stars hit it big in Hollywood, the public began to see dogs as companions.  By the middle of the century, dogs and other animals had moved into the house, and had become family members.  Another fascinating set of facts was the way that the US military built its canine corps.  During WW1 other countries, Germany especially, had been using dogs on the battlefield.  The US had none, and eventually managed to cobble together a program for training dogs for military purposes.  After the war, the program was disbanded, and when WWII started there still was no established military canine program.  So the US Army solicited the public for dogs.  It was the height of patriotism to donate your family pet to the military training program.  The dogs were sent to training camps and those that made the grade were sent overseas to serve as bomb sniffers, rat catchers, messengers, and suicide bombers.  I also enjoyed the accompanying historical background of the movie and early TV industries, and it was fun to remember the various TV shows mentioned - the Lassie TV series (Jeff AND Timmy), Circus Boy, etc.

It was clear from the book that Susan Orlean was extremely invested in the Rin Tin Tin story. Her investigations were thorough, and she was clear about ambiguities and contradictions in the records.  All in all, this was a good read!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

Checking In, and a Tribute

The last 2 weeks have been overwhelming - both in the number of things I've had to get accomplished, and in emotion.  I had report cards, 3 parent meetings, and two doctor appointments above and beyond all the usual business.  One of the dr appointments was just a routine visit, but the second was a visit to a podiatrist to have a very painful ingrown toenail taken care of.  It had been bothering me for several months -- silly me didn't know what it was until I saw my primary care physician for my annual physical.  Then I had to wait for an appointment.  The podiatrist claimed it was one of the worst cases he'd seen!  All I know is that by the time I got to see him, I couldn't wear most of my shoes, and I had trouble walking.  It was not a pleasant procedure, but now it's over.  My toe is still tender and sore, but it's a healing pain, and nothing compared to the agony I was feeling.

The really tough part of the last 2 weeks is that one of the dearest people in the world to me passed away.  My aunt was 92, and she had been failing for quite a while so we knew it was coming.  It doesn't make it any easier thought.  She was more than an aunt to me.  As my mom's older sister she substituted in my mind for my grandmother.  (The only grandparent I knew died when I was almost 6.)  Growing up we lived in the same town, and my mom and her sister spent part of everyday together.  I was in and out of my aunt's house daily, and when I was in college I lived with her.  By that time we'd moved several states away but I'd returned to CT for college and became an in-state student.  My cousins were more my big sister and brother than cousins.  My aunt was also the matriarch of our family, and she was stickler for etiquette, courtesy, and integrity.  As the family historian and memorykeeper, she will be missed.  One of my fondest memories was a daytrip my aunt and I took one weekend when I was in college.  We went to Stonington, CT from where part of our family hails.  She showed me the house that had belonged to my grandfather, and where our Revolutionary War ancestor had lived.  We visited the family cemetery there too.  She took 16mm movies of me in front of the family mausoleum and our ancestors' gravesites. We finished the afternoon with a very elegant meal at a harborside French restaurant, dining on Coquilles St. Jac and white wine.  It was a lovely day.

As the family historian and genealogist she made sure we were aware of our family's past.  (hence the above-mentioned trip). She was a diehard DAR lady, serving in local and state offices, and every year she reminded her nieces that it was time to get our DAR dues in.  (We were enrolled in CAR as babies, and when we were old enough, she made sure we stayed put as DAR members.  I have to admit that as a child I did go to CAR meetings and had a ball, but I've only attended 2 meetings as an adult!  I will keep my membership current though as a tribute to her.)

She was also a business woman.  Her husband had a printing business. My aunt was the "front office", handling all the customer service, inventory,  and bookkeeping.  I spent several summers working in the office with her and also filling in for her when one summer, she and my uncle, took their first vacation in 25 years.  In between she taught Sunday school, provided leadership in the historical society, the hospital auxiliary, DAR, and  she raised her own 2 children, as well as helped raise assorted nephews and nieces!  What a woman!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Finished Project At Last!



I've been working on this sweater since May.  I think I knit the sleeves 5 times trying to get the right combo of wrist width, gauge, and increases.  The pattern stitch was easy, but I found some of the pattern directions lacking. Thank goodness I can consider myself a fairly experienced knitter.  I'm still working on how to adjust armhole sizes and sleeves, but overall this sweater fits me well.  It's exactly how I envisioned it.
It's called Ormond from Twist Collective and I used the yarn called for Rowan Amy Butler Belle Organic DK in moonflower,   The body is knit from the bottom up in one piece, and the sleeves are done in the round and then joined.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pluses and Minuses

In no particular order:

Plus:  The downstairs heat works.
Minus:  Just about every piece of furniture has had to be moved - and most of it now needs to be moved back.
Plus:  My principal bought some new LCD projectors, and now I have one for my very own use!  (Not one of the new ones, but now I don't have to share the one I've been using with anyone!)
Plus:  My partner and I got a set of "clickers" - student instant response system- to share.
Minus:  Two days of interrupted schedule at school due to special events and a fire drill.
Minus:  I sat down Monday night to watch some TV.  The TV wouldn't turn on.  Spent at least an hour trying to trouble shoot.  No luck.  Tuesday did some research, made some calls ---- TV definitely kaput.
Plus:  At least the DVR worked and most of my "must watch" shows have been captured.
Minus:  We've been dealing with intermittent internet service for the past 24 hours.  Every time I call my tech support person, I'm given conflicting device.  Internet just went down.  Probably have lost all of this post.
Plus: My Lands' End order arrived and EVERYTHING fits and looks good!  Even the dress I thought was a longshot!  
Double plus:  I have managed to lose almost 20 pounds since last winter without really trying  --- just have tried to exercise more regularly, and to stop eating when I'm full.  I've also stopped eating bread  unless it's whole grain.  I've stopped worrying about buying no fat products too - my endrocrinologist told me that because I'm insulin resistant I'd be better off eating a smaller serving of regular products because they have less sugar, and because they do contain some fat, I'd feel more satisfied.  She must be right.
Plus:  Went to the "city" last night to go to Sears and bought a new TV.  Brought it home and got it set up myself!  
Minus.  Internet is definitely down again.

Overall, a pretty normal week!  

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Back to the Books - #70, #71, and #72

This past summer I really only read one very engrossing, but long story, G.RR. Martin's series-- to the exclusion of almost everything else.  I've been trying to catch up to my goal of reading 125 books this year.  I don't think I will make it at this stage, but that's okay.  Here are comments on the last 3 I've read.
  # 70

The Akhenaten Adventure (Children of the Lamp, #1)The Akhenaten Adventure by P.B. Kerr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

John and Phillipa are 12 year old twins living in New York. Summer vacation is looming when they go to the dentist for their annual checkup.  Everyone - kids, dentist, and parents- is shocked when it's discovered that both have sprouted wisdom teeth overnight.  Things get stranger when both are awakened in the night by an earthquake, and each has an extremely odd dream involving their estranged Uncle Nimrod who tells them to come to England for the summer.  The next morning both twins have grown an inch overnight and their parents are acting very strangely.  Their father seems almost afraid of them!
The adventure begins as the twins head to England to visit their uncle.  They soon discover an unsettling truth - both of them are actually djinn!  With their uncle they set out to restore the balance between Good and Evil as they battle an evil tribe of djinn and learn to use their new powers.

I enjoyed this book.  It's the first in a series set around the world. I have a copy of the next one and will put it on my to-read list.   It's definitely a book for upper level readers.  Although the story moves quickly, the language is not always easy.  I will be recommending it to a couple of my very able 6th grade readers who are looking for something just a little bit different!


View all my reviews

#71
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Another very funny entry in the Liturgical Mysteries!  The Pirate's Eucharist is way better than the Clown Eucharist.  Agnes Day (pun intended) has been the substitute organist ever since Hayden Konig quit his job as music director at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church.  He's called into church to investigate when the hapless organist is murdered by a handbell.  Who did it?  The new operatic soprano Renee Tatton?  Kenny, the medicinal pot farmer?  There are suspects galore. And how will the church spend the $16 million it's receiving?  It's all up to the church's most generous donor - who's not Malcolm.   The only thing I missed in this installment was Moosey --- not enough of him.  



#72
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Twelve-year old Moose Flanagan and his family move to Alcatraz Island where his father has just taken a job as an electrician at the prison.  It's 1935 and the prison houses crime boss Al Capone.  Moose is very unhappy with the move, and once on the island, he's forced to watch his "10 year old" sister Natalie.  Natalie is actually 15 but is autistic.  Her parents have been unsuccessful in getting her into a school that might help her.  The story revolves around Moose's relationship with his sister and his attempt to adjust to his new life.  Gennifer Choldenko gets Natalie's character right, and I also think she did a great job developing the relationship between Moose and Natalie.  Some of the other characters were somewhat one-sided believable.  Piper is the know-it-all bossy daughter of the prison's warden and is terrific at getting everybody else in trouble.  She just seemed too one-sided.  This was definitely a different sort of story, and I was interested in reading it since I've visited Alcatraz.  I think that it will appeal to some of my more able 6th grade boys.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Something's MIssing



First of all, please ignore the massive collection of dust and long-lost cat toys!  We are in the throes of a massive home improvement project.  We're replacing our heating system. We live in a house that's seen more than 100 years, and it's been heated with an "vintage" or dare I say, antique furnace with old-fashioned steam radiators.  We have a big house -- and we use about 1500 gallons of oil to keep the house at a chilly 64° most of the winter.  The furnace has been wheezing along for quite some time.  We finally decided it was time to upgrade!  So all of the radiators have been removed.  This is under our front living room windows where a massive radiator sat.  You can certainly tell how far the vacuum wand reached over the years!  The new furnace is half the size of its 50 year old predecessor and we've been assured that it will easily keep the house at 70° on fewer gallons of oil.  That remains to be seen!  We're going to be installing baseboard hot water heat which will help with furniture arrangements and cleaning.    Of course, we just happen to be experiencing the first cold weather of the season --- we've had 2 nights of frost.  And although we rarely turn on the heat before Nov 1st, Spartans that we are,  there is a difference from CHOOSING not to turn on heat and NOT BEING ABLE to turn it on.  The biggest inconvenience however, is that we have no hot water.  Fortunately,  there is no school today, so the fact that I am having a super bad hair day isn't a problem.   Old-fashioned sponge baths with water heated on the stove are sufficing for now.  If we can get an electrician here today, the furnace can be used to generate hot water again, tho' the heat has to wait until the baseboard units are installed.  If the electrician can't get here it will probably be Tuesday before we have hot water.  Sponge baths will be VERY old by then.  Fortunately we can go up to the local wellness center over the weekend to use the showers there, and I will call on some friends if necessary!

Over on the work front, we survived a week of NECAPS, our annual state test which determines whether or not our school makes AYP (annual yearly progress.)  We have not been successful and are officially a SINI (school in need of improvement).  So this has been a very stressful week for students and teachers.   I won't get on my soapbox about all the things that are wrong with the testing and with the way our district has responded to SINI requirements.  All I say that if I had my double-block of language arts time like I used to have, my kids would have improved scores.  Instead I have half the time I used to have to cram in all the reading, writing, spelling, and grammar that I'm supposed to cover.  'Nuff said.

We have a 3 day weekend - again, the result of very odd-thinking.  Our weekend starts today, Friday, even though if parents have a Columbus Day weekend, they're off on Monday.  It started a number of years ago when so many teachers wanted to go the state teachers' convention, held the Friday before Columbus Day, that there weren't enough subs to go around.  So the district decided to make this the day off.  I only ever went to the convention a couple of times -- I found it not worth the time it took to make sub plans.  So today I am home, at least for a while.  I am going to go in to school a bit later.  I stayed until 6 pm last night getting my progress reports finished, and getting my planning done for next week, but my room is in desperate need of a clean up.  So I will go in (where it's warmer too!) and do some de-cluttering, desk washing, and new seating plans.    I also want to stay out of the plumbers' way as they work on the heating system.

The rest of the weekend is dedicated to billing and bookkeeping, a visit with friends, and a possible quick visit to some relatives in another state.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Book Review!

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, SpyBonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book fascinated me.  I've heard Dietrich Bonhoeffer quoted often, most usually in a sermon at church.  Last winter when I was teaching 7th grade social studies we studied the Holocaust, and I ran across this biography.  It took me until now to have time to read it.  Even without his martyrdon, Bonhoeffer must have been a truly remarkable man.  He appeared to affect everyone he met and he seems to have an indelible mark on those who knew him well.  Eric Metaxas paints a full picture of Bonhoeffer - his personal life, his spiritual life, and his political life.  While the explication of Bonhoeffer's theology may not be everyone's cup of tea, I was very interested.  So interested in fact, that I will be seeking out some of Bonhoeffer's books.  Metaxas also did a really good job of explaining the despair that faced post WWI Germany which made Hitler's rise to power possible.  I learned a great deal more about the struggles of the German church than I had known before too. This book was not a fast read for me.  I found myself going back to previous letters and passages.  This is one book I wish I'd read in hard copy and not on a Kindle, because of that.


View all my reviews

Missing Mom


It's a really rainy Saturday and I had the overwhelming urge to call my Mom.  Her 87th birthday would have been this past Thursday, so she's really been present in my heart and mind this week, and even this month.  She died six years ago this past August, and sometimes it seems like yesterday.  I can remember her saying as I went off to college - "Don't call me every week at the same time.  That way I won't worry if you miss a call."   It was terrific advice, and I passed it on to my sons as they left the nest.  I did call my mom almost weekly, sometimes even more frequently, but I never let more than 10 days between phone calls go past.  What did we talk about?  Rarely anything anyone else would consider important.  Of course we talked about the kids, work, weather, etc. but we also got into animated conversations about books and TV shows.  And  recipes!  She was my "go-to" person when I needed a new idea or help with cooking roasts or new dishes.  She would have loved hearing about all the experimentation I've been doing the past 2 summers with all the produce from our local CSA share --- new ideas about how to use zucchini to "What on earth do I do with celeriac?"   I cook like my mom - most meals are produced without recipes, or if we use a recipe, it's just a springboard.  It's always been a family joke, first when I was growing up, and now in my own family:  "I tried a new recipe but I didn't have X so I substituted Y, and I didn't have Z, so I used A instead,"  and the family always asks "So what did you substitute?" when new items appear.  It was always (and still is) earth-shattering when recipes are presented without change.    Since my mom's been gone, the internet has been my main source of information,  but my kids (and occasionally a sibling) will call whenever they're perplexed by a cooking question.  Today's urge to "call home" was prompted by the fact that I decided to make soup for dinner.  Mom always made what we called "Refrigerator soup."  She'd start with a meaty bone or some stew beef, lots of onion and celery, and then add whatever veggies or even leftovers needed using up.  She'd augment it with beef broth, canned tomatoes, V8 or tomato juice as needed.  Today's soup is starting from some stew beef, onions, carrots, fresh herbs, and celery.  I've got some beets in there and a small head of cabbage.  The liquid is beef broth, a can of crushed tomatoes, a slurp of vinegar and a bit of sugar.  Later additions will include some left over egg noodles and I hope to hide some eggplant in there!  (My husband is not fond of this, and this has been the abundant vegetable from the CSA  share this summer!)  Anyway, I kept my mom's soup kettle for a really long time but recently realized it was time for it to go.  She always made soup in an electric soup kettle.  The kettle held about a gallon of soup, and stood on 4 legs.  At some point during my youth one of the legs fell off, so for the rest of my mom's cooking career the 4th leg was always a can of tomato paste!  She continued using that kettle for the rest of her life!  I know that one Christmas I decided to buy her a new one, but the model had been discontinued and she didn't like any of the alternatives.    I couldn't bear to throw it away when we cleaned out her house, and I brought it all the way back to NH from Indiana.  It sat unused in the back of an overcrowded cabinet.  This past summer I finally realized that the memory of the kettle was enough, and it got thrown out.   So as my soup simmers away on the stove, I'm thinking of my mom and I'm wishing I could call her.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Gifts

Today in church we started our stewardship drive aka "The Pledge Drive."  This year's them is "Giving is a Gift from God" and we've been challenged to identify the gifts with which we've been blessed, and also to identify the times when we have felt blessed by our giving gifts to others.  The lectionary selections were especially appropriate with the start of the campaign.  We heard first the Exodus passage (Exodus 16:2-15) where the hungry Israelites grumble and complain about the lack of food.   God responds by gifting them with flocks of quail and the "fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground."  In the second passage (Matthew 20:1-16) we heard the story of the laborers who complained about the fact that the laborers who worked only a short time were paid the same as they who had worked all day. The meaning that I took from both these stories is two-fold.  First, God provides us with what we need, when we need it.  And God gifts every single one of us, equally, without regard for how hard we've worked, or how hard we've prayed, or how good we try to be.  God's gift of grace and forgiveness are for everyone.  I also thought about all the times I've felt cheated or resentful because I didn't get the same "reward" that others got.  Instead of finding joy in whatever it was I had received, I focused on what I didn't get, or the "more" that someone else got.    These two stories were good to hear today!    I needed these reminders.

I'm also hoping (and praying) that as our church makes some budget decisions, we can let go of our tight-fisted Yankee frugality and caution, and open ourselves to new ways of understanding how to spend our limited funds so that we are focusing more on spreading the gift of the Good News, rather than worrying about the future.  We are a giving church in time and energy.  Our motto is "Always for Others" and we practice what we preach, with a food pantry, emergency shelter, space for AA, Compassionate Friends, a community mother's group, and various other ministries.  Yet, I think we worry too much about "dipping into capital" and "saving for a rainy day."  As I wrote in my monthly "Moderator's Musing" column for our church newsletter, it's always a struggle to decide what to spend our limited resources on - in some things we have no choice.  But we do have choices and I'm praying that we stop being so practical, and learn how to gift our resources to others.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Friday Five On Saturday: Your Work Space

Yesterday's Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals:
I don't know about you, but I am a notoriously messy creative worker.  My workspace at home, and at my office is always littered with books and papers and mail and pens and keys and mugs....and tschotske (momentos, weird things, etc.)   I am looking right now at a pair of dice that someone gave me that have "God" on each side, so that anyway you roll 'em, you end up with God.  Different, right? 

So, this Friday Five is all about YOUR tschotske in your workplace.  Describe five things in/on your workspace (however you define workspace--I tend to spill over onto bedside tables, end tables, coffee tables...create wherever I land) that are special to you!   Bonus points for pictures!    







My Workspace at 6:40 am
                                                                             






The two pictures are from my workspace in my 6th grade classroom.  It's how my desk space looked Friday morning at 6:40 am.    
Five items in the pictures:

  1. The red clock in the center of my desk is waiting to get hung up.  I have to find a longer screw, nail or hook to put it over my board. And I have to find a hammer or screwdriver to put the screw, nail or hook into the wall.  Then I can hang the clock.  There is already a wall clock but our automatic school clock has a habit of counting time in a odd way. Every so often, we gain/lose odd amounts of time.  Sometimes it gets stuck, and time stands still!  So I like to have a backup.  Our school doesn't use bells, so we have to dismiss our classes on our own.
  2. In the 2nd picture you can see a orange stick puppet with straw hat.  He's on my Pass In basket.  Quite a few years ago now, we did a whole grade integrated unit based on the novel Holes.  As a final project, we divided all the kids up into groups and each teacher led an activity.  My group created puppet shows based on the novel.  This was one of the puppets a student created.  I saved it and he's been guarding the Pass In basket ever since.
  3. The paper towel roll in picture 2 is used daily to wipe up spills, clean desks, wipe off the white board.  
  4. In the first picture is a small silver bell on the front edge of my desk.  A student gave it to me one Christmas, years ago.  I use it sometimes to get the class's attention.  I can't believe I still have it.
  5. The desk itself is new-to-me.  I had a honking large desk that took up too much valuable real estate.  I traded it for a desk someone was getting rid of.  The smaller desk helps me with my room arrangement, but it really is a bit small to sit behind.  I keep knocking my knees against the sides.  On the other hand, I don't sit there much.  When I was getting ready to put my stuff in the drawers I discovered some treasures way in the back of a drawer.  One of the treasurers was a school roster of all the kids and their teachers from 1992.  My oldest son was in 6th grade then and there was his name on the roster.  What fascinated me was that it was a typed list that had been mimeographed!!!  All of our rosters are now computerized.  How quickly things have changed.  Although I just realized that 1992  was almost 20 years ago, now.  Where has the time gone!

I had some time to tidy up my work area before I went home. So here are some "clean" work space pictures ;)


                                                                   4:00 PM










I even got most of my planbook filled out for next week!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Liturgical Mystery #2

The Baritone Wore ChiffonThe Baritone Wore Chiffon by Mark Schweizer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hayden Konig is the police chief of St. Germaine, a small North Carolina town.  He's also the volunteer choir director/organist of the local Episcopal church, and an aspiring writer whose literary muse is Raymond Chandler.  In this second "Liturgical Mystery", Konig is asked to assist English police in the investigation into the death of a visiting "songman" at York Minster.  Hayden travels to York where he discovers some key evidence.  When he returns from England, a new interim priest has been installed at the church, along with a Presbyterian Christian Ed director.  It's Lent, and Hayden's significant other has asked him not to undermine the new staff.  So it's hands off, as the hapless congregation is subjected to a Clown Eucharist, an Edible Last Supper, the incomparable Feng Shui Altar Guild led by the rector's wife, and the insufferable ego of the new priest who favors high church processions led by his valet/verger Wenceslas who is proud of being a dwarf.  I don't know what events made me laugh more:  Rev. Barna's first attempt at a children's moment, with Moosy as the star pupil or the Feng Shui Altar Guild's constant rearranging of the altar and pews.  Hayden's Comparative Religion lectures are also a terrific counterpoint to the "Finding Your Inner Clown" classes led by Brenda, the Christian Ed. director.  Eventually the murder in England and the new leadership at the church are connected, and Hayden is the one who sorts everything out.  The added bonus to this series is the "novel" that Hayden writes and shares as the main story evolves.  This series is a terrific way to unwind, and anyone who is familiar with church politics and organization will chuckle!


View all my reviews

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Need to Knit


A Life in Stitches: Knitting My Way Through Love, Loss, and LaughterA Life in Stitches: Knitting My Way Through Love, Loss, and Laughter by Rachael Herron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I came across Rachael Herron's essays by chance. I was waiting for my husband at our local Wellness Center, and I picked up a copy of a "woman's magazine" sitting in the lounge. (I honestly don't remember which magazine it was.) An article on knitting caught my eye. I read it and wrote down the author's name and blog site.  When I got home, I read her blog "Yarnagogo.com" and went to Amazon to buy the book from which her essay was extracted.    I was not disappointed.  Her collection of essays about how knitting has enriched and informed her life puts into words the experiences I've had as a knitter.  Her compulsion to knit is the same compulsion I feel.  She just explains it so well!


View all my reviews

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Glass Castle


The Glass CastleThe Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After reading Jeannette Walls' second book, Half-Broke Horses, I was eager to read this one, her first book.  This is memoir.  Walls describes her less-than-ideal childhood growing up as the child of an alcoholic father and a free-spirited mother.  Most other people considered the Walls family "poor white trash" and she shares the story of waking up in Oklahoma after sleeping in the car, surrounded by grinning adults and teasing children -- "We out-Okied the Okies" is her conclusion. Her family was poor, they were often hungry, and they lived a nomadic life:  Arizona, California, Nevada, West Virginia were all places she called home.  Despite the hardships, it's clear that Walls had a deep love for her father and family.  It's also clear that even as a child she somehow understood that her life wasn't normal. It was interesting to see Grandma Smith (the subject of Half-Broke Horse through her child's eyes.  Having read the second book first, it's easier to understand her mother's motivations. I was also impressed by the way Walls' was able to find the figurative "gold" in the way she was raised.  Even though her father never found the real gold he was constantly seeking, Walls managed to mine her life for the moments of wonder and splendor:  the millions of stars at night in the desert, the beauty of her geodes and rock collection, the realization that she was strong and could handle everything life threw her.


View all my reviews

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Found My Mojo!

I have struggled for the last three years to be excited and happy about my job.  First I was assigned to teach a subject that I didn't enjoy, and then I got moved to a grade level I didn't want to teach.  On top of that is joy-draining pressure of high stakes testing and being a school in need of improvement.   Retirement seemed to be too far away and not soon enough!

I am overjoyed to find that I am once again filled with enthusiasm and excitement.  I'm looking forward to working with the students I've been given.  I'm back 'home", teaching sixth grade social studies and English language arts.  We've just finished 4 days of school, and I love my kids!  They are funny, interesting, and still eager.  Yes, there are going to be the usual challenges --kids who come from dysfunctional homes, kids with ADHD, kids with Tourette's,  kids who are gifted and talented, average kids, bored kids, parents who don't support the classroom or who get upset, etc. etc.  But I can't remember when I've had a group of homeroom kids (23) who worked together cooperatively and successfully to complete a challenging 25 piece abstract jigsaw puzzle!  Or a group of kids who actually stayed 100% silent during the first fire drill that lasted almost 20 minutes!

I'm pysched!!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Reading Updates

I spent most of my summer reading George R.R. Martins Game of Thrones series which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I finished the last of the 5 published books in the series last week, and have started some entirely different books.  If you're interested in my comments on the Game of Thrones you can check them out at goodreads.com

Here are my comments on the 2 books I read during the hurricane:


The Alto Wore TweedThe Alto Wore Tweed by Mark Schweizer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After my summer of George R.R. Martin, I needed a light, humorous read and this first "Liturgical Mystery" by Mark Schweizer fit the bill perfectly!  Hayden Konig is the full time police chief of St. Germaine, NC AND the part-time volunteer organist and choir director at the local Episcopal church.  He's also a would-be author in the style of Philip Chandler.  When the unpopular sexton is found murdered in the choir loft, the investigation is on.  Was the murderer Mother Ryan, the new, ultra-feminist priest at the church?  Or was it one of the Walkers who each accuse the other of having an affair with priest?  Schweizer's book is full of wit and laugh-aloud situations.  I do think it helps to get the humor though if you are either a church musician, or a regular church goer.  And Hayden's musical creations are wonderful. We Three Queens and the Moldy Cheese Madrigal are just two of them.  (An aside:  there is apparently a website where you can hear these gems, and others that appear in later books.)  I'm looking forward to reading other books in the series.


View all my reviews


And this one:

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
M.C. Beaton has written a very frothy Regency romance featuring Miss Hannah Pym, erstwhile housekeeper to Sir Clarence. She is middle-aged, aching for excitement,  and out of a job when her employer dies.  However Sir Clarence leaves her 5000 pounds in his will and Hannah decides to seek adventure by traveling all over England by stagecoach.  Her first excursion takes her to Exeter. Her co-travelers include an eloping couple, a forbidding lord, a mysterious youth, a poor lawyer, and several other common folk.  The group is stranded in a blizzard and must make do in a local inn.  Hannah puts her housekeeping and organizational skills to use as she directs meals, cleaning, and romance.  It's an amusing read, and is a bit reminiscent of Georgette Heyer, although it has a more tongue-in-cheek approach to life in Regency England.  




And the Sun is Shining

As is usually the case after a storm, the next day is gorgeous.  We actually dodged a bullet with Irene.  We had about 5 inches of rain, and we did get some wind, but nothing like predicted.  We did lose our power at the very end of the storm (and it's still off 14 hours later) but other than that, there doesn't seem to be much damage in my immediate neck of the woods.  There was apparently a great deal of flooding a bit north and west of here, and more wind damage to the east.

Today was supposed to be the first day of school, but it was cancelled last Friday, just in case.  There are a lot of us without power, so it's probably a good thing. I will go into school later to organize just a few more things!  I don't want to leave the house with the generator running so I'll sit tight until my husband comes home from his rounds.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Storm Preparations

We are expecting Irene's visit tomorrow morning, though the rain has already started.  We live in the southwest corner of NH, so we are more concerned about flooding than wind, but you never know.  School was cancelled yesterday for Monday which was supposed to have been the first day of school for students.  Personally, we brought in some things from the yard that could blow around if we do get wind, my husband did the regular grocery shopping this morning instead of tomorrow, and we've got generator gas, full gas tanks in our vehicles,  and extra batteries.

I also made sure our cell phones are charged as is my Kindle.  But the biggest preparation of all?? My best yarn buddy and I made the trek down to WEBS in Northampton, MA today for a yarn fix.  We live about an hour and 10 minutes from the yarn mecca and it's an easy drive.  We had a lovely day fondling yarn, and we spent a considerable amount of money!  I have 6 projects worth of yarn (2 sweaters, an afghan, a pair of socks, and 2 scarves).  So, the hatches are battened down, the fridge is full, and I've got books and yarn.

I'm ready.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

All Good Things Come to An End

Yup, it's that time again.  Tomorrow starts a new school year.  The kids don't come back until Monday, but we teachers are due in at 8 am for the annual continental breakfast, welcomes, and anti-bullying workshop.  That's followed by information regarding legislative changes in educational policies, and then an afternoon of meetings at our individual schools.   A full day of professional development and too-much information at once.  Thursday and Friday are also filled with in-service training and meetings.  Fortunately, my room is as ready as it's going to get.  I kept track of the time I spent this summer moving my room  --- 45.5 hours total.  That's like a 3 credit college course!   Too bad I can't get any credit or compensation for that time.  I would have rather spent that time planning or revising my language arts program.

It was a busy 8.5 weeks.  We traveled twice -- to Switzerland, and to Los Angeles.  I took a ton of pictures in Switzerland, some of which will show up in my geography unit, along with pictures from previous travels.  As we were traveling through the Jullier Pass, I was inspired to use my pictures in our study of the 5 themes of geography - place, location, movement, region, and human-environmental interaction,

I went to a lot of meetings at church, though I didn't get to Sunday services much.  One of the "perks" of my UCC denomination is its democracy.  The congregation has all the power.  That takes work.  As moderator of our church, I have had to facilitate meetings where some important decisions have been made.  We held a special congregational meeting this past Sunday where we voted to spend what is to our small church a substantial sum of money to improve accessibility to the front door of our church.  We've had a non-ADA compliant ramp for many, many years, and we have a chair-lift at our back entrance.  But we wanted a better front entrance.  So after a great deal of work and discussion, we voted to change the appearance of our traditional New England steepled church, by adding a new ADA-compliant ramp AND a new door at one end of the portico.  For those of you in small village churches, you know that getting a group of people to agree to CHANGE something is no minor task!

I did a lot of reading this summer, but I realized that 95% has been one series.  I started George RR Martin's Game of Throne series back in June.  I think I will finish Book 5 tonight or tomorrow.  Five books doesn't sound like much for me, a very prolific reader, but it's almost 5000 pages of reading.  And while it's engrossing and enthralling, you have to pay attention!!  While I will be sorry that the next 2 books haven't been published yet, I am looking forward to switching genre and author!

Knitting has been happening too.  But I've been knitting the same sweater all summer!  It's a cotton/wool off-white cardigan, and it's almost done.  I have a sleeve and a half to go, and then the sewing together.  It's not a hard pattern to knit, but I've found that the directions aren't as clear as they could be.  I've done a lot of un-knitting too -- or tinking (knit spelled backwards, which is kind of like unknitting, as opposed to frogging which is ripping it all out - frogs rip-it, rip-it)

As always, I've kept the business books up-to-date, and I've tried to stay atop all other types of recordkeeping chores.  I've also started a new exercise program which I'm trying to stay faithful too.  I've bought 8 sessions with a personal trainer, and I've worked with her 3 times already.


What hasn't happened this summer:  closets didn't get cleaned, my family room didn't get renovated, my knitting paraphernalia didn't get organized, we didn't get the paddle boat out once, the gardens didn't get weeded.  Oh well, there's always next summer!


Friday, August 19, 2011

Road Trips: Friday Five

From RevGalBlogPals
My husband and I just returned (on Wednesday night) from a long road trip up the middle USA to Canada, going through various national parks, and on to the Puget Sound of Washington State. This brought back memories of family road trips with my children and when I was a child, so the idea of today's Friday Five arose.

Tell us about five road trips--in your childhood, in your family, in your recent past, with friends, and/or hoped-for-places-to-drive-to. Don't forget the one that stands out as the BEST or as the worsttime. 





Road trips=Vacation!  Here are some memorable road trips from my past.


1.  1961 traveling from southern CT to northern VT.   This is the first road trip I can remember.  I was heading to first grade in the fall, and my father decided to rent a cabin on Lake Champlain in North Hero, VT for a week.  There were 3 of us kids, ages 2, 5, and 7, and I was the oldest.  I don't remember the car we traveled in.  It was probably the blue 1956 Buick.  What I do remember are the stops we made along the way, and my travel diary which I still have!  With 3 youngsters aboard, we made frequent bathroom stops.  At the time, the only places available were gas stations, and I remember the bathrooms as being greasy and oil-spattered. I also remember my youngest sister as not wanting to use the bathrooms, but "holding it."  In desperation, my parents stopped by a stream and undressed her and made her sit on a rock on the edge of babbling brook until she gave in!  I also remember picnicking along the way, and I have an entry in my journal describing the "strage bugs on a stump that turned out to be very larg grashoopers."  I'm impressed by my spelling and handwriting at that stage in my life, the summer between kindergarten and first grade.  The cabin we stayed at was creepy from my point of view, and smelled musty.  My sisters and I shared a double bed with a saggy mattress, and the lake water was "frezing and the botom of the lake is very rockie."  We rented a boat and caught some fish, with pictures to prove it.


2.  Another major road trip:  1968 from central New Jersey to Washington, DC.  By now there were 5 of us children, and we traveled in a yellow Pontiac stationwagon with 3 seats.  The 3rd seat faced backwards, and yours truly had to ride in that seat.  It was really hot, and the car didn't have air-conditioning.  While I was suitably impressed by Washington, DC, especially the underground train between the Capitol building and the Senate Office Building where we met a senator also traveling on the train, what stands out on that trip are the meal stops.  On that trip we ate $.12 hamburgers with strawberry milkshakes at McDonalds, or shared a 20 piece bucket of KFC.  My father, bless his heart, always did the ordering for us and we never had a choice in the selections.  If you didn't want a strawberry milkshake, you went without.  (He hated chocolate, so we NEVER got what we wanted!)


3.  1969 was another memorable trip, this time from N.J. to Miami, FL to visit my father's sister and our cousins.  We again traveled in the yellow Pontiac, but this time there was a major addition to the car which made the trip an agony for my "going-to-high-school" self.  Because the car was full of people (7 total) there wasn't much room for luggage in the car.  Rather than spending money on rooftop carrier, my father built a wooden box that covered 90% of the roof.  He painted this box yellow to match the car, and decided to dress it up with a pair of eyes, nose and big smile on the back end of the box. He also painted slogans along the side, referring to anti-Castro events.  (He'd emigrated from Cuba in 1948, but his sister had just recently moved to Miami from Havana.)  As the oldest, and one of the siblings who didn't get carsick, I had to sit in that 3rd backseat facing drivers.  At every traffic stop, I had to endure the amused reactions of the drivers behind us as they saw the painted box.  As a 14 yr old I was beyond embarrassment.  The other memorable event was that we toured Cape Kennedy on that trip, and were actually at the space center when the moon landing astronauts splashed down.  We watched the splash down on large screens overlooking a control center of some sort!








4.  We moved to NJ from CT when I was 9, and we made many trips back to our home town to visit my mom's sister and our cousins.  The trips only took 2 hours, unless there was traffic, but they were always an adventure.   We made up songs to accompany our trip too.  When we crossed the George Washington Bridge we sang "George Washington Bridge, George Washington Washington Bridge" set to an old tune that I don't know the name of.  When we did a road trip 40 years later with some friends, we crossed the bridge and I unconsciously started singing it!  Our friends thought it was a real song!  We also used to sing "We're in CT, we're in CT, we're in CT, right now" to the tune of "Found a Peanut" as we crossed over the state line.    A memorable trip occurred when my father had to fly to Mexico on business in the late 60's at Thanksgiving.  We dropped him off at Newark Airport on the way to my aunt's.  We took the Holland Tunnel into NY, and the water pump on the car died.  My mom managed to limp out of the tunnel and parked the car just outside.  She went off in a cab to find a gas station, leaving all 5 of us in the locked car, with me in charge!  Today she'd be arrested for endangering kids, but it was a different time when I was growing up.  She found help, and we got to my aunt's house about 1/2 day later than planned.


5.  In 1980, my husband and I drove from southern Indiana to southwestern NH after spending Christmas with my parents and family.  Our first son had been born in July, and I had flown out to my parents with him the week before Christmas.  My husband drove out the day before Christmas, and then the 3 of us drove back to NH.  That  was the trip from hell.  Our son was not an easy baby, and he was difficult to console.  He screamed nearly the entire 989 mile trip.  I moved to the back seat of the car to try to comfort him, to no avail.  I finally managed to semi-quiet him by taking him out of his car seat and holding him.  Not exactly safe, but neither was it safe to try to concentrate on driving with a non-stop screaming baby.  Oh, did I forget to mention that the car we had at the time was an old Renault LeCar, affectionately known as "The Clown Car?"  There was barely room in the front to sit comfortably, much less in the back seat!!


I really enjoyed this trip down memory lane!  I have a dream of doing a major road trip --- across the US to Los Angeles, someday.  But I want to take 4-6 weeks to do it, stopping along the way as my fancy takes me.