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 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.


  • 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


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

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.