Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Love time.

Just want to say: I love our condo. Right now, I specifically love the fact that our 8 foot tall Christmas tree doesn't even come close to scraping any part of our ceilings.

Pictures coming. I've been diligently taking pictures, so as soon as that camera cord decides to stop playing hide-and-seek, there's going to be some Christmas decoration love up here. I've also been ridiculously productive over the last two months in as far as making things goes (knitting projects, gifts, Christmas tree skirt, ornaments, etc.) so I'm planning on posting about that later as well. Seriously, it's been a triumph of domesticity over here. I also wrote an article about Christmas for our journal/newsletter (Thought & Sentiment), which I may repost here. Haven't decided yet.

Classes are done on Thursday, and then it will be Christmas break! Woohoo! We're going to try to approximate a Christmas party on Thursday by everyone eating cookies/drinking tea, coffee, hot chocolate, etc. at their computers during class. Eh. We do what we can. Class devotions for the last week or so have been Advent/Christmas themed. We started low-church with Sufjan Steven's "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" (which all my first-year students loved; a few third-year students didn't care for the banjo, stuffy traditionalists that they are...). We were going to listen to a selection from Handel on Thursday, but we encountered some technical issues that day, so we read some Chesterton Christmas poems instead ("The House of Christmas" and "The Wise Men") and discussed them. This morning my third-years listened to "Adam Lay Ybounden" and discussed the concept of felix culpa and "the blessed fruit" (they just finished Augustine and Boethius and will soon be moving into Aquinas, so it seemed appropriate). I think I'll try some Handel today for my first-years since they are less likely to have encountered it already, and "Adam Lay Ybounden" is a bit above their level at this point (plus, I don't even want to imagine the phone calls I'd get from their parents afterward...). Thursday for both classes is going to be "O Magnum Mysterium." Their heads will explode from all the beauty. It's going to be awesome. Especially for the first-years, who are discussing Abolition of Man right now...I can't wait. I love Christmas!

Time to catch up on my grading. Work now, holiday later.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Martha Stewart: FAIL

Remember that post a while back when I was complaining about the scorching heat and wanting to bake delicious fall dainties? Well, I finally got around to attempting that Boston Scream cake. The result? Anna wins. Martha LOSES LIKE A BIG LOSER.

The plan: delicious chocolate pumpkin cake with cream filling and chocolate glaze for dessert at my family's weekly Saturday dinner.

The execution: So, realizing that I actually don't own round cake pans, I decided that I could probably successfully adjust the recipe in order to make cream filled cupcakes, Ming Makes Cupcakes style. I cut the cake batter recipe in half (since 12 cupcakes would be enough for my family), and adjusted cooking time. The cupcakes turned out fine. Nice and moist.

Then I moved on to the cream. It was supposed to be a spiced pastry cream. What it turned out to be was a lumpy, jiggly, disgusting mess. Twice. That's right, after the first failed attempt, I thought that perhaps I had measured the ingredients incorrectly, or perhaps I had neglected an important step in the cooking process, or maybe the heat was too high. Nope. After carefully measuring each ingredient and obeying each instruction AND turning the heat to low instead of the suggested medium, it still came out lumpy and gross, like someone had dropped some scrambled eggs into thick spiced milk. Not appetizing, and not something you want to put inside cupcakes. I abandoned the recipe and whipped up some spiced whipped cream instead.

"Perhaps someone wrote the recipe wrong on the site," I think to myself, and turn to begin Martha's recipe for the chocolate glaze. My theory, however, is revised shortly after. Once I realize that the proportions the recipe has called for are essentially just producing chocolate milk, I decide that Martha is trying to fool me into making a horrible baked monstrosity filled with evil and topped with soggy. She wants me to fail and to feel inferior and small. I say NO, dump out most of the milk, and continue on and make my own superior ganache, sans recipe.

I topped the cupcakes with the ganache, let it set a bit, and then put a dollop of the spiced whipped cream on top. Came out pretty tasty.

All this to say: I'm on to you, Martha.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Once Again

Why do I always think of so many things I would rather be doing than grading on the night when grades are due? I'm not in bad shape this time around (just 13 one-page essays to grade before midnight--easy peasy), but I still find myself looking around and thinking things like, boy, I should do the dishes. Or straighten up that corner. Or rearrange the library. Or bake pumpkin bread. It's like my brain is out to get me.

Is this some weird procrastination instinct left over from school? I could be done with these essays probably in about two hours, and then I would have the entire evening to myself, but my brain says "No....why would you want that? Don't you love the thrill of being down to the wire? Tired, half-crazed, caffeine making your heart race as you blast through the last few essays just as the clock strikes 12? Isn't pumpkin bread more important to you right now???" And I say to my brain, "No, not really. You don't know me at all." (But my brain is a little bit right. My brain and I have a rocky relationship sometimes.)

I think my responsibility organ might be growing a little, though. Because last time I posted about the things I was going to do, grading was not included among them, and I actually--get this--decided to grade instead of doing all of those other things. Who am I?

Apparently, I'm the girl who's going to finish her grading before seven tonight. That's who.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ear-worms and termites and needles, oh my!

Sounds like a creepy Halloween post, but it's really not. Just your common everyday random updates. Since it sounded creepy, though, here's a terrifying clown, in case you are disappointed by regular old news:

Aaaahhhh!!!! Run away!!!!! Why does anyone ever think that clowns are a good idea?

Moving on...

I have a pretty good capacity for memorization. (Years of theater will do that to you, I guess.) It often happens that I will read something, and if it strikes me as being particularly beautiful, I often commit it, or my favorite parts of it, to memory--sometimes even unintentionally. This can be really handy (as in, I can still remember the lyrics and melodies of any song I have ever learned, including obscure sixth grade Christmas play songs--"Christmas in Egypt," anyone?). It also can be really awful. I often will have snatches of songs or poems running through my head, and sometimes I only know some of the words because I accidentally learned the words instead of intentionally committing them to memory, which means that my brain goes on a loop with the parts that I do know.

I've had lines from a poem I don't know running through my head since yesterday. The poem is called "Wild Wednesday," and I have lost my copy of the book that contains it, which means that I can't look it up and fill in the gaps that I am missing. To make matters worse, the internet doesn't know that this poem exists, so no help there. I'm going to order another copy today, so hopefully by next week, I'll be able to get rid of this poetic ear-worm beastie. And inform the internet of this poem's existence.

Update on the status of our living space: Good news! Our guest bathroom is all completely decorated and ready for company! It's the one space in our condo currently that is a finished space--no boxes, and we have pretty new towels, a rug, etc. It's nice having one room finished, even if it's the smallest space in the unit (small victories are still victories). I will post pictures when I can find my camera cord again (still no luck there...).

In other horrible disgusting news, we have a termite problem. By which I mean about a hundred termites managed to "fall" through a hole in the window in the library/office and land on the floor. (Ivan: OMG BEST GAME EVER. Nom maim nom.) After kicking the very interested cat out, we sprayed them down with orange oil, which is good at killing them but not fun to clean up (and also not good for your pets or your lungs). The window is covered in tape to patch things temporarily, and the landlord has been notified, but no solution yet. I've relocated my computer and teaching stuff to the living room couch since it's no fun trying to teach class surrounded by dead bugs (or having surprise live ones crawl up your leg while you are trying to talk about Eusebius).

Update on medical condition: Saw the rheumatologist again yesterday for my two-week check up. He was really pleased with how well the steroids seem to be working, and is really hopeful that I will continue to gain more and more mobility back. I actually received a diagnosis, as well, as a result of all the x-rays and blood work from last time. The ruling is that I do have rheumatoid arthritis, but only in my hands at this point. Also, I am apparently in the 30% of people who show no evidence of the disease in their blood work (with the exception of inflammation indicators). The x-rays, though, showed typical rheumatoid like symptoms in my hands, but nowhere else, which means that theoretically my other joints could eventually be back to tip-top shape if the inflammation can be reduced enough since there hasn't been any joint damage yet. Yay! I tested negative for all the other scary diseases that can cause joint pain, so that's also good news.

Bad news is the treatment plan. I'm still on steroids for a while, but he's adding a new medication now that will eventually replace the steroids. It's Methotrexate, a drug that used to be used to treat cancer, and I will be taking six pills once a week (seems weird, but okay...). The warnings for this drug are pretty scary, though. Absolutely no getting pregnant, and no drinking alcohol allowed. Not that we were planning on having babies right now, and not that I drink much alcohol, but it's still a little scary. I'm not allowed to have even a drop of alcohol at least until after I've been on the new meds for eight weeks and we can check and see how my liver is reacting (alcohol with the meds could mean sudden liver failure). Then MAYBE, if my liver is super awesome, I might be allowed to have one or two drinks a month. Maybe. Also the new drug will decrease my levels of Vitamin D, Calcium, and Folic Acid, so I'm on supplements for all of those as well.

And get this: the methotrexate is only being given to me so that I can start an additional treatment probably involving at home injections. INJECTIONS. AT HOME. DO IT YOURSELF STYLE. Can I just say how much I hate needles? I've overcome my cowardice enough to not cry anymore when they want to take my blood (which they've been doing a lot lately, I might add), and have even discovered that sometimes it doesn't really hurt at all--if I don't look when they are putting it in, I am totally fine and not a blubbering baby-woman. Injections, however, have always been painful. It's not a matter of sticking the needle in and letting the blood and physics do their thing; they are sticking new stuff in there, and it doesn't feel good. Not ever. And for some reason, I don't think closing my eyes or looking away while trying to administer my own injection is going to be a viable option. It seems like eyes would be important for that sort of thing. Maybe I can get Josh to do it, but as of right now, he's pretty equally freaked out about it. Mr. I-can't-remember-the-last-time-I-got-a-shot-or-had-blood-work-ordered.

So anyway, fun time adventures ahead. The hope is that all of this will help stop the joint damage, and that my life will be happy and so much less painful (with the exception of the stabby needles). And that seems like a good thing to remember. Boy, God sure does like to stretch us in uncomfortable ways sometimes, doesn't he?


Monday, October 18, 2010


This last week has been really great. I really mean really great.

Last Monday, after waiting over a month for my appointment and suffering ever increasing physical pain and further loss of mobility in my joints, I got to go in and see a rheumatologist. After reviewing my lab work from last time and sending me for more blood work and over twenty x-rays, he sent me home with a prescription for a low dosage of steroids. I began to feel better in less than a day. I cannot tell you the difference that this has made for my quality of life.

Today, I have taken no pain killers. None. Zip. Last Sunday, and for a month prior, I had been taking 9-12 pills per day just so that I could function at a basic level (and by basic, I am excluding such luxuries as being able to reach and touch the back of my head, or undress myself at night). After just one week of the steroids, I can dress myself, reach all of my hair, my knees have stopped hurting almost completely--I sometimes feel like I want to jog up the stairs--my hands and arms look and feel so much better, I've stopped dropping things so often...I want to write a sonnet to steroids. Or maybe to my rheumatologist. Or both.

And did I mention how much more energy I have? I've actually started wanting to clean in my spare time, and to go out to the store! After so much time being unable to do so many things, the actual desire and ability to accomplish these previously impossible tasks is a miraculous blessing. I feel awake! And energetic! After getting up at 6:30 and working all day in the office!

So that's how the week started. And then Friday was my birthday. A wonderful, joyous, delicious birthday. We got to welcome our brand new nephew into the world, I got to eat all of my favorite foods (thai food, baked apple pancake with cinnamon glaze, braised beef with roasted root veggies, pumpkin pie... oh, there was so much eating...), I watched The Fall with my family, and I hardly hurt at all.

And my husband gets amazing husband points for a perfect birthday gift: Godiva Dark Chocolate Assortment. Heaven. In. Your. Mouth.

I like food. I really like food. Have I mentioned how much I like food before? I am looking forward to lots more delicious food, and the prospect of gaining some weight (one of the potential side effects of the steroids, but one which would be a much needed help).

Prayers are still appreciated, especially for no nasty side effects from the drugs. I'm a teensie bit concerned about my vision being affected, but I'll be going back to the doctor next week for a check up and the latest test results, so I'll see what he says then.

Hooray life and God and doctors and medicine!


Thursday, October 7, 2010


I know. Anyone reading this will probably die right now because this is the SECOND POST IN THE SAME WEEK.

I think I may be developing the urge to post after I teach my classes. It's one of those weird things about teaching online. Last year I had an hour and a half commute with one of my coworkers, so class would let out, we'd chat with students or parents, and then we'd leave and drive for an hour and a half and talk about our classes, or books, or Arrested Development, or other random things. Now, I finish my class, I hang around and answer questions as my students vacate our online classroom, I sign off, take off my headset, and it's me and the cat, who is asleep. There's still an hour and a half left before Josh usually gets home. I can't TALK to anyone. There's no one to debrief to/with. I begin pondering the fact that I physically spent the last two hours alone in a room talking at plastic and metal, and there actually weren't any other people in the room. I know, because if there were, I probably would have brushed my teeth today and changed out of my pajamas. But I didn't. (EWWW.)

I need people. I really, really do. Hence, blog. I get to empty out my thoughts, and someone somewhere will probably read this tonight, and that's enough to tide me over until Josh gets home.

As I have said before, technology is weird.

I will now either find something to clean/decorate for fall, or bake pumpkin bread. I may also brush my teeth. Great weather lately, yes?


Tuesday, October 5, 2010


4:39 pm: the sound of rain outside the window; the smell of old books on the shelf; my laptop on the desk with the headset still plugged in; a leftover mug of tea, cold from breakfast; my brown office chair, which despite how comfy it is, cannot seem to keep my back aches away; over four hours today spent talking online to 21 high school students scattered throughout the country about assurance of salvation, faith and works, and what virtue is and how one attains it; I turn now to grade synopses.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

In which I ask, with much anguish, WHY?

Two questions:


2. WHY MUST IT BE OVER 110 DEGREES IN LATE SEPTEMBER? I guess that not having a working air conditioner is technically our fault, but still. Yesterday was the hottest day ever recorded in LA. Let me repeat: since at least 1877, when they began recording such things, it has never been this hot in LA. Gross.

But seriously, how am I supposed to bake a fall chocolate pumpkin cake with cream filling in this kind of heat? Have some mercy, Martha. I guess I can at least do this one:

Happy Blistering Heat! I mean, Fall!


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lazy and Delightful

10:46 am: a mug of Irish breakfast; a plate of eggs with havarti, glazed ham, and applesauce; Josh on the couch reading blogs; Ivan perched on the loveseat behind my head; no fan going because the marine layer is thick and the air is cool; all the windows are open; a neighbor plays Mozart exquisitely on the piano; I choose not to read my book.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Take 2

In case you were unaware, we've moved. Goodbye little green-door apartment, goodbye tiny kitchen, goodbye awkward heater placement on our living room wall, goodbye overbearing management company, goodbye no parking and dark alleyways at night. Hello spacious green-door condo, vaulted ceilings, wood floors, kitchen that needs some love (read: foreign substances caking the drawers and cabinets that smells like bad soy sauce, plus meal bugs devouring ancient crackers in the bottom drawer), dishwasher(!), broken air conditioner, and tall, lovely redwood tree that shades our patio and makes us feel like we live in a treehouse. Also an unfortunate hello to chaos. We moved in June, but from the looks of things around here, you'd probably guess we'd only moved two weeks ago.

Josh and I came to the realization this time around that we are really not very good at moving. We are both procrastinators of one sort or another, but the key difference is that I am of the "I shall take my time and carefully place each item in its group's box, and I shall label the box with its contents, and then I shall indicate the future destination of said box in our new abode, thereby taking 1-2 hours per box, but avoiding chaos" type of procrastinating mover. Josh is more of the "here's an empty box; I'm going to put all of this stuff in it and worry about it later because it all needs to move anyway; did I mention that I packed this entire room in two hours?" kind of procrastinating mover. Because we procrastinate, I get three or four boxes done, and then Josh's method wins out. Thus, in the current state of our new home, I have frequently found myself wandering around teary-eyed with frustration while Josh is out somewhere, muttering under my breath about where the MEASURING CUPS are because I really need to make LITTLE CHOCOLATE CAKES. No, the little chocolate cakes were nowhere near a necessity, and the world would not have ended if I had not found the measuring cups, and yes, this is a lot funnier to me now as I write it, but in the moment these small instances seem gargantuan. I really do have a hard time dealing with disorganization, especially in our home. How can I do the stuff I wanna if I can't FIND it? It! You know, that thing that you saw that one time when we were looking for that other thing that we couldn't find. YES I WILL CRY OVER NOT BEING ABLE TO FIND THE SPATULA.

Things are improving only slowly, due in part to the new position I have at work that demands more of my time in the office, to Josh's work (introvert in an extrovert's job=tired husband), and to my chronic pain and weakness (doctors are doing labwork on my blood, btw, to see if I might have RA); I can only do so much before I need to sit down and not move for a while. It's frustrating (the clutter and chaos), but I'm learning to deal with it better. One bright and shiny light in the darkness is the unexpected joy of being forced to read books I may not have otherwise chosen had I access to our entire wealth of literature. Only the boxes that had spilled over onto the floor were accessible, so I read A Ring of Endless Light just because it was there, and it was a dear and deep delight. It was insightful, moving--made me cry--and gave me a lot to think about in regard to my grandmother, who has severe Alzheimer's. L'Engle was also much kinder as an author than I anticipated she would be, and I think many greener authors (including myself) would have handled the story differently, making it more contrived, and thereby ruining a great deal of the poignancy and sweetness that L'Engle instead produces. I've also finished books I'd only read one or two short stories from, and read others that I'd always meant to read, but kept setting aside for another day. The whole experience is like discovering friends living in my house to whom I had previously been blind. Oh, hi L'Engle. Thanks for being here and changing my life. Pull up a shelf and stay forever. Hey there Byatt. You can be my edgy-mystical-modern friend, just don't send any djinn my way. We can totally have drinks, though, and talk about narratology.

That and camping is pretty much my summer in my nutshell, but add two words: kitty parkour. Yes, Ivan likes our new place too. School starts up again soon, and all my classes are online this year, which promises to be an interesting adventure in new teaching methods for me. I keep needing to remind myself that just because they're online students it doesn't mean that they're not real. Sigh. The internet is weird.


Edit: I posted this, and then thought, "I should include a picture." A few minutes of searching my computer produced the information that I have not uploaded any new pictures since November. I have a bajillion photos on my camera of cool things we did or made in the last year, but they are required to live there for now since--you guessed it--I have no idea where my camera cord is. Don't worry. No tears this time. Instead, here's a Facebook photo I stole from my mom of us camping.

Also, why is it so hot at 1:30 in the morning? It's at least eighty degrees in here! G'night.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Easter Break

Dear Easter Break,

You were kind of crazy for a while, with all that grading, but you were real real sweet, too. I'm going to miss you.



Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hey there...

Um, so, blog fail.

Why did no one warn me that real life was going to be so busy and tiring? Ugh.

Since my last blog, I:

  • Decorated and undecorated for Christmas.
  • Cut my hair. (Not because it's the married-woman-thing-to-do, but because I won a free hair cut from a salon, and because some of my students' parents would walk into the classroom and ask me or the students where the tutor was. I decided that something needed to change.)
  • Was a bridesmaid in my maid of honor's wedding, which was beautiful and sweet, just like her.
  • Pulled an all-nighter finishing grades at the end of the semester. I had assured myself at graduation that I would never need to lose sleep over reading and papers again. Oops.
  • Introduced 40 students to Elizabeth Bishop and William Carlos Williams, not to mention iambs, dactyls, trochees, etc.
  • Cooked some mediocre meals not worth mentioning.
  • Ate way too much fast food.
  • Subbed for six Latin classes in the last two weeks.
  • Remembered waaay more Latin than I thought I knew.
  • Read The Graveyard Book, re-read Warrior's Apprentice and Cetaganda, read a few Austen-related books, started Good Omens. (This is on top of reading for my classes, which usually amounts to over 1 book/week. This week was Dante's Inferno and Purgatory and various 19-20th century poets; also finishing the last of Robinson Crusoe.)
  • Joined a fairy-tale reading/viewing/discussion group.
  • Rediscovered "The Loh-Down on Science" with Sandra Tsing Loh. Yay Podcasts.
  • Listened to a fair amount of Billy Collins reading his own poetry.
  • Started a watercolor, but did not finish it (of course).
  • Started taking Magnesium supplements to see if my joints and muscles will feel any better. Is it weird that my knees feel great when I wear heels, but are in lots of pain otherwise?
  • Got sick; got better (mostly).
  • Discovered Vosges Haut-Chocolat. Goji berries, pink Himalayan salt, and deep 41% milk chocolate? Yes please. Next to try: the Calindia bar (green cardamom, walnuts, dried plums, 65% dark chocolate).
  • Hit our sixth-month anniversary. :)
  • Wrote a book. It's nine pages long, illustrated, and in Latin, but that still counts, right? Right? Beyond that, other writing amounted to about 3 pages on various fiction projects. Again, no one warned me about that whole life-is-busy thing.
  • Addition: Watched seasons 1 and 2 of Arrested Development. Waiting for season 3 from Netflix. Two words: chicken impressions.
That's all for now. At least it's something.