Friday, November 30, 2007

A Sauna for Sarah

I don't know if I've mentioned it on my blog, but I have a bizarre personal thermostat. I am almost always cold. Since I was a kid I can remember my parents urging me, "Take off your sweatshirt! It's perfectly warm inside!" I even wear sweaters in the summer when indoors, which everyone finds very odd. Air conditioned rooms are just too chilly for me. My hands are almost always cold. "Get up and move around," people tell me. "Get some exercise; then you'll be warmer." So I run a few miles each day, or go to the gym and do 45 minutes of cardio and some lifting with free weights. By the time I get home, I'm cold again.

Over the summer I bought a digital thermometer and started taking my temperature regularly. I discovered that usually, even in the middle of the day when I'm up and about and doing things around the house, my temperature is around 95 or 96. I felt so validated... I really AM cold! It's not in my head! Oddly enough, my waking temperature is the highest one, which apparently isn't normal. It's probably because I'm able to get warm at night under plenty of blankets.

A few weeks ago I stepped into the dry sauna in the gym locker room for the first time. I almost never go in the locker room since I can just come home to shower after a workout, so I didn't even know about the sauna.

I loved that sauna. It was like, for the first time, someone understood my personal temperature needs and met them perfectly. I was WARM. I could take off my fleece sweatshirt! It was blissful, heavenly warmth.

I wonder if FavoriteBoy can construct a personal sauna for me in our apartment?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Shimmy and Shake

Cara came over this evening, and we enjoyed sharing stories about the things our violin students do and say.

SarahMarie: Today Jeremiah said to me, "I gotta figure out how to do that wiggly thing you do when you play."
CaraMarie: Um... *shocked* what wiggly thing do you do when you play?
SarahMarie: You know... a little shoulder shimmy, a little hip wiggle...


SarahMarie: ...I'm kidding. He meant my hand wiggling. Vibrato!

Funny Quote

"Historically, the best way to convert liberals is to have them move out of their parents' home, get a job, and start paying taxes."

- Ann Coulter

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


So I survived cooking my first full Thanksgiving dinner for five, thanks in part to our friend Holly who spent the day with us and helped. After I made the stuffing, Holly and I stuffed the turkey and sewed him up together. In this picture, I am looking happy because the turkey is no longer in the dangerous brine, and Holly is looking happy because she's holding the turkey under the armpits while I dry it off with paper towels; this is an experience that could make anyone happy.

The turkey looked better after being roasted:

It's good to have a useful husband. He dazzled us all with his superior carving skills. (For him, the best part about Thanksgiving was that he got to use the electric carving knife we got as a wedding present.)

I made rolls using a recipe from the in-laws. If Nathan's consumption is any proof of their tastiness, I guess you could say they were delicious - he ate ten in one sitting. Yes, ten.

I made two kinds of stuffing: one 'regular' kind (i.e. the way my Mom makes it) and one more adventurous kind: Sausage, Apple, and Cranberry Stuffing. In the end I liked the Mom-kind better, so that'll teach me to go trying to improve on perfection.

Of course, no Thanksgiving would be complete without mashed potatoes and gravy:

And in addition to the Palmer-family-standard of peas with toasted slivered almonds, I branched out and made a recipe for butternut squash that I love. You cube and boil a squash and mash it up. Add some mayonaise and a beaten egg, about a half teaspoon of brown sugar, salt and pepper to taste, and a diced, lightly sauteed onion. Pour the squash into a casserole dish and top with a mixture of crumbled saltine crackers, parmesan cheese, and melted butter, and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. Yum!

Melissa and Roman brought an amazing salad with pomegranate seeds and sugared nuts in it!

So the five us of enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner together. Then we had dessert, but the pies were gone too quickly for me to get pictures. I made a Maple Pumpkin Pie with a ginger streusel topping. (I used this recipe for the crust.) I also made a chocolate pie using my Grandma's delicious recipe. Nathan loved it and ate the leftovers for breakfast on Friday morning. (The fact that I allowed him to do that either makes me an awesome wife or a terrible wife; I'm not sure which one...)

After dinner on Thursday I was exhausted, and I stayed exhausted until, well, now, because I'm still exhausted. FavoriteBoy understands that any eating we do for the next month will be either leftovers or takeout because I don't want to see another recipe or dirty dish for a very long time.

Except that I just found a recipe for turkey stroganoff, and it looks like the perfect way to use up some leftovers tonight! I guess I may venture back into the kitchen after all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Turkey Troubles

Brining a turkey is quite an ordeal.

Especially if the Reynolds turkey bag you are using to line your stock pot breaks just as you finish pouring the brine over the bagged turkey, and since the turkey and bag were a bit higher than your stock pot, a gallon of water rushes all over your kitchen - and yourself.

This induced an antibacterial frenzy, in which I frantically sprayed every chemical cleaner in the house all over the stove, counters, and floor. I wiped, mopped, sprayed again, wiped again...

I was worried FavoriteBoy would arrive home from work around noon today, just in time to find me standing in the kitchen, wet and dismayed - but fortunately he hasn't arrived yet. The mess is cleaned up, I am freshly showered, the wet clothes are in the laundry, and the turkey is in a second brine and a second bag, safely in the refrigerator. So when Nathan gets home, I will smile at him innocently, domestic creature that I am, and say, "The turkey is brining in the refrigerator - and I cleaned the kitchen very thoroughly this morning, too!"

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Second Best Compliment Ever

"You are so funny. After church choir rehearsals when I get home I'm always telling my wife how witty and clever you are!"

(If you're wondering what my Best Compliment Ever was, read about it here - it was from my violin teacher in college.)

Just Ask

I am all smiles today, because it is snowing and it is almost Thanksgiving!

This morning I went to Stop and Shop and did my Thanksgiving grocery shopping. I'm cooking a dinner for five this year. It's my first time doing my own Thanksgiving dinner, and I'm excited about it. And after doing my first Easter meal for ten people last spring, cooking for five seems quite feasible.

I've been reading Adam Roberts' new book The Amateur Gourmet: How to Shop, Chop, and Table Hop Like a Pro (Almost), and one of the things Adam recommends is not being embarassed to ask questions. Ask your waiter what wine he recommends with the meal you're ordering. Ask the guy in the produce department what vegetables he thinks are freshest today. Ask the butcher any questions you have about a cut of meat you're looking for.

This morning, I did exactly that. After perusing the many turkeys, I decided to ask the man behind the meat counter what he recommended. I caught his eye, and he asked, "Can I help you with anything?" I told him I was doing my first Thanksgiving turkey and wasn't quite sure what size turkey I would need to feed five people. He was so very helpful, suggesting the proper size and then sorting through the birds and choosing one for me that was the best: "This one is really meaty. Nice, wide breast. You'll do well with this one." Then, for good measure, he walked me through the steps of preparing and cooking the turkey. I had already read a variety of recipes and was familiar with what I planned to do, but it was good to hear his suggestions - it basically affirmed that I was on the right track.

Asking questions doesn't make you look dumb; it sets you up for success! I'm glad I asked today, and I'll keep following the advice of The Amateur Gourmet in my future cooking and dining endeavors!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Snow Before Thanksgiving

Immediately after Nathan left for work this morning the phone rang. "Go downstairs, open the door, and look outside," Nathan instructed me.

It's snowing!

Friday, November 16, 2007


Thank God it's Friday. A trip to the car mechanic, a couple of hours at the gym, kitchen cleanup, five music lessons to teach, and a choral rehearsal today and then at last it will officially be the weekend!

I'm feeling worn out lately, and I'm looking forward to the holidays for a bit of a break. Of course, I'm cooking a Thanksgiving dinner, so I doubt that will be particularly relaxing! - but I think it will at least be therapeutic and enjoyable. Christmas will be even better, because the Husb and I will get to spend time with his family and then with mine. There's something very nice about visiting family... sleeping in, lounging around and catching up on life, playing games, watching movies, relaxing... and enjoying the feeling that for a few days you are not solely responsible for the care and keeping of yourself and your husband; someone else will take care of you. Ahh.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


SarahMarie: Sometimes I think some of my friends and acquaintances walk all over me, and I get tired of letting them.

FavoriteBoy: Well, maybe you should stop 'choosing your battles' so carefully, and start choosing your weapons more carefully!

I'll take humorous advice over good advice any day!

Monday, November 12, 2007


Last week our church choir sang after the sermon rather than before, so everyone in the choir had to stay through the majority of the service twice. At rehearsal the following week, I overheard this comment:

"I felt weird sitting through the sermon again but not staying to take communion at the second service like I had at the first. But then I remembered, you only need it once a month."


"...Unless you go to one of those churches where they think you need it every week, I guess."

Ah, out of the mouths of Protestants!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Merging Traditions

We are having quite an ordeal deciding on plans for both Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. First of all, my family is far away in California and plane tickets are often prohibitively expensive. Nathan's family is closer by, in Pennsylvania, but the drive is rather a long one. Add to that Nathan's church job, which tends to keep us tied to our own home around holidays for things like Christmas Eve services (and even Thanksgiving Eve services, which I find rather odd). We've spent the past few weeks trying to formulate plans for the upcoming holidays. Today as we discussed one travel possibility, the following conversation ensued:

FavoriteBoy: So with that plan, we could leave after the Christmas Eve service, drive all night to Pennsylvania, and arrive at my family's house in time for Christmas morning, and my Mom could make her traditional cinnamon pecan coffee cake...

SarahMarie: But my family's tradition is for my Mom to make cranberry coffee cake!

FavoriteBoy: Well, that is a gross tradition and best abandoned!

Obi Wan Meets Elisha

Our pastor has been preaching through 1st and 2nd Kings and encouraging the congregation to read those books of the Bible during the week. Last week my friend Holly handed me a Bible, twinkle in eye, and ordered me to read 2 Kings 6:15-19 while thinking of "These are not the droids you're looking for" from Star Wars. I was quite amused, and I think you will be, too.

When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?" He said, "Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." Then Elisha prayed and said, "O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see." So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to the LORD and said, "Please strike this people with blindness." So he struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha. And Elisha said to them, "This is not the way, and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek." And he led them to Samaria.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

School in the 21st Century

Today my 9 year-old student A. came to her lesson with an iPod in her hand. She listened to music while her sister S. had a lesson. Just out of curiosity I asked if she was allowed to take her iPod to school, and she replied, "Well, we're not allowed to have them in class, because, I'm not sure why really, maybe they think they're going to explode or blow up like a bomb."

"Or maybe they want you to listen to your teacher instead of listening to music?"

"I guess maybe; I'm not sure."

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Celebrating One Year of Life

One year ago today, my Mom suffered a sudden, unexpected, massive brain aneurysm.

I chronicled the early months of her recovery over at Sandy's Recovery, as she went through multiple surgeries, a long coma, and many months of grueling therapy. Today, her physical recovery is an ongoing process, and we still ask for your thoughts and prayers. But she is alive. My Mom is alive and her mind is as active, clever, and witty as ever.

I started writing this post a few days ago because I knew it would take me several attempts to get my thoughts down. I still cry when I think about the early days after Mom's aneurysm.

It has been a very long, very full year.

I will never forget the evening of November 7, 2006. I was standing at my stove cooking chicken for dinner and talking to Nathan on my cell phone. My phone beeped - it was an incoming call from my Mom's cell phone. I don't remember now what Nathan and I were talking about, but it seemed important at the time, so I figured I'd call Mom right back after I finished my conversation with Nathan. A minute later, I checked my voicemail and had a message from Dad. He had called from Mom's cell phone to tell me that Mom was in the hospital, going in for surgery. That was it, that was the message. I didn't know what had happened, and when I immediately tried calling Mom's phone and Dad's phone, both were turned off. (You can't have cell phones on when you're in the hospital rooms around all the equipment.) I couldn't reach my sister Emily, either. I finally got ahold of my brother Jonathan, who told me it was a brain aneurysm. He didn't have much information. All we could do was wait to hear from Dad again. I couldn't believe I hadn't answered my phone. (Now, when my parents call me, I drop any other calls or things I'm doing to answer my cell phone, because I'm terrified that something might be wrong.)

I don't remember how long it was before I heard from Dad again. I remember looking up aneurysms online and falling apart when I read that my Mom's chances of survival were around 50%. It was a scary night; the worst of my life. Nathan came over right away to be with me, and my friend Melissa came over too and brought me a big teddy bear. Melissa and Nathan stayed with me into the wee hours of the morning as I waited for calls and updates from Dad. We talked and prayed and waited together, and I'm really glad I didn't have to be alone that night. I wanted to buy a plane ticket to fly home immediately, but Dad asked me to wait until Mom came through surgery and we knew a little more. He had a lot of big decisions to make at that time under tremendous pressure and I'm amazed he was able to do all he did that night and in the weeks that followed.

At about 2:00 EST he called again and asked me to get a ticket and come home. I bought a one-way ticket online right away and packed a small suitcase. Melissa eventually went home and I lay down to try to catch an hour or two of sleep. Nathan sat beside me the whole time. He drove me to the airport early in the morning to catch my flight to California. While I waited in the terminal for my flight I had to call and cancel a babysitting job for that afternoon. I remember trying to stay collected and calm, but as soon as I explained, "my Mom's in the hospital," I started bawling right there in the airport. It was like having to say the words, "she had a brain aneurysm," came as a shock to me, like saying it made it real.

After what felt like the longest flight in the world, I was finally in Sacramento. Jonathan flew in from Texas around the same time, and a kind friend picked us up and took us straight to the hospital in Roseville. Dad was SO glad to see us when we walked in. We got to go see Mom immediately. I was glad to see her, but it was really hard to see her like that. She was essentially comatose for a long, long time. Over the coming days sometimes we would see progress like open eyes and blinks in response to questions, but then there would be another surgery and another setback, over and over again.

Those days were long ones, but the nights were worse. While we were at the hospital we could be with Mom, but when we went home around 9 each night the house seemed empty without Mom. Some nights Dad would take out old photo albums and look at pictures for a long time. "Look at Mom. Look how pretty she looks." Also, unspoken... look how alive she looks.

Home without Mom was weird. Our family has always been the best at laughing together, but with not much to laugh at we found we weren't quite sure if we could cry together. Not knowing how to act together at first, we argued about silly things that didn't matter during those first few days - at least fighting involved some display of emotion.

I learned about grief during that time. I'm not sure I had ever felt true grief before I heard the words, "Mom had a brain aneurysm." I heard that, slid down to the floor of my apartment, curled up in a ball; I learned what grief was. At the same time, I found that my feelings weren't what people expected. They expected tears and frequent phone calls to talk about my emotions; I didn't even know what to feel or think most of the time. Even when I found some clarity for my feelings, I didn't think anyone would want to hear my thoughts when I questioned God or felt upset by well-meaning people who always said the wrong things.

I stayed in California until Thanksgiving, when I flew out to Pennsylvania to be with Nathan (my fiance at that time) and his family. I'm really glad I went; at that point it was beyond wonderful for me to relax a little.

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas I returned to Massachusetts to continue teaching my students and taking care of my other obligations. I worried about Mom a lot, and during that time I remember that seemingly random little things would trigger really big, overwhelming emotions for me. One Sunday at church an elderly man suffered a medical problem and had to be taken to the hospital by a crew of EMT's. It hit too close to home at that time and all I could think about was my Mom, and what it must have been like for her immediately after the aneurysm burst, whether she was scared, whether she was aware of what was going on... tears started rolling down my face right there in church. I remember that a nice lady from church came over and rubbed my back. Another time, Nathan came to visit me after attending an event where he had a glass of wine. The smell of the alcohol on his breath reminded me of the smell of the hand sanitizer we all had to use at the hospital and instantly brought back upsetting memories. I also remember going to the DMV to get my Mass driver's license and being denied because I didn't have my birth certificate. I told them I didn't have it and they said I'd have to get it, and I said no one knows where it is except my Mom, and she's in a coma, and I almost started crying. (And even then they wouldn't give me a driver's license.) Sometimes I felt like I couldn't escape reminders of what my Mom and my family were going through.

At the same time, even though Mom's condition was always on my mind, there would be moments when I would think, "I'll call Mom," as if everything were ordinary. And it would take me a moment to realize that I couldn't call Mom, that she was in a coma. And it would be a shock all over again to realize that this was really happening.

Well, long-time readers of my blog know the story. Nathan and I had been engaged to be married on January 6, but we changed our plans a little bit and got married in December in the hospital so my Mom could be there. By that time (December 28) Mom was alert enough to attend the small ceremony in a wheelchair. In the following months Mom made tremendous progress and by July she walked down the aisle at Jonathan and Jenn's wedding. Today her physical therapy continues, and she is still making amazing progress - she's proving a lot of doctors wrong daily.

Dear Mom,

For a while I thought I might not have a Mom anymore, and it was awful, and I wrote this because I wanted you to know how awful it was. May this year be only the first of many years to come.


Monday, November 5, 2007


Whenever I feel like whining about my health, I try to think about my parents. My Dad has suffered from mysterious, undiagnosable health problems since shortly after I was born, yet he never complained and he was never too tired at the end of the day to play with his kids or help Mom around the house. Then last year my Mom had a brain aneurysm at the age of 49, and while she fortunately survived, she has faced and continues to face a tremendous physical recovery process. Talk about unfair. I guess having chronic headaches and a few cavities isn't so bad in the broad scheme of things.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Lady and the Tramp

This evening I taught violin lessons until 5 and FavoriteBoy needed to rush out shortly thereafter to accompany several students in a recital. Without much time to cook, I decided to just heat up some leftover spaghetti from last night. I heated up one plate and placed it on the table, saying "I thought we could just share one plate to keep things quick and easy." FavoriteBoy replied, "Sure, it's like Lady and the Tramp! You can be the Lady, and I'll be... no, wait... you can be the Tramp... um, ok, nevermind."

Thursday, November 1, 2007

On The Bright Side

Wow, I was feeling so despondent on Tuesday that I completely forgot to mention the good news:

Dentist: I checked your tongue and mouth, and you don't have mouth cancer!
Sarah Marie: Oh, that's wonderful. No, really, I'm thrilled.