Sunday, December 30, 2007


Lest you think I spent all day in Austen land, I also:
--Went to the gym for 40 minutes! (the new iPod is a great motivator, let me tell you)
--made chicken and spinach rice for lunch
--made a creamy orzo for dinner, but I'm not eating the whole pan so it's OK. :)


I give you...

The Jane Austen Project

(the first draft, anyway).

My compilation of notes, background, genealogy, and other JA trivia.

In defense of Jane

Over the reunion, Di, her husband Matt, and myself were browsing in Barnes and Noble, the three of us being bookworms of the first degree.

Whilst in the fiction section, Matt made the mistake of trashing Jane. I hit him for that ( :-) ) and then responded, "at least she's better than the Brontes!"

"They're the same thing," said Matt.

Um, no. So here I post a very, very brief compare/contrast of the two.
Jane is, of course, the better. :)

Ahhh, family

Some pictures from the reunion:

1) Grandma, Paige and myself.
2)Some of the cousins: (L-R) Michael, Jack, Jenny, Courtney and Ryan (my godson, who, unbelievably, is 10 now)
3) Me and Paige with Patricia the Bunny
4) Me, my cousin Diane and her husband Matt at dinner
5) My brother with his godson, Brendan (who does not pose!), and Brendan's sister, Paige (who mugs like mad for a camera).

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Merry Christmas to All!

While I wait for the arrival of relatives, I thought I'd do some quick blogging.
First off, here is the 2007 Branden Christmas party picture--10 years running:

I can't believe the party has been going for that long--or that when it started, we were all high school freshman. Yikes! By this time next year, at least two of the couples will be married!

Midnight Mass was phenomenal. Remember what I said about the night bringing out the best in us? It surely happened. Our pastor told me after Mas that it was "marvelous." The Mass itself was marvelous, with Msgr. Funk incensing the creche, the altar, the ambo, and the gifts at Communion. And his chant is always great.

Mass ended a bit after one, and I was in bed around 2, with everyone up and assembled 'round the tree at 9. It was a great Christmas, complete with Mom's yummy cinnamon rolls and sausage breakfast and the Christmas Ham at dinner.

One of my favorite Christmas gifts? An iPod nano, which hooks up to my CI via a cable that came with my CI. It is so awesome! I'm listening to it right now. :)

Today begins the Heilmann Family Christmas Reunion at Easton, so I am looking forward to that. My grandparents should be arriving in about an hour, and my Uncle John and his wife, my Aunt Sue, came in last night. We had dinner with them at Brio and saw National Treasure: Book of Secrets afterwards (good movie, very fun).

I hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas season--I'll see you on Saturday!

Oh, books!
The books I got for Christmas (at least thus far)
--The President, The Pope and the Prime Minister by John O'Sullivan
--The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir
--Son of Dust (part of the Loyola Classics series)

I've finished the Weir book and the O'Sullivan book is not far behind...

Sunday, December 23, 2007


Tomorrow is The Big Day, or, if you prefer, The Day Before The Big Day. Since I sing Midnight Mass, Christmas Eve always feels like The Day to me, since it’s a long day. :)

Singing Midnight Mass is one of the privileges of being in the parish choir. This, with the Triduum, is our most intensive Mass and one that requires months of preparation. Tomorrow, along with the baking, celebrating, and traditional events, there will be much practicing of the cantata we are singing before Mass, as well as the Mass music proper.

Praising God in song and chant is one of my favorite ways to pray. While I have developed a love of contemplative, silent prayer, singing is a true release, an expression of my soul and what I really feel in that moment. The Christmas and Triduum Masses are especially prayerful, since the music tends to be the same every year, so I can truly delve into the mysteries of the lyrics and the Mass without being distracted by my part.

My choir has about 35 people, give or take. Tomorrow night we will meet and begin singing our program at 11:00. For about an hour our voices will set the stage for the Mass we are about to offer to the Lord. The music is not perfect, but it may well be tomorrow; the atmosphere has a way of changing us, motivating us to offer our best on this night. I, of course, will be pacing up and down the choir room and the vestibule, as is my habit, until we begin warm-up. I am always filled with nervous energy.

The Mass begins at Midnight, and our new pastor has an affinity for chant, which I love. So I imagine the Mass will be a bit longer than usual, but who cares? Midnight Mass is truly a joy to attend. Singing “Joy to the World” as the recessional is always a high point, as organ, flute, trumpets, and voices join together to praise The Word Made Flesh.

We will praise God with our litugry, our “work of the people”, as we welcome His Son to earth. And I can think of no greater privilege than to welcome His Birth in song with my choir mates.

Christmas Zoo Trip

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Checking the list...

Today's accomplishments:
--Oil change: 1
--trip to a frenetic grocery store: 1
--total meals supplies purchased for: 4
--cars washed: 1
--Batches of fudge made: 1 (YUMMY!!!!)
--Loads of laundry done by Mother: (thanks, Mom!) at least one

Still to come:
Dinners to attend: 1
Christmas gifts to give: 1
Crazy zoo trip with crazy friends: 1

:) :) :)

Christmas Countdown: T-minus 3

Gifts to give: 3
Gifts to buy: 0
Gifts received: ?
Thank you notes written: 4
Songs to practice: An ungodly number
Floors to clean: 2
Floors to vacuum: 1
Height of Mt. Laundry: Approaching Everest

But at least I got Monday off!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Dr. W visit

I saw Dr. Willett (my ENT) yesterday; no big deal. He said my sinuses looked a little dry, but not as bad as he'd seen them. He did a wash and took some cultures (always lovely and fantastic fun!) but otherwise, not to bad. He'll call Dr. A when he gets results.
And that, hopefully, is the LAST doctor visit of 2007. :)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

HTP! (Hail to Pitt!)

GREAT men's basketball victory tonight in NYC over Duke in OT--a 3 pointer with three seconds left.
It was beautiful. Merry Christmas to Pitt Nation. :)

Christmas gift for you

Go out and treat yourself to this.

You will not be disappointed. Seriously.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Tonight is the LAST choir rehearsal before Midnight Mass!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Book club reminder!

WHO: You :)
WHAT: Online Book Club (or, as Nutmeg calls it, the Bloggy Book Club)
WHERE: Right here!
WHEN: January 21, 2008
WHY: To talk about great books!

THIS MONTH'S SELECTION: In This House of Brede, by Rumner Gooden.
Link here, so you can go get it! Go! Now! It really is a great book!!
Future books:
--February: The Poisonwood Bible
--March: The Christmas Box
--April: A Thousand Splendid Suns

And it continues!

I did more yoga AND my cardio video.
I am proud. :)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Starting the regimen

I just did yoga for the first time in like a month. Yay! :)

Todd report

OK so I'm still OK. PFTs, etc. holding steady while the NiOx has dropped significantly, which means any inflation that was happening in the lungs is resolving itself. Dr. A thinks that I need to have my sinuses checked (which means setting up an appt with Dr. Willet) because they might be what's causing my issues.
He also wants me to start pulm rehab again to stretch out my lung tissue and expand the lungs, since he thinks that might be causing some of the obstructive defects we're seeing in the PFTs. Yes, forcing Emily to stick to an exercise regimen--oh the joy!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Desperate rationalization

Scene: My apartment, the kitchen table.

Tiffy and I are pondering the very large chocolate and caramel covered apple I am about to slice into.

Me: (to tiff) Want a piece?
Tiff: (pretending to ponder) Yup.
(I distribute pieces)
Me: This is really good. (looking at the rest of the apple) I guess I'll have to eat it all soon, though.
Tiff: Yeah, because it will go brown.
Me: And that's not good.
(We continue eating)

(I have since had one more slice. There's still 3/4 of the LARGE apple to go...)

Da Baking

Continues unabated...

--Tiff and I did a number on the Snickerdoodles. :) :)
--More Peppermint Meringues! (But only 12 today, b/c it was a humid and that affects the volume of the egg whites.)
--And Toll House Chocolate Chunk cookies are coming out now because I had a serious chocolate craving. They are soo yummy--and I get to eat the batter!! :) :)

(Hey, I'm NPO after Midnight until Todd's done w/ me tomorrow, so I better stock up now...)

Todd again!

(Back to purple....)

Another Todd visit tomorrow.
Another one.
This weekly pattern is getting old...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

"Make it pink!"

We're pink for Gaudete Sunday, folks!

"Rejoice in the Lord, always. I say it again: rejoice!"

(And if you don't know what movie the title is referring to, go here)

Culture Cat: Nutcracker

Just got back from BalletMet's production of The Nutcracker. Since I haven't seen it since junior high, I was looking forward to revisiting an old favorite. I especially love the score (but we can thank Fantasia for that!).

The cast rotates at each performance, so I can't really give a definitive appraisal, but the cast we saw was excellent. I've been attending BalletMet productions regularly (I've been a subscriber the past two years and have seen three of their four productions this year), and they are technically and artistically a very talented company. The cast also includes many of the kids from their Academy, who were unanimously charming (even if there were a few flub-ups here and there--they're kids, and they handled them very well.). My favorite groups of kids was a tie between the pages and Mother Ginger's children. All of the principles performed beautifully. The dancing was accompanied by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra who did a glorious job with Tchaichovsky's familiar score. (I love live music. Love it.)

The company splits the role of Clara into child Clara (Act I and Finale) and "grown-up" Clara (end of Act I and Act II), which is not always done. Tonight we saw Sarah Wilson and Jaime Dee play the roles, respectively. Miss Wilson did an excellent job, demonstrating great artistry and technique, and Ms. Dee was, as usual, superb. (She's one of my favorites.)

Other company standouts:
--Adam Hundt as Herr Drosselmeyer
--Jimmy Orrante as the Suger Plum Fairy's Cavalier and Herr Stahlbaum
--Emily Gotschall as Grandma Stahlbaum (hysterical)
--Bethany Manley as the Spanish Doll--she really danced like a doll. You totally believed it. Incredible.
--David Tlaiye as the Nutcracker Prince
--The Snowflakes/Flowers--awesome!
--Emily Ramirez as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Her solo and pas de deux were just wonderful.
--Jaime Kotrba and James Pierce in the pas de deux of the Arabian Dance. This can be very boring and static if not done correctly. The innovative choreography and talent of the dancers made this a highlight of the night.
--The men who made up the Dragon--very cool.
The Nutcracker runs until Dec. 23 at the Ohio Theater. You can get tickets at the link I posted above.

Surburban snow...

So what did I do all day?
Go here.

Update: the Cheeseburger Hamburger Helper was really good!!! :) AS were the Snickerdoodles (which are wrapped in cookie tins, awaiting the meringues that will join them tomorrow)

Off to the Nutcracker!

New layout!

As you can see, I've changed my layout--time for something new round the bucket.
I'm going to try to keep the colors liturgical. :) We'll see how that goes.

More tree

More tree art:

1. "That what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown"--this ornament talks! Linus tells the Christmas story just like in the TV show.

2. Ariel (who also talks!)--my second favorite Disney movie.

3. Lucy goes through the Wardrobe (she's my favorite Narnia character)

4. A church with "O Come, All Ye Faithful" on the side--that's the first Christmas song I remember singing.

5. The Peanuts and Snoopy play "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing". Mom got this for me--I love it!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas pics and countdown:

Gifts to give: Five
Gifts to buy: One
Cards to write: Um, a lot.
Gifts received: three
Edible gifts received: one (a huge, chocolate/caramel/nut covered apple was on my desk at work!)


Top to bottom:
--The S'mores nativity!
--The Tree. Note on the tree: I try to buy only ornaments that have some significance to me. So when I post pictures of the ornaments, I'll explain why I have them.
--Remy from Ratatouille, since I loved that movie, love Pixar and love to cook.
--The Grinch--a childhood favorite. (Dad was the Grinch, Bryan was Max, and I was Cindy Lou Who. Mel wasn't born yet when we did this.)
--Rudolph and the Misfit Toys--I love this Christmas special and can still sing all the songs (ha!) next to Glinda the Good Witch. I LOVE The Wizard of Oz. When I was a little kid I watched it constantly. I bought this last year, firstly because I loved the movie and secondly, I had seen Wicked in Chicago with some of my friends that year to celebrate my first t/x anniversary. In the first scene of the musical, Glinda descends upon the Ozians in a big bubble contraption. :) (I also bought this for Milia, since she went with me on the trip).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Yummy food!

Tomorrow is St. Lucia's day, and in her honor, I have made St. Lucia buns.
My family loves these. Try them, if you've got a few hours to kill (since they involve two risings).

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

More shopping...

For those on your list that you don't know who to buy for, pretty soaps are always great. And the Cloister Gift Shoppe, of the Dominican Nuns in NJ, do a great job! I just ordered their Cloister Garden, Natale (Christmas soap) and Oatmeal soaps to give out as gifts.


For Christmas, I obviously get a lot of books. Here's what I've gotten/read so far:

--Ann Tyler, Digging to America (from Mel): the title is a take off on the idea of kids "digging to China." One of the little girls in the book asks her grandfather is kids in China "dig to America."
The story follows two couples, Bitsy and Brad Donaldson and Sami and Ramia (I think that's her name, anyway), who have each adopted a little girl from Korea. Sami and Ramia are Iranian immigrants (Sami was born in America, while his wife immigrated in high school), while the Donaldsons are born and bred Baltimore residents. The novel chronicles the families' interconnections, their very different child rearing approaches, and how they interact as couples and with their families.
Tyler does an excellent job demonstrating the family dynamics and presents many varied, rich characters for our dissection. The author of Back When We Were Grown-ups and The Accidental Tourist does another great job here.

--Charles J. Shields, Mockingbird: (bought at the Book Loft): A biography (published last year) about the life of reclusive writer Nelle Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird and friend of Truman Capote (who did a great deal of unacknowledged work on his most famous work, In Cold Blood). The biography is richly detailed, especially considering that Lee wasn't interviewd for it, and covers her live in Monroeville, her family background, her time at college, her work on In Cold Blood, time in New York City, the writing of Mockingbird and the film adaptation, and her life after the novel. A good read, with a few pictures, and paints a very nice picture of the witty, solitary Lee.

--The Daring Book for Girls(Bubby got me this): This is awesome! You MUST buy this book if you are a girl, have girls, know girls...whatever! It covers basic things like how to change a tire and first aid, as well as basic sports rules (basketball, etc.), history (a list of female queens/PMs, etc.), royalty, and other great things. It is simply awesome!

No tent-pitching--yet

So I go to see Todd today and everything is "stable", so I just need to give the antibiotics time to work. OK sure. Todd "suggested" I take a few days off so that my body can just do what it wants, which right now mostly involves sleeping. (and not eating, surprisingly--but I'll take it!) So that's what I'm doing for the next few days.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Todd--again, and then...not

OK so I called clinic on Friday asking if my symptoms were supposed to be getting better after a week on the two-drugs combo. Megan said that they might take awhile--give it the weekend and then call back.
So I called back today. Apparently Dr. A wants to see me tomorrow. Oh. The. Joy! So we'll see what happens. I'm preparing both for work (we have session tomorrow, the second to last of this year) and a bronch, because that may be in the offering, and if it is I usually end up staying. So I'll want to pack some stuff. (Minimally, anyway)
Sigh. I want this figured out--Christmas is too close for me to be pitching a tent in the Children's lobby!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

weekend update

What I Did This Weekend:

--Made two batches of Peppermint Meringues (go here--hat tip to Danielle! )

--Made biscotti for gifting purposes

--did 11--count 'em, 11--scrapbook pages! NYC, Tiff's birthday, and the Parish Picnic are now documented.

--Read Innocent Traitor and Light a Penny Candle (I'll try to get bookshelves up ASAP) and am now reading The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen.

--Went to Joann's (twice!)--it's insane!

--Made a Christmas gift for a certain girl I baby-sit for. :) :)

--Bought Nutcracker tickets for next weekend

--Went to my Bon Vie Christmas Party--Richelle, Brian, Shirley, Rob, Alex, Sarah and Branden. Lots of fun with yummy profiteroles!

--Found out Liz is having a baby!!! Yay Liz and Grant!!! :)

--Napped. :)

--Exchanged Christmas gifts with Bubby and Melly. :)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Christmas meme!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Paper, even though I am a rather amateur wrapper.

2. Real tree or artificial? Fake.

3. When do you put up the tree? Thanksgiving.

4. When do you take the tree down? Epiphany. When the Christmas season is "over".

5. Do you like eggnog? Um....haven't had enough to make a call.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? The Care Bear kitchen set. I was about five and I opened all my gifts, and no kitchen set. We have photos of me looking very bereft. But then,lo and behold, Santa had left in in the basement! Tricky old guy. :) And we still have parts of it, so it was a very durable gift indeed.

7. Do you have a Nativity scene? Yes. They're "S'mores" figurines--as in, the baby Jesus is a marshmallow in a graham cracker manager with a chocolate blanket. It's super cute, but probably not the most reverent. :)

8. Hardest person to buy for? My mom.

9. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I always receive good stuff. :)

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? REAL CHRISTMAS CARDS, i.e., snail mail. And they go to just about everyone I know.

11. Favorite Christmas Movie? How the Grinch Stole Christmas (both cartoon and live action) and A Christmas Story.

12. When do you start shopping for Christmas? August.

13. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Nope

14. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Peppermint bark and Mom's Christmas breakfast--sausage and cinnamon rolls. Mmmmmm.

15. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Color!

16. Favorite Christmas song: "O Holy Night", "O Come, All Ye Faithful"

17. Travel at Christmas or stay home? We stay at home for Christmas day proper now; when I was little we used to have CHristmas at home early (it was AWESOME) then spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Pittsburgh with relatives. Fantastic. Now Mom's family all comes down here the 27th and we take over a hotel. :)

18. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer. Dasher, Dancer, PRancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzer, Rudolph. :)

19. Angel on the tree top or a star? Angel.

20. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Morning.

21. Most annoying thing about this time of year? People who try to eliminate Christmas carols, creches, etc. from every single place on Earth other than a Church. LET'S GET REAL!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Pet peeve--grammar

OK wonky grammar post ahead:

"Alter"--to change. "I altered the dress to fit my sister."
"Altar"--the "table" in a church. The place where the Eucharist is consecrated. Whatever you want to call it. "The servers approached the priest, who was at the altar."


PS--I would also like to add that one is a verb, the other a noun. So they are REALLY not interchangeable. You cannot get up and "altar", as my seventh grade English teacher would say. You can, however, get up and "alter" something.


So many of my friends are having babies in the spring! It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. :)

And, to those having girls, Emily is a great name. Really fantastic. :) :)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Christmas prep

Is rapidly reaching conclusion. Only three more presents to buy! :) :)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Todd redux

Another day, another Todd visit--
--PFTs: Some up, some down.
--NiOx: up, to about 19. This measures inflammation, so you don't want it to be up.
--CXR: same.
--CT scan: confirmed findings of CXR.

Results: New antibiotic (minocycline) added to levoquin since the bug I am apparently growing is tricky so we'll hit it with two things. Ha!

Next up: Appt. next Monday to see if these drugs are doing their job.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

varia and Todd tomorrow!

--YAY PITT! (OK had to say that again)

--My kitchen is a disaster. In the past 36 hours I have made a Coca-Cola cake for my Choir potluck (last night) and I just finished making cookies for the Parish Counil potluck (tomorrow night) an hour ago. Whew. My sugar stores are severely depleted.

--On the plus side, I did some digging in my cabinets (looking for cream of tartar, which was on the spice rack, where it should be--DUH Emily) and I found three bottles of cooking wine, two containers of bread crumbs, a whole pound of confectioner's sugar and a bunch of unsweetened/bittersweet chocolate. Also two boxes of chicken stock and enough pasta to last me until at least February. So I don't need to go shopping for awhile now.

--Why can't the Steelers just go ahead and win a game? Why must they torture me so?? Why?!

--Happy New Year if you're Catholic--First Sunday of Advent!

--Todd tomorrow--eval to see how the levoquin is working. Gotta tell you, I'm not really feeling it. Oh well. Pains in the right lower lobe, where there were "shadows" on Thursday, when I wasn't feeling pain there. If I'm feeling pain there now, I can't imagine that's a really happy thing. Maggie (the boss) Is aware of the doc appt. so at least I've got work covered. And I'm putting all my Parish Council stuff, including the cookies, in the car tomorrow so that if I get bronched I am prepared. Whew.

--I love my Christmas tree. :) :)


if Kansas City could beat Cleveland... :) :)

Saturday, December 01, 2007


Pitt beat WVU!!!!!!!