Someday, Soon, Someday, Soon!

A year ago, we decided to buy a house.  The Brit has never owned one of these contraptions.  I played real estate agent until we found the right place last April.  Soon a stack of colour charts, carpet and tile samples, and pictures of house-y stuff we liked became an extra end table in our living room.  I made a Pinterest board entitled “For the Soon House”.  We made sure our credit was worthy and saved up enough for the initial down-payment and then some.  That money was to be paid this past August, and they would start building shortly thereafter.  We would be moving in in March 2015.

That seems like a long time ago.

I haven’t blogged in a long time because our world got turned upside down with one thing after another, and I just had no energy for writing.  I had a few false starts.  It wouldn’t stick.  I eventually tearfully renamed the Pinterest board “The Someday House”, and have continued to pore with great melancholy over all the wonderful blogs and pins about house-y things that I so longed for.

The house?  Oh, yeh.  Things happened, and there was stuff… and shenanigans….

And we ended up moving from Southern California to the Bay Area, and the house money got used up in a period of unemployment prolonged by 2 months by the process of fighting immigration to keep The Brit in the country because of a work visa mess up.

Sometimes the Universe kicks you in the rear-end to get you to do something you should be doing but won’t because you don’t know it, yet.

The Brit got an unexpected offer from a bigger and even better company than he was working for (and the one he was at was pretty doggone good).  Hence the move.

I know it doesn’t all make sense to you, but that’s really all that matters for that part of the story.  It’s all in the past, and it’s time to move on.  And in May 2015, it will be time to move IN.

We bought a house just this evening.  The Pinterest board is now called “For the Up-coming House!”

I recently watched several seasons of International House Hunters on Netflix -in a rather short span of time (don’t judge me and my potato chips *grimace*).

A realtor told one of the subject couples that there was no such thing as “the perfect (Parisian) apartment”, nor the perfect place when you have a budget.  You have to make sacrifices, and in the process you find out what’s really important to you.  This is true unless you are building the house yourself.  I can’t do that anymore, so we have to make a few accommodations.

#1)  About 10 minutes farther from The Brit’s work than we’d prefer.  In Bay Area traffic, that does matter because if you miss the “window” it’ll be twice as long a trip.

#2)  Laundry room on 1st floor, bedrooms on 3rd.  Yes.  3 floors.

#3)  Not 1 flight of stairs but 2.

#4)  A side courtyard rather than a proper backyard of any kind.

But that’s OK because:

#1)  It’s a brand new, well-built home well within our budget (which allows a little room for options and upgrades), which is impossible to find closer to the office.

#2)  The resale value will be excellent in a fairly short time, especially with all the revitalisation and preservation of the town going on.

#3)  The stairs will be good exercise.

#4)  We don’t have to buy a lawn-mower.  I can do container gardening.

I won’t bother to list all the other *good* things about the house.  We’ll keep it fair to the Cons and keep the lists even.  For now.

In the next week or 2, The Brit and I will invade visit the “design studio” to choose our colours, flooring, options, upgrades, etc.  Until then, I’ll be digging out all those colour charts and pictures, and adding to the Pinterest board.  It would be neat to see some of your pins for home ideas, if you’d like to post some here.  I always enjoy seeing what others find and create in their own homes.

Cheers!

For the Kids

This is my daughter’s 2nd year raising money for Extra Life, a charity benefiting children. I will be helping her out by sharing her cause (hint hint)  and helping keep her awake by challenging her to a few matches in the Blizzard game Hearthstone on the event night.  Get that mage deck ready, Shooshie!

extralife2012_300x2501Let me allow the folks at Extra Life to explain what they’re all about:

“Extra Life began in 2008 as a way of honoring a young lady named Victoria Enmon. Tori’s battle against acute lymphoblastic leukemia inspired the Sarcastic Gamer Community in a way that is difficult to describe. Members sent in video games and bought gifts to keep Tori’s spirits up despite numerous hospital stays and three bouts with the deadly disease.

Tragically, we lost Tori to cancer in January 2008. Later that year, I asked my partners at Sarcastic Gamer if they would be interested in Extra Life, a 24-hour video game marathon to raise money for the hospital that treated and fought beside Tori. In 2008 and 2009 Extra Life raised a combined $302,000, 100 percent of which went directly to help kids like Tori at my local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital (Texas Children’s Hospital).

While thousands of gamers, more than 100 websites and more than 12,000 donors were happy to support Extra Life, many expressed their desire to raise money to help kids closer to home. In what I can only consider destiny, in 2009 I left behind my radio career and went to work full-time for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals as a Radiothon Director. This life-changing event gave me unique insight into an incredible non-profit organization that helps kids all over the United States and Canada.

I quickly realized that Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals would be the perfect solution to expand Extra Life into more communities.

This year, when you sign up to play games for 24 hours this year, you won’t just be raising money for kids. You’ll be supporting LOCAL kids and their families. Kids right in your own backyard.

All the money you raise for Extra Life 2014 will go directly to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital of your choice.

Do you want to have more fun than you can handle while helping some of the bravest (and smallest) warriors in your community?

…I also encourage you to learn more about your local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital and to meet some of the kids we’ll be working to help.

– Doc”

I know the holidays are coming, and you get inundated with charities asking for donations, but if you have an extra buck or two and the inclination, please consider Extra Life.  You can donate through Shooshie’s campaign right here (just click her picture):

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Isn’t she cute?

Well, It’s Been A While…

Hello from my *new* window!  Redwood City, California, that is.  Wow… what a surprise these past few months have been.

Back in late July, we moved North from Irvine for The Brit-now-Hubby (I need a shorter misnomer for him) to take a new job with an even bigger company than before.  It presents a great opportunity for him to do even bigger things and make a positive impact on people.

On top of our new location and his improved career, I’ve had a few more annoying skirmishes with my health, crazy paperwork with a spousal visa application, my dad dealing with some cancer (he’s good, now!), and several changes to the mouse colony.  We’re all getting back on track, though, and it’s time to re-open the Window.

While I haven’t been posting myself, I have been reading my bloggers when I can, and keeping up with those of you on Pinterest.

So this is just a brief HELLO, AGAIN! as I get my supplies unpacked, my creative juices flowing, and life on the road back to a new normal.

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Artichokes the Italian Way

OK, so OCD and eating artichokes is a definite conundrum.  But I have been happily dealing with the mess since I was a little girl.  Here in California, they are easy and cheap to get- and this little beauty was locally grown, to boot!  Thus, I indulge in the messy temptation now and again and then head straight to the soap and water.

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All you need is however many artichokes you want to make, olive oil, and Italian seasoned bread crumbs.  Of course, you can make your own crumbs seasoned with oregano, basil, and parsley to taste (I like lots of all), a dash of salt, and white or black pepper.  The mini artichokes work nicely, too.

Cut the sharp tips off the leaves with a knife or kitchen scissors, as well as the stem so it is as flush to the bottom as possible- it will still wobble, but that’s part of the artichoke’s charm.  Wash the choke well.  If you have a pull out sprayer on your faucet, hold the choke upside down, spreading the leaves gently, and rinse so the water flows back out.  If not, no biggie… just wash, flooding between the leaves and tipping the water out a few times.

Using a shallow bowl or plate to catch the mess, drizzle olive oil between the leaves, then stuff your bread crumbs in as much or little as you want.

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Stand the artichoke on its bottom in a pot, and cover and steam on low-simmer on the stove for about 40 minutes, or until the leaves pull off easily.  Best to use a steamer basket with the water just touching the bottom of the artichoke, but if you don’t have a basket, use about an inch of water, checking every 15 minutes to make sure it doesn’t all boil off.

When it’s cool enough to handle but still warm, pull the leaves off one at a time and scrape between your teeth.  Once you get to the inner soft leaves, you can eat them whole.  They will be very light in colour and thin.  The thick ones will choke you.  There’s a joke in there, but I shall refrain.  Cut the remaining fuzzy stuff off to find the heart inside.  The heart can be eaten then and there, or used elsewhere (in a salad or on pizza) within 3 or 4 days.

Mangiare e divertirsi!

 

Dunottar Castle, Scotland

Clearing out my “saved mail” folder this morning, I came across an email from my daughter in 2008.

I should preface by saying that I am of (among other things) Scottish descent from my father’s father.  I have loved all that is Scottish since I was a small child, and realised my dream of stepping foot on the land of my ancestors in the summer of 2000 when we spent 2 1/2 weeks in Perthshire visiting friends who started off as pen-pals; we are friends to this day.

Anyway, I wanted to preserve these photos of Dunnottar Castle and the explanation that accompanies them, and share them with whoever may read my silly blog simply because Scotland is so wonderful.  Below is exactly what Shooshie sent me in the email with the photos linked to each piece.  All photos and the explanations are by someone called Geejwoob who posted them to their Photobucket.  I don’t know him/her, and couldn’t find a way to contact, so Geej, if you see this, THANK YOU for sharing this in the first place, and I hope you don’t mind me posting it here.

Enjoy!

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Mum, Someone posted this on one of the forums I read… copying and pasting the whole thing here:

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These pictures were taken by me about a month ago when I visited Dunnottar Castle, about 70 miles north of where I live. Dunnottar is described as Scotland’s “most impregnable” medieval fortress: while that doesn’t really work as a construction, I think anybody has to agree that this is one amazing castle, especially when you consider that it is believed that the the first thing to be built on this site was a chapel constructed by St Ninian in the late 400s.

Here it is from the road:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This picture doesn’t quite show how Dunnottar gained its “most impregnable” moniker. This one maybe does:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the gorge which divides the mainland from the plateau where the castle is built, pictured alongside a foxglove for an attempted artistic effect…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and here are the sea cliffs off to the right, mainly populated these days by seabirds:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a passage which leads underneath the base of the rock plateau, though I’ve no idea of this was an attempted mine, or just put in to give access to the beach on the other side.

 

 

 

 

Once inside the castle grounds, the most impressive thing is the keep. It’s where you first emerge as you take the stone staircase up into the fortress, just past the tunnel. This was the main point of defense, and the highest point in the whole construction. Proper construction of the stone fortifications began in the early 14th century (after William Wallace had captured it from Edward I of England; there are also records of battles fought by Donald II of Scotland against the Vikings in 900 and an attack by King Aethelstan of Wessex in the 930s.):

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some other buildings upon the plateau.

 

 

First is the chapel, of which I photographed one of the ruined ends:

 

 

 

 

 

 

These buildings were used as store houses and quarters for troops, though the one on the right (with the windows) is now a tourist information building. In the foreground is the castle well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a more complete shot of some of the castle buildings. Back in its more active days, these areas would have been used to grow food and to graze a small number of livestock. The meadow shown in the foreground actually extends back quite a way:

 

 

 

 

 

This is all that really grows there now:

 

 

 

This is a picture of the information board, showing an aerial view of the castle grounds which will hopefully make the layout more clear. The chapel is number 10 in the picture, you can see the well just above number 3, and the keep is between 13 and 14. The lupins are growing just above the little copse to the right of number 10.

Dunnottar has seen some highly significant events in history. In 1652 it was the last place in Scotland holding out against the army of Oliver Cromwell, who was particularly eager to capture the Honours of Scotland (Scotland’s crown jewels), which were being held by the defenders. When the castle surrendered after a siege of 8 months, they were nowhere to be found. In the meantime they had been lowered down the cliffs to a woman pretending to collect seaweed who later buried them beneath the floor of the parish church at nearby Kinneff, where they were unearthed years later.

 

 

 

This guy is the only relic left of those times:

 

Aliso and Wood Canyon Park

A few shots from our 4.5 mile easy-trail hike at Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park.

This bunny was still in the same spot, only a few yards from the main trail, 20 minutes later when we came back that way.

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This fella puffed himself up as we came upon him around a bend in the trail.  After a few moments of being still, he chilled out and allowed me to get this nice shot of him.  He was probably around 10 inches long.

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I envy the people who live in the houses on top of the hills overlooking this park.  It’s really lovely.

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It was my idea to take an alternate path on the way back to try and find the “Dripping Cave” that we missed on the way in.  The Brit remarked that he thought we were at the end of the trail and would have to double back.  I insisted that all the trails surely would intersect the main.  A short while later we found the crossing to get back.  Four sets of extremely uneven, steep “stairs” cut into the clay led us down the bank about 80 feet to this little crossing, which was followed by 1 more set of stairs back up.  We laughed and “oh- no’d” our way along.  The Brit was afraid I would get dizzy and fall (I was pretty worn out by the time we made it this far).  The water wasn’t deep, but neither of us wanted to slip and end up with wet shorts.

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Going Viral

I don’t think I’ve spoken on the subject before.  I think I am doing so now out of frustration, and perhaps to explain why I have been inconsistent in my blogging.  I don’t want people to think I am flaky for coming and going, or that I don’t take this seriously, because, while it’s obviously not “serious”, it is.  Does that make sense?  I think maybe as bloggers yourselves, you’ll understand what I mean.  My mind is a little foggy at the moment, so maybe I am not making as much sense as I think I am or need to.

Cutting to the chase…

Nineteen months ago, 1 week before driving from Dallas, Texas to Southern California so the Brit could start his new and amazing job, I got a flu.  I was sick enough to miss work, which hardly ever happened, ever.  The last time I had been that sick was several years earlier with a flu.  That time lasted a week and then I was back to normal.

I was feeling “just well enough” on the day we had to leave Texas.  Since we HAD to be in Cali by a certain date, it didn’t matter, really.  I was taught in Catholic school that you push yourself.  “Suck it up cupcake” is my mantra.  My mother is Italian, my father is Scottish-descended from Viking.  I am from tough stock!

It took 2 long days (18 hour days) to make the drive, and by the time we arrived, I wasn’t feeling too good.

I remember getting into our corporate temp housing on Sunday afternoon and getting groceries from the market down the street.  On Monday we met the movers at the storage unit and I was standing in the So-cal August sun sweating and holding on to the car for the spinning in my head, a fake smile plastered on my face, hoping no one would notice I looked totally stoned out of my mind.  At least, I was afraid I looked stoned.  That’s the last thing I recall with any certainty for several days.  I vaguely remember throwing up a lot.

By the end of the week, The Brit was sufficiently scared for my feverish self and got a friend to help take me to the urgent clinic.  Since we were in a 3rd floor apartment with no elevator, he couldn’t have gotten me anywhere any sooner.  I think that was a Friday.  I was well enough to lift my head from the pillow long enough to wish I hadn’t.  Diagnosis:  virus.  Possibly Echovirus or Coxsackievirus.

Considering that my OCD compels me to wash my hands upwards of 30 times a day (friends will say more than 50 times), both of these diagnoses were shocking.  However, working as a retail merchandiser I was exposed to a lot of germs in the general public.  I wore gloves a lot of the time, but not always when I did books (I merch’ed music CDs and books).  ALWAYS when I did music.  A young clerk once asked me why I wore gloves, so I showed her my latex-covered hands.  After that, I noticed she, along with with several clerks wore gloves doing the music.  By the time I orgainsed A through C the gloves would be filthy.  I took hand-wash breaks like most people take smoke breaks and changed the gloves at least once in a work day.  Think on that next time you go to a store to buy a CD!  I saw people sneeze or cough into their hands and then go back to pawing through the music.  *cringe*  You have no idea how many times I had to restrain myself from smacking a customer.  I always wore gloves to do children’s books, too, because I had seen too many mothers hand their little darlings a book from the shelf only to have said tot chew on the book, or pick their noses as they looked at the book… and gods know what grubbiness was already on the hands of a child whose parent would let that happen.  Don’t get me started on the evil thoughts that went out to those women!

But for regular books, I trusted that people would be more careful.

Yes, I am convinced I got the virus from work.  I had a particularly unclean store that I serviced, and I am sure it came from there.  There were several occasions I had to claim out books for things being spilled on them.  It sure as heck didn’t come from my own house, so that leaves anything from the public.  Shopping?  Maybe.  Weekly, sometimes twice weekly direct contact with merchandise in a store known to be less than clean?  My doughnut is on that one.  I can’t prove it, of course.  Just be warned about shopping.

I was extremely sick for 4 months, very sick for 2 more, and still suffering from all kinds of issues now.  I have been to doctors more in these past months than I have in the past 20 years altogether.  My condition was initially ignored except to diagnose me with labrynthitis because blood tests showed I was dangerously anemic.  I always have been, so move along doc.  The first 2 docs fixated on the blood counts, blaming anemia for everything.  I decided I wasn’t going to see any more doctors because they were useless.  Medicine has been on my crap list for many years.  That’s a subject for another article.  The Brit made me find another doctor and try one more time, being more forceful with this one.  Fine.  When this one turns out to be a twit, too, I can be more justified in saying I TOLD YOU SO!

Of course, she freaked out when she saw my blood lab results.  *sigh*  I go every month for blood work, and every month I get the doctor’s freak out.  I can’t take iron, though we’re trying something else, now.

A conversation with my genius cousin led me to ask for a neurology referral.  I’d been dizzy and having vertigo constantly for over a year and no one bothered to send me for neuro-consult.  Yeh.  I know.  I DID have an MRI, but the doc who ordered it only ordered a partial and was only looking for tumor or aneurysm.  I insisted on the consult with the GP and got an ENT and an audiology appointment thrown in for good measure.  Oh, yeh.  I have had hearing loss since the virus, too.

Skip ahead….

Neurologist diagnosis:  labrynthitis with resultant vertigo, and hearing loss due to brain damage.

This doctor really listened to me- a first, and pleasant surprise.  She had looked over my records before I went to see her, did an eval, and talked to me at length before making her decision.

The virus led to a bacteria in the deepest part of my inner ear which ate away at a little bit of my brain, disrupting the neuro-pathways that lead from my ear to the part of my brain that interprets what the mechanics of the ear have picked up.  My ears work properly.  My brain doesn’t always.  My balance is disrupted.  I have vertigo when I change the position of my head in any direction, and a sense of vague constant motion all the time.  I fall down and bump into things more than usual now and again from the vertigo.  Sometimes I hear fine.  Other times, I don’t hear sounds, or what people say to me sounds like they are speaking a foreign language.  I have to stare at people when they talk to me to try and focus.  Sometimes it helps, but not always.  It’s frustrating to ask people to repeat themselves so much, and there are times I just don’t even want to speak to anyone.  Telephone is really hard.  The hearing won’t get better.  Like diamonds, the dizzy is forever.  (Can I blame that terrible joke on the brain damage, please?)

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She’s shaken, not stirred.

My non-sound comprehension and concentration have been affected, too.  Words don’t always come to me as readily as they used to.  Even my spelling has gone awry.  Friends used to call me the human dictionary because my spelling was impeccable.  Now I have to stop and think, or even look up words like impeccable.  Thank goodness for the spellchecker!  When reading, something I have done every day for the whole of my life, I find myself turning pages with no clue of what I’ve just read.

I have good days and not so good.  I push myself.  The damage is permanent.  All of it.  They are doing therapy, consisting of exercises that make me dizzy, to help my brain accommodate for the imbalance it is interpreting.  It makes sense if you really think about.  It kind of goes back to the pushing oneself thing.  The hope is that it will help me recover faster from an episode, and perhaps other parts of my brain can take over to pick up some of the slack.  I will always have vertigo, always be perpetually dizzy.  My concentration might improve.

Last night, The Brit dragged me off to the urgent clinic because I’ve had a flu for 2 days with symptoms very like that one I had 19 months ago.  They are treating me for virus on the “better safe than sorry” theory.  You only have 72 hours to treat a virus.  The brain damage from “That Damnable Virus” was done in the first couple of weeks.  Even if I hadn’t been treated for virus in the first 72 hours, antibiotics within those first weeks could have stopped the damage.  My body has to fight the virus I have, but the medicine they gave me last night will stop it from reproducing so I don’t get overwhelmed by it.  Again.

I am the last person to run to the doctor for anything, but I have learned the hard way to take flu more seriously.  You never know what germies are lurking.

It has taken me 2 hours to write this, 4 days to publish it because I couldn’t remember how to get a picture into a post, and I wonder how many mistakes I will see after I hit publish.  *LOL*  I was having a not so good day.  But today is better!

alex