Geronimo’s hot summer. (Desert tortoise update!)

A quick Geronimo update is in order! We’re in the swing of summer now, and Geronimo has gotten with the program.

Geronimo’s daily summer pattern is to chill in the dark depth of the cave he’s dug out for himself, and…

well, that’s his pattern.

But he does come out to bask in the sun for a little while at least every other day (usually in the late morning), just for a quarter of an hour or so. Then he goes right back into his burrow and disappears in his cave.

Every once in a while, we’ll see him cruise around the yard eating grasses and low-hanging hibiscus flowers.

He’ll sometimes emerge from his cave to sit in the patio part of his burrow, facing out. He likes it when he does this and we sit with him on the outside. He enjoys our company, even if he’s out of reach. How do I know this? He told me. A mother knows.

 

Geronimo in the summer

 

Once a week, usually on the weekend, Geronimo comes out and we’ll soak him for as long as he’ll lets us, which is pretty much just as long as he needs to drink water.

He has a drinking routine; it involves sticking his whole head below the surface. He blinks his eyes underwater a few times and squirts water through his nostrils when he comes up for air. It’s like he’s rinsing out his eyes and nose, which is probably exactly what he’s doing.

Have I ever mentioned that his favorite part of soaking day is the Romaine lettuce he gets for his after-bath treat? And then we’ll pull some hibiscus flowers from the top branches of the hibiscus bushes and hand-feed them to him. His favorite!

Geronimo and his flowers.

Geronimo Shovelhands. (Desert tortoise update!)

All has been business as usual around here, and then one day I saw dirt flying out of Geronimo’s burrow. Next thing I knew, Geronimo was gone.

(Spoiler alert: he didn’t stay gone.)

For being such slow creatures, tortoises have a way of making things happen fast. Ours does, at least. I don’t know why this surprises me anymore. I just… when Geronimo started digging out the back corner of his burrow, I didn’t know he was going to dig until he was out of sight! He dug deep enough to get under the cinder block walls, and then he dug straight ahead, still at a diagonal, carving out a tunnel. I suppose that’s the definition of an actual tortoise burrow. Duh.

In my moment of alarm, though, I went to Facebook to freak out, because that’s what Facebook is for. Also, I have tortoise parent friends who would possibly offer comments or insights (and they did – thanks guys)! My freak-out went something like: 1). Where is Geronimo going? How far will he go? Where will he end up? Will we ever see him again? and in the comments and a few DMs: 2). Isn’t it dangerous that he’s dug beneath the cinder block structure of his burrow? Now there’s a mountain of packed dirt on top of cinder blocks supported by nothing! How is this possible? What if the blocks cave in? Will they crush Geronimo? Will they trap and smother him? GAHHHHHHHH

When we built the burrow, we thought that Geronimo would just chill at the back of it, and he did, for a while. When the days started heating up, he built his real burrow. Turns out that all we built was a semi-enclosed porch… which is fine. We’re pleased that Geronimo loves his burrow enough to feel that it’s a good entrance to the lair he’s digging out for himself.

Meanwhile, Callaghan started the process of securing the burrow’s cinder block walls to its plywood ceiling with construction-grade metal brackets, performing the necessary contortions in defying the laws of spatial limitation. I, myself, can barely fit my upper body into the burrow. Callaghan has to reach in and maneuver a drill in the far-back upper corner!

I don’t know how Callaghan does it, exactly, but he does. I know that his process involves lying on a couple of large tiles. Consequently, each time he finishes fastening a bracket and clears out for the day – only one bracket can be done at a time – Geronimo goes back to his burrow and gets mad because the dirt inside had been flattened out; he has to dig at the burrow floor in order to fluff it up again.

This guy!

 

Geronimo digging. You can just see his little back elephant leg behind the spray of dirt.

 

Long update short: Geronimo spends his nights (and most of his days) deep in his new digs (literally). Also, he’s adorable. Nothing new there!

 

Nenette’s tale of woe, bird edition. (Kitty update!)

Our yard abounds with two types of birds: doves and grackles. I always liked the doves. I liked their calls. The grackles, not so much.

I noticed the grackles hanging out by the dumpster behind our backyard. I didn’t know what they were, at first. A friend filled me in. I don’t like them, I said. They’re creepy and they sit on our back fence by the dumpster, and sometimes they fly around it and dive in. She said that she liked grackles. We agreed that she could have my grackles if I could have her doves.

Cut to six or so months later, to a few weeks ago. Callaghan and I started spreading wild bird seed across the gravel outside our bedroom window, because Nenette loved to sit on the dresser and watch the doves. There were doves perched on the wire above, doves on the side fence, doves in the neighbor’s mesquite tree, doves everywhere. Nenette had a great view. If we put seeds on the ground, we thought, Nenette would have more birds to watch!

We bought a huge bag of assorted seeds and scattered them around that part of the yard, replenishing the spread every other day. The yard proliferated with birds in the mornings and late afternoons. It was just doves, at first, and then some smaller, brown birds that we decided must be finches.

Then the grackles joined the party. I watched them in dismay, but the more I observed, the more they fascinated me.

Look what they do! I said to Callaghan one day after calling him to the window. They use their beaks to dig and throw rocks aside so they can get to the sunflower seeds.

We noticed that the doves and finches weren’t eating those larger seeds. But the grackles were.

I studied them, transfixed by their methodology. A grackle would dig into the large gravel, picking up the rocks and flinging them left and right. Then he’d grab the unearthed sunflower seed, fly to a patch of dirt on our small lawn, and patiently gnaw at the seed, repeatedly dropping it and picking it back up until the shell gave way. He’d eat the seed, fly back to the gravel, and start the process over again.

We marveled at them. Grackles are interesting! They’re smart! They hunt, make decisions, use their beaks like tools. They eat the sunflower seeds, which no one else in our bird community did. We never saw them bullying other birds. In fact, it was the doves who were territorial and rude. A dove would march toward a grackle, who would then peacefully walk away to a different spot while the dove poked around in the grackle’s hole, even though there was nothing there that he wanted. We also saw the doves bullying each other.

I was wrong, I said to Callaghan. He said yes, it’s the doves who are the bullies.

Grackles aren’t creepy because they hang out by the dumpster, I thought. Don’t judge a book by its cover. My word! I’d been profiling the grackles.

Now a fan of grackles, I looked them up online so I could learn more about them.

I found out that grackles are considered to be PEST BIRDS.

We stopped feeding the birds, afraid that the grackles would start doing all of the Terrible Things. Callaghan was also concerned that with the abundance of doves, some would be sure to nest on our house and wreak whatever havoc that would cause.

And now, poor Nenette has no bird party to watch. This is has been Nenette’s tale of woe. She is bereft.

 

No more birds for Nenette.

 

I miss the birds, too. I loved watching them! Are they really that bad to have around? Would the doves wreck our house with their nesting? Does anyone know?

La Fin.

Newsflash: the Grand Canyon is not commercial real estate.

Yesterday, I got to the gym early for my morning BodyPump class, so I hung out in front of the low bank of lockers just outside the group fitness room. That’s where people wait when there’s a class in session before their class.

I set my stuff down on top of the lockers and noticed a copy of the day’s Arizona Republic, our newspaper, hanging off the edge. My eye was attracted to the small heading “Grand Canyon at risk” before moving on to the blaring headline beneath it.

 

 

Why is the Grand Canyon at risk? I wondered. What votes? I read enough of the article to get an idea of it before class.

Last night, I read more.

The Grand Canyon’s unfathomable majesty isn’t enough, it seems. The fact that its splendor already draws millions of visitors from around the globe each year isn’t enough. Or maybe it’s too much. It’s too much of an exploitation opportunity for out-of-state commercial real estate developers to pass up.

Plans have been made for large-scale development on a plateau on the Grand Canyon’s eastern rim… specifically, where the Colorado River meets the Little Colorado River. The site is known as “The Confluence.” It’s a sacred Navajo site.

Quoting from the Arizona Republic article:

“The heart of the project, known as the Grand Canyon Escalade, is a 1.6-mile gondola tram ride that would drop 3,200 feet into the Canyon, taking visitors from rim to river in about 10 minutes. The project would also include commercial and retail space, multimedia complex, a river walk and administrative buildings.”

Excuse me?

I read elsewhere that the multimedia complex is reportedly designed to cover over 400 acres. The commercial and retail space would include an IMAX theater, hotels, and shops. In addition to the gondola tram ride to the canyon floor, there will be an RV park.

This is the Grand Canyon, as in, sacred Native American ground. As in, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. As in, please remove your greedy developer fingers from the Grand Canyon… and also, while you’re at it, tell the government to get their hands off of our wild horses, more of Arizona’s native treasures. All of it should be left alone.

This is what developers are planning for the holy site:

 

 

Words fail me here.

Evidently, the Navajo Nation’s president supports this proposal. I get that it would help the Navajo Nation economically, but can’t another way be found?

“Opponents say it could desecrate the region and transform the Grand Canyon from a national park into an amusement park.”

Or background scenery as people shop, dine, and watch movies.

Who would think of coming to the Grand Canyon to catch a show at IMAX?

People go to the Grand Canyon to behold its grandeur. They can opt to hike, raft, and run. They can take helicopter tours to view the canyon from above. The Grand Canyon is nature. It is not commercial real estate.

Can we please just leave the Grand Canyon to be a natural wonder in the desert? Can we please refrain from trampling the sacred ground of indigenous people?

The Road to Hana and back, with a fruit feast in between. (The last pics from Maui!)

Over the last four posts centered around my brother’s wedding, I’ve shared my Mom’s hometown, a beach workout, a black sand beach, a volcano crater, and a passage of text on an airline agricultural declaration form advising against smuggling snakes on the plane. Whether you’ve enjoyed or merely tolerated this onslaught of photo-documentation, I’m back with the last few pics. Okay, the last 25 or so. At the risk of sounding like a vacation destination brochure for Maui, I want to share a little more of the island’s diverse geographic character. What else would I do with my evidence that there’s more to Maui than beaches and volcanos?

Our drive up to Hana and back took us through lush rainforest and a barren, desert-like environment, respectively, landscapes so opposite that it’s a wonder they’re along the same road in fairly close proximity. In Arizona, we have canyons and forests, snow country and lakes, and, of course, our vast expanse of the Sonoran desert, festooned with its indigenous and characteristic Saguaro cactus… but you don’t get all of that variation within a two-hour drive along the same road!

Hana Highway (aka the Road to Hana) takes you from Kahului to the east side of the island, ending at the town of Hana. The trek is a must-do when you’re on Maui. (Again, sorry about the brochure-speak; there’s no other way to put it.)

The narrow, winding road up to Hana is infamous for being a risky drive, but it’s also a treasure hunt, so you want to have a map of the treasures along the way. One of these is Ono Organic Farms. My brother had arranged for us to do a fruit-tasting and a tour through the gardens there. It was like stepping into Avatar. Have I mentioned that my brother is all kinds of awesome?

We couldn’t visit the Seven Sacred Pools this time, but that’s what future visits are for! I loved the Seven Sacred Pools the one time I went, and I look forward to going back and showing Callaghan its sparkling pools and waterfalls.

Going home, rather than backtracking the way we came, we continued along our path. Hana Highway loops around Paia toward Pukalani, and the terrain changes dramatically. This is where you’ll see landscape that looks more like the mainland than an island.

Other than mongoose and nene, we didn’t see too much in the way of critters… you’ll find a darling little brown spider in one of the pics below, though. I’d included a nene pic from the cemetery a few posts back, but the mongoose is just too fast to photograph. He’s a famous emblem of Hawaii for a reason, that mongoose. He’s too busy opening cans of whoop-ass on snakes to be sitting for portraits.

Here’s a mongoose who posed for someone else:

 

Portrait of a mongoose as stolen from bikemaui dot com

Portrait of a mongoose as stolen from bikemaui dot com

 

And here are a few pics from the road to Hana (Hana Highway):

 

We got an early start up the road, ascending under the brightening day.

We got an early start up the road, ascending under the brightening day.

 

It’s best to start up the road early in the morning, when there’s less traffic, but it’s highly advisable to avoid going when it’s dark.

 

Legend has it that the waters of Kane can heal disease and preserve youth

Legend has it that the waters of Kane can heal disease and preserve youth

 

There are many waterfalls along the way.

 

A waterfall seen from the road

A waterfall seen from the road

 

So many little waterfalls.

So many little waterfalls.

 

The rainforest is beautiful. How could it not be?

 

Sunbeams in the rainforest

Sunbeams in the rainforest

 

Rainforest vegetation

Rainforest vegetation

 

Spiders make me happy, so you know I had to grab a pic of this little guy!

 

Little spider!

Little spider!

 

After visiting the black sand beach, we headed to Ono Organic Farms for the fruit-tasting and tour my brother had arranged.

 

Ono Organic Farms

Ono Organic Farms

 

Starfruit

Starfruit

 

Fallen avocados

Fallen avocados

 

The avocados in Hawaii grow to be enormous. The specimens pictured here are some of the smaller ones!

 

I'm holding this avocado like it's a grenade, but I'm just trying to gauge its weight.

I’m holding this avocado like it’s a grenade, but I’m just trying to gauge its weight.

 

Nutmeg

Nutmeg

 

Coffee beans

Coffee beans

 

Cacao (chocolate)

Cacao (chocolate)

 

Bananas, maybe (unfortunately, I didn't take enough care to remember which plants were what)

Bananas, maybe (unfortunately, I didn’t take enough care to remember which plants were what)

 

Another shot of the banana part of the farm...?

Another shot of the banana part of the farm…?

 

Here’s a sneak peek at Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Bananas are Next

 

Banana House of Horrors

Banana House of Horrors

 

Then the drive back to Kihei, also on the Hana Highway. Here’s where you’ll see Maui looking more like the mainland than an island.

 

Coming back from Hana

Coming back from Hana

 

Not too many miles away from the rainforest!

Not too many miles away from the rainforest!

 

Returning from Hana

Returning from Hana

 

Desert-like land meeting the ocean... the opposite of the rainforest meeting the ocean at the black sand beach

Desert-like land meeting the ocean… the opposite of the rainforest meeting the ocean at the black sand beach

 

This almost looks like Iraq.

This almost looks like Iraq.

 

I wouldn't guess I was on a tropical island!

I wouldn’t guess I was on a tropical island!

 

The highway back from Hana

The highway back from Hana

 

Windmills

Windmills

 

The End.

And now we’ve been back for a week, and it’s Thanksgiving week already. Next time I post, we’ll be somewhere else yet again. More family shenanigans afoot! The best kind of shenanigans.

Maui: a lava love to give. (Haleakala volcano crater + Waianapanapa black sand beach!)

One summer, when I was a teenager and the Big Island’s Kilauea volcano was also acting up, I sat in my Uncle’s living room in Hilo and watched the surreal sight of red-orange lava coursing down in the distance.

Many years later… and also many years ago… (it’s funny how time works)… I wrote a certain poem. An excerpt:

…do you remember the first / map you traced in the shape of the island / you left… An ocean between us fires / up, inhaling its own ash from the powerlines of existence…

The ocean becomes one with the volcano when flowing lava hits the salt water. I read that the meeting of the two explodes into black sand, creating a beach. A volcanic black sand beach is the lovechild of the ocean and the volcano, rich with lore and sacred to native Hawaiians.

The Hawaiian archipelago was formed out of massive volcanic events, which is why the islands are studded with active and inactive volcanos and craters. On Maui, from the road to Hana, you can turn onto Waianapanapa Road, where, emerging from the rain forest, you find yourself on the grounds of a park that features a small black sand beach. Let me tell you: If there’s one reason to drive the road to Hana – and there are many – this is it, as far as I’m concerned. The Waianapanapa black sand beach is a gift of the Haleakala volcano, and it is beautiful.

 

Waianapanapa black sand beach

Waianapanapa black sand beach

 

Looking over the rim of lava rocks at this point, I spotted a large sea turtle swimming below in the clear blue-green water. I couldn’t get a pic of him, though, unfortunately.

 

Descending to the black sand beach

Descending to the black sand beach

 

Most people think of the Big Island when they think of Hawaiian black sand beaches, but Maui has this little gem tucked away…

 

Stunning contrasts: sparkling blue-green water, white ocean spray, black sand, rain forest

Stunning contrasts: sparkling blue-green water, white ocean spray, black sand, rain forest

 

Wet black sand, metallic in the sun

Wet black sand, metallic in the sun

 

Waianapanapa black sand beach

Waianapanapa black sand beach

 

I was quick to kick off my shoes and run down to the shore. That’s a strong tide! I had to use all the muscles in my legs to keep myself planted as the water rushed in and back out. It hit me at knee-level, and I was enthralled.

 

Enraptured at Waianapanapa

Enraptured at Waianapanapa

 

Life: complete!

Life: complete!

 

Driving in from the Hana Highway, you know you’re there when you see the sign:

 

Entering the Waianapanapa State Park

Entering the Waianapanapa State Park

 

The day we visited the summit of the Haleakala volcano crater, the sky was blue and the air was typically thin and cold above the clouds. But we were dressed for it, and other than Callaghan’s very mild touch of nausea, we weren’t bothered by altitude sickness.

 

Heading up the Haleakala crater path

Heading up the Haleakala crater path

 

Mid-morning light on the lava rocks

Mid-morning light on the lava rocks

 

Haleakala under a blue sky...

Haleakala under a blue sky…

 

The inside of the volcano crater is another planet.

 

Looking down from the summit of the Haleakala volcano crater

Looking down from the summit of the Haleakala volcano crater

 

The Haleakala volcano crater is too vast to capture in one phone pic...

The Haleakala volcano crater is too vast to capture in one phone pic…

 

Blue sky, carpet of clouds

Blue sky, carpet of clouds

 

We tried to get a selfie with the other-worldly crater floor visible behind us, but alas… this was our best shot:

 

Haleakala volcano crater – selfie at the summit

Haleakala volcano crater – selfie at the summit

 

Haleakala volcano crater (10,023 ft above sea level)

Haleakala volcano crater (10,023 ft above sea level)

 

Haleakala volcano crater

Haleakala volcano crater

 

Treading on lava (Haleakala)

Treading on lava (Haleakala)

 

Entering the Haleakala National Park

Entering the Haleakala National Park

 

I can’t think of a structure of nature that intrigues me as much as the Hawaiian volcano.

And for some reason, I didn’t get pics of the one Haleakala Silversword we saw. The Silversword is a rare succulent plant that only exists on and around the Haleakala volcano; it grows on volcanic cinder.

That concludes this post. Next up on Tuesday, I’ll share some pics from the road to Hana, and another gem we visited along the way!

SHAKA beach workout in Hawaii! Capoeira-inspired! (But still a garage gym post.)

[Edited To Add: Pidgin English ahead! The pidgin words and phrases are in italics!]

It’s Friday! Howzit?!

Essential elements in Sunday’s beach workout: sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, a partner-in-crime with a willingness to take pics, and a nephew whose photobomb game is hilariously ON. You’ll see da pictures!

Knowing that I was going to miss three workouts while in Hawaii, I intended to slip one in somewhere. When there’s a beach in front of your rented condo, no can work out anywhere else, yeah? I mean, why would you?

Neither could I help but keep it light. No to da max this time. I was on a beach in one of my favorite childhood places, on the Pacific, my favorite large body of salt water. My workout wasn’t hardcore by any means, but whatevahs. “The only bad workout is the one you didn’t do” – !

Was good fun!

There was no plan other than fo’ do da kine. A little shadow-boxing. I jumped in and went with the flow, and the flow swerved in the direction of capoeira, because, I guess, the setting invited it. You play capoeira… it’s a game, not a fight. Energetically speaking, capoeira makes more sense on the beach than anywhere, as far as I’m concerned. I didn’t train in capoeira for very long, but I loved it and still love it. I practice the techniques here and there. Why no do it more often? I should do it more often!

Anyway, enough talking story. Here are just a few pics from my mostly capoeira-inspired beach workout. You’ll notice that I mixed it up with a little Muay Thai:

 

Warming up: squats

Warming up: squats

 

Warming up: lunges

Warming up: lunges

 

Stretching

Stretching

 

Burpees

Burpees

 

Sprawl (from burpee)

Sprawl (from burpee)

 

Kick-throughs

Kick-throughs

 

Hanging loose with my nephew!

Hanging loose with my nephew!

 

Front kick chamber

Front kick chamber

 

Bencao (push kick)

Bencao (push kick)

 

Roundhouse chamber

Roundhouse chamber

 

Ginga

Ginga

 

Reaching down for an esquiva baixa (with nephew photobomb)

Reaching down for an esquiva baixa (with nephew photobomb)

 

We had other pics that showed better execution of this esquiva, but I chose this one because HELLO, epic photobomb. (Click to enlarge!)

 

Meialua de Frente (inside crescent kick)

Meialua de Frente (inside crescent kick)

 

Spinning back elbow

Spinning back elbow

 

Rapping. Okay, not really. Just goofing around.

Rapping. Okay, not really. Just goofing around.

 

Push-ups

Push-ups

 

Esquiva lateral (with nephew photobomb)

Esquiva lateral (with nephew photobomb)

 

AH hahaha!! I seriously love my nephew.

 

Aú (Capoeira cartwheel)

Aú (Capoeira cartwheel)

 

(Cringing at my form here… I should be lower, closer to the ground for this one, yeah? Gah.)

 

Resting

Resting

 

I finished the workout with a dive into the water and a 10 minute swim for a little more cardio – I like frog stroke – then floated for a minute to rest. Or, I tried to float. I don’t float well. (I sink.) Regardless, it felt fantastic! Callaghan said he likes this pic because I look like an otter. I suppose this is a compliment of some sort.

 

"Walking off" - ! [photo credit goes to my amazing nephew!]

“Walking off” – ! [photo credit goes to my amazing nephew!]

 

All pau! Mahalo for reading.

Roach milk latte, anyone?

A few weeks ago I was innocently scrolling through my Twitter feed when my eyes were assaulted by a news headline announcing that cockroach milk has superfood potential.

When I told Callaghan on the phone, he said, “You need to stop reading stuff.”

To which I replied: “I need to get off of Twitter.”

I rely on Twitter to bring me breaking news the minute it hits the ozone. I follow two local channels and one national channel and therefore I’m up to date on ALL of the news. But just because you CAN know all the news, doesn’t mean that you SHOULD.

You’ve probably already heard about this cockroach milk thing. I myself may (or may not) have jumped onto Facebook that same day to air my angst. I don’t really remember. I could feel the panic attack igniting in my chest cavity and burning away at my rib cage like fire licking at a paper scrap, blackening the edges and curling them inward before culminating in a flame of victory that extinguished itself to leave a trail of smoke and a sad smudge of ash where the paper used to be.

In other words, I felt like I was having a heart attack and I couldn’t breathe. I was practically hyperventilating on the phone with Callaghan.

It’s about time to do something about this ridiculous roach phobia. (“Katsaridaphobia,” apparently.)

Anyway. In case you haven’t heard, it’s been discovered that a certain roach produces milk that might be the elixir of life. And here I thought that would be grapefruit juice.

Let’s break down this article (from http://www.livestrong.com/article/1012179-roach-milk-next-superfood/) and my thoughts as I read it.

Got (roach) milk? A team of scientists do, and they’re developing it for possible human consumption.

WHY.

Researchers from the Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in Bangalore, India, have been analyzing the “milk” produced by the Pacific beetle cockroach (Diploptera punctata).

Trying to make it sound less horrifying by calling the roach by its flowery Latin name. Diploptera punctata. The string of syllables might sound melodic when you say it out loud, but the second word seems kind of… suggestive, doesn’t it? They’re not fooling me. A roach is a roach is a roach.

Their goal: to create roach-milk-derived protein supplements that can feed the world’s exploding population.

Protein supplements.

Also, what was going on with the person who gazed upon an oily-looking, long-antennae’d, winged demon and mused, “What if I were to crack it open and lick up its roachy milk?”

And who do these lunatics think they are, anyway, thinking about feeding starving people in the world?

Grossed out? We are, too, but there’s a method to their madness.

I don’t care to know the method, thank you.

While researching for this masochistic blog post, I came across a few articles in which it was proposed that roach milk could be used in protein shakes. Never have I been so relieved to be vegan.

The researchers found that the milk protein crystals from Pacific beetle cockroaches contain four times the nutritional value of cow’s milk. These crystals slowly release proteins, fats, sugars and essential amino acids overtime, which can help maintain steady energy levels.

I know another thing that releases a badass energy source slowly over time. It’s called Superstarch; we often blend the chocolate one with peanut butter and half a banana. Voilà… slow-releasing energy with protein, healthy fat, and sugar from the banana. Roach milk unnecessary.

The scientists won’t be corralling cockroaches like farmers do cows, however.

Oh, right! They want the roach milk, but they don’t want to do the dirty work and corral the roaches.

They’ve envisioned a roach milking future that’s far more high-tech: using biotechnology to sequence the genes and reproduce the milk in a lab setting.

AH HA. Unlike cows, God didn’t bestow upon roaches a languid demeanor, adorable sound effects, trendy color patterns, and big, sweet, fluttery eyes. Roaches are therefore exempt from the horrors of factory farming. Only cute animals get to experience terror, pain, and suffering when being used for food! ROACHES ARE SPECIAL SO LET’S LET THEM LIVE PEACEFULLY. God forbid we use biotechnology to reproduce other animals’ milk in labs.

Their findings are found in the International Union of Crystallography Journal.

There’s a whole society of experts here throwing a roach party to celebrate the premiere of this nightmare.

Roach milk. If this milkshake brings boys to the yard, I’ll be like, WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE.

I couldn’t bring myself to search for roach pics to accompany this post, so here, have some baby bunnies. Baby bunnies are the opposite of roaches, as everyone knows.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-Lapinou2

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-Lapinou

 

[/rant]

 

Mood lightning. (I got pics of monsoon lightning.)

We had our first real monsoon of 2016 last Friday night. We didn’t know it was happening until we left the movie theater, because that’s how it works. It’s a monsoon season late afternoon. You go into a building and it’s all calm and benign outside, if not boggy under a sky constantly on the verge of raining. Then night falls and you leave the building to find hell boiling over from the top down.

It is fantastic.

Storms in the desert always hold me in thrall. Some years, monsoon season barely trembles. Other years, the theatrics of a night storm could expunge the banality from a decade’s worth of lackluster monsoon seasons.

I’ve never tried to take pictures of lightning during these monsoons, but that night, I thought I’d film the sky as Callaghan drove. I’ve discovered that taking screenshots from video footage on my phone is a useful way to take “impossible” pictures. I recorded the sky for nine minutes on the way home, and Lo, I indeed managed to capture some lightning!

(Despite the fact that lightning flashed erratically from different directions, so I kept moving my phone between my window and the windshield. And the fact that heavy rain animated the windows in a continuous blur. And that between the dark outside and the glare of interior lights on the dashboard, I couldn’t see what I was recording.)

My screenshots aren’t going to end up as centerfolds in any nature’s majesty themed magazines, or on postcards, or in calendars, or on anything… but I’m thrilled with how they captured the mood of the storm. I’d characterize the storm’s mood as something like Samuel L. Jackson’s character’s mood in the last third of Snakes on a Plane.

Here’s a bolt gashing down to light up the dark around it:

 

Bolt lighting up the sky.

Bolt lighting up the sky.

 

And another supercharged bolt suspended in a flash, looking like an electric vein:

 

Positively charged!

Positively charged!

 

Doesn’t this look to be two kinds of lightning happening at the same time? Is it possible to get a flash of sheet lightning at the same time that a lightning bolt appears?

This next pic shows lightning bolts approaching the earth in a more decorous composition of filigreed branches, but then the branch on the left says “F*ck it” and flumes down like fire the rest of the way:

 

The finger of wrath blow-torching its victim on the ground.

The finger of wrath blow-torching its victim on the ground.

 

And here’s one that shows lightning not messing around at all, ripping through the sky in a war-like blast that would incinerate everything in its path:

 

Lightning on a mission.

Lightning on a mission.

 

That looks like another instance of hybrid flash/bolt action, to me. I’m not sure what that is, but it was definitely angry. Like Samuel L. Jackson in the last third of Snakes on a Plane.

These image results may have come from a matter of timing as one display of lightning overlapped with another – recording the show as video allowed me to capture those split seconds. I’m not counting out the possibility, though, that factors such as glare or curvature of the windows could have created the visual effects of the last two pics.

Regardless, there’s an idea of our first monsoon of 2016 in Phoenix. Raw and unfiltered.

Merry Christmas! (Photos from Las Noches de las Luminarias at the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden)

As a part of our Christmas celebration this week, we spent an evening trekking through the Desert Botanical Garden to take in the thousands of luminarias hand-lit along trails, walkways, and ledges.

A luminaria is a paper lantern made by filling the bottom of a small paper bag with sand and setting a candle in it. Like eating tamales on Christmas Eve, decorating your yard with luminarias (often around the perimeter) is a southwestern Christmas tradition, and Las Noches de las Luminarias is a tradition at the Garden. At this year’s display, we enjoyed the music of mariachis, and members of Yellow Bird telling Apache winter stories and playing native flute. We also admired artist Bruce Munro’s breath-taking art installations in the Bruce Munro: Sonoran Light at the Desert Botanical Garden exhibit.

We visited the Garden after nightfall. Of course, I took about 500 pics, which I whittled down to 32 after sifting through them.

At times like these, I wish I had a better camera. The one in my cell phone couldn’t adequately capture the beauty beheld in the Garden that night!

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t gleefully surprised when my photo album came out vaguely spooky and Halloweenish; the grainy photo quality probably has something to do with this. My first idea was to take you on a festive holiday stroll through the desert, but instead, you’re getting an experience that might resonate more with The Nightmare before Christmas. The desert at night can be haunting with botanical silhouettes, red skies, and ghostly trees. In many places, the luminarias and Bruce Munro’s artistic light installations added to the eerie effect.

Come along…

 

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Bienvenidos! [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Christmas tree in the desert. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Over 8000 luminarias were hand-lit at the Garden. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Saguaro cactus. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Luminarias spied behind an organ pipe cactus. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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For obvious reasons, these luminarias are made with plastic sleeves rather than with real paper bags. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

 

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Christmas lights wrapped around a palo verde tree. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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The desert at night. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Shadow of a dwelling behind the luminarias. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Members of Yellow Bird told Apache winter stories and played native flute on the Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert Loop Trail. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Christmas light-studded hill in the desert. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Red sky, web on the ground made of strings and beads of lights. (Light art of Bruce Munro.) [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Arteries glowing in the desert darkness – light art of Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Eerily glowing luminous art by Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Luminarias leading the way on the Garden trails. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Luminaria with more of Bruce Munro’s light art. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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“Fireflies” by Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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“Fireflies” by Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Light art by Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Statue in the Garden. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

…and a great BIG “thank you” to Callaghan for patiently waiting as I took hundreds of pics!

Merry Christmas, All. =)

Dust mites. (So the house in France wasn’t possessed, after all.)

As I was making the bed yesterday morning, I thought of an article I’d read last week about how beds contain dust mites that eat dead human skin cells. Before you go imagining harmless balls of fluff that collect on the floor under your bed, like I mistakenly did at first, let me clarify that dust mites are alive, outfitted with multiple legs and a mouth that looks like a vagina, and not to be confused with dust bunnies. The article is called “Scientists Tell You Why Making Your Bed Is Disgusting – And Bad for Your Health,” and it was helpfully posted to my Facebook feed by one of my many helpful friends. I wish I could remember who it was. If it was you, thank you.

I read the article and it stuck with me because it’s all about how making your bed enables these vile little beasts to do their dirty work. The article reveals, as indicated in its title, that making your bed may not be the healthiest thing to do.

In her article, Ms. Harper reports that “each bed contains more than a million Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus – the scientific name for dust mites.”

Somehow this surprised me, but I guess everything alive has to have a scientific name.

“…feeding off of your dead skin cells and pooping (yes, pooping) out an allergen that can trigger asthma-like symptoms.”

 

Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus, aka dust mite.

Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus, aka dust mite.

 

Apparently, dust mites can’t do their things in an unmade bed because an unmade bed is exposed to daylight and circulating air, which are lethal for dust mites.

Dust mites are basically microscopic vampires who can only thrive in the dark. Exposure to daylight kills them. A bed that’s made is their coffin. At night, they feed on your biological matter.

(Okay, they’re not pure vampires, since vampires feed on living blood while dust mites prefer dead skin cells. They’re more of a hiding, creeping vampire-vulture hybrid.)

These findings aren’t new. Ms. Harper explains that the research she references was published in 2006. Then she recounts other research findings that suggest a correlation between making the bed and better mental health, including benefits such as lower stress and higher productivity. She points out that we have to decide which is more important to us: the mental well-being that comes with making the bed, or the knowledge that by not making the bed, we’re destroying the carnivorous creatures who feed on our dead, discarded skin cells at night.

So yesterday morning I was making the bed while re-thinking what I was doing, hesitating for the first time. After some serious consideration, I decided that for me, the benefits of making the bed outweigh the benefits of not making the bed.

See, I was hardwired to make my bed every day before I joined the Army. When you join the Army, if you’re not already hardwired to make your bed every day, you come out programmed to do so, and I’m talking bounce-a-quarter-off-the bed kind of programming. For me, the consequences of not making the bed would be more disquieting than the consequences of turning the bed into a hovel for skin-devouring dust mites, but it’s not a sense of threat that propels me to continue making the bed. It’s more of a reflex, more like how it feels wrong to put on your right sock first if you’ve always put your left one on first. It’s a deeply ingrained habit. To stop making the bed would mean putting forth effort to break the habit, and it would challenge my mental health to see the bed all messy and unmade every day. (Not to mention that our unmade bed would end up covered in cat fur.)

It wouldn’t be worth it, especially since we live in the hot, dry desert, where our dust mite problem is minimal compared to other places we’ve lived. As stated in this other article I found, “…if the humidity is under forty percent dust mites don’t live well so that is why parts of the southwest don’t suffer from this problem.”

I now know that the raging skin problems I’d endured while living in France were probably due to dust mites. That second article also states: “Some people will have an allergic rash reaction of eczema. This is similar to the situation with food allergies: Some people get respiratory types of reactions and others will deal with the problem via their skin by having a rash response.”

Mystery solved.

In France, I suffered constantly with horrible, rash-like outbreaks all over my body, front and back, from my feet to my legs to my torso to my arms. Callaghan never had anything. It was an infuriating mystery, and we couldn’t solve it. While the problem persisted on the French Riviera (when we were there, it was more often overcast and rainy than bright and sunny, and being on the coast, it was never dry), it was much worse when we were up in la Région Rhône-Alpes.

We figured I was having a reaction to some kind of insect. I’m severely allergic to insect bites; they wreak 10+ times the havoc on my skin than on Callaghan’s, so it would make sense that if we had dust mites in our always-made bed in the perpetually dark, damp wilderness of our little mountain abode, I would have this reaction, and Callaghan would not. I’d often wake up with one or several itchy bumps that would erupt into a horrible rash that would burn and itch uncontrollably. If I’d scratch the slightest little bit – even lightly – bruises would form.

All of it vanished once we moved back to the States and the sunny, arid Southwest.

I was going to supply a photo here (one of many) of the strange bumps, scabs and bruises that I constantly had all over my body, but I decided to spare your eyeballs because “what has been seen cannot be unseen,” as we all know. (You’re welcome.)

Death by Palm Tree?? (And good riddance, lawn.)

At the beginning of August, we’d occupied our house for almost a year, and we’d never seen a roach on our property, inside or out. Not a single one. Then the Great Roachapocalypse went down on our front lawn. As of that moment, the lawn’s days were numbered.

It’s hard for me to admit this, because roaches, but the event was your proverbial blessing in disguise. We never liked the lawn. It was Bermuda grass, and it irked me to think we were wasting water in the desert to keep it green. Mowing it took time we didn’t have, and even when freshly-mowed, the grass looked ragged. Getting rid of the lawn sat high on our list of things to do when we felt we could afford it. The roaches simply expedited the undertaking. Let me tell you, it’s amazing what you can suddenly “afford” when a thousand sewer roaches start swarming in a cloud above your lawn.

We were instructed to have our palm tree trimmed first. Not only was it badly in need of it, but it was suspected that the droves of sewer roaches had been lurking beneath the palm tree’s fronds. That’s probably exactly what they were doing… keeping to themselves under the palm fronds, waiting for our sprinklers to come on so they could skitter down and frolic in the glorious, cool oasis that was the sprinkler water puddled where the lawn dipped toward the metal plate covering the water main.

So we had the palm tree trimmed and we were progressing toward the goal of a grass-free front yard when we were unnerved anew. Because astonishingly, the horror story that began with the Great Roachapocalypse continued during the front yard conversion process, when we learned things from our landscaper. Specifically, we learned about a manner of death that I’d never heard of before, an unfathomable manner of death that I wouldn’t wish on anyone: Death by palm tree.

Did you know that the most common way to die while trimming a palm tree is to get murdered by the tree, itself? Neither did we. I listened, aghast, as our landscaper described the phenomenon, an instance of which she’d actually witnessed.

“The dead fronds on the underside fell on him and pinned him to the tree trunk. That’s what happens. You get suffocated.” She made a motion with her hands to demonstrate a palm tree’s fronds slapping downward, like when you collapse an umbrella.

That’s what happens. The fronds clap down, and the tree-trimmer is swallowed up. By the palm tree. My mind veered to the image of a palm tree as a monstrous, upside-down Venus Fly Trap, which, in that case, would be a Venus Human Trap.

Of course, I had to research this atrocity. I was half-hoping to find it debunked on Snopes, even though our landscaper had seen it for herself, but I found news articles reporting such palm tree deaths in three different states, including Arizona (Arizona and California have the highest palm tree death rates). I also found an informative article penned by an experienced palm tree-trimmer by the name of Rich Magargal. In the article, Mr. Magargal describes the three most common ways that people can die while trimming a palm tree, and some preventative measures that can be taken to avoid such a demise.

Here are some quotes from the article:

“Finally, and most importantly, is the alarming and growing death rate by suffocation.

The vast majority of suffocation accidents are the result of fronds sliding down, or sloughing, onto the climber. Just a few feet of fronds can instantly and completely immobilize a climber. There is absolutely nothing he or she can do to remove them because their entire body is forced down and against the palm trunk with hundreds of pounds of pressure. The force of the fronds is primarily on the head of the climber, forcing the chin into the chest. This is how suffocation occurs. Take a moment to put your hands behind your head and pull your head forward bringing your chin in contact with your chest. Notice how little pressure is required to make breathing impossible. Now, imagine several hundred additional pounds of weight on your head and picture yourself under the skirt of fronds 50 feet in the air.”

This already far exceeds my capacity for imaginative comprehension, BUT THEN the author goes on to say:

“Remember, when a climber is working under the skirt, the fronds hang down to around his or her knees. Also note that it is much darker and cooler underneath, so every manner of creature having two to eight legs can be present with you.”

ROACHES.

The only true phobia I have other than roachaphobia is claustrophobia. I’m also an anti-fan of heights.

So I’m reading this article and imagining that I’m trapped high up on a palm tree, pinned beneath a hundred pounds of dead fronds with my neck bent down and suffocating to death while covered in huge roaches, and I die a little bit inside, like some of my cells are withering in a sympathy death for my imaginary worst-nightmare self, and I’m SO GLAD AND GRATEFUL that we were able to have our palm tree trimmed, our lawn torn out, and a flat bed of gravel put in its place.

This is the gravel we chose:

 

We went with the option on the right-hand side of the circle.

We went with the option on the right-hand side of the circle.

 

(I love how she arranged those samples for me!)

Here’s how it looks:

 

Behold our newly trimmed palm tree and our grass-free, roach-free front yard.

Behold our newly trimmed palm tree and our grass-free, roach-free front yard.

 

We now have a flat bed of gravel that will be inhospitable to roaches when they come back with the heat next summer. There will be no water there to attract them, and nowhere for them to hide. THE YARD IS BEAUTIFUL.

See that mark on the ground on the left? Here’s a close-up:

 

Roachapocalypse Ground Zero.

Roachapocalypse Ground Zero.

 

This would be what attracted the roaches when it was hot and our Bermuda grass was being watered. The water was collecting here on this plate. Our landscaper created that border around it before she put in the gravel.

Enjoy some pics of I took of random palm trees with deadly frond skirts on full display:

 

The pic on the left was taken on Saturday morning, and I took the one on the right on Saturday at dusk.

The pic on the left was taken on Saturday morning, and I took the one on the right on Saturday at dusk.

 

The tree on the right shows the most dangerous scenario for a palm tree-trimmer, with its loose fronds hanging down. As Mr. Magargal says:

“There is a lack of knowledge about sloughing. At any point along the trunk of a fan palm it is natural for the fronds to come loose and remain near the trunk, unattached but woven together in a skirt. When the skirt drops nothing can survive beneath it. Even experienced arborists miss the potential of sloughing. Usually, if a palm is going to slough off it may occur as low as 25 to 30 feet from the ground.”

We still have a small patch of grass in the backyard, but there were no roaches on that lawn, because there’s no dipping-down point to collect water back there. We’re keeping the grass there for now.

Those palm trees, though. I’ll never look at them the same again. They’re full of surprises. Our landscaper pointed out some hummingbird eggs she found in ours:

 

Sadly, these hummingbird eggs were abandoned when the palm tree was trimmed.

Sadly, these hummingbird eggs were abandoned when the palm tree was trimmed.

 

So that, I hope, is the end of the story as far as we’re concerned. If you have a loved one who trims palm trees, please share Mr. Magargal’s article with him or her. Let’s save our palm tree trimmers!

What I’m Digging Right Now – August Favorites

It’s the first of September, and I can already feel a change in the quality of the atmosphere, though very slightly. I love the energy boost I always feel at this time of the year! Here are some of the Little Things that made big impressions in my little world in August:

 

1). Soundcloud.

 

LOVE.

LOVE.

 

I created a Soundcloud account toward the end of June, and it’s been one of my favorite new things of the summer. In August, I bumped up my focus on working out, which made me appreciate Soundcloud even more. The playlist I created for training reflects the fact that the gyms where I’d formally trained mostly played gangsta rap/hip hop, with some alternative metal thrown in (though my playlist contains more of the former). I threw in some dubstep because that’s also amazing for me in a training scenario. I find any kind of metal to be great workout fuel, too, but I prefer working out with rap and dubstep because my mind has this strange ability to convert them to background noise when I want it to. (For that same reason, I can also listen to rap and dubstep while working at work, which I often do.)

Check out my Soundcloud stream if you’re curious about my current workout playlist.

Callaghan claims to not like rap, but he makes requests from my playlist every once in a while. Also, he sometimes bursts out singing “Bitch better have my money!” while he’s doing things around the house, because deep, deep inside, he appreciates Rihanna. (Also, he has a client who owes him money, and that song’s lyrics are perfect for the situation.)

It’s pretty hilarious.

 

2). Straight Outta Compton (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-StraightOuttaCompton

 

Speaking of gangsta rap!

Here’s the thing: I grew up in California in the 70’s and 80’s during the “east coast rap vs. west coast rap” era, and I remember it well. I still have some Eazy-E in my collection, and rap has always been a genre in the diverse collection of genres I love (even when I was mostly listening to EBM and industrial music, I still popped in Busta Rhymes every now and then). All of this to say, considering that Callaghan doesn’t share this cultural background (having grown up in France) and affection for the genre with me, I was pleased when, after dragging him to see Straight Outta Compton on the Saturday of its opening weekend, he emerged from the theater as moved and as impressed as I was. As I’d mentioned above while talking about Soundcloud, Callaghan claims to not like rap, but this movie impressed him probably more than any film I’ve ever seen… and that’s saying a lot. It’s just really, terribly good. Last time I checked, the momentum of this genius film hasn’t slowed down, either… Straight Outta Compton seems to be barreling straight for the Oscars. Good.

 

3). Hannibal finale.

 

Maybe the most beautiful scene I've ever viewed in a television series. (Hannibal)

Maybe the most beautiful scene I’ve ever viewed in a television series. (Hannibal)

 

Oh my goodness.

I’m not finding any words to describe the way I felt during the final moments of the exquisite series Hannibal. I was prepared to simply feel sad that it was all coming to a close, but that last scene blew our minds, it was so utterly breathtaking, so stunningly beautiful. It was everything. Everything. It may well have been the most gorgeous and gratifying ending to any series I’ve ever seen. We were sad that it ended, but we both felt like we couldn’t have asked for more.

 

4). Epic monsoon weather.

Copious, spectacular monsoon activity left August battered and drenched right up until the last minute of the month, and we loved every minute of it! (Even stepping outside this morning and finding a section of fence damaged in last night’s storm.) The magic of the desert is never more potent than it is during the late summer.

Here are some pics from one of the many (I think we’ve had five-six…?) monsoons during August:

 

A wall of dust rolling in ahead of a thunderous rain.

A wall of dust rolling in ahead of a thunderous rain.

 

Caught in a monsoon in the middle of a Target parking lot. The rain was fabulous!

Caught in a monsoon in the middle of a Target parking lot. The rain was fabulous!

 

Moving on to food!

 

5). Fresh pineapple and kiwi fruit.

 

Fresh pineapple and kiwi fruit

Fresh pineapple and kiwi fruit

 

We feasted greedily on fresh pineapple and kiwi fruits all month. It was bliss on the tongue and so fabulously refreshing… a great way to wind down summer!

 

6). KIND Healthy Grains Peanut Butter Whole Grain Clusters.

 

KIND Healthy Grains Peanut Butter Whole Grain Clusters.

KIND Healthy Grains Peanut Butter Whole Grain Clusters.

 

I was thrilled to discover this flavor of KIND granola… of course I love it because it’s peanut butter, but also, it’s high in protein and low in sugar. It’s a great new staple in our pantry.

 

7). Amy’s Pad Thai (frozen).

 

Amy's Pad Thai (frozen)

Amy’s Pad Thai (frozen)

 

You have to love being able to reach into the freezer and taking out a box of something delicious, healthy (healthier, for frozen processed food) and satisfying every once in a while. Amy’s Pad Thai is one of those things.

 

8). Deep Indian Gourmet Dal Masala Curry.

 

Deep Indian Gourmet Dal Masala Curry (frozen)

Deep Indian Gourmet Dal Masala Curry (frozen)

 

And here’s another one of those things! This frozen Dal Masala Curry makes us swoon, it’s so good. We eat it with brown jasmine rice, and it’s perfect… especially when you don’t have time to deal with food.

Here’s the one product on the list this time…

 

9). Alba Botanica Honey Mango very emollient bath & shower gel.

 

Alba Botanica Honey Mango very emollient bath & shower gel

Alba Botanica Honey Mango very emollient bath & shower gel

 

We’ve been using this body wash for months now, but I haven’t featured it in a “Favorites” post yet, so I thought I’d share it this time! I’m very happy with the cruelty-free products we started using this year. This body wash has a lovely, light scent, and it’s just as moisturizing as the Olay body wash we used to use. Score!

And finally… because some randomness is in order…

 

10). Microsoft Windows Ninja Cat Riding a Tyrannosaurus Rex laptop sticker.

 

Microsoft Windows Ninja Cat riding a T-Rex needs no caption.

Microsoft Windows Ninja Cat riding a T-Rex needs no caption.

 

I have my friend Jodi to thank for pointing me to this delightful laptop sticker.

http://www.geekwire.com/2015/microsoft-windows-ninja-cat-returns-riding-a-t-rex/

How did I never know about MS Windows Ninja Cat before? I love it on my Mac at work. Heheh.

When the sea boileth over. (My roach nightmare come true.)

We interrupt (what has become) our standard Friday kitty-update programming for something entirely the opposite, and I’m abjectly horrified that I even have such a thing to report.

The cataclysmic event happened the day of our recent exterminator appointment. I’d arranged to telecommute that day because we didn’t know what all would be involved.

We didn’t want to call the exterminator. The idea did cross our minds when the crickets started showing up at the beginning of the summer, but we thought we could get away with avoiding it. We said to each other, “The crickets will leave. The problem will resolve itself.” Which, of course, led to the brisk proliferation of crickets in the house, until such a point arrived that we were living amongst them like no civilized people do. Finally, just as we’d wound up vacuuming herds of spiders in our house in France, we had to get medieval on the crickets in this house… Creepy Crawley Pest Control style.

We’d seen no insects other than the crickets. We had lizards, mostly baby ones, but we’re fond of them and don’t view them as pests. Scorpions don’t trouble us, either. My one major, remaining phobia, as many of you know, is roaches. Summer in Arizona brings the sewer roaches, which I always envision as boiling up from the bowels of hell. Had we seen a roach anywhere on our property, inside the house or out, I’d have been on the phone with Creepy Crawly that same second.

I knew this company. I’ve used them before, in previous houses, and I had confidence in them. I know that their product isn’t harmful to dogs and cats, and I know that they’re effective, so I’m happy to open the door when Z from Creepy Crawly rings the doorbell.

He’s a no-nonsense guy and explains the process succinctly. He would “blast” the outside first, then come in with a different apparatus to drip-deposit the de-insecting solution along the baseboards inside the garage and house. 

Now, let me just pause to assert that if I had my druthers (am I old enough to get away with using that phrase? I’ve been waiting to age into the right to say it, kind of like get off my lawn, which would actually be funny considering this post)… if I had a choice, I wouldn’t choose to have a lawn. I dislike the maintenance involved, and, moreover, I don’t believe in cultivating lawns in the desert. Alas, our house came with its front lawn and the smaller lawn out back. When we moved in, ripping out the grass and xeriscaping our yard went high on our list of “Projects to do one day.”

We bought the house about a year ago. We still have the lawn.

No-nonsense Z from Creepy Crawly explains the treatment process and wastes no time. He does the exterior first, spraying his lethal brew along the front of the house near the door and making his way around the perimeter of the lawn, winding around the date palm and wrapping around to the sidewalk.

Meanwhile, Callaghan is in the garage, getting it ready. The garage will be done next. I go to give him the tool I’d retrieved from the house as requested and walk back out onto the patio, stopping to stand under the awning. I’m looking out in the direction of our neighbor’s house when –

“This is why you need me,” Z announces loudly as he heads toward me from across the lawn.

“What was that?” I turn my head to look at him.

“THIS. Is why you need me,” Z says again, a note of glee ringing in his voice as he gesticulates with the hand not holding the hose. He’s indicating something on the sidewalk. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be looking at, and then my eyes pick up movement.

It’s movement happening so fast, it’s literally a blur. It’s actually happening on the lawn. There’s an animated cloud flashing in shades of dark and red, a fast-moving, chaotic cloud glinting in the sun. I’m confused. It reminds me of the swarm of bees that appeared in front of our neighbor’s house back in San Jose that one time….

My chest seizes up, my insides suddenly on high alert. It’s summer in Arizona.

“What is it?”

“Roaches. Those are sewer roaches.” Z sounds downright triumphant.

The word “roaches” grips my larynx and I feel paralyzed in my throat. My mind falters. I CAN’T be looking at a huge, thick cloud of spastic roaches on my lawn, I think. It can’t be possible.

“Don’t worry, they’ll all be dead within 15 minutes,” says Z merrily, as if that solves everything.

He has no idea. Or maybe he does. He does this for a living. How can anyone do this for a living?

“Baby,” I croak.

“What?” Callaghan steps out of the garage.

“Over there.” I’m fighting my roachaphobic body’s urge to hyperventilate. “It’s… roaches….”

“Roaches? Where?” Callaghan studies where I’m pointing, and the look of confusion on his face probably looks exactly like the one I wore when Z said “roaches.”

“There. That cloud…”

Callaghan slowly makes his way to the sidewalk and approaches the area with unusual care in his step. He stops and looks. I can see his face, and it tells me everything.

I’m shivering in the heat. The broad span of air up to two feet above the lawn gleams thick with oily, reddish-brown wings. Callaghan stumbles back up the driveway and says, in awe, “It’s a sea of roaches.”

And the sea boileth over.

Z is laughing. He’s laughing at our shock. He’s laughing at my pain. He explains that water from the sprinklers has collected where the lawn dips down to the metal grate covering the main water valve. Moistness attracts sewer roaches in the summer, he says. When he sprayed the lawn with his lethal concoction, he activated them into the frenzy stirring before our horrified eyes.

I’m thinking, I’ve walked across the lawn over that exact spot many times. I’VE BEEN TREADING OVER A SEA OF SEWER ROACHES.

My ankles prickled. I was mired in a scenario straight out of my worst nightmare.

I went inside and Skyped a message to my co-worker.

They like to take shelter in palm trees, sewer roaches. This roach population likely came from the palm up against our house. It’s unbelievable, miraculous, even, that we’ve never seen a roach of any kind on our property, outside or in.

Later, I asked Callaghan how many roaches he figured there were. He thought out loud: “I could only see maybe 450 of them, so if you take into consideration what I couldn’t see, I’d say… around a thousand. There were probably a thousand roaches.”

“That’s it,” I said. “That lawn is HISTORY. I don’t care if we can’t afford actual landscaping right now. WE HAVE TO KILL THE LAWN.”

Callaghan, who’d peered inside the swarming sea of a thousand roaches hovering above the lawn, and who, unlike me, is not phobic about roaches, needed no arm-twisting. “I’ll shut off the sprinklers,” he declared. “The lawn will die.”

We stopped watering the lawn, but it’s monsoon season, so we’ve had some rain. The grass grew, and I couldn’t help but think about a thousand huge sewer roach corpses hidden in it.

Before long, Callaghan had to go out and mow the lawn. I watched from my office window as he courageously pushed the lawn mower over the mass roach grave.

The grass is slowly dying, but the ghastly image of the hovering, flashing roach cloud refreshes in our minds every time we look at the lawn, because this is what the lawn looks like right now (I took this picture yesterday):

 

Our front lawn right now.

Our front lawn right now.

 

Lest you wondered whether my phobia caused me to exaggerate, as that can certainly happen, LOOK AT THAT LARGE PATCH OF GRASS THAT’S LUSH, LONGER AND GREENER THAN THE DYING GRASS AROUND IT. That is Exhibit A. That’s where the roaches were. The decomposing bodies in the mass grave have been fertilizing the grass we’re trying to kill.

The lawn can’t be ripped out soon enough! I’m going to call the City of Tempe today to ask about their conservation program (that financially assists with homeowners’ xeriscaping costs).

Z the exterminator is coming back this morning for a follow-up treatment, but I’ll be at work this time, so if another cloud of roaches rises above the ground, I won’t be here to witness it.

What I’m Digging Right Now – April Favorites

Some levity is in order around here, right? Conveniently, it’s May now, so I can rave about some of the Little Things that helped to make April enjoyable!

For one thing, we saw a phenomenal movie…

 

1). Ex Machina (film)

 

The movie poster in the theatre lobby....

The movie poster in the theatre lobby….

 

You know I love a good, well-crafted sci-fi thriller, and it’s been a while. I was just barely coasting along on the spectacular fumes of Pacific Rim when we walked into Ex Machina. I was almost skeptical going into it, but I knew that Luc Besson had nothing to do with this one, so I had high hopes that it wasn’t going to be another disappointment like last summer’s Lucy. We used the movie pass that Callaghan had gotten as a gift (thank you, friend!) and found ourselves stunned and in awe as Ex Machina dimmed the lights on its eerie, final scene. Certainly, the combination of elements made this film superb, but overall, I think it was the restraint used in its making that made it brilliant.

 

2). Mad Men (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-madmenS7

 

We’re having the same experience as most everyone who watches this series, I think: Mad Men’s last set of final season episodes isn’t striking us as being as purposeful as those in previous seasons. Whatever. Mad Men is back, and we’re loving it. The set! The hair, makeup, wardrobe! Mad Men is still my favorite period piece in television, and they’re killing it more than ever now that they’ve taken up solid residence in the 70’s. I almost don’t even care what happens at this point; I’m just there for the eye candy.

 

3). American Crime (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-AmericanCrime2015

 

Here’s a powerful new series that got right down to business and grabbed us by our throats. It’s dark, it’s gritty, it’s almost too ugly and depressing to watch… but it’s smashing.

 

4). Nurse Jackie (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-NurseJackie

 

We’re late arrivals on the Nurse Jackie train, but like the critic said, “You just want to keep on watching.” Yep. We plowed through the first three seasons in such a short period of time, I’d be embarrassed to say how long if I could remember when, exactly, we started watching it. We just started season four, I can tell you that much! The hilarious short (half-hour) episodes make this dark dramedy especially easy to binge-watch. It goes well with popcorn, too.

 

5). It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-in Plus Keratin.

 

It's a 10 Miracle Leave-in Plus Keratin.

It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-in Plus Keratin.

 

This is an old favorite! Since we’ve now got ourselves on a strict budget because of Ronnie James’ medical costs, I went digging around in places where I store things I haven’t used in a while, and I happily re-discovered It’s a 10. And guess what? This brand meets my recently established criteria for beauty products! Because of expenses, I’d been procrastinating on the hair care part of my 2015 New Year’s resolution to go cruelty-free with cosmetics and such, so I was pleased to find that I’d stashed away this pricier gem of a hair care item that just so happens to have not been tested on animals.

Shopping my home supply for forgotten favorites is the best.

 

6). Madagascan Vanilla Flower perfume oil (The Body Shop).

 

Madagascan Vanilla Flower perfume oil from The Body Shop.

Madagascan Vanilla Flower perfume oil from The Body Shop.

 

My search for a gorgeous cruelty-free fragrance finally led me to The Body Shop and its array of perfume oils. Back in the 90’s, I’d used the one called “Ananya,” which was finally, recently discontinued. I still have a little bit left in my last old bottle, but it’s been a while, and it’s not what it was when I’d purchased it… its potency has faded, and the scent is slightly off. So I went back to The Body Shop and happened upon their Madagascan Vanilla Flower, and I am in love. I’m not usually drawn to vanilla scents, but this one is different… it’s a deeper, more exotic vanilla with its warm, ambery-floral heart.

 

7). Earrings from Target.

 

Current favorite earrings - sparkly cluster studs from Target.

Current favorite earrings – sparkly cluster studs from Target.

 

This was just one of those silly impulse Target purchases, you know, when you run in to get some almond milk and you come out with three bags full of random crap. I’m proud to say that I’ve stopped with all of that this last month – somehow, and I know that many of you can appreciate the self-control I’m having to employ in this effort, haha! – but not before I found these earrings on clearance (back in March, I believe). Over the last month they’ve become my favorite uniform earrings to wear to work on days I don’t go to the gym. They’re just round studs made of little sparkly clusters. I think they’re perfect.

 

8). Arizona Yellow Bells.

 

Fragrant Arizona Yellow Bells on my desk at home.

Fragrant Arizona Yellow Bells on my desk at home.

 

Our Arizona Yellow Bells are all in bloom, and they are splendiferous! Callaghan surprised me with a vase full of them on my desk one day, where they perfumed my entire office with their rich, sweet fragrance. Arizona Yellow Bells are native to our desert, but I never experienced them until we moved into this house. There are two robust Arizona Yellow Bells bushes in our backyard, and they attract many a hummingbird, which we also adore.

While I’m at it, what would an Arizona spring flora favorite entry be without a shot of my favorite cactus blooms?

 

Spring in the desert is my favorite!

Spring in the desert is my favorite!

 

 

9). Rositas’ salsa.

 

Salsa from Rosita's.

Salsa from Rosita’s.

 

I have several favorite restaurant salsas around here, and this is one of them. Yesterday, I decided to pick some up on my walk home from work, and we had it for dinner. I love salsas that aren’t sweet, and this one is satisfyingly tangy and bold on the cilantro and onion… just the way I like it!

 

10). April Favorite pick for Ronnie James and Nounours: Bench & Field Holistic Natural Feline Treats (at Trader Joes’).

 

Bench and Field Holistic Natural Feline Treats.

Bench and Field Holistic Natural Feline Treats.

 

Kitties’ Auntie M. gave them these treats for Christmas, and the little guys went nuts for them. The day we ran out was a woeful one, indeed. What’s more, we couldn’t find the treats anywhere, and Ronnie James and Nounours wouldn’t eat any other kind. Catastrophe. Finally, we asked a sales person at PetSmart. They didn’t have the treats there, but she looked up them up and told us that they could be found at Trader Joe’s. Yes! We went to get them, and happiness has been restored.

“With added vitamins and minerals,” it says. “OMEGA 6:3 Enriched” and “with Menhaden Oil,” it says. Ronnie James and Nounours just say, “MOOR PLEEEZZZ!!!!”

The thing is, while we were medicating the Wrah-Wrah to heck and back, these treats were the only consolation prize we could offer him. They got us all through and ended the sessions on a happy note.

 

That about wraps it up for this favorites list – Happy Friday, All! =)

Ronnie James has a new nickname: Cat Squared (he has 81 lives, apparently)

I wanted to thank you all again for thinking of us and taking part in our journey to better health for Ronnie James with your kind well-wishes and interest in his story. I didn’t mean to tease in my last post. I just didn’t have much time for writing last week! Also, I wanted to talk to our doctor again before I sat down to scribble this out.

This is the short story:  Ronnie James was sick and gradually dying when we rescued him in the fall of 2012, but we didn’t know anything was wrong until he started coughing about 11 months ago. We now know that he’s been evading death for years, somehow surviving a thing that would have killed most mammals. We are in awe of him.

 

Ronnie James, Sunday night, 4/12/2015. Angel kitty with his halo of lights!

Ronnie James, Sunday night, 4/12/2015. Angel kitty with his halo of lights!

 

The detailed story goes like this:

In the operating room on Friday, April 3, Dr. M, our surgeon, opened up Ronnie James and found his left cranial lung lobe in a state of semi-decay; he said it almost looked like it was “rotting” in his chest. The mysterious mass seen on the CT scan turned out to be a mushroom-shaped (“pedunculated”) object that oozed a “weird, thick mucus-like material” when the stem broke off.

Dr. M tried to describe what he saw in the center of the mass, but he couldn’t quite find the words. I got the impression that he’d never seen anything like it before.

He told me, “It looks like it might be something of an infectious nature,” but he seemed to be baffled. He suggested that the mass might be a remnant of an old infection that Ronnie James’ body had tried to wall off. As he spoke, I envisioned an oyster protecting itself from grains of sand by coating the foreign material with its own bodily secretions.

But the bulbous, sickly pearl inside Ronnie James almost killed him. At first, its point of origin wasn’t obvious; it appeared to be attached to the bottom of the left cranial lung lobe. Actually, it seems to have grown off of one of the bronchi, clogging it and causing the lobe to collapse and consolidate. It’s possible that the mass ultimately caused blockage of Ronnie James’ thoracic duct, either directly or indirectly, as it was on the same (left) side. We’re hoping that this was the case, because if it was, then it answers the question of “What caused his chylothorax?”

Chylothorax, the filling up of the chest cavity with chyle, was the chronic issue we were aiming to fix, the problem we had to solve in order to save Ronnie James’ life. If the mass was causing it, well, problem solved! The mass is gone now.

Our surgeon said, “Until the labs come back, we can’t rule out cancer. I’ll tell you what, though… this doesn’t look like any cancer I’ve ever seen. I don’t know what this is.”

All along, Ronnie James’ labs have consistently tested negative for cancer. Dr. M had to say that he couldn’t rule out cancer until the labs came back, but the fact was, no one really thought that it was cancer.

Whatever it was, it was weird.

The weirdest thing was that standing before our kitty’s exposed insides, Dr. M and his team were still more or less flummoxed. Nothing was adding up or making sense, but he went ahead with the planned lung lobectomy, which was absolutely what had to be done, and removed “the entire mass and left cranial lung lobe as well as a small amount of an adherent adjacent lung lobe.” Samples of everything were sent to the lab for analyses and cultures.

While Dr. M was working in Ronnie James’ chest cavity, he also did an ultrasound on the second, smaller mass the CT scan had detected in Ronnie James’ neck.

 

Ronnie James' left cranial lung lobe, part of an adjacent lobe, and the mass were removed. The mass seemed to stem from one of his bronchi.

Ronnie James’ left cranial lung lobe, part of an adjacent lobe, and the mass were removed. The mass seemed to stem from one of his bronchi.

 

When the lab results came back a few days later, they showed that the inside of the lung mass was comprised of fat necrosis (dead fat). Necrotizing tissues and edema were also found throughout the lung lobe. There was “scattered mineralization.” We were indeed looking at decaying organic matter and an old infection, an infection with a history… and it was chronic.

Considering all of this, it’s miraculous that we didn’t lose Ronnie James to something like sepsis or cardiac arrest. Other than his intermittent episodes of coughing and his more recent bouts of prolonged lethargy, he had seemed just fine. He’d initially been diagnosed with asthma, which he may or may not actually have.

But what could have caused Ronnie James’ ancient infection? He’d tested negative for Valley Fever. He’s been an indoor cat since we’ve had him, anyway. We couldn’t stop thinking about it… we were faced with a medical mystery that had to be solved so we could take the best next steps toward complete recovery. It was maddening. What could have wreaked all this havoc in Ronnie James’ pleural cavity?

Then we thought back to the first time we ever took Ronnie James to the vet, when we were still living in France, and we remembered the cause of that problem. It was the Chenille Processionnaire, and it explains everything.

 

Chenille Processionnaire, or Pine Processionary.

Chenille Processionnaire, or Pine Processionary.

 

In October 2012, soon after we adopted 8-year-old Ronnie James from an impoverished woman in Montélimar in southeastern France, we noticed that he was having trouble eating. We took him to the veterinary clinic closest to us, which was down in Bourg de Péage. (In France, our home-base was in the Alpes, about 100 miles from the recent plane crash. I’m sorry to be able to use the location of that awful event as a point of reference, but there it is.) We thought that dental problems might be causing him pain, but when the vet opened his mouth, he simply remarked that Ronnie James had experienced some sort of contact with a Chenille Processionnaire (“Pine Processionary” in English), a venomous caterpillar common in southern France. The tip of Ronnie James’ tongue had been “burnt off,” and it was this disability that impeded his eating. Our vet immediately recognized the characteristic chenille processionnaire damage to Ronnie James’ tongue; there was no question about it.

I’d never heard of anything like it. The Pine Processionary doesn’t exist in the United States. According to Wikipedia, it’s only found in southern Europe and in parts of Asia and Africa.

From what we can understand, animals such as dogs and cats are harmed by this caterpillar either because of poisoning from its venom, or because of an allergic reaction to it, or both, in any case being potentially – even often – fatal. Incidentally, I found some disturbing images of dog and cat tongues either burned, like Ronnie James’ tongue, or amputated at the tip (due to contact with this caterpillar).

 

Les Chenilles Processionnaires (Pine Processionary caterpillars) are often seen traveling end-to-end. They're common where we lived in the Alpes and all over the French Riviera.

Les Chenilles Processionnaires (Pine Processionary caterpillars) are often seen traveling end-to-end. They’re common where we lived in the Alpes and all over the French Riviera.

 

The caterpillar’s venom is released when its tiny hairs break off, or when the caterpillar ejects the hairs in self-defense. The toxins are in the hairs. Dogs and cats suffer when they have direct interaction with the caterpillar, or when they come into contact with pine needles or other organic matter on which the caterpillar’s hairs had fallen. Ronnie James could have licked the caterpillar, or he could have stepped on the hairs while walking around outside, or, more likely, knowing him, he might have played with the caterpillar with his paws, batting it around. Whether he walked on the hairs or played with the caterpillar, the toxic hairs would have stuck to his paws (they stick to whatever they touch), and Ronnie James’ tongue would have been burned when he went to lick his paws, as cats do.

At the same time, a venomous hair or two could have traveled down into Ronnie James’ lungs.

It happens. It happens to dogs and cats who roam outside in areas infested with the Pine Processionary.

Dr. M, who had (along with the rest of his surgical team) noticed the unusual damage to Ronnie James’ tongue when they were prepping him for surgery, agrees that more than likely, this is what happened to him. Though we didn’t witness the caterpillar encounter, we can all look at the evidence before us and do the math. In this case, 2 + 2 = Pine Processionary caterpillar damage in the Wrah-Wrah’s lungs. It would also account for the smaller mass found in his neck, lodged in his throat area, as the way that was presenting also matched the type of damage that could be done by the Pine Processionary.

Everything we can see points to this caterpillar.

Two things are for sure: Ronnie James survived an inordinately long time after his encounter with the caterpillar, and he was certainly dying by the time the surgeon removed the dead lung and surrounding infected areas. And we’re not finished yet. One of his lab cultures came back positive; the infection is alive.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-pineprocessionarycaterpillar

 

One for the “WTF, Nature?” archives, if you ask me.

We’re so proud of Ronnie James. He’s been such a good sport throughout this ordeal, and he did extremely well in surgery. Everyone was surprised when he didn’t need oxygen therapy to transition out of anesthesia, as dogs and cats typically do after surgery. He started breathing on his own again as soon as they unhooked him! We credit this bit of badassery to the fact that the Wrah-Wrah had long since learned to get along without that nasty old lung.

So that’s what happened. Years ago, Ronnie James inhaled or ingested toxins from a caterpillar. And to think that I’d blamed myself for bringing him here, back when we thought he’d developed asthma from being in the dusty desert! The whole time, he’d been suffering the effects of an environmental hazard that doesn’t even exist in North America. I can’t believe we brought this demon caterpillar venom back from France with us, embedded in the Wrah-Wrah’s lungs. That was more baggage from France than we’d bargained for.

Now that we know the root of the problem, we have a better idea of what to do for Ronnie James. We’re going after the remaining infection with an aggressive, extended course of antibiotics. We’re also continuing him on his asthma treatments, as he’d shown slight improvement on them (the steroid inhaler was helping to hold the infection at bay, and the bronchial dilator inhaler was helping to open up his airways).

Tomorrow, the Wrah-Wrah goes back to Dr. M to have his stitches removed, and he’ll be checked for need of further thoracentesis (chest tapping/draining). We were cautioned that it wouldn’t be unusual for him to need to have his chest drained one or two more times following the surgery. Our hope is that after a month or so, he’ll no longer have to deal with chylothorax and all the treatments it necessitates.

We’ve had a couple of scary episodes with coughing and vomiting in the last few days, but he checked out fine at the hospital; the episodes aren’t surprising given that his insides are adjusting to the changes, and he’s still recovering. Overall, the Wrah-Wrah continues to do much better. He’s happy and more active now than we’ve ever seen him. He is exponentially better, in fact. He’s next-level Wrah-Wrah!

A happy kitty is a kitty without dead lung tissue rotting in his chest with a weird, bulbous, rotting-fat-filled mass. We still have a long road ahead of us; Ronnie James’ long-term prognosis depends on how he responds to treatment from this point on. Anything can happen, but we’re optimistic!

 

Sleepy Ronnie James. He just woke up from his evening nap. (4/13/15)

Sleepy Ronnie James. He just woke up from his evening nap. (4/13/15)

Nature Walk at Dusk

Yesterday was hella hard, guys. It was just one of those days, like we all have from time to time.

My work day ended at five, as usual, and Callaghan gamely came to get me, as usual. We had to run some errands at Tempe Marketplace, so we went there and did that. Then we were almost home when I suddenly felt the need to feel the earth under my shoes… I mean, the actual earth, as opposed to pavement. I wanted to feel and hear the gritty crunch of desert as I walked. Callaghan is always up for my whims – spontaneity is a part of his DNA – so we swung a right on the Mill Avenue bridge and went over to Papago Park, because why not? It was right there, five minutes from home, and it was dusk, the ideal time for a little nature walk. It was around 6:30pm.

The second I stepped off the pavement and onto the desert ground, the aroma of creosote seeped into my senses, even though it hadn’t been raining, or wasn’t about to, and I was exactly where I needed to be. The sunset progressed as we made the gradual ascent toward the red rocks, picking our way over fragments of jumping cholla. When we were almost there, we paused to look out west.

 

Dusk over the Phoenix skyline (Papago Park, Tempe, 2/19/2015)

Dusk over the Phoenix skyline (Papago Park, Tempe, 2/19/2015)

 

We stepped aside as a couple of guys toiled past us on their mountain bikes. Higher up, we could hear the quiet voices of others who likely had the same idea… tough day, long day, the desert calls, the desert heals.

When Callaghan turned around again, he found me sitting on the ground. I’d planted myself on other the side of the trail, and I did not want to get up.

 

Hi. I'm not about to get up.

Hi. I’m not about to get up.

 

No, REALLY! I'm staying right here.

No, REALLY! I’m staying right here.

 

But I was thinking about how I’ve lived in Arizona longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere… about how I moved here with almost no possessions after my military service, and how I built up my life here over two decades. I was thinking about how I left for two and a half years and then one day woke up with every atom of my being aching to be in this desert again. I was thinking about a poet teacher I knew who’d moved to Arizona after his parents died in a plane crash. He said, “I came to the Southwest in ruin. Both real and metaphorical deserts have helped me recover my life.” That’s a part of the magic of living here… you can come to Arizona in ruins, with nothing, and you’ll find yourself gathering the desert’s power and rising up from the ashes of your former life, just like our city’s legendary namesake. Phoenix.

I know I’ve said all this before, but I think it even more than I say it. I think these thoughts often, and I’m so grateful.

I had to get up eventually, of course. We headed back, and I felt blessedly centered and calm. Walking in nature is my favorite way to soothe frayed nerves, even if it’s just down the street from home.

Also, I don’t know about you, but I’m SO glad it’s Friday! Happy Friday, everyone. =)

Merry Christmas from Arizona!

Christmas in Arizona is…

Soaking up the rays in a t-shirt on the second day of winter.

Soaking up the rays in a t-shirt on the second day of winter.

And on the day before the first day of winter.

And on the day before the first day of winter.

Because even if it’s chilly outside (it was between 58-60 degrees in these two pics), the sun-rays are warming.

I took the picture of Callaghan yesterday when I went home for lunch. We inherited this old lawn chair when we bought the house, and yesterday, we discovered that it’s broken. I didn’t post the pictures that happened while I was laughing.

As for me, I avoid actually laying out in the sun, but as far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing as too much sun. I love being outside. Sunscreen is my friend, and I do mean tons of it.

Christmas in Arizona is…

Hummingbirds, like this little guy...

Hummingbirds, like this little guy…

...drinking his nectar.

…drinking his nectar.

Callaghan took these pictures yesterday, as well.

We have four hummingbird feeders – two in the front of the house, and two on the back patio. They draw lots of customers, and this is enchanting for someone coming from a country without hummingbirds. (That should be the name of a novel: “A Country without Hummingbirds.”) Callaghan’s enjoying all kinds of special moments mixing the hummingbird nectar and feeding these little guys! He’s a good hummingbird Daddy.

Christmas in Arizona is…

Wide-eyed wonder kitty of the Ronnie James persuasion.

Wide-eyed wonder kitty of the Ronnie James persuasion.

Festive Wrah-Wrah! This wreath was leaning here waiting to be hung up when I caught this photo opp.

And:

Pretending to be a tree kitty of the Nounours persuasion.

Pretending to be a tree kitty of the Nounours persuasion.

Festive Nounours! Seriously, isn’t he even shaped like the tree?!

Christmas in Arizona is…

Mill Avenue lit up in holiday lights.

Mill Avenue lit up in holiday lights.

Downtown Tempe at night. It never gets old. I took this picture coming home from the gym last night.

Christmas in Arizona is…

Bringing the outdoors in.

Bringing the outdoors in.

First we hung our wreath on the front door, all traditional-like, but on second thought, we brought it inside and decorated it instead of a tree. Works for us.

And finally, it wouldn’t be an Arizona Christmas without…

Tamales!

Tamales!

We’re picking ours up today!

It’s traditional here to eat tamales on Christmas Eve. There was one year I went to my friend Mary’s house to make Christmas tamales with her… we had so much fun, and the fresh, homemade tamales were amazing. I’ve never attempted them on my own, so now I do like thousands of other ‘Zonans and order my tamales from one of the many Mexican places that make them special for the holidays.This year, I ordered tomatillo chicken, chipotle pork, red chili beef and (meatless) green corn. There’ll be something for everyone. =)

Merry Christmas, All!

Elevator Games

1). Notice that the elevator has a name, as evidenced by his name tag:

 

(HELLO my name is) OTIS

(HELLO my name is) OTIS

 

2). Christmas is less than two weeks away, and all the Christmas carols are on repeat all over the place. Think of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and replace “Rudoph” and “reindeer” with “Otis” and “elevator.”

Otis the elevator

Had a very shiny nose,

And if you ever saw it,

You would even say it glows.

All of the elevators

Used to laugh and call him names;

They never let poor Otis

Join in elevator games.

 

3). When boarding an elevator full of people, imagine that they’re infected with a lethal airborne virus and challenge yourself to hold your breath until you exit. Do it until you feel like your head’s going to explode or you reach your stop, whichever comes first.

 

4). When you’re waiting for the elevator and someone else gets impatient and starts pounding on the arrow button repeatedly, rather than wincing while imaging the elevator’s revenge (malfunctioning with all of you inside, of course), imagine installing a whoopie cushion noise-maker behind the button so it makes farting sounds when she pounds it.

 

5). When you’re in the elevator with someone taller than you, envision shooting in for a take-down. The element of surprise is on your side.

 

6). If you really need to distract yourself, turn your mind to something even more disturbing than the elevator, such as this informative nature video by zefrank1:

 

 

Duck TMI, I know. What has been seen cannot be unseen, I know. Blame it on Otis.

Happy Friday!

What I’m Digging Right Now – October Favorites

Thing One: It’s time for October Favorites, which means that this is the one-year anniversary of my Monthly Favorites posts!

I’m not at all surprised that I started this series in October, because I find it easy to enjoy pretty much everything in October. It’s my favorite month, so there are lots of favorites in it.

Thing Two: I regret to say that I have to retract a previously-listed favorite. That Revlon Colorstay Moisture Stain lip color I’d raved about in my September Favorites post? Is no longer a favorite. September was a weirdly humid month here, and my lips didn’t know how to deal with it, I guess. That lip stain (stains are drying products, but that one seemed to be different!) turned out to be a disaster on my lips as soon as the monsoon humidity ended. They just suddenly dried out, and nothing I did could soften them. No amount of exfoliation helped. No variety of products helped.

Until I tried… and this brings me to my first favorite “little thing” on the list for October…

 

1). Nivea  A Kiss of Moisture Essential Lip Care.

 

Nivea A Kiss of Moisture Essential Lip Care

Nivea A Kiss of Moisture Essential Lip Care

 

As I was saying, nothing in my arsenal of lip care products worked when my lips dried out. Oil didn’t work. Vaseline didn’t work. The Aquaphor I traditionally use at night didn’t work. The L’Occitane lip balm I’d raved about a few months ago stopped working. The EOS balm I’d been enjoying did nothing but taste good (and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t getting any nutritional benefit from it). So I headed to the drugstore in search of something different, and I walked out with this modest little product by Nivea that’s literally the only thing that works. My lips went from extremely dry and flaky to soft and moist overnight. I have a feeling that this is going to be a favorite for life, not just for now.

 

2). Asymmetrical, geometric, metal statement necklace.

 

Wearing the necklace at Rage in the Cage.

Wearing the necklace at Rage in the Cage.

 

A former co-worker gave this necklace to me for Christmas one year, but somehow, I never wore it until October. I threw it on as we were heading out the door to Rage in the Cage, and I’ve worn it several times since then. It’s funny how our tastes change over time… something that seemed awkward to me at first now interests me with its unusual, unexpected appeal, and I love it.

Shall we move on to food?

 

3). Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

 

Roasted Brussels sprouts with quinoa

Roasted Brussels sprouts with quinoa

 

LET IT BE KNOWN that finally, after several years, I’ve discovered a way to get Callaghan to eat Brussels sprouts with genuine gusto. Brussels sprouts are way at the top my favorite foods list – I love cruciferous vegetables, particularly Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, rapini and kale – and the fact that he didn’t like them no matter what I did made things challenging. One day last month, I put them in the oven to roast. Callaghan enjoys roasted broccoli and cabbage, so I thought, why not try roasting the ol’ sprouts? And miraculously, he loves Brussels sprouts when they’re roasted! It’s simple… I just cut off the ends, remove the outer leaves, cut them in half length-wise, arrange them cut-side-up on a foil-lined baking sheet, drizzle them with extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkle them with coarsely ground sea salt and black pepper before putting them in a 425 degree oven for 30 minutes. He demolishes them and then asks for more. SUCCESS IS MINE.

 

4). Organic Honeycrisp apples.

 

Organic honeycrisp apple! Apple perfection.

Organic honeycrisp apple! Apple perfection.

 

It’s apple season, and everywhere I look in the produce section, it’s applicious abundance all over the place! My favorite kind are the Honeycrisp apples. They’re so sweet, juicy and flavorful. I have one every day. I know I need to enjoy them while they last, because they are seasonal.

 

5). Kashi Go Lean Crisp! Toasted Berry Crumble cereal.

 

Kashi Go Lean Crisp! Toasted Berry Crumble cereal

Kashi Go Lean Crisp! Toasted Berry Crumble cereal

 

I’m always on the prowl for protein-rich foods, so when I spotted this cereal on the store shelf, I grabbed it, read the label and brought it home to try. Plus, toasted berry crumble! I had high hopes, and it didn’t disappoint. I eat it with plain, unsweetened almond milk, and it is SO GOOD.

 

6). Clif Builder’s Snack Size protein bars in Chocolate Mint.

 

Clif Builder's Chocolate Mint Snack Size protein bar

Clif Builder’s Chocolate Mint Snack Size protein bar

 

Oh my goodness. If you’re American – and maybe even if you aren’t – you probably know what Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies taste like. Imagine a Thin Mint in the form of a substantial little bar with 10 grams of protein and only 140 calories, and it should be evident why I have to rave about these today. This nutritionally-dense little bar functions as a dessert that means business… the business of supplying me with yet more protein while tricking my taste buds into thinking they’re smacking on Thin Mints. The best part is that you don’t have to wait for Girl Scout cookie season to get them!

Now exiting food territory…

 

7). Arizona sunsets.

 

Arizona sunsets are always beautiful, but they're especially dramatic in October....

Arizona sunsets are always beautiful, but they’re especially dramatic in October….

 

In Arizona, a sunset isn’t just a sunset… it’s an Arizona sunset. The Arizona sunset is a thing, and it seems that October in the desert brings the most unforgettable sunsets of all. Pictures don’t do them justice. I think it must have to do with the cloud arrangement at this time of year. I don’t know. All I know is that every year I’m in Arizona, I take more pictures of sunsets in October than I do in any other month. They are spectacular.

Let’s finish off the list with pop culture!

 

8). Homeland, Season 4. (T.V. series).

 

HOMELAND (Season 4)

 

No spoilers here, but just allow me to say that after the season three finale, we were kind of left with our jaws on the floor, thinking, What could be the point in continuing this? We were intrigued, and we knew we wouldn’t be let down, but we had no idea how not let down we’d be. Season four is turning out to be our favorite so far, and that’s saying a lot, because Homeland is one of our all-time favorite series.  It just keeps getting better!

 

9). The Good Wife (T.V. series).

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-thegoodwife

 

Okay… how is it that we never thought to watch The Good Wife before? We started watching this masterfully written and crafted drama series in October, and it immediately sucked us into the depths of its rich and complex world. You guys, this show is on its sixth season; we’ve been binge-watching it as if there weren’t other things we needed to be doing. We’re half-way through the second season. We’re completely addicted. We’re gone. Bye. See you next year.

 

10). American Horror Story: Freak Show and Stalker (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-Freak-Stalker

 

T.V. is so good right now, it’s killing me. Between the shows mentioned in this post and Modern Family, I don’t even know what’s playing in the movie theatres right now, to tell you the truth.

So, we had no idea about Stalker until last month. We started watching it at about the same time as American Horror Story: Freak Show, and we’ve continued to watch the two as a double-feature every week, back-to-back. We start with Stalker, then move on to AHS, and by the time that’s over, I’m thoroughly creeped out.

With Stalker, it’s the camera angles… the way the show is filmed helps to build a sharp, paranoid intensity in a short amount of time, and you don’t even realize you’re on the edge of your seat until it’s over. With American Horror Story: Freak Show, it was mainly Twisty the Murder Clown that did it for me… until the other clown emerged. Again, no spoilers here. Just saying. There are two evil clowns, and the fact that the new one is the scarier one to me is telling.

I’ve actually been contemplating this season of American Horror Story beyond its dark surface display of evil and gore, and I might share those thoughts here at some point… probably when the season’s over and I’ve seen the whole thing to its conclusion. (It wouldn’t be fair to draw conclusions before watching the conclusion, right?)

With that, I’m off to enjoy another crisp and gorgeous November morning. Enjoy your week!

What I’m Digging Right Now – May Favorites

May was a long month that brought a slew of healthy challenges. (If there isn’t already a book called The Introvert’s Guide to Surviving a Month of Houseguests, I might write one.) May was also fun, satisfyingly busy, and rife with “little things” that provoked delight. I actually had to decide which ones to feature here! I doubled some up, so the 10-item list below really contains 13 things. Let’s start with…

1). New reading glasses.

 

Animal print reading glasses in the shadows

Animal print reading glasses in the shadows

 

Before we went to California for Memorial Day weekend, I went shopping for a summer hat for Mom and ended up walking out of Steinmart with two hats for her and these reading glasses for myself, because seriously, who am I to pass on a pair of animal print reading glasses?

It’s great knowing my prescription, by the way. This purchase was a no-brainer, and in fact, I was hardly responsible… the display of animal print glasses pulled me toward it, and all I had to do was find the ones marked +1.25.  I actually needed a pair, though (my rickety old ones fall off my face when I look down).

 

2). Snapea Crisps Harvest Snaps.

 

Snapea Crisps! SO GOOD.

Snapea Crisps! SO GOOD.

 

Snapea Crisps are an old favorite of mine I re-discovered when we got back to the States. At some point during the month of May, they became a staple in our kitchen. They’re as satisfying as potato chips, but they’re baked rather than fried (0 trans fats, 0 cholesterol), and they carry nutritional value… one lightly-salted serving gives you 5g protein, 4g fiber, 230 mg potassium, 6% calcium and 8% iron. I always count out an exact serving of 22 pieces, because if I don’t, I’d probably consume the whole bag in one sitting.

Nutritional density notwithstanding, I know it’s unhealthy to snack on crispy, salty little things in front of the T.V. – we are aware, and we do try to keep it to a minimum. But… you know. Some things just go together beautifully. Rock stars and models.  Desert and rain. Snapea Crisps and Mad Men.

 

3). Artichokes and cherries.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-artichokes

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-cherries

 

It so happens that two of my favorite varieties of edible flora come into season in May!

When I bring home artichokes, I keep it simple, boiling them with a bit of olive oil and salt and eating them with grape-seed oil Veganaise. Prepared in this manner, the artichoke becomes a glorious magic carpet that carries me off into a cloud of gustatory euphoria. Forget food porn. The artichoke is nature’s Demerol. We’re still indulging, as they’re having a long season this year.

As for the cherries, they ripened earlier than usual this year in the California orchards… they’re technically more a June fruit than May. Dad took us cherry-picking when we were there with Callaghan’s father, though, so they made it onto the list. We brought home heaps of lovely Brooks and Rainer cherries. Like the Snapea Crisps, I have to ration them out when I start eating them, because I will OD on them (if you’ve ever OD’d on cherries, you’ll know what I mean when I say it’s not pretty).

 

4). Clif Mojo Dark Almond Cherry Trail Mix bar and Cascadian Farms Organic Peanut Protein Bar.

 

My new favorite energy and protein bars... and a weird fruit that seems to be a mutant kumquat.

My new favorite energy and protein bars… and a weird fruit that seems to be a mutant kumquat.

 

Yet more food!

You know I’m always on the hunt for perfect energy and protein bars, “perfect” meaning simple, delicious and balanced. In May, I discovered the Clif Mojo Dark Almond Cherry Trail Mix bar and the Cascadian Farms Organic Peanut Protein bar, and they are fantabulous both pre- and post-workout. Anytime, in fact.

 

Now, let’s talk skincare products…

5). Olay Total Effects 7 in One Anti-Aging Eye Treatment.

 

Olay Total Effects 7 in One Anti-Aging Eye Treatment

Olay Total Effects 7 in One Anti-Aging Eye Treatment

 

I ran out of eye cream in May, so I thought I’d get one I hadn’t tried yet. I picked up the Olay Total Effects 7 in One Anti-Aging Eye Treatment, and it quickly became a favorite. It appears to have a tint of color, but it doesn’t… it’s slightly brightening, and it actually reminds me a lot of Clinique’s All About Eyes (it’s similar in color, and it has the same light, velvety texture and feel on the skin). I put it on twice a day, in the morning and at night. I’m definitely going to re-purchase it once this one’s finished!

 

6). Garnier Clean Nourishing Cleansing Oil (for dry skin).

 

Garnier Clean Nourishing Cleansing Oil

Garnier Clean Nourishing Cleansing Oil

 

I used to use olive oil on my face at night, so when I came across this new cleansing oil from Garnier last month, I thought I’d try it out. The verdict? Love it. It’s light yet rich with jojoba and macadamia nut oils, it smells nice, and it just feels good when I work it into my skin. Now, that part of my nighttime routine is less about removing my makeup and more about my face getting massage therapy. I rinse the oil off with water and follow it up with my normal nighttime cleanser (I’m currently using one by Simple).

 

7). Victoria’s Secret VS Fantasies fragrances in Sensual Blush and Amber Romance.

 

Victoria’s Secret VS Fantasies fragrances in Sensual Blush and Amber Romance

Victoria’s Secret VS Fantasies fragrances in Sensual Blush and Amber Romance

 

May brought warmer weather that I interpreted as an excuse to get a new fragrance. Walking by a Victoria’s Secret one day, I impulsively went in and tested every scent in their VS Fantasies collection on every available square inch of skin on both my arms until I couldn’t smell anything anymore. In the end, I decided to go with Sensual Blush (I got both the fragrance mist and the ultra-hydrating hand and body cream) and Amber Romance (the eau de toilette). I layer them, and the combination is sensational!

 

8). Chihuly in the Garden

When I realized that artist Dale Chihuly had returned to the Desert Botanical Gardens to show his work again – I’d gone with a friend to see his exhibit there a few years back – I had to seize the opportunity, and it was an excellent circumstance that one of our houseguests was with us at the time. Chihuly in the Garden was quite an unusual treat for a visitor from France! Spring in the desert is magnificent as it is, with all the cactuses in bloom… add the installation of Chihuly’s colorful glass sculptures amongst the desert flora, and you find yourself in a place of sheer alien beauty. It’s like springtime on another planet.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-Chihuly2014_1

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-Chihuly2014_2

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-Chihuly2014_3

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-Chihuly2014_4

 

 

9). Chef (film)

 

chef-movie-poster-2014

 

We loved, loved, loved this movie! We loved everything about it… the story, the writing, the cast, the humor. It’s a comedy, and it’s incredibly well-done. I’m not in the business of writing film reviews, so all I’ll say about Chef is GO SEE IT!

 

10).  Evernote

 

Evernote-730x730

 

Ooh, online organizational tools!!

Yeah, I know. But what can I say. I had to start using it for work, and now I’m a card-carrying Evernote nerd with a paid subscription for a personal account (in addition to my work account). Two Evernote accounts! Yikes.

I still maintain my beloved Franklin-Covey agenda, though. Paper forever!

That about wraps it up for May. We’re only two days into June and I’ve already noted two things for my June Favorites post, so it looks like another fun month ahead. =)

What I’m Digging Right Now – March Favorites

It’s the first day of April! It’s time to show you some of the things I loved last month. There was an abundance of “little things” treasures in March, but I chose nine for this list.

Without further ado:

(ahem)

1). A new phone, which means a new camera… and it’s an Android, which means Instagram. Yes! I’d thought I’d forever avoid Instagram, but I actually really dig it now that I have it. I haven’t been that active on it yet, but I will be.

 

Thing 1: That picture in the middle of my Instagram collage is Callaghan's portrait of my parents, and it's my favorite work of his. Thing 2: Yes, I took this photo at 11:00PM, and yes, it's 82 degrees outside.

Thing 1: That picture in the middle of my Instagram collage is Callaghan’s portrait of my parents, and it’s my favorite work of his. Thing 2: Yes, I took this photo at 11:00PM, and yes, it’s 82 degrees outside.

 

The reason for the new phone was the fact that my camera died at the end of February. I needed a camera, and Callaghan and I both needed phones, and Verizon was offering a Buy One Get One Free deal on Samsung Galaxy S4s, and I had additional perks due to my “loyalty status” from my former years with Verizon… so it just made sense. Now I have a camera. It’s good enough for what I like to do with a camera, which is point and click.

 

2). Flowering cactuses!

 

Complete with a Southwest Airlines plane in the background, equally colorful. In fact, they match! haha

Complete with a Southwest Airlines plane in the background, equally colorful. In fact, they match! haha

 

Here are some of the emerging blooms closer to the ground.

Here are some of the emerging blooms closer to the ground.

 

IT HAS BEGUN. Between now and mid-June, the desert flora will display its myriad of flowers – the different species bloom at different times. Many pictures will be taken. How I’ve missed spring here! Our two visitors from France (one is coming in April, the other in May) are in for a treat.

 

3). New glasses.

 

New glasses. Not BCGs.

New glasses. Not BCGs.

 

These are not the ones I got from the V.A. in Austin. Those turned out to be a disaster in every way, starting with an inaccurate prescription and ending with that wrong prescription being put in the wrong frames that didn’t fit. Long story short, I couldn’t wear them. This is why mall optometrists exist. I walked in, made my appointment for the next day, went back for the appointment, and walked out with this new pair of glasses that seem to be perfect. Instant gratification glasses! I mostly just wear them for driving and watching T.V. and movies.

 

4). Body Combat class at the gym.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-FavThingsMAR2014-BodyCombat

 

Over the last few months, I’ve had to face the fact that I’m just not as self-motivated at the gym as I used to be. Add to this the fact that when I join a group training situation that carries even the slightest semblance to martial/fighting arts, I feel as at-home as a bat in a cave… my so-called muscle memory knows what to do, and how to do it… and voilà! Body Combat is an ideal group fitness class for me. The instructor’s mission in life for that hour is to kick our butts. I don’t have to do anything but show up and follow along.

The Body Combat classes incorporate techniques from boxing, Muay Thai, capoeria, karate and MMA, all of which my muscles know and enjoy, even though they haven’t trained in years. The fast-paced classes focus on cardio rather than on form, but I’m loathe to execute the moves sloppily, so I end up getting a fantastic workout as I concentrate on form while trying to keep up (to the extent that my out-of-shape self can safely do. I’m careful to not exceed my limitations). We leave the class completely elated, worn out and drenched in sweat. I love it so much I can’t even tell you.

 

5). True Detective, season one (T.V.)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-FavThingsMAR2014-TrueDetective

 

Simply stated, this new series right here rather blew our minds. That is all.

 

6). Hannibal, season two (T.V.)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-FavThingsMAR2014-HannibalS2

 

As The Following continues to hold our eager attention, we’ve added Hannibal to our current series line-up, as the second season began on the last day of February – meaning, we picked it up at the beginning of March. It’s just as darkly sick and warped and luscious and richly textured as season one. What is this fascination with serial killers? Hannibal is so beautifully done. It’s mesmerizing.

 

7). Stila Smudge Stick Waterproof eyeliner in Stingray.

 

Stila smudge stick waterproof eyeliner in Stingray

Stila smudge stick waterproof eyeliner in Stingray

 

Finally, I’ve found a retractable black eyeliner pencil capable of drawing a line that stays where you put it! I’d thought I’d also be able to appreciate it for its status as a cruelty-free product, but when I got home and got online, I found that Stila Cosmetics has been struck from the list of cruelty-free cosmetic companies. The reason? “3rd party animal testing.” *sighs*

 

8). Tourni, our new sunflower.

 

Here's Tourni! It's hard to see him in this picture. He's the slender, yellowish stalk with two little leaves on top, rising up from the center of the pot.

Here’s Tourni! It’s hard to see him in this picture. He’s the slender, yellowish stalk with two little leaves on top, rising up from the center of the pot.

 

I met a new friend for lunch one day in March, and she surprised me with a thin, pale greenish-yellow stalk from her garden. Loosely wrapped, it appeared to be quite frail. She told me that it was a sunflower. Un Tournesol, I thought immediately. His name is Tourni! “Tournesol” is French for sunflower.

I left the restaurant with little Tourni hanging limply over the side of a plastic water cup, his vestige of a root-ball submerged in two or three inches of water. I pondered what to do with him. He looked so fragile. Our balcony is completely shaded; we have no real direct sunlight in which to grow a sunflower.

By the end of the day, Tourni was looking pretty lifeless and pathetic. Unsure of what to do, I left him in the drink holder in our truck for the night while I figured it out.

At the end of the next day, we went to retrieve Tourni from the truck, and I couldn’t believe what I saw. The scant amount of dirt in the cup had absorbed all of the water, and there was little Tourni, upright, happy and spry! He looked like a completely different plant.

 

Alive and proud! I should have taken a "before" picture!

Alive and proud! I should have taken a “before” picture!

 

We brought him in and put him in a pot with some potting soil, both of which we happened to have on hand. He loves the close heat of the truck, so we set him in there during the day. At night, we bring him up to sit on our balcony with the other plants in our growing (ha!) collection.

 

9). Oil-pulling

 

Unrefined, organic coconut oil - the remaining two jars of the three my parents sent home with us at the beginning of March.

Unrefined, organic coconut oil – the remaining two jars of the three my parents sent home with us at the beginning of March.

 

At some point over the winter, an enormous can of unrefined, organic coconut oil appeared in Mom and Dad’s kitchen in California. Dad stirs a teaspoon of it into his coffee every morning. I noticed it when we were there at the beginning of March, and I was intrigued… I’d been reading about the Ayurvedic practice of oil-pulling, and contemplating starting it.

The morning we left, Mom and Dad generously tucked three jars of the oil into our luggage. Dad started oil-pulling that morning, Callaghan started that night after we got back to Arizona, and I started the following morning.

It’s now been three weeks, and so far, I’ve noticed the following two effects: 1). I haven’t had a problem with insomnia since, and 2). my teeth, while never horribly discolored, are indeed much whiter now; many people who do this practice report whiter teeth as a result.

The whiter teeth thing is great, but the sleeping thing? Incredible!

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but what an odd coincidence it is. From Day One of swishing coconut oil around in my mouth for twenty minutes as a part of my morning routine, I’ve been able to drop off to sleep effortlessly. This is unheard of, and it’s been consistent. The only thing I’ve been doing differently is the oil-pulling, so I’m thinking there’s a reasonable chance that there’s a connection.

Whatever the case, I’m going to keep doing it. It’s relaxing, and the whiter teeth are definitely a bonus!

On Callaghan’s part, he says that the quality of his sleep has improved greatly, and his teeth are definitely whiter now.

Okay… that’s it for March favorites! Here’s to spring. =)

HABOOB!

We’ve arrived at the end of a beautiful but windy week that brought our first dust storm of the year… a whole two months early! Our dust storm (aka “haboob”) season here runs between May-September. Late Tuesday afternoon, we left the living-room window open even after the vertical blinds started whipping around to the tune of the wind-chimes on the balcony.

Click here to see the video.

Ronnie James and Nounours aren’t dust storm fans… yet. They’re new here. They’ll get used to it.

I remember my first Arizona dust storm in the early ’90’s. I was driving, and suddenly (and I do mean suddenly), a towering, opaque wall of dust came toward me. I was a new transplant in the Land of AZ, and it was an odd moment of surprise while feeling at home at the same time. The dust storms here aren’t as violent as the ones I’d experienced in Saudi Arabia, but they can be dangerous, and tragedies do occur. Still, we like them, we do! They’re a part of life in the desert, and they’re somehow mystical.

So, if Tuesday’s dust storm is any indication, our April and May houseguests from France might be in for something really, um, new.

The last time we hosted visitors from France was in July 2011, right before we moved over there. We collected Callaghan’s friends from the airport and took them directly to the small diner across the street from our Chandler apartment – it was one of those small, ‘50’s-inspired trailer diners – and while we were sitting there eating dinner, this happened:

 

 

We’ll see what happens this time when our visitors are here! Maybe nature won’t give us anything more dramatic than its usual spring splendor of desert blooms.

And with that, I’m off to downtown Phoenix to pay a visit to the V.A. facilities. Have a great Friday and weekend, everyone!

The Out-of-Context Pigeon

On Tuesday morning, I was sitting outside on our balcony, one of my favorite places to be in the mornings, when an unusual vision materialized before my eyes: a pigeon in a tree. It was more than unusual, I realized as I watched the bird. It was almost unheard of, about as rare as finding me in a Costco. (Costco gives me panic attacks. I don’t know why.)

It’s probably safe to say that I’ve seen more pigeons “in the wild” than any other type of bird. I’ve known them to be street birds, pavement birds, train station, dirt path and riverside birds. I know them from parking lots, rooftops, sidewalks and gutters. They’re a common sight in city parks, at strip malls and on school grounds, and I’ve even seen them nesting on other people’s balconies.

Pigeons are special in that they’re the only birds I’ve seen everywhere except in trees, and that is one reason why I like them. They are among us. Come to think of it, I don’t even really regard them as birds. They’re pigeons.

When I realized that the bird in the tree in front of me was a pigeon, I had to step inside and grab my camera. You know me.

It was mostly just surprising to see how a pigeon can shrug off his common cloak to become an utterly exotic bird when he’s in a tree.

For one thing, his usual stances and postures are replaced by those typical of any other bird in a tree… a bird delicately positioned on a limb (in this case, a frond, as the tree is a Phoenix date palm) instead of standing solid on the ground. I think that’s another reason why it took a minute to realize that he was a pigeon… he held himself differently, perching, balancing, being… un-pigeon-like. Rather than doing the urban pigeon-walk, he hopped lightly and fluttered, and because his movements were different, his colors flashed in the sunlight differently, too. I’ve always found pigeons to be beautiful, but now I could appreciate his beauty in a whole new way.

So, pictures. When I showed these to Callaghan, he laughed.

“These are four pictures of the same thing!”

“No they aren’t!” I protested, laughing. “Look closely – his posture is different in every one.”

Callaghan often makes fun of me for “taking 200 pictures of the exact same thing” every time I whip out my camera. It’s true, I do tend to take a zillion shots of my subject, whatever it is. I like to capture those minute differences in angle and lighting. Also, I know that out of the many, I’m going to get at least one really good one.

Here are my four favorites of this guy:

 

It was the emerald sheen on his outstretched neck that caught my eye first.

It was the emerald sheen on his outstretched neck that caught my eye first.

 

Hmm, this bird looks familiar...

Hmm, this bird looks familiar…

 

He turns to look at me as if to say, "Why yes, I am PIGEON!"

He turns to look at me as if to say, “Why yes, I am PIGEON!”

 

Standing proud.

Standing proud.

 

High in the sky, that pigeon. Not on the ground.

Scenes from a Birthday Weekend

Friday was my birthday, so I thought I’d inundate this space with some pictures! Surprise! heheh.

First, a brief reflection: I’m now 45. Honestly? The only way I feel different is better than ever. I’m grateful to have no health complaints, I’m happy to finally have a use for the cute reading glasses I got in France, and I’m eager to set off down whatever path the New Year unrolls before me. I always loved how my birthday blends into the New Year, being at the end of December… I never thought of my December 27 birthday as being “unfortunately” lumped into Christmas. It’s all about the New Year, as far as I’m concerned.

Recently, I broke open a cookie fortune and got a fortune that catches my current drift splendidly:

 

The fortune I got a week or so before my birthday.

The fortune I got a week or so before my birthday.

 

Oh, the magic of a fortune cookie! “Creative energy is up – capitalize on it.” Yes. Yes, that is true, and yes, I will!

So, we spent the weekend at some favorite local haunts. First, Callaghan took me out on a lunch date. Deciding where to go was easy – I just wanted to satisfy my craving for Pita Jungle’s certifiably to-die-for lentil fetoosh salad. (The spellcheck wanted to change “fetoosh” to “fetish,” which is pretty clever. That salad has some serious addictive properties.)

The weekend also involved:

–A pedicure with Callaghan. Well, initially it was going to be just me, but shortly after we got there, he found himself getting his feet rubbed, too…the ladies there were quite persuasive, but it took little arm-twisting to get him in the chair next to mine. As the forty minutes of expert and intense foot and lower leg pampering and massaging wound down to its conclusion, he looked over at me and exclaimed, “Wow! I can’t wait for your next birthday!” I think he enjoyed it.

 

My Big Lebowski-inspired nail color selection

My Big Lebowski-inspired nail color selection

 

The deep, shimmery greenish-black nail polish I chose is OPI’s “Live or Let Die,” but it should be called “YOU WANT A TOE? I CAN GET YOU A TOE. THERE ARE WAYS, DUDE.” (Though this polish is darker than the Big Lebowski Nihilist Chick’s.)

–A detour through Papago Park on our way home.

 

Papago Park - one of my favorite places!

Papago Park – one of my favorite places!

 

Callaghan and his shadow

Callaghan and his shadow

 

Me and my... cactus!

Me and my… cactus!

 

–Also, after several months of Homeland deprivation, seven episodes suddenly became available… so we holed up for some serious binge-watching.

 

Ronnie James settled himself on Callaghan's legs to catch up on Homeland with us.

Ronnie James settled himself on Callaghan’s legs to catch up on Homeland with us.

 

–And there was the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl game on the 28th…

 

Sun Devil Stadium bore the banner of the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl for the show-down between Michigan and Kansas State on the 28th.

Sun Devil Stadium bore the banner of the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl for the show-down between Michigan and Kansas State on the 28th.

 

–We didn’t go to the game, but we went to sit on the patio at Rúla Búla for a little while…

 

At Rúla Búla, December 28, 2013

At Rúla Búla, December 28, 2013

 

On our way out of Rúla Búla, I glanced up at one of the T.V. screens and winced on behalf of Michigan, because I’m partial to the Wolverines, and man, that score was painful. Final Score: Kansas State, 31; Michigan, 14. Oof.

At least the Wolverines and their attending fans got to hang out in paradise for a couple of days. I’m here to tell you, there’s hardly a sight as gleeful as a Michigan fan skipping down the street in Tempe, Arizona WEARING SHORTS AT NIGHT at the end of December!

–Strolling home, we admired Mill Avenue’s holiday lights, which always stay up until after New Year’s:

 

Holiday lights on Mill Ave

Holiday lights on Mill Ave

 

…and here we have my beloved mill, street-side:

 

The street-side building of Hayden Mill at night.

The street-side building of Hayden Mill at night.

 

I guess if I could marry any building, it would be that mill, haha!

 

Walking by the light rail station at 3rd St.

Walking by the light rail station at 3rd St.

 

–And, of course, there was the Ronnie James.

 

Ronnie James birthday hugs.

Ronnie James birthday hugs.

 

It was a lovely weekend, and I’m ready for 2014!

When Barley Knocks, We Answer the Door

Why hello! It’s Thursday! It’s not Wednesday, nor is it Friday. I’m posting here today because we’re off to California again – flying this time – and I’ll mostly be off-line until Monday (“mostly off-line” meaning I’ll likely check in on Facebook to wish friends happy birthdays, but I’ll be scarce other than that).

This last week saw the end of an apparent cold snap through the relentlessly brilliant, bright blue sky, chilling the apartment just enough to result in two well-furred kitties for winter. Ronnie James and Nounours are all puffed up and ready to go.

 

Winter-coat-wrapped kitties are well-ROUNDed kitties.

Winter-coat-wrapped kitties are well-ROUNDed kitties.

 

Speaking of furbabies… two weeks ago, I was leaving a message on a friend’s voice mail when I was comically distracted by some fuss at the door. It started with a scratching, bumping sound, but the commotion really started when Callaghan opened the door and a German Sheppard practically spilled inside! Our door excited him somehow, and his Mommy was there (they live across the way… we share the stairs with them), introducing us. His name is Barley.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I think that “Barley” is just about the cutest name for a German Sheppard that I’ve ever heard. I wish you could meet this dog. He’s a funny, adorable, lovable sweetheart, is what he is.

Barley. I’m thinking of him now because he’s currently alone over there, and I can hear him barking. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest, but it does make me want to go play with him.

What’s the cutest name for a dog you’ve ever heard?

Holiday Spirit in the House

Okay, since my last post, we relented and turned on the heat! We set it to 68F, which is perfect… you would never know that it’s cold outside, especially with the bright sunshine coming in. Also…

 

Someone thoughtfully put Styrofoam cups on these babies in front of our apartment. Cactuses need cold snap care, too.

Someone thoughtfully put Styrofoam cups on these babies in front of our apartment. Cactuses need cold snap care, too.

 

(I never say “cacti,” by the way, even if it’s the more accepted plural form of “cactus.” Cactuses! Cactuses! Cactuses! I love that word. I find it more lyrical and adorable and appropriate for their personalities. “Cacti” sounds so coldly scientific to me.)

The weekend was full of things to see and art to admire. The main streets of our neighborhood were closed off for the Tempe Festival of the Arts, an event that happens every year in the fall and the spring. It’s fun, and it presents a great opportunity to purchase gifts from an enormous and diverse gathering of artists.

 

We weren't allowed to photograph the artists' work, so here's a pic of a fire truck from 1959, instead (in front of the Mission Palms hotel)

We weren’t allowed to photograph the artists’ work, so here’s a pic of a fire truck from 1959, instead (in front of the Mission Palms hotel)

 

May I just say that I loved that parking wasn’t in the equation this year, since the festival is now just a stroll down the street! We wandered through about half of it, speaking with some of the artists along the way.

 

Cards from some of the artists we visited at the festival.

Cards from some of the artists we visited at the festival.

 

Continuing the holiday spirit at home, last night we enjoyed a lovely and unexpected discovery at the bottom of a box that’d been in storage since I’d moved to France – the Christmas wreath Mom had given me! Which I’d thought was long gone. Which had me feeling kind of heartbroken all day the day I’d thought it was long gone. It’s here now, along with some other things I’d thought had gotten lost in the shipping!

 

Honey, I'm home!

Honey, I’m home!

 

 

We hung it on the inside of our front door so we can admire it (and not worry about it walking away).

We hung it on the inside of our front door so we can admire it (and not worry about it walking away).

 

Happy Monday!

Hell Has Frozen Over.

This morning, I was sitting on the balcony drinking coffee reflecting that had I never moved to France, I wouldn’t be sitting outside in December drinking coffee. The reason is that it was 38 degrees (Fahrenheit) out there, and I was wearing only a short, thin sleeveless nightdress under my robe, no socks. My feet and legs were exposed. I could feel the cold, but it wasn’t bothering me… not only that, but I was enjoying the crisp aridity of the cold. In addition to being acclimated to colder climates now, my adventures of the last few years have made me realize that an absence of moisture in the air makes cold more tolerable as well as heat. This is what they call “brisk,” I thought to myself. It’s wonderful! Yes… this was ME, Kristi, thinking to myself that it felt wonderful to sit outside in 38 degrees. I know. Hell has frozen over.

I’d always been overly sensitive to cold. Those of you who’ve known me for years know me as the girl who grabs a jacket and cranks the heat the minute the temps drop to 70. Now, I’m the girl who sees a gorgeous, clear sunny blue sky, puts on a robe and heads outside to enjoy the chill with a cup of coffee.*

We have not yet turned on the heat in our apartment, and we’re not sure that we’re ever going to. It doesn’t seem necessary.

This is what living in a drafty little house in the French Alpes does to you. We spent the last two winters – not even just winter, we’re talking end of September through April, even May one year – huddled under blankets, shoving wood into a wood-burning stove, counting the pieces with dismay as we calculated how many days we had left until the next tree had to be cut… and still, we were cold. Cold, cold, cold. It was damp, the kind of cold that seeps into your bones and settles there. When I look back on it, it’s no wonder that I was able to get by in Berlin (which was very cold) a year ago October in just a thin pleather jacket. My internal thermostat had been effectively set to “tolerate the cold or die, you wimp.”

What I think is interesting is that my body is still set to cold-weather survival mode. Will I acclimate back after a while? This time next year, will I complain about the cold when it gets down to 70, pile on layers of clothing and turn on the heat?

On another note, something interesting happened the other night. We’d just finished eating dinner when Callaghan suddenly remembered that we had cheese in the fridge, leftover from Thanksgiving. Mom had sent it back with us when we left California.

“Cheeeeese!!!” my French husband exclaimed with delight. He got up, went to the kitchen and returned with a plate holding bread and cheese. Then he sat down, regarding the plate with concern.

“We don’t have a microwave,” he informed me.

“No, we don’t,” I verified, having lived in the apartment as long as he has. “You can use the oven. Actually, maybe we should think about getting a toaster ov…”

But Callaghan was up and running to his studio office.

“I know what I’m going to do!”

I waited, half not wanting to know.

“It’s under control! I have THIS!” He reappeared, blow-torch in hand. “This will do it.”

You know I had to grab my camera to get a picture of the ensuing act of violence on the unsuspecting slice of cheese.

 

Why yes, that would be a blow-torch Callaghan is using to melt the cheese on his bread.

Why yes, that would be a blow-torch Callaghan is using to melt the cheese on his bread.

 

Secrets of a French chef revealed! You’re welcome, and Happy Friday, Everyone!

—–

*Oddly, I still suffer in air-conditioning… my fingers and toes turn blue in manufactured cold. Eh. The human body is weird.

What I’m Digging Right Now – November Favorites

Why hello, December! I can’t believe it’s already time to recount the blessings of November.

November was all about road trips and nesting and family. Between driving from Austin to Phoenix, and Phoenix to San Jose, and San Jose back to Phoenix, we clocked in more than 40 hours on the road… and it was worth every second. November’s main highlights were moving back to Arizona and going to spend Thanksgiving with my family in California.

November’s “BEST OF” to note:

1). Being back in the desert.

 

This was actually taken yesterday (in December), but it continues November's brilliant sun and gentle warmth, so here you go. Sitting outside in a t-shirt, blessedly dry in the absence of humidity!

This was actually taken yesterday (in December), but it continues November’s brilliant sun and gentle warmth, so here you go. Sitting outside in a t-shirt, blessedly dry in the absence of humidity!

 

Phoenix date palms lit up for the holidays

Phoenix date palms lit up for the holidays

 

2). Music: Steve Earle, my favorite country artist and one of my all-time favorite musicians, period. He’s a wonderful poet, and I love his unique sound… it flows between country, country-rock and alternative country, rich with folksy, rock n roll and bluegrass flavors here and there. He’s just amazing. I made a playlist of my favorite Steve Earle songs and burned the CD for our trip out of Texas. It was perfect!

 

My Steve Earle CDs: El Corazon, Townes, I Feel Alright, Copperhead Road and Jerusalem.

My Steve Earle CDs: El Corazon, Townes, I Feel Alright, Copperhead Road and Jerusalem.

 

3). Target’s generic brand energy drink (Archer Farms). We think it out-red bulls Red Bull, and it’s very tasty.

 

The energy drink that fueled our many hours on the road in November. It's Target's brand. I love the raspberry flavor, too.

The energy drink that fueled our many hours on the road in November. It’s Target’s brand. I love the raspberry flavor, too.

 

4). Living in downtown Tempe.

 

On the patio at the Handlebar in the middle of the night, just because we could. I guess it's debatable whether living near Mill Ave is a plus or a hazard. Nah... it's definitely a plus.

On the patio at the Handlebar in the middle of the night, just because we could. I guess it’s debatable whether living near Mill Ave is a plus or a hazard. Nah… it’s definitely a plus.

 

Arizona State University's Sun Devil Stadium, down the street from our apartment. We get to hear the fireworks when the Devils score, and that's a lot these days!

Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium, down the street from our apartment. We get to hear the fireworks when the Devils score, and that’s a lot these days!

 

5). Re-visiting favorite old hang-outs.

 

Alice Cooperstown, Alice's sports bar/restaurant in downtown Phoenix. Major points for nostalgia here.

Alice Cooperstown, Alice’s sports bar/restaurant in downtown Phoenix. Major points for nostalgia here.

 

6). Feeling truly at home again! After books, houseplants define “home” to me.

 

Our first houseplants in three years! They're temporarily named "His Plant" and "My Plant," respectively (L - R). I have a special fondness for spider plants.

Our first houseplants in three years! They’re temporarily named “His Plant” and “My Plant,” respectively (L – R). I have a special fondness for spider plants.

 

7). My house-warming gift to myself, which didn’t cost me a cent.

 

I took some old books to Bookman's and traded them for the hand-made Greek (Rhodes) Bonis plate on the right.

I took some old books to Bookman’s and traded them for the hand-made Greek (Rhodes) Bonis plate on the right.

 

8). Dexter.  We binge-watched the entire eight seasons, starting in Texas and ending in Arizona.

 

Our favorite serial killer. And everyone else's, I suppose.

Our favorite serial killer. And everyone else’s, I suppose.

 

9). November’s rave-worthy beauty product was (and continues to be) Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition Miracle Dry Oil for Hair, Body & Face. I spray a little in my palm, rub my hands together and run them through my dry air, and it leaves a nice sheen. Callaghan also loves it for his skin.

 

This oil defies the dryness of the desert without leaving you greasy. LOVE IT.

This oil defies the dryness of the desert without leaving you greasy. LOVE IT.

 

10). Two Very Happy, Satisfied At-Home Kitties.

 

Nounours at home on his blanky!

Nounours at home on his blanky!

 

Ronnie James at home on the love seat!

Ronnie James at home on the love seat!

 

And last, but far from least: Thanksgiving in California, a last-minute decision that was the best decision ever!