Mini writing update and SEASON’S GREETINGS!

Writing update: simply put, things in the world of writing over here have been phenomenal since I’ve fallen into the unexpected state of euphoria that is the second draft. Yes, the second draft, I’m finding, is like a state of mind. As I think I’ve said before, it’s also a lot of actual re-writing, and it’s more than fun. It’s all I want to do. I’ve yet to crack open any of the books I’ve been waiting to read. If it wasn’t for the gym, I’d never leave the house.

I spent the first few hours of this morning writing, and then I went outside and took a bunch of selfies for my post next Tuesday because our houseguests are arriving on Sunday and today is my last chance to mug for the camera (the whirlwind starts tomorrow with cleaning and baking and such), so I’m later here than I wanted to be.

My plan to do some cardio in the garage today has been derailed on account of the probability that I injured my toe yesterday afternoon. Guess how? Getting into the shower, of course. I stepped over the metal threshold while I was lost in thought, and my left foot didn’t quite clear it. Not to brag, but it was a most epic of toe-stubbings. I actually smacked the front of all my toes against the threshold, but only the second-biggest one looks, literally, bent out of shape and brilliant with several of the wrong colors for a toe. I’m avoiding walking around today due to discomfort, so the only workout I’m getting is in my fingers as I write. PITY. (Not!)

But I digress. Returning to the writing update… I’m not holding myself to a hard deadline for this second draft, I’ve decided. I’ll get through it as quickly as I can while taking the time that I need. Let’s just say that I’m shooting for the end of January, but I won’t be concerned if it takes longer. I’m enjoying this part immensely, and frankly, I think I’ll be a little sad when it ends.

Seasoned novelists: do you experience this second-draft euphoria, too?

 

Nenette and the poinsettia, 2017

 

With love and thanks to all of you for being here! I hope this finds you well as we head into the end-of-year festivities. This is my last post before Christmas, but I’ll see you before New Year’s!

Staring at the rafters, waving at stars (December favorites!)

December irks me with all the chaos it creates in my agenda, and yet it thrills me because I enjoy the holiday season, and it’s my birthday month. I had adventures: I went to a party and consequently began my fight against PTSD-related claustrophobia (attempting to close myself inside a coffin-like tank filled with water, aka sensory deprivation tank). I simplified my life by switching my glasses lenses to progressives, and I actually like them because lo, this time they were done right. We saw three good movies, two of which I included in the Favorites list below. I had a weekend to myself (when Callaghan went out of town) during which I went alone to watch an exciting and intense UFC fight card (which included Urijah Faber’s last fight!). I had lunch dates with a few dear friends, one of whom introduced me to a tantalizing cuisine I’d never tried before (Malaysian). I met some good people. December ended with Callaghan’s sister and her two boys coming to visit (they’re still here), and that’s been fun, beginning with the fact that Christmas + kids = Good Times. And on the penultimate day of the month and of the year, UFC 207 happened. We left the sports bar on a thrilling high note, especially because of our girl Amanda Nunes (still the champ)! To say that the year ended on a bang is an understatement.

Also, I ended up getting a decent amount of writing done.

December had its trials and tribulations, too, because that’s how life works… everything can’t be all good all the time. On the not good side, Cita has been struggling to heal all month, and we’ve been struggling to help her. She’s a battle-scarred mess with wounds that aren’t healing. She’s been to the vet numerous times. She’s in convalescence and being a very good sport about it. I’ve never seen such a fearless and stoic cat (who talks trash, but can’t fight her way out of a paper bag). Loving and affectionate throughout it all, Cita is a walking contradiction with tremendous heart, and we wouldn’t have her any other way. We just need to get her healed. The next step will be, once again, to attempt to integrate her into the household with Nenette.

Getting on with the list of little things! December favorites:

 

1). Hacksaw Ridge (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-hacksawridge

 

Hacksaw Ridge is an important film, an excellent film. I never thought I’d say this, but thank you, Mel Gibson. The man did indeed create a film to bring to our attention the heroism of a young man who literally dodged bullets unarmed while rescuing others in the bloodiest battle against the Japanese in WWII. This is a true story, and it is unforgettable.

 

2). Nocturnal Animals (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-nocturnalanimals

 

 

Nocturnal Animals is a film written and directed by Tom Ford. Tom Ford as in fashion design. Tom Ford as in Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent. Considering this, we shouldn’t be surprised that every scene in Nocturnal Animals is a vision of artistry; Ford’s eye and talent for design translates magnificently to the medium of film. This isn’t his first film – it’s his second – but it’s the first that I’ve seen, and I admit that I wasn’t expecting to leave the theater quite so impressed.

As in Hacksaw Ridge, the acting in Nocturnal Animals is first-rate, as well. It’s always great when you go to the movies and find that you made an awesome choice.

The third film we saw was Arrival, which was also outstanding. The extraordinary Amy Adams once again! She stars in Nocturnal Animals, too.

December was a great month for movies.

 

3). Samurai “Strength” print (original art by David Lozeau).

 

The Fyne Art of David Lozeau - Strength (Samurai series)

The Fyne Art of David Lozeau: Strength (Samurai series) – signed by the artist

 

I reconnected with my biological mother in December (such a month!), who reminded me again of our Samurai ancestry. With that in mind, Callaghan bought me this print for my birthday: a portrait of one of my ancestors, haha! Seriously, though, I love this badass painting, and I love David Lozeau’s art, in general. Visit his site and feast your eyes.

davidlozeau dot com

 

4). The Body Shop Frosted Berries (holiday limited edition 2016) body butter.

 

The Body Shop Frosted Berries (holiday limited edition 2016) body butter

The Body Shop Frosted Berries (holiday limited edition 2016) body butter

 

This year’s holiday limited edition fragrance at The Body Shop is Frosted Berries… mostly cranberries “from North America.” (TBS is an English company; it’s funny to see what foreigners consider to be exotic on our side of the pond.) This scent is lovely. I stocked up.

 

5). The Body Shop Vitamin E Overnight Serum-In-Oil.

 

The Body Shop Vitamin E Overnight Serum-In-Oil

The Body Shop Vitamin E Overnight Serum-In-Oil

 

I was eager to try this serum, and I’m glad that I did. My skin loves it. I put it on after I cleanse my face at night… this first, then eye cream, then night cream. I’ve always layered products on my face in both my morning and nighttime skin care routines, and this serum in oil is a wonderful base layer for the night. Its scent is lovely and light, too.

 

6). The Body Shop Rainforest Radiance hair butter.

 

The Body Shop Rainforest Radiance hair butter

The Body Shop Rainforest Radiance hair butter

 

More from The Body Shop! I discovered their hair butter, and a wonderful discovery, it was. I’m always looking for ways to smooth out my hair (which can never decide if it’s straight Japanese hair or curly ginger English hair). My hair is thin and fly-away and just plain frazzled these days, and this product has been helping.

 

7). e.l.f. Mad for Matte eyeshadow palette.

 

e.l.f. Mad for Matte eyeshadow palette

e.l.f. Mad for Matte eyeshadow palette

 

I don’t know how e.l.f. does it. They create gorgeous, high-quality make-up that’s not tested on animals, and they sell it at unbelievably affordable prices. This Mad for Matte eyeshadow palette is only ten bucks. It’s my new favorite.

 

8). Urban Decay Perversion mascara.

 

Urban Decay Perversion mascara

Urban Decay Perversion mascara

 

Urban Decay is the only high-end, cruelty-free cosmetic brand whose products I use (most of the stuff I put on my face is from e.l.f.). In December, I started using their Perversion mascara, and I’m liking it a lot. I can’t even remember now why I got it, since the e.l.f. mascara I’d been using had been a favorite of mine for months. For whatever reason, this higher-end mascara got into my makeup bag, and it’s luscious.

 

9). Trader Joe’s multi-grain sourdough (with sunflower and sesame seed) bread.

 

Trader Joe's multi-grain sourdough bread

Trader Joe’s multi-grain sourdough bread

 

I’ve found my new favorite sourdough bread! It’s at Trader Joe’s! This multi-grain sourdough with sunflower and sesame seeds is delicious! [/exclamation points] If you’re a fan of sourdough bread – and if you’re lucky enough to have Trader Joe’s in your state – I recommend that you run out right now and grab a loaf or three. You can thank me later.

 

10). Tofurky pizza with “pepproni” & mushrooms.

 

Tofurky pizza (pepproni and mushroom)

Tofurky pizza (pepproni and mushroom)

 

Because there are always those days where it feels like a good idea to turn on the oven and throw in a frozen, processed-all-to-hell pizza. This one is vegan, of course. It also happens to be gluten-free, which I usually don’t like. It’s good. It’s really good. Pricey, but good! It’s an expensive junky treat, and I love it.

That’s it for December! I hope your new year is off to a great start!

Merry Eve of Christmas Eve and Christmas! (FAMILY PICS)

This is my last post before Christmas, so I wanted to wish you all a joyous celebration, whatever you’ve got going on!

I’m coming at you with a few family pics. News-wise, there’s nothing much to report. The main point of interest this week was that my glasses with my NEW progressive lenses came in… and lo, THEY WORK! I can see everything everywhere! FEAR ME.

Seriously, though, my first try at progressives didn’t go well, as you may recall. I thought it was me, but it turned out that the prescription was wrong and the lenses were poorly made.

Now I have the right prescription on well-made lenses installed in my accidental frames (lab’s mistake they let me keep at no extra cost), and I’m having no problem seeing with them. I love the convenience they offer! I’m so glad I gave progressives a second shot. As usual, I’ll wear the glasses for writing, driving, and looking at far-away screens… I don’t need them for just walking around (unless I’m grocery shopping, when it’s good to be able to read ingredients lists without the constant on-and-off of reading glasses), but I’m wearing them a lot right now for the purpose of “training my brain” to see in them, or some such.

Onward! Happy holidays from us to you. Oh, we put up a tree this year because Callaghan’s sister and her two kids are coming for Christmas and New Year’s. The tree is for them, despite what Nenette thinks.

 

Nenette taking a break from chewing on ornaments and pawing at presents.

Nenette taking a break from chewing on ornaments and pawing at presents.

 

Cita on her windowsill, taking a break from laughing at the neighbor cats who can't get to her anymore.

Cita on her windowsill, taking a break from laughing at the neighbor cats who can’t get to her anymore.

 

Nenette thinking she's hiding under the tree.

Nenette thinking she’s hiding under the tree.

 

Cita snuggling with her favorite mousie.

Cita snuggling with her favorite mousie.

 

Then there’s Callaghan and me.

 

Callaghan handily taking care of the See's scotchmallow situation.

Callaghan handily taking care of the See’s scotchmallow situation.

 

"You wouldn't hit a guy with glasses, would you?"

“You wouldn’t hit a guy with glasses, would you?”

 

Then some selfies with the girls. I did that annoying Mom thing and woke them up to take pics.

 

Selfie with Nenette! She wasn't amused to be woken up for this.

Selfie with Nenette! She wasn’t amused to be woken up for this.

 

Selfie with Cita! She was resigned. She's used to us waking her up.

Selfie with Cita! She was resigned. She’s used to us waking her up.

 

Later that day (last night, actually), we thought we’d take some festive holiday pics of ourselves.

 

Frown.

Frown.

 

Derp.

Derp.

 

General goofing around.

General goofing around.

 

Merry Christmas!!

I went to a big-ass party and this is what happened. (PTSD post.)

We went to a party on Sunday. It was Callaghan’s company’s “holiday soiree.”

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-holidaysoiree2016

 

(I concealed the names of the company and the party’s hosts.)

If the colors on the invitation seem unusual for such an event, it’s because the party’s theme was “early Mardi Gras.” If you didn’t know, Mardi Gras colors are purple, green, and gold. I’m not sure why it was decided to celebrate the holidays as another holiday that takes place in February, but that’s irrelevant. Well… mostly irrelevant.

We donned the requested semi-formal “festive attire” (I wore a red dress because I was feeling the current season… I wasn’t alone in this), and we ordered an Uber.

The Uber took us to BFE (far away from us, in the middle of nowhere) with no discernible civilization around. We were dropped off in a big-ass parking lot. To enter a big-ass tent. Which led us into a big-ass warehouse. In which there was a big-ass party with roughly 800 people, pretty much in the dark, save for spot lighting here and there.

No part of which agreed with my big-ass case of PTSD.

Not only that, but when we walked into the warehouse, the first thing that happened was a few metallic strings suddenly dropped from the air, straight down, and landed with a clatter on the concrete floor, right in front of my feet. Because, you know, Mardi Gras. It was someone’s role to stand on a second-floor balcony and throw beads down in front of people walking in. This surprise INCOMING situation set me more on edge, though I didn’t show it. I smiled and laughed and talked to people, and I enjoyed the excellent band. I enjoyed meeting some of Callaghan’s co-workers and their wives. I did have a good time in some sense. I focused on that. We stayed for four hours, and I was fine.

Here’s the thing: Like everyone with PTSD, I have some known triggers, and I have some random triggers that can come out of nowhere. I went into the party thinking that my introversion would be the issue, but my panic disorder overrode that completely. It would’ve been great if being an introvert was my biggest challenge.

In response to all of this, I’ve decided to book myself an hour in a sensory deprivation tank.

Yes, you read that right. I’m going to strenuously push my limits in the tank – claustrophobia is one of my issues – and that is the point.

I may never be able to enter a room without immediately looking for the exits and other avenues of escape. I may never be able to sit in a room with my back to the door. But that’s okay. That’s my normal, and those behaviors are valuable, so I have no problems there. Meanwhile, though, I would like to work on lessening the impact of some of my known triggers. Coming out of the party with this realization was the gift of the whole thing. I will act on it! I’ll let you know how it goes.

An aside: I have no pics of us or of the party, I’m sorry to say. There were roaming photographers and co-workers who wanted to take pics, so there are some images floating around somewhere… if I get my hands on one and get the permission of the people in them, I’ll post them at that time.

The general kittystate chez nous. (Kitty updates!)

Several of you request more frequent kitty updates, and I’m sorry I haven’t gotten better at this. I like to oblige when you make requests, so I’ll work on posting about the fur-kids more often! For now, every five-six weeks continues to be the norm.

So what have been the main points of interest around here?

1). We went out of town for Thanksgiving. While we were gone, our kitty-sitters never saw Nenette. Not. Even. Once.

We weren’t surprised. We were satisfied to hear that her food was disappearing between visits, and that her litter box was being used.

While she’s continued to get more comfortable with Callaghan and in the house, in general, poor Nenette still has a crippling fear of men and strangers.

If you remember, it was for this precise reason that our Feline Behaviorist recommended keeping Nenette here and giving someone else a chance to take Nounours home to an only-cat situation. Because of their comfort levels with humans, Nenette was deemed “not as adoptable,” while Nounours was evaluated as “very adoptable.”

(How right she was. Because of his personality, Nounours was indeed Mr. Popular at the shelter, and he was adopted by his ideal cat mom within two months.)

When we adopted Nenette, she was confined to a small see-through container in a window at PetSmart with nowhere to hide, so we couldn’t fathom how afraid she was. At the shelter, where visitors get to wander amongst the many available cats, she wouldn’t have been seen. Or she would’ve been seen cowering in a corner. Either way, people would overlook her. People are naturally drawn to cats who come up to say hello and ask for pets, like Nounours the Snuggle-Monster, who loves all humans indiscriminately.

Nounours is in Nounours Paradise with his doting Mom and no competition, but Nenette is still working on overcoming her severe social anxiety. At least our Thanksgiving kitty-sitters have seen pics of her!

That aside, she’s very happy when it’s just us.

2). On her part, Cita is very happy in the winter cabin we’ve created for her in her laundry room. I lined and padded the spacious, highest shelf and covered it with a soft blanket, and she loves it. She has little pillows up there, and at night, we make a cozy bed with a kitty bed (she likes to sleep against it rather than in it, which works well because of its high sides), her pillows, and her bouillotte (soft hot water bottle covered in cozy fabric). She has a space heater and a cat door and a lamp for lower, warm lighting. I spend the working hours of my days in there with her, as I use the washing machine as a standing work station. As far as she’s concerned, Cita is indoors.

She still goes out and gets beat up now and again, talking trash to other cats in the hood. She cannot tolerate other cats (unlike Nounours, who simply resented competition). Twice, we had prospective families for her, and both times, they fell through. But looking at the situation with clear eyes, we can see that she’s simply happy here, on her property, with us. We do what we can to minimize her chances of getting hurt.

Without further ado, enjoy some pics!

Inside fur-child (evidence that Nenette exists):

 

Nenette's favorite place to sleep: In her kitty bed. On her chair. Next to my side of the bed.

Nenette’s favorite place to sleep: In her kitty bed. On her chair. Next to my side of the bed.

 

It’s chilly now, and kitties are in full-on snuggle mode.

 

Nenette reached out to touch my face just as I was about to take this picture.

Nenette reached out to touch my face just as I was about to take this picture.

 

We put up a Christmas tree in anticipation of family from Europe coming to visit for the holidays. As far as we know, Nenette had never seen a Christmas tree. We haven’t decorated it yet… so far, it just has the lights that came with it.

 

Nenette doesn't know what to do with this fake tree in the house.

Nenette doesn’t know what to do with this fake tree in the house.

 

As for Cita, our outdoor fur-child:

 

Cita reminds me of a cartoon character in this pic. I just can't think of which one.

Cita reminds me of a cartoon character in this pic. I just can’t think of which one.

 

She loves plants more than anything.

 

Plants are Cita's favorite things on earth.

Plants are Cita’s favorite things on earth.

 

And she loves her bed in the laundry room!

 

A sudden sound outside caused Cita to make this face just as I was about to take her picture.

A sudden sound outside caused Cita to make this face just as I was about to take her picture.

 

That’s it for now! I’ll try to post kitty updates more often in 2017. I can’t believe we’re within weeks of the new year. Yikes.

And they all fall down. (November favorites!)

Let’s just jump right into this list of enjoyable little things I discovered in November!

 

1). Jacket weather.

 

Winter has come.

Winter has come.

 

Okay, I didn’t discover this, but it happened, and I love it. Jacket weather has arrived! (My hair isn’t this light; this pic shows an illusion of the aggressive lighting in the optometrist’s room in which I was sitting yesterday afternoon. My hair looks red under light, anyway, but this pic is beyond.) It doesn’t matter what the calendar says… if it’s cold enough to wear a jacket – in the 60’s – it’s winter.

 

2). Night School (novel by Lee Child)

 

Lee Child's 2016 Reacher release!

Lee Child’s 2016 Reacher release!

 

It’s here, and I finally got my hands on it! I’m about half-way through, and I’m hooked, as usual. I’ll probably devote a post to this new Reacher novel of Lee Child’s.

 

3). Nerve (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-nerve

 

We were looking for a fluffy cinematic escapade for mindless entertainment one day, and we happened upon Nerve. We chose it because of Emma Roberts and the fact of having seen the trailer and remembering how we thought we discerned a unique premise for a sci-fi thriller… and that’s exactly what we got. And we were entertained. Success!

 

4). The Affair S3 (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-theaffairs3

 

This season of The Affair is strikingly dark compared to the last two seasons, which were also dark, if that gives you any idea about this stunning series. Season 3 takes you down into an abyss, a drop that’s immediately evident as that eerie song of Fiona Apple’s in the opening credits now harmonizes with beautiful and morbid images of the characters sinking to the bottom of the ocean.

 

 

The Affair just gets better and better. The story seems straightforward enough as it begins in the first season, but by the time you’ve watched the first two/three episodes of the third season, you have no idea, really, what you’ve gotten into.

 

5). Acure night cream.

 

Acure night cream

Acure night cream

 

I think this cream may have appeared in a list from last year. It’s making a reappearance, as I’ve started using it again, and I still think it’s great. I’ve tried some very good night creams this year; my favorite is still Yes to Blueberries, but I’m enjoying using this one by Acure at the moment.

 

6). Amy’s organic lentil vegetable soup (light in sodium).

 

Amy's organic lentil vegetable (light in sodium) soup

Amy’s organic lentil vegetable (light in sodium) soup

 

I eat a lot of soup these days. I love homemade soup, but more often than not, I grab whatever can of soup we have on hand. It’s always Amy’s. This lentil vegetable one is my favorite. It’s “light in sodium,” but not to worry… it’s nothing a few twists of the salt grinder can’t fix! I load it up with pink Himalayan salt and figure I’ll deal with the repercussions of excess sodium consumption later. I’ve got to have some vices, right? At least one? And as far as processed foods go, Amy’s soups really aren’t that bad.

 

7). Clif Kid Organic Z bar (iced oatmeal cookie) with peanut butter.

 

Clif Kid Organic Z Bar (iced oatmeal cookie) with peanut butter topping

Clif Kid Organic Z Bar (iced oatmeal cookie) with peanut butter topping

 

This bar appeared on last month’s list. Its taste reminds me of Fig Newtons, which I love. But now I top it with peanut butter for some added protein, and the aftertaste takes it from Fig Newton to pure oatmeal cookie. I’m so glad I tried this!

 

8). Scivation Xtend BCAAs in strawberry kiwi.

 

Scivation Xtend BCAAs (strawberry-kiwi)

Scivation Xtend BCAAs (strawberry-kiwi)

 

When deciding on BCAAs to supplement my weight-training workouts and muscle recovery, my only concern was finding a good one that’s vegan. I’d never taken BCAAs before, so I dove into some research and came up with Scivation Xtend. I got the strawberry kiwi. The flavor is good, and it works well in getting me through a Body Pump session and recovering faster afterward. SCORE.

 

9). Sumo wrestling.

 

Grand Sumo Tournament 2016

Grand Sumo Tournament 2016

 

Sitting in front of the T.V. with Dad when we were in California for Thanksgiving, I got to revisit those favorite childhood moments of watching combat sports with him… only this time, instead of boxing, it was sumo wrestling! It never occurred to me to actually sit and watch sumo. Callaghan and I were instantly drawn in; we were surprised at how much we enjoyed it. I’m still pondering the mystery of how a match that can be over in 5 seconds can be so exciting to watch. The 15-day tournament ended on the 27th (It was the November Grand Sumo Tournament, or Kyushu Basho, in Fukuoka, Japan). We watched the last two nights here at home, on YouTube. The next tournament will be in January.

 

10). New tattoo.

 

Three swallows in flight

Three swallows in flight

 

Fresh out of the studio, freshly wrapped in plastic.

Fresh out of the studio, freshly wrapped in plastic.

 

I finally got my bird tattoos! I’ve been wanting swallows, and I love the way they turned out.

That’s it for November, and that’s almost it for 2016!

Sunny winter in Haiku (Haiku 2: Blue Sky)

It’s a new week, and other than some residual congestion, I’m flu-free. Seven days of viral craptastic downtime makes for a giddy return to work. I only went in on Tuesday last week. I went on Wednesday, too, but I was sent home almost immediately, so Wednesday doesn’t count.

(Aside: Remember when “viral” really was just a bad thing?)

Even on Sunday, I coughed so much, Callaghan said, “There’s no way you can go to work tomorrow.” But I felt much better when I woke up yesterday. The whole day felt glorious. It was warm and the sky was extra sunny, clear, and blue – even more blue than usual – so I went outside (glorious!) during my lunch hour and took some pics. I didn’t go far… just to the art museum near my building. The museum and the adjacent little theatre.

I’m sharing some of the pics with a few more haiku, because they go together. I’m feeling the haiku these days, and it feels good. It feels good to pick up poetry again!

 

Haiku 2: Blue Sky

(by Kristi Garboushian)

1.

To be undulant,

an unfinished votive dream

soothing chess-players.

 

Blue sky with theatre box office.

Blue sky with theatre box office.

 

2.

Elasticity:

five hundred sodden leaves around

the arctic building.

 

Blue sky with art museum.

Blue sky with art museum.

 

3.

Plumage battering

an alternative fossil –

carnage emerging.

 

Blue sky with fake lava.

Blue sky with fake lava.

 

4.

A feast of words held:

tense, shy, the gloved telegrams,

chronological.

 

Blue sky with art museum, 2.

Blue sky with art museum, 2.

 

I love how Haiku encourages pictures in 17 syllables.

Kitty updates in Haiku (Haiku 1: Cats)

Kitty updates today! I was feeling a pull toward something different when I sat down to write last night, so I went with it. What ended up happening was I wrote about Nounours and Nenette in haiku. It was a fun change of kitty-update pace, plus I’ve been thinking it’s kind of sad that I’ve written so few poems since getting my M.F.A. in Creative Writing with a Poetry concentration.

If you’re not into haiku or poetry in general, just scroll on down… I added a paragraph of non-haiku kitty updates under the last pic.

 

Haiku 1: Cats

(by Kristi Garboushian)

1.

Bedtime ritual –

the voyeur of espresso,

wicker ball, a lyre.

 

Nenette cleaning her feet at bedtime.

Nenette cleaning her feet at bedtime.

 

 

2.

His roaring soft self

to curl, melt the desert bright

in pastoral glow.

 

Nounours in the nest Daddy made.

Nounours in the nest Daddy made.

 

 

3.

A swing, a feather

like a river marring stars:

Possibility.

 

Nenette deciding which toy.

Nenette deciding which toy.

 

 

4.

The round vacancy –

morning routine, following

the feral other.

 

Nenette and Nounours enjoying a sunbeam.

Nenette and Nounours enjoying a sunbeam.

 

In plain speech, Nounours and Nenette have been happily snuggling down in their special nighttime beds that we put together for them: Nenette on her padded bar-stool (in the bedroom corner next to my side of the bed) that I’d swathed in t-shirts I’d worn, and Nounours in the couch nest that Callaghan made with a serape and random cushions.

Nenette still loves her toy corner in the living room more than anything! She studies her toy basket and paws at the toys she wants, lifting them out with her teeth.

On weekend mornings, I’m home to watch both kitties winter sunbathing in beams on the floor.

They’re doing well.

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. =)

Cold weather joy!

This last week we’ve had quite the cold snap here in Phoenix Metro, which I believe we can actually attribute to El Niño. A few days ago, our state registered the coldest temperatures in the U.S. while everyone else basked in unusual warmth. Hell has frozen over here in Sun Devil country!

It’s all good, though, because cold weather means a lot of enjoyable things. Such as:

1). Cold weather means I can light a lot of candles in my office at home.

 

Forest of candles.

Forest of candles.

 

It’s normally too warm for so many candles at once, obviously.

 

2). Cold weather makes savory, hot food even heartier.

 

Bocca burger at Red Robin (with iced tea, which I love in all kinds of weather).

Bocca burger at Red Robin (with iced tea, which I love in all kinds of weather).

 

We eat stuff like this year-round, but I find it most fulfilling when it’s cold outside. This particular visit to Red Robin was especially welcome because it was the day after we got back from France, where I’d spent over a week subsisting mostly on salads, bread, and the Larabars I’d packed. Those salads were wonderful, for sure, but by the time we got back I was ready to sink my teeth into something savory and hot!

 

Roasted purple potatoes.

Roasted purple potatoes.

 

Pinto beans in the slow cooker.

Pinto beans in the slow cooker.

 

Pinto tacos!

Pinto tacos!

 

Side-note: Did you know that Field Roast makes vegan cheese? I didn’t know until we found it at the store last night. It was great in these tacos! My favorite vegan cheeses have been Follow Your Heart and Daiya, but now there’s Field Roast. Daiya probably still works best on pizza, though. I might have to do an experiment to find out. There are other vegan cheeses out there, too.

 

3). Cold weather means that chocolate tastes like Christmas.

 

Stonegrindz Chocolate

Stonegrindz Chocolate

 

This chocolate is made locally, and it is delicious. Somehow, cold weather and Stonegrindz’ midnight dark chocolate really go together. Callaghan even likes it, and he generally doesn’t care for dark chocolate! We get it at the Farmer’s Market down the street, of course.

 

4). Cold weather makes garage workouts possible.

You know it’s been cold if you see that my elbows are bruised… it means that I’ve been working out on heavy-bags in the garage, a thing you can’t do in Arizona heat if there’s no A/C out there.

 

I waited seven months for this.

I waited seven months for this.

 

(A selfie was going to be impossible, so I took these pics with the web cam… that’s why they’re kind of grainy and dark.)

 

Garage workouts once again!

Garage workouts once again!

 

Because let’s be honest… there’s nothing like an intense workout on heavy-bags to relieve your frustrations. Any shrink would back me up on that, I’m guessing.

The cold also means that I can lift weights in the garage, since we have some dumbbells out there. I need to build up some strength.

Did I mention, by the way, that my strength-training attempts at the work gym ended in failure? The plan was to go during lunch, but evidently the rest of the world had the same idea. I couldn’t get the weights I needed because they were always in use, and I didn’t have time to wait. I gave up after three or four days.

 

5). Cozy winter kitties.

 

Nenette in her favorite windowsill sunbeam on a cold day.

Nenette in her favorite windowsill sunbeam on a cold day.

 

Nenette asleep on the back of the couch, one of her favorite spots.

Nenette asleep on the back of the couch, one of her favorite spots.

 

Sleepy Nounours and his little pink freckled nose.

Sleepy Nounours and his little pink freckled nose.

 

Blanket weather!

Blanket weather!

 

It’s supposed to warm up a little starting today, but it’ll still be cold enough to be magical!

Looks like this turned out to be something of a “favorites” post, which I didn’t intend, but it’s great because I wasn’t going to do one for December. (At the end of the month I’ll do a “best of 2015,” instead.)

What I’m Digging Right Now – January Favorites

January is over. The Super Bowl happened on Sunday, and it was here in the Valley, aka Phoenix metro. My impulse was to barricade myself inside the house and hide from the madness, since I wasn’t a passionate fan of either team. Callaghan’s impulse was to run out into the insanity and embrace it, though he wasn’t rooting for anyone in particular, either. We’re textbook introvert and extroverts, respectively. Happily, he was able to meet up with our neighbor friends, and they walked down the street to Casey Moore’s to watch the game in public. Meanwhile, I put on some shorts and a t-shirt and headed to the garage to work out. Everyone was happy!

Well, not everyone was happy. What a game. I did keep up with it online, and man, that was one weird Super Bowl.

At any rate, it’s over now, and we can all resume life as normal (including our balmy, sunny winter weather, which went on strike during Super Bowl week), and I’m sitting down to write about my January Favorites.

I noted so many awesome “little things” throughout January, it was hard to narrow down the list! The month started out on a high note when we went to check out a blues band at the Rhythm Room. Also, in keeping with one of my resolutions, I acquired a lot of new (and amazingly inexpensive) cosmetic-type products that weren’t tested on animals. I’m not listing them here today, though… I’ll probably talk about one or two things each month, starting next time.

That said, here’s my first Monthly Favorites list of 2015!

Might as well start with entertainment…

1). Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part I (film)

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We weren’t sure what to expect, since we’d heard rumors that this third installment in the Hunger Games film series wasn’t the greatest, so we were happily surprised to find that it was good. It was very good.  Mockingjay, Part I turned out to be our favorite Hunger Games movie yet! I found it to be more lavish, dark and driven than the first and second films, and where I’d left the previous one feeling strangely like I’d been force-fed, I left Mockingjay eager for more. Katniss’ “Hanging Tree” song still comes back to me with its quiet, eerie magic every once in a while. I loved Jennifer Lawrence singing that song. I loved the whole movie. I thought it was fabulous, and I would see it again!

2). American Sniper (film)

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Obviously I appreciated this film – it’s on this list – but if you haven’t already read the details of my response, you can read them here, if you’d like.

3). Broad City (T.V. series)

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We took a chance on this series one night when we were in the mood for something funny and there were no new episodes of Bob’s Burgers.

Broad City caught us off-guard with its irreverence, absurdity and off-beat brand of humor… it’s actually kind of like bro humor, but with girls instead of guys. We thought a lot of it was hilarious, but even during the inevitable humorous moments that didn’t quite do it for us, we found ourselves unable to look away. It was really like watching a train wreck… a train wreck you keep returning to because it’s just such a train wreck of a train wreck… and when you finally arrive at “The Last Supper” – the season one finale – you see a very familiar face and realize that it’s Amy Poehler, and then you find out that she was behind that train a lot of the time, and suddenly, it all makes sense.

If you like to watch train wrecks that are often very funny, you should check out Broad City. It’s disconcertingly entertaining watching how these broads extricate themselves from the ridiculous, mundane little situations they manage to get themselves into. We haven’t started watching season two yet. There are three episodes so far, so we should get on it!

4). The Affair (T.V. series)

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We looked at each other in confusion when Ruth Wilson, a relatively unknown actress, came out of nowhere and stole the Best Actress in a Drama (T.V. series) Golden Globe award from Claire Danes (Homeland), Robin Wright (House of Cards) and Juliana Margulies (The Good Wife), phenomenal actresses from three of our favorite, phenomenal series… so we decided to start watching The Affair, which we’d never even heard of (it nabbed several other nominations and awards, as well).

By the end of the first episode, it was clear what the fuss was all about. We felt like we’d been a part of something more involved and multi-textured than a typical first episode of the first season of a new dramatic series. The two main characters tell a detective their versions of the same story, in parallel. It’s ingenious. Now we’re down to the last two episodes, and we’re just about out of breath, we’re so caught up and baffled. Who is the killer? Why would someone want to murder that particular person? 

We’ll know tonight. It can’t come soon enough!

For us, The Affair joins a growing list of television series that exemplify how T.V. has become a high art form. Also, Ruth Wilson’s talent is stunning, and she soundly deserved that Golden Globe, if you ask me. The Affair is like… imagine if True Detective and The Killing were to hook up and spawn a psychologically intricate love child with its parents’ haunting, poetic complexity, atmosphere and energy. That would be The Affair.

Also, may I just say that Fiona Apple’s theme song with the accompanying images at the beginning of each episode is downright chilling, and it’s just as compelling as the story, itself? In fact, the further we get in the series, the more deliciously unnerving that intro becomes. I’m just so impressed with every last little detail of this series. Just… wow.

5). Alba Botanica Hawaiian Facial Cleanser Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme and Hawaiian Facial Scrub Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme.

Alba Botanica Hawaiian Facial Cleanser Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme  and Hawaiian Facial Scrub Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme.

Alba Botanica Hawaiian Facial Cleanser Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme
and Hawaiian Facial Scrub Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme.

Here are my requisite skin-care picks for January, though I’m going to keep enjoying them for a long time, no doubt! If you’ve been reading here for a while, you already know that the Alba Botanica Hawaiian 3-in-1 Clean Towelettes Deep Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme are my Holy Grail time-saving facial wipes when I have to wash my face in a hurry. Once I decided to go cruelty-free at the beginning of January, I picked up the facial cleanser and exfoliating scrub from the same collection. They’re just as fabulous with their fresh, faint pineapple scent and luxurious textures. The cleanser, which I use at night after removing my make-up, creates rich, soft suds. The exfoliating scrub, which I use in the morning, has granules that are fine and just abrasive enough. I love this entire line by Alba Botanica.

6). Kashi GOLEAN Crunch! Honey Almond Flax cereal.

Kashi GOLEAN Crunch! Honey Almond Flax cereal with fresh raspberries, blueberries and almond milk.

Kashi GOLEAN Crunch! Honey Almond Flax cereal with fresh raspberries, blueberries and almond milk.

I didn’t get a picture of the cereal box, but here you can kind of see the cereal beneath all the berries. So far, I haven’t met a flavor of GOLEAN cereal that I haven’t loved, but the combination of their (high-protein, high-fiber, high-omega 3 fatty acids) honey almond flax protein clusters with fresh raspberries, blueberries and almond milk is my favorite!

7). Van’s 8 Whole Grains Multigrain waffles with peanut butter and jelly.

Van's 8 Whole Grains waffles with 365 creamy peanut butter and Kroger Just Fruit (no sugar added) strawberry jam.

Van’s 8 Whole Grains waffles with 365 creamy peanut butter and Kroger Just Fruit (no sugar added) strawberry jam.

Another breakfast pick! My favorite new weekend breakfast is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich made with these Van’s waffles, 365 brand creamy peanut butter from Whole Foods, and Kroger’s “Just Fruit” (no sugar added) jam. When toasted, the waffles have that wonderful crispy-soft texture with their combination of whole wheat, oats, barley, brown rice, rye, quinoa, amaranth and millet. This is my favorite new way to eat pb&j. It is SO GOOD.

8). Trader Joe’s dark chocolate bar and dark chocolate-covered almonds.

This chocolate has real medicinal properties. I'm sure of it.

This chocolate has real medicinal properties. I’m sure of it.

My beloved Sista (we call each other that) gave me one of these dark chocolate bars from Trader Joe’s in December, so what did I do in January? Went out and bought more, of course! Then I discovered that Trader Joe’s sells their dark chocolate-covered almonds in these little bags, and now they’re my favorite treat to sneak into the movie theatre. Trader Joe’s. Trying to do us in, as per usual.

9). Garden of Eatin’ Red Hot Blues organic blue corn tortilla chips.

Garden of Eatin' Red Hot Blues, aka crack. ORGANIC crack.

Garden of Eatin’ Red Hot Blues, aka crack. ORGANIC crack.

I’ve talked about Garden of Eatin’ organic blue corn tortilla chips before, but I haven’t mentioned their Red Hot Blues version yet. I think I actually consumed more junk food in January than I did over the holidays, and it seemed like there was an open bag of these chips laying around the kitchen all month – but not the same open bag! I don’t even know how many bags of these we went through. Can I count two of the smaller bags as one large one? Also, I’d say that eating these with guacamole adds some nutritional value. Healthy fats and all, right? Right?!

10). Green New American Vegetarian hot wings.

Vegan wings from Green New American Vegetarian, one of my favorite restaurants.

Vegan wings from Green New American Vegetarian, one of my favorite restaurants.

Our friend Rebecca clued us in to the platters of vegan wings that Green (New American Vegetarian) was offering for Super Bowl Sunday. We placed our order on Saturday afternoon, picked up the platter the next day, and devoured the whole thing for lunch inside of 20 minutes. That’s right… just the two of us! But I did, as I mentioned above, get to work out in the garage later that day.

Just because something is vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy, and I was well aware of this as we were stuffing our faces with these ridiculously delicious fake wings with the vegan ranch and chili sauces that went with them.

Okay… that’s it for my January Favorites! Have a great Tuesday. =)

My Super Bowl Curse.

This is not the post I’d planned. This was supposed to be my 2014 Favorites post, but it turns out it takes energy and strength to put such lists together, neither of which I’ve had at all for the last two days… so instead, I’ll tell you the weird little story behind that.

19 years ago, in 1996, the Super Bowl was hosted here in the Valley. All of Phoenix metro prepared for the arrival of the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were set to play in Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium, and the requisite chaos ensued. Super Bowl fever is a thing in and of itself, so you can imagine that Super Bowl fever in the hosting city is madness. Sun Devil Stadium holds almost 70,000 people, and ticketholders flooded into the Valley from elsewhere to fill it up for the annual championship football game. Exciting times, right?

 

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I was a senior at Arizona State, carrying a full course load and working 20 hours a week in the foreign languages department, so I pretty much lived on campus.

At some point during that last week of January, I started to feel sick with nausea that ebbed in and out for days, getting progressively worse. I visited the student health clinic on campus twice. They said I had an ear infection, though I had no pain in my ear, and they sent me off with stuff for the nausea. Finally, I woke up one morning and headed to my 17th-century British literature professor’s office for his early office hours. Our class was scheduled to take an exam that day, but I knew I wasn’t going to make it. I went to his office, told him I was sick, and asked if I could take the exam early. (I still remember the expression of trepidation-bordering-on-disgust on his face as he regarded my sick ass sitting there in his office for an hour!)

I finished the exam, went to the language lab, told them I was sick and wouldn’t be able to work my hours that day, and left. Soon after I got home, all of proverbial hell broke loose.

I’ll spare you the graphic detail and skip ahead to the part where my friend came to my apartment almost six hours later to take me to the Emergency Room. When we arrived, the triage nurse took my vitals and said, “I don’t understand how you can still be conscious” before installing me in a bed. Wow! How to avoid waiting for hours to be seen in the ER: arrive severely dehydrated!

Bits of the night surfaced and wavered before me between periods of oblivion. At some point, my boyfriend arrived. I remember him watching me and remarking, “When you do get sick, you REALLY get sick.”

Truly, I had never been so sick with infectious disease. I had an I.V. drip for hydration, another with anti-nausea meds, a third one with a painkiller (for the lower back pain resulting from dehydration) and a catheter. The situation was described to me as my stomach was drawing the water out of my muscles and that’s what I was throwing up, which was a ghastly notion, but I was more intrigued by something I overheard as I drifted in and out of consciousness. A doctor and a nurse were standing over me, talking, unaware that I could hear them. One of them said, “Yep. This is how they all end up.” This is how they all end up. The words sounded sinister. I found out later that they’d been talking about what the medical community was calling “the Super Bowl flu,” an epidemiological phenomenon. When thousands of people visit an area at the same time – as in Super Bowl week – the local germ pool gets infiltrated with foreign germs to which the locals have no immunity, and the locals get sick. Phoenix residents were getting clobbered by this vicious stomach virus, with many of us landing in the ER. I was a Super Bowl statistic.

Toward noon the next day, the crisis was over. I was feeling slightly better from all the treatment, and I wanted to go home. “You’re not going anywhere until you pee,” said the matter-of-fact nurse in her matter-of-fact nurse way. “We need to see you pee!” But I couldn’t. They kept me there until I could, and then it took a whole week of bed rest at home to completely recover.

That was in 1996, and that was the last time I had the stomach flu… until two days ago, when my blissfully long run of avoiding the dreaded throwing-up virus came to an end. Again, I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that it flattened me pretty good. Yesterday morning, I wanted to work on my 2014 Favorites post for today. I was sitting on the couch with my laptop next to me, and I literally did not have the strength to pick it up and set it on my lap. Flattened.

Out of curiosity, I stepped on the scale this morning. I don’t often weigh myself, but I know the general weight that I maintain, and by my estimation, the scale showed nearly six pounds less. I either lost over five pounds in the last two days, or I’d started out weighing less than I’d thought I did. I wouldn’t be surprised if I did weigh what I thought I did and lost almost six pounds, though, considering the efficiency with which my body evacuated itself of everything I’d consumed in the last week.

Why is this all of this significant, you might ask? Well, THE SUPER BOWL IS COMING BACK TO PHOENIX THIS MONTH. Coincidence? I think not. I think the next time the Super Bowl comes to the Valley, I should lay in a stash of supplies and barricade myself inside the house for the entire month of January.

I’m feeling better now. I’ve been sleeping a lot. Though plenty dramatic, this time was not as severe as last time. My temperature is back to normal, my headache is mostly gone, my lower back pain is subsiding and I’m recovering some energy, but I’m still weak. I’m taking today to start eating again and regain some strength so I can return to work tomorrow.

Also, my gym bag is packed for Body Combat tomorrow night. Yesterday, I was so lacking in energy I thought for sure I’d miss Wednesday’s class, too, but now I’m jumping out of my skin because I missed last night!

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!

Merry Christmas!

I was the last one to wake up this morning, and when I did, the whole family piled onto the bed. I opened my eyes to find myself buried beneath Callaghan, Ronnie James, Nounours and the spread of gifts that had somehow migrated there. Santa’s getting efficient, streamlining the process to where you don’t even have to get out of bed! I figured I must have slept in, but it was only 7:30. (Who says I don’t have kids? I have three… two in the shape of cats, and one in the shape of Callaghan.)

Fifteen minutes later, I’d removed my retainers, brushed my teeth and jumped back into bed with the coffee Callaghan brought me, deliciously creamy and sweet with my favorite almond milk and stevia, and we all opened our presents. It was our first Christmas with Ronnie James and Nounours, and they got right in on the action with no prompting whatsoever.

Our celebration actually started yesterday when we went to the movies and caught American Hustle. I have two words: Jennifer Lawrence. Just… 23 years old, really? Wow. The entire cast turned in supremely well-crafted performances, though. It’s always a pleasure to go to the movies and leave feeling like it was worth it.

 

Christmas Eve. We got to the theater 40 minutes early, so we waited at the coffee shop next door.

Christmas Eve. We got to the theater 40 minutes early, so we waited at the coffee shop next door.

 

This morning - Callaghan modeling his new beanie!

This morning – Callaghan modeling his new beanie!

 

Ronnie James pounced on his stocking immediately.

Ronnie James pounced on his stocking immediately.

 

MOR PRESENTS!

MOR PRESENTS!

 

And here's Nounours, deep in contemplation...

And here’s Nounours, deep in contemplation…

 

...before he passed out...

…before he passed out…

 

 

...at the same time as Ronnie James.

…at the same time as Ronnie James.

 

 

 

 

 

Too much excitement for kitties. As for us, we’re taking it easy, too. I hope you’re all enjoying a splendid day!

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!

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