Monday, June 30, 2014

the cleaning ritual continues...

It's 10:15 PM. I've taken to writing my recent posts sitting in my bed with DH snoring and 2 cats cuddled close by.  I usually read at this time... and may still do so in a little while. And since I no longer have a laptop and the only tablet I own is an old Nook Color... this leaves my trusty iPhone4 to write on. The keypad is a bit small for general writing, but it works.

We finished cleaning what *used to be* the dining room today (Sat).  It's now the game-room for the grandkids. It has a bay window with a window-seat... and we washed the windows inside and out... not to mention the Plantation blinds that cover the panes, and the ceiling fan. Only thing left to do in there is to go through the glass encased bookshelves and clean them out. They have accumulated too much junk among the toys, books, and games. But this will take a day in itself...

Tomorrow we tackle our bedroom.Once it's gotten a thorough going over, we plan to start looking for the right paint.  It has a multiple recessed ceiling - at least I think that's what it's called (see pic below). We don't plan to paint that... just the walls.

our crazy recessed ceiling

And if you'll notice the windows on the sides of the bed... they have white Plantation shutters... (I think I mentioned this before) but my friend and I are working on quilted valences to match the quilt she made for me last year.  It's not on this bed now as the bed is generally covered in cats... and I'm trying to *keep it safe* as long as possible (if you have cats, you know what I mean... they are prone to upchucks, shedding and general clawing - basically hard on furniture and fabrics - but we love them so we endure!)

Since it's now Sunday and I'm continuing this post after cleaning the bedroom, I'm pretty exhausted.  Didn't get my nap today, but should sleep well tonight.  Most of the downstairs is now thoroughly cleaned (except for Master Bath and Closet... which I left to almost last as we need to go through there carefully and throw things out... or give them away. We should have a ton of stuff for Salvation Army or The Kidney Foundation. There are clothes in there that neither of us have worn in years.

I did take the time this morning to make DH some blueberry scones. Hadn't made these in a while and had come across a recipe that was a little different than my normal one. They were good... and we ate them of course, but we both prefer the old recipe.

One of Shiney's kittens

And Shiney's kittens are getting big! They are coming to the back now. I'm hoping to get them friendly, but we don't stay outside long these days as the mosquitoes are really bad (and West Nile virus is still a prob).

The mama raccoon that has the 2 kits (we have one that has 5, and one that has 2) came by yesterday and her kits were enjoying the water bath.  We used to fill up the larger pool, but found that they preferred the smaller tubs.  We had originally used these as large water bowls, but now we just added another - and they can use them for whatever.

BTW, my BRAC1/BRAC2 genetic testing came back *negative*.  This is good news!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

birthdays and *that dream* again...

my birthday 13 years ago...
With the 4th of July and our (DH and mine) 69th birthdays just around the corner, I'm thinking today about "freedom" and just how much that word means to me.  Having lived in the US my whole life, I cannot imagine life without it.  Even the loss of small bits of it that can come with old age or diminishing health and/or finances worry me.  Physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial freedom are so-oo important to my feeling of well being. Surely everyone feels this way?  But as we age, we will gradually have to give up some of this. Driving is one example. Where and how we live might be another. And where and how we live might also affect the necessity of driving.  See what I'm saying...

I know that we need to live in the *NOW* (not dwelling on the past, nor anxious about the future), but I've had 2 people close to me lose their spouses recently. They're lives will change abruptly. Is it advisable to think about what we might want to do down the road? Possibly... as long as we don't dwell on it or have it rumbling around in our heads at bedtime.

What do you think?

"Creating" our elder life seems like something we need to think about.  I had a dream the night before last.... one of those good dreams where I was on a beach by the ocean and I was running effortlessly and with quiet abandon. It was cool and the breaking waves were rough. I felt so *free* - love that feeling and it doesn't occur often. So happy these last 2 days as the feeling has not completely faded yet. I've had this dream before... used to consider it more than a dream, an almost out of body experience. Now I just consider it a gift.  

I want to think that these *dreams* are telling me something... perhaps that this is what life is like after death? Perhaps without the frailties of the human body, our souls will run free? Perhaps being one with the universe is another form of freedom? And possibly one we experienced before (before birth into our human form) and these dreams are lost memories?

Guess I'd better stop this thread before people start worrying about my sanity.  These thoughts do occur to me -   but I don't dwell on them. Mull them over for a bit... then get on with it.  But I do believe that we *create* our lives... so taking the time occasionally to take stock and make changes accordingly does seem like a good idea.  I'm just saying....

Thursday, June 26, 2014

family medical history...

While checking here and there among family members that I know (there are tons of family members that I don't know both in the US and across the pond but that's neither here nor there) I finally came across the criteria I needed to have my BRAC1/BRAC2 test run under my medicare insurance. I was informed by both my cousin and my niece that my maternal grandmother (Me'mere') died of ovarian cancer. Since she died the same year I was born, I wasn't aware of this and don't remember my mother ever mentioning it. All I remember mom saying about her mother was that she was the sweetest gentlest woman. And she would have had to be as my maternal grandfather (Pe'pere') was in my opinion the sweetest gentlest man. He died when I was 9.  Anyway, I needed 2 people in the family that both had Breast Cancer or Ovarian Cancer. Since my sister died of Ovarian, and apparently my grandmother did also, that should do it... according to the lady at the Genetics lab.

But the story goes on... 

Before I got this joint info from my immediate family, I *churned up the waters* a little online.  I had done some ancestry research a while back and had come across a site called "". On it a relative that I didn't know had done a memorial for her great great great grandfather who had 2 wives and 23 children (Yes! 23! - now you can see why I said we had tons of family members that I don't know). My family had always hinted of this, but our actual facts were a bit sketchy. As the lineage goes, it turn out that her great grandfather and my grandfather were brothers. Anyway, during this disclosure, we emailed a bit and turns out that her father's sister and her own sister both had/have Breast cancer. However, these would be 2nd cousins and maybe second cousins once removed .... and too remote to aid me in my criteria search. But we shared info and dates and a few pictures... so it was a most fascinating turn of events. I appreciate the fact that she took the time to answer my email and even do a little searching for me. Kindness.

Now my interest in our ancestry has peaked again, but I don't feel that I can rejoin right now as their membership fee is a bit high. But I have compiled the info that I do have and am now using a board to try to keep things straight. And I'm trying to find some free sites that may help. If you know of any, I'd appreciate if you'd post them in my comment section or email them to me.

 Saw 3 squirrels eating from the cats dishes in the backyard...

Took a closer look...

One of them was bi-colored.... a combination of brown and blond

At first I thought maybe he had mange... but then the hair wouldn't be blond, it would be missing. So I'm guessing that he had some genetic mutation (looks like he got bleached in spots).

DH and I have been very busy this week. We decided since we were both home and had no appointments or commitments this week that we would thoroughly clean the house room by room... taking one room each day and taking the time to wipe down the walls, take everything off shelves, move furniture, vacuum under cushions, etc.  It has been exhausting, but satisfying. We've sorted through a lot. Some to be given away, some to be thrown away. I already have 3 boxes of books ready to go.  The best part is that the things we had high up on top of cabinets (that only gather dust) we removed and didn't put back. Next time we do a thorough clean like this  (maybe next summer - if we are still able to do it at 70), we won't have to climb up to reach these things as they'll no longer be there.

Of course we aren't finished... but should be by Monday. And luck would have it, we haven't been too sore. Although DH mentioned that getting up and down so much is getting a little hard on the back. I told him that I agreed, but that we'd better do it while we still can. We just have to be very careful and not overdo. 

The cats have been very curious watching us move things around. For the most part, they just stay out of the way... but occasionally jump up where we're working to check it out. Ghost really dislikes the noise of the vaccuum... so she generally hides in the bedroom when it's on.

Julie and Rose

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tuesday June 17th updates...

fat squirrel in front yard bird feeder

It's 9 am and I'm getting ready to go to my annual Oncologist's appointment. It includes blood work and an exam. He will ask me how I'm doing... and most times (if not all) I say "Fine!"... not only because I do feel fine, but also because I tend to believe that all is well until someone tells you otherwise. And thus, I avoid the issue. However, this time I actually have some (possibly serious) concerns.  And I wrote them out to hand to him so I wouldn't be tempted to just not say them. I'm hoping he will tell me that there's nothing to be concerned about and that all the things that are happening... are things that happen normally as we age (Yes! for once I want someone to tell me that it's *just old age*). We'll see.

Beyond this, here's an update on the outside kittens (Shiney's 4 kittens).  She has finally brought them over to the back porch to eat on their own.  I took some pics.  One of our box turtles was eating with them. We have 2 box turtles that stay around on a regular basis.  I think there are more, but these 2 we marked with a tiny red dot on their shells... so we can recognize them. There's a smaller one that we believe is a male. His head is redder and he's a fast little bugger. We see him eating by both the front door and the back door. If he sees us, he makes those little turtle feet move! The other one is larger and not as red. We think this one is female. She is calmer and doesn't run when we get close.  Neither mind eating side by side with the cats and kittens.

Father's Day here was celebrated at my oldest son's place. He grilled outside with his dad and brother while the little ones played soccer (or some form of soccer) in the yard... with the world cup games on all the TV's and iPads, etc. DIL and I stayed inside for the most part where it was cooler...  (was in the 90's Sunday). I made home-made potato salad (one with and one without bacon). DIL is vegetarian. I also made a tomato and basil pasta dish with toasted pecans for her. The rest of us ate grilled chicken and hamburgers as well as beans, corn on the cob, potato salad, Monterrey jack and garlic bread, etc. And we had key lime pie and an assortment of bundt cakes for dessert!

It's now Tuesday afternoon and my Oncologist visit is over.  We had a good discussion of things going on with me as well as my family's cancer history. He decided to do some extra blood testing just to make sure that all is well and also scheduled a abdominal sonogram as well as an appointment with a Gynecological Oncologist. Part of this is due to the fact that I recently found out that my sister died of *Ovarian* Cancer whereas I always thought it was Colon Cancer. It had probably spread to her colon, but originally it was Ovarian (I didn't know this). Since I have/had Breast Cancer, this news caused me some concern as my sister's daughter is a Pediatrician and she mentioned once that if you have 2 close relatives with a either BC or OC (or a combination) then it more than likely that you (or your children) may carry the gene. This is news that my daughter needs to pass on to her doctor.

Anyway, it's been an interesting morning....

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Pottery fun...

These may only be funny to those of us struggling with the pottery wheel...

Pottery cartoons recently in the Dallas Morning News

I don't know if you can see this well enough to read the words, but I had to cut them out and save them as they pretty much depict all the things I went through (and am still going through) as I learn to use the pottery wheel... especially the giant coffee mug.  I've made a few of those...

You can't really tell... but this is one *huge* coffee mug

And this morning  I finally got a chance to go to the school and get pictures of the Spring Projects that were displayed in the galleries.  Remember, don't be too critical as none of us are professional potters, we just enjoy learning the skill.  For this project we were given a semi-famous person and told to do a dinnerware set and centerpiece depicting that person's life.

Lori Fuller
Frances Glessner Lee

Oliver Sacks

To the left is Winchester  and to the right is Frances Glessner Lee (again )

My person, Frances Glessner Lee, was a millionaire heiress who was born in New England in the 1800's. Being a woman, she wasn't allowed to attend Harvard with her brother, but she became good friends with some of his friends who were medical students and became very interested in forensic medicine. She was famous for her *Nutshell studies of Unexplained Death* and she and a doctor friend were known for being responsible for the change from coroners to medical examiners. She is also known to be the person who influenced the character of Angela Lansbury in the series Murder She Wrote. My theme was Death, Crime, and Medicine so I tried to use a black, grey, and red color scheme. The books are medical, crime, and mystery books and the plate has a small cut out of a gun-sight target. My dinner-ware set was done on the wheel, whereas my book sculpture was hand-built. (Most of the projects were hand built, but we had the option of going either way.)

Anyway, I had promised to post all the students projects... and although all didn't display their projects for whatever reason, these are the ones that did.

The next set of pictures depict a project done earlier in the year by the first year students. They had to create  a wrecked ship from clay... 

Loved this one that depicted a wrecked ship with drowning hands

These were some of the others...

That's it pretty much for today.  After I returned home from the studio, DH and I went for a walk and ended up having lunch at Cafe Max. They offer a selection of about 6-8 fresh made salads as well as quiche, and home-cooked zucchini muffins or whole-wheat rolls.  I took a picture of my plate which although we *shared* a 3-salad lunch is still an awful lot of food for someone who seldom eats lunch (I took home about half of it).  But it was very good... 

We each had a plate like this...

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Kittens! A funny story! And being Happy...

Guess what! DH found Shiney's kittens this morning. She had moved them originally from the garage to the side of the house... and now they're over by the fence (in the flowerpots). She is black and all her kittens are black (as far as we can tell... some blacker than others).  And I have a friend  who has about 30 acres in Anna, Texas. They have horses, burros, dogs, and cats. Her outside (barn) cat had kittens a few weeks before Shiney.  She sent me these pics.

           These were sent from her iPhone to mine....

This mama had 2 solid orange tabbies, 2 orange and white, 2 calico, and 1 grey tabby...

Both she and Shiney appear to be very good mamas.  My friend will keep all her barn kitties, there's no question there. As for us, we usually take the kittens to the Adoption Center here, but we're procrastinating this time. This is Shiney's first litter and she's been such a good mama that we may let her keep this first batch. If we can work with them and get them friendly (which we have done on other occasions... especially since it's summer and we can sit out back with them), then we can take them in for their vacs and neutering. We'll see. May have to play this hand by ear (that sounds kind of weird, but you know what I mean).

By the way, I will tell you a funny story about my 18 month old grand daughter.She and her dad were over here this afternoon. She has now discovered the stairs and it is the greatest source of entertainment for her... climbing up and down them (with either her dad or me holding her hands), and then eventually looking down through the banisters to the entry below.  Today we gave her a small ball that she could throw down, it would bounce and one of us would catch it and throw it back to her. It was an amusing game... for the first 15 minutes or so... then it became a quest for a way to get her back downstairs without causing an uproar.

Well, I decided to try something.... I asked her if she would like to go back down and get some ice-cream (she loves ice-cream!!).  I didn't know if she would understand or even want to leave her little game, but surprisingly enough, she immediately grabbed my hand and headed down, led me to the kitchen, then to the freezer... and everyone laughed when I handed her the tub of Blue-Bell's Home-Made Vanilla and she sat right down on the floor with the carton on her lap.  All she needed was a spoon and she was ready!

Her dad snapped this with his iPhone fast before she started taking the top off...

On another note:  Just listened to a program on PBS called "Happy"...  It was a study on what made people happy... in different lands as well as in general. However, it really didn't tell us anything that most of us don't already know. If your basic needs are satisfied and you have people around that know and love you, most are generally happy. Those that don't have these things... those who are very poor or alone in the world... as well as those who have too much or want too much... where the drive for money over-rides everything else are not. It does have to do with dopamine... but apparently the conditions we find (or put) ourselves in affect this chemical. Exercise and laughter apparently increase the dopamine whereas stress and not enough sleep diminish it.  Now... realize that I'm paraphrasing the whole program... but this is what I took from it.

What was interesting that I didn't know:  they showed a circle chart where it showed the amount of... how do I phrase this.... maybe the *tendency to be happy we are born with* (50%) as well as the environment we live in (10%), and the leftover amount that we may have control over (40%). It was this 40% that we could play around with... by doing things we enjoyed, being around people we cared about, sharing... etc. And another interesting fact they mentioned was one's tendency to for want of a better phrase - *to pop back* after adversity.  It was not always simple, but it did involve "choice".

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

I love seagulls...

Have I mentioned that I love seagulls? 

There's not a lot new to post here as I'm continuing to print my 14 years of web journaling. I'm almost finished the 2nd year today. It takes time and lots and lots of paper and ink. Running out of black ink again - so may have to pick up another cartridge soon (and no, I'm not printing in color).

I did have to stop this morning for a while to go to my annual Eye Specialist appointment. Between Dr. G (the Eye Specialist) and Dr. K (my regular Eye Dr), they see me every 6 months to keep watch over my *Narrow Angles*.... which is why they did the laser holes a few years back.. Narrow Angles lead to Narrow Angle Glaucoma. So they watch over the pressure build-up in my eyes as well as checking that the holes are still open. They also seem to think that eventually (not yet) I will need cataract surgery.... and that surgery will replace the large lens with a smaller lens which apparently will eliminate the danger of NA glaucoma. I think that's how it was explained to me.

4 Berry and Cream Pie - not a great pic, but there wasn't a lot left

BTW, I baked a 4-Berry pie the other day using strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries.  It was a first and turned out very good. Instead of the traditional way of using flour or corn starch as a filler, I used tapioca...  so it was really a *Berry and Cream* pie. We may have a little left.  Served it with a dab of vanilla ice-cream on top. I also cooked up 2 batches of Chicken Tetrazzini yesterday. The recipe calls for white wine - which we didn't have - but cream sherry worked well.  DH and I will have one casserole and one of the kids can have the other.

I also replanted some of my Mountain Laurels and bought and potted my curly parsley into a hanging basket this afternoon.  My SIL down in the Hill Country around San Antonio has Mountain Laurels all over his land.  He plants the seeds and they pop up everywhere. Then he gives me the seedlings.  I have 4 that have been doing well for the last 2 years, but they are very slow growers... and I'm not sure that the tree itself will ever do well here.

Oh, something I want to mention is that there's a new TV series coming out soon, "The Outlander". Have you heard of this? It's a 7 book series (soon to be 8 since a new one is due out in June) by Diana Gabaldon that's being remade for TV (and DVD).  It's about a young woman on a trip to Scotland with her husband when she goes out on her own to visit a circle of stones and falls through a time gap where she finds herself 200 years in the past. The books are historical fiction and were one of my all time favorite reads. I don't have high hopes for the TV series because I'm afraid that the characters on the screen could never be portrayed as well as they were in the books (or in my mind). But we'll see...

DH and I don't watch a lot of TV... except for after supper in the evenings. But lately there is absolutely nothing on worth watching. Sometimes I may find something on public television, but even that lately has been lacking. Recently we've started watching the cooking channel. "Chopped" is a little addictive and we find this surprising as we never watch any reality TV.  Have any of you out there watched this show? I find it a bit nerve-wracking, yet oddly fascinating.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Saving memories...

Good Morning!

Lately I've been trying to print out all my website pages going back almost 14 years. Yes, it's quite a time-consuming job.  So far I've finished one complete year and several stories. I'm reading as I go along... things I'd forgotten. It's fun, sad, and interesting... although probably just to me.  I wish I still had the notebooks where I wrote when I was really young. Don't know what happened to those... probably got thrown away. I did keep the ones I wrote in college... although at the moment I cannot imagine where they are.

These pictures are me in grammar school, leaving for honeymoon after our wedding in 1968, and the last one was taken a few years back.  Since I'm the photographer in our family. I'm not in a lot of pics. I did take a *selfie* the other day while waiting for a friend. I'll post it at the bottom.

While reading through my web sites and blogs (I've had many over the years), I realized how much I would have liked to have had some writings from my own grandparents who died before I was old enough to know them.  The only grandparent I knew was my mother's father who passed when I was about 8 years old. I do remember him as being the kindest, gentlest man.  His name was Leonce D'Aquin and spoke French - and English with a very French accent (a;ways reminded me of Maurice Olivier... if any of you remember him - the old frenchman in the musical "Gigi"?). Pa-pere' called all of us  "mon cher" (an endearment) and as far as I know, lived his whole life in New Orleans.

But Ma-mere' died when I was a baby.... and so did Grandma and Grandpa O'Regan (my dad's parents who changed their name from Regan to O'Regan or back to O'Regan? when they moved to the states). From what I've been told, Grandpa Regan/O'Regan was quite a character. His family origin was Irish, but he was born and raised in England, taking his wife and 3 children to the US around 1918-1920.  He and his family came to the US, but his brother took his family to Canada. Neither - from what I've been told - ever went back to England.

So... even though my writings over the years may not be anything too fascinating, they would give some inclinations as to my thoughts and feelings to future generations... if they are ever interested. The sad thing  (and I'm guilty of this also) is that we generally are not interested until we're older... and then the people from whom we can gather this info are already gone.  Thank goodness for as although they a tad expensive, they are a great source of information.

OK... enough of this. It's a beautiful Sunday morning and there's a million things I'd like to get done today. It's already 11 am  - half the day is gone, so I'd better get a move-on.   Here's the selfie I took last week.