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Spinal flux, Irish BBQ, and the Fourth from a distance

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Happy Fourth! I’m sitting outside, gagging on the smell of citronella-torch smoke, wiping rain off my iPad screen, but certainly enjoying the occasional wafts of heavenly scent coming from our Weber grill.

I’m beginning to wonder if I should have imported my husband to America, instead of exporting myself to Ireland. He goes craaazeee for American holidays. We don’t have a big US flag, just a tiny one onna stick, but we do have two flag bandannas. One of which is hanging in our front window:

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With, of course, Neko the American Akita standing guard under it.

The Fourth wouldn’t be complete without a barbecue. We are back on the low-carb diet (not because of the scale, but because our clothes weren’t fitting any more – been off the diet since April, whoops) so tonight is a meat-feast. Craft butcher sausages from our local butcher, ribs from him also, and best of all, beer-butt chicken. Here’s the scene before cooking:

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Chicken is rubbed inside and out with butter, olive oil, lemon, and my mixture of spices from our garden: sage, thyme, garlic, basil and oregano. And, of course, there’s a can of beer shoved up it’s arse. Or what used to be its arse… Oh and the tuna-can has wood chips in, for smoking. Nom!

We’ve never made the chicken before. Never had a grill big enough until he came home one day with his much-lusted-after Weber. I can’t wait to try it! It takes a while, and hubby made a huge mess during prep. Better be worth it…

So… We both took the day off today, because today happened to be the day I got to talk to someone about the results of my MRI. Finally. Been ages since this journey into WTF is wrong with my back started.

And as it turns out, not very much. I do have one disc that is dried up and cracked and so is squishing out through the crack and bulging a bit. To the right. My nerve issues are nearly all on my left side. Doc couldn’t see any reason that the bulge on the right would be pressing on a nerve on the left. So, surgery was 100% ruled out. Nothing to operate on. He did offer what I had been told were ‘shots’ but actually is an epidural. I agreed, even though I have no idea what they might be pumping into my spinal fluid, and it probably won’t help. If it does, then they know a nerve is indeed being squarshed and that’s a valuable bit of knowledge, to me. Because if the nerve isn’t being pinched at the spine, just what the hell is the issue? Cuz my leg burrrns. Or aches like it is bruised, or itches in a way that can’t be scratched.

But I can live with the leg being wonky. I can’t live with this backache. I can’t do anything! I’m only 40, not too chubby, and like doing things with my hands. When I can’t even do the things I have to do, like the damn dishes, without needing to go sit down for a while, what chance do I have for doing fun things like vacuuming the car? And YES, dammit, that is fun, sort of – I love me a clean car, and I’m in the bitch more than anyone else these days.

Oooooh the sun just came out! I can taste it! Seriously, I can open my mouth and feel the sun on my tongue and oh, I need the sunshine. My current music (hubby testing songs for tomorrow’s radio show, with a USA theme, surprised?) is The Pogues, The Body of an American – “I’m a free-born man of the USA” first heard by me on The Wire. Apparently it’s a wake song; if so – play it for me when I go, please?

Back to the back. Needle in 4-6 weeks, and probably another day off of work. Be interesting to see what result, if any, I get. In the meantime they said my issue appears to be muscular. My lower spine has very little curve to it. Doc said this is because the muscles are supposed to pull tight and make the curve, but mine are weak and haven’t been doing the job. I asked about any options to strengthen the muscles that might be provided by the HSE – none. So Pilates on my iPad it is then, I guess. I can’t afford classes with someone to show me how to do it right – even though I have never done regulated exercises and I doubt I do them right. Only time I ever tried anything close was the Haidong Kumdo and that is what really, really fucked my back up! Even with an instructor. Imagine what I can do to myself, by myself!

Right, just had a looong pause while taking the chicken off the grill. I love crispy skin – the only fatty thing I eat and like – only if crispy! Had to run in and peel the chook, because if you leave the skin on the bird it goes soggy. I have to say the crispness is a bit lacking, so I scraped off the oooky fatty bits and we’ll put the skin back on the grill for a bit, because the ribs and sausages aren’t quite done yet. Last photo before I went inside:

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Had a little taste of the chicken. WOW. Oh yeah, baby.

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Nothing in there for dogs, sorry Neko!

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Who wants to bet I’ve killed this poor ‘mater?

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Last year I tried my hand at growing tomatoes from seed. They grew, much to my surprise, but they were only just getting ready to fruit when our season ended, hard, in one day. I scrambled around trying to save what I could of my potted plants by bringing them indoors. It was a fatal move for the oregano (which overwintered just fine outside but died fast indoors). The tomatoes, however, grew and grew and grew… up the window, over the blinds, and down again until some of the weak, lanky stems were over eight feet long.

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Wait, how did that get there? Am I having a tasty beverage in the sun again? Mmmmm, could be! It’s not Paulaner though, it’s Franziskaner. We only have one Franziskaner glass and I kindly let iDJ use it as he’s sorta picky that way.

Anyhow, since June is over half over, I figured it is time to take the damn tomatoes out of our spare room. I’ve been putting it off as they are so intertwined and it is a two-person job and we rarely seem to both be available when I have the time to mess with them. But today when I walked in the room for something else entirely, I saw that since the last time I watered them, a few stems had fallen down below the windowsill and had grown another foot or so back upward. Ok, too crazy. And hubby was right there, so I untangled one and brought it downstairs and outside for some surgery and assistance.

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The victim, I mean patient, before trimming and repotting. Sad, sad, sad. That pot is way too small, how did I let this happen? Out with the scissors and bamboo canes and wire, a bigger pot at the ready, and this is what’s left:

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It is already drooping over pathetically since I took this shot. I have no idea what I’m doing, you see. I don’t even like tomatoes. Well, I do – but only in one dish that I made up. Basmati rice, butter and salt, and sliced homegrown tomatoes and homegrown snow peas put in raw and let to warm with the heat of the rice. That’s it, and it’s gorgeous. See, I don’t always have to have meat! Some fresh dill would probably be good in it too, but I don’t have any and I like it just the way it is.

In any case, I’m holding off on giving this plant a feed as I think I’ve shocked it enough for one day. Fingers crossed we don’t have any violent wind in the next few days, because after all the gardening I did today, my back isn’t going to allow me to bring this back inside in a hurry. Especially up the stairs again… which is 100% necessary or it will turn into cat-snacks and that’s a bad idea all around.

SOCKS HAS A WATERMELON!!!

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IT’S WATERMELON TIME! Finally, the last fruit. And the biggest one! And the one I giggle at the most! I asked if there was one more fruit in the list, just in case she went overdue – and Socks said, ‘What are they going to say at this point? A bigger watermelon?’

Well, folks, this is quite likely to be the last ‘Socks Has…’ post. She’s coming to her due date very soon, and as of yesterday her daughter was making moves toward the exit. My prediction on the baby poll is Tuesday the 12th at 8 am. Any betting people in the house? Fancy a flutter?

I like that date because in Europe, her birthday will be 12/6/12. How cool is that? I picked 8 am because, while Socks is a morning person and gets up at the ass-crack of dawn, she’ll be tired, so a little lie-in while lying-in seems like a good bet. Of course her cousin had to go and ‘The Price is Right’ me and went for the same day at 8:01. Humph. I guess he thinks she’s lazy.

In any case, I’ll be damned surprised if next Thursday rolls around and there are still only two people in their house. We will see, we will see…in the meantime, my phone is fully charged and near to hand at all times (currently, keeping out of this crazy hot sun by lying in the cool grass under my shorts, which I am not wearing, obviously. Be glad this isn’t a video-blog). Just in case. Oh man, I’m gonna scare the shorts off my co-workers if ‘the call’ comes when I’m in the office! I know I’ll scream like that fella on the roller coaster. You know, like this guy. Maybe with less use of the F word, because I’ll be happy, after all.

Momma Socks is coming tomorrow, and I think she might be a bit early but welcome nonetheless. There’s still a few bits and bobs to be done, because at this point poor Socks has given up on doing much more than a couple of things in one day. Getting into a comfortable position is hard enough work right about now.

Oh! Last belly pictures, too: stolen from her blog with weeks of cooking helpfully labelled. Aw.

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And a reminder of those ‘Socks Has A Lime’ days, now long gone by:

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SAME SHIRT. A little harder to get in and out of recently. Like, needing assistance and probably having to sit on the floor with her arms over her head screaming ‘Get it off me! Get it offffff!’

I have to share the pic of her diaper bag, which she only got yesterday – because it looks nothing like a diaper bag:

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It’s actually really pretty, and very classy. Of course it is; it has to match Socks! It will be a shame to put poopy diapers and sticky bottles into this bag. I’ll just start picturing it now as being full of damp Cheerios.

The last bits I want to share are some examples of Socks’ and Bear’s fabulous communication skills. Firstly, they have agreed that while Bear will be in the delivery room, he stays on the ‘waist-up’ side of her body. Some things cannot be unseen. I agree totally – he doesn’t need, or want to, see everything. She’ll be happier, he’ll be happier. The other one… might seem a bit odd. But not to me, or either of them. Socks asked her hubby about breast feeding etiquette, at home. She expects to do a lot of the nursing in private, but of course that won’t always be practical. So, she asked if it would bother him if she breastfed on the couch, next to him – would it bother him? Now, before you get righteous about this I have to explain: they do not ‘share’ bodily functions. At all. No farting into the couch. No peeing with the door open. Nothing. (Soooo not like my family!!!) They’ve been married 12 years and they have kept this one thing private between them. It makes perfect sense, then, to ask if a new thing which is also a natural bodily function is okay for family viewing. Because they are such good communicators the question had to be asked!

He looked at her like she was wearing a green party hat with sparkly blue smoke coming out of the top and said, ‘Of course! Why wouldn’t you?!?’

And that’s my storytelling done…

Love you to bits, Socks, and I’m so happy you took me along with you on this very personal journey. I never thought I would enjoy the process so much. I’ve never felt so close to a child I’ve never met, and I feel closer to you than ever. Thank you for letting me talk about your experience here, and have a laugh at your (and Bear’s) expense. I’ve learned so much – about you, about him, about children, and about myself.

The next stage starts soon, and I know you’re going to be some of the best parents ever. I hope the birth doesn’t hurt too much for too long – I know, that you know, that it will all be worth it.

And we all get to meet Button any day now! Roll on the 12th 🙂

Must be smarter than the cup.

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This is my coffee cup.

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I fill it at home and take it to work every day, where it gets cold but sipped on nonetheless. I never finish what’s in my ‘go-cup’. But I drink over half of it when I’m driving to work and it’s still warm.

The thing is… my cup is smarter than I am. See that little round hole? That’s there to let air in so the liquid inside can flow out of the big hole. Such a simple thing. Which defeats me several times a day.

Because the tip of my nose exactly touches right where that little hole is, and seals it up.

I can’t seem to remember to turn the cup a little, oh no. I’d rather think ‘what the..?’ several times in the space of a 15 minute drive.

Clearly the cup is the cleverest one around here.

A photography project for everyone – tomorrow!

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This is cool – I can’t get their easy to share PDF to open on my iPad, but I copied and pasted some of the relevant info below. Hit the link for the full story! I’m going to do it, how about you?

http://www.aday.org/

May 15th!
Just an ordinary day?
Bring your camera!

Photograph on May 15th!
You have one day to join thousands around the world in using the power of photography to create, share and compare perspectives on daily life! Don’t miss it! You can upload your images until May 22nd.

An event for everyone, everywhere
On May 15th we are looking for perspectives on daily life of everyone who enjoys and values photography! Professionals, amateurs, school children, farmers, social media fans, astronauts, office workers and you.

Picture today, inspire tomorrow
All images will be displayed online for you and everyone to explore. Some of them will be selected for a book, others for exhibitions. Every single one will be saved for future research and education. Let a part of your life inspire generations to come.

What to shoot?
Your life matters! Photograph what is close to you and upload your photos in one of our categories: Home, Work or Connections.

Invasion of the Flour Mites

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I had plans to post a few times tonight. But something icky happened and iDJ and I are dealing with it the best way we know how: by getting drunk.

The icky thing is that we (I) found out we have been invaded, infested, by tiny-ass flour mites. Getting rid of them is so very labour intensive that we cleared the counter under the infested cabinet, took out the food sources, and just… started drinking.

We intended to drink anyway. Well, of course – its us. But… it was meant to be special drinking. American craft beers rarely found here, bought with excitement and chilled with impatience. Then, choosing a glass… oh, they recommend a tulip glass? We only have one, my precious Corsendonk glass. So, big wine glasses will do. But, despite being in the cabinet they looked dirty, cloudy. I said I’d wash them first.

One washed, no problem. Next one, had a closer look to see just why it looked so filthy. “Oh no. No. No. No! Nonono. NO! The fucking bugs are back!”

See, we’ve been through this before. And it was hellish. And now, the little cunts are back. Sigh.

Drinking seems an easier solution, when faced with what I’ll be doing over the next few weeks…

Seedier than usual! Betcha didn’t think that was possible.

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It’s been coooold here. Currently, at just about 8pm, the sun is bright but I’m indoors instead of outdoors. I gave it a good try, for nearly two hours, but it’s bloody 10 outside. 10C. That’s 50F. I’m warm-blooded and all, but the breeze makes it even colder and I just couldn’t take it any longer. When my nose runs and a couple of random fingers turn white and numb, it’s time to go in. Sigh.

But from the looks of it, we have at least another hour of sunshine beating in through the windows, which is fantastic. Because on Sunday, I spent a few hours making an unholy mess in the kitchen planting seeds.

Which of course, required me doing a shit-ton of dishes first, so I had room to make said unholy mess. How did I end up being chief dishwasher and bottle-scrubber? Bah. In any case, I put my time in, and took breaks to sit in the sun so the stupid back didn’t get too annoyed with me, and I ended up planting a small fraction of my seedacopia (It’s like a pharmacopeia {eww, the UK spelling for that is just wrong. Reminds me of coprolites} but with seeds). My mother in law works in a newsagent and when no one buys the magazines, they rip off the cover and return it to the publisher for a refund. But gardening magazines usually come with free seeds. Instead of throwing them away, she sets them aside and gives them to me! Hence, I have a lot of seeds.

I’d love a proper and pretty metal seed-organiser, but as ye know I’m cheap and I recycle/repurpose, so a big shoe box holds them for now- until I have too many and need one box for flowers and one for vegetables. Maybe I’ll paint the box I have! That’s a good idea…

Anyhoo, the sun is helping these new lives begin, and I’m thrilled to bits. If you have never grown from seed, start with carrots – it’s amazing something so big and tasty can come from something so damn tiny! I’m amazed every time when my minimal effort, some dirt, water, light and warmth can bring forth a huge plant from a tiny, dry nubbin that seems so very, very, lifeless.

But…as I said from the start, it’s coooooolllllldddd. I didn’t think anything at all would have the moxie to actually make the effort toward life, even though I’m keeping the seed trays indoors. Imagine my surprise when by only Tuesday I had sprouts! It was the morning glories I started for my Canadian friend. She has a long garden at her new rental house, and needs something to grow upwards and be a visual blocker to keep her greyhound from going through the fences. I thought a nice hardy and pretty climber might do the trick. According to Lagitana, morning glory is a bit of an invasive weedy pest, so it makes sense that it was the first to catch the spark of life.

I got a bit smarter this year and actually wrote down what I planted! So here’s the list, and believe me, I’d love to have about eight more seed trays so I could keep going and going and going…

April 15 plantings

Beets, Carrot autumn king, Purple broccoli, Basil
Californian poppy; Morning glory; Ladybird poppy
Coleus mix, Cosmos mix, Dianthus
Rudbeckia, Larkspur, White cornflower, Blue cornflower

I also tried some ancient beans iDJ found in a skip (Dumpster) and raspberry and lilac seeds I collected in the wild – not likely these will grow but what the hell.

So far I have the morning glory, both colours of cornflower, the rudbeckia, the cosmos and either the coleus or dianthus (I don’t know which end of the tray is which, oops), the rudbeckia… And I can’t really figure out what else. Nothing out of the beets, carrots or broccoli yet, but I didn’t have them under cover until today when I decided to put them in a clear plastic bag to help out.

I’m so surprised it took them less than a week. The cornflowers are the tallest, by the way – and I did the blue ones last year in pots out front and enjoyed them – they got so tall and flowered for ages, and the dry blooms looked nice in an unused vase until the cats decided they were a tasty treat…

Oh – last but by no means least is the lavender from seed! Apparently this is a difficult plant to get going from scratch, but a month in damp soil in my fridge (in one of the plastic-lidded takeout containers from our gorgeous local Chinese that I saved. See, being thrifty comes in handy!) did the trick and I now have five little guys about a centimetre tall each in their own 3″ pot – I really hope I can keep them going, as my store-bought lavender died two years ago in our first bad snowy winter.

Yay for some green!

Random Two

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Every time we buy chicken wings I have to wash them, thoroughly, and remove all traces of feathers. I don’t want to eat any feathers, ever. It’s a long, arduous task and kills my back. It’s also boring and a bit disgusting. Every time I clean wings, I think of all of my vegetarian friends and I’m jealous that they will never, ever, have to do this.

But I never think of them once when I’m crunching away on my dinner of on oh-so-tasty hot wings.

The Reek from a distance

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One day, a few weeks ago, I was on my way home from work and for the first time since I started The Job, it wasn’t raining. I looked over to my left and nearly swerved off the road.

I could see Croagh Patrick! It was backlit with the sunset and was just gorgeous, a perfect pyramid in the distance. I only had my iPhone, and it was a Thursday so I didn’t have time to try to stop and take pictures, or even go home and come back with our proper camera. I didn’t even know where I could pull off the road. So I bucketed on toward home regretfully.

Every day since on my way home I look for The Reek. Clouds, clouds, clouds… did I imagine seeing it? Surely that glorious moment couldn’t have been my imagination. But nothing, no sign of a mountain in the distance, and definitely not one of such perfect angular shape. I couldn’t find the spot where I’d seen him (I’ve decided a mountain named Patrick has to be a male), either – there was just no sign of it at all.

On Tuesday, I thought (for the first time, I can be a little slow) to look for Croagh Patrick on the way in to work. it wasn’t cloudy, shockingly enough, and lo!- I found him, at a point on the road much closer to Knock than I had originally thought.

Ah-ha, I thought, I’ve got you now!

All the rest of this week I’ve been slowing down and looking, hoping for another sunset behind Ireland’s Holy Mountain. No, I’m not religious, but it is what it is – the biggest, pointiest thing around and where Patrick is meant to have fasted for forty days in 441AD. Of course he picked the place because it is unique in appearance and had been considered special to the Irish long before Christianity existed – about 3,000 years before. Here’s the Wikipedia link if you want to learn more.

Anyhoo, this Thursday I got my chance, sort of. It wasn’t a perfect sunset by any means, and the sun no longer sets directly behind the mountain. But I whipped the Mini into the other lane and backed up into a cow-track, jumped out and took a few shots with my phone. *Edit – I forgot to say that a drive from Knock to the Reek is about 60km (37mi) – and as the crow flies it is probably about 50km (30mi) away.

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Hipstamatic again, zoomed in. I had it on black and white still. The colour Hipstamatic shots I took aren’t worth posting.

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Regular iPhone camera, but heavily mucked around with back at home. What I saw with my eyes just didn’t come through on ‘film.’ Very disappointing – but I’m still putting this up because I’m now taking the ‘real’ camera to work with me in hopes of catching what I really see.

Pancake Tuesday… with a twist

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Today is Pancake Tuesday! Are YOU having pancakes for dinner? We are!

I’m not sure how many countries actually have a Pancake Tuesday. I’m sure the ‘real’ Fat Tuesday is similar… but in Ireland, they call it Pancake Tuesday. Without Googling the official reason, here’s my version of the reason why, as filtered through what my hubby told me nearly seven years ago:

It’s a Catholic thing. Because you were meant to give up yummy things for Lent, you used up all the eggs and flour and sugar the night before Ash Wednesday, so it wasn’t in your house to tempt you. What better way to use these ingredients than by making a passel of pancakes?

So, I’m not a Catholic and wasn’t raised that way. Hubby isn’t a Catholic either, but he was raised that way, and has had a lifetime of traditionally having pancakes for dinner one particular Tuesday a year. (He was just telling me the day is yet another pagan festival day that has been usurped.) Hence, we make pancakes (or, he does, because I don’t have the patience) – but we don’t do it for any other reason than tradition and it’s a bit of fun – and, of course, because they are soooo tasty.

The problem is… we are on a low-to-no carb diet. What to do? Well, there are tons of versions of low-carb ‘cakes out there. He’s been doing it long enough that now he has his own version. I’m not privy to the details, but I know it involves eggs, vanilla, possibly whey powder, and ricotta cheese. And they are fantastic, especially with my home-grown blueberries from the year before all throughout. You’d never know they were low carb. I’m smelling them cooking now, and they even smell like ‘normal’ pancakes.

As an American, I can’t get into just sprinkling sugar (or Splenda) on top of my pancakes. I might cheat on the diet and use some of my precious Mrs Butterworth’s syrup on mine. Just a little, though.

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