Category Archives: travel

Ain’t no cure for the summertime flu

My daughter texted me the other day to confirm that they’ll be back in town on the 24th — which is this coming Monday! — and I was confused and surprised to realize they’ve been gone two and a half weeks already. Because I’ve been sick the entire time.

I’m just starting to emerge from the menthol-cough-drop-scented haze of near-death to realize . . . I’ve lost a couple weeks.

This malaise, whatever it is, started out as a mere sore throat. Worst sore throat ever, but still, that was the only symptom. For a short time, maybe three hours, I thought perhaps it was simply a bad cold. But no, it was just gathering strength.

If you took all the worst symptoms of an awful cold and all the worst symptoms of a horrible flu, and combined them, that’s what I’ve had. It’s been a long time since I’ve been this sick and this completely wiped out. Absolutely worthless.

The only thing I’ve accomplished in the past couple weeks is to not let the cat and dog die of thirst or starvation. It was a near thing.

I lost my voice during the first week and have been whispering to them ever since:

“Jenny, are you hungry?” Like it’s some big secret.

“Do you want to go outside? No, kitty, you stay here.” This mission, should you choose to accept it, is highly classified.

“Are you ready to come in? Good girl.” Quick, don’t let the neighbours see you.

My head has produced so much green slime, I could supply several seasons of Nickelodeon and the next three Ghostbusters movies. Seriously, I’ve gone through FOUR LARGE BOXES of kleenex. So far.

And I’m telling you, somewhere underneath this middle-aged sprawl, I’ve got one hell of an eight-pack of coughing muscles going on. Of course, I’m now wearing my lungs on the outside and my diaphragm is up around my neck, but my coughing muscles are mighty impressive.

I am so sore.

Yes, I know. This is disgusting and I shouldn’t be talking about it. I’m totally going for the pity factor, here.

While I’ve been suffering, my daughter and her husband have been enjoying a lovely and relaxing vacation in the wilds of far eastern Canada. She reports they only saw one BEAR, while they were in Maine, and it was quite small and afraid of them. Right. I’m sure its mother, no doubt lurking protectively in some nearby bushes, was terrified of them as well.

Not that I was worried.

Here’s a picture of their version of a “simple” meal while roughing it. I can’t wait for them to get back so they can cook for meeeee. Her caption read: “Eating PEI mussels in a white wine cream broth, cooked campside on PEI, while looking at Nova Scotia across the strait.”

Yes, PEI is Prince Edward Island. I can tell you that’s where they were, since they’re no longer there. Here’s another shot from the same place, which she captioned: “Room with a view.”

I hope they won’t be too disappointed when they arrive chez moi in a few days to discover that, between bouts of coughing and sleeping 14 hours a day, I haven’t managed to finish clearing off space in the pantry for them. Or in the fridge. Maybe they can set up their tent and a cooler in the back yard until I get things sorted.

Oh well. As I said, at least the pets are still alive, even if they do think they’re now undercover spies. My current status is somewhat more iffy.*



*OK, seriously, I am MUCH improved. My voice is back, although an octave lower, and I’m even eating real food again. I just have that annoyingly persistent cough you get with the flu, the one that will apparently last *coughcough* the rest of my life. *cough*



Filed under health and well-being, travel

So, I’ve been busy…

I guess I’ve taken another unintentional hiatus from blogging. I’ve been kind of pre-occupied, with all sorts of stuff. A couple months during which there has been too much to talk about, rather than too little. None of it particularly interesting or blog-worthy.

Well, there was my daughter’s wedding at the Botanical Garden in New Orleans’ City Park. It was perfect. The setting was impeccable, the weather was gorgeous (important, as the wedding was outside), the groom was handsome, the bride was beautiful, the food and drink were plentiful, the event staff were flawless and the band was spectacular. Much fun was had. But the memory that will stay with me, long after all the small details have faded, is how overwhelmingly happy my daughter and her husband were that day. Both of them practically glowed with it. In fact, toward the end of the evening when people were taking their leave, my new son-in-law hugged my mother and said, “Your granddaughter makes me so happy.” May it always be so.

I know, you all want to see pictures. *sigh* I asked my daughter whether I could share any pictures of her and her groom and she pretty much said, “Mom, don’t be weird.” Sorry about that. But I did make a little slideshow of the pics she told me I could share. One of my sisters took these pics and a few of them have been cropped or, um, otherwise altered. By me. To protect the innocent.

(slideshow here, for those of you reading feeds who maybe can’t see it)


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And then, two days after the wedding, since they’d had their epic seven-week honeymoon hiking in New Zealand before the wedding, they drove up here to collect their dog and cat and just hang out for a while. “A while” being two weeks. Which was very nice. Distracting as hell, but so very nice. And then they went back to New Orleans, but not before somehow managing to convince me to keep The Intruder Cat. Perhaps indefinitely. Because allergies have worsened. So there were a few bittersweet moments about that.

And then I was sick for about a week with the feverish head cold from hell.

And then it took me a couple weeks to get all the voices out of my head. There were people at the wedding I hadn’t seen in years and it was overwhelming trying to catch up in the short time frame. Also, my son-in-law has a HUGE extended family in New Orleans and, oddly enough, they all wanted to meet me. Which meant I had to talk to them too. Every single one of them. Some of them more than once. Luckily, all of them were friendly and welcoming and genuinely nice. Many of them were outrageously funny and jokingly flirtatious, two of my favourite things. So it’s not like seeing everyone was a hardship, far from it. But still. I’m an introvert and it drained me. It took me a while to get all those lovely engaging voices out of my head so I could hear my characters again.

And then my MacBook started acting up. Well, it is almost six years old. It had been showing signs of age for a while: things were slow to load or the browser would stop responding, it froze up and had to be re-started if I did too many things at once, the battery didn’t hold a charge and the darn thing overheated constantly. But then it got really scary. Several times when I opened it, the screen failed to light up. I’m good, but even I can’t type in complete darkness. And then one night I heard a rather alarming “pop” sound and part of the underside came free from its moorings. There was now a quarter-inch gap where there should have been a smooth seam. I couldn’t get the thing to close up again and duct tape seemed unwise. Inconvenient had just turned into unacceptable.

So then I had to order a new laptop. Macs are pretty straightforward when it comes to options, compared to PCs. Still, there were a few upgrades available and I debated over some of them. Because, money. Once it arrived, I had to decide whether Pages was going to be sufficient as a word processing program (no, not really). And whether I wanted to mess with the latest incarnation of MS Office (not much choice there). So I bought that and d o w n . . . l o a d . . . e d it. And i n . . . s t a l l . . . e d it. Y’know, for a really super fast new computer connected to super fast internet, I was surprised by how long this process still takes.

And THEN, I had to import all my email accounts. I have six of them. I know, that’s ridiculous, but these things happen. Unfortunately, I haven’t been clearing old email off the various servers. I had reasons. Besides, who has time for that? Holy guacamole, was there ever a lot of email stored up. ALL OF IT downloaded and got marked as “new.” *sigh* Live and learn. My usual email routine is to read everything as it comes in and reply to urgent stuff right away. The rest of it I deal with as I have time. Well, I haven’t had a surplus of time lately. Aaaand it’s possible I deleted a few non-urgent emails during this process. Ooops. Hey, you try dealing with tens of thousands of messages marked as “new” and see whether you don’t get a bit testy with that delete button.


I’ve been trying to focus on writing and thought progress on the second McIntyre novella (Cameron’s story) was going fairly well. Until I realized that the “witty banter” was actually sounding more like “petty bickering” and I wasn’t sure what the problem was. That’s when I realized the story doesn’t have a strong conflict. Or, really, any conflict. Well, that explained that. You know I’m distracted when I overlook something that basic. So, that’s a simple fix. Sort of. Well, it might be if life would stop throwing other things at me so I could THINK. Meanwhile, I’ve been making substantial progress on one of the stories I’m writing under another name. So that’s good.

And then, I finally decided a couple days ago that I’d better call the HVAC repair people about the upstairs heating and air conditioning units that stopped working (yes, dammit, both of them) . . . um, a while ago. Don’t judge me. I’ve been busy and the weather has been mild. Turns out I have a burned out control panel thingy up in the attic. “You’re lucky the fan motor is fine,” he said, like that was unusual. Also, half of the main 240V electrical shut-off panel in the basement is blown. I believe the term used was “burnt right up.” Of course, the entire upstairs system is now shut down. Because fire hazard, generally, is something to avoid. So the electrician is coming Monday to fix the electrical stuff and the HVAC guy is coming back Tuesday, or maybe Wednesday, who knows, to fix the rest of it. And I thought weddings were expensive.

AND ALSO, my daughter and her husband and the dog and their loaded-to-the-gills rental truck will be here in a couple days, hopefully not too battered and bruised from packing up boxes and loading up furniture. Hopefully still speaking and making each other happy. Adventures in Moving. They’re staying here for several days on their way to Boston — where there is no air conditioning either, so this will be good practice — where they will live for the next three years. I suspect there will be Adventures in Not Crying (on my part) when they leave.

AND NEXT, a week after that, several of my Imaginary Friends are coming into town for a week-long visit, thinly disguised as a writing retreat. You know, in case anyone stops talking long enough to write. This makes me happy. Also, frantic. So I’ve been cleaning ALL THE THINGS, hoping they won’t be horrified and call social services to stage an intervention. I swear, the only time I notice whether my house is clean and somewhat orderly is when I’m about to have company. Clearly, it has been far too long since the last time.

So. That’s what I’ve been up to during the past couple months. Told you it wasn’t all that interesting. What has been going on with you all?



Filed under blogging, parenting, travel, writing

Let’s worry mom! (New Zealand edition)

So, my daughter and her fiancé are leaving next week to spend some time in New Zealand. Seven weeks, actually. As you can see by this picture she sent me the other day, she’s pretty excited about it:

photo-6 calendar

This is technically their honeymoon, happening before the wedding because that’s just how their schedules worked out with time off. Two weeks after they return, they’re getting married. I mean, c’mon, what else would you do during the two months leading up to your wedding, if not leave the country?

This is their favourite kind of trip, one that involves hiking and camping. The kind where you don’t even bring a suitcase. You just stuff everything into a huge backpack, including a tent and sleeping bag and your food and a stove and an emergency hobbit, and carry it with you at all times while you climb mountains. They plan to do five of the Great Walks, although apparently one of them is really kayaking rather than walking.

EDIT TO ADD:  My daughter informs me that all five Great Walks they’re doing are indeed hiking. The kayaking is a separate thing. Because of course it is.

Am I worried, you ask? Who me? Pffft, I never worry. Much.

Besides, she assures me there are NO BEARS in New Zealand. Of course I believe her. Nonetheless, I did a google search of my own and discovered this isn’t strictly true. Apparently there is one particular type of BEAR in NZ.

BEAR GRYLLS!  [I love this video, great promo by Air New Zealand]:

He looks relatively harmless, except maybe to himself, but did you see those mountains? They’re very . . . mountainous.

I’m actually more than a bit envious. I’ve heard nothing but good things about New Zealand and have seen video and pictures showing how beautiful it is. I know they’ll have a terrific time. Luckily, her fiancé is just a few months shy of being an MD and is entirely capable of handling any incidents requiring band-aids that might ensue.

Not that I’m worried.

Now I just need to find something to wear to an outdoor spring wedding in New Orleans. I’m thinking maybe something that accessorizes well with hiking boots and a camelback. Any suggestions?

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Filed under parenting, travel

It’s a party! And you’re invited!

UPDATE: The party is over, sorry if you missed it! Thank you to everyone who placed an order — we managed to generate a not insignificant commission for my friend. At least enough to allow her to partake of a pint or two. You all are awesome and I hope you enjoy your new instruments of torture toys of a culinary nature.

I have a friend — let’s call her Diane, because that’s her name — who is planning a trip for next summer. Diane is going to Ireland. I can’t remember exactly WHY she’s going to Ireland, because I have the attention span of a fruit fly, but I’m sure it’s for some properly edifying reason. Probably it’s not to hang out at pubs, drinking whisky and picking up gorgeous charming guys with lovely Irish accents. I mean, just because that’s what I’d do if I went to Ireland doesn’t mean that’s what she has planned.

Anyway, my friend is a teacher (a professor, actually) and an avid reader, and so of course she has a supplemental, if inconsistent, source of income. How else is she going to supply her book habit?

Diane is a consultant for Pampered Chef, which means she earns a commission if she convinces people to have parties and invite other people to attend and spend money on really cool kitchen gadgetry. Hey, beats being a paid assassin. Results in far less jail time. And gore.

I wholeheartedly support this concept of going off to Ireland to have an adventure, especially since I’m convinced all the men over there are single and look like Pierce Brosnan.


So I offered to host a party to help her out. And also because she assured me I could do the entire thing online and wouldn’t even have to get dressed or talk to people in real life.

Now, I know, if you have a kitchen, you’re thinking you already have all the kitchen things you could ever need, and then some. So do I. But just look at some of this stuff. I bet you don’t have one of these:


You don’t even know what that is, do you? Neither did I. It’s a stoneware microwave egg cooker. This is pure genius. I want one.

I bet you don’t have these, either:


Those are something called microwave grips. Great for removing hot stuff from the microwave without burning yourself.

And I know you don’t have these:



OK, you might have the citrus peeler. I remember my mom had one and it was pretty useful. The other tube-like thing is a garlic peeler and I used to have one but then I made the mistake of showing it to my daughter the last time she was home and she said, “That is SO cool!” and now . . . I no longer have one (it’s OK, I told her she could take it).

Or maybe you know someone who really needs a set of these:


They look like the things my mom used to twist up into my grandma’s hair back when she’d give her a home perm, but they’re actually clips for holding things shut. Although I guess you could put them in your hair.

And now you’re curious, aren’t you? What other gadgets are you missing out on? Well, here’s the link to the website. Click on the tab in the corner that says “shop online” and when prompted, enter my name as the host: “KD” for the first name and “James” for the last.

Full disclosure: Apparently, I get some free stuff for being a host. Not sure what, exactly, but something. I’m thinking I might invite gorgeous Irishmen random people over to my house and force them to [redacted] ask them to use this free stuff to cook for me.

So, go take a look around. You’ve got about ten days before the party’s over. Pace yourself. Shop early and often. There’s a ton of stuff: cookware and bakeware and stoneware and bamboo and cutlery and knives and cookbooks and spices and rubs and oil infusions. They also have drink mixes: Lemon Drop Martini, Appletini, Margarita, Strawberry Daiquiri . . . yum.

There’s even non-mysterious stuff, like these placemats. Seriously, placemats are not mysterious. Not even a little:


Really, if you can’t find something over there that you didn’t realize you didn’t have but now suddenly need . . . well, you’re just not trying. Or you don’t have a kitchen. Maybe not even a stomach. Poor baby.

Or perhaps you just don’t have room in your budget for extras. I certainly know that feeling. So be devious helpful and send the link to this post to a friend or two. Maybe they’ll invite you over sometime to check out their new toys. Hey, they might even feed you.

Seriously, it would be awesome if you could pitch in and help my friend earn a few bucks to cover some of the incidentals of international travel. I’m going to work on convincing her those incidentals should include that whole pub/whisky/flirting thing.

What would you put on your list of “things to do” if you ever were to travel to Ireland?


Filed under just for fun, travel

OK, who put “snow” on their wish list?

It snowed just enough last night (reportedly 0.4 inches) to make it official: the first time there has been measurable snowfall on Christmas Day in this area since 1947. My daughter (living in New Orleans) wanted proof, so here is the picture I took and texted to her last night when it first started:

It was DARK. What did you expect?

This is what we woke up to this morning:

I'm estimating six inches total, once it stopped.

Under all that snow is the flowering peach tree.

Maple tree from second story window.

You can see it’s the kind of heavy snow that adds definition and depth to the stark bare bones of winter trees. And breaks their branches. Luckily, we didn’t have any sleet or ice with this storm. Even so, I heard the distinct sound of a couple distant transformers blowing early this morning.

Dogwood trees blooming with snow.

Back yard is enclosed in a wall of white.

Can't wait to see the moonlight through snowy pines.

Power here has flickered off and back on again several times this afternoon but, so far, I still have power and an internet connection. And a backup snuggling cat heat source.

Hope this bush survives. Has beautiful dark pink flowers in spring.

I also have plenty of food, as I stocked up a few days ago — not in anticipation of the storm, but because my daughter and her boyfriend are scheduled to arrive tomorrow, traveling by car, for a week-long visit.

Poor birds are going to need a wee shovel

Am I worried they won’t make it? Nah. If the plows can’t carve a path for them, probably they’ll just hike. Knowing them, they’ll hike even if there IS a clear path.

My daughter hiking Aconcagua a couple years ago. Yes, in the Andes Mountains.


Filed under holidays, travel