Saturday, August 31, 2013

Getting a handle on it..

Builders these days paint every room one color and do not include handles or knobs on their cupboards and drawers. Julie was tired of breaking her nails or walking around with a pancake turner to pry these things open  trying to get her stuff . A decision was made to put handles on these 41 drawers and cabinets. Someone said they would do it for $60/hour and that it would 8-12 hours to do it. Now drilling holes and screwing handles in seems like low skilled work. Josh figured that he and Steve could do it in much less time. At the last minute, Steve thought he might be getting sick (he never did, just a day of not wanting to eat) so I came in his place. We kept developing shortcuts to efficiently add all these handles. I think we spent less than 4 hours doing it.

We took a break to go to a Coney Island. For you non-mid-westerners, a coney island is what the east coast people call a diner. They are usually run by Greeks. Always on the menu is the coney island itself which is a chilidog. Do they have chilidogs on the actual Coney Island that Steve is from? Nah.

Fortunately they have lots of other food. I had a large tasty bowl of avgolemono soup (chicken lemon rice) along with my gyros. I used to work at a Greek owned restaurant and that was my favorite dish by far (don't like the Greek habit of adding cinnamon to their meat dishes).

I had wanted to bike there as it was too brutal to run in the high heat and humidity but as I had to carry a bunch of tools including a heavy drill and no one was going to drive me back, I took a day off from exercising vowing to do double duty today. I hadn't been there in about 3 months and hadn't seen all their home improvement projects.

Anyway, it was fun being with my son all day and the finished work looks nice.

Less than 4 weeks to the baby... meanwhile lots of photos.

Friday, August 30, 2013

How well do you wash your hands?

Back when I was working compared to the life of leisure I now have, a few of us would go to schools to educate about various aspects of science. My demonstrations were on chemistry: states of matter, simple reactions, etc. The kids would shout out That's Magic! when they saw color changes and I would explain why the color changes. There is always a reason for why things happen and just because we don't know it doesn't make it magic. Kids especially liked demos that showed reactions giving off light. I was a popular lady especially with fifth grade boys.

But the second most popular demos were from the microbiologists. They needed two visits because they would inoculate culture plates with stuff from the kids and the classroom and they needed a week to see what grew. Always something. They also did a hand washing demonstration. They'd let the kids coat their hands thoroughly with this seemingly invisible stuff and then split the kids into 2 groups: one was to wash their hands per usual and the others were told to do an especially good job. Even kids don't want to be accused of doing a substandard job, so the results were similar. The kids held their hands under a uv light and guess what? Lots of stuff remained on their hands so they glowed especially under the nails and in creases.

Steve has pointed out that this is a poor demonstration for the spread of bacteria and viruses because although the germs still might be on your skin, they might be dead now and thus harmless. We have a whole shelf of yellow Dial soap containing triclosan which he uses exclusively and I avoid completely. He goes through quite a bit of it a week especially in the shower. He has skin that is clearly irritated, I think from the triclosan but he won't stop because he wants to feel clean.

I do keep myself clean but as I grow older, I have much less oil glands (during chemo, they shut down completely so my skin was especially sensitive to drying agents). Soap itself dries out my skin too much so I have other cleansers.

There is much controversy about putting antibacterials in every day products because it leads to antibiotic resistance. I have a friend who is an infectious disease expert in a high place whose personal mission is to stop this as he foresees a bacteria resistant future for us and it won't be pretty. There are various levels of antibiotics that cover different spectrum of bacteria types. Physicians try to reserve some of them for last resort cases because if a given drug is overused, it will be useless due to resistance. But it doesn't do any good when feed lot operators use these same drugs as prophylactic measures. Some success to stop this has occurred but the feedlot operators still have the option to use the last resort antibiotic to treat and then they might just treat the whole mega-herd.

Both Steve and I were seemingly equally exposed to the noro virus. He keeps himself 'sterile' with his triclosan; I don't. I was sick and he wasn't so using an 'n' of one, you could assume he protects himself better than I do. ( I have to note that I get far fewer colds than he does despite me being with people and he avoiding them like the plague they apparently are).

What we need is an infectious vector camera. On an especially clever Bernie Mac episode, he showed cold viruses as a  bright colorful blanket spewing from people onto objects and then on to unsuspecting people who then spread this colorful mess to other objects which got on to other people. Soon everything was glowing with this color answering Bernie Mac's question. How did we all get so sick?

Back to the cruise ship. They try to avoid norovirus outbreaks. Step one: interview each passenger upon entering for the first time whether they had diarrhea or vomiting in the last 48 hours. Well as Dr. House puts it, everyone lies. There would be no upside for certain people to tell the truth. Step two: not let people reach in for their own food for the first 2 days in the buffet line. This also cuts down on greediness. Step three: in communal bathrooms have self flushing toilets and sinks that don't have communal handles. Special wipes are provided to open doors which can not be self opening. Step 4: routinely wash down anything the passenger could touch with bleach. I also assume the staff is on notice to report signs of vomiting and passengers who spend the whole day just laying in bed.

This week has been especially hot and humid, not fun to run in especially as I try to overcome the dehydration of my disease. It will be much cooler tomorrow. Josh has yet another chore for Steve today. I will bike there, 20 miles 10 of which is a nice trail that runs near Josh's house. But do I take the Road of Death to get to it or take a dirt road that could be especially pitted. Winds will be SSW today and I will be going NNE so a free ride there though I suspect it will be mainly uphill.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

There's a gene for that..

Recently I was reading how this woman whose mom was found at the doorstop of an orphanage wanted to know more about her genetic history so she submitted her own saliva for DNA testing. Although she didn't get a clear answer about where her mother was from (lots of groups), she did learn some health factoids about herself, one of which was that she had a resistance to norovirus infections. There's a gene for that? I want that gene. When I told Soulmate recently about my norovirus travails, he wondered how I knew it was norovirus. I repeated that physician chestnut about If you hear hooves, it probably isn't zebras...

No mention about whether she was tested for the gene for getting lost easily. I think there is a gene for that and Steve must have it. And with most traits of ours, the kids have mainly inherited his, not mine. In family portraits, there is one person who just does not fit  and that is me. On Facebook this morning, someone posted something stupid about no matter what life throws at them, at least they have pretty kids. I guess I could say that too but I let that one pass without comment. As for the kids, we can't even donate blood to each other as we are so different. But they are pretty, largely due to Steve's genes.

Yesterday was a case in point. Situation one: Naomi wanted to get her hair done using up a good chunk of her income to dye her hair back to something that is close to her original color but looks fake. This process meant Maya was with us for 4 hours. Situation two: shortly after Naomi left, Josh calls to say one of us has to go to his house (now 20 miles away instead of 10) to let his housekeeper in who has a dog phobia. Now I guess it would be intimidating to enter a house guarded by a German Shepherd with an exceptionally loud bark who does not know you but I wish he arranged a meeting on his own time. Sunny is only there half the time so I guess the housekeeper's visits were during Sunny's days off. Sunny always likes females but with some male strangers, she takes an instant dislike to. Bouncing a tennis ball in front of her makes her ever so forgiving as her desire to fetch a ball outweighs her guard dog tendencies. I gave Steve a choice in which chore he wanted, he chose Sunny and the housekeeper.

He was gone for 3 hours, two more than the task called for. I fought the urge to call him WTF? Where are you? But then my irritation turned to worry. As it turned out, the housekeeper was a no show due to traffic caused by some accident. When he tried to leave the only way he knew how, he became mired in the same traffic and does not know alternative routes (which of course, I know). The gps feature on his not-so-smart phone had him driving all over hell. There are maps in the car but they would mean little to him. My Seattle SIL lives in a gridded section  complete (more or less, the hills make a few holes in the system)with numbered streets and avenues. Steve could not get back to her house on his own. After the umpteenth time, I said I no longer was going to tell him where to turn, please take mental notes of your surroundings. He did make it that time but could not do it the next time we came from a different direction.

As for resistance to norovirus, I just received a text from Shanna. Daniel and Tessa started throwing up early this morning two days after they saw me. Saw me, not touched me. Oliver was not there so I guess he has a temporary reprieve. Meanwhile Steve, who I share a bed with, never had any symptoms. There is a chance that he is a carrier though and he did hold Tessa. Presumably one is not infective 48 hours after they last threw up (this is how long the cruise ships maintain their quarantine) but my cooties must have lingered in the air. At any rate, I am not on the top of her favorite person list. I am hoping that Shanna has Steve's resistance and not mine.

Also, the source of all this trouble: Maya. Who knows where she picked the virus up as she was with her dad? I didn't question him but where there is one case, there are thousands of cases. This thing must be going around and maybe Shanna's kids picked up else where such as the library they were both at 2 days ago. Kids do put their cooties over everything (not much chance of a droplet infection as there are no respiratory symptoms.) I have been extremely careful to wash my hands...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mixed news

Today was the day that Naomi was to become divorced but that didn't happen because we didn't micromanage them to make sure everything was in order before they went to court.  Oh well, they will try again next month. We are assembling the paperwork ourselves

And Julie had her last ultrasound. The baby is in a good position and everything looks good. When she asked how big the baby was, she was told that their policy was not to tell the mom lest she become upset. What!!!??!  Shanna was given a weight that turned out to be a pound off a week before delivery  with Daniel though it is possible he had a last minute growth spurt. They did tell Julie that she will give birth within a week of her due date which I guess is true in about 80% of cases anyway so they aren't disclosing any big news there. They are sure again that it is a girl.

I feel better but still couldn't muster the energy to run especially as it is hot and humid. We had rain for the first time in 2 weeks but it didn't bring much of a cold front. I feel slothful and useless.

I did have Ms Maya this morning while Steve and Naomi were in court. She has increased her vocabulary quite a bit so maybe she is 6 month behind. Initially we were told that the school system has no money for 3 year olds but fortunately that has changed. She will be in preschool in 2 weeks.
she wanted a hairband out of the ribbons I had for my diaper cake

Monday, August 26, 2013

Norovirus Hell

Dante's diagram of the various circles of Hell. Not sure what he means by the 'city of dis' but I think he means that they get norovirus for their troubles
I don't believe I ever had norovirus until Maya was born. Now I am up to at least 5 times in the last 2 years. Usually it is a winter treat but I guess I have the rare summer version. Maya had it more than a week ago and  I didn't let her come here. But then Naomi got it and showed up here against my wishes. I told her, stay upstairs, stay in one room and do not touch anything of mine.

One can have norovirus over and over again because the virus mutates into different strains. Incubation period is 4 hours to 48 hours.

Yesterday was supposed to be a good day. A perfect day for a bike ride and later, a BBQ at Josh's with all my kids and grandkids. I awoke queasy. I figured if I could drink some coffee, I must be OK. My bike ride started off fine but half way through, I started throwing up (with no time even to stop). Then I was all weak and shaky. I figured, well it's mainly down hill home but I felt I was going to pass out even going downhill. I debated whether to call Steve to pick me and the bike up.

I obviously didn't go to the BBQ which was allegedly supposed to be rescheduled but went ahead without us. Some how that makes me sad but I suppose it shouldn't.

I spent the remainder of the day sleeping. I didn't eat anything except part of a bagel. I feel better today but am still weak. I doze off and on  and have strange dreams. A recurring one..I'm back in college but misplaced my schedule yet again so I am missing class and have no idea how to get another one.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Shower

Detail of sock rose

The Moms on Shanna's porch. I got my teal top at the art fair on Whidbey Island

Miss Tess

The blanket
It's been a busy last few days finishing up projects for Josh and Julie's shower. I still didn't block the blanket completely beyond flattening the curly edges or finish off the edges to my satisfaction. Fortunately I finished up the diaper cake on Thursday instead of my usual trick of leaving things to the last moment as at one point I was taking care of 4 grandchildren by myself yesterday. Also I was making my caramelized plum tart for the moms which involves a lot of time consuming steps. I eliminated one of them, making tart pastry opting instead for puff pastry (which actually the recipe calls for) which I do not make though Maya had fun 'helping' such as rolling the dough (she loves to sing 'roll it, roll it' while she does it)pricking it with a fork, brushing it with egg wash and sprinkling with sugar (though she ended up just dumping the sugar in one spot. This is what happens with 3 year old help.. But real tart pastry would have been better.

We had Mom's group last night, a rarer event in the summer given that many of us have been travelling (especially me). But we had a nice summer evening outside in ideal weather, drinking Nicey Spicey ( a coriander and orange laced beer made in the town we stayed our first night on the bike ride). Fireflies, hummingbirds, flowers,'s all coming to an end too soon.  Most of this week, I've spent evenings on our patio drinking my wine with Steve (who does not drink) watching the hummingbirds jockey for position. They do not like to share. More energy is consumed making sure the other does not eat.
I love being with the Moms. We all had our first babies 34 years ago within 2 months and know so much about each other's life and watched our kids evolve.

Despite getting home late, I woke up bright and early for a run in the cool morning air before helping Shanna with last minute details. The boys stayed with Steve. Tess was allowed to entertain the guests with her cuteness. Julie's last 2 showers did not include Josh's friends (he has many female friends) or my friends so this shower  was to include them. Also none of the Moms had seen Shanna's house. Josh's friends decided to have their own shower. The shower was fun. We played the traditional "Guess what poop this is?" with molten candy bars on diapers. Julie with her acute pregnancy enhanced senses won that one. How big is Julie's belly? Cut off some yarn and guess. Naomi won that. Lots of attractive presents, good food, bellinis (both peach and mango). Shanna's MIL came along with Josh's. Any more people would have been too much. I had Josh take some photos but I haven't gotten them. He came to help.

I'm tired. Lots of reading to catch up on.

Friday, August 23, 2013

30 Sock Roses Later.....

Watched a lot of mindless TV while I rolled up diapers and made sock roses
What I made for Naomi's shower more than 3 years ago

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Back home I am finishing up projects for Saturday. Need to block my crochet project involves finding the iron..... and I formed the base for my diaper cake. Just need to finish making and attaching sock roses.

Another expectant photo (can't imagine how many photos of the little one will be taken)

Looking for Mt. Baker

La Conner's Rainbow bridge. I've seen photos showing Mt Baker peeking out from under the bridge but I had to be south of the bridge to get that

Lots of public art

nice flowers

cute shops

artichoke gone to flower

quilt museum

I have more butterflies in my own garden

Nice glass shop. Wish I bought something

Steve and his brother at lunch. The hat never comes off as he is very sensitive to sun even inside
Huge berries at farmer's stand with my fingers for scale

Not Mt. Baker but Whitehorse mountain

Pretty heron

Heather, like the stuff all over Scotland. Too hot in Michigan for it.

The mountain is at 6800 feet, not high compared to the volcanic peaks (such as Mt. Baker) but as the nearby ground is near sea level, the mountain looks especially huge.

farm market

local crabs

normal beets but especially huge patty pans. Should have included my chipped nails here for reference

My BIL and his wife relaxing in front of a lavender store. Every town in the NW seems to have a lavender store

One of many gardens the store keepers have

Not my photo but from the Skagit county tulip festival files. The  time to come here is in the spring when the surrounding land is covered with rows of differently colored tulips. To see impressive photos, type in La Conner tulips in image search and you will be amazed
My morning apple crepe and coffee
No running last Monday. My legs were tired from a long run the day before and lots of walking later so we set off for a leisurely breakfast at the crepe place again. We picked up Steve's brother and his wife for the day's adventure north of Seattle to the impossibly cute town La Conner. Why the strange name? It was named after Louisa A. Conner. Maybe it should be LA Conner? The town itself, on the Skagit river which flows to the not very far away Puget Sound is surrounds by mile of flat fields and farm stands. The principal crops seem to be berries and tulips. Alas the tulip fields are now fallow but in the spring, which happens much earlier (than Michigan!)here, the fields are a sight to behold. Holland Michigan has its own tulip fields and festivals but does not have the miles of flat lands as Skagit county does. On my first trip to Europe, we flew over Holland's tulip fields and were amazed.

The town has lots of cute restaurants,shops, and gardens to explore. We stopped at two farm stands outside the town too. We ate at a cafe/bakery professing to have the sweetest buns (which we took to go, I didn't eat mine until I was on the flight home) along the water. Very tasty and pretty.

On to find Mt. Baker which is supposed to be visible from La Conner and even from Coupeville, the town we visited the day before even further away (the inn I had purchased rooms for promised a view of Mt. Baker). You can see from the photos above it wasn't exactly overcast but somehow we couldn't see the mountain.

We (we are using the royal pronoun here) decided to take the North Cascade Highway to get closer but then our view was blocked by trees. We made a loop that turned out to be much larger than I thought it would be (again these states are much bigger than our eastern ones) but  we did get to see other mountains that are arguably just as pretty and have their own glaciers.

We slugged through rush hour traffic to get to Happy Hour on time on the shores of Lake Union so I could finally straighten my cramped legs (backseat of an econocar not roomy and my BIL likes to stretch his legs in front of me) while sipping (read: guzzling) a mojito before visiting Steve's mother one more time. Alas, she keeps herself on a strict schedule which leaves no room for visiting relatives coming during  Jeopardy! She was quite crabby during our photoshoot.
Lake Union

Unhappy mom missing Jeopardy! with kids

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Island hopping


mussel capital of Washington.  Penn Cove mussels are on lots of local menus

wild blackberries all over Oregon and Washington

Coupeville art fair. Aside from baby gifts, I got a beautiful top

The one in the middle we gave to Julie Sunday
Has pockets to include kid's pictures as they grow

Also sold cute books

Ferry dock in Mukilteo

The ferry that took us to Whidbey Island
No line on this end but already a huge line forming to come back. We took the long way back

I thought this little girl was cute


Deception Pass Water was so pretty

Last Sunday was a busy day. After breakfast at Cloud Nine (yummy chocolate croissant), I went for a run around Green Lake (3 miles around, 2 cycles). We then went to the International district for Dim Sum on the south side of Seattle versus the north side that my SIL lives in.

On to Whidbey Island. I had purchased a Living Social to stay in this beautiful inn right on the water there. Alas, it was all filled up for the week I needed a room, probably due to the Art Fair they had at the same time but I got my money back. We also had purchased non-refundable rooms in the ferry town that we ended up not using as it was far away (not by miles but by traffic).

We were very lucky for the whole week we had great weather. This day was no exception with highs in the 70s. Seattle is surrounded by islands and most have ferries to them run by the state. Whidbey Island is especially scenic. As we drove off the ferry, we could see a long line forming to return to Seattle so we drove the length of the island north and crossed a tall bridge at Deception Pass to eventually return to the mainland.

The cutest town, Coupeville, had an art fair. As I had missed Ann Arbor's, it was fun looking through the stalls.The stores themselves looked very cute too. The shores were covered in mussels which are sold all over the state in the restaurants. Not a mussel fan. We bought some handmade puzzles that had Maya and Tessa on it (Tessa is a much rarer name) and a growth chart for the new baby that should contrast nicely with the nursery.

It was not pleasant driving back to Seattle as everyone else seemed to be returning at the same time and the air conditioning wasn't working. We met up with Steve's brother and his wife to have huge Italian salads to counterbalance  dim sum and croissants. 


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