Monday, October 31, 2011

Who Doesn't Love Bugs?

Once again I find myself reading such a good book that just I have to tell everybody, in hopes that at least one of you out there will be "infected" by my enthusiasm enough to actually read it too.

This one is called Insectopedia by Hugh Raffles.

“As inventive and wide ranging and full of astonishing surprises as the vast insect world itself. Raffles takes us on a delirious journey” –the New York Times.

Here’s a quote:

They estimated that at any given time on any given day throughout the year, the air column rising from 50 to 14,000 feet above one square mile of Louisiana countryside contained an average of 25 million insects and perhaps as many as 36 million.

They found ladybugs at 6,000 feet during the daytime, striped cucumber beetles at 3,000 feet during the night. They collected three scorpion flies at 5,000 feet, thirty-one fruit flies between 200 and 3,000 feet, a fungus gnat at 7,000 and another at 10,000. They caught wingless worker ants as high as 4,000 feet and sixteen species of parasitic ichneumon wasps at altitudes up to 5,000 feet.

At 15,000 feet, “probably the highest elevation at which any specimen has ever been taken above the surface of the earth,” they trapped a ballooning spider, a feat that reminded Glick of spiders thought to have circumnavigated the globe on the trade winds and let him to write that “the young of most spiders are more or less addicted to this mode of transportation.” an image of excited little animals packing their luggage that opened a small rupture in the consensus around the passivity of all this airborne movement and let to Glick’s subsequent observation that ballooning spiders not only climb up to an exposed dist (a twig or a flower, for instance), stand on tiptoe, raise their abdomen, test the atmosphere, throw out silk filaments, and launch themselves into the blue, all free legs spread-eagled, but that they also use their bodies and their silk to control their descent and the location of their landing.

Thirty-six million little animals flying unseen above one square mile of countryside? The heavens opened. The air column was “a vault of insect-laden air” from which fell “a continuous rain.”

First Snowfall of the Season

Well, the first at my house at least – it has apparently been on the ground elsewhere for a while now. I got almost two whole inches in my yard, with more coming down as we speak.

As always, the first snowfall of the season makes for some exciting driving out on the roads! People tend to forget how to handle icy roads after the summer months; I can’t find anything in the papers about it this morning, but I’m sure the local police had a busy day yesterday. Just standing out on my driveway and watching the cars attempt to drive by I saw pretty much every other car slide out of control at one point or another.

Wouldn’t you know it; I had not switched my tires over yet. I ended up dropping my car off at the garage at 11:00 on my way to lunch, figuring I could just hang out till it was done and head on back home. Unfortunately every other person in the city had that same idea, so the wait-time was over 5 hours! It had to be done, though, so I called my niece to see if she could come pick me up (YAY for Katy being back home now!) after I ate. She said she could.

As it turned out, Rob ended up being the one to pick me up (I didn’t want to interrupt Katy’s study group) on his way to dropping off a load of stuff to store in my garage. He is moving in to his new home soon, but needs a place in the interim for all his gear and whatnot. In fact, he needs a place for himself too, so will be crashing on my futon in the library. But that’s a whole other story…

While he was at my house, I grabbed the snow shovel and attacked the driveway thinking he would insist on taking over, but it was actually my neighbor’s kid who ended up taking over. He was very excited about the snow – and not just because he loves to go sledding: he was getting a real kick over watching all the cars spin out of control!

Hiking with Guns

Rob and I went hiking with guns again this weekend, this time going up Buffalo Mine Road to the creek out there. Our intention was to get some grouse, but honestly just being there was good enough for me. We ended up not seeing any, so the point is rather moot.

It was a beautiful day. The snow on the ground gave a nice crispy chill to the air and turned the entire area into a Black & White Photograph. I had my camera with me, but forgot to actually carry it when we started out so missed some of the best shots. We doubled back after a bit so I was able to retrieve it from the back seat of the car and ended up getting a few good ones regardless.

As for the guns, Rob sighted his in and got to fire a few rounds – but mostly he just carried it. I had my rifle with me but had inadvertently brought the wrong ammo, so was not able to shoot at all. Not that I minded; as mentioned earlier, just being there was enough for me.

Both of us had been super busy all week, with work and chores and whatnot – a day outside in the woods was exactly what we needed!

I’ve Been Shot!

It happened Friday on my way home from work. I got shot three times, even: twice in the left arm and once in the right arm. And yes, it hurt.

Of course, I’m talking about inoculations. My doctor’s appointment was on Friday. Hillside Family Medicine is just down the street from my house and are a very friendly office, with mostly women (I think there might be two men) employed there.

When I made the appointment I asked for a worst-case idea on the total cost since they require payment up-front (they bill insurance and refund any overlap). She told me that the tetanus, typhoid and yellow fever shots would each be $130, and the rabies was a series of three shots each one costing $200. Added to that would be the office visit plus the prescriptions for the malaria pills and the antibiotics needed for emergencies – and I was planning on paying roughly $1,100.


Thankfully, it didn’t hurt my pocket book nearly as much as expected. Turns out my tetanus and yellow fever shots were up-to-date (heck, I didn’t even know I’d had the yellow fever inoculation) and they let me prorate the rabies, paying only as I get them (the second one is 7 days after the initial shot and the third one is 21 days after that). The prescriptions I won’t have to pay for until I get them filled, and they went ahead and billed the insurance directly for the office visit.

All together, I only paid $430.00

According to the booklet my employer gave me when I got hired, my insurance covers “preventative maintenance” issues at 100%. I called them to make sure it meant what I thought it meant, and the girl on the other end of the phone said that as far as she could tell, it did indeed mean just that. I just may get that money refunded!

Wouldn’t that be nice?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Immunizations & Inoculations

Now that I have my travel plans taken care of, the next item on my ToDo list is making sure all my shots are up-to-date.

According to the paperwork sent to me by Earthwatch, I need to make sure my routine immunizations are current: DPT (Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus), Polio, MMR (Measles, Mumps, rubella) and Varicella. As far as I can tell, the only thing I need to do is make sure my tetanus shot is current. I seem to recall this particular one causes a rather painful lump on the arm for a few days. Oh joy.

Carrs Grocery Store is offering Flu shots this year: I should probably get one of those, too. I’ll ask my doctor to make sure it won’t interfere or react adversely with any shots I have to get. As an added bonus, the advertisement for Carrs says they’ll give me a 10% off my grocery bill that day! I should stock up.

The more exotic inoculations required include Typhoid, Hepatitis A & B, and Rabies. I believe I am up-to-date on all of those, but might have to have a booster for Typhoid. The paperwork also said I should get checked for antibody levels in my blood; a booster shot for Rabies may be required. Rabies is a fatal disease, but it is totally preventable.

Yellow Fever is a concern. Some countries require a Certificate of Vaccination for re-entry if you have traveled to an area where yellow fever is endemic. I’m not entirely sure, but I believe that the US does not. I’ll just have to confirm that.

Last, but certainly not least, there’s Malaria to be worried about. Chloroquine-resistant malaria is endemic to the Peruvian Amazon. More than likely I will have to begin taking anti-malaria pills a week prior to leaving, and then continue taking them for up to a month after I return.

Just to add some fun to my trip, they tell me I have to be concerned with Dengue Fever! Globally there has been a 30-fold increase in the number of reported cases of dengue. Dengue fever is a flu-like virus spread primarily by mosquitoes, characterized by fever, headache, rash, vomiting and severe muscle pains. There is no vaccine, and mosquito bites should be avoided whenever possible. Insect repellent and long sleeves and pants are highly recommended.

Which reminds me… I should get a couple long-sleeved shirts for the trip.

Slight Change of Plans

Hello Ruth,

Although Vizcaya Museum & Gardens are lovely and worth the trip, it is about a 20 minute ride from Miami Beach and thus would probably be too hectic a day to do the walking tour and head to Vizcaya for another tour.

There is plenty to do culturally here on the beach and the Welcome Center where you would be taking the Art Deco Historic Walking Tour from has plenty of information on local museum and activities you can pick and choose from that would not require you to travel much.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

11 Hour Layover in Miami

Whatever shall I do with my time there? Here’s what I have planned so far.

My plane gets in at 7:09 am. I will first locate my departure gate, to make sure I know where that is. Then I will find some lockers to stow my carry-on for the day. After that, I’m thinking I should exchange some currency for Peru – although on second thought maybe I should wait till I’m actually in Peru. What do you think?

I had thought to visit the zoo in Miami, but emailing back and forth with their volunteer coordinator I realized that they were too far away, what with rush-hour traffic and all. Added to which they don't offer any type of shuttle bus service and a taxi would cost way too much. I'm bummed, but realistically I just can't do it.

So, instead, I contacted the local AIA group (American Institute of Architects) and discovered that they offer a guided tour of the Art Deco Historic District. It starts at 10:30, lasts 90 minutes and costs only $20.00. Here’s what their website says:

Forget the sand: take a stroll around the art deco buildings on South Beach to catch its golden era of architecture. Here you'll find a glamorous array of hotels, which grew up when a theatrical style swept the design world in the 20s. Crowded along Ocean Drive are the best of these giddy individuals. Park Central Hotel and the Imperial, designed by New Yorkers Henry Hohauser and L Murray Dixon, feature bold bands of colour and window 'eyebrows', characteristic of this flamboyant style. This is the ideal place to start off exploring the Art Deco District, which contains over 800 buildings from the 1930s and '40s.

Once that is done, I think I’ll head on over to the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens. Their admissions price is $15, with a $5 fee for the self-guided audio tour and $3 for the guide book. Here’s what their website says:

The sight of the Italian Renaissance-style Vizcaya Museum & Gardens on the Biscayne Bay is straight out a fairytale book. It's bizarre to discover a European-style palace in this beach lovers' paradise, but visiting it is like entering a wonderland. Built for Chicagoan industrialist and Europhile James Deering in the 20th-century, the extravagant architecture conceals an opulent interior. Full of European antiques and decorative works from the 16th to 19th centuries, and complete with original fittings, it will whisk you away to a golden age.

I should have plenty of time to see the place and even sit down for a bite to eat at their café, and still make it back to the airport by 4:00 in time to catch my flight to Peru at 6:05.

All of this is, of course, contingent upon me NOT being a complete zombie by the time I get there. I do not sleep on an airplane – but maybe if I take some sleeping pills ahead of time…

It's Worse Than Pulling Teeth!


At long last, after much struggle and anguish, I finally have my ticket to Peru! I just can’t believe how difficult it was to get. Honestly, does everybody have this many problems?

First, I went to the internet – one of those type sites. I typed in where I was flying from, where I was flying to, and when I needed to go. They came back with a long list of flights going to Peru to choose from, so I picked the best one. Then they came back with a long list of flights coming back, so I again picked the best one.

I got the following message: “I’m sorry, that flight is not available. Please choose another one.” I went thru the whole process again, only to have that same message sent back to me. I actually went thru the entire list, one at a time, and got no where. Tell me, why the heck did they list all those flights if they aren’t available? I hadn’t even gotten to the point where I mentioned that I wanted to use my frequent flyer miles yet!


My next plan of attack was to go to the airport and speak to an actual person. I took time off work one day and headed down to the Alaska Airlines Ticket Counter and waited in line for half an hour, only to be told that I’d have to go to the American Airlines Ticket Counter, since Alaska Air doesn’t fly to Peru. I searched the entire airport trying to find the American Airline Ticket Counter (it’s tucked back behind the baggage check-in kiosks, of all places) only to find that they were closed. A random uniform walking by was able to tell me that they don’t open till 4:00, so I should come back then.

I went back a few days later and stood in line for another half an hour – and never once saw anybody at the counter. Apparently, no body told THEM they were open at 4:00! I gave up in disgust and went home.

My third plan of attack was to call the airlines and speak to somebody over the phone. I must admit that by that time I was quite frustrated to begin with, but I called the Alaska Airlines Travel Agent and told her my story. She said that I’d have to call American Airlines (I knew that, but wanted to be sure) and gave me their number. I dialed it and spoke to the person on the other end of the phone, again telling my story. She said, and I quote, “You’ll have to call Alaskan Airlines, since it’s their miles you want to use.”

“I just spoke to them, and they told me to call you!” I cried.

This was getting my no where, obviously. As I mentioned earlier, I was frustrated to begin with so had absolutely no patience for being bounced back and forth between people who didn’t know how to do their job.

I threw in the towel at this point, and called US Travel. The lady was very sympathetic and said she’d get right on it. A week later, I called to check on her progress and found that SHE HAD FORGOTTEN ABOUT ME!


I took a deep breath, gave her all my information again, and said I’d be checking back with her in a couple days. When I did, I discovered that she was in a week-long training course!

Again, seriously?!

The person who told me that promised they would get her a message from me and that she would contact me on one of her breaks. She never did. So I called back and tried to get somebody ELSE to deal with me, but they just kept on giving me back to her.

When I told Rob what was going on, he got all upset (for me, not at me) and said he’d take care of it. He called American Airlines right then, and got found that they could get me to Los Angeles but no farther, so he called Lan Chile Airlines (they recommended them to him) and actually got a flight for me. The lady working on the itinerary for him got it all arranged and said she’d call back the next day to finalize it. She never called. So, I went on line to their website to make the arrangements myself – only to discover that Lan Chile does not fly out of Los Angeles!!! What the F@#*!!! Why would that lady SAY she could get me from Los Angeles to Peru if they don’t even fly out of Los Angeles? It just boggles the mind…

Which leaves me STILL trying to deal with US Travel.

Eventually, after trying numerous times to get something – anything! – out of them, I finally gave up and called a completely different company and spoke to a completely different travel agent. Not that it has any relevance: but it was a man this time. He was, again, very sympathetic to my plight and said he’d get right on it. (he actually did, by the way)

And not two minutes after I hung up the phone, I get a call from US Travel – wouldn’t you know it! I should have tried that trick a lot earlier, if that’s what it takes to get them to do their job.

Anyway, the good news is – I HAVE A TICKET TO PERU! The bad news is that I couldn’t use mileage for the entire trip. I used it to get me to Miami, but then had to actually purchase the ticket to Peru and back.

At this point, I’m just happy to have the ticket.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My First Cup of Tea

My first installment of tea arrived in the mail last night:
          4oz of Natural Panda 1 Keemun Tea

The description on the package reads:
          If you're looking for an English Breakfast, try Natural Panda 1 Keemun Tea. It has a lovely burgundy depth with light hints of an oak cask; a tea to savor during hectic or quiet times. A great value, and farmed without pesticides!

I made my first cup to relax with as I watched some TV (the last disc of Criminal Minds season 6, thank you very much Lauren!) and found it to be quite good.

In that same shipment, I got 2oz of another tea which I had ordered because it was on sale. This one is their Ceylon Lumbini OP1 which I found to be a beautiful tea to look at, but perhaps not quite as good as the Natural Panda Tea as far as taste goes.

It’s description reads:
          The Lumbini estate is considered one of the areas finest. Teas from this region tend to be full bodied and thick with a robust feel, and the Ceylon Lumbini OP1 (Orange Pekoe 1) Tea is a stunning example of this regional character. This less expensive cousin of our Lumbini Special is another award winning Ceylon. It produces a smooth, almost red liquor and this tea is far more flavorful than your average Ceylon. Enjoy any time of day!

Monday, October 17, 2011

The House of Bread

Have you ever eaten there?

It’s quite good, offering up all sorts of yummy bread products and sweet treats, as well as a whole menu of soups and sandwiches for lunch. I got to eat lunch there this weekend with my friend Lorna.

The person behind the counter taking our order was a cute high school aged guy, complete with acne and braces. He’s got potential, though = I’m sure when he’s older and done with the whole growth spurt thing, he’ll be quite the catch. He was very friendly, flirting with us and offering up suggestions.

I had to laugh, though. When he asked me for what name he should call out when my order was up, I told him my name.

You’ll never in a million years guess what he wrote down.

He actually wrote down “Rooth”


Okay… well, it is phonetically correct, I suppose… but honestly, it’s a little scary. That right there is the future generation, just waiting to take over.

Crunching My Car

I did a rather stupid thing this weekend – and it’s entirely my own fault, too. I can’t place the blame anywhere other than on my own shoulders, because I know better than to talk on the phone while driving. I know that! Yet, that’s what I was doing.

I was leaving the movie theatre (I’d just seen The Thing! = what a fabulous movie), following Lorna as she headed out the parking lot on her way to where we were to meet up for a late lunch. I thought she had gotten into the turn lane, but she didn’t turn – so then I thought, “Well, perhaps it isn’t the turn lane after all.” and followed her.

Turns out it was the turn lane.

She had to scramble to merge into traffic before hitting the curb, and I – for whatever reason – turned my car into the on-coming lane! Well, I knew that wasn’t a good thing, so I quickly decided to jump the median and get into the proper lane.

Apparently, the median is taller that the bottom of my car. I made it up onto it with one set of wheels, but they stepped off before the second set got on – so I totally crunched the bottom of my car.

Oh gosh, it sounded bad!

And the whole time this is happening (which took all of like 3 seconds, mind you) I’m still on the phone talking to Rob.

“Oh Sh*@!” I said, “I think I just wrecked my car!”
"What?!” he exclaimed.
“No, I’m serious – I think I just wrecked my car!!!”

I managed to pull it over onto the side of the road to wait for his arrival, and even called Lorna to let her know I wouldn’t be joining her for lunch. Thankfully, both Lorna and Rob came to my rescue. We determined that it wasn’t as bad as I’d originally feared, and that no fluids were leaking.

There are several lessons to take home with you here:
     1. Do not drive while talking on the phone! You really do need all your attention focused on the road ahead of you.
     2. Do not blindly follow the person in front of you, assuming they know what they’re doing. Sometimes, they don’t.

Thank goodness it all ended well enough, and I even got to eat lunch!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Worth Reposting

I posted this a couple years ago from a book I was reading at the time. It's funny enough that I thought I'd repost it...

An Incomplete Education

by Judy Jones and Wiliam Wilson

May as well begin with the documentary footage of the scorpions. Not that it prepares you for the bandits, or the Majorcans, or the fellow kicking a violin down the street. In a way, it does prepare you for the man and his mistress, though not necessarily for the mud they’re rolling in. Things are a little more upbeat at the marquis’ party (ignore the kitchen fire and the gamekeeper who shoots his little boy), especially once the man and mistress get out to the garden, where they try to have sex while seated in two wicker garden chairs. Try, that is, until he is summoned inside to take the minister’s phone call and she busies herself with the toe of the statue. At some point somebody throws a Christmas tree, and archbishop, a plough, a stuffed giraffe, and several pillowfuls of feathers out a window. Then, before you know it, we’re leaving a chateau in the company of four worn-out orgiasts; look for a cross, covered with snow and festooned with a woman’s hair. The End – accompanied by a happy little Spanish march, the kind you might hear at a bullfight.

Antarctica Here I Come!

Boy, don’t I wish… but, really – it just might actually be a possibility!

National Geographic is having a contest right now, and the grand prize is a trip for two to Antarctica! I’ve been logging on each morning for a month and submitting my name; the contest ends on the 17th of October, so I should know soon if I’ve won or not.

So, Lorna… wanna go to Antarctica with me? You’re the only one I know of who would enjoy it as much as I would, plus you’d get some awesome pictures for your website.

Here are the details from their website:

Travel aboard the state-of-the-art National Geographic Explorer and encounter the spectacular Antarctic Peninsula and the surrounding islands and waterways. Glide around enormous tabular icebergs by Zodiac, walk along beaches covered with thousands of penguins, and kayak amid abundant marine life. View magnificent mountains, towering icebergs, and ice formations that make up the dramatic Antarctic landscape. Cruise aboard sturdy Zodiac landing craft in search of leopard seals. Kayak in protected waters, paddling around icebergs as penguins swim nearby. Walk on shore amid thousands of penguins, including gentoo, Adélie, and chinstrap. Explore the world's last great wilderness in the company of a team of top naturalists and a National Geographic photographer. Approximate retail value is $29,000.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rinse and Repeat

Type vocabulary list, phrases, and miscellaneous words during lunch hour

Work on homework during lunch hour

Finish homework during lunch hour

Review homework during lunch hour
Meet with Spanish tutor for 45 minutes
Go to class for 2 hours

Repeat as required till class is over for the sememester!


That is my plan of attack for my Spanish class. I figure if I post it for all to see, I might actually hold myself to it.

To be honest, I don’t really expect to learn the language: it will take much more than just 11 2-hour classes to do that. I will do the best I can, however. Don’t want to look like a complete idiot over there!

Actually, my tutor Germon (pronounced almost like Herman) gave me what I am choosing to take as a complement when I first met him.

He said “You don’t look like an American. You look… hmm… International?”

Craig’s List

Apparently, I’m addicted to Craig’s List.

Have you been there? It’s an awesome place, man! You can find ANYTHING there! In fact, you can sometimes find too much – things you really didn’t want to know were available.

I found two really good jobs there: both Treeline Construction and GDM advertized for my position on Craig’s List. I even got several Cat-Sitting jobs from an ad I myself posted. I had hoped for more, since at the time I really needed the income. Now that I’m reasonably (knock on wood) secure in my position here at GDM, I don’t really need to continue along that line of employment. However, I do still keep my eye out for people in need of a cat sitter – but mostly because I know what it’s like to need one, and will no doubt find myself in need of a sitter again one day.

A friend of mine sold his car on Craig’s List. He posted his ad and not 30 minutes later, people were calling about it. He had it sold within the hour!

My roommates came to me via Craig’s List. Granted that didn’t really turn out so good, but I can only really blame myself for that. I simply am not meant to live with anybody.

I recently answered an ad from a guy offering to help somebody practice their Spanish in return for helping him practice his English! And I’m now corresponding with a lady out in the valley who is familiar with the art of Quilling, in hopes that someday she and I might get together so she can show me how.

And yes, I’ve had a few dates from ads posted there. Obviously they didn’t go anywhere, but still – it’s nice to meet new people sometimes.

Does anybody else have a good Craig’s List story to share?

The Weather in Iquitos

I know, I know… I have months left before I get to go to Peru.

Still, I have been checking the weather in Iquitos each day. Iquitos is the city where I will be rendezvousing with the group, by the way. I guess I just wanted to “get a feel” for the weather ahead of time, so that I would pack the right things (theoretically, at least).

It’s kind of funny, actually. I check it each day – and yet each day it says almost exactly the same thing!

The temperature is 88°F, with the feel of 100°F (give or take a few degrees here or there) and it’s raining with the chance of thunderstorms in the evening.

Well… it is the rainforest, after all.


Speaking of Peru: can anybody recommend some good Peruvian music to listen to? Something unique to the indigenous people...

A Horrible Thing

I had to drive around a dead cat on the road as I was going to work this morning.

It was a beautiful cat, too: white, with black markings. I’m sure somebody out there is wondering where their cat went, and will eventually come to the realization that the cat will never come back home again.

Honestly – it’s their own fault.

I truly believe that cats do not belong outside in the city. My girls are both indoor cats, even though they might try to convince you otherwise once in a while. I provide them with everything they need: food, shelter, warmth, love, entertainment, and exercise. They don’t need to be out there on a busy road that is dangerous even for us humans.

I have no problem at all with cats being outside in the country. Back on the Farm, at the Lake House, and at the Cabin by the River (all places I have lived) we let our cats roam free. Yes, they hunted birds, mice, rabbits, and whatnot – sometimes even getting in to the chicken coup and helping themselves to a few of Mother’s girls. Still, that was acceptable as they were simply doing what cats do.

Sigh… what a horrible start to my morning, to have to see that.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Impulsive Indulgence

I just did something rather impulsive yesterday: I signed myself up for a Tea of the Month Club!

I have been in one before, back in my pipeline days, and really enjoyed it. Now that I have such a good job and actually have some money to play with finally (within reason, of course) I felt I could go ahead and treat myself once again.

The Tea Table

They have several plans to choose from:

The Decaffeinated Plan includes black and green teas that have been naturally decaffeinated with CO2. Examples include Decaf English Breakfast, Decaf Green Tea with Apricot, Decaf Earl Grey (4 oz. each shipment).

The Estate Black Tea Plan includes fine black teas that each comes from a single estate or tea garden. These teas tend to have unique characteristics particular to that estate for that season. Like fine wines, they will vary somewhat from year to year. No flavored teas are in this group. Examples include Keemun Three Monkey, Royal Golden Yunnan, and Ceylon Lumbini Special. (2-4 ounces of tea per shipment.)

The Flavored Black and Blends Tea Plan includes a wide variety of premium black tea blends, some with added flavors and scents. Examples include Yorkshire Gold, Earl Grey, Peach and Ginger, Cinnamon Orange Spice, Monk's Blend and Black Currant (4 oz. each shipment).

The Green Tea Plan includes a wide variety of Chinese and Japanese green teas, both plain and flavored, such as Jasmine Yin Hao, Sencha, and Crime of Passion. (3-4 oz. per shipment).

The Herbal Tea Plan includes caffeine-free fruit blends, rooibos, and other herbal blends of various dried herbs, flowers, and fruit pieces. Examples include Blackberry Twist, Chamomile Mint, Casablanca, and Rooibos Cream Caramel (4 oz. each shipment).

The Rooibos Plan provides the herbal tea, Rooibos (pronounced "roy bus"), which is made from the needle-like leaves of a caffeine-free bush native to South Africa. Good both hot and cold, it has a mild flavor and won't turn bitter with extended brewing. It is known for its soothing properties. Examples include Rainbow Rooibos, Rooibos Cream Caramel, and Rooibos White Chocolate Toffee (4 oz. each shipment).

The Variety Plan is perfect if you don't know what someone likes or if you love all tea! We will simply vary the kind of tea you will receive each month, typically rotating among flavored black, unflavored black, green, and herbal teas (4 oz. each shipment).

They also have several shipment plans to choose from:
     12 shipments (monthly)
       6 shipments (every other month)
       4 shipments (quarterly)

I decided on the Estate Black Tea Plan shipped every other month.

I’m rather excited about it, too. I do love tea and I have my spiffy new Craft Room all set up with the Mrs. Teapot and all that. I’m looking forward to afternoons spent sipping tea and snipping paper with my girls.

Djuna does love a good cup of tea - and Thing so loves to snip paper, don’t you know.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Rest and Relaxation

I had a very quiet weekend, full of rest & relaxation. It was very nice, yet at the same time I actually got a whole lot done.

Saturday was my eye appointment. I had thought that my glasses were no longer working for me because I couldn’t see the close-up stuff when I did my paper-cutting and card-making. I bought a $3 pair of glasses at the pharmacy that worked better than my $600 glasses! (I’m exaggerating the price a bit)

Thankfully, it turns out that my eyes actually have not gotten worse as I had feared – I was simply expecting more out of them than they were designed to give. Apparently, reading glasses are for just that = reading. You hold the book at a comfortable distance from your eyes and read. I will continue using the $3 glasses for my craft work, and use the more expensive ones for my reading.

After that appointment, the rest of my weekend was completely unscheduled. I cleaned house a bit, snuggled with my girls a lot, went online and got a couple more essentials for my trip, watched a few movies & some TV, and even got to go out on a date!

Rob and I went to Jalapeño’s in Eagle River for dinner on Saturday night. It’s one of our favorite places to eat, and I had a killer coupon.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Books & Movies

Part of the preparations for my trip to Peru is to read as many books and watch as many movies on the subject I can find prior to actually going, so as to have a better appreciation for the environment, culture, and inhabitants as I can.

Here are some of the books I’ve read, all of which I highly recommend:

Journey of the Pink Dolphins: An Amazon Quest
     By: Sy Montgomery
When Sy Montgomery ventured into the Amazon to unlock the mysteries of the little known pink dolphins, she found ancient whales that plied the Amazon River at dawn and dusk, swam through treetops in flooded forests, and performed underwater ballets with their flexible bodies. But she soon found out that to know the botos, as the dolphins are locally called, you must also know the people who live among them. And so in Journey of the Pink Dolphins, Montgomery--part naturalist, part poet, part Indiana Jones--winds her way through watery tributaries and riverside villages, searching for botos and hearing the tales of locals who believe these ethereal dolphins are shape-shifters--creatures that emerge from the water as splendidly dressed men or women only to enchant their human onlookers, capture their souls, and then carry them away to the Encante, an underwater world. Montgomery takes readers on four separate journeys, exploring the river-dwelling dolphins' natural history, chronicling their conservation pressures, unraveling their prehistoric roots, and visiting with shamans who delve into the Encante.

Lost in the Jungle
     By: Yossi Ghinsberg
Four travelers meet in Bolivia and set off into the heart of the Amazon rainforest, but what begins as a dream adventure quickly deteriorates into a dangerous nightmare, and after weeks of wandering in the dense undergrowth, the four backpackers split up into two groups. But when a terrible rafting accident separates him from his partner, Yossi is forced to survive for weeks alone against one of the wildest backdrops on the planet. Stranded without a knife, map, or survival training, he must improvise shelter and forage for wild fruit to survive. As his feet begin to rot during raging storms, as he loses all sense of direction, and as he begins to lose all hope, he wonders whether he will make it out of the jungle alive.

Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice: An Ethnobotanist Searches for New Medicines in the Amazon Rain Forest
     By: Mark J. Plotkin
A century ago, malaria was killing Washingtonians, Londoners, Parisians. Today HIV, along with various cancers, has taken its place among worldwide epidemics. Quinine, extracted from the cinchona tree of the Amazonian rainforest, quelled malaria; alkaloids taken from trees in the West African rainforest may well yield a cure for AIDS. Yet those woods, Mark Plotkin tells us, are fast disappearing, along with the native peoples who know the powers of the plants that dwell there. His account of wandering through the Amazonian jungles focuses on local knowledge about plants, whose uses range from the mundane to the magical. The rainforests of the world, Plotkin notes, are our greatest natural resource, an intercultural pharmacy that can cure woes both known and yet unvisited.

Just last night, I watched this documentary. It’s short, barely 40 minutes, but still quite good. I am more eager than ever to get there and see it all for myself now! As an added bonus, the film starred Dr. Mark Plotkin, who wrote the book I’m currently reading.

Amazon: IMAX
This enthralling IMAX presentation lets you explore the Amazon River and experience the vitality and magical wonder of the Amazonian rain forest, which is fast disappearing because of unchecked clear-cutting and burning. Narrated by Oscar-winning actress Linda Hunt, the film also chronicles an amazing collaboration between an American scientist and a tribal medicine man on a mission to find a rare root with curative powers.

Blood Work

I got my annual exam over with yesterday – and got all my paperwork signed for the expedition, too! While we were at it the doctor suggested having blood work done as well, since it had been quite a while since I last had it done. What we were mostly concerned with was the cholesterol levels, since I have a family history of high cholesterol.

I got the results back just this morning: I’m good to go!

Total Cholesterol = 194
LDL cholesterol = 110
HDL cholesterol = 63
Triglycerides = 103

Doing a quick Google search, I found the following chart on the recommended levels for cholesterol:

Total cholesterol
Below 200 mg/dL =  Desirable
200-239 mg/dL  =  Borderline high
240 mg/dL and above =  High

LDL cholesterol
Below 70 mg/dL  =  Ideal for people at very high risk of heart disease
Below 100 mg/dL  = Ideal for people at risk of heart disease
100-129 mg/dL  =  Near ideal
130-159 mg/dL  =  Borderline high
160-189 mg/dL  =  High
190 mg/dL and above  =  Very high

HDL cholesterol
Below 40 mg/dL (men)  =  Poor
Below 50 mg/dL (women)  =  Poor
50-59 mg/dL  = Better
60 mg/dL and above  =  Best

Below 150 mg/dL  =  Desirable
150-199 mg/dL  =  Borderline high
200-499 mg/dL  =  High
500 mg/dL and above  =  Very high

Thursday, October 06, 2011


Things are happening around here lately – I’m a happy girl.

My Craft Room: for all intents & purposes, it’s finished! Rob installed the window shades and fixed the chairs for me the other night. The few things that are left to do can be done at anytime over this coming winter, and do not impede my using the room. I am still planning on refinishing the table as it is old and has been well used. I also think the closet doors need to be painted so will most likely use up what’s left of the dark green paint on them. I have two more craft cubbies to put together and then install them in the middle of the line-up (of course, it would be the middle… it couldn’t be the ends, now could it?). Last but not least, I need to get something hung up on the walls, and am keeping a lookout for any cool photos I might take in the near future to print out and frame.

My Trip to Peru: I’m right on schedule with the plans, but as time gets “shorter” more and more things have to be done. Just today I had a meeting with my doctor so she could sign off on the paperwork, which then got faxed to Earthwatch’s main office. I still have to get the inoculations taken care of, but am fairly certain that I only need the anti-malaria pills. I have a travel agent working on my tickets, so will hopefully have that taken care of soon. I ran in to a slight glitch in that particular plan, however: when I called her today to check on her progress I found that she had completely forgotten about me and had not worked on my flights at all. My next call today was to Earthwatch to get a final number on what I owe on the expedition, so will be able to pay that off on time. My Expedition Fund was a whopping success, gathering over $2,000.00 in donations (THANK YOU SO MUCH TO ALL WHO DONATED!). And last but not least again, my Spanish lessons are progressing. I can’t honestly say that I am progressing, but the lessons are at least. Honestly, I suck at second languages. I can read it, and can somewhat get the gist of what people are saying, but I simply can’t seem to actually speak it. I just keep telling myself that I don’t have to be fluent… I just want to have a better understanding of the culture and its people.