Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Roof of Africa - Getting There

The flight is long coming from Italy, yet only about half as long as trips from the US. We got in around 9pm, strong winds pummelled us as we walked from the plane to the terminal. Once inside you join the flood of people headed through the immigration check. You stand in line for window 1 to pay for a visa. They direct you to window 2 where you stand in line to get a visa. Then it’s on to window 3, where you stand in line to get your visa stamped. A mix of all kinds of people, all ages, all nationalities, all tired, all just wanting to get through to the luggage wait. Of course there are a lot of people who already have visas, who only have to wait in the last line.

J had collected our luggage by the time I got through all the lines. We headed outside and found Bob waiting for us. Yes, Bob. He was our driver. Frank was also there, and we would get to know Frank much better over the next week. Frank was chief guide on our trip and would lead us up the mountain. It’s about an hour drive from the airport to Arusha, where we were staying, so Frank talked to us about the next week. He asked about our gear, making sure we had everything we needed (the company offers some rental gear). We found out there would be 5 other people joining us on our trek.

As we drove into town, we headed past the hotel J often stays in for work before turning off on a dirt road. Bob warned us the road would be bumpy. He told us he calls it the African Massage. It wasn’t any bumpier than some of the “roads” my dad used to drive us on. Just have to take it slow. The lodge greeted us, gave us a room key, and helped us drag all the luggage to our hut. Yes, hut. The room was half of a little hut with a thatched roof and mosquito netting around the beds. We somewhat settled our stuff in and headed to bed.

Our first full day in Arusha started nice and slow. We headed to the breakfast at the lodge, upstairs in the main building. They had fresh fruits – papaya, mango, watermelon, pineapple, and (J’s favorite) little bananas, Along with sliced cheese, breads, butter and jams. They did eggs and meat on request, and sometimes would put out a few hard-boiled eggs. Coffee and tea were set up with a separate carafe for hot milk.

Every breakfast I had at the lodge included a slice of bread with butter and papaya-ginger jam. This is my new favorite jam, even beating out strawberry. I must find some of this stuff, or learn now to make it.

The front desk called a driver for us, to take us to the supermarket and coffee shop. They have a driver that works for them specifically.

Side note time: Tanzania is very British, including driving on the left side of the road and having the driver’s side opposite of what we are used to. Even with that against me, I would never drive in Tanzania. The motorbikes take more risks than Italians, and the bus drivers just seem to push their way in wherever they want. I was perfectly happy to let someone else drive.

So, we went to a local supermarket that was kinda like a tiny walmart. They had a little of everything. We exchanged some US dollars for Tanzanian shillings and started shopping. First stop? Bottled water.

You DO NOT drink the tap water in Tanzania. Not if you don’t live there, and even then it would be better if you didn’t. The water has all kinds of nasties living it that will make you miserable. So you drink bottled water, you check to make sure the seal is secure (waiters should not open the bottle before showing it to you), and you generally avoid fresh fruits and veggies that get washed in water. Fruits with a peel, like those they were serving at our breakfast, are OK because they are protected by the peel or rind. Things like lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, are generally avoided unless they have been cooked, either sautéed or boiled.

We grabbed a couple other small items and headed over to the nearby coffee shop. J has been raving about this coffee shop since his first time there. The coffee beans are all grown and roasted in Tanzania. They have a couple different roasts. I ordered a cappuccino so I would have something to compare it to. I drink a lot of cappuccinos in Italy.

J was not exaggerating. That was an amazing cappuccino. Seriously, It was superb. Sylvester, the driver, showed up right on time and we headed back to the lodge to rest up. We spent a lot of time by the pool at the lodge. That’s where you get the best wifi signal, and the weather was gorgeous. It was warm and humid, but not oppressively humid. The lodge has large, rustic tables and benches around the pool. During the day there’s a snack bar and waiters that serve you poolside.

Dinner was at the lodge, up in the dining room we’d had breakfast in. The dinner menu is limited; a soup, two or three options for dinner, and a dessert. The pork rib was a little tough, but beet and pumpkin soup was divine.

We went to bed a little early, trying to get plenty of sleep before the next, big morning.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Getting Old (Or, Just Like Dad)

I've noticed a few things this past year or so. I'm getting old.

So, I've had unofficial (i.e. undiagnosed) arthritis in my ribs since I was a teenager. In Junior High, I was having pain in my chest and it hurt to breathe. Mom and I wondered if I had asthma. She ran into my by-then-retired paediatrician and listed the symptoms for him. He suggested it could be tietze syndrome. I don't know if I have that, (you can google it to learn more) but I have noticed that my pain is linked to humid/rainy weather.

I didn't have much trouble when we lived in the dry climate of El Paso, but now that we're back in humidity, it's started again. My ribs, on one or both sides, get very tender. I sometimes can even notice them sticking out more. Swollen maybe? It's not as painful as it used to be, but it's still bothersome. It makes wearing a bra very uncomfortable, even if I have one of my wire-free ones one.

So I've dealt with that before, and I can deal with it in the future.

And now there are new pains.

(I'm not even talking about migraines.)

Lately, like in the last few months (i.e. winter), my left knee is getting, well, tight. My left leg is usually has tighter muscles after a good run, but now I can't keep it bent for too long. I'm notorious for curling up in a ball or sitting with legs all twisted. It used to lead my dad to say "ouch" when looking at me just sitting there.

Now, if I sit, for example, with my left ankle placed on my right thigh, I can't sit like that for too long. When I straighten my leg, I have to actually support it with my hands and the knee is very tight. And I remember all the times I've had to help my dad straighten his leg after sitting too long (like more than 10 minutes) with it bent.

I don't even know if this is arthritis. It doesn't hurt regularly, just gets tight and sore when I have to straighten it after having it bent for too long. It makes me feel old.

I have mentioned the essential oils I've been getting into and the muscle blend I love. My favourite oils, the muscle blend and frankincense, have been helping when those parts are sore.

Heck, just now I had to stretch out and pop my left ankle. It got stiff.

So, in a few weeks, I'm headed to Africa to climb a mountain. Yes, my HUGE news? I'm climbing Kilimanjaro!! It's not a technical climb, but takes a good week to do properly. Some parts are pretty steep. We've been training, of course, hiking as much as we can and trying to get as high (vertical) as we can. My knees and left ankle are usually sore after, but some deep blue and frankincense make me feel much better. The left achilles gets rather tight and makes ankle movement difficult.


I'm old.

At least I have some ways to help myself at home, and a great massage therapist to help me twice a month. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Stuff! And More Stuff!

I haven't posted in forever. I have not been writing. I haven't even been reading. What have I been doing?


And working some more.

Winter is the busy season at Outdoor Rec. We rent ski and snowboard equipment, as well as leading ski/snowboard trips every weekend. So it's "all hands on deck" some days of the week.

Three of my coworkers took vacation time over the holidays. At one point, that left 2 of us to work the front, 1 trip leader/maintenance guy/viking, and the managers. We had the boss's boss coming in to help out a few times.

My point in all this, is that this period just ended. The vacation period, anyway. Everyone is back to work, and after working 8 days in a row (some half days, but still), I finally got some time off. I've been having migraines, but I'm starting to think they are associated with work and the stress of this season. And the fluorescent lights. When I get a couple days off, I feel so much better.

What did I do with 2 days off in the middle of the week? Well, I had some important shopping to do, I vacuumed most of the house, did some mending, and some general cleaning up. Some time was spent relaxing and zoning out on Facebook. Lots of time was spent drinking hot beverages.

So in the time since I last posted...which I don't even remember...we celebrated our 1 year anniversary of living in Italy by working. Both of us that day.

We didn't go anywhere for Christmas or New Year's. We stayed home like old fuddy-duddies. But we didn't need to go anywhere over the holidays. We have a big vacation coming up.

Like, HUGE.

Like, 19,341 feet huge. Or 5,895 meters, however you want to look at it.

To prepare for this huge adventure, there is gear to be purchased, and trails to be trod. There is training to be done, and many other little things, including working on my health.

I mentioned migraines, which I think are associated with stress right now. Zomig is working most days, and fioricet helps when zomig doesn't, but the old head is still fighting me. I've been seeing a pretty good doc here that I will keep up with.

J and I get to the gym for strength training at least once a week, but usually 2. I can actually see a difference in my upper arms, and definitely in my legs.

For both the body and the mind, I've been getting regular massages. My friend here is a licensed massage therapist, who does massages from her home to keep in practice, and just because she loves what she does. She is working with me to reduce the amount of knots I have. And I have plenty.

Katie, my masseuse, uses essential oils. She uses coconut oil while massaging, which is one of the preferred oils for diluting essential oils. It works perfectly together. She has this vision of people who use natural methods of stress reduction and health boosting in between sessions to improve their own lives. I volunteered to be one of her guinea pigs. I buy and use essential oils, and she gives me regular massages.

I had started getting into essential oils a few years ago. I make my own spray for bug bites. I made a spray to clean my yoga mat. I like the whole idea, so it wasn't too hard to sell me on it.

I'm not going to even tell you what brand of oils I'm buying, because I'm not trying to sell anything to you. I'm trying to keep a journal of what I'm doing and see if I can track improvement, or at least keep note of what works and what doesn't.

So far, there are some good oil blends for tension headaches, which helps me somewhat, and sore muscles. Oh, I love the muscle rub. I have it already mixed in a lotion. I keep it in my gym bag and rub some on my sore spots after a workout. I also found that frankincense oil works well if I have tight muscles. I still have other oils to try for other things. I need more time to read up on them all!

Of course, being who I am, I have already done research on essential oils, and how NOT to use them. I'm careful with my usage, so no one worry. However, if you know of a useful oil concoction, please share it with me!

So far, with the oils and massage, the tension I have ALWAYS carried in my neck and shoulders is easing. The shoulders don't have as many knots, and the neck doesn't always make Katie comment about whiplash (which I've never had). My legs have been pretty tight lately, which tells me I need to stretch more often. And now my forearms have been getting all knotted up. No idea on that one.

I'll keep up with it and see if we can note some more improvement.

I swear, some day, I will have an actual theme for this blog and not just my inane ramblings. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Stitch Fix - The Fifth (Falling For Red)

I needed autumn clothes. Sweaters, pants, long sleeves. I even subtly asked for a scarf. I blatantly asked for a henley I saw in another Stitch Fix.

I am once again, very much, not disappointed.

Sorry for the crappy pics.

Infinity scarf, black sweater, print pants. Scarf is heaven. Sweater is heaven. Pants are meh. The scarf is all acrylic, sweater is a cotton acrylic blend. Both awesome. Pants are printed, and while I like the print, the fit was off. Felt a little big, but not big enough to size down. And short. See how short they are? doesn't work with any of my shoes. The pants will go back. 

to see the sweater neckline

Same pants, red henley, cardigan. The stylist actually went to my fashion board on pinterest (which I started specifically for Stitch Fix), saw a few grey print cardigans, and sent me this one. It is so comfy. The red henley is soft and long, lower neck without showing any cleavage. It's not the same one I asked for, which she couldn't find, but it's similar. I love it. 

looks better with jeans

detail close-up
This box was awesome. Great pieces for winter and fall. And they go with the red sweater and burgundy and grey pants I bought on my own recently. OMG! I'm building a wardrobe! I can pretty much wear all of this at work, as well. 

Next time, I will wait for J to have time to take fashion shots for y'all. 

Side note!! We tried to find something similar for J. There are a few companies that do men's clothing, but they do not ship to APO addresses. BOO! But women who are interested can click my referral link:

fashion selfie - new red sweater, new scarf. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Stitch Fix The Fourth - (Or, Independence Edition)

While I have other blog posts to write for you, this one is easy –

Stich Fix the 4th!

Just in time for the 4th of July! How about that?

This is my first Fix since moving to Italy. I am working (all the times) and haven’t had time to spend the money I’m making, so I ordered a Stitch Fix. I need new, nice summer clothes.

It took a little longer to get to me, being shipped overseas and all, but they ship to APO and FPO addresses, so I thought it was worth it. (I was right!) I have a few more summer pieces to add to the wardrobe, which I needed.

Like last time, the stylist got my style down to a T. Seriously; I love everything she sent me. I want the whole box. The only reason I’m not keeping the whole box is that a couple items didn’t quite fit right.

(Please excuse my crazy hair, the hubs didn’t warn me that parts were sticking out and I am late on a haircut)

First - The pants.

So versatile!

Olive green, a color I’ve been fond of off and on over the years. These pants are just what I need for the summer and work. They are Kut From Kloth brand (I have a pair of their jeans from a past Fix). A size 10 seems to fit everywhere but the waist. There’s just a little too much room. I went through my usual through process: Will they shrink in the wash? Can I take in the waist?

I’ve reached a point where I’m telling myself that we have enough money, and I’m old enough, that I don’t need to spend money on clothes that don’t quite fit. I may as well try to make them at that point. I love these crops, seriously, but they are too big in the waist, and I see that as a good thing! I’ve been working out and trying to watch my portions, and this, to me, is proof that it’s working.

But they are awesome pants.

Second – The gray tank

It subtly shows off my tats!

Oh. Em. Gee. Gray tank with black lace? Hello! Where have you been my whole life?

Seriously, I’m in love. It’s comfortable, it fits, it’s gray! This shirt screams my name. For reals, yo.

Third – Striped Top

How awesome is this?

I’d asked for tops with sleeves that I can wear to work in the summer. The V neck is low enough for date night, but I have a couple under-layers that would work perfect with this. Enough to cover the cleavage and still look nice. The cap sleeves feel almost like no sleeve at all. The mitering is perfect (I sew, I notice these things).  It did funny things to the camera when we took the pictures. This top is awesome.

Fourth – Black Lace

From far away it looks fine...
...but up close you can see the strain

Even in the back, you can see the tight band where it is straining over my chest

I want this shirt. I want it so much it hurts. BUT – a big but – it doesn’t quite fit. It’s a little too tight across the bust, as evidenced by the extra fabric at the bottom of the lace.  It strains a little too much, and I told myself I wouldn’t settle for things that don’t fit, so back it goes. But dear mother of goats, I wanted this shirt to fit.

Fifth and Final – The Maxi

A maxi dress!! We all know Charla loves a maxi dress. I was wearing a maxi dress before trying these on. This dress is the shiz. So comfy, no cleavage worries, not show-through at all, my colors (navy blue!), and did I mention maxi dress? How could you go wrong? It’s awesome and I just might be wearing it tomorrow. Unless I wear the gray tank.

Want to try a Stitch Fix? Let me leave this handy referral link for you, right here:

And a few pics just for fun:

Because sometimes I'm still a little girl in a dress
Rem wanted in on this

He told me to give him attitude

*Photo credit to the great hubs. You can read his blog over at Pensive Perspiration

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Nose To The Grindstone (Or, Thoughts While Drinking A Beer)

I am working so much right now. Pretty much every day. My one day I have guaranteed off is spent catching up on errands and cleaning house. I see my friends off doing adventures and exploring and I feel jealous. 

But then I think of how guilty I often feel when I do those adventures, knowing that it’s not my own money I’m spending. 

Example - I need new summer clothes. Not only do I not have time and energy to go clothes shopping right now, but I feel bad spending our main income on clothes. But my money from my job is easier to spend on that stuff. So I ordered myself a Stitch Fix, and if I like the whole box, and it all fits, I can keep the whole box. No worries. 

I also need some new workout shoes. Although that does require time and energy to go find some shoes, or at least find shoes online that I know will fit, I feel better getting them when I know it’s my own money, from my job, that I’m spending on them. 

Am I a penny pincher? Yeah, probably. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I grew up with two working parents. I remember a time when the Union went on strike, so dad wasn’t working. He took some part time work to keep some money coming in, and things were tight for a while.  We all did without frivolous things. Eventually the strike ended and he went back to work. It wasn’t super long and drawn out or anything.

And I like my job. Which is interesting. It’s a very extroverted job for such an introverted person. But the people I work with are fun, and it involves outdoor sports and activities, which I love. It’s all about getting people to get out and learn about the area around them. I think that’s why I like it. It’s all about doing something I love to do – Explore.

The main part of my job is pretty customer service basic. I sign people up for trips and rent out equipment. I answer what questions I can about the area. But I also get to work in the background with building our catalog, organization, and some planning and ideas. Our Director values our input, and if he didn’t, I don’t think I would have taken the job. Or at least, I wouldn’t have lasted long at it.  Sure, there are some processes and areas that need work, but that goes for any job I’ve ever seen. I’ll do what I can to help improve those areas.

And in doing so, I’ll earn a paycheck. Maybe even go back to get a Master’s degree. Library Science? I’m thinking about it.  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Chicken Tikka Masala (Or, OMFG I’m Gonna Eat It All)

J recently bought a cookbook that focuses more on fuelling athletic performance. The authors cook for professional cycling teams, so they know about cooking on the fly, cooking for hungry guys, and cooking for maintaining athletic performance. The recipes in the book are some they have used on the road. They hope to give athletes the means to eat healthy on their own.

I actually sat down and read through the introduction and explanation sections before delving into the recipes. The book? The Feed Zone Cookbook, by Biju Thomas and Allen Lim.

J had found one recipe online to try, a simple chicken fried rice. We modified it a bit (something they encourage) by using brown rice instead of white, and adding carrots to the mixed veggies, instead of just corn and peas. It’s delicious. I love it.

This week, J is gone for work and I have cleaned up the leftovers from the fridge. With meals running low, I flipped through the cookbook and found one of my favorite Indian dishes, Tikka Masala. It’s very basic, so you can modify it as you want from there.

The recipe calls for:

2 pounds of chicken
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 cup sliced onion
1 teaspoon salt

For starters, we had some frozen chicken tenderloins, so I thawed them out, not a full 2 pounds. I rounded that out with a green bell pepper cut in strips and a small zucchini cut into half circles.

I used a can of tomato sauce and greek yogurt, since that’s what I keep around. Also used up all my curry powder. Guess I’ll be buying more of that!

After chopping everything, I just mixed together the tomato sauce, yogurt, and curry.

I poured that over the chicken and veggies.

Then I put it in the fridge to marinate. I was a little slow getting the oven preheated, so it sat for about an hour and a half in the fridge, then I just popped my glass dish in the oven and set a timer for an hour.

I started some brown rice to serve with it and sat down to start writing this. Wait, what? Never you mind.

So, here’s a lesson for you. Read your recipe. Then read it again. And again, as you do it. And again, and again.

I forgot to cover the dish with foil.

Alas! All is not lost! Although it was not as soupy as it should have been, it was still very delicious. The sauce cooked down to a thick tomato paste and I enjoyed every bite.

I will make this again and remember the foil. Or you can cook it on the stove, just simmer for 30 minutes. You can also add some fresh ginger or chiles, which I hope to try next time as well.