Oct 25, 2015

9 months of silence... and so much to tell!

Has it really been 9 months since I shared the wonderful news of my "sister's" kidney? How on earth has that happened? Where did the time go? And why didn't I write about it??? 

9 months... I could have had a baby and not said a word (although I promise if that happens I will definitely NOT be quiet about it! :p ).

The only thing I can say is work, work, WORK! :o(

When I started this blog I was only semi-employed, and self-employed at that (teaching private lessons, some periods with more hours a week, others with less), so of course I had plenty of time and energy to write! But then I started doing an MBA while increasing my teaching hours by working part time for a language academy (all the while keeping my own students) and although there was still some time to write, the energy started draining. And then it morphed into a full-time job in a clinic, keeping up with the always-running-behind-with-the-work MBA and still teaching my own students. So it was "little time, little energy". And then I switched to my current job, almost 18 months ago and now I'm like "Time? what's that? Energy? Where can I get a refill please???"

Jan 31, 2015

Moments that reinforce your faith in humanity

First a bit of personal context.

Once upon a time there were three crazy sisters who lived in a big old house in Mexico D.F. with a spotted dog whose tail could leave whip marks on your calves, and of course their parents. Life on weekdays was "same'old, same'old" (wake up to dog kisses, breakfast, school, homework, dinner, bed), but life on weekends was FUN! Because on weekends instead of three sisters there were four! Actually for a few years there were five, but one of them left the country with her bio-mom.

But back to the four "sisters". There were two crazy redheads, one wild curly haired sister, and then the littlest one who was crazy enough to allow one of the redheads to cut her hair one summer (to a disastrous result). For many, many years, sister number four would appear on a Friday night (or sometimes Saturday) and remain until Sunday night. So wild was that curly hair that her bio-mom would have to come by in the mornings on her way to work to tame it because her non-bio mom had no experience with crazy hair! Those weekends meant hours playing games (like hide and go seek in the dark, cops and robbers, Legos, ponies, playing dress-up even when it wasn't Halloween, bathing the dog and pups, board games... you name it!), watching scary movies (someone was a huuuuge fan of Freddy Krueger! *shudder* and someone else would insist we always watch a Disney movie after and frequently all sleep in the same room) or listening to music (someone was a huge fan of NKOTB, yes the same someone, no not me). Weekends frequently involved big lunches/dinners with lots of extra people, which meant KP duty for the four girls. Big kitchen with plenty of space? No problemo! One washed, one rinsed, one dried and one put away. Usually while reciting scenes from Mafalda or a movie or a song. Only time KP was ever considered fun. (And if you don't know Mafalda go learn Spanish and start reading asap! Only one of the best comic strips EVER!)

Result of digging through the "costume chest" a lifetime ago...

But all good things must come to an end. Notably parents' jobs in certain countries... and the three crazy sisters had to leave, while the wild curly haired sister stayed behind. There were visits, letters, calls, e-mails etc. But not quite the same is it with borders in between? But sisters will be sisters. No matter the time or distance.

For many, many, many years now this fourth "sister" of mine (you knew I was one of the redheads right?) has been living a new life near 'Frisco, getting to know her family there whom she barely knew before (that's what used to happen to families when geography got in the way, in  the pre-internet era), ever so patiently waiting for a life-saving kidney. None of her very large family was a match, and she was never ever placed at the top of the transplant list. She's spent years with regular visits to her friendly dialysis machine, having medical tests done on a regular basis, getting congratulated when she gained weight, chastised when she lost it. And unable to leave town and her dear dialysis machine behind.

Then shortly before Christmas a miracle happened! A friend of hers got tested, and was a match! And that friend said: "my kidney is your kidney". Woohoo!!! 

Kidney "sisters"

And yesterday my little "hermanita" - after having said farewell to her "dear" friend the dialysis machine - got her new kidney. She is now laying back in a hospital bed enjoying the effects of a shiny new (slightly used) kidney. And we're all over the moon for joy. And oh so thankful that someone selflessly said "Test me. Take mine. Have a new life!". 

And here it is:
Yes. This is a healthy kidney. About to be transplanted.
New life.

If you ever need something to reinforce your faith in humanity think of this story.

Now we just need our "sister" to get on a plane to Spain and get the four sisters back together, pronto! ;o) (of course that also involves bringing one in from the US and another from the UK... but the "parents" are in Alicante so Spain wins!)

Jan 17, 2015

Reading Resolutions

True to my New Year's Blogging Resolution, I'm back! :o) Ok, so it's been 2 weeks, but that's better than 2 months, right?

Just wanted to jot down somewhere another of my 2015 resolutions, this one involving reading.

Last year I signed up for the Reading Challenge on Goodreads, more as a motivation to keep track of the titles I read during the year that the actual challenge in itself. I signed myself up for 50 books, figuring I could handle 1 book / week with a couple of weeks extra just in case. I almost made it too! 47/50 books, not bad! (some of them were longer than expected...) But as I was reviewing the list of books, I realized I needed to switch up my reading a bit! In 2014 I read mainly 2 authors (Bernard Cornwell and Diana Gabaldon) because I got absorbed by two fabulous yet looong series: The Saxon Chronicles and the Outlander novels. Then I also read two old series that have been favorites of mine since childhood and adolescence: the Anne of Green Gables stories (Lucy Maud Montgomery) and the Wolfwalker series (Tara K. Harper - who seems to have disappeared after publishing the first book in a new wolf walker trilogy years ago and has me desperate to read what comes next! *sob*). Another thing I noticed was that I only read 1 book in French and 1 in Spanish. Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!

So this year I'm setting myself a double challenge: read the 50 books as planned (signed up again on Goodreads), but this time more DIVERSITY in the reading! So less Historical Fiction (my favorite genre), no never-ending series, and a significant increase in books in French and Spanish!

Jan 5, 2015


I'm a little bit late to the party... but Christmas in Spain doesn't end until Epiphany tomorrow so I can still say:

Nov 16, 2014

Missing (in Action): a crazy redheaded blogger!

Action is definitely the operative word! I've been M.I.A. precisely because of that A! Very busy, with little or no time left to write! Well, I do have the evenings at home, but I get in so late and so tired that all I want to do is grab a quick bite for dinner, veg out for an hour in front of the boob tube, and go to bed!

So far in 2014 I've managed to publish every month (even if it was just once, pathetic!) up until August. Then silence through September and October. I actually have several drafts started, things I was excited about when they happened and wanted to share, but then couldn't find the time to finish writing them! :(

Aug 23, 2014

Yay for regular maintenance!

It's a good thing mandated regular maintenance exists... Or the surprise I got this week when the hot water heater guy came by could have been MUCH worse later down the line... I mentioned that it didn't seem to be working well, not heating as much, trouble starting sometimes cutting off (in the middle of a shower!)... Not fun! So he started knocking on the chimney, and then asked me if I'd seen birds coming in and out... 

Check out what happened when he took it apart:

Nesting material, including a couple of tiny unhatched eggs.

The nesting material went waaay down the vertical pipe too!

Damn swallows! Now I'm going to have go find some kind of mesh thingy to put around this before the birds come back and start all over again...

So this dipping my toes back into the blogging world seems to be progressing by millimeters! Lots of extra work to wrap up before I stopped for vacation, visitors during the holiday so not much time there... and LOTS of time spent with wedding organization! My sister's getting married here in Alicante in 2 weeks, and as she lives in the US, well that means lots of help on the family's part! So still not much time for the next 2 weeks... But I do plan on finding some time to work on the photos I took today while diving over a 2000 year-old Roman wreck! ;o)

Jul 28, 2014

Pond scum as a guide to evolution?

Guess what folks?! I'm slooowly (but surely!) dipping my toes back into the blogging world! There's this thing called "free time" that has suddenly reappeared on my schedule, albeit admittedly in small doses. Still, it's better than nothing, right?

Today's return is to point you to a very interesting article published in the "Santa Fe New Mexican" (local newspaper I'm guessing). Some weird guy (who I have absolutely no connection to, nope, never heard of him, just some random dude... well, he might be about to marry my sister in 5 1/2 weeks...), as I was saying this crazy guy (must be crazy to marry into this family!) has spent approximately the past decade microbial organisms (single-celled algae etc.) and thus obviously knows quite a bit on the topic!

I'm rambling... must be all that time without blogging. Dunno how to write anymore! :p

Anyhow, VERY interesting and quirky article:

Science in a Complex World: Pond scum offers clues to life’s puzzles

See you around! ;o)

Jun 8, 2014

Dive 100 at Benidorm Island


I wish I could have gone "all out" for World Oceans Day this year, written several posts and launched the 6th Oceanic Blog-A-Thon... but sometimes life just gets in the way of blogging. In this case an interesting but intense new job, final English classes before my students' finals, and the beginning of the end of an MBA. Busy doesn't begin to cover my life at the moment! But I did manage to squeeze in a bit of time to put this together...

For World Oceans Day this year I'm going to share my 100th dive with I did about 6 weeks ago on the north face of Benidorm Island (one of my frequent dive spots). I've seen the seabeds around this island (and around other parts of the coast) change in the past 15 years since I've been diving, and not always for the better. The impact of human activities can be seen almost everywhere, resulting sometimes in a change of dominant species in an ecosystem. 

Jun 6, 2014

Ghostly whale for World Oceans Day

Have you ever seen any of the Kiwi (New Zealand) videos on YouTube about the beached whale? They're quite funny! Here's the first (enjoy the accents):

Well apparently the creators have gone and killed their whale for World Oceans Day!!! Poor guy ate too much plastic... I can't seem to embed it, so go see it here.

Well, let's see if this works (embedding):
<iframe frameborder="0" width="100%" height="100%" src="http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid2321945773001/?bctid=3608261666001" ></iframe>

Sunday June 8th is World Oceans Day!!! And sadly this year I don't think I'll have time to do anything... After 5 straight years of Oceanic Blog-A-Thon... *sob* I'll see if I can find time to put something up.

Remember to "Wear Blue and Tell Two"! ;o)

May 31, 2014

300+ years of Plantagenet England with Sharon Kay Penman

The Plantagenets were the longest reigning dynasty in English history, beginning with Henry II in 1154 and ending with Richard III in 1485. Just about anyone who has a passing familiarity with English history and culture is familiar with several of their names i.e. Richard the Lionheart, King John (although most people are more familiar with him as "Evil Prince John"), Edward I "Longshanks" (thank you Braveheart), and the often maligned "Crookback Dick" a.k.a. Richard III (a victim of Tudor propaganda, 'cause history is written by the victors, right?). And oh so many more in between.

Ok, so they weren't all called Plantagenets by their contemporaries... the first three Plantagenet kings were called the Angevins (as in from the house of Anjou -they were the Dukes of Anjou, Normandy and Aquitaine in France, and they were really more French than English), and towards the end it was a dispute (the "War of the Roses" or "Cousins' War") between the rival Plantagenet houses of Lancaster (red rose) and York (white rose), but they were all (Henri II, Richard I, John I, Henry III, Edward I, Edward II, Edward III, Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI, Edward IV, Edward V and Richard III) direct descendants of Geoffroi le Bel, Duc d'Anjou, who -according to legend- used to wear a broom flower on his hat thus earning the soubriquet Plantagenet (from the Latin Planta genista). Oh, and according to legend his family was either descended from Lucifer or from a river goddess Mélusine (or both!), which was supposed to explain their nasty explosive tempers... :p

Sharon Kay Penman first delved into the lives of this epically dysfunctional family with the last of its kings, Richard III, in her first novel The Sunne in Splendour way back in 1982 (yes I'm just discovering her now, well last summer technically, better late than never!). As the story goes, the only copy of her original manuscript was stolen from her car and she had to start all over again! 

May 18, 2014

Happy Birthday Nutella!!!

Apparently the fabulously delicious chocolate-hazelnut spread turns 50 today(?)! Although, as a result of all those years spent in Belgium, my current favourite spreadable guilty pleasure is Côte d'Or's Noir de Noir chocolate (dark chocolate! yummy), for years it was most definitely the chocolate-hazelnut delight that is Nutella! :o)

There's an interesting article on the origins of Nutella on the BBC website. I remember that I had no idea it was made by the Ferrero company (that's what I get for not reading labels), and that my sister and I figured it out by doing a tasting test of our own to compare Nutella with the chocolate inside the Ferrero Rochers and deciding it was the same so the same company must have made them. Just one of the many wacky things we "experimented" with growing up. :p

Apr 22, 2014

A Happy Alicante makes me smile!

Ooh! This put a smile on my face this morning, watching these people dance around Alicante! :o)

Although to be fair I've been smiling for 4 days now, I've got friends visiting from Belgium and we're out and about in the sun all day! (must remember that sunscreen, whoops!)

I hope everyone had a Happy Easter!

Apr 8, 2014

A "poopy" reminder for World Oceans Day!

World Oceans Day is only 2 months away!!! :o)

As hectic as the past year has been (and as unsure as things are right now), I'm not 100% sure if I'll be able to do something to mark the occasion this year... although I sure as hell am going to try! So start thinking about the Oceanic Blog-A-Thon just in case. What do our Oceans do for you, and what can you do for our oceans?!

In the meantime, do go read this very interesting and funny story about the importance of whale poop in the Oceans! :D

from NPR

Apr 7, 2014

A Musical Smile from a Galaxy Far, Far, Away

One of my favourite restaurants in the neighbourhood (Ghetto Vecchio), has local bands come in to play a set the first Sunday of every month. This Sunday was a Swing and Jazz band called "Petit Comité" that had a good rythm, a singer with a great voice (albeit not so great accent when singing in English, but oh well, this is Spain!) and a fabulous clarinet. We really enjoyed their set, and that always puts me in a good mood, but what put a huge grin on my face was when they said they were going to take us on a little trip, to a cantina on some backwater planet with two suns in a galaxy far, far away... I couldn't stop myself from quickly pulling out my cellphone to make this video!

Want to see the actual smile? here:

Well, technically that's the smile from the very beginning of the set... since I'm usually the photographer there are no pictures of me during the set, I was too busy enjoying the music! :o)

Apr 5, 2014

Something to smile about :)

Like these "hospital" clowns (Payasospital, a group of "clowns" who go do acts in the childrens' wards in Alicante's hospitals) on stage during a benefit gala "Lola Busca Nueva Imagen" to raise funds for an association which helps children with cancer and their families.

The images don't really do them justice (you're missing all the sound effects done by the guy with the guitar, he's also got a tambourine taped to his belly!), but clown cowboys? Definitely goofy! The auditorium was roaring with laughter. Me included, and I'm not a fan of clowns! :p

The rest of the show was good too (several local rock bands, a couple of "modeling" shows by girls belonging to a couple of the Hogueras), and you could tell all the people who volunteered their time and effort for this benefit were having a blast. And that my friends is contagious! Made for a lovely Thursday evening, and helped out a good cause to boot! :o)