Snow in the subtropics!

My street

I was just about to take some photographs of our late autumn foliage when this happened.  The last time we had snow was in 2009 so it is a big event.  Everyone gets a bit silly when we get snow and the mechanics at the auto shop had been throwing snowballs.  My next door neighbor’s daughter, who has grown up with us, is now very tall and at university.  She created this miniature snowman.

Snowman!

Last week I told my girlfriends that it was going to snow this week.  I doubt they believed me.  My sixth sense has been hyper recently and I had a premonition of my death.  Nothing awful – just that it would be my lungs.  I had the last rites when I was a baby (lungs full of fluid), so I am good to go! 😇  Yesterday I drove downtown in the most awful weather, icy rain, crazy drivers and a warning light on my car.  I was working outside and remarked to my colleague that snow was coming.  He didn’t believe me either.  As I drove back home in the same conditions, I noticed that odd look that the sky has when snow is in the clouds.  Just a faint hint of pink with a heaviness to the clouds.  All those years living in the north of Scotland has honed my Farmer’s Almanac skills.

My Japanese Yew and Mountain Laurel

Some of my plants are suited for a wide range of weather including these two buddies but some tropical plants look overwhelmed.  Katniss blames me for all weather events and has been hissing at me this week.   Just call me Freya…  Today, at her first sight of snow, she had no words but later wailed at me for the cold.  There is a lovely deck to shelter under and she has a thick, glossy coat.

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Old Town, San Diego

Colorado House

Stable Museum

Close to the Immaculate Conception Church is a Pioneer Park with original and replica buildings from the origins of San Diego. As I wandered through the park, I wondered about my ancestors. Was I walking in their footsteps?
This is a quote from Old Town San Diego guide

“Old Town San Diego is considered the “birthplace” of California. San Diego is the site of the first permanent Spanish settlement in California. It was here in 1769, that Father Junipero Serra came to establish the very first mission in a chain of 21 missions that were to be the cornerstone of California’s colonization. Father Serra’s mission and Presidio were built on a hillside overlooking what is currently known as Old Town San Diego”.

I bet it really was cosmopolitan back in the day!

Spice shop

I was fascinated by the huge scale. It made me think of bushels and pecks – such descriptive measurements. When we moved back to the States, I was delighted to find imperial measurements instead of Metric weights. Sometimes you are just to old to adapt to kilos… Then I discovered that American imperial measurements are different to the old British ones. The gallons are different – WTH???

Senora de los Meurtos

I visited just before Halloween and Dia de los Meurtos and loved the vivid color in these displays in the restaurant district. You can tell that it is autumn in San Diego with that fantastic clear light. It was about 80 degrees with NO humidity – yay! I fearlessly ate lunch outside without misting systems and didn’t get bitten by mosquitoes. When you live in a sub tropical swamp, those weather conditions are heaven. As I write this, it is heavenly weather in Houston but there is always some bloody mosquitoes…

Ah, it was a perfect day visiting ancestor’s graves at an appropriate time to honor them and then being able to imagine how they lived.

Anything but books tag

Sweet Potato and Bison casserole with brown rice

Thank you to Lisa from Life of an El Paso Woman  for nominating me for this blog challenge.  Lisa’s blog is a fun mix of music, romance and topical subjects.  I have a soft spot for Lisa because she is the only blogger friend I have met so far.  I have been struggling to write anything so this challenge is a good distraction

Q1 What is your favorite cartoon

Minions and/or Despicable Me!  What’s not to love?  Phrases that I incorporate into regular life such as “It’s so fluffy I could die!”  Everything about the film appeals to me from the forgotten orphans with retro names to their loving Despicable (but not really) Dad and their new mom.  I particularly liked the bad Minions, “Bah,” and the evil Spanish chicken, ‘el pollo diablo’

As for old ‘toons’, my favorite was always Roadrunner and Wiley Coyote.  Why do you think I live in Texas?  When I see a roadrunner, I always look up for a giant anvil falling out of the sky.

Q2 What is your favorite song right now

Camila Cabello – Havana ft. Young Thug.  I love the slow sexy Cuban vibe and her beautiful voice.  Just imagine moving your hips to this slow salsa beat on the hot sands of somewhere, anywhere, in Latin America.

Q3 What could you do for hours that isn’t reading

Binge watching some new cable series that everyone has been raving about.  There is a new British series called Liar that I sat and watched for 6 hours straight – hooked!  Then I had nightmares all night.

Q4 What is something you love to do that your followers would be surprised about

I make handmade soaps with unusual shapes and scents.  One of my favorites is vanilla cupcake in a cupcake mold.  Many years ago I started a business but after making endless soapy party favors for two baby showers, my sinuses and allergies waved a white flag of surrender.  I am still allergic to the very expensive perfume oils but now just make them for grateful friends.

Q5 What is your favorite thing to learn about

Languages and real news.  I am NOT a Trump supporter but I would like to hear more balanced news stories about global events and not just bloody politics.  Working at an airport, I collect small phrases in different languages – for example, “Eet smakelijk” which means enjoy your meal in Dutch.  My bad Spanish comes in very handy at times, especially with a Scottish accent.🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

Q6 What is something unusual that you know how to do

Impersonations.  One of my favorites is Donald Duck.  Teddy says that the words are incomprehensible (my Donald Duck is a slow learner) but most others laugh.  In a toy shop in Grand Junction, Colorado, I had a Donald Duck competition with a Dad.  The poor child looked frightened…LOL!  The next impersonation is R rated and certainly not politically correct.  Sometimes, when I want to get Teddy in the mood, I impersonate a South East Asian sex worker. “Come on Big Boy.  You pay money, I do trick! Maybe ping pong ball?”  Occasionally it actually works but mostly it makes him laugh.  Let’s just say I am fun in bed…

Q7 Name something you have made in the last year

Soaps!  I also made a bison and sweet potato casserole, photographed above, in an attempt to get Teddy to eat well.  My cooking skills are good but my desire is lacking.

Q8 What is your most recent personal project

Does the intro page of my memoir count?  I keep starting stuff but can barely even manage to write on my blog which I love.  Anxiety and boredom, a strange combination, has been my bug-a-boo this year.

Q9 Tell us something that’s your favorite (food?), that is oddly specific

I assumed from Lisa’s blog that this question referred to food.  I like a sandwich of Dave’s Killer Organic Bread, buttered with salted chips or crisps inside it.  Other favorites are a bowl of cooked peas with butter.  My food choices reflect my Irish heritage – anything with butter on it.

And now I tag

Lana at Travelling Vegan Christian

Mohamad at Mohamad El Karbi

Evil at Evil Squirrel’s Nest

Lyn at Lynz Real Cooking

Please feel free to ignore this tag challenge 😁

Are your DNA results correct?

Before beginning a series of posts about San Diego, I wanted to share a recent revelation about my original DNA test results from Ancestry.  Many of us are surprised at how diverse our ancestors were but I already knew, from census records, how varied my ethnicity was.  My results just didn’t make sense although I am aware the DNA is still a mystery with varying estimates even from siblings.

These are my original results which I featured in a previous post Our Ancestors.

A shameless excuse to show off my new winter boots courtesy of DSW and my torn jeans…

Africa (north) 2%
Middle East 2%
Europe east 1%
Europe west 3%
British Isles 19%
Iberian Peninsula 5%
Italy/Greece 2%
Asia east 1%
Native American 4%
Ireland 60%
Scandinavian 1%

Since then, I have excitedly tried to find out more about my ancestors but could never understand why I had so little Spanish given my maiden name was de Ortega and I can trace my ancestors from California via Mexico back to Spain.  They were conquistadors.  Spaniards rarely have 100 % Iberian DNA which includes Portugal.  So many invaders and immigrants from Italy, Greece and North Africa left their mark.

My British cousins have created family trees on a European website, MyHeritage  and I read that I could download my original DNA results from Ancestry and upload them to MyHeritage.  There is no cost but you do have to subscribe to MyHeritage.  A few days later, I had yet another exciting reveal and the results are below –

Irish/Scottish/Welsh 53.9 %
Scandinavian 9.1%
Iberian 26.8 %
Greek 1.2%
Italian 0.9%
Balkan 1.1 %
Baltic 1 %
Central American 4.4%
North American 0.8 %
Chinese/Vietnamese 0.8%

Now we are talking – 25 % Iberian – yay! Even more exciting, they can now differentiate between North and Central Native American. I am mostly Mestizo native described below courtesy of MyHeritage. The largest population of Central America, spanning from Mexico to Colombia and Venezuela, is of Mestizo descent – a mixture of Spanish, Native American, and African ancestry. Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, interestingly, have a greater Caucasian population, representing European migration. In contrast, indigenous Central Americans are Mayans, the descendants of the advanced Mayan civilization of pre-Colombian times. Ancient Central American civilizations produced many important innovations, including pyramid construction, complex mathematical and astronomical observations, early forms of medical surgery, accurate calendar systems, and complex agricultural methods. In contemporary society, many people with Central American ethnicity have settled among the nations in South America, reaching as far south as Uruguay and Argentina.

This now makes more sense because although I can trace my North American native ancestor, Mourning Dawn, it is many generations back. When I was tracing back my family in Mexico, I found an ancestor with the name of Xoptoval Ortega born in 1626 in Celaya, Mexico – a Maya name I suspect? Mestizo is sometimes used as an insult in Latino Spanish, meaning mongrel, but I could not be more proud of my 57 varieties. Now I know I am genuinely of Mexican descent. On a funny side-note I recently got a call from one of my first cousins on my father’s side. We have only spoken once but he fascinates me because he looks most like my Dad and even sounds like him. As we were chatting, he mentioned that he had asked one of our great aunts from the Ortega side if we were Mexican. She had a fit and insisted we were 100% Spanish… I mentioned my recent DNA results to my cousin and he hung up on me!!! He really did and I doubt he will ever speak to me again. Mexicans are feisty…

So what other mysteries were revealed.  I am Viking!  Teddy would love me to look exactly like Lagertha in the Vikings series.  Sadly for him, I just look like the Viking Irish – fair, blue eyes and a distinctive short nose.  Did you know that Scandinavians still call outlanders, “long noses”?  Much of Ireland was invaded by Vikings who settled for generations, trading Irish slaves to the Scandinavian countries.  Yeah, there were plenty of nasty human traffickers before America.  I have only inherited Celtic DNA (Irish/Scottish/Wales) but I know I have English ancestors.  God is good –  I am just kidding, English friends! The little bit of Baltic makes sense being so close to Scandinavia but the Balkan DNA is curious – the Balkans stretch from Turkey to Greece incorporating the former Yugoslavia.

My vintage Calvin Klein coat is back in fashion but no matter what I do, I still look as Irish as a potato!

 

So, why are my DNA results so different?  Time has passed and DNA analysis has evolved with more information on the databases.  I believe that my previous Western European DNA should really have been Iberian and that some of my Irish DNA should have been Scandinavian because my family came from a Viking area in Ireland.  That said, I might be wrong and who knows which results are correct?  The only way to test it would be to use a third company to take a DNA test and I might yet do that.  If you are curious it is very easy to do what I did.  Just subscribe to Ancestry and MyHeritage, download your raw DNA from settings onto your computer and then upload it to whichever company is the opposite.  You might get a nice surprise like me.  Maya maiden, Celtic warrior, Conquistadora and Viking – Kerry is kicking ass!

PS In case you wonder about the location, my hairdresser took the photos this morning.

A.W.O.L.

Random photo of Teddy standing dressed as Ace Halloween 2009

Another random photo of me dressed as a naughty school girl. It backfired because everyone thought I was someone’s daughter!

The strange thing about blogging is that you feel a responsibility to followers and friends.  I have been absent without leave for a few weeks and can’t help but feel guilty about it.  Like most of us, life has intervened into my usual routine and I have been a little frazzled.  Lots of new contract work has kept me busy but my mind has been blank despite all the opportunities for people watching.  I wondered if my health was deteriorating but my psychiatrist seems happy with me – I had some wonky blood results (that’s a clinical term…) which raised anxiety levels.  My cholesterol levels shot up but my inflammatory markers that indicate plaque, risk of stroke or heart attack were good.  My extended Irish family has a huge file on our family risk of heart problems in the main hospital in Dublin, so I have always been proactive about eating well and exercising.  But I can’t think of anything nicer than a baked potato smothered in butter…

Then I had a skin biopsy.  My dermatologist just went straight to the point – “I am taking a biopsy to check for basal skin cancer”.  Yes, it also appears in the Irish family – dang those genetics.  Why couldn’t they just leave me money in their will??  I didn’t truly enjoy my short vacation in San Diego which is why I haven’t blogged, although looking back there were some lovely moments including finding ancestors graves.  The news has just been so awful that I have started watching Fixer Upper instead of CNN.  We finally got around to ordering a new door after Hurricane Harvey only to have the wrong one delivered…  Teddy wondered if I made a fuss but there was no point; many of our residents have lost everything.

One of my friends housed their neighbors whose house was flooded.  The children just moved back last week and my friend was sad – what a beautiful person she is.  All of my contract work dried up immediately after the hurricane because no-one was able to or wanted to hold conferences in Houston.  One of my employees had a wee party for their staff in the garden of the office.  It was so much fun and I won the raffle for 4 tickets to Kemah which is our equivalent of Coney Island.  Well, I have no kids and don’t know anyone who has apart from my angel friend.  Apparently her neighbor was overwhelmed that a complete stranger would give them a gift.  No one could have felt happier than me, paying it forward feels good.

Two of the events that I have worked for recently have incorporated the conference contributing or volunteering to the Houston Food Bank.  Thank you!  One day when I was working at the airport, I helped a volunteer by translating for a passenger who only spoke Spanish (then three more turned up).  After that, I was still standing there when two men came up and said very loudly and incomprehensibly, “Haw Missus, how do ye get out of this airport?”  The volunteer looked perplexed.  Was it Serbo-Croat or Icelandic?  I recognized the accent from Glasgow in Scotland where I grew up.  Laughingly, I said, “Come over here boys!” Their faces lit up when they heard my (much posher, think Maggie Smith) Glasgow accent.  One of them had his arms wide open and said, “Gie us a cuddle” which I did and the other one hugged from the other side, kissing my ear.  I sent them on their way and laughed at the look of horror on the elegant volunteer’s face.  They were either oilmen or mariners who had travelled from some far flung place, Kazakhstan perhaps?  A few refreshments had been imbibed but there was nothing sexual about the cuddle.  It was one of kinship and comfort in a strange place.  Gosh, I felt homesick for the first time in years that day.  Despite all the turmoil recently, Texas mostly feels like home.

Get ready for some fun blogs and sorry for my absence.

 

Where’s Kerry?

On the water somewhere?

Can you guess? Apologies for my absence from writing and reading blogs. My life has been a little hectic recently and I took advantage of a short hiatus in my schedule to fly to San Diego. What a photogenic city! I chose this destination because some of my American ancestors were early settlers in San Diego…and it had a great weather forecast. I am so shallow.

Over the next few weeks I will share my travels but for a change, I had very little funny human encounters. I think I was disadvantaged by staying the Gaslamp area which was full of convention visitors and tourists. The Uber drivers were eagerly engaging but other people didn’t seem to want to talk to me. 😢 I’m Chatty Kerry, for goodness sakes! Nobody was unfriendly but just focused on themselves. When I walk around the trails near my house most people wave or say hello whether I know them or not.

The Gaslamp is an interesting part of downtown San Diego which is on the way up but some parts are still a little run down. My hotel had a guide for safety at night and there was a safe in my crappy room. Istanbul seemed safer… I dutifully took sensible precautions and went to dinner at Happy Hour, taking advantage of sunset and safer streets. When I walked into the lobby of the Hotel Andaz, I thought I had interrupted a photo shoot for a glamorous magazine. There were a plethora of handsome young men in snappy suits. When they ascended to the rooftop bar, I asked why they were being photographed. It was a groomsman party from England would you believe? They must have had megabucks to party across the pond! More lovely shots of them in blogs to come.

Groomsmen PARTY!

I love rooftop bars because of the photo opportunities and this one was lovely but full of lonely people sitting by themselves (and me…) It crossed my mind that this would have been a good Bunny and Teddy destination but we are travelling alone until our last cat makes it to the rainbow bridge. On the the second night I ventured further afield and for the the first time ever, rejected a meal at a swanky bar. It was terrible so I found yet another rooftop bar (not the hip Hotel Andaz in the shots) which was much better but the food was still meh…

Kerry with the San Diego skyscrapers at sunset in the delightful Hotel Andaz

The barmaid in the second unnamed rooftop hotel, however, was wearing an outfit that shocked even me. She was an attractive slim blonde who was wearing a non supportive bralette with see- through linen pants that revealed that she had forgotten to put on her underwear that day. Perhaps it was a way to increase her tips? Ladies at bars were wearing very revealing costumes so maybe it is a really fun city after dark. Guys were giving me lascivious looks or none at all and I was wearing very supportive underwear. I don’t mind a nice compliment or admiring eye but I felt uncomfortable on my own.  Many beautiful shots to come and some funny stories.

Teddy is not a skunk whisperer…

Nine banded Armadillo

There were so many lovely comments about my last post, The Owl and the Pussycat… that I hunted on Youtube for videos of skunk sounds.  Then I was perplexed – it didn’t sound like our noisy night visitors.  Did our skunks speak in Spanish or had we developed a special language?  Eventually I started researching all the other critters that live with us.  Possums can hiss but don’t say very much.  Skunks in the wild rarely talk at all.  Raccoons have a very distinctive chatter – most of it is swear words.  One of my neighbors is scared of raccoons, they are pretty feisty.  I came to the rescue and chased the raccoon up a tree where he sat swearing at me (I think Puta was in there…)

What on earth was it?  Light bulb moment!  It is our little armed ones – Armadillos!  What a wonderful surprise.  Here is a link to a short video of their distinctive chirrup.

Can you imagine that little noise, all night long, from our extended Latin American immigrants?  They wake up about 7 pm and start chirruping, ‘Bee Bee?”  Teddy responds, “Beeee Beep?” and on it goes.  Then I started reading about them.  They like to dig burrows and they are all still under the deck including a new one.  Curiously, they are happy to share their tunnels with skunks, possums and whoever else is there.  Happy hippy commune, man!  They aren’t predated by the Great Horned Owl but presumably they were all cuddled under the deck with skunks.  Maybe their chirping was meant to be reassuring?  They have very few predators and can live from 9 to 23 years.  That probably means that we have lived with the same extended family for the last 13 years.  Mami, Papi, Abuelita, Mijos – no wonder they talk with us.  We are THEIR people; not the other way around!

Even better, they are insectivores and LOVE fire ants.  Now I love my little armed ones with a passion…  For some reason fire ants love to bite me.  You are innocently gardening when one and then one hundred fire ants run up your leg, biting as they go.  Your only recourse is to run to the outside faucet and rinse them all off.  Then you get some lidocaine because it bloody hurts!  Armadillos are funny looking little creatures but harmless unless you eat them undercooked (yes, people are hungry in Central America).  Then you can contract leprosy from them – how weird is that?  We would start naming them but Teddy counted about 50 one night, all communicating with each other.   Imagine a busy barrio in Mexico.

Some years ago, Teddy got this wonderful little video of some baby armadillos snuffling about in the undergrowth looking for insects.  They were silent and when I have seen them in our garden they went straight under the deck – they didn’t seem scared though and now I know why.  It was their female person.