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 😁

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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.

 

The Owl and The Pussycat…

Well, it’s not really a pussycat but Pepe Le Pew  thought that he was a black and white cat.  So the correct title of this post is The Owl and the Skunks.  I don’t know how many of you have been lucky enough to see a Great Horned Owl but they are massive.  They stand as tall as a toddler and have a wingspan of up to 5 feet.

For months we have been hearing a very distinctive ‘Whoo Whoo’ and I was so excited when I realized it was a Great Horned Owl.  The sound is very deep and you can tell that the creature has large lungs.  I started researching this wonderful bird and discovered that one of his favorite snacks is SKUNKS!!!  He has really large eyes and ears but very little sense of smell.  I adore my little skunks that live in the reserve and play under my deck, so I was sad to find out that they had a predator that was immune to their scent.  Then I thought about baby Great Horned Owls – I guess it’s just the circle of life…sobbing.

On the plus side we have a brand new deck for skunks, armadillos, possums, raccoons, wood rats, snakes and feral cats to hide under.  One night Teddy and I went to bed, really early as always, only to sleep fitfully through a night of deafening WHOO WHOO!  Mr. Horned Eagle was sitting on our fence or the trees in the reserve which is just a few feet from the bedroom.  Underneath that noise was the frantic sound of little skunks chattering nervously underneath the deck.

Aren’t they adorable little twins??

It reminded me of the Pixar short movie about the toys, Tin Toy, that were all hiding under the bed, terrified of the giant baby.  If I hadn’t been so sleepy I would have gone out to tell him to keep the bloody noise down.  Well… this is a happy ever after story.   The skunks survived and the Great Horned Owl has decided to move on to a deck free habitat.  Teddy snapped a shot of one in Florida and couldn’t believe how big it was as it flew over him.  This is a link to the Great Horned Owl Wikipedia page.  One description of its call is “You still up, me too”.  This article noted that some people regarded it as solemn and terrifying.  Really?  It’s just a giant owl!

On a final note, only stupid people have skunks as pets, with their scent organ removed (the only exception would be a rescue).  Skunks belong in the wild where they are the gardener’s friend.  They busily till the soil while eating bugs and larvae.

 

Sext Fail

Fresh plums!


Here is the backstory – I like to eat snacks in bed. On this occasion I was enjoying a juicy plum. The next morning I got up and sleepily went for my bath. Like most of us, I concentrate on the potentially odorous body parts and give a cat’s lick to the rest. I glanced at myself in the mirror as I was drying myself with the bath towel only to notice I had a bar code for a plum on one of my plums!

Laughingly, I realized that I had bathed insufficiently much like Toffee, our elderly cat, who has a medieval annual bath… It was so funny that I thought I would share this with my husband. We married long before the internet was accessible to Plebeians and although we wrote long love letters that flew across the world, we missed out on the delights of sexting. Ah ha, the opportunity to sext had presented itself. Eventually Teddy noticed his text and responded ROTFLOL. Really? Surely those plums were worth a “can’t wait to get home, baby” or a photo of his body parts that don’t include a shingles rash. My first sext was a fail.😔

It struck me that I was so lucky to have been young and stupid BEFORE sexting selfies. Now I am just old and don’t care. I would have been sexting left and right, especially after a night of ‘refreshments’. Back in the day I had an amazing figure and was more than happy to show it off, especially bra-less.

When I first moved to our conservative part of Texas I was amazed that the letter page in our local paper was full of our neighbors’ outrage about a large Victoria’s Secret poster on our turn off the interstate. Wait for it…..she was wearing a BRA! According to the letter writers, this was a likely cause of accidents and moral degeneration. Then I discovered that nipples were vulgar and wondered where I had moved to. Amish country? Thirteen years have passed and now I flinch when I see a hint of nipple. We adapt to our surroundings. When we lived in Egypt decolletage caused both expats and locals to gasp in horror. Well now my reputation is completely ruined. Next stop, Sodom or Gomorrah.

Teddy’s ouch!

SHINGLES!!!!

During Hurricane Harvey, my husband, Teddy, was stuck in Utah because the flights were cancelled into Houston. We had talked the day before he was due to leave and he was running out of Gabapentin because like most of us, we only pack a couple of days extra medication. I suggested he call our health care provider and see if they could send a prescription because it is dangerous to not taper off this medication, which was prescribed for his migraines. Like everyone else, we had no idea that Harvey was going to be such a catastrophic weather event and initially I suggested he taper his drugs by one third.

Then he complained about a rash from bug-bites. Not so; it was undiagnosed shingles! He noticed it the day of the eclipse where he was outside in very hot temperatures taking photographs. Somewhat ironically, Gabapentin can be used to help with the nerve pain of shingles so he probably didn’t feel the nerve pain initially. After the hurricane hit, Teddy was still stuck in Utah. When he called me, I asked him if he could talk me through using the WII Fit which I haven’t used in years. Like most married couples, technical issues can create a divorce inducing argument. Teddy raised his voice at me (during a flipping hurricane!) and I immediately shouted back. It is his fault for provoking a Hispanic/Irish wife…

During our ‘conversation’, I realized that Teddy was very upset and I backed down, concerned for his health. Eventually he traveled from Utah to Denver to Austin and intended to drive home from there. The weather conditions were still too bad for him to reach our home with most roads blocked. By this time he had to go to Urgent Care for more blood pressure medication and then the rash. Curiously, the Medic diagnosed it as bug bites and prescribed an antibiotic cream.

Finally, he made it all the way home and suddenly his strange mood made sense. We were both a little tearful when he returned because no matter what I said, it was really scary not knowing what would happen next with the weather. When he showed me the rash I recognized it as shingles. Our own doctor prescribed anti-viral medication for him which helped reduce the spread of the rash which was also hurting at the front of his chest. Shingles is infectious and you can spread the chickenpox virus. I caught chickenpox when I was about 30 and I thought I was dying – it is much more serious in adults. He is now well on the road to recovery from this second bout of shingles and he will get the vaccine when he is better. (I have stopped quarantining him…and removed the red cross from the door).

On a much lighter note, we went to Nordstroms’ Rack a few weeks ago for Shrek size shoes for Teddy. He insisted on buying these Psycho Bunny boxers – what do you think he is trying to say to his Bunny??? They are extra cute, though.🐰

PSYCHO BUNNY PANTS

Welcome home, Teddy!

New flannel sheets!

My husband used to travel much more frequently than he does now but he recently went to Austin for a conference.  By happenstance, the new flannel sheets had arrived; they not only look lovely but feel amazing.  Why flannel sheets in the subtropics, you ask?  Teddy was a Princess Prince in another life and I discovered decades ago that he could really feel a pea under 20 mattresses.  The bed has to be soft and comfortable, yet perfectly made.  My mum knew how to look after him with perfectly ironed sheets and underwear…

SO FLUFFY I COULD DIE!!!

In the back of my disturbed head, I have a secret fear that he will leave home and live in a hotel if I don’t provide a clean, freshly made bed on his return.  Teddy hates hotels so the fear is not based on truth but more of my own distaste of returning to an imperfect bed after staying in hotels (which I love).

Wine and soap

On the dresser you can see a bottle of Pinot Noir and some handmade soap that were my gift for his birthday.  Shortly after I moved to the USA, I started a new anti-depressant that made me ‘high’ and I was finally able to make soaps (a long held desire).  I am so good at it that friends asked me to sell them.  There were a couple of orders for baby shower favors which made me gasp with horror.  Not only did they know the sex of the baby but they had chosen a name!  In the UK we only gave gifts after the birth just in case the baby did not survive.  How do you know if she is going to be Apple or Peaches or Trixiebelle until you see her adorable little face? Eventually I had to come off the euphoric medication and realized I am allergic to the soap fragrances (even the best quality).  Now I just make them on special occasions and never use them myself as I have a prescription Sulphur wash.

So what is the point of this blog?  I love my husband so I make him comfortable and that is one of the secrets to a long marriage.  I make him soaps even though I get a headache and I can’t drink red wine but buy him his favorite.  That said, Teddy is currently in the wilds of Utah, Idaho or Montana – I don’t monitor his movements.  When he comes back, he will have another fresh bed but he is going on a diet because his shirts are tight…  Guess who is going to eat all the meat and booze that he can in Brokeback country???