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Of Grandmas and Poodles

In just a few short weeks, my grandmother will be turning 88!!!

Now, let me fill you in on birthdays and my grandmother. She is notoriously unhelpful when it comes to celebrating/recognizing/planning them. Year after year, our birthday conversations go something like this:

Me: What do you want for your birthday present?
Grandma: Nothing. I don’t want you to buy me a thing.

Me: What kind of cake do you want?
Grandma: I don’t want a cake. I’m on a diet.

Me: Where do you want to go out to eat for your birthday?

Grandma: No where. Let it be just another day.

There is, of course, a lot more back and forth that I am failing to include, but you get the gist.

Now, before you say that not everyone wants to celebrate their birthday, and she is obviously one of those people (she’s not, trust me), I will let you in on a little secret. . . The couple of times that I’ve done exactly as she asked (no special present, no cake, and no special meal), she was madder with me than a wet hen. And they get really mad. I was on her out list, basically. Needless to say, I’ve learned my lesson. 

So, this year – just to change it up a little – I’m not asking any of the above questions. At all. Instead, I came up with the perfect way to recognize her birthday. But to explain it a little better, I’m going to illustrate another conversation that we routinely have (Not anymore, though).

Grandma: I don’t guess I’ll ever get to see where my little brother is buried.

Me or Sometimes My Mother: Why not?

Grandma: No one will take me.

Guilt trip, much? 

So, this week, we gave her an early birthday present, and it was exactly what she wanted. Not my usual fare of a pretty new blouse or purse, but something I think she enjoyed even more because it was completely unexpected.

A trip all the way to Louisiana to visit Great Uncle Bobby’s grave. . .

Uncle Bobby Grave

And an overnight stay in nearby New Orleans. 

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Little Alfred (who isn’t so little anymore – 57 lbs at his last weigh-in) got to tag along with us. Luckily, we stayed at the Downtown LaQuinta Inn and they were very dog friendly. I mean, very dog friendly. I counted at least three other four-legged guests just on our trips out to potty. Btw, this is not a sponsored post. . . . I (and Alfred, of course) was just very impressed with the welcome we received and they deserve a shout out. 

Alfred felt like he’d landed in a plush doggy heaven. From his walks in nearby Lafayette Square (yep, named after that Lafayette – America’s favorite fighting Frenchman. . . . two points if you know what current hit musical that line is from!!) to lounging in the bed and catching some Zzzz’s with Grandma (he slept with her all night, kid you not) and then waiting on the valet (seriously, there was practically no free parking in downtown NOLA and every single hotel I looked at had valet service), Alfie really enjoyed his trip.Alfred NOLA  Of course, after riding in the car most of the morning, he and Grandma were ready for a nap. So, we left them to it and set off to do a little exploring. And ghost hunting.

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If you’ve never gone on a ghost/history tour, what are you waiting for?!? Do it! I love a good tour because they’re a great way to learn a bit of interesting, sometimes obscure history about a city that you might not otherwise hear. Ever heard of the Axeman of New Orleans? I sure hadn’t. On a side note, I kind of wish it had stayed that way – yikes! But I digress. The tour we took was entertaining as all get out! Horror stories. Ghost stories. Stories about celebrities. History. Architecture. And a rainy afternoon spent meandering through a beautiful city. What could be better? 

But enough about that! After the ghost/history tour we stopped off for a to-go order of beignets from Café du Monde, which we promptly took back to the hotel just in time for Grandma and Alfred to wake up from their afternoon naps.  And Grandma fell in love (no pictures of that moment because, well, my hands were covered in powdered sugar), so much so, that she wouldn’t leave New Orleans without another helping of those sugary, fried treats. 

The next morning, we went for a little ride on one of the many streetcars down Canal Street and all the way to City Park before packing up and heading home. 

 

So, the big question. . . Did my grandmother enjoy her early birthday present? You bet! She loved it! In fact, she loved it so much that she has told everyone from the receptionist at her retina specialist (macular degeneration, you know), the nurse, the actual doctor, other patients, and every one she could all about it. 

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National Cancer Prevention Month

February is National Cancer Prevention Month, which strikes a strong chord in my heart.

Cancer is, sadly, very common in my family. . . . it’s the genetic curse that just keeps showing up uninvited. Ruining health. Bringing sadness and grief. And stealing loved ones away. 

From skin to liver to prostate to breast cancer, it seems like almost everyone in my family develops at least one form of cancer.  Just in my immediate family: My mother has had oral and cervical cancers and melanoma. My grandmother has had multiple melanomas removed in the last few years. My grandfather did, as well.

Then, about a year before he died, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. His health had deteriorated too much, by then, and there was nothing that could be done. Time went by, his condition worsened even further, until he was confined to a wheelchair and couldn’t walk. A few weeks before he died, his doctor started mentioning the possibility of mesothelioma as being the cause of his health issues, but we never found out if he actually had it.

Grandad

My grandparents’ oldest child, my Uncle Jerry, died in his early twenties from stomach cancer. . . . Uncle Jerry and GrandadI know that I’m already at a very increased risk for developing cancer just based on genetics alone and believe me, I’ve tried to limit exposure to anything cancer causing. I’ve never smoked. I’ve traded tanning beds for the lovely and pale look – and an occasional spray tan. I’ve cut back on bacon, sausage, and red meat consumption. I’m scheduled to have a suspicious mole checked. And I’ve seriously considered genetic testing, although that bullet hasn’t been bitten, yet. But for now, I’m more than willing to do everything else I can to try to keep the disease at bay, and the more knowledge that we share about the evil “C Word” and the small steps that we can take to prevent it, always helps a little. Hopefully, one day soon, there will be a cure.

The Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center shared a few tips for preventing cancer during all times of the year, which I am to elaborate on. They aim to raise awareness of the rare but preventable cancer mesothelioma, which is caused by asbestos exposure, a toxic material that many do not know is still legal and widely used.

Cancer Prevention Month Checklist

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Our London and Edinburgh Trip.

I’m baack.

Actually, I’ve been back for about two weeks now. But I’m finally back, rested up from the trip, and completely finished filling all of the wholesale orders that I had received before the trip. 

Which means, it’s the perfect time to share a few photos/videos from the ultimate bucket list trip. Here goes. . . .

My travel companion.

20151005_162104 My poor mother, who I drug on more planes, trains, and automobiles, than either of us had ever even seen.

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And even bicycles. In Hyde Park.

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We saw London.

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And Edinburgh.

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We ate and ate and ate. From Burgers. . . .

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To haggis (which was delicious). . . . 

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To Irn Bru. Which, to me, tasted like a mix of bubblegum and orange soda. . . . I think I’m obsessed with it (by the way, Publix sells Irn Bru!).

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Now, let me tell you something shocking.

If you’ve read this blog long, then you know that London was my favorite place in the world and always at the top of my Must-See Dream Trip List. And seeing it was fantastically amazing and better than I ever could have imagined, but. . . . Yes, there’s a but here. Edinburgh is at the top of that list now.

It was so awe-inspiring. The narrow, winding streets.

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And closes and wynds.

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The castle watching over the city.

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The vaults and ghost tours.

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And since most of the sights to see are concentrated in one main area, The Royal Mile. . . .

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There was always something interesting around every corner. Edinburgh is such a wonderfully old, historical city that felt more like a small town (even though it’s population is just shy of 500,000). It felt like a waking dream to this history geek.

Actually, the whole trip did.

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My mom enjoyed the trip, too. Which was totally surprising to her. Before we left, she made sure to tell everyone, “It’s her dream trip. I’m just along for the ride.” Shocker of shockers. . . As we were waiting for the plane to leave London and take us back to the US, she said, “Start saving because we’re coming back here.” 

Look for a post about the tips I learned on our trip and of course, a couple of London/Edinburgh inspired recipes coming up. . . . Scottish tablet candy, anyone? It’s delicious!