Sunday, August 28, 2011

Guatemalan Food

I am seriously missing Guatemalan street food... Even though the doctors will tell ya, DON'T EAT FROM THE STREET VENDORS before you go abroad AND then proceed to give you more shots and medicine that you ever thought you needed-once you get there, you WILL want to eat. Especially if everyone else around you is chowing down on something that looks and smells delicious and it happens to be lunch time and your tummy is rumbling loud enough to rival a summer thunderstorm.

I went to the market, and lo and behold there are tons of people selling everything under the sun. Including food. And drink. It couldn't get any better than that, people. But although I do love street food (similar to our own Fair food lol...)I DO have some standards.

I saw some wonderful smelling dobladas at the market, but on closer inspection noticed that they were cooking in a frypan, in their own grease, and while they may have smelled (and probably tasted) wonderful-I had no desire for a full-blown gallbladder attack later that evening. So if you can look for items cooked on a BBQ type grill where the grease drips down that is helpful. My mother in law told me that the reason those particular dobladas were so darn greasy was because the meat they were using was the cheap, greasy type-lucky for me we found a vendor close by that sold them every other day, going house to house selling them with a cart-that were great tasting and not greasy at all.

Also high on the standards list-look around to see if the vendor cart or cooking area, utensils, condiments, etc... appear to be clean. If you are looking at a grill or cooking surface that hasn't been cleaned in awhile, or condiments containers with baked on, caked on ketchup, mayo etc... then you are asking for trouble later on. I don't add mayo to anything myself, hubby does though on his mixtas (hotdogs with a bunch of condiments rolled in tortillas) but sometimes a dish you order MAY include mayo and you don't know it. Make sure the mayo is fresh and refrigerated! One thing I noticed there is that they have margarine that is made from veggie oil, which does NOT need to be refrigerated. I was a little shocked to see margarine sticks in my mother in laws house lying on the table etc... but after reading the label I was less alarmed. All in all, it was a bit of a different taste from the "dairy" type of margarine sticks here (which they do sell there as well) but I really couldn't tell much of a difference when it was on my buttered corn on the cob or used to cook with.

Another thing to remember-flies. If the vendor covers up their items with saran wrap or aluminum foil, kudos to them. But if flies are buzzing around and landing on the food, it totally grosses me out. That being said, I know I did eat several times from vendors that had flies buzzing around their stands. Even at relatives houses, flies were a normal way of life in the kitchen as they do not have screened windows or doors. I made a mental note to buy those yellow fly strips on my next visit to keep in a corner of the kitchen to hopefully cut down on the fly population. In the meantime, I just grinned and ate After all, I eat out here in the US a lot, and we don't really know what happens in those restaurant kitchens now, do we?

Salt. It is totally different down there. Yes, they have the kind of salt we use here in the US. But over there, all of the vendors I saw and relatives we visited kept a baggie of salt next to their ovens and also on the table. People just reached in and grabbed a pinch or two with their fingers and sprinkled it on their foods. But the salt there tended to stick together, and it was clumped together more and felt different. Almost like it was humid or slightly wet. I was concerned that it was spoiled, but that wasn't the case. When sprinkled over the food, it tended to be clumped together, and at times I wished for the salt we had back home that spread out more over the food. I don't think this type of salt could be used in a traditional shaker as well, since it would tend to clump up at the top and not come through the holes. Other than the different texture and clumping issues, it tasted the same.

I am one of these people who is a finicky eater. I do not like to try lots of new things. Hubby has a way of getting me to try new things without knowing it-like the time he told me our Brazilian friend Joao was serving a nice roast beef-and only after I had eaten it up and said it was delicious did he confess to me I had eaten deer meat. Oh the horror of eating Bambi! I could have KILLED him! Same in Guatemala, I will try something if it appeals to me visually but I prefer NOT to know what I am eating...or at least what animal/part of the animal I am eating. I tried a lot of great tasting things down there, and hubby was pretty darn good about keeping a secret too ;) (or at least keeping his mouth shut!)

As I wrap up this post, I will leave you with a pic of hubby eating from a traditional street vendor. (note the firewood they use to cook their food over) We all ate from this particular vendor, and what she was selling was chicharrones and cheese inside of thick handmade corn tortillas. They were delicious, not greasy at all, and CHEAP!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Surgery for mom tomorrow! And a shot for me...ugh

Tomorrow my mom has total knee replacement surgery and I have to have a shot (or shots!) in the evening clinic for 2 ganglion cysts on my left wrist. I am NOT thrilled, life has been very difficult these past few weeks, MONTHS-actually.

But enough whining! Once I get things back to normal, and am sure my mom is ok then I will post my $20 GC giveaway. No one posted as to what gift card they would like, so I guess I am going to surprise you all! I promise to make it simple and easy-and hope to try out rafflecopter in the process too since that seems like the way most blogs are heading when conducting giveaways.

Hope to be posting by Wednesday if all goes well!

(hubby has been busy putting a cement barrier around the house to keep the water from pooling and leaking in to the basement-dehumidifier is still going strong and more work needs to be done-but it is a start!)

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Quick Update...

Well folks, a quick update on my mold issue... we got a dehumidifier and that baby is sucking out the water pretty darn good. It does need to be emptied every 8 hours, and it's the 45 pint dehumidifier, so that probably gives you an idea of what kind of moisture we are lookin' at.

My house smells better when you walk in, thank goodness, and although the moldy smell still is in the basement area, it is not as bad either. I really hope we can fix things, because our mortgage is cheap and definitely affordable. Hoping to have some professionals come and take a peek and tell me what we are looking at repair wise in a few days-I've also been cleaning like a crazy woman trying to throw out what isn't needed any more.

It is amazing how quickly stuff accumulates :) and at the risk of saying my house resembles something out of the Hoarders series right now, I have to say it's true. But that's because I am busy moving things from room to room, and the living room happens to be the place I am doing my sorting at, and anything that smells the least bit moldy goes in the trash bag. Lucky for me, my daughter isn't here, because she would be whining over her stuffed animal collection. At least the Build A Bear Workshop animals passed the sniff test and were saved from a trip to the dumpster.

Next Monday my mother has total knee replacement surgery, and I will have my ganglion cyst (of which I now have TWO!) injected and probably won't be online much either... I will see about putting up a giveaway before I leave you all hanging though, since gift cards seem to be the fun thing maybe I will get one for a local store... Bath & Body Works? Does that sound good? Maybe CVS? Any ideas? We don't have tons of big stores in our area, just Kmart, Walmart, CVS, Rite Aid, Bath & Body Works, JC Penney. What would be YOUR choice to win? Post below from the list I just gave you and I will give away a $20 GC to one of them. I will check back in the middle or end of the week and whatever store has the most votes I will get the gift card from! (and post the giveaway over the weekend)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Time To Walk Away?

Sorry for the lack of postings-between work and being sick, I just don't have the time to dedicate to blogging like I should.

I've been so tired, and just not able to get into much lately. I have entered some giveaways on blogs of course, but really haven't felt much like posting myself. I attributed the excessive fatigue I have to adjusting to a new schedule, but this year it seems so much harder than it has been in the past to get myself out of this fog.

My eyes are red, itchy and blurred vision has become a daily occurrence. Allergies? Perhaps, I just don't know. The constant pain in my chest, burning, hurting and feeling like a heart attack...stress? Maybe.

My blood pressure was perfect when I came back from my trip and I saw the doctor a few days later, 110 over 65. No need for blood pressure meds. 2 days ago I am in the ER where they are sitting me in a wheelchair and rushing me to a room due to chest pain and a blood pressure reading of 176 over 107. In May, it was the same thing-high blood pressure, heart attack like pain, with the result that my potassium was a little low, heart was fine, and I had non-specific chest pain.

After working Thursday, towards the end of the day I started in with the chest pain again. I'd called the doctor the day before and she'd prescribed me some Zantac pills (not the OTC stuff) thinking it might be some sort of gastric issue. No such luck. The next day, I went back to the ER for a workup, determined to find out more about my condition. (my doctor had instructed me to head to the ER if I wasn't feeling any better, as I absolutely HATE going there!)

My EKG was fine, and the heart monitor was not showing anything to be alarmed about. My diagnosis was an inflammation of the chest wall tissues-wearing a bra has become a very painful part of daily life while I try to heal this with Ibuprofen 800 mg and the occasional pain pill when it gets really bad.

Upon taking a chest X-ray, the doctor told me that there was a spot (I thought on my heart) and that they wanted to do a CT scan. After a painful IV (they have to use a honkin' needle on this since it has to be able to withstand the high pressure the contrast dye has when it goes in) and some waiting around after the procedure he came in again and told me I had 5 granulomas in my lungs. (these are supposed to be non-cancerous type things which I certainly hope they are!) There were 2 on one side, 3 on the other. Since my dad died of lung cancer, I was and am still pretty alarmed over it all. (and I don't smoke if you were wondering)

He said I was going to be fine, and to follow up with my doctor (I have a ganglion cyst on my wrist that needs removing ugh...) when I see her the 22nd. When I got home, I began doing some research on these things in my lungs. I found out they can be caused by a bad infection, and there could be a fungal connection as well. (think scar tissue due to fungal infection) Back in May, they'd noticed the spot but didn't follow through on it. This doctor did, and I am glad for that.

Every year I get bad, and I mean BAD sinus infections. This year was no exception. A week or two before I had the chest pains, I had finally gotten to the doctor for a double Z Pack after waiting more than 2 months. And that was after going to another doctor because I was so sick. (the office staff was not giving messages to the triage nurse, thus my calls were not being returned at all-a quick visit to the office manager took care of that!) So, it was possible that the prior May X-ray was considered no big deal as I was just getting over a very bad sinus infection.

As I began to read a bit more about my symptoms (and those of my hubby who couldn't breathe well and ended up in the ER himself and on one of those asthma treatments for a couple times as well as a breathing treatment in the ER back in April) I began thinking what if it was mold?

The evidence was overwhelming-as was the fact that when we were in Guatemala for a month out of the environment of our home it was bad the first week, but afterward no chest pain, eye problems, or high blood pressure for me and hubby felt just fine too.

When we purchased our house, we had a home inspection done. But NOT the mold test. If you are buying a house, spend the extra for the mold test-I wish I had done that now, but $900 for a current test with a specialist is NOT an option. Our agent did state that there was a small foundation leak that could be repaired which we set about doing with some sort of a sealant. When my hot water boiler burst the next year, I immediately called the company and got a new one installed the same day-and used huge dryers to dry the cement floor.

As time went on, our house began to smell musty. Having forced hot air heat made the Winter season terrible allergy-wise for me, as I am sensitive to regular house dust and cat dander. Every year brought one or two sinus infections, and itchy, dry eyes.

I began to notice that the smell was nasty-the minute you walked in the door you could smell a wet, humid, musty odor. We kept the windows open upstairs (no ventilated basement windows) and the cellar door wide open, to get air in. I also got big buckets of Damp Rid and laid them out in the basement-doing what I could to stave off that horrible odor.

It's funny, because a couple of days ago it was like a light bulb went off in my head-telling me that my sickness and that of my husband (and even my daughter's winter coughing fits maybe) could be because of this musty, nasty smell.

It got even better when hubby went to investigate in the basement. Everything was wet and slimy-boxes, the walls, the floor, you name it. Heavy cardboard boxes we had down there had just fallen apart and he said he noticed some mold down there.

Bingo! The light bulb went off again. After speaking with some co-workers and deciding whether to pay the mortgage (I have paid faithfully for 6 yrs, never a late payment, but living check to check like most other Americans these days I had to make a few quick decisions) we went to Home Depot and got a 45 pint dehumidifier. And it filled up completely... within a few hours. The same applies today, the bucket was full and hubby was shocked.

Coming in to the house now, I don't get that moldy, musty odor so much. But yes, it exists in the basement still-and my living room carpet has some sort of blackish stain as does the bathroom sheet rock wall. Next week, I am hoping that I have someone come out to tell me what is going on. And how bad it is. If it can be repaired for minimal cost, I will do what I can to save my home. If not, I will walk away. Sure, my credit may be ruined-which I hate doing. But risking my health, and possibly my life and the health of my family and pets is just not worth it to me by remaining in a house with mold just so my credit rating remains intact. I mean, who will care if I have a 750 FICO score if I'm dead, right?

I will update when I can-I have over 2000 emails to clean out and might enter a few giveaways here and there. I'm on 4 different prescription meds right now and pretty tired, so I will do things as I have the time. Thanks for understanding :)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Back to Work!

After a few months off, I am back to work for awhile. It's been a great few months off, but I am left with the feeling I didn't accomplish anything. My house is still messy, my paperwork still needs to get taken care of, and my vacation felt way too short!

It already promises to be a busy season, and I hope it goes smoothly with very few bumps in the road. Summer in Maine is way too short, and I am going to miss the sunshine and warm temperatures that will be leaving us soon enough.

This year my daughter will start 4th grade, meaning a new middle school and new teachers. She's nervous, but excited. Me? I am just plain nervous because she's growing up way too quickly! Just yesterday it seems I was holding her in my arms for the first time, and now she's an independent tween who is asking me to buy her a cell phone.

I've still got to download the pics from our month long vacation in Guatemala and post a few for my readers. I love Guatemala, but am glad to be home too. It makes me realize just how fortunate we are here, even though some of us don't realize it. To hear people complaining, I have to smile. Some people I know in Guatemala have dirt floors, live in houses made of cast off products (wood & tin we'd throw away here) and a bathroom with a flushing toilet is considered a luxury. Yet, they are happy.

It's late and I got up to go to the bathroom, thought I'd get online for a bit-and ended up doing a brief post. Enjoy your day tomorrow folks, it's hard to believe it's August already!