Wednesday, November 7, 2018

A New Trend in Medicine

Hubby and I have been actively working over the last few months to keep up on our health by making doctors appointments, conducting routine physicals and getting our blood work done. I was tremendously surprised the other day when I made an appointment with my general physician and was informed that in order to be seen I would need to put down a $150 deposit. Say what?

You see, I was told that since I have a high deductible plan, I am expected to pay $150 in advance before ever stepping foot in my doctor's office. I finally was able to make someone in the office see reason and allow me to attend my physical sans the deposit since the appointment would eventually be 100% covered by my insurance. I was chastised that they would "waive it this one time but next time you will have to pay." I had questions, lots of questions. No one could answer them, so I took it up the chain of command until I talked to someone at the business office.

Apparently, the Medical Group we are with was recently purchased by Praxis Medical Group and this policy was implemented by them when the merger/takeover took place in July of this year. The policy states that if you have ANY deductible that hasn't been met, whether that be $500 or $5000, you are expected to pay a deposit of $150 up front. If you are a poor person off the street with no insurance, you pay a deposit of $150 up front to be seen by a doctor. What are the chances of getting that deposit back, you might ask? Zero to none. Most doctors visits cost $145-$500.

I went around in circles for awhile with the kind lady on the phone as she tried to explain the deposit was because "my insurance won't cover it until my deductible was met" and me saying "yes, I know, I understand that. Why can't I see my doctor and be billed after the appointment?" Finally I just politely but exasperatedly told her that I have an ethical dilemma with their policy. Not only am I not comfortable with paying for a service that I haven't yet received but this goes against everything the medical profession is supposed to stand for, in my opinion.

Does this feel as wrong to you as it does to me?

I have $150. I could pay it. But I won't. Because what about the people who can't? 

While private physicians aren't legally required to accept patients who they think or know can't pay, this is on ethically shaky ground for me. Requiring anyone to pay such a large sum in advance in order to seek medical treatment creates a barrier that will PREVENT people from seeing a doctor. The mere idea that a doctor would withhold treatment until a credit card or check is handed over is an abomination.

We will be finding a different doctor with a different Medical Group. I told the lovely lady on the phone that. Because their policy is ethically unjustifiable. Hubby and I are powerless to change their policy but what we can do is not give them our money. 

Friday, November 2, 2018

Teeny Tiny House: New Oven

Flashback to 2013 when we purchased our house. As with most homes, and especially in our case since the former owner was deceased, you don't truly know what is wrong with a house until some time after. One of the discoveries we made was a mice infestation. Luckily, hubby was able to solve that problem pretty quickly and we haven't had issues with mice since.

Fast forward to one month ago. Matt was late from work and I was putting a spaghetti dinner together with fresh garlic bread. I had the oven working overtime with three burners going simultaneously with the broiler for toasting. Suddenly the smoke alarm goes off, I check the bread in the oven, but it isn't finished nor burnt. The food on the stove top is also fine. Strange, right?

Hubby makes his way in the door and smiles at me because he can smell the burnt odor in the air. He obviously thinks that I must have burnt dinner again but I assure him that whatever is happening with the oven, it wasn't my cooking.

After dinner, the odor wasn't dissipating, if anything it was even more concerning since there was a slight "electrical" smell to it. Hubby pulled the oven out and started taking it apart. Finally asserting that the stench was coming from under the cook top, he pulled the entire oven out into the garage. He asked me to hold the top open so he could dig around in the insulation and find the problem. What we discovered was a desiccated body of a mouse. Apparently, 5 years ago when the mice had run of the house, this one had climbed into the stove in-between the cook top and oven and made its nest in the insulation and died. After all these years of being cooled and heated, the tiny mouse body had combusted and started a fire. I was horrified and disgusted and wished I could throw up 5 years worth of meals that had been cooked in this mouse-ridden oven. Needless to say this appliance stayed in the front yard until the recycler could come pick it up.

It took a couple of weeks of shopping and waiting for delivery, but our new oven arrived and boy, is it fancy! We ended up selecting a convection oven which cooks things to perfection. We didn't realize how poorly our old oven worked until we had this one. Everything is so hot! It even has a setting for dough proofing which I can't wait to use. We are hosting Thanksgiving this year and are very much looking forward to roasting a turkey.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Knitting Class

I have been taking a knitting class for about a year. A lot of people ask, why knitting? It is a pretty antiquated trade and isn't really relevant to people much anymore which is actually why I wanted to learn it. Yes, I could buy a book or go on YouTube and learn to knit but instead I meet up at least once a week with a group of grandmothers who are more than happy to help me learn. There is something truly fulfilling about knowledge being bestowed from one generation to another.  Plus, it is rewarding to create something from scratch that is useful to other people.

My first project(s) were dish towels and pot holders. My second project was a scarf which I gave to my sister's boyfriend for his birthday. This was my third project which I gave to my sister for her birthday. My teacher was very impressed with my ability to complete such a difficult project.

This is a blanket I knitted for Lily. I measured her bed and made a chunky wool blanket for the winter. It's hard to tell in the picture but it is navy blue in color.

Current Projects: 
  • In class I am learning to make mittens. I almost have the first one complete. 
  • At home, I am working on a scarf for Hubby with wool that I purchased in Scotland. 
  • I also just started a baby blanket for some friends who are expecting their first child in March.
My teacher says I am a true knitter now, we always have multiple projects going at one time!

Monday, October 15, 2018

UK Vacation: Day 11

Our last morning in Scotland started with coffee, as all good mornings do. We grabbed a quick bite to eat at the cafe downstairs from the apartment, finished packing and walked to the Buchanan Bus Station again. This time we needed to catch the Express Bus to Glasgow International Airport. What we didn't know was that they only accept cash or contactless credit cards (which we "technologically advanced" Americans didn't have, so we had to hit up the ATM like an old couple and take out money so we could get home. 

We arrived at the airport with a few hours to spare, ate some terrible airport food and waited to board our flight to Iceland. The several hours we spent in the airport were difficult for me. I asked Hubby on several occasions to just leave me behind, that I would figure out how to live in Scotland without a home or a job, but he insisted that wasn't going to happen.

The flight from Scotland to Iceland was a quick 2.5 hours, although it felt like an eternity to me as I had finally come down 100% with the plague. I wore my medical mask on the plane which served to keep the other passengers safe but also kept anyone from talking to me. I might have cried a little as I watched Scotland slip away.

Iceland was the most beautiful desolation I had ever seen. I wouldn't mind going back to visit this location someday, although the food leaves much to be desired. So much fish, even at the airport. We overspent for some more terrible airport food and waited 3 hours for our connecting flight to Seattle. 

The flight from Iceland to Seattle (almost 8 hours) was actually the best flying experience we have had in recent memory. First, the airline attendants are absolutely stunning! Seriously, if you haven't seen the ladies who work for Iceland Air, they are incredibly beautiful. Second, the plane wasn't sold out, so the seat in-between hubby and I ended up empty (and stayed that way due to my medical mask) so we were able to stretch out and get comfortable. I will never fly international again unless we buy that middle seat, it made all the difference in the world!

By the time we reached Seattle, I was so sick I thought I was going to pass out. My stomach was queasy and the fever was making my mind foggy. I was so incredibly lucky to have hubby there to negotiate our way back into the US because the customs and immigration process was way beyond what my brain could handle at this point. Gotta be honest with you all, getting back into the US was far more difficult than I expected for those born and raised here. I do remember the Border Protection agent saying "Welcome Home" after he stamped our paperwork. It felt really good to hear those words!

Once we got to Seattle, there was another 2-3 hour wait for our plane to Portland. We snacked a little while we sat in the hard plastic seats as I slowly believed I was actually going to die. When we touched down in Portland and my sister was there to pick us up, I don't know if I have ever been more relieved. From door step to door step, it took us 22 hours to get home. When I fell into bed that night, I had never been more exhausted in my life.

Step Count: 7,437

Total Miles Walked in London: 23.08

Total Miles Walked in Scotland: 46.46

Total Miles Walked in the UK: 69.54

When I told Hubby about this total, he was both shocked and mortified stating "I think you packed the trip a little full." I think he is right. Next time I drag him to Scotland, it will be far more relaxed and luxurious. 

UK Vacation: Day 10

Our final morning in Glasgow started at Rose & Grant's Cafe where Hubby and I both ordered french toast and coffee. Superb! Scottish accents vary from city to city and I found that the Glaswegian accent was very difficult for me to decipher compared to the Edinburgh accent. Hubby, luckily, seemed to understand the folks in Glasgow just fine! The rest of our morning was spent at Dumbarton Castle, the location suggested by the friendly owner of the Beinglas Farm Campsite. We took ScotRail west from Glasgow to the small town of Dumbarton. We had our first train mishap where we missed our stop and in a wonderful display of kindness, a local walked with us and gave us directions to ensure we made it to the castle safely. Missing the stop actually ended up being fine, as we got to see the town on foot. Dumbarton was a beautiful mix of an old city center with small businesses taking up residence in traditional stone buildings and neighborhoods of newer, single family homes with manicured lawns. After so much time in the big cities and deep in the country, it was nice to see how the suburban residents lived.

Dumbarton Castle was a vision to behold! The oldest stronghold in Scottish history dating back to the Iron Age had over 500 steps to navigate.

The Guard House

The French Prison
White Tower Crag - The highest point of the castle
You can't tell in this picture but Hubby was feeling quite sick at this point.

360 degree view!

After completing our tour of Dumbarton Castle, we hopped back on the ScotRail train and took it to Charring Cross where we (once again) walked to the the Tenement House Museum. According to their website: "At first glance, the Tenement House appears to be an ordinary middle-class tenement from the late 19th century, standing in Garnethill. However, when you step inside, the faithfully restored four rooms appear as if frozen in time and provide a rare glimpse into life in Glasgow in the early 20th century." This was by far the most expensive museum we visited during our stay but was wroth the price to see the beautifully curated items and talk to the knowledgable staff.

The Tenement House: Not my picture

Since we skipped lunch, we decided on an early dinner at Villa Toscana, an Italian restaurant recommended to me by one of my online acquaintances. By this time, Hubby had a raging fever and I had started getting a sore throat. Both of us were fairly certain that our time in the mold infested hotel room was to blame for this onset. The food was marvelous (I selected the gnocchi) but the portions were more than we could handle. Based on the sickness that was about to overtake us, we called it a night, opting to go back to the apartment to do laundry and pack our bags.

Villa Toscana, Glasgow

Step Count: 19,609

Monday, October 8, 2018

UK Vacation: Day 9

Day 9 started the exact same way as the day before, with complimentary breakfast at the Drovers Inn, this time I had the porridge which was far more satisfying than toast. We were done and checked out long before the bus was scheduled to arrive but it was better to stand in the rain than suffer one more moment in the room.

My "relieved to be done here" face.

The bus trip was uneventful and we arrived in Glasgow a few hours later. We had a different bus driver this time and he wasn't entertaining at all. Once again we walked to our hotel which wasn't far from the Buchanan station called the Glassford Residence. This time I picked well! The apartment was beautiful, clean and even had a washing machine. It was a welcome sight after Drovers, a bathroom with no spiders and all the amenities we could hope for! One downside was the wifi went out almost immediately and couldn't be reestablished until the next day (more on that later.)

Not my picture

We had lunch at the Beir Halle, this time I chose a vegetarian sandwich and while it was good, it could not compare to what Hubby ordered. We each had a cider this time and once again it was outstanding! Apparently, cider isn't a huge thing in Scotland so most of it is imported from Sweden. Swedish cider is known for being sweeter than usual and we both enjoyed that very much!

Hubby's Chili Cheese Dog

The remainder of the day was spent sightseeing. We walked by George Square which is usually quite lovely but was being utilized for the European Championship Games, so it was a bit hectic, overrun by tents and didn't look like its normal self. Next, we went to Glasgow Cathedral which was quite impressive!

Right across the street from the Cathedral was Provand's Lordship, the oldest house in Glasgow, built in 1471, which turned out to be far more interesting than I originally anticipated. Much like the Pittock Mansion in Portland, the collection shown is from the correct period of time but the museum acknowledges readily that they are uncertain exactly how the house looked or the items that were originally in it. It also wasn't a highly visited location, which was nice for us tired tourists.

Not my picture

The last major stop of the day was the Glasgow Necropolis which I think might have been Hubby's favorite part of Glasgow. The architecture and history of the area was humbling, there were people buried here long before the United States was ever created.

View from the Necropolis

Just a tiny view of the Necropolis

Hubby and I were desperate to eat something green and it was Friday night, which made our restaurant search more difficult. It felt like it has been awhile since we actually had vegetables or a salad. After hitting some of the souvenir shops, we landed on a restaurant called Avant Garde.  We both ordered salads, mine was the Caesar, and this time I was disappointed. The salad was so dripping in dressing, it was inedible. Luckily, I also ordered a cup of vegetable soup and it was delightful!

That evening, as we were showering and getting ready for bed, we received a call from my sister. I had told her to not call unless it was an emergency because the cellular cost was pretty high, so when she rang me, I knew there was something wrong. She explained that the plumbing in our house had ceased working and needed advice. I had Hubby call her back and he ended up staying up until 3:00 a.m. UK time to help her find a plumber and get the problem fixed. This was made all the more difficult because we didn't have wifi and sufficient cell service was difficult for us to come by in the apartment. I think this was officially when the trip became less fun. We were exhausted, there were problems at home and Hubby was starting to not feel well.

Step Count: 20,908

Sunday, October 7, 2018

UK Vacation: Day 8

Day 8 started with complimentary breakfast at the Drovers Inn back across the highway. Hubby chose traditional Scottish porridge while I had toast (there wasn't a vegetarian option).

Before venturing out on a hike, we walked back down to the Beinglas Farm Campsite in hopes they might have an opening at the bed and breakfast for the night. The owner was very kind but informed us he was booked. He asked where we were staying and we informed him about the Drover's Inn which he referred to as a "tourist trap" and that he wouldn't wish that place on anyone. He insisted on calling around to the other bed and breakfasts he knew to see if there was an opening, which there was not. Scottish kindness at its best!

Determined to not stay in our mold-infested hotel room, we started our hike out to Loch Lomond which was approximately 3-4 miles away.

In typical Scottish fashion, it rained off and on for the entire hike.

Believe it or not, we ran into another couple out on this deserted trail who were from Phoenix.
Can you believe it? 

Scotland is the most beautiful place I have ever laid eyes on!

This was right before we got to the Loch and just before my energy plummeted.
The hike back was much more difficult for me. Hubby was a rockstar.

There is where the Ardleish ferry can take you across the loch. It is literally a fishing boat and
the way you get their attention is by running a ball up a flagpole and waiting for them to notice.
We didn't have cash on us or we would probably have gone over to Ardlui for lunch.

We hiked back to the Beinglas Farm Campsite, where we had lunch. This time I threw caution to the wind and ordered chicken fillets for lunch (in Scotland they are referred to as "fill-its.") I had had so little food that day, I knew I needed some protein fast. I also ordered by second cider since arriving in the UK and OMG, the cider in Scotland is amazing! More on that later. The owner who we met in the morning was running the pub in the afternoon and recognized us. He was concerned about whether we had found a place to stay or not, which we told him we did not but that we were leaving the following day and thought we could "survive" another night. After he took our order and served other guests, he came by our table and inquired about where we were going next. Once he found out we were headed to Glasgow he grabbed a paper and pen and started writing down all the places he thought we should check out. He grew up in the town of Dumbarton and suggested we take a detour to see the castle. I already had our Glasgow trip scheduled but when a local takes time to sit down at your table and give you advice, you take it! So we changed our plans for the next day.

After lunch we went back to our room and Matt took the hair dryer to our clothes in an attempt to get them somewhat dry before packing them away in a suitcase the following day. He also had to dry his tennis shoes, which I avoided by packing boots. Bless his heart, he sat there for hours with an underpowered blow dryer while I sat on the bed next to the window in my medical mask praying to not die.

That evening we went over to the Drovers Inn for dinner, where I ordered vegetarian bangers and mash with brown sauce and peas. I loved it! Hubby splurged and sauntered up to the bar to get us each a dram of whisky. The barkeep was a young man who was absolutely elated to help Hubs make a decision. This is when the surreal moment for me happened. There we were in Scotland, surrounded by conversations which were distinctly Scottish, in a 300 year old pub with squeaky wood floors, where dogs are allowed to mingle with guests, sipping a glass of whisky. My mind couldn't wrap itself around the experience. It still can't.

Step Count: 18,276

Sunday, September 30, 2018

UK Vacation: Day 7

Day 7 was the last day we had in Edinburgh, next stop was Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park. We had breakfast in our room again before making our way back to the train station. Since we were in Scotland, we were able to take their local train system, ScotRail, which is infinitely better than the train which brought us up from London. The train to Glasgow leaves Edinburgh every 10 minutes or less. Hubby and I were all alone on this train car and it was blissful.

We arrived at the Glasgow Queen Street Station one hour later and walked to the Buchanan Street Bus Station. We weren't able to purchase bus tickets in advance, so the helpful lady behind the counter ensured that we bought the correct tickets and advised us to "inform our bus driver of our stop, so he doesn't pass by it." That's when you know you are going to the country!

We had enough time to grab some lunch, so we ate across the street at a place called DiMaggio's. We didn't purposefully pick an American eatery, it was the only place open early enough. The food was actually quite delightful and the portions were perfect for two people who were about to take a long bus trip.

We boarded the bus after a little bit of consternation (our bus driver hadn't changed his bus number, so nobody actually knew if they were boarding the correct bus or not) and our driver immediately plugged in his iPod and started playing Frank Sinatra over the bus speakers. He also sang out loud whenever the mood hit him. I found him extremely entertaining!

The bus trip went much smoother than we expected, although once we started to get out onto the country roads Hubby became increasingly uncomfortable. The roads were so tiny and narrow and the vehicles attempting to travel it were so large, it was a miracle no one was hurt. For whatever reason, it didn't bother me in the least, I figured our driver navigates this roadway probably 6 times a day, he knows what he is doing.

Hubby claims our driver had "balls of steel." Ha ha ha!

Approximately an hour and a half later, we arrived at our destination. It ended up we didn't need to worry about our bus stop, as several other people on board were also getting off at the same stop: Inverarnan. My goal had been to stay in a traditionally old world Scottish establishment and the Drovers Inn seemed to fit the bill. Build in 1705, the Drovers Inn was originally utilized by cattle farmers as lodging and now serves in much the same way for locals and tourists.

The Drovers Inn

Our view: The Falls of Falloch

Once we were able to check in we were informed that we wouldn't actually be staying in the Drovers Inn but in a building they had acquired across the street. Spoiler Alert: This is where things went terribly wrong. My therapist (who is quite the world traveler) warned me that something on the trip would go wrong and the best thing to do is just acknowledge that fact and try to your best to move on. 

So we walked across the major highway to the former Stagger Inn (get it...) and found our room. It was...disappointing. The room was very small and amenities were minimal, but we thought we could make it work for a few days. There was an ensuite bathroom, which was a bonus. When I attempted to take a shower, however, the shower refused to drain and ultimately we had to get another room.

Usually when you are relocated to another room, you secretly think "upgrade!" but once again, this was not the case. The room we were given was much larger than the first but it was old and stuffy and honestly felt like no one had stayed in the room in months. The room looked like it was falling apart with its raggedy carpeting and crumbling ceiling. Worse yet, there was mold. I could smell it. (For those of you who don't know, I almost died from toxic mold a few years ago and my superpower is that I can smell it. I am a glorified mold dog and I could make millions if it wouldn't kill me.) Hubby sent me out of the room and used some Clorox wipes to wipe down the walls around my bed but it was so deeply ingrained in this space, there was no avoiding it. Despite opening all the windows, I had to wear my medical mask the whole time, including when I slept.

This is the only picture of the room we took. I think I was too embarrassed that I had made such a terrible choice of accommodations and Hubby was too mortified to want to memorialize the occasion.

Luckily we weren't staying in the National Park because we were planning to stay indoors. So we went for a walk.

While we were on our walk we discovered a little gem in the middle of nowhere, the Beinglas Farm Campsite which hosts everything from camping cabins to a bed and breakfast and a pub. How did I not know this place existed? We had dinner in the pub that night and it was delicious!

Not my photo

Step Count: 10,468

Sunday, September 23, 2018

UK Vacation: Day 6

Our second day in Scotland started with breakfast in our room. This was the first time we had stayed at a bed and breakfast and what a delightful little perk to not even have to get out of our pajamas to eat breakfast. Our host was a very good sport about bringing us coffee instead of tea.

I had purchased tickets for Edinburgh Castle in advance (which I highly recommend) and our scheduled entrance time was between 10:00 and 11:30 am.

This was the moment I fell in love with Edinburgh. I had never in my life felt so powerfully connected to a city as I did this one. If I could move there tomorrow, I would do it without question.

Scotland agreed with us!

This is the building where the Scottish Crown Jewels are housed. It took quite awhile but we were able to view them. Unlike at the convention, I obeyed the "no photos" policy.

Scottish National War Memorial

St. Margaret's Chapel

Immediately outside of Edinburgh Castle on the Royal Mile was our second stop of the day: The Scotch Whisky Experience. This place was absolutely mad. Not only could you tour a distillery but they must have the largest collection of whisky in the world. Two floors of some of the rarest and most expensive whisky ever produced (and also reasonably priced ones too). My one regret from this day was that we couldn't spend more time here.

Image not mine

Image not mine

Our next stop was St. Giles Cathedral where we also had lunch. Lunch here was adequate but definitely not as good as what we had at Westminster Abbey. The cathedral was absolutely spectacular but unfortunately you could not photograph the inside without purchasing a permit.

Here's an interior shot I snagged from Wikipedia
For any Outlander fans, there was an episode filmed in this space.

Next stop was Greyfriars Bobby. This little terrier became famous in the mid-1800s for spending 14 years guarding the grave of his owner until he, himself, died. It is believed that if you rub his nose, it is good luck. This was also the site where Hubby and I had the most interesting encounter of our entire trip, one that has resonated with us since that day.

We met an old man, we never got his name, but he came up to us and explained that he was originally from Scotland but had lived in Australia for the majority of his life (his accent was amazing!). He had been traveling the world, by land, air and sea for months, because he had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. He said he didn't know why he felt like he needed to talk to us, as he pushed one of us under each of his arms, but he felt compelled to bestow upon us his wisdom: "Don't wait. Do the things you want to do, while you can still do them. Forget work. Forget finances. Just enjoy life and see as much as possible." I think about this man, literally, everyday and wonder if he has returned home, if he has gotten sicker, or worse, if he has already passed away. You never know who you will run into that will change your world forever. I wish him peace.

The next part of the day is honestly a bit of a blur. We walked by so many things. We went to the University, we found a cute little nerdy store called "Galaxy," we went into the library (but weren't allowed where the books were because we didn't have a library card), we went to the Scott Monument and walked through the Princes Street Gardens. Hubs even let me go into a yarn store where I was able to find some real Scottish wool yarn and I am currently knitting him a scarf.

University Campus

Scott Monument

Princes Street

Edinburgh Castle is right above my head

The owner, Kathy, was wonderfully sweet and absolutely loved all the
photos I showed her of my completed knitting projects.

That evening we had dinner at the Cumberland Bar. Hubby had nachos with some really great guacamole and I had macaroni and cheese which tasted extraordinary.

Photo not mine

Photo not mine but I couldn't resist because this was the exact table we sat at!

Step Count: 25,700