Pain

Hello Again! I thought I’d start off January with a super upbeat post! 😀

When you live in chronic pain, it changes everything. I think I’ve had 3-5 days in the past 1.5 years that have not involved a headache. My pain tolerance has gotten higher, but other things have changed too.

Last night I couldn’t sleep. Too much pain. I decided it was my headband (that tracks my brainwaves. I’m that cool), so I took it off. But that didn’t help. So then I decided it was because of my mouthguard, so I took that out. Still pain. I contemplated running into a wall, but decided against it. I tweeted at my brain that I was mad. Despite the pulsating pain behind my left eyeball, I still managed to get to sleep after about 1.5 hours of lying in the dark in pain.

Then my alarm went off this morning. When I wake up with pain, to me there is a clear solution. I should stay underneath the warm covers and go back to sleep. Or, if I’m hungry, I should get up, eat breakfast, and then huddle under the covers and fall back asleep. Back to the world where I only feel pain when I wake up.

I tried that today. I got up and ate and curled back up under the covers to contemplate whether I could handle a bus to campus and back, as well as 2.5 hours of class. I decided to tough it out. I showered (sometimes that brings relief, but not today). And headed out. The pulsing behind my eye had moved up to halfway between my ear and my eye. My right lobe was also chiming in once in a while, worried about being left out.

Now, as I sit hear writing, I am in pain. And I will go home and lie down and it will get a bit better, but I know that I’ll struggle to sleep again tonight. And that, most likely, I’ll wake up tomorrow in pain…again.

What do I do? Hope the pain decreases instead of increases. Hope that my doctors have new plans for me next week. Hope that I have some good distractions (B, music, movies, tv, puzzles, design work). Hope ’til I can’t hope any more and then wake up again tomorrow.

Signs (Ad Edition)

As someone interested in design and usability, signs fascinate me. In the US, I often ignore them because I’m so used to seeing them. But when I travel. I find myself inexplicably drawn to all types of signage, from ads to street signs to store names. And so, with a brand new camera in tow, I take pictures, which I then share with you. These are all pictures from my summer trip to Europe.

So here are pictures of ads and storefronts. It is a long post, but hopefully it will be interesting.

Giant reindeer head museum. I can only imagine that inside the museum there are loads of reindeer heads.

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Strawberry, raspberry, and mango popsicles. I WANT.

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I have no clue what this is an ad for. Mika appears to not be a Finnish word, but it is a European pop singer. I don’t know what this means or why there is a question mark after it.

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A moving ad in the tram in Helsinki. DOCTAGON. Yeah!

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Red bull has mini trucks even in Finland.

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Dude in a jacket, bow tie and crow bar. Woman in a dress and paint roller. Weird.

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This struck me as sounding like Cook Pot. Which would be a funny name for a kitchen store.

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I want to buy things from the brand Your Face.

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TexMex is popular food in Finland. I guess so are girls with shot glasses and blonde hair.

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Here’s a TexMex restaurant called Gringos Locos. The crazy white people restaurant.

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Here is a art gallery with a show called Lorem ipsum. I thought it was a typo at first, then I saw the art. It’s a show about fonts and things like that.

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Harry Potter in Finland. Kaikki Päättyy.

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Dog parking at the local grocery store.

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Why take the time to mix Jack and Coke when you can buy it combined together in a can?

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Outlet mall in Estonia.

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I am so sad I didn’t try that soup.

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Everything’s store. Oh Estonia!

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I really want to go see Jäääär in concert.

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Shopping mall in Estonia. They have Marks and Sparks and everything!

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Captain America and Cars 2 in Estonia.

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This sign just cracked me up. I’m not sure why. Chicken Restaurant in Tallinn.

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These next two pictures are two side by side coffee shops in Helsinki. Robert’s Coffee.

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And Wayne’s Coffee.

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I’d never actually seen an actual Gone Fishing sign before this one in Helsinki.

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I think this is a maternity store in Malmö. I don’t know why there is a Japanese maternity clothes store in Sweden.

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I I really wanted to go to Burger King in Sweden in order to eat a BKool Sundae 🙂

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No clue what this ad is for. Slurp. In Copenhagen.

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Nun advertising Sister Act and praying in Germany.

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I know you’ve been wanting to see the Starlight Express, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s roller skate musical, right?

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I don’t love you. I love ice cream.

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I like that the gambling halls are associated with cherries.

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Just as rubber ducks are associated with glasses.

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Mini truck with big kegs of beer.

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A coffee shop that sells bras and underwear.

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Capri-Sun Cola Mix. Very odd. Uncarbonated, lemon flavored, uncaffenated, coke drink.

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I think this was an ad for the psychiatric museum art museum. Not that you can tell from the banner.

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Christ Jewelers. Seems like an odd choice of names…

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Home of Shirts. Whatever do you think they sell in this store?

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This is a chocolate shop in Heidelburg that has a bench out front reserved for Forrest Gump.

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The Backfactory. I don’t remember what they sell, but it’s some sort of food.

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Snowballs of ALL flavors.

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In Germany, Bridesmaids was known as Braut Alarm!

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Big Fries! The restaurant!

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Marc O’Polo clothing store. Not, amusingly enough, Marco Polo.

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There is a men’s clothing shop called Macho. Their logo is a shirtless man-chest.

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Bison. A bizarre name for a clothing store.

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I kindof want to work at a place called CyklopStudio.

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nü by staff-woman in Copenhagen. I think this was a clothing store. For women. Or woman as the case may be.

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Change. I don’t know if they just want you to change your bra or what.

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Back to Helsinki. There is a whole Sauna shop in downtown.

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Bright and Shiny Hippies in Helsinki means BEN AND JERRY’S. No, I didn’t eat there.

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TINTIN. If you don’t know who Tintin is than I’m ashamed of you.

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That is all for today. Do you want to come and see Jäääär with me sometime?

Hair Ideas

I posted a note on Twitter and Facebook the other day that I was contemplating cutting all my hair off. Now that is a bit of an exaggeration, but not completely. Right now my hair is about as long as it’s ever been.

Bad iPhone picture of my hair a month ago.

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I have about four options for how I wear my hair. Down, in a clip, in a braid, or in a french braid. Except that 90% of the time I throw it up in a clip. Usually this happens before I’ve left the house, so it is still dry at night when I let it down. Especially in the winter, this is no fun.

Ideally I want my hair to look like Charlize Theron’s in Sweet November.

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I know my face is the wrong shape and my hair isn’t as wavy, but I still love this hairstyle. I’ve loved it since Christmas 2002 when I went to a hair salon and had them cut off a huge amount of hair. I had never and have never had my hair as short since I was 6 or so. This was the first cut I’ve ever had that I LOVED. Absolutely LOVED. I think I was too nervous to get it cut as short as I wanted, but… All of the following pictures were taken within the month. I was in Mexico in January 2003.

I am combing wool in this picture.

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I hated it when it looked like this. This is the worst picture I could find of my hair.

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This is much better.

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I want low-ish maintenance, but it doesn’t have to be as low maintenance as in Mexico. I would not reject mousse. Any specific ideas (especially when accompanied by pictures) would be appreciated.

Birthday Baking

Unlike the previous two Novembers, this November I am not addicted to blogging. But I try to get on here once a week or more, anyways, so here are some random pictures from this weekend.

For B’s birthday, I decided to make lasagna. From scratch. (Except for the sauce.) Here you see the spinach pasta noodles drying.

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Butternut Squash Sauce + Pasta.

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Covered with cottage cheese and caramelized onions.

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And more pasta.

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Mozzarella with raw red peppers.

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More layers followed. Mmmm. Lasagna Innards.

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Add some browned butter and sage leaves and bake. We’re still eating the leftovers.

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The next day I had a kitchen helper, S.

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We made this Fruit Pizza. Can you find the hidden message?

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Photos across time

Last year I got a negative & slide scanner for Christmas. Unfortunately, my negatives were living in Kentucky and I was living in Minnesota. Until a few weeks ago, when Mom came to visit with a shipment! I have most of my pictures from age 17 to 20 now (then I went digital). Here is a sampling.

Mom brought slides from her year in Switzerland and Germany. Here’s a picture. IMAG0021

I love how older photos just ooze datedness.

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ME! Age 2 or so, which means we are at the Madison zoo? Or the Columbus zoo? Anyways, I’m sure I didn’t care because I had a stroller and yogurt.

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If my hair could still look like this, that would be awesome. Also, I appear to picked up a love of reading early on. Where reading means making a mess and looking at pictures.

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I can only assume that this is me after being chastised for making a mess. Or maybe mom wouldn’t read Goodnight Moon to me for the thousandth time. Either way, it was obviously quite upsetting. This was also during a phase where mom didn’t cut the feet off my sweet pjs. I want some of those pjs now. No drafts!

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Dad had to help me pet a goat. Obviously they are scary. And bigger than me. (But I’m taller! HAHAH!)

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My little cousin L. She’s now in high school!

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L and I make wontons. She was an excellent helper then and can only assume she is even better now.

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One of my many senior portraits. I should obviously do a whole series on these.

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The Glasgow Highland Games during sophomore? year of college. We dressed up. Obviously I didn’t get the whole “in costume” thing, because while I do have a jug of root beer, I am wearing a GIGANTIC sports watch as well as tevas and SOCKS. Classy!

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One of my favorite pix ever of me and my little bro. Obviously it could be cleaned up but there’s no time today. At the time he was less than a semester into going to high school in Canada, 1000 miles from home, and living with strangers. While it was hard on the family, I can’t believe that he survived (and thrived) away from home at such a young age. This guy also ran a marathon this morning and beat his goal. I was proud of him then and I still am today.

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That is all for now, but there is lots more where this came from.

Botox, Baby!

I haven’t written about my personal migraines lately, but they’ve been getting worse. Bad enough for me to decide to try out Botox for Migraines. I was scared silly about this. I knew that most people had significant pain with the Botox and my neurologist mentioned when she had it she heard crunching. That alone made me terrified. At the same time though, I am sick and tired of migraines and ready to try something new.

So at my August appointment, I talked to my neurologist about moving towards Botox. She set the wheels in motion for me to get it done. First, my insurance had to approve it. My insurance says the following about Botox for migraines:

“Botox requires a prior authorization but will generally be approved when the following criteria are met:

1. Chronic migraine (defined as >= 15 headache days/month lasting >=4 hours a day) despite standard treatment including three or more preventive treatments (e.g., amitriptyline, topamax, verapamil and betablockers) or medical contraindications to one or more of these therapies.

2. Prescribing by a headache specialist who has received training in the injection technique.”

I have been on three (now four) preventative treatments. None of them have done much. So I figured approval would be no problem. FALSE. It took over 6 weeks for my insurance to approve me for treatment. But they did on October 7 and notified me (and my doctor) on October 13. I immediate called the “neurotoxin scheduling line” to schedule and they were able to get me in on October 18 (instead of the 3 to 4 months I’d been told to expect).

So I started reading. And I became even more fearful. All the forum postings I read were apparently from people who’d had horrible experiences. The side effects seemed scarier than normal. (See http://www.allergan.com/assets/pdf/botox_pi.pdf) And I didn’t understand how it worked.

Botox for migraines helps to weaken or paralyze the hyper activated muscles by suppressing the release of acetylcholine, which mainly causes the transmission of nerve impulses at synapses and myoneural. This treatment can also be used for reducing the pain associated with the cervical dystonia, achalasia and rectal fissures. Botox is usually injected directly into the affected muscles.

There are different theories to explain the working of the Botox for the elimination of migraine headaches. According to one theory, as tension and spasms are the main causes of migraines, Botox eliminate the headaches by eliminating the muscle tension. It is also believed that Botox reduces the headaches by inhibiting the transmission of nerve cells. According to this theory headache is caused due to the increased amount of signals send by the nerves.”

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/341913

AND REMEMBER THAT THIS IS A NEUROTOXIN. That in other forms KILLS PEOPLE. BEING INJECTED INTO MY HEAD. OMG! THE TERROR. Seriously. I was freaking out. So I made Ben come with me. (Plus it was in the uber-burbs, so I had to take his car or he had to take it!)

I met with a very nice doctor (not my normal doc, she doesn’t do botox injections) and his medical student from UMN. They talked to me, having already reviewed my files, and looked over my headache diary. The fact that I’d never had a single day in the past year that was pain-free without medication was almost shocking to them. They said that it sounded like I had little to lose and lots to gain. Then they examined me, testing how well my head moved, where I was tense and confirming where my headaches were. (My headaches are on both sides of my frontal lobe, btw.)

Then they went to talk and I went to the actual doctorish room (instead of an office with a zombie book on the desk). Then they started with the shots. I actually had to lie down because I’m too tall (albeit NOT EVEN 5’11”!!!). Then he took his gloved hands and started injecting me.

Here’s where I got shots.

From the front. I got 7 shots.

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From my right: two shots.

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From my left: two shots.

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He chose these locations based on the stiffness and soreness in my head. He felt that my neck wasn’t tense enough at this point to inject it. That’s something we’d consider a second time if this doesn’t work very well.

It hurt very little. Less than my flu shot last week. (Although the doc kept dabbing something off my face. Blood? I had no sounds that were gross or anything.

I won’t see the effects for another 1-8 days, but I’m feeling better this afternoon than I have in a few weeks. (This morning was miserable, but…) It’s supposed to last for about 3 months. If I get 1/3 fewer headaches for 3 months, it’s worth it to me. It was definitely an experience though. I’ll keep you updated!

Oh, and PS. My forehead is already less wrinkley 😉 (My doc promised I wouldn’t look like Joan Rivers though, thank goodness!)

Migraines and Politics

(Written in late July)

I’ve been pondering a news cycle the last few days. The story is about Michelle Bachmann’s migraines. If you haven’t read the stories, the original one that I read is here and a follow-up is here.

The gist of the story is that apparently Michelle Bachmann has migraines. She and her doctor say they’re under control, but she’s had to be hospitalized for them before and people are concerned that she won’t be able to do the job of president because of the migraines.

Then on today’s flight I read an oped in the Times. (Yay for Economy Comfort and free NYTimes!)

The op-ed is by a migraineur and she talks about the fact that even when migraines are under control, they are never completely under your control, due to the very nature of migraines. She also is concerned that the preventative medications that Bachmann uses are never named, likely because of the fact that most of the meds are generally used for mental health. So there’s also a problem with stigmas.

So this for me isn’t about Bachmann. I’m not going to talk about her politics here. But I think that this is an interesting issue, for multiple reasons.

First, obviously I have personal interest in migraines.

Second, because migraines disproportionately affect women and women haven’t been proportionately represented in US politics, I think this is a unique issue.

Third, the tie between mental health and migraines is important. Both in terms of finding triggers and in terms of pharmaceuticals. But because mental health is still a huge stigma in the US, especially for women (as it signifies weakness), this is a big problem.

Fourth, while Bachmann is getting treatment, most people aren’t. That’s a problem. And even if people do want treatment, it’s expensive and incredibly difficult.

Finally, the fact that migraines are ever changing, ever evolving, and different for everyone affects both diagnosis and treatment.

So the story really isn’t Michelle Bachmann. It’s about how people can cope with migraines. And why they choose to. (I hadn’t mentioned that part before, but I’m pretty sure running for President, let alone winning, would set my migraines on HIGH ALERT.) But the story is only out there because there’s a public face. And it’s a polarizing face.

Migraines aren’t sexy. They won’t (generally) kill you. But they’re there and they’re normal and there is help. But you still have to take care of yourself as well.

Usability Issue 5 (No Question)

My first day in Helsinki it took me over 45 minutes to get to my hostel. Not because it was far away, but because of extrodinarily bad signage. So this is less of a question and more of a usability what-not-to-do show and tell. (I had WAY too much stuff with me, poorly packed, and had been awake for about 36 hours. And it was hot. So hot that after eventually finding my hostel, I changed into a short skirt and tank top to go out to dinner. And I was finally comfortable.)

So this is the story of what not to do when creating signage for your youth hostel. Keep in mind that I did have a Google Map and it did not help one ounce. Or gram.

 

This is the sidewalk I was walking on. I had taken the bus they told me to get on and gotten off at the stop they told me to. The bus driver had given me vague directions and I had my map. So I was walking. The left side of the sidewalk (red) is the bike path. The gray part is for pedestrians.

 

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When I got to this point., I thought to myself, weird. There is a road going off into the soccer fields. I never once thought to myself, I bet that’s where the hostel is. Note, no signs. I should have turned right instead of going straight.

 

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If I had turned right I would have gone down the road or ended up in this quasi-parking lot at the top of a staircase. I should have gone down those stairs. (Still no signs.)

 

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Then after walking along the soccer fields, I would have come to a giant flight of stairs. I should have gone up that.

 

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At the top of the giant flight of stairs, I would have found my first sign that a hostel actually existed, a small sign that said Hostel Stadion <- 100 yds. At this point I was standing on a paved walk/bikeway next to a parking lot. But I would then have turned left and powered on (as the tiny sign said).

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Journeying on, there may have been one more small sign, as one would walk along this empty path. There would also, undoubtedly be bikers to dodge, with a huge pack on.

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Then, you make an unexpected right, down a man-made path in the grass, to another trail, across some rocks, and through a small break in the fence. It is very official. BUT there is an official Hosteling International Sign here, so it must be legit! Relief!

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As you turn right from the hole in the fence, you will see this. You may or may not be able to see the HOSTEL STADION sign. You are in the right place.

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If you come another way, good luck to you, fine sirs and madams. Hopefully you brought lots of rations and your bag is light. And hope they don’t give your bed away…

Suomenlinna Island

On my first full day in Finland, I took the ferry to Suomenlinna Island. It is about a 15 minute ferry ride from central Helsinki and the ride is covered by a public transit pass.

Suomenlinna Island is an old fort, back from the days when the Swedish controlled Finland. Building was started in 1748. The fort was to protect Helsinki from invasion by sea. When the Russians took control of Finland, they too enjoyed the power of the fort. During the Finnish Civil War, the fort served as a prison camp. Currently the island has about 900 civilian residents. Suomi is the Finnish word for Finland and Linna means lion, so the fort was named Finnish Lion. But in Swedish it is Sveaborg. It is now a popular site for picnics and afternoons out. it is also a UNESCO Heritage Site.

I’ve included my favorite pictures from my afternoon below.

The ferry on the way to the Island.

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As the ferry approaches the Island, the church is easily spotted.

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The churches in Finland (all two that I visited) were much simpler than most other European churches. This is probably because they are Protestant, not Catholic, but it was very interesting to see the simple interiors.

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Outside the church is also relatively simple. Just right for a small island church.

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I’m unsure if Open Prison means that anyone can be imprisoned or if it means something else. I’m rooting for the something else.

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A private home on the Island. Covered with ivy and glorious flowering windowboxes. After I took this, the man came out of the house and started tending the flowers.

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The Island is actually six Islands. Here you can see two of them.

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While the parts of the Island you first walk through are not fort-like, as you get deeper into the island, you see more and more evidence of the fort. It starts about the same place as you cross the first bridge.

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The walls are really impressive. This one is about 6 feet deep and there were lots (comparatively speaking) of windows. I assume they were for shooting.

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The fortress I am in the above picture. I think the walking tunnel was about 30 feet deep.

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A private beach and private boats.

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A public beach. Bathers were running around on the rocks and jumping into the sea.

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Then the cannons appeared. Not to hit the bathers… GIANT CANNON.

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How the cannons are positioned. At tourists.

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There were also all these little berms which I assume were hideouts.

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And then two hangliders appeared. Hanglider 1…

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and his buddy Hanglider 2.

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As I walked back to the ferry, I noticed a rock wall with fireweed growing out of it. Fireweed is my favorite flower and almost impossible to find in the lower 48. It made me smile.

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I enjoyed my couple of hours on Suomenlinna and I would highly recommend the museum and video of the history of the fort. Perhaps next time I’ll even consider staying at the Youth Hostel on the Island.

Juice Cleanse/Fast

Yesterday, I got to cross off one item on my 30 Before 30 list: the 5 day juice cleanse.

I started this because i thought there was a chance it might help my headaches/migraines. It didn’t. But it was an interesting exercise in self-control and patience.

We bought a juicer a few weeks ago in order to make this process a little cheaper. Then we modeled our juices on the juices from Blueprint Cleanse (at first). That meant that we had six 16 ounce juices a day. They were to be drunk in a specific order. They were also supposed to be drunk fresh.  Between the juices we were supposed to drink 12+ oz. of water. I almost just moved into the bathroom to live.

Here’s a rundown with pictures.

Our juicer in the juicing corner. It’s a Hurom Slow Juicer, recommended by Bon Appetit. It was expensive, but it will juice almost anything. Nuts, beans, greens, etc.

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This is the fridge on Saturday morning, day 3 of the fast.

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This is our take from the farmer’s market for juicing. apples, kale, lettuce, parsley, beets, and strawberries.

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Fridge post market. Amazingly almost all of this was gone by this morning (the end of the juice cleanse).

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The first and third juices of the day are green: kale, lettuce, spinach, parsley, celery, cucumber, lemon, and apple. Here are the ingredients for 4 16 oz portions.

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Then we juice all of it. The celery is chopped in a food processor because otherwise it clogs the machine. We also had to alternate greens and apples to ensure the machine wasn’t clogged.

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This is what is leftover…

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The juice!

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Second juice of the day is pineapple-apple-mint. We used peppermint. Unfortunately the pineapple clogs the machine. Half a pineapple and a lot of apples are what we used.

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Juicing the pineapple and apple.

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Here’s the drink. The foam is due to the machine being clogged.

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After the second green, we make spicy lemonade. Below Ben is juicing lemons. Then we mix the juice with water, agave syrup, and cayenne pepper. It can make your brain explode.

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Post spicy lemonade is red juice. Gag. Apples, beets, lemon, ginger, and carrots. Only it was gross so I added strawberries.

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Red juice. So gross. And pulpy. And ick.

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The final drink of the day is nut milk. Ben likes cashews and I like almonds, hence the difference. We juiced dates with them so that we didn’t have to add any agave syrup. One day we added cinnamon and most days we added vanilla. But in order to juice the nuts, we had to soften them. So we soaked them for 4+ hours.

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The final product!

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So that’s what I’ve been up to. Let me know if you have questions.