The Adventures of my FurKid – part 4

The Adventures of my FurKid – part 4

We moved out of the townhouse in December 2015, into a house with a garden. Pringles was very skittish for the first few weeks in the new house, which was understandable, and all he wanted to do was get out into the garden so that he could hide underneath the house. We kept him locked inside for a week, just to be safe, we didn’t want him running away and we finally let him out for the first time a few days before Christmas.

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The house has a rainwater tank (we aren’t connected to council water supply) and I was woken up early one morning (just before sunrise) during our first week in our ‘new’ house, with Pringles yowling “Mom, Mom!”. It’s his ‘rescue me’ meow that sounds exactly like a small child calling for mom! I went outside armed with a torch (it was still dark) and a tumbler of water to find Pringles sitting up on top of the water tank and the other cat sitting on the ground at the base. Pringles saw me and suddenly got all brave because he now had backup, jumped off the water tank and chased the other cat over the grass, down the garden and over the fence onto the golf course before he came sauntering back as if to say “Did you see, Mom? I chased him!” I haven’t seen that cat in our garden again but its so funny how Catty needs backup before he gets all brave.

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That summer was particularly warm and the cicadas were out in full-force, signing their deafening song and flying around all over the place. I was getting tired of catching the cicadas that flew inside the house and putting them back out the window. Pringles was busy sunning himself in the bay window one morning, when a cicada flew in. He had no idea what it was and as usual, just ignored it. I had something in mind, so I called him and and used the words we’d trained him with to indicate that there was food or a snack. Well, he pounced on the cicada, played with it for a while and then ate it.

The next cicada that flew in didn’t stand a chance! As soon as he heard the flapping wings, he dashed across the room, pounced and ate it. He obviously likes the taste of cicada. One year later, he actively hunts then in the garden, listening for the noise they make, creeping up on them and either pouncing or jumping up to knock it off a branch, if it’s sitting in a bush. We no longer refer to them as cicadas, they’re now called “Catty snacks”.

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Not long after we moved in, Pringles decided that our garden wasn’t a big enough territory for him, and he took to roaming the neighbours gardens as well. He soon learned (by accident) that the one neighbour has a small dog. One morning, he came leaping over the 6ft fence, as fast as he could go, with his tail all puffed up and eyes as big as saucers. The dog must have snuck up on him (they’ve told me he’s “cat-friendly”) and Pringles must have been caught unawares because usually he’ll stand up to a dog if he feels the dog is in ‘his’ territory.

Since then, he seems to only roam our garden and the neighbours garden on the other side. Thankfully, the neighbours don’t mind my Catty going to visit and my “lion” can often be found lying in a sunny spot at the bottom of their garden or ‘supervising’ the gardening and ‘overseeing’ other odd jobs.

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Pringles loves attention and will often seek it out, especially if he hears voices out in the garden. There have been mornings when he’s been lying peacefully at my feet while I work, only to suddenly disappear out the cat flap to go and see who’s in his extended territory (the neighbours garden). Often when I pop out out to run errands he’ll wait a few minutes before hopping the fence to go for a cuddle or to sit on the neighbours windowsill. He’s never done this with any of our other neighbours in the past (we’ve never encouraged it) and he’s even followed a door-to-door salesman from our house to theirs, just like a dog!

At least I know where to look for him if I can’t find him at home and I know that there’s often someone keeping an eye on him, if I’m out for the day. I don’t have to worry about him wandering off around the neighbourhood, as he tends to stay between the two gardens.

We do still lock him in at night, purely for my own peace-of-mind. We live on a busy road and I’d hate for him to be run over at night. It also stops other cats from coming into our house and protects the wild hedgehogs in our garden (and any other nocturnal creatures).

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Catty is very happy to finally have his own garden and is still very playful for his 10 years. We’d warned the neighbours that he is a “cat-burglar” (see part 2) and it was almost as if Pringles heard me! A few days later, he brought a rag in through the cat flap. I returned it next door and the next day, it was back. This backwards and forwards game with the cloth continued for a week, until it was knotted to the railing and the little rascal couldn’t pull it loose.

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Winter arrived and we got to use our fireplace. This is the first time we’ve ever had a fireplace and Pringles had no idea what it was. It went from being extremely scary (with him hiding under the bed), to being tolerated from across the lounge, to becoming his best friend!  By the end of winter he could seem get close enough.  He’d also sit in front of it and wait for us to light it, giving us disgusted looks on nights when it wasn’t cold enough for a fire!

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We recently went away for a week and a few days after we returned from our trip to Gisborne and Rotorua, Catty woke me up unexpectedly. He’d waited until hubby had literally just left for work (at 6am) before waking me up with this deep, guttural “rowr, rowr, rowr.”  Still half asleep, I wondered if the cat was meowing because he hadn’t been let out yet and it was only when he made the deep-throated meow again, that I realised it was an “I’ve brought you a present” rowr and not a “let me out” or “feed me” meow!
I turned the light on in the bedroom and there on the carpet was this large Weta. At first I thought it was a huge spider and started to panic, but then I saw the feelers and realised what it was. For those of you who don’t know what a New Zealand Weta looks like, it sort of like a large cricket on steroids and about 6cm long (click on this link to read more about Weta). This was the first weta I’ve seen up close and I just wanted to get it outside before the cat ate it or it crawled into a cupboard, so I didn’t get a very good look at it. I’m not sure if it was a ground weta or a treeweta weta, I just grabbed a tissue, picked it up in and wanted to get it out the window as fast as possible before I got a serious case of the heebie jeebies.

 

Murphy’s Law, while I was carrying it from the passage into the lounge (to get it to a window the leads out to the garden), I dropped it! It was still fairly dark, so I fumbled around trying to find the right light switch for the room, hoping that I wouldn’t step on it in the process (I was barefoot) and once I got a light on, the weta had simply disappeared! Now, I knew that it wasn’t possible, for something as large as a weta to just vanish into thin air. I had dropped it mere seconds ago and it was in an open carpeted area. Where could it be? After a few minutes of looking around, I glanced at my leg and there it was, clinging onto my pyjama pants! Eeeek! And this thing just wouldn’t let go! Eventually I pulled quite firmly and the weta let go and out onto the outside windowsill it went. The last I saw of it, it was crawling along the side of our house above the garden, fully intact and unharmed as I’d manage to rescue it before Catty decided that he wanted the gift back to play with or eat as a snack!

I’ve learned over the years that when Catty brings me a gift, it’s usually caught and carried inside very carefully and is unharmed when he delivers it. If I’m going to rescue the ‘gift’, I have to move quickly, otherwise he changes his mind and either starts playing with it (which leads to his claws coming out) or he delivers a fateful bite that usually signifies that he’s going to eat it and leave a mess on the carpet.

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Christmas Eve … he’s eager to open his presents!

I’m sure there’ll be a part 5 in a year or two’s time, as Pringles is always up to no good and seems to love having these little adventures.

The Adventures of my FurKid – part 3

The Adventures of my FurKid – part 3

A few weeks after I’d posted Part 2, we were rudely awoken at 2am one morning, to the hair-raising sounds of a catfight taking place in our lounge. I thought this was rather odd, as we lock Pringles inside at night and I wondered if I’d forgotten to lock the flap. I slowly crept down the stairs, torch in hand, hair on my neck standing on end yet ready to break up a cat fight.  I got downstairs and turned on the light, only to find my dear pussycat in a full on yowling match with his own reflection in the lounge window! The heavy blackout curtains and bright streetlights were enough to create a perfectly clear reflection of himself in the window. Silly cat.

Using his scratching log as a pillow

After frustratingly trying to teach Pringles how to use the new cat flap (he’d used one in South Africa, so this wasn’t a new concept), the silly sausage still hadn’t figured out how to go outside. If I let him out through the front door and then closed the door, “locking” him out, he’d come in through the cat flap quite happily but he just couldn’t seem to wrap his head around the fact that it worked both ways and wouldn’t go out the house via the cat flap. He’d sit there scratching at the window and waiting for someone (usually me) to hold the flap open before leaping through. He had free reign of the townhouse’s small garden during the day but did get locked inside at night, not only for his own safety and my peace of mind (I don’t want him being run over or getting into cat fights) but also for the safety of the NZ noctural wildlife.  I don’t want Pringles hunting and bringing in innocent creatures during the night. He seemed to get used to being locked inside after a few weeks, he began coming in on his own as soon as it started getting dark and would curl up in his bed, quite happy to settle in for the night.

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Sneaking into our bed, when he has a perfectly good cat bed of his own!

One chilly winter’s evening, we were sitting watching something on TV. Pringles was curled up in his cat bed with his soft baby blanket draped over him, and there were soft snoring noises and grunts being emitted from the depths of the bed. Dear Catty must have been fast asleep when all of a sudden he shot out of the bed, levitating about a metre off the floor, he went higher than our coffee table!  He landed on all four paws and immediately levitated again before sitting on the floor next to his bed. He looked at his bed, looked at us and had this really confused look on his face before acting all sheepish. He must have been having a nightmare and his bed suddenly decided to “eat” him. It really was funny and we couldn’t help but laugh at him. Unfortunately, it’s one of those had-to-be-there moments that I wish I could have captured on video. We still laugh about it, years later!

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We went to South Africa for 3 weeks in May 2015 to attend a family wedding, visit friends and do a bit of sightseeing. Upon our return, we collected Pringles from the cattery that we’d put him in and they warned us that they’d had a few sneezing cats the week before and that we must just watch him in case it’s cat flu (which is highly contagious). We got him home and he was fine that day and was very happy to be home, full of purrs and constantly wanting love and to be scratched or petted. There was the odd sneeze but nothing that I was worried about.

The next day he sneezed a lot! I started to think something was wrong but it was Saturday afternoon and the Vet had already closed for the day, so I had to wait until Monday morning before speaking to them. Pringles kept us up that entire night with a runny nose and loud sneezing fits. By Monday morning, he was so blocked up that he had to breathe through his mouth and he kept waking us up every 2 hours (at night) with continual sneezing fits, coughing and a blocked nose. He even stopped eating and drinking. It was like having a sick baby in the house!

Off to the Vet we went, only to be told that he did have the dreaded cat flu! There are three types of Cat Flu; one viral that doesn’t respond to antibiotics and two bacterial types that can be treated with antibiotics. As it turned out, he had the horrible viral kind, the one that is really bad and cats can die from it if not treated in time! The poor little guy was running a very high fever (40.8°C, normal for a cat is around 38°C) but thankfully the flu was limited to his nose and throat and hadn’t gone into his chest yet. We’d managed to catch it early. The vet gave him painkillers and an antibiotic injection to prevent him from getting a secondary bacterial infection and I paid my hefty vet bill before taking my poor kitty home and tucking him up into his bed. I felt helpless, there wasn’t much that I could do to help him, he just had to fight this off on his own.

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One very sick kitty

I had to dose him up once a day with painkillers, as well as a precautionary antibiotic and he got half a L-Lysine tablet crushed and added to his food. Thankfully I keep an L-Lysine supplement in my cupboard for when I get a coldsore, so I had some already. The viral cat flu causes coldsore-like blisters on the soft palate in the mouth, inside the nasal cavaties and in the throat. It’s no wonder my poor kitty didn’t want to eat! It was so bad that I had to force-feed him food and water with a syringe for two days and he finally “asked” for breakfast after being on the meds for a few days, which was great! It meant that I was able to medicate him in his food, without me having to force-feed them to him.

Poor Catty sounded awful! I had to lock him inside as it was far too cold outside for me to let him out, there was a chilly winter wind blowing and I had to prevent him for developing a further infection, pneumonia or from infecting other neighbourhood cats. I had placed his bed next to the window, in the weak winter sun, to keep him warm and tucked him up in his bed under his baby blanket. Unfortunately, he had to get used to using his ’emergency’ litter box until he got better, he hates having to use an undignified litter box and prefers to go out in the garden.

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Unfortunately, we just had to sit and wait it out. Poor Catty’s nose was so badly blocked, yet it kept running at the same time and breathing was really difficult for him. If he wasn’t trying to breathe through his mouth, which cats hate to do, then he was trying to breathe through his nose and was constantly sniffing, sneezing and coughing. The vet said it could take anything from three to fourteen days for it to clear. I felt so sorry for him, there wasn’t much that I could do to help alleviate his symptoms. I did try to “steam” him twice a day to try clear his sinuses and would run the hot water in the shower until the bathroom was all steamy (just like you do when a child has croup) and then I’d carry him into the bathroom and stand there holding him in the steam for a few minutes until it sounded like his breathing got a little easier. At night, I just put him in the bathroom with me when I had a bath or shower and he would simply sit there and breathe in the steam all by himself. It did seem to help a little and he got into a routine where he would follow us upstairs whenever one of us went to bath or shower.

A few days later, he still wasn’t eating properly and I had to force-feed him his meds as he refused to eat his breakfast and the painkillers and L-Lysine are mixed into his morning food portion. “It’s easy and very simple to force-feed him his meds in a syringe” the vet said. “Just mix a teaspoon of wet food with a teaspoon of water and add his meds. Put the 10ml mixture into a syringe and just trickle it into his mouth. It’s easy.”, he said. Hahaha, I wonder if he’s ever actually tried to force-feed an ex-feral adult cat with a syringe?

Selfie!  (with bald patch on his front leg from his anaesthetic two weeks ago)

Eventually, he started to come right but then we had another set-back and he wouldn’t eat or drink. After trying to get Pringles to eat by himself and him not being interested, I tried for ten minutes to feed him with a syringe and he wasn’t tolerating it! Catty was growling at me, squirming and scratching my arms, cat food was going everywhere and I was getting really frustrated. I had managed to feed him with a syringe the night before I’d taken him to the vet, when the cat flu had first flared up, but he must have felt really miserable at that stage because feeding him then was a breeze; he just lay there and lapped it up! Eventually, I gave up and had my own breakfast. An hour later, I tried again. I had better luck the second time but he still wasn’t a happy Catty. Fifteen minutes later, his medication and food mix had been (frustratingly) administered, after which dear Catty decided that he was now hungry and went and sat by his food bowl, waiting for some more food! Why???!!! *Sigh* Why wouldn’t he just eat his meds and then get his “fishy” afterwards without all the fuss? Sometimes it’s just like having a naughty toddler in the house!

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Playing Hide-‘n-Seek … he’s not so good at hiding

I hated force-feed Pringles. I knew that I was trying to help him but in his eyes, I just seemed to be a big, bad meanie that was trying to shove unwanted stuff down his throat! His blocked nose still sounded really awful but it finally felt like his fever had broken, as he wasn’t feeling as hot as he had been. What really irritated me about this whole episode was how blasé the cattery was about it. Cat flu is serious and highly contagious, cats die from it. It worried me that the carrier or sick cat may still have been in there, hadn’t been quarantined and that other people’s cats may be being infected too. At least my Catty was out and I was doing the best I could to nurse him back to health. I just wished that there was more that I could do for him. It’s so hard to describe how awful he looked and sounded. He lost a total of 500g, not a lot to most people, but to a 6.5kg cat, it’s a lot! Just to give you an idea of what he sounded like, it was as bad as a human adult with a really bad case of the flu, without being able to blow his nose.

To make matters even more frustrating, I only noticed after the force-feeding episodes that the critical care food the vet had given me to mix with his medication was chicken & pork flavoured and my fussy cat doesn’t like eating anything that’s not fish flavoured! I then had an idea and wondered if I mixed his meds with fish flavoured cat food if he’d happily eat it, saving both him and me the trauma of the force-feeding, and it worked! You’d think that after having had him for so many years that I’d know this and think to check food flavours first. Well, after 3 days of force-feeding, he happily ate his meds all by himself and all the (unnecessary) stress had been for nothing, all because his food wasn’t fish flavoured!

Chilling on the deck

Pringles was really ill with this cat flu, it took four months for him to fully recover from it and there definitely were times when it was touch-and-go and we thought we were going to lose him. Unfortunately, now that the virus is in his system, he has it for life and as soon as he gets a little stressed out, it flares up again and he starts sneezing. The virus remains dormant in the body in the same way that the coldsore (herpes simplex) virus does in humans. Giving him L-Lysine in his food when he starts sneezing does help to suppress the virus and so far, we haven’t had another full-on bout of cat flu. Hopefully we never have to go through that again!

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Part 4 of The Adventures of my FurKid (which contains more funny stories, like in parts 1 & 2) is now available, click here.

Begging to be dried after he's been out in the rain

Asking to be dried after being caught outside in a sudden rain shower

 

Sugarman

Sixto Rodriguez (also known as Rodriguez or Jesus Rodriguez) is an American folk musician from Detroit, Michigan.  His career was initially short lived with two albums in the early ’70’s and two Australian concert tours.  His music never took off in the US, although he retained a loyal following in Australia.  Unknown to him, his work became very popular in South Africa, even though little was known about the musician at the time and it was mistakenly rumoured that he had committed suicide during a concert in the 1970’s.  Both of his albums were released on CD in 1991 and in 1998 his song “Sugar Man” was covered by Just Jinger, a South African rock band.

In 2012 we saw the documentary “Searching for Sugar Man” which was aired on South African television.  The documentary is about two South Africans (from Cape Town), who set out in the late 1990’s to discover what happened to Rodriguez and whether or not the rumour about his death was true.

These determined fans did manage to find him, still living in the same derelict house that he bought in the 1970’s after quitting his music career, and the documentary has led to a revival of his music career.

This month we got to see this legend in person.  It was quite something to see the 72-year old man shuffle out onto the stage (assisted by a crew member) dressed in a suit and top hat but once he picked up his guitar and began playing and singing, his age seemed to disappear!

He is still an astounding musician and such a humble man.  I say humble because whenever the crowd applauded and cheered for him at the end of a song, he’d turn around (with his back to the crowd), take off his top hat and point it towards one of his band members, almost like he was directing the applause at them instead of it being for him!

Watching him perform was both amazing and inspiring.  His body may have aged but his mind still seems to be as sharp as ever.  His fingers flew swiftly and nimbly over the guitar strings and his voice was clear and strong.  There were even times during the concert where he had the crowd laughing at his witty comebacks to (drunken) comments shouted at him between songs!

When the concert ended and he shuffled off stage (assisted once more), we thought that there was no way that they would make him come out for an encore.  But lo and behold, out he came and happily played two more songs for us.

It’s really hard to imagine someone doing a world tour in their 70’s!  Surely all the traveling must be exhausting.  He did two concerts in New Zealand:  Auckland on 13th Oct and Wellington on 15th Oct, before heading across to Australia to do 14 concerts between 17th Oct and 15th Nov (one concert every alternate night)!  He’s then heading over to the UK in May 2015.

What an amazing man!

If you haven’t yet seen the documentary, try and make a plan to see it.  Click on this link to watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QL5TffdOQ7g

When the Circus came to Town

When the Circus came to Town

In 2008 we got to go to Madame Zingara‘s Theatre of Dreams in Durban, South Africa.  A unique supper theater spectacular that is housed in one of the last remaining Mirror Tents in the world; a magnificent tent named “Victoria” that has a 25 metre velvet top, mirrored columns, velvet drapes and beveled booths; and has travelled around the globe for the last 80 years!  We went to see this show as we knew it would be an amazing experience (and it was, especially since the group of us that went all dressed up accordingly), so if you’re in South Africa and haven’t yet been to see Madame Zinagara, make a plan to get tickets when they’re in your city next!  (They’re currently in Johannesburg).

And then there’s Cirque du Soleil …

Cirque du Soleil - Totem

For years we’d been mesmerized by reruns of Cirque du Soleil shows broadcast on TV and always said that one day we would love to go and actually see a live show.  That day finally arrived and last night we got to watch Cirque du Soleil live in action.  Their production of Totem is still on in Auckland and runs from 22 August to 28 September, before they move across to Australia from October 2014 to July 2015 (showing in various cities).

According to Cirque du Soleil’s website TOTEM traces the fascinating journey of the human species from its original amphibian state to its ultimate desire to fly.  The characters evolve on a stage evoking a giant turtle, the symbol of origin for many ancient civilizations.  

Inspired by many founding myths, TOTEM illustrates, through a visual and acrobatic language, the evolutionary progress of species. 

Somewhere between science and legend TOTEM explores the ties that bind Man to other species, his dreams and his infinite potential.”

Words can’t really describe how amazing it was, but I’ll try as best as I can to give you an idea.

Upon arrival at Alexandra Park in Greenlane, Auckland, we parked our vehicle and made our way through the main entrance to see the enormous yellow and blue striped tents looming before us!

Apparently these tents are home to about 170 people who travel with the Totem production and once inside, you’re suddenly in a magical world; a world where people can somersault, leap, spin and fly, all while making it look so effortless and easy.  Tasks and tricks that seem impossible to us in our day-to-day world, suddenly have us completely captivated and our mind’s are transported and amazed by what the human body can actually achieve!

Humans were miraculously transformed into various animals, with a bright array of colorful costumes and skillfully applied make-up and I really do admire these performers who apply their own make-up during the shows, as they do a superb job!  Yes, each performer applies their own make-up by following step-by-step instructions given to them by the Make-up Designer who creates the looks for the show, but there is a make-up supervisor on staff who oversees them to make sure it’s all done right.

The show began with us all waiting in anticipation and watching this giant turtle-shaped mound in the centre of the stage.  Suddenly the cloth cover of the turtle’s “shell” was whisked away, revealing the carapace underneath – a jungle gym-like frame complete with parallel bars.  The shell represented the origins of life on earth and inside the frame colourfully dressed amphibians and fish came alive to playfully leap, jump and soar during a parallel bar sequence.

An Amerindian dancer was up next, with hoops that she tossed, rolled and jumped through while creating magical shapes using the hoops and her body, to evoke images of various animals, symbolising the endless circle of life.  She ended her act by creating a completely circular ball made entirely out the hoops she’d used during her performance!

There were so many great acts and amazing performances, that I could be here all day telling you about it:  monkeys, neanderthals and modern man all sauntering on stage to create an ‘accidental’ line representing our evolution; a Crystal Man that dangled and spiralled down from the ceiling; Crystal Ladies spinning and swapping squares of sparkling fabric on their hands and feet, in a high-speed co-ordination; an agile performer contorting his body on an hourglass-shaped frame; a Scientist in his ‘laboratory’, spinning sparkling balls in a giant glass beaker (representing atoms or planets?), while his colleagues beat out music on brightly coloured test tubes filled with mysterious plants and fluids; Men leaping, jumping and flying on Russian bars, weightlessly defying gravity!

But there were two acts that really stood out for us … 5 ladies on unicycles; and an Amerindian couple on roller-skates with their act symbolising a wedding ceremony.

The five ladies on unicycles represented the abundance of Fall (Autumn), as they juggled metal bowls while displaying amazing agility, balance, synchronisation and grace.  The bowls were tossed using one foot, while controlling the unicycle with the other!  The bowls were then caught on their own heads or tossed across (or backwards over their shoulders, depending on which way they were facing) onto the heads of the other unicyclists!

Once again, the stage lighting changed and the floor became a river; a beautiful Amerindian woman arrived in a canoe, followed shortly by a chief in a separate canoe.  Both were wearing white and on their feet were knee-length, laced up roller-skates.  What happened next was absolutely astounding … they both climbed up onto a 1.8 metre diameter, drum-shaped platform and holding onto each other, spun around in a tight circle, whirling and twirling at heart-stopping speeds!  One slight mistake and it all could have gone horribly wrong.  At one point, she was attached to him by a harness around his neck which went fitted across the base of her skull and head, nothing else was holding them together.  He spun them around in this small circle, while she “barrel-rolled” in a blur of tassels and wheels!

As I said before, words cannot come near to describing this magnificent show, so watch the official Totem trailer for a sneak peek of it really looked like … Cirque du Soleil – Totem.

If you ever get a chance to see Cirque du Soleil live, don’t even think about it, just buy those tickets and go!  It was an awesome night out and a truly amazing experience.  Definitely worth every dollar spent!

Note:  Some of the information above and all photos are from Cirque du Soleil’s website, as photographs are not allowed to be taken in the tent.

 

100-days challenge: Days 76 to 100

Day 76:  Grateful that we were able to find squash courts nearby.  I really enjoyed this morning’s game.

Day 77:  Happiness is … sending e-mails to family and friends back ‘home’.

Day 78:  Grateful for home-cooked comfort food.

Day 79:  Happiness is … the sound of a thunderstorm!

Day 80:  Grateful for the afternoon walk and chat with my neighbour.

Day 81:  Happiness is … an animated movie and popcorn.

Day 82:  Grateful for friendly shop assistants.

Day 83:  Happiness is … Sundowners and a bbq’d chicken with roast potatoes.

Day 84:  Happiness is … tea and home baked banana muffins.

Day 85:  Grateful for leftovers, yummy chicken mayo sandwiches for lunch.

Day 86:  Grateful for all the rain we had today.

Day 87:  Grateful for the quick car service and that I didn’t have to sit around for hours waiting.

Day 88:  Grateful for my sewing machine.

Day 89:  Grateful for my health!

Day 90:  Happiness is … time spent with my husband.

Day 91:  Grateful for coffee and a chat with a friend.

Day 92:  Grateful for homemade comfort food … hot beef stew on a cold, wintery evening.

Day 93:  Grateful for a beautiful day with blue skies and sunshine, even if it is still a little chilly (we had frost this morning!).

Day 94:  Grateful for warm blankets, hot water and comfort food.  These are things that we often take for granted, things that others less fortunate than us may not have in winter.

Day 95:  Happiness is … homemade pizza on a Friday night!

Day 96:  Happiness is … a walk on the beach.

Day 97:  Grateful for lunch on the deck (in the sunshine) with my husband.

Day 98:  Happiness is … a book, warm duvet and hot cup of coffee on a cold, rainy day.

Day 99:  Grateful for a warmer day today and happy to see the sun!

Day 100:  Grateful that I have a wonderful, loving husband who has supported and stood by me through many of life’s ups and downs in the past 11 years.  I’m grateful for the love and support (and numerous hugs) during the difficult times and am grateful that we are able to share and experience the good times together.  Today we celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary …

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100-days challenge: Days 51 to 75

Day 51: Grateful for a quiet evening at home, a glass of wine and an episode of The Big Bang Theory.

Day 52: Happiness is … homemade Foccacia for lunch (Italian herb, tomato & feta)

Day 53: Grateful for all the rain we’ve been having, the garden needs it!

Day 54:  Happiness is … a warm, toasted Hot Cross Bun and a cup of  Irish Cream flavoured coffee!

Day 55:  Happiness is … a quiet moment, curled up on the couch with my book.

Day 56:  Grateful for a nice hot shower after a walk in the chilly evening air.

Day 57:  Grateful for an hour of “me time” to give myself a pedicure!

Day 58:  Happiness is …  a good night’s sleep!

Day 59:  Grateful that I got to go for my morning walk before the rain settled in.

Day 60: (ANZAC day) My thoughts are with families who lost loved ones during the First and Second World Wars. Even though my grandparents are not from New Zealand or Australia, I am grateful that they survived the war/s and that I was able to get to know them. Many families all over the world lost loved ones and children grew up without ever knowing or remembering their fathers or grandfathers.

Day 61:  Grateful for dinner at the Riverhead Historic Tavern.

Day 62:  Grateful for a day sightseeing around Waiheke.

Day 63:  Happiness is … sitting in the sun with a cup of coffee and my book, while sharing the little sunny spot with my Catty.

Day 64:  Grateful for my sewing machine.

Day 65:  Grateful for warm socks and a hot mug of milk with honey & cinnamon on a chilly evening!

Day 66:  Grateful for e-mails from friends far away.

Day 67:  Happiness is … free product samples.

Day 68:  Happiness is … Slow roasted butterfly chicken for dinner.

Day 69:  Grateful that I got to meet some ‘new’ extended family members.

Day 70:  Happiness is … a girly afternoon with my Mom-in-Law.

Day 71:  Grateful for a tasty lunch while out sightseeing.

Day 72:  Grateful for a clean home and a clean car!

Day 73:  Grateful for a quiet day at home to catch up on e-mails to friends.

Day 74:  Happiness is … a hot bubble bath and an oil cleanse “facial”.  I haven’t done that in weeks and missed it!

Day 75:  Grateful for a quiet morning and being able to sleep in late, followed by breakfast, a cup of coffee and a few chapters of my book.  A nice, relaxing start to the weekend!

Treating cold sores or fever blisters

Cold sores or fever blisters, whichever you choose to call them, they’re extremely painful! If you’re lucky enough to have avoided the dreaded virus that causes these blisters, or happen to carry the virus without actually suffering from the awful blisters, then this may not be of interest you. But, if you know of anyone who does suffer from them, or are interested in what I have to say, then please do continue reading. Something I mention in here may help to ease the pain of someone that you know. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, there’s a treatment summary at the bottom.

My family and close friends know that I’ve been suffering with this awful virus for many years and my earliest memory of having a blister is as young as nine or ten years old. Growing up with them wasn’t easy, as I was always being teased by siblings or cousins who were lucky enough never to experience one. Thankfully they don’t have to experience the pain and embarrassment of an outbreak.

imageDepending your immune system, the severity of the outbreaks will vary from small blisters that are hardly even noticeable; to huge, painful blisters (like I get) that leave you with a swollen, throbbing lip, enlarged glands and an aching jawbone!

On average, I have between 4 – 8 blisters per year, with some years being much worse than others. Over the last 20 years I’ve had around 70 blisters in total and have been keeping a ‘cold sore diary’ to try and figure out what triggers them, if it’s seasonal or diet related, etc.
My worst outbreak so far: 13 blisters in one month.
Most recent bad outbreak (over New Year 2014): 4 blisters developed in one day, all spread across my top lip!

For those still reading and don’t know much about this virus, there are two types of herpes simplex virus (HSV):
HSV-1 is the most common type, which causes facial herpes (sores on the mouth, nose, eyes or ears).
HSV-2 usually causes genital herpes.

Cross-infection can occur, although face-to-genital cross-infection is more common (causing genital HSV-1) than passing the virus from the genitals to the facial area. Apparently nearly half of genital herpes is caused by HSV-1 (the cold sore virus) being passed on through oral to genital contact.

The cold sore virus (HSV1) usually enters the body through a break in the skin, around or inside the mouth (or on the genitals) and is spread by touching the blister or sore, sharing eating utensils or drinking out the same cup or glass, kissing an infected person or coming into contact with the saliva of a person with a present blister. Scarily, most children who develop the blisters are infected through a kiss from a well-meaning adult who is unaware that they are still contagious. Often they have had a blister, which has then developed into a sore or a scab and they think that it’s now fine and that they are no longer contagious!

Remember, you are contagious from the first tingle until about two days after the blisters have healed completely.

Unfortunately, there is no cure (yet) and once you’re infected with the virus, it settles into a nearby nerve sheath (the trigeminal ganglion, if you get cold sores on your mouth) and remains there for the rest of your life. Most of the time, the virus lies dormant (inactive) and causes no symptoms, you won’t even know you have it. In some people the virus becomes active from time to time and this causes the virus to multiply and travel down the nerve sheath before appearing as cold sore blisters on the lips or around the mouth.

Some people have cold sore outbreaks often, while others only get them every now and then. No one knows exactly what causes the virus to become active, but there are a few things that seem to activate mine:

Menstruation (periods), trauma to the lips or mouth area, fever, excess exposure to sunlight, extreme weather conditions (heat or cold) or anything that lowers the immune system, like a cold, the flu or generally feeling “run down”. On occasion, excessive sugar or too much junk food has also caused the virus to flare up.

Over the years, I have tried everything from home remedies and “old wives tales” (which include applying egg white, paraffin and methylated spirits on the blisters) to natural remedies like aloe sap and tea tree oil; over the counter creams and even prescription antivirals! I have experimented with my diet as well, cutting out or adding foods to see what helps to improve the healing time and this is what I’ve found:

Contrary to popular belief, applying ice to the affected area does not stop a blister from forming (for me anyway, it may be different for others). It did soothe the area and helped with the swelling, but the blister still formed. Applying Acyclovir cream as soon as you feel that initial warning “tingle” or “prickly feeling” does help reduce the severity of the blister and if you catch it early enough, the blister may not even form. Unfortunately, I no longer get any warning “tingle” or “prickly feeling”, the blisters just seem to pop up. Maybe I’ve developed too much scar tissue over the years.

ZoviraxOnce the blister has formed, continue using a topical treatment cream (like Abreva, Denavir or Zovirax, available OTC at most pharmacies), as this will help dry out the blister. If it’s too sore to rub the cream in, just dab it onto the blister and leave it to soak in. Always wash your hands before and after touching the blister, to prevent infecting the blister or spreading the infection to other areas of your body (eyes, nose, ears, torso, etc). Personally, I prefer to use a clean cotton bud (Q-Tip) to apply the cream, it’s more hygienic and is useful if washing my hands is not an option. If you’re travelling, just pop a few cotton buds and the treatment cream into a small plastic ziploc bag.

There is another OTC ointment available in South Africa called Pharyherp (I’m not sure if it’s available elsewhere yet). My GP had me trial this for her just before we left SA. Instead of drying the blister out, this one drains the blister through osmosis and heals it from the inside while keeping it moist, which prevents cracking and bleeding once a scab has formed. Most people don’t realist that the sore is still contagious at when it’s at the scab stage, so avoid kissing anyone until is has completely healed.

Taking L-Lysine (an amino acid not produced by the body, but required to inhibit the virus) does help. It’s available at most pharmacies in the vitamin section. When I get a blister, I take an 1000mg at the onset, then 1000mg three times per day for three days. This seems to help a lot and reduces the size of the blister, as well as the healing time. L-Lysine is also helpful if you suffer from shingles and can be taken in the same way.

The virus seems to thrive on sugar and Arginine (another amino acid that is required for the virus to replicate). By cutting out all sugary foods and drinks and by reducing the intake of Arginine-rich foods (like nuts, peanut butter, seeds, beans, tuna fish, chicken and eggs), taking L-Lysine and using a topical cream, it is possible to reduce the severity and healing time of a large blister from two weeks to 4 – 8 days.

Anti-virals do help, but these are expensive and have to be prescribed by a doctor. They are taken like an antibiotic; a course of ten to fifteen tablets taken for 5 days, either twice or three times per day, depending on the strength of the tablets. With anti-virals, the course has to be started within 24-48 hours of a blister forming. I have tried both Zovirax (acyclovir tablets) and Famvir (famciclovir tablets) in the past and both work. In some people, these anti-virals may prevent future outbreaks, it all depends on how your body reacts to the treatment. (Note: Famvir is also prescribed for the treatment of shingles).

Covering cold sores with make-up can lead to the spread of the infection, especially if you’re not careful and I’ve found that the blister tends to become aggravated and often flares up even more. Rather avoid lipstick and draw attention away from your lips, towards your eyes by wearing black liquid or gel eyeliner or try going for a smokey-eyed look (sorry guys, this advise is for the ladies only, unless you wish to try the “guy liner” look or don’t mind wearing full make-up!).

imageIf you feel that you really do have to cover the blister (for a special occasion, wedding, etc), Abreva make a non-medicated patch called “AbrevaConceal“, which you stick on over the blister and then apply make-up onto the patch.

Summary:

When you feel a blister starting, take 1000mg L-Lysine and apply acyclovir cream (every hour). Stop eating sugary foods and reduce arginine-rich foods. If the blister develops, continue using a topical treatment cream, take 1000mg L-Lysine three times per day for 3 days and take an anti-inflammatory if the swelling and pain is severe. Continue with the topical cream and only 1000mg L-Lysine per day from the 4th day, until the sore is completely healed. During the last few days, Isopropyl Alcohol can be applied to the scab to help dry it out quicker. Whatever you choose to do, don’t pick at the scab as you can still spread the virus.

As a preventative measure, use a moisturizing lip balm with an SPF15 or higher on a daily basis, like Blistex Moisture Max. It has an SPF15 and contains aloe vera and shea butter to prevent the lips from drying out.

Please note that I am not a medical professional.  This knowledge based on my own experience over the years and I hope that by sharing this info, it may possibly bring some relief to fellow cold sore suffers out there.

If you wish to read more about the Herpes Simplex Virus, have a look at this website: http://www.herpes.org.nz/patient-info/facial-herpes/