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Life is never dull around here.

I spent Saturday getting ready for guests.  In the late afternoon, the bulk of my chores were done and I decided to go for a quick swim before my friends arrived.

I went out to clean the pool with our pool net before swimming.  I heard the voices of a couple guys (obviously intoxicated) partying in our canyon.  I noticed, because normally it's very, very, quiet where I live.

People are not allowed to be where these guys were, and the thought of calling our neighborhood security passed through my mind.  The thing is, I only had about a half hour to spare and I decided they were probably harmless hikers so I dismissed the thought.  (We do get hikers in the canyon frequently.)

As it turns out, even if I had called security they would not have arrived in time to prevent what happened.

I went inside and put my bathing suit on.

I came out just a minute or two later to see smoke and flames immediately behind my house.

I ran to call 911.  

I also called for help from everyone in my house.

It took nine minutes for the firemen to arrive.

Nine minutes doesn't sound like long, but when you live in a canyon filled with dry brush, and it's on fire, nine minutes is an eternity.

My husband immediately began hosing off the bushes on the perimeter of our property.

The flames were racing up hill towards us at an alarming rate.

We were even using buckets of pool water to dump on the brush near the flames.

It was scary.

(And yes, I do realize my golden retriever is smiling in the background of that photo.  I think he was thrilled with all the people running in and out of our backyard!  Not only that?  Firemen give lots of pets and ear rubs!)

It wasn't long until we heard sirens and soon our backyard was filled with firemen and fire hoses, and fire gear …  


The fire helicopter would fill up it's water tank at the lake behind our house and then drop the water on the flames.  At one point, the flames were racing up the hill toward us and we were really scared.  It felt like the fire would reach our house in seconds.


And then …

Water drop!

We all cheered.

(I even got a little wet during that particular water drop!)

The helicopter (fireman) pilot waved and gave us a thumbs up sign.

The above photo, one of 1,500 I took during the fire, appeared in The Orange County Register.

Arson investigators were on the scene very quickly.

Yes, arson.

Don't even get me started on the type of assholes who set fires intentionally!

We had an enormous crew of firemen at our house, and right BEHIND our house, for hours upon hours.  They built fire breaks, they cleared brush with axes and chain saws, they lifted heavy fire hoses through rugged terrain.

We offered to let them cool off with a swim in the pool (and margaritas), but apparently they're not allowed to play while fighting fires.

Go figure.

Even when the flames were out, they kept right on working until well after dark.


Firemen are heroes … absolute, badass, heroes!

© Twenty Four At Heart 

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1920 Fire Engine

* It's ironic this post was already scheduled to publish today.  We had a FIRE right behind our house yesterday and the Orange County fire department, literally, saved our house.  I will have photos of the fire, etc. for you tomorrow.  And yes, we are fine and so is our house. *

The fire station on Balboa Island is home to a 1920 fire engine.

I dropped in to take some photos of it and talked to the nice fireman pictured above.

I hope he doesn't mind me antiquing him.

It seemed like the right thing to do.

© Twenty Four At Heart

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I'm so glad it's the weekend!


Today, I have a house guest arriving.

She'll be visiting for eight days and has never been to California before.

I can't wait to share a little of Orange County with her ….

© Twenty Four At Heart

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I get asked, all the time, what are those purple trees called?

"Those purple trees" are called jacarandas and they're everywhere in Orange County.  (In fact, I wrote about them a couple years ago when I first began blogging.)

Usually the jacarandas bloom in May here, but we've had a cooler than normal year and they're gorgeous right now.

I was driving through North County earlier this week and I decided to park and take a few photos for you.

I love the dark trunks and branches in contrast with the purple flowers.


I used to have a jacaranda tree in my backyard, but it had to be removed when we put in our pool.  It went to a good home.  And no, I'm not joking … we had it carefully moved so it would survive.

It's okay though, because I see jacarandas everywhere I go.

Jacaranda trees line many of the streets here.

They're pretty messy trees.

I think the petals on the ground are pretty though.

They're like pieces of purple confetti strewn everywhere.

Jacarandas really are beautiful, majestic, trees.

© Twenty Four At Heart 

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I want to to provide some follow-up today to a previous (serious) post, and also answer a few questions.  I know today's subject matter is an unusual topic for me to address, but I write about the experiences in my life, whatever they might be.  If sharing those experiences helps to inform and/or educate other people I think it's worth taking the time and space to write about them.

 ** Before I start, I'd like to point out - I'm not in the medical profession.  If you have questions/concerns you should talk to your doctor. **

Dr. Important called yesterday.

We played phone tag for awhile, and I admit my stomach clenched with anxiety every time my phone rang until we finally connected.

Here are the biopsy results on the four colon polyps he removed:

One was benign … that means it was as innocent as I am. (!!!!)

Three were pre-cancerous, but came back with "clear margins" meaning he removed them in their entirety, leaving no bad cells behind.  (Which means, if I had not gone in for a colonoscopy they would have become cancer!)


Can you spell r-e-l-i-e-f?

I'm so GLAD I had the test done, and so GLAD a doctor with the expertise of Dr. Important was the one doing it.

As far as next steps ….

I will be having a super-sized follow-up procedure with a more specialized scope (and under general anesthesia) in six months.  I will be checked frequently and vigilantly in the future.  And because of those things, I should be FINE.

A few of you wrote in with questions, and because I think YOUR HEALTH is important, I'm going to answer your questions publicly.

•  What symptoms did I have?  Most of the time, polyps cause NO symptoms.  I was experiencing a burning sensation under my rib cage.  It was up high on my body and I initially thought it might be an ulcer.  As it turns out, I'm a freak of nature and have an unusually long colon.  It's all twisted up inside of me which is probably what was causing the sensation, not the actual polyps the doctor discovered.

•  What is a polyp?  A polyp is a growth.  There are different types of polyps, and some are more likely to become cancerous than others.

•  What causes polyps?  There are a few different things that can cause polyps: 

Genetics are a big factor.  If anyone in your immediate family (mother, father, sisters, brothers) have had polyps, you are much more likely to get them also and should start being checked at age 40, or sooner if you have any changes/symptoms such as constipation or diarrhea for more than a week, and/or bleeding.  

I didn't know prior to my test, but it turns out – my mother and brother have had polyps.  No one had ever told me, so I thought there was no family history to be concerned with.  I had also told Dr. Important I had no family history of colon cancer or polyps.  We were both shocked when he discovered four polyps.  Once he found out I DO have a family history, he was no longer at all surprised.

 (Apparently no one in my family thought it ideal to discuss colonoscopies and polyps over dinner.  They were WRONG.  Knowing your family history could save your life.)

Your diet is also a huge determining factor.  

Studies have found polyps are found at a more frequent rate in people who eat a lot of processed/chemically treated foods.  (I don't, by the way.)

Additional studies have found polyps are more frequently discovered in people who have diets high in saturated fats.  (I don't have a diet high in saturated fats either.)

I think most adults know, for good health in general, what foods are in the healthy vs. unhealthy categories.  

And no, I don't want to argue the details folks.  

We all can agree candy does not provide the nutrients an orange does.  Ice cream vs. broccoli, etc.

Eating a healthy, balanced, diet is better than eating a crappy one.

Smoking/Alcohol – Studies have found people who smoke, and people who drink a lot of alcohol, are more likely to form colon polyps.

Lack of exercise – People who don't exercise regularly are more likely to form polyps.

Overweight – People who are overweight are more likely to form polyps.  (And no, I haven't lost all of the weight I gained while on prednisone!)

•  Is there anything I can do to cut down on my chances of forming polyps or having colon cancer?  Yes, you can't control your genetics, but you can eat healthy, exercise, watch your weight, and moderate/decrease your smoking and/or drinking.  Those are all things we're supposed to be doing anyway, right?  

And yes, you can be doing everything "right" and STILL form polyps.

(Isn't life grand?!)

There are also some indications increasing your calcium intake may decrease polyp formation.  

Lastly, I'd like to urge all of you to get over your colonoscopy fears (which I had too!) and follow your doctor's recommendations for preventative health care.

I cannot stress the importance enough.

© Twenty Four At Heart

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First Day of Summer

Yesterday was, officially, the first day of summer.

It was also the last day school was in session for my youngest son.

He needed to leave the house at 7 a.m. for his Spanish final exam.  (His last final before summer break.)

I needed to leave the house at 9:30 a.m. to pick him up afterwards.  (In case you're wondering, his exam schedule gave me enough time to take a shower, shampoo, and do a few chores before leaving to pick him up.)  We went out to breakfast to celebrate a good school year, and then he was off to a beach party with friends.

Of course, I had to drive him to the beach party.

(For some strange reason, I was not invited to stay.  Such a shame!  It was a beautiful day at the beach.  I don't know why a 16 year old boy would not want his mom lurking around a teen party with her telephoto lens?)

In fact, all I did yesterday was drive, drive, drive.

And I was eager for summer to arrive?

How quickly we moms forget …!

There were other signs of summer yesterday too.

My car thermometer eventually got as high as 95.  

Summer has officially arrived.

In an effort to start the summer off right, I took my camera into a Canon service center yesterday for a professional cleaning.  It was way overdue.  I wanted to make sure the sensor was spotless (dustless?) before our Hawaii vacation in a few weeks.

You know what they told me?

I've, so far, taken almost 30,000 photos with my "new" camera.  (They "read" the shutter and it's so smart, it tells them.)



The one armed, bionic woman!

(Speaking of, yesterday someone googled "one-armed photographer" and Google sent them to me.  Isn't that very smart of Google?)

The thought of taking thirty thousand photos is staggering.

And at the same time, quite a feat.

It made me think back to when Medical Professionals told me I would never be able to hold a full size camera again.  It brought back memories of their insistence I give up my passion.

In fact, in their minds it wasn't even up for debate …

Photography was an impossibility for me.  

It's almost been five years since the accident, and I've taken 30,000 photos in the last year and a half.

I wonder how many more I will take just this summer?

I feel oddly proud.

And so very … accomplished.

I feel like I've defied the odds.


Take THAT Medical Professionals!

It has been a fight every step of the way, but so worth it.

Thirty thousand photos and counting …


© Twenty Four At Heart

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Savoy, Lime and Cilantro Coleslaw

I made this recipe the other night on Father's Day.  

It's a nice side dish to enjoy with your barbeque (or cook-out, or grilling experience … depending on where you live and what terminology you use.)

My entire family really enjoyed it.

We barbequed some fresh teriyaki salmon and yams to go with it.  (And yes, we sliced up the yams and grilled them.  We pretty much grill everything at our house.)  

It's easy to make ahead of time, just don't put the dressing on until just prior to serving.  (I think the dressing is better when made a little ahead of time and chilled anyway.)

I got the original recipe from the Food Network Magazine courtesy of Tyler Florence.  I've made a few slight changes to it.

It's printed below with the variations I made.

(I've also included a few other possible options.)



  • 1 head Savoy cabbage
  • 4-6 green onions depending on your preference
  • 3/4 bunch fresh cilantro, torn
  • 1/2 cup "light" sour cream  (you can use regular or nonfat if you want)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (I used regular, but you can use any version you prefer)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (or honey or Splenda equivalent)
  • 2 limes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

(If you want to add some spice, you can also add a few red pepper flakes.  If you love nuts, you can toss a handful of your favorites in for a little added crunch.  If you hate mayo and/or sour cream try yogurt instead.)


Cut the cabbage so you have thin ribbons. Cut the green onions long so the pieces are similar in shape to the cabbage. Toss the cabbage, green onions and cilantro in a large salad bowl.

Make the dressing by combining the sour cream, mayonnaise, sugar and the zest of the limes in a medium bowl.

Just before serving, pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss to combine. 

Season with salt and pepper and finish with a squeeze (or two, or three?) of lime juice.  

I didn't use all the dressing when I made it because I prefer a lighter taste.  The amount of dressing you use will depend on your taste preferences. 

Yum, yum.

© Twenty Four At Heart

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A Glimpse of Balboa Island

* Tomorrow I'll be posting a great recipe.  Weird for me, yes? *

I've been on Balboa Island several times lately.

I realized this weekend, I've accumulated quite a few photos I should share.

Balboa Island is in Newport Beach, but it's not to be confused with the Balboa Peninsula.  They're very close to each other (right across from each other in Newport Harbor), but they aren't the same place.  There's a ferry you can take to get from one to the other though.

I don't really know how to explain Balboa Island.

First of all, Balboa Island isn't really an island, it's THREE islands. 

(Balboa Island, Little Balboa and Collins Island – all man made.)

It's old.

It's cute.

It's beachy, but it's in a harbor.  

There's water, and a little (!) sand, but no waves.


A lot of people like to rent beach houses there for a week or two in the summer.

Some very famous, wealthy, celebrities own homes on Balboa Island too. 

Maybe the best thing to do is just show you a few photos …

Charming, quaint …

A contrast, all unto itself –


And just in case you forget what all this quaint, charm costs ….


There are constant reminders.


And also,

Did I mention the beauty?


Once the sun sets, there's a very peaceful beauty ….

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Father’s Day

I hope you enjoy a wonderful, relaxing, Father's Day today.

(Briefcase, once upon a time, with our three rugrats.)

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Once Upon A Time …

Once upon a time, a beach cottage stood on a hill at the edge of the sand ….

Now, about ninety years later, this is all that's left.

© Twenty Four At Heart