Diamond Jubilee Galleries and the circadian rhythm

Lately, I’ve been so caught up with stuff to do that I haven’t had time to post anything, not even a simple, quick post about our recent long weekend trip to London, which mainly turned into a Harry Potter tour (see last photo…and yes, I stood in line for about a half hour so that Stefano could take a photo of me waving a wand at Platform 9 and 3/4, King’s Cross station; I now am also the proud owner of a lovely Gryffindor scarf, currently my most precious possession 😀 ).

Note: we also met with a good British friend of ours AND visited a couple of museums. OThe best, though, was our tour of Westminster Abbey that included the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries, which were opened to the public less than a year ago after having been locked up for 700 years! How about that…

These Galleries are located in the medieval triforium, 52 feet above the Abbey’s floor (great views of the Abbey from up there, as you can imagine!!!).

In addition to the views, there are many fascinating artifacts to be seen in this lovely four-chamber “attic,” such as Queen Elizabeth I’s corset (no kidding…I couldn’t believe my eyes, either…)…but the thing I enjoyed the most was walking among the glass cabinets displaying the wooden effigies of dead kings and queens, some still with painted faces, eyes staring into space. Yes, rather eerie, but oh so interesting.

As I recall, the effigy custom began in the Middle Ages and lasted until the 18th century. In short, the fully dressed (wigs included) wooden effigies of dead monarchs were placed on top of their coffins for the funeral processions. I’d never seen anything like it…

So yes, lots of things to look at in the Galleries, including Mary II’s 17th century coronation chair, covered with graffiti carved by Westminster schoolboys and visitors in the 18th and 19th centuries…Hah, this happened even back then, eh!

Unfortunately, no photos allowed in the Galleries (when I found that out, my expression pretty much mirrored that of one of Westminster’s stone dragons, see photo no. 2, above), but, no worries, you can find heaps of photos online.

Anyway, let’s set London aside for a minute.

I’ve been looking (again!) into how our circadian rhythm can affect how we absorb certain supplements. This is certainly not the first time I’ve posted on this topic…In fact, I just re-read my November 11 2007 post, which deals with a study linking circadian rhythm to chemo drug absorption. That is, an important factor in the administration of chemo drugs should be time of day…I wonder how many hospitals take circadian rhythm into consideration…?

Anyway. It seemed logical to me, even back in 2007, that the same would apply to anything we swallow, including our supplements, of course. Aspirin, e.g, is best taken in the evening, when it will not do as much damage to the lining of our stomach.

So there’s lots to be said for the circadian rhythm. I’m reading some more recent studies on this topic, but boyohboy, some of the jargon makes my brain go into DEEP sleep mode. I must persevere, though, because I might just find a pearl buried somewhere…

Has anyone done any research on this topic? I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks!  🙂

The Terminal

I had a FANTASTIC time in London last week with my friend and Stefano, but I’ll tell you about that another day. Today I wanted to let you know what happened at the airport on Sunday, because it might be useful to anyone who has future travel plans to Europe…

Let’s see. I went online to get my boarding pass on Saturday evening. Everything was fine up to the very end, when I got a message stating that there were some problems with my travel documents, and that I needed to go to an airport check-in desk the following day, that is, departure day.

We left the hotel a bit early in order to see what the “problems” were. I figured they just had to take a second look at my permanent Italian resident visa, so I wasn’t worried, even though I’d never received a message like that before…

When I got to the check-in desk, though, the airline representatives told me that my passport wasn’t valid for travel. WHAAAAT??? I was stunned.

Here’s why, and what happened afterwards:

My passport expires on April 19, 2019. That’s less than three months from now. The rule is that you can’t travel with a passport that has a three-month expiry date. Indeed, in some countries, the rule is SIX months.

I had no idea. I mean, I knew my passport was going to expire in April but figured I could use it in the meantime and had PLENTY of time to renew it. Who knew about the “three month rule”?

Back to the airport check-in desk.

  1. I made the point that I shouldn’t have been issued a ticket in the first place (NOTE: I booked with the airline directly, not with an agent). The airline reps agreed with me.
  2. I added that I should have been stopped in FLORENCE on my way to London, not in LONDON on my way back to Florence. Again, they agreed.

But they kept insisting that they couldn’t let me travel with this passport, that my passport wasn’t valid…They called their superiors who, at least in the beginning, confirmed my no-travel stance. I began to get worried…Flashes from the Tom Hanks movie called “The Terminal” kept popping into my mind…

Luckily, in the end I got the go-ahead from the top floors, my boarding pass was printed yaaaay, and I boarded the plane with Stefano and my friend…

As you can imagine, I’m getting a new passport ASAP

So here’s my point today: before making any travel plans to Europe, make sure your passport doesn’t expire three months after your departure date. In fact, just to be on the safe side, make that at least SIX MONTHS……………………

London!

First things first. I’ve been trying to sort through my Alsatian photos…Yes, we were in Alsace, lovely Alsace!, for the holidays…I wanted to surprise you, but too much time has passed, so I might as well…fess up! 😉

Here, finally, are a few photos of Strasbourg, where we spent the first part of our trip, including Xmas. The first photo shows a view of what is called Petite France, a lovely area of the city…

Anyway, as I mentioned, I have been trying to sort through my photos, but life keeps getting in the way, so much stuff to do, blablabla.

You know how it is.

This evening, for example, eleven colleagues/friends are coming over to our house for dinner, a mostly Alsatian cheese-and-wine dinner (yummmmmy cheese in Alsace!)…

Then on Wednesday…well, wait, let me tell you the story properly, as it happened.

This morning one of my best friends called for a chat. Among other things, she told me that she was going to be in London next week, from Wednesday to Sunday. Yes, this Wednesday.

I’ve wanted to go back to London for ages, so I must have sighed and said something like “ohhh, I wish I could go with you.” And she promptly replied, “well, why don’t you?”

Indeed, why not?

And so within minutes I had my plane ticket. On Thursday and Friday, she has to attend various meetings, but we’ll get together for dinner…and then on Saturday  (and Sunday morning, too, before heading back to Florence), we’ll be checking out the Mantegna-Bellini exhibit at the National Gallery, among other things… 

Well, this is sooooo exciting! I have to admit, it will be weird not to be sightseeing/going around with Stefano (who can’t take the time off right now…so he’s staying at home with the kitties).

But hey, I’ll be in LONDON, one of my favorite cities on the planet. It will be fabulous!!!

Take care, everyone! Ciao!

P.S. Isn’t it wonderful to see how so many buildings, both in Strasbourg and in the smaller towns we visited in Alsace, are decorated with plush toys? If you look closely, you will be able to see that the building that sticks out in the last photo is the same one that is lit up in the next-to-last photo. So pretty! And oh how I wanted one of those big bears! Hehe.

AUGURI!!!!!!!!

Stefano and I are leaving today for France where we will be spending the holidays…in a region we’ve never visited before. Very VERY exciting! 

Before leaving, I wanted to post a photo of our kitties with a festive look (so cute!), but I’m having a few computer burps this morning, no time to fix them, so I’ll just have to say: Happy Holidays, Buone Feste!!! And may 2019 bring several IL-17 antagonists (!), good health (yessss!) and happiness to all of us! Yaaaay!!!

Take care, everyone! See you…next year! 🙂

BUONE FESTE!!!

Distracted

I try to focus on my  Prevotella heparinolytica research, I really do!, but stuff keeps popping (or pooping, hehe) up to distract me, such as this BBC article on wombat poop: http://goo.gl/y2TYwD. Wombat poop? Yep!

(Aren’t they just the cutest animals?)

Did you know wombats are the ONLY creatures in the entire world that are able to poop out…cube-shaped poop? They apparently use these small cubes to communicate and attract other wombats. Hmmm. Anyway, yes, a fascinating article, accompanied by photos of said poop, too.  😉 

Another “distraction”: I’ve begun my annual routine of Xmas cookie baking. Every year I make cookies for friends and colleagues. I do enjoy it…it relaxes me…but it takes up a lot of my free time…

In spite of a bunch of different commitments in this period, I have taken a look at my previous blogs on the pesky IL-17. Result: anything that blocks IL-17 is a good thing…well, obviously, if it’s a non toxic thing, such as curcumin. So we need to look more closely at this topic…the IL-17 blocker topic.

Anyway, I’ll try to do some research over the weekend…or…hmmm…perhaps…NOT! 😉

Take care, everyone!

Gut bacteria plays a big role in the progression to active myeloma, according to a new Italian study

One of my Italian blog readers sent me this link today: http://goo.gl/AEwRXo

I realize the article is in Italian, but hey, you’re in luck 😉 : you can read the full study, on which the Italian article is based, in English…at this link: http://goo.gl/9U8NoN

In any case, I’m going to give you a brief summary (based only on the article. I need more time to read/go through the full study). Here goes.

Researchers at the Ospedale di San Raffaele in Milan have discovered that a particular type of gut bacteria, called Prevotella heparinolytica, plays a big role in the proliferation of some of the inflammatory lymphocytes involved in the progression from asymptomatic to active myeloma.

Here’s what happens, in a nutshell. First, the pesky Prevotella bacterium activates the above-mentioned pesky lymphocytes. The lymphocytes then wander over to the bone marrow where they help plasma cells proliferate. They do so by releasing an inflammatory molecule called IL-17.

Arianna Brevi, one of the main researchers, points out that IL-17 could become a predictive tool, since it can actually be measured in the bone marrow of asymptomatic patients. In other words, it might be able to show which patients are more at risk of developing active myeloma.

Testing their findings on lab mice, the researchers were able to block IL-17 and other inflammatory molecules involved in the progression to active myeloma. Result: they SLOWED DOWN progression to active myeloma. Incidentally, they used anti-inflammatory drugs that are already on the market.

Aha!

That got me to wondering if curcumin’s inhibition of IL-17 is the reason, the main reason, why I’ve remained “inactive” for so many years, as have so many of you, too!

Well, well, a VERY exciting finding today!!!

(More research needed, of course…)

P.S. Finally, I just wanted to mention that I’m FINE and have been doing FINE for a while, now. No time for the blog, though. I’ve been busy with life…tons of stuff to do, blablabla. Thanks for your notes of encouragement…much appreciated! 🙂

A cold is almost never just a cold…

So much to do, so little time. And I wasn’t supposed to get a COUGH again, either.

No, I’m not kidding.

I know where I was infected. To make a very long story short, exactly a week ago I accompanied a friend (who has very little Italian) and her 5-year-old daughter to a pediatric dentist. We had to wait for a couple of hours (the dentist was very busy and behind schedule) in a small, airless waiting room with other adults and their…kids.

Yes, I’m well aware of the danger of my being around potentially ill kids, especially in a situation like that where I couldn’t escape, but my friend needed me to communicate with the dentist. If I hadn’t been there, she wouldn’t have understood that her daughter had an abscessed tooth, which, obviously, would not have been good at all. (Incidentally, after a cycle of antibiotics, the little girl is fine…)

Anyway, that was on Thursday afternoon/evening. On Saturday I had a runny nose…okay, Margaret, it’s just a wee cold…

Except, with us myeloma folks, a cold is almost never just a cold.

By Sunday I was feeling funny…not funny funny haha, unfortunately!, but strange funny. I put myself on an antibiotic that evening.

Smart move…

A few hours later, during the night, the dreaded cough began. Oh yeah.

Boy, though, was it QUICK!!! From my nose to my chest in about 12 hours, I’d say. I’ve been on the antibiotic now for five days…and my cough is so MUCH better. In fact, after resting in bed on Monday, watching TV series, napping under the careful watch of devoted feline nurses, I’ve been up and about since Tuesday morning, doing my regular household chores, stopping now and again to cough, but it’s manageable. And with every day that passes, it gets better…I figure I’ll be OK in a couple of days…

But hey, I’m not writing this post just to complain and whine about my cough (although that’s certainly part of it, hehe)… 😉

No, I’m writing because in the past few days I’ve realized a possibly important fact: when I came down with bronchial pneumonia last month, and then with bronchitis last week, I was testing Meriva curcumin.

In other words, I’d been off my usual C3 Complex for a while. I know many of you take Meriva curcumin, so this may just be a coincidence.

But, just to be on the safe side, I’m back on C3 Complex. My Meriva test will have to wait until the spring, when I’m not at such a high risk of being infected…

Hope everyone is happy and well!!! Ciao!!!

Almost spitting images

One of my best friends here in Florence gave me a lovely present the other day. It was supposed to be a Xmas present, but my friend was so excited and eager to see my reaction that she couldn’t wait until December.

She had ordered two small, woolen versions of Pixie and Pandora (my 14-month-old sisters) from an Italian woman who specializes in the needle felting technique, which I believe originated in Japan and is quite ancient.

My friend didn’t have any up-to-date photos of the two sisters, so, while we were away in Matera, she asked our cat sitter to be her accomplice…Photos were taken and sent off to the artist.

And here’s the result. A few days ago, when I pulled the two small kitties from the box, I recognized Pixie and Pandora immediately (even though the orange is a bit too bright) and got a bit teary…Such a sweet present!!!

Quite realistic, I’d say…but not TOO realistic, which I would have found way too freaky!

Of course, Stefano and I now want mini versions of ALL of our cats, so I’ve contacted this young woman and have placed an order…Top of my list: two mini versions of our beloved Piccolo and Puzzola, as hard as it’s going to be to open THAT particular box…eh.

Anyway, aren’t they wonderful? Yes, these are terrible photos, I know, but I had to be really QUICK…Both kitties were interested not just in harmlessly smelling their alter egos but in pulling at the wool, as you can see Pandora doing in the second photo…The mini kitties are now in a super safe place where they can be seen but not reached (and destroyed) by the cats. 🙂 

Matera, the 2019 European capital of culture

The weekend of November 1st was a long holiday weekend, so Stefano and I, and his aunt and uncle (yes, the uncle with MM), decided to visit the ancient southern Italian city of Matera, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. It is also one of the OLDEST CONTINUOUSLY INHABITED cities in the entire world. How about that, eh!

In 2014, Matera was also awarded the title of 2019 European city of culture and since then has become a big tourist attraction. By the time we managed to book a B&B, in fact, Matera was 97% booked!

Matera is mainly famous for its Sassi (Italian for “Stones”), for its 1500 cave dwellings carved out of limestone and scattered all over the flanks of a steep ravine. These caves, dating to the Paleolithic (see photo on right), were expanded into slightly larger dwellings (the Sassi) by peasants and artisans in later eras. We visited one of the most famous cave dwellings inside the Sassi, but there were too many tourists inside to take any decent photos…You can look it up online, if you are curious. It’s called “Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario.”  The cave on the right is much more ancient (no doors, e.g.!), and located in the Murgia National Park, that is, outside the Sassi. In the photo below you have a panoramic view of these more ancient caves…

Anyway, the dank and dark Sassi dwellings were still inhabited in the middle of last century by as many as 15,000 people. Each family lived together with its animals, usually chickens, a donkey, and a pig. The above-mentioned Vico Solitario dwelling was inhabited by a family of 11, we were told. So many people, living under those conditions…no ventilation, dampness that made your bones creak, no running water, no electricity, no sewer system…Just one double bed for the entire family, and a tiny crib, which meant that the older children were sleeping on boxes or on some hay spread out on the floor…

It’s no wonder that malaria, cholera, typhoid were common diseases in Matera. We were told that child mortality was at 50%. I’m surprised that number wasn’t higher…

Then, in the mid 1950s, the Italian government declared that Matera was “the shame of Italy” and had all of the Sassi’s inhabitants relocated to public housing projects in the modern part of Matera. This move, although necessary, I suppose, unfortunately destroyed an entire social network…And in fact the inhabitants didn’t want to leave their homes, their neighbors, their livelihoods. They had to be forcefully removed. The relocated children of the “Sassi” then pretended that they’d come from other parts of the region. The Sassi at that time was synonymous with abysmal poverty, ignorance, etc. Who’d want to be associated with that?

After this relocation, the Sassi were essentially left to rot…until 30 years later. In the 1980s, the local administration realized Matera’s tourism potential and began fixing up the ancient buildings and promoting the Sassi…

Ancient caves have now been turned into fancy boutique hotels, restaurants, galleries, and even a contemporary art museum, MUSMA, that has its own underground network. As I was looking online for a reasonably-priced B&B, I came across a fancy hotel that offered a fancy suite with a fancy (amazing!) underground swimming pool. We didn’t go there, but it gave us an idea of the sort of change that Matera has undergone in the past few decades…Now it’s a hip place to go!

Unfortunately, it rained, and rained and rained, during most of our stay, which certainly added to Matera’s aura of mystery and, well, a bit of spookiness, too…But when, on the day we left (!), the sun came out, all I could say was “WOW!” The sun really made a difference…

Beautiful!

Oh, we also ate incredibly well in restaurants that I’d chosen because they used locally-sourced food…amazing…so YUMMY! We brought back with us some of the specialties we had enjoyed in Matera, including black chickpeas, which are grown in the Murgia National Park, located on the other side of the gorge.

Black chickpeas apparently contain lots of iron.   🙂 They have to be soaked for two days, then boiled for three and a half hours. Wowsie! But they are so yummy…

Oh, I guess it’s obvious that I am compleeeeeetely over my bronchial pneumonia…I have to admit that I still get tired easily, but…no big deal. I’m taking probiotics (after such heavy doses of antibiotics, probiotics are a MUST), as well as vitamins and minerals to boost my energy levels. All good!

Anyway, if you are ever in or near the region of Basilicata, do stop in Matera…It’s well worth the visit. Oh, and don’t forget to visit the cave-churches with their amazing frescos dating as far back as the 9th century.

And one more thing: if it rains during your visit, please be careful, VERY careful!!!, as you walk down the slippery steps of the Sassi. Photo no. 5 can sort of give you an idea of how slippery the steps can get when wet…One evening, as we were returning to the B&B, in spite of my excellent trekking shoes, I slipped and almost fell on my, er, derriere! So, if it’s raining, hold onto the walls!  🙂 

Concern over too much EGCG

I just finished reading a BBC article about a man in Texas who had been taking an EGCG (extracted from green tea) supplement for 2-3 months when he found out that his liver was in very bad shape, to the point that he had to have an urgent liver transplant. His doctors ruled out everything else and concluded that this serious injury may have been caused by the EGCG supplement.

Even though I personally don’t take EGCG, I was horrified, at first. Then I read the article, which states that drinking green tea, as I do on occasion, is perfectly safe. What you have to be careful about is its extract, known as EGCG, which apparently can be toxic at certain levels, especially, e.g., on an empty stomach AND especially for certain people. Drinking alcohol or taking “other drugs” while taking EGCG might also lead to problems.

Anyway, if you drink lots of green tea and/or take large doses of EGCG (above 800 mg/day, it seems), please have a look at the article: goo.gl/YxUa68 

Excerpt: “While millions of people take green tea supplements safely, at least 80 cases of liver injury linked to green tea supplements have been reported around the world, ranging from lassitude and jaundice to cases requiring liver transplants.” A small percentage, but I always like to be super cautious. And that is why I’m posting about this article today!

You never know…