Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Flu This

I am sick of hearing about the swine flu.

There, I've said it. While I certainly don't discount its seriousness and the suffering of those who've contracted it, I have been hearing about it nearly 24/7 for the past few days. And I don't even watch cable news.

A kid from the morning bus stop is home sick this week because of a stomach bug, according to her mom. "Have you heard about the swine flu?" whisper the other grownups. Today, while helping a friend get ready for a garage sale, a child sneezes. "Wash your hands!" someone calls out. I certainly hope all that tree pollen that covered my parked vehicle this afternoon doesn't turn out to contain life-threatening airborne pathogens.

How about if we stay on top of the swine flu updates no more than three times a day and then spend some time discussing something else? I am happy to discuss any other topic: the economy, vasectomies, movies, religion, even other current events (for they do exist). Public hysteria is just so tiring.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Mrs. Puff, I Presume

I'm happy to report that my surgery for dental implants went fine and I'm recovering with very little discomfort. The only drawback is that my post-op meds make me tired and lightheaded, which sucks when you have the rare sunny weekend we had. But such is life. (See, I'm being zen!)

Disappointingly, I have experienced no black, hairy tongue from my penicillin. However, a different side effect is that my jaw is still a little swollen, making my regular moon-pie face look even bigger. Every time I look in the mirror, I think of Mrs. Puff, a puffer fish character from SpongeBob SquarePants, one of my kid's favorite TV shows.

Then the theme song begins in my mind: "Ohhhhh ... Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? ...."

I am easily amused, but you knew that.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Black, Hairy Tongue

If you should see someone sporting a black, hairy tongue anytime soon, come up and say hello. It might be me.

The story: I am scheduled to have two dental implants put in this week. Right now I am missing two molars due a very complicated medical condition known as "bad teeth," so my oral surgeon will be placing two metal screws (i.e. dental implants) inside my jaw. Feel free to insert your own "loose-screw" jokes here.

The surrounding bones will form a bond with the implants and, once that process is done in a few months, my family dentist will add a post and crown on top of it. Then -- voila! -- I shall have teeth again, which means I won't have to learn to play the banjo or start producing moonshine in my back yard.

Medical advances continue to amaze me and, as someone with bad teeth AND gums, I appreciate the fact that I live in a country where I have access to these advances, as opposed to some third-world country. Or England.

But back to the black, hairy tongue. This is actually listed as a potential side effect for the penicillin I will need to take after the surgery to ward off infection. I am one of those people who read the side effect warnings on all drugs and usually scan through them automatically, but I do believe this may be the first time the phrase "black, hairy tongue" has come across my radar.

I'm kind of intrigued. Images of Cousin Itt from the Addams Family series come to mind. I'll keep you posted if I start to resemble him. Or her. Or it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

An Open Letter

Dear Military School:

My 12-year-old son would make an excellent candidate for your fine institution. First of all, he is academically advanced and has no police record. His teachers report that he is a joy to teach, full of good ideas and leadership skills.However, at home he is surly, lazy, dirty, sloppy, argumentative and too many other adjectives to list. We are currently in the processing of confiscating his electronic entertainment and he is getting THIS close to being grounded. We almost banned him from going to his good friend's birthday party this afternoon but then realized we would be stuck with him instead, so we are making an exception, especially since the party is five hours long. (Dancing happy jig.)

We know he is going through a typical adolescent phase and will probably grow up to be an upstanding citizen. Until then, I think he (and our mental health) would really benefit from the discipline meted out at your school. He could still come home for summer breaks (maybe) and all major holidays.

In payment for your services, he could help you troubleshoot your computers; help link up all Wi-Fi enabled devices; share his thoughts and opinions on how other people aren't very smart and are doing things the wrong way; instruct you on which things are "lame" and entertain younger students by coordinating bike races, which he does with the neighbors. You don't need to keep him very long. Maybe five years or so.

Thank you in advance for accepting him!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Stupid Things I've Done While Caffeine-Deprived

No one loves caffeine more than I. It is how I managed to graduate from college, stay awake at various jobs and remember my children's names. Usually I only need 2-3 strong cups each day to keep going but heaven help those around me if I have to go without.

Some people have headaches when they're deprived of caffeine. Me, I just do stupid things, and I thought I'd share some of them with you, since I have no pride.

Once I congratulated a woman I hadn't seen in a while on her obvious pregnancy. She informed me that she wasn't pregnant and asked, bewildered, if I thought she looked fat. While honesty is usually the best policy, it wasn't in this case, so I just apologized and mumbled something about my vision not working properly without caffeine.

I have forgotten my husband's very complicated name while introducing him to others. His name is Pete.

I have forgotten my own name.

I have sent my kids to school with festively colored hard-boiled eggs for lunch, only to realize by mid-morning that they weren't hard-boiled, or even cooked properly. (On the bright side, I think I gave the school secretary a good chuckle as she relayed this message to their teachers.)

I have driven 30 minutes in heavy traffic in the pouring rain for an appointment, only to arrive and realize I had the wrong day.

A few times I have poured myself a cup of coffee and couldn't remember if I took cream and sugar.

And the most shameful one just happened recently. I used to work with a fun gal with the first initial "J" who had pixy-ish reddish hair and a great smile. "J" and I have kept in touch via e-mail these past few years. A few days ago, someone requested to be my Facebook friend. Her profile showed that she had the first initial "J" and had pixy-ish reddish hair and a great smile. I sent her a message asking who she was.

At least "J" was amused.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

My New Crack: Theo Chocolate

When I die I want my ashes to be scattered at 3400 Phinney Avenue North in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle so I can be close to the Theo Chocolate factory and store.

My first introduction to Theo came from a gift of their Nib Brittle Dark Chocolate bar, which is comprised of heavenly smooth dark chocolate and roasted bits of cocoa nibs. The texture is similar to eating a slightly crunchier Crunch bar, but the flavor is a trillion times better. (And I do mean a trillion, so don't try to debate me on that, math geeks. You know who you are.)

When out-of-town family members visited recently, we decided to take a tour of the factory, which a friend had highly recommended. Alas, the tour was completely booked but the friendly gal on the phone invited us to visit their store to try some of their chocolate samples. Anyone who knows me and my family know that, if you promise us free samples of anything, we will follow you like the lemmings that we are.

We rushed over to their small but well laid-out shop and spent the next hour in chocolate-sample-heaven.

Where to begin? Well, first of all, Theo Chocolates uses only cocoa-related products that are organic and obtained using fair-trade practices, all of which means zilch to me if the end product doesn't deliver.

But it does deliver, happily. We started with samples of Theo Origins Bars, chocolate bars that feature the flavor notes of cocoa beans from different parts of the world. The cacao content ranged from 65 to 91 percent. It was a lot of fun trying each one to find a favorite and the resulting cacao buzz put us in a very good mood indeed.

We moved on the Theo Classic Combination Bars, which combines dark chocolate with the following flavors: mint, orange and cherries with almonds. I thought the chocolate-mint combinatation was fine, although the strong taste of the spearmint and peppermint oils reminded me of minty toothpaste. However, I am also a person who doesn't enjoy peppermint tea for the reason, so if you like peppermint tea, I think you would adore this bar. The chocolate-orange combination was delicious, with a fresh orange taste that I thought complemented and did not overpower the taste of the chocolate.

I absolutely fell in love with the chocolate-cherry-almond combination, which features small bits of chewy dried cherries and crunchy roasted almonds. At first bite, you feel the textures of smooth, chewy and crunchy all at once. Then the dark chocolate hits you like an exclamation point and leaves you wanting more. Right now, the Dark Chocolate with Cherries and Almonds bar, which I shall call "crack" for short, is my favorite. I bought a lot of this, but much of my stash is already gone and I wonder if I'll get the violent shakes when my crack supply runs out.

We then moved on to the most fun of all chocolate bars, the Theo 3400 Phinney bars, which are milk and dark chocolates combined with a ton of unique ingredients such as coffee (double crack!), chai spices, hazelnut brittle, the aforementioned cocoa nibs and the wildest flavor of all ... coconut curry! Who was the genius who said, "Hey, let's combine milk chocolate with coconut and curry spices!"? The Coconut Curry bar tastes AMAZING, like a gentle Thai curry with the spices all mellowed out by the milky flavor of chocolate. I purchased a few bars of this as well and am saving them for a day when I feel like having my brain explode with wonderment.

To be honest, after this point everything else started to blend together. I liken it to the numbness your tongue feels at a wine tasting after you're already tasted and spat out four wines. Or it could have been the effects of cacao hitting my bloodstream and making me hyper-alert to everything, including the sound of my own breathing. This is why I will soon make a return trip to the store, so I can re-taste the chocolates and make further notes. The sacrifice I make for research is mind-boggling.

Theo Chocolate
3400 Phinney Avenue North
Seattle, WA 98103
Phone: 206.632.5100

(The very friendly Theo employees I spoke to recommend calling for tour reservations at least one week in advance.)