My voice is shot. Not sure if I have bronchitis, laryngitis, a cold, or whether I just talked and screamed too much at my college reunion this weekend. What sounds I do produce are weak, deep and raspy, like Lauren Bacall if she'd inhaled a pack of mentholated cigarettes, had a belt of cheap whiskey, and started speaking through a wool coat. I like to think of it as sexy and alluring. I am, apparently, in the minority.
The scene is our favorite neighborhood Italian place. The whole family is together, after the return of my son from a school trip, and a long afternoon of soccer practice for my daughter. I am in a great mood. The pizza is delicious. My husband makes an offhand remark that starts me giggling, and then I'm laughing out loud, practically shaking with mirth. Everyone drops their food.
My son: Mom! Stop! Jeez!
My husband: Don't, honey. Please. You'll hurt yourself.
My daughter: OH MY GOD, YOU SOUND LIKE A DYING PANDA!!!
We all turn to stare at her.
My husband: How on earth do you know what a dying panda sounds like?
She stares defiantly back at us. Then she shrugs.
I can't help it. I'm howling again**.
Elena's Cure for Coughs
Without my mom here to make a fuss when I'm sick, our housekeeper, Elena, has stepped right into her shoes. She looks at me, bundled up in my sweatshirt and fuzzy socks, shakes her head, clucks a little, then writes down a shopping list and issues instructions in Spanish. Unlike most of the advice I got from my mother, I immediately do exactly as she says. But just like my mother, she knows what she's talking about. This stuff works! It's both soothing and spicy, and seems to magically calm your throat and reduce coughing almost immediately.
1/2 red onion, peeled and sliced into thick chunks
about 1/2 c. honey
juice of one lemon
about 1/2 c. of very hot water
1 teabag, preferably something citrus-y and spicy, like the Good Earth blend
Place the onion pieces in a medium-sized glass jar. Pour in the honey, enough to cover the onions, then add the lemon juice and enough hot water to fill the jar up to within an inch or so of the top. Put the lid on the jar, and close tightly.
Shake the jar gently for a couple of minutes to allow the honey, juice and water to combine. Open the jar and drop in the teabag, making sure it's submerged, then close it up again, but loosely this time.
Place the jar into a large saucepan. Add enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the jar. Heat over medium high heat until the water is boiling rapidly, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 3 minutes. Open the jar (careful, it's hot!) and then strain the mixture into another jar or container, and discard the onions.
This keeps well in the fridge for several days. Rewarm in the microwave before using.
Take several spoonfuls, warm, a few times per day, especially before you go to bed and when you first wake up.
* We may have mis-heard her. I did sound a little like this climbing panda:
** OK, wheezing and crying again. To make things worse, on the drive home, the kids' annoying top 40 station starts playing an infectious Maroon 5 song. Turning left, I join in on the chorus, bleating (pathetically) at the top of my lungs, "I've got the moo-oo-oo-OO-OO-oo-OO-oo-ves like Jagger!"
First, there was the KCRW pie contest. A living testament to my new-found ability to apply logic and civility to my everyday life.
And then, there was the school auction. In the past, my behavior during these charity events could most accurately be described as "bid-happy mania", or "early-onset competitive buying frenzy." I'm sure they have some kind of clinical definition for the condition, but it is irrelevant, because that was the OLD me. The NEW me is all about pure, cool-headed, bang-for-the-buck bargain hunting. No more mad buying rushes or impulsive insanity. Just calm, adult browsing for things that are truly missing from my life. I even invented a handy acronym:
NBS = Need-Based Shopping
NBS is my new mantra.
NBS is my new calling.
NBS totally works.
For example, at this year's auction, I bought the following items:
1. Mah Jong and margaritas on the beach in Malibu
2. Texas Hold 'Em lessons, including cocktails and a full BBQ dinner**
3. A cooking class on how to make a traditional English Afternoon Tea***
I think we can all agree that these clearly fall under the category of "household staples". Yes?
Perfect. Because that's the way I (maturely and logically) entered the costs into Quicken.
A Really Inspired Kitchen - The Sequel
Considering how much I learned in this class, I could also have entered this item under "educational expenses." For instance, I learned that this very British tradition came about because of the hunger pangs experienced by Queen Victoria's royal tummy in the olden days. And a fine tradition it is. Per our lesson plan:
"A proper English Afternoon Tea is so inviting to both men and women. A little relaxation in the afternoon, a time to socialize a bit, and a lovely snack with the pick-me-up of caffeine. "
"For a lovely starter...quarter some strawberries, sprinkle lightly with sugar, add a little lemon juice and a little grated lemon rind, and allow the berries to macerate in the refrigerator. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream, and a little champagne!"
"The items in our menu are developed exclusively for teas. They would not make good hors d'oevres for a cocktail party because a "tea" savory item is milder, and not meant to be served with liquor.**** Tea sandwiches differ from other sandwiches in that they must be extremely thin, almost transparent."
Cucumber with Herb Cheese & Butter
Curried Shrimp Salad
Pate a Choux with Gravlax and Dill Sauce
Delicate sandwiches that are not appropriate for cocktail parties? Check! I have to say, we are doing very well in this class so far.
"As for the sweets, they too are best suited for teas than for dinner desserts. Our sweets are lighter, less goopy, and easy to handle."
Un-gloopy desserts. Yes, ma'am! We are good with these.
And of course, current scones.
"The perfect accompaniments to tea."
Perfect accompaniments. In fact, A+ accompaniments, if you ask me. I ate two, for extra credit.
The tea was hot and strong, the table was set with china and silver, and we were, like her royal highness, experiencing great pangs of hunger. In a most civilized manner, we lifted our little pinkies, and ate like queens!