Monday, April 28, 2008

Mother's Day gifts that give back

I wrote this story, in the May issue of Cooking Light, about Mother's Day gifts that give back. Isn't it a great concept to buy a gorgeous bouquet, gift basket, etc., for mom, and see 10 percent or more go to a great charity? Anyway, I think so. And, Jason, if you're reading, I love the roses from, and the gift basket from Bumble B Design is lovely too. Hint hint.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A discombobulated day

Do you ever wake up (cliche alert) on the wrong side of the bed? That's what happened to me today. All day, I've walked around forgetting things, tripping over toys, and committing lots of email bloopers (you know, emails that you accidently send to the wrong person or send too soon -- before you've spell checked or really thought about what you wrote). Sigh. I also spilled tomato soup on myself and yelled at my dog for no reason. Poor Paisley. (And don't worry, I gave her a hug an hour later. And, she was kind of guilty. Yesterday she trampled my tulips.)

But anyway, today I also left the house for the grocery store, and forgot my shopping list. Even though it was raining and windy, even though I had to hike up these huge stairs and walk back to my house (with a toddler on my hip), I did. Because I'm blind without a shopping list. Without one I buy pastries and muffins and chocolate and wine. Impractical things that sound great at the moment, but don't put dinner on the table. 

So, imagine my surprise when I get to the market and can't find my list. Again. I'm thinking to myself, didn't I just turn my car around a few minutes ago to get this thing? Didn't I stuff it in my purse? Am I going mad? 

An hour later, after my groceries were paid for and bagged, I reached into my pocket, and there it was: a reminder of all the things I'd forgotten to buy, and maybe of all the things that were going wrong with this day. 

Seriously, losing my mind today. 

Do you have days like this? Days where everything just feels a bit "off"?

P.S. The allergist says my son is now allergic to all tree nuts (especially pecans), in addition to peanuts. So if you come by to visit, there will be no pecan pie here (even if it is one of my faves). 

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My new project

On a lighter note (to balance out the subject of my last post), I want to tell you about a new personal project I'm working on -- one I'm very excited about, maybe because it has nothing to do with parenting, or magazine writing, or book writing. It's a much-needed diversion all in the name of personal enrichment. 

First, let me give you some background:

When you were young, did you ever have a pen pal? In second grade, I wrote back and forth with a girl in New York City. I wish I could remember her name, but all I can recall is that she lived in a cluttered apartment in Brooklyn (I know, because she sent a photo) with two cats. At the time, I couldn't believe that a girl could live in a big apartment building in the city. No yard? No garden? No place to ride a bike? I learned a lot that year. 

So, I wondered recently: Why couldn't I try the whole pen pal thing again as an adult? Could I find a woman in another country, perhaps, who would be willing to write each other letters for a year via a blog that we'd share? What could we learn from each other -- two strangers -- about friendship and life and happiness through the experience?

And, halfway across the globe, Valentina Russo, a woman in Marseille, France, as decided to give it a try and become grownup, modern-day pen pals. Like me, Valentina is 30, and works in the communications/media field. But unlike me, she speaks five languages (her English is fluent, and adorable at the same time!) and not a mother yet, and wondering if it's in her future. She also seems to have a certain zest for life that I admire -- and this is apparent only from our first few letters. I think we have a lot to learn from each other, and we've made a commitment to write frequently for a year. 

Want to read along and see our friendship unfold? Our blog is called Franglish. Stop by and send us some love! 

Life, forever changed by peanuts

It came on so suddenly, I hardly knew what was happening.  

Yesterday, while I was shopping at Trader Joe's with my 15-month-old son, Carson, he started whining for a box of crackers he saw on the snack aisle. I opened the box in the checkout aisle, and gave him one: a tiny little organic peanut butter cracker. 

Actually, a tiny little organic peanut butter cracker that could have ended his life. 

He put the cracker into his mouth and instantly spit it out. Then he played with it until it disintegrated in his hands. By the time I buckled him into his car seat, he was rubbing his eyes. I thought he was tired. We drove a few miles down the road to pick up Jason, my husband, at work (he works at a hospital), and when I turned around to look at Carson I almost screamed. 

My little baby was blotchy and red. There were purple hives all over his face and down his neck. His eyes were swollen. His hands were red and blotchy. 

I knew in an instant: He was having an allergic reaction to peanuts. 
We rushed him to the clinic, across the street, where they had an Epi Shot waiting. Because he didn't swallow the cracker, it wasn't necessary as his reaction was much lighter than it could have been. They gave him an antihistamine, instead, and a referral to an allergist. 

Later, when we got home, and I had a chance to wind down and process what had just happened (Note: This whole experience didn't even phase Carson. He was all puffy and swollen and red with this huge grin on his face walking into the clinic. He smiled at all the kids (who looked back at him a little horrified) and tried to say "fish" when he noticed the aquarium in the waiting room), I realize what a life changing thing had just happened. 

While about 20 percent of kids can "grow out of" peanut allergies, the majority have them for life. So, Carson is going to have to learn, from an early age that he has to be extra diligent about what he eats; that a kiss from someone who has just eaten a peanut butter cookie could be the kiss of death (yes, I will be interviewing his potential girlfriends for their ability to take this seriously); that he can't have any peanuts on the airplane, or sit next to someone who has (breathing in the vapors from the bag could be very harmful); and that carrying epinephrin with him at all times is a new way of life. 

And with this new reality, Jason and I find ourselves blaming ourselves. Did we introduce peanut butter too soon? Most experts say after 12 months, it's OK, but to be safe, wait till 3. What was I thinking? Was this just hereditary? My mom's late father had food allergies. Maybe a connection? According to some troubling statistics, food allergies in children have more than doubled in the past 10 years? WHY? What the heck is going on here? 

I've thrown out all peanut products in our house, including cooking oil, and any other foods that were "processed in plants that contain peanuts." I've made an appointment with an allergist. And tonight, when we went out to a restaurant, I spoke to five staff members, from the waiter to the manager, about whether there was any peanut ingredients in the building. Luckily, it was a pizza place, and the answer was no. 

But mostly, we're just reeling from this shock to the system. I've decided that when I explain this all to Carson one day -- when he can understand what I'm talking about -- that I'll tell him about Superman. But instead of peanuts, he had Cryptonite. Not a bad analogy, eh?

So, if you are a peanut-allergy sufferer -- or have a child who is -- please drop me a note. I'm new to this, and a little scared. 

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The illusive cup of coffee

I've heard rumors about the new coffee machine, Clover, making its way to some local cafes here in Seattle -- rumors that die-hard coffee fans, like me, are literally falling to their knees in pure joy upon taking a sip. An urban coffee legend? I had to see what all the fuss was about, so today, I visited my fave local cafe to taste for myself. 

For the last month or so, this place has been brewing Clover-made coffee. And, for those of you who aren't sure what I'm talking about -- Clover is a startup (or was a startup -- see below, and you'll know what I mean) that plunked more than a million dollars into a new coffee-brewing technology that has high hopes to revolutionize drip coffee. The machine they created sells to coffee shops for about $8,000. 

OK, so I was hopeful, but skeptical. I ordered a tall cup of drip -- a Guatemalan blend -- and took a sip. 

[Insert sound of triumphant, joyful classical music, as the clouds open up and a ray of light shines down on my coffee cup.] 

This coffee is pure, unadulterated heaven. I nursed the cup down to the very last drop, then schemed, all the way home, about how I could convince Jason that we need one of these machines. That we can't live without it. That we should stop putting money into Carson's college fund, and instead create a Sarah's Clover Coffee Machine Fund. 

But, there was no point even going there, because the company was just sold (last week) to ... guess who ... Starbucks.