Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Wonderful Sound of Silence

Looking for a condition you never want to get? While there are many, many ailments that I know about and don’t ever want to have, a few weeks ago I encountered a new one that I had never even “heard” of and now I never want to literally HEAR IT again. This condition, called Tinnitus or “ringing in the ears” is one that can be brought about by many different internal or external factors, health conditions, or diseases and apparently affects around 36 million people, 7 million of whom are actually debilitated by it.

As for me, I was ready to stick tongs into my ear and pull out whatever was causing it. The worst part about it is that no one else hears it. In my experience it was a high pitched sound (kind of like what you might hear at first when the television comes on) that began in both ears but then shifted to my right ear only. It was incessant and after a day or two, it was all I could focus on. I would wake several times in the night so my sleeping was completely disrupted.

If you know me, I only go to the doctor when I absolutely have to (pregnancy, loss of the sense of taste, severe kidney infections…you get the picture). If I can just deal with an issue, I will. This was bad enough to get me there in short order. My problem? My sinuses! Thank goodness. After a few days of anti-histamines, my troubles are pretty much over. I do get a high-pitched “hymn” once in a while but that never-ending tone is gone. Whew! I will NEVER take silence for granted again!!!

I have a whole new group on my prayer list!

~Desi

Ching Ching Cha

One of the most soothing ways you can spend an afternoon, bar none, is to immerse yourself in hours of gongfu cha. We were turned on to this ritualistic way of drinking tea in China (where else?). By the end of our time there, we were daily regulars at Cloud Nine, the best restaurant in Taishan, to the point that the staff there had our orchid oolong waiting for us. What a way to stare out at the beautiful mountains (and, of course, the workers pouring out of the factories).

So what exactly is gongfu cha? It is really hard to describe on a blow-by-blow kind basis. Essentially, each person has a small tea pot filled with leaves. This is where the tea is brewed. From there, the tea goes into a bowl where it is stored. (This sounds so unromantic but, trust me, all of this pouring is delightful. And the pots and bowls themselves contribute to the atmosphere, with their lovely shapes and designs.) When it is time to enjoy the tea, two things happen. The first is that some of the tea gets poured into a tall, thin cup, which is ideal for taking in the tea's aroma (one of my favorite smells anywhere). Then, from there, the tea is poured into a wider cup for drinking. Gan bei!

In the end, this only makes sense if you do it. There is a great tea house in Georgetown, Ching Ching Cha, where you can experience gongfu cha in a setting with incense, pillows, music, and high ceilings. With the cold weather moving in, we have been back there twice in recent weeks, practicing our Mandarin and filling our bellies not only with tea but incredibly good dumplings and other Chinese snacks as well.

~Steve

Monday, November 19, 2007

Harry Potter

Less than four weeks ago, I started reading the Harry Potter books. At a friend's house I saw the first movie, and then read the book. I thought it was good, so I continued reading them. I kept reading at such a fast rate that I am now on #5. I love Quidditch (the wizard sport), Hagrid (Hogwart's gamekeeper), Harry, and McGonagall. I can't stand Umbridge, Snape, nor any Slytherin. Sirius, Harry's godfather, is one of my favorite outside wizards because he is an Animagi. I also like Tonks and Mad-Eye Moody. I hope to finish the books by Christmas. I find them very entertaining and vivid. If you love to read, then I highly suggest these books. Sometimes I read 100 pages a day. That is how good they are.

~Zoli

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I'm a Rocker...and a Beaujolais Drinker

I can still remember the day, back in 1980 (I was 3 years old!), when I walked into Sound-O-Rama, in good ol' downtown Rahway, NJ, and picked up a copy of that day's newly released record, The River. It was the first time (but definitely not the last!) that I was ever excited enough to buy music on the day it came out.

Fast forward to this past Thursday. I'm now in Aspen Hill shopping center (home of the brand new Super Giant...how priorities change!). Thanks to the Ehrenreichs, the third Thursday in November now means something to me...It's the day that Beaujolais nouveau officially goes on sale each year.

Unlike Springsteen, and many good wines, Beaujolais nouveau does not improve with age but rather is meant for immediate drinking. There's kind off a craze surrounding it's release, with wine stores and restaurants staying open until midnight to pop open the first corks. We haven't gone that far yet, but have turned Beaujolais into one of our regular evening nightcaps. This for sure shows how unsophisticated our wine drinking is. One critic likened drinking Beaujolais nouveau to "eating cookie dough."

Uh, cookie dough rocks, Ms. Wine Critic...

~Steve

Thanksgiving Gone?

With Halloween gone and Christmas on its way, you might forget about Thanksgiving. Check the stores...no Thanksgiving decorations. You might say, "Hey, who decorates for Thanksgiving?" But some people do. The stores are packed with Christmas decorations from top to bottom. Trader Joe, for example, is selling Advent calendars and gingerbread houses. On the radio, they are already playing Christmas music with a month to go. I know there are no Thanksgiving songs, but why not play random songs?

~Zoli