My family is pretty small. There is barely anyone alive now on my father’s side in Scotland and my mother’s side is scattered all over the world, so I grew up knowing very few of my relatives. My husband David’s family is huge on his mother’s side as she descended from a set of eight siblings who all had quite a few children. When we first got serious, he was due to attend a family reunion and he invited me to join him. I was a bit overwhelmed when we arrived at the reunion and I had to meet the 80 of his relatives who were at the reunion. (They were just the 80 who could attend – there were were even more out there who couldn’t be there!) I am proud to say that I passed the test given to all reunion first-timers (except the babies) by memorizing every one of the participants’ names by the end of the weekend.
There are very few things I love more than chocolate, so when we visited a chocolate factory yesterday, I was in heaven. We had heard about the Theo Chocolate Factory long before our trip. It specializes in organic, fair trade chocolate and has the same name as our son, so one of the reasons I jumped when I was invited to lecture in Seattle was that finally we could finally visit this righteous company (https://www.theochocolate.com). Before we left LA, we booked ourselves on one of their factory tours, and yesterday at 11am we turned up ready to learn and to sample. Our guide Danielle was exceptional, blending facts with fun as she explained to us the entire bean-to-bar process of chocolate making, the important ethical principles upon which the company is founded, and the techniques Theo Chocolate uses to make its most delicious bars. Our tour group spent over an hour with her, sampling many varieties of deliciousness and marveling at the complexities of transforming the bitter seeds from a pod from a tropical tree into the most wonderfully luxurious sweet foods available to humans. As if spending an hour savoring chocolate nuggets and breathing in chocolate fumes wasn’t treat enough, we were rewarded with a free chocolate bar each as we exited the factory. Of course, we couldn’t leave the store without buying a few more bars, and when we returned them to the hotel, I stashed our chocolate bar treasures in my suitcase, delighted at the thought of having a supply of delicious (and environmentally and socially responsible) chocolate to snack on for the next few weeks.
Normally I’m not very good at sharing my chocolate. My husband David knows this well, because he sometimes asks me for a piece and though I usually give him some, I’m usually unable to hide my reluctance, especially when I only have a few pieces left. I’m not proud of this, but it’s a weakness of mine. Now, over the last couple of days, while we’ve been away, our next door neighbor Tony has been helping us out by feeding our two kitties and talking to them a little so they won’t feel abandoned. Tony and his partner Frank have always been friendly, generous neighbors (see February 26), particularly while we were rebuilding our house after the fire. Over the years, however, we have spent more time talking to Frank as he often works from home. Tony has recently retired from his work as an administrator in a medical department at UCLA and now that he is home more, we have been getting to know him better too. This weekend, not only has he been caring for the cats, but he also generously agreed to pick us up at Burbank Airport (because we flew out of LA’s other airport LAX and Ubered there, so have no car waiting for us when we land). For this almost heroic act, I thought “Uber Tony” deserved to be the recipient of my Giveaway today, but I can’t imagine there is anything we own that Tony would need or want. However, I was carrying something very precious in my suitcase that I wouldn’t part with for just anyone. Even though this is something I acquired only a day ago, I think it qualifies, and it’s a way of sharing a few bites of one of the most enjoyable hours of our trip to Seattle with our special neighbor and friend.
This morning my son Theo and I woke up with sore throats. Not only were we not quite recovered from the many-weeks long whooping cough business, but now we seemed to have caught some sort of cold. Arggh. My nose was also stuffy so I felt super sluggish as I climbed out of bed and began my morning routine of cleaning, getting dressed, making breakfast, feeding the animals, making lunch, getting Theo off to school. Theo rolled around in his bed for a few minutes complaining about his throat and asking for water. Once he’d had a drink, however, he seemed a lot better so we decided he could handle going to school. I told him he could call if he was feeling worse, and I’d bring him home.
A couple of hours later, that call did come from Karina, one of the wonderful administrators in the school’s front office, explaining that Theo had a sore throat and a tummy ache. I trudged back to school to pick him up, carrying with me a tin of Japanese green tea, of which I seem to have quite a collection, which I planned to give to Karina as a thank you for always being so sweet and friendly to Theo, David and me over the past few years. Her name Karina means “pure” and “loved” and her warm, loving approach to the kids and families makes her very loved indeed. David refers to her as “super nice” and when asked to describe her, Theo calls her “nice and really friendly.” I always enjoy our chats when I stop by the office, though I feel guilty for taking up her time when she has so much work to do and so many other people to deal with.
When I arrived at the office, Karina had me fill out the usual school release forms and shared some caring suggestions as to what might make Theo feel better. One of them included drinking tea. At that moment, I held up the can of green tea and told her I’d like to give her it if she liked it. Fortunately she did, as that made today’s Giveaway delightfully easy… And it’s just as well. Earlier in the day, I had made an attempt at what could have been my biggest Giveaway ever – in physical size, that is. Instead, it ended in disaster as the item was smashed to smithereens. Tune in tomorrow to find out what happened…