Thursday, August 20, 2015

My Pets

Toby, my pet SCOBY

This is Toby.  He's alive.  I know that Toby looks like a placenta but he's actually a SCOBY - a Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast - and he's alive.   I think of him as my pet.  

Although Toby likes to eat, he's as picky as a toddler.  All he wants is one thing: sweet tea.  Toby floats in about a gallon of sweet tea which I refresh every seven to ten days.  If Toby were a cat, you'd change his litter that often, wouldn't you? So my pet doesn't take any more maintenance than your cat or dog.  And, I don't have to walk him.  Totally a plus.

What Toby does, and does well, far better than your pets - even if you have gerbils or mice, is procreate.  He breeds faster than a rabbit! Every week when I change his tea, I take Old Toby, who is now lying below Baby Toby and remove him, allowing Toby Junior (the clone) to bask in the sweetness of the new batch of tea all alone.  Papa Toby goes into my SCOBY hotel, a resting place for Toby, Toby Senior, Grandpa Toby, Great Gramps and so on.  
The SCOBY Hotel

I could just pitch Old Toby onto my compost pile or eat him like gummy candy but I prefer to "put him out to pasture" in the friendly gallon jar with his family.  That way, if something happens to my current Toby, I have one in reserve.  Or two.  Or ten...  

Another, happier, alternative for me is that I can give Old Toby to YOU.  YOU take Old Toby, put him in a jar full of sweet tea with a cup or two of his fermented tea and then you have your own cute pet.  

What's that?  You don't think Old Toby is cute?  Didn't your mother ever teach you that if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything?  Maybe I don't think your pet is that cute either, but you don't hear me announcing it to the world.

You could buy yourself your own Toby online.  Tobys there cost $50.  Makes my gift idea seem more generous, right?

Toby can sit on the counter, all but ignored, for several weeks, just happily floating in his sugared tea water and growing more SCOBYS but the longer he sits without fresh food, the more sour his pool water becomes.  Ultimately, Toby will be swimming in vinegar - lovely if you want to use it for salad dressing, but pretty tough to drink.  


Yes, that's right.  The byproduct of Toby's sweet tooth is KOMBUCHA, a fermented tea that's chock full of probiotics, 38 - 43 strains of those little buggers, all just waiting to improve my gut health when I swig down a drink. And swig I do.  

When I put Baby Toby into his new tea (again, with a cup or two of old tea, just to keep it acidic), I bottle his used-up pool water which is now Kombucha, add flavoring and let the tea sit on my counter for a day or so.  Then I put the bottles into my fridge.   

Because I like the taste of Kombucha, which is like a sparkling apple cider with a champagne-like fizz, I also change the SCOBY hotel once a week and bottle that tea, too.  My fridge is filled with fermented-tea-in-beer-bottles at all times and usually more is just a day away.  I am happy to let guests who wander down taste test the current flavors.  Usually there's one that's a standout and we chug down that bottle immediately.  The rest will improve as they age.

Kombucha sells everywhere these days.  Somebody told me you can even buy it at WalMart.  I have never seen it sold for less than $2.50 on sale and some brands sell for nearly $4.00 each.  Mine costs me $.50 a gallon.

Now that you know that, I don't seem to be one cat shy of crazy anymore, do I?

* * *

This is Karen.  She's alive.  Karen is a Water Kefir Grain.....

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Circus

Summer colds are the worst and mine was a doozy.   Monday morning I was scheduled for the first appointment of the day with my dentist.  Since I couldn't reach the office over the weekend to reschedule and I didn't want to be one of "those people" who cancel at the last minute, I decided to go and let them hear me for themselves.  Cough.  Cough.  Cough.  I knew that nobody in their right mind would want me within six feet of them.

Although I was hacking while talking to the receptionist, she didn't seem too concerned. Even though I know the dentist wears a mask and plastic gloves, I was still shocked when he didn't think my coughing was a big deal either.  I, on the other hand, didn't even want to be in the same room with me.

My view from the dental chair.
They led me back to the chair, clipped my bib on and the circus began.  First, Sidekick Sam put a mini-trampoline in the front of my mouth, which may have shielded them somewhat from gross-ocity but I believe it's designated function was to keep my jaws wide open.  Then, the dentist crammed both his hands and part of his arm into my mouth and began baton twirling with tiny silver instruments, an act that he himself said he never perfected in any classroom during dental school.  I started to laugh, which made me cough, which made him stop and raise the mechanical chair to an upright position.  Every time he lowered the chair, he would say something funny which would make me laugh, which would make me cough.  This was going to be a long morning.

Somewhere in the middle of the hilarity, Sidekick Sam, who is the Princess of Compassion, says, "I don't mean to frighten you, but...."

I ask you, does it even matter what she says next?  I mean, I'm already alarmed based upon her introductory statement.  This, apparently, was the wild animal portion of the show because I have turned into a dragon and plumes of smoke are billowing out of my mouth. Sam is just trying to reassure me that this is normal.  Normal.  Really?

Guess what?  My eyes had been closed.  Before she mentioned it, I thought there was a pot of chili burning somewhere.  Now I have arrived at the painful conclusion that my mouth is on fire.  That's okay though, because it's normal.

Years ago, my dentist made me a queen when he inserted a permanent crown of gold into my mouth.  I have behaved regally ever since; sometimes I even wear a tiara. Now these two are trying to one-up that guy by making me the winner of a prestigious sporting event:  The Triple Crown.  I am short enough to be a jockey, but I'm not crazy about that outfit.

When the dust settled - or, in this case, when the temporary crown was glued into place, three hours had elapsed.  The trampoline was removed.   The whole side of my face was achy and sore but I was floating on air I was so elated.  Why?  

No, I hadn't been sucking in the nitrous oxide!  Who would even think I would do that? Well, it does make your voice sound squeaky and funny, so it would fit into the circus theme. 

But that was not the source of my glee.  I was delighted BECAUSE IT'S OFFICIAL! After he finished, my dentist told me I have an extremely tiny mouth.

 My dentist is a professional and he says I have an extremely tiny mouth.  It must be true then.