The Astromaid Chronicles

Slow Travel, Creative Living, and Speculation

Category: #LifeHacks

Beware The Onion Look-Alikes!

Shannon here, after a very long hiatus, after a very long and productive spring.

I have one message for you all:

BEWARE THE ONION LOOK-ALIKES.

What does this mean? you might be asking. Let me explain.

A few nights ago, Jorge wanted to cook a meat-and-veggie stew. He’s very good at these. It’s definitely something we’ve planned to offer in our eventual Argentinian restaurant. The sauce, the veggies, the meat, the spices–it’s all so very delicious and subtle and mixing.

However, when Jorge set out to make this stew the other night, he told (re: whined to) me, “But Shannon, we’re out of onion!”

“Go to Kroger and get some yourself,” I said. “You have a truck and legs. Go on.”

He didn’t go to Kroger. Instead, he set out to make the stew onion-less. I admit, I was a little disappointed. Onion makes everything better, for some reason. The same reason why I get a little sad when someone tells me they didn’t have garlic for a particular dish. Like, come on, people–these are basics. It’s a sad day when you run out of onion or garlic and can’t replace it.

But I digress. I was working upstairs in my office this evening at my newer part-time job, so I wasn’t around for much of the cooking part. When I came downstairs later to check in on all the tantalizing smells wafting upstairs, an exuberant Jorge greeted me.

“I found onion,” he tells me. “Look!”

Inside the pot, slices of onion simmer alongside potato, carrot and steak bits. I nod appreciatively. “Where did you get it?”

“From outside.” He swirls the spoon inside the pot.

I think about this. Duh. We have green onion outside in the planter, growing, healthy and green, lovely and onion-y! Of course! I take another look at it. But that bulb looks way too big to be the green onion I’d been cultivating. Those onion roots are usually slender and small. This root was bulbous and hefty.

Small, slender roots of the green onion. Mmm...delicious.

Small, slender roots of the green onion. Mmm…delicious. [Photo Credit: www.wisegeek.com]

But I didn’t say anything. I figured, hey, what do I know? I planted those green onions last September. Their underground parts might have gotten very large in the interim. Who am I to judge an onion’s private soil bits?

Dinner was served. We sit down and enjoy a delightful stew. Everything was delicious–until I ate the onion slice. It was a horrible taste–so bitter and strange. I swallowed it down fast. I figured it was just one of those random disgusting tastes that sometimes inexplicably crops up in meals. Like, I dunno–a slip of the cook’s hand, something innocuous but gross, a weird bit of potato, who knows? Everything else tasted fine, so I didn’t think much of it.

Dinner ends, and I hurry back upstairs to continue my work shift. Meanwhile, Jorge cleans up downstairs, turns off all the lights and tucks himself into bed. I am working in my office for awhile, and about an hour or so after we’d eaten, I begin to feel really strange.

I’m dizzy. I’m unable to concentrate. And God help me–I feel like I could puke. I NEVER. EVER. PUKE, either.

“Jorge?” I call out. “I feel sick. I feel like I might puke.”

There’s a few second’s pause on his end. Then, he replies, like in a horror movie, “Me too. I really feel like puking.”

Three minutes later, while I’m sitting at my desk trying to convince myself I’m just hallucinating the nausea, Jorge rushes from our bed to the bathroom and begins puking his guts out.

“I love you,” I tell him feebly from my office, which is right next to the bathroom, while he retches his face off. “I’d come help you if I weren’t afraid of puking my guts out too.”

“It’s okay,” he tells me between heaves. “Stay in there.”

I wait for him to finish, intent on consoling him once he’s done retching. But once I hear the water running as he’s rinsing his mouth out, I feel a familiar sensation. A hot rush of sick barreling from stomach to throat. Dizziness, heat, and discomfort creeping through every cell of my body. I rush to the bathroom, put my face into the same toilet he’s used for the past ten minutes.

And I puke my face off, too.

“IT WAS THE ONIONS,” I wail as I empty the contents of my stomach. “THEY WEREN’T RIGHT.”

Later, once the puking has subsided slightly, he tells me the onions were slimy at the base. I google a little bit and read about others’ horrifying encounters with eating slimy onions. Vomiting, nausea, and the like. I feel distantly consoled. Like the internet is telling me, Hey, this happens to everyone. It’s okay. It was just bad onions.

I remind myself of this as I continue to vomit from midnight until 8 am every hour, on the hour.

Every thought about the stew I had eaten, or any form of any onion ever, makes me distantly nauseous, though.

Finally, I’m able to roll onto my side without puking around 8am, so I snag a few hours’ sleep. Once I’m up and about the next day, my first order of business is to uproot and dispose of all these slimy green onions I’d unknowingly cultivated. What horror in the garden! I storm outside, eager to upend all of these sinner scallions, to let them die a painful, shriveling death in the sun as a penance for our illness the night before.

When I get outside to the planter where my green onions were…I notice nothing missing.

As in, there are no green onions that had been pulled for yesterday’s dinner. Jorge had put something else into his stew. AND I HAD NO IDEA WHAT IT WAS.

When Jorge returned home that day from work, I showed him the green onion planter. “There’s nothing missing. What did you put in our stew, JORGE?”

He insisted it was onion. Onion growing on the side of the house. He gestured toward the back garden, the one up close to the house. The area of the garden where I had definitely, decidedly, never planted onion ever.

As we were walking down the driveway, he gestured toward a plant in the front garden. “It looked just like that,” he said. “Just like that onion there.”

My gaze landed on the plant. It was no onion at all. I never planted any bulb onion in my garden, front or back. I never planted anything but the slim, slender, totally innocuous, non-vomit-worthy green onion.

Jorge had pointed to the daffodils.

We ate a motherfucking daffodil in our stew.

Jorge pulled the daffodil in the middle stage, without the flower. Just when it looks exactly like a green onion.

Jorge pulled the daffodil in the middle stage, without the flower. Just when it looks exactly like a green onion.

Now it all made sense. Why else would we have puked our guts out like some modern rendition of the Exorcist: Food Edition? We had literally poisoned ourselves, as evidenced by any google search on Daffodils:

All parts of the bulb are toxic to people and animals, but the toxicity level is low unless you eat a large quantity. For example, a handful of bulbs is considered toxic, while one bite may lead to an upset stomach. If you accidentally ingest lycorine, you may begin to have stomach problems, such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, as well as salivating, trembling, depression, convulsions and tremors. [Why Are Daffodils Dangerous?]

We had nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, salivating, trembling, and a whole lot of depression regarding WHY IS THIS PURPORTED ONION TRYING TO KILL ME?

Yeah, just an accidental dinner-time poisoning. OOPS.

Jorge felt horrible throughout all of this, I should mention. He stayed up with me while I puked the night away, and felt so badly for causing all of this terror from one simple stew. Once we found out it was a daffodil instead of a rotten onion, he felt even worse. Who harvests daffodils instead of onions? It’s a mistake anyone could make, I suppose, if you aren’t well-acquainted with your wife’s sprawling garden.

At any rate, we’re much better now, and definitely on the healthy side of our unintentional daffodil poisoning.

We’ve both learned what slimy onions can do to someone’s gut as well as the accidental daffodil, so I hope all of you will take all of these lessons to heart and avoid both rotten onions and perfectly good daffodils during your next home-cooked meal.

NiceTalk, Nice Gig

I’m starting a new category today called #ShareTheWealth, where I share interesting and potentially lucrative or money-saving ideas. Today’s item came from my friend Justin Gray, a nomad often on the lookout for interesting jobs that support a life drifting with the wind. He has an uncanny ability to find some gems like this one below.


If you’re like me, maybe you’ve recognized the fact that you are fluent in a language people want to learn, but have never really jived with the whole “teaching” thing. It’s been a weird aspect throughout my life, I must admit. As a vagabond, the opportunity to teach English abroad is EVERYWHERE. Literally. It’s the most plentiful job opportunity out there (not that it always pays well, however).

But I don’t like to teach. I just don’t. I’ve known since a very young girl that I would never be a traditional teacher. It has never appealed to me. Creating lesson plans make me feel unsettled, and needing to control classrooms of 5 or 15 year old’s makes a factory job sound preferable. Can’t there just be some way to simply CONVERSE with people in my native language and get paid for it? You know, just skip the 9-5 English Teacher part and convey my skills another way?

Turns out there is. 

NiceTalk. It’s an app, and it comes from China, and it pairs English language-learners with native English speakers. What’s a good way for students to practice English outside of the classroom? Use technology to connect them to native speakers halfway around the world! Duh!

This app is like something from Back To The Future. As a teacher, I log on, and sooner or later I’ll get a call from a student. Once I accept, we’re looking at each other, thousands of miles away, talking as though face-to-face. Once each call is done, I send the student a comment or suggestion, and then I’m able to receive more calls. I can log on or off whenever I want (keeping in mind the time in China when I’m online).

Nicetalk Tutor App

And I get paid. $10/hour. Not bad for a side gig, eh? Even though some calls might last only a few minutes, they can add up quickly. The app pays weekly, as long as you’ve hit a $20 threshold. And all for just conversing in your native language, free of lesson plans and report cards and wearing sensible gray skirts.

The app itself isn’t the most polished or English-proficient tool. There’s definitely some Engrish-grade flubs here and there, and sometimes the app freezes. Overall, though, it’s easy to learn and quite user-friendly.

Prior to becoming a tutor, you must apply for the position via the app. This involves submitting an introductory video, which will be assessed by NiceTalk employees. If approved, you fill out your profile and begin accepting calls immediately. The profile includes things like education, languages spoken, and basic interests, so potential students can select tutors they jive with.

If you’re good, or sociable, or helpful, you’ll get repeat students. So far, I’ve talked with a wide variety of students: an 11-year old boy just before his grandparents finished making lunch…a 20-something physics teacher who studied in the UK…a 16-year-old girl who called just before her morning classes began at high school. And so many more! I never imagined I’d be able to peek into the home life of a regular Chinese family, or inside a high school. It’s a really cool cultural exchange for that reason. You’re able to glimpse slices of life that you might never come into contact with otherwise…and have some pretty interesting conversations along the way.

If you’re interested in signing up and you want to help a girl out, use my referral code: MTVE2B1L. Or just go to www.nicetalk.com, sign up, and start tutoring!

#LifeHack: Go To Bed…With A Calculator

My whole life I’ve been a night owl. During the middle and high school years, I would hit my creative groove somewhere around 10PM and sit hunched in my bed, scribbling furiously into notebooks until 1 or 2AM.

As an adult, it’s not much different. Though I might not be writing until 1 or 2 AM every night, I certainly get my second-wind around 10PM. Once midnight hits, creativity blooms. I want to finish all the random tasks I’ve left undone from throughout the day; I want to start a new story; I want to finally organize all those pictures I’ve been meaning to consolidate for years. I want to purchase plane tickets and start a family. I CAN DO IT ALL IN THE WEE HOURS!

It’s like my To-Do list in the wee hours is a single-celled organism multiplying endlessly, simply by dividing in half and floating off to find more of its newly-spawned kind.

My To-Do list is floating somewhere between the ribosoom and cytoplasma.

And for as long as I’ve hit the creative stride in the nighttime hours, is as long as I’ve struggled with waking up in the morning.

Some people are natural morning people. I am NOT.

Let me repeat this–I DO NOT ENJOY WAKING UP EARLY.

I’m not one of those crusty colleagues who rolls into work at 8AM, bleary-eyed no matter what, and denouncing the fact that “mornings exist”. Trust me–I’m not that type of averse to mornings. I can make it to early morning obligations just fine.

The problem is the waking up part. Like, it physically PAINS ME sometimes to wake up if I haven’t snagged a solid 7-8 hours of sleep. But if I’ve gotten my fair share? Totally fine to wake up…provided it’s not before 7AM.

But these days it’s been more of the painful kind of waking up, and it’s been downright confusing. I listen to my body, and when it tells me to sleep more even though I’m getting what I assume is good sleep, I listen. I notice. And I wonder what the hell is going on.

International travel tends to take a certain toll on me. Multiple late nights/early mornings tend to require a solid sleep-in day somewhere down the line.

But recently? I’ve been getting to bed by 12:30AM most nights, and struggling to wake up by 9AM. What’s the deal here?

It’s a perplexing situation that makes me feel like a total loaf. One of my best friends, Heather, and I frequently update each other on the status of various bodily functions and biological systems, so this came up in a conversation recently.

I mentioned that despite allowing myself seemingly enough sleep time, my body still wanted to sleep way past 9AM, even though I was getting into bed around 1230AM. It seemed like, if left to do its own thing, my body would wake up (and crawl out of bed and leave my head behind, because the way I’m describing my body sounds like it acts of its own accord) at 11AM. WHY DO I NEED MORE THAN EIGHT HOURS OF SLEEP?

I also mentioned that every day, I get woken up with Jorge at 7:30AM as he prepares himself for work.

Upon reflecting further, I realized that historically, when I get woken up before my proper wake time, I seem to then sleep much longer than I wanted or even planned. But if I can sleep all the way through, I’ll only need roughly 8 hours.

Was there something to this? Heather did a little savvy internet searching and came back with this: THE SLEEPY TIME CALCULATOR.

This site will calculate what time you should wake up, based on your bed time (or vice versa) in order to obtain full sleep cycles and wake up feeling more refreshed.

What I found out from this calculator is that if I’m going to bed at 12:30AM, I should be waking up at either 6:30AM or 8AM. Waking up at 7:20AM, like I have been with Jorge, is kind of smack dab in the middle of a sleep cycle. And, as it says on the site…

sleepyti.me works by counting backwards in sleep cycles. Waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle leaves you feeling tired and groggy, but waking up in between cycles wakes you up feeling refreshed and alert!

Ah-ha! This may be the reason for my extra-sleep-needing, and not, as I had feared, a strange and pernicious symptom of an upcoming rare disease that manifests by total morning sloth. 

I don’t mean THIS sloth, but rather the deadly sin sloth. [Photo Credit: www.worldwildlife.org]

Armed with knowledge and a buoyant sense of wellness, I checked the calculator to see what time I should go to bed from now on. If I want to wake up with Jorge in the morning so that my sleep cycle is not interrupted, and then catch one more cycle just for shits and giggles once he’s off to work…Sleepy Time Master recommends that I go to sleep at 11:50PM OR 1:20AM.

Perfect.

My night owl innards are rejoicing, and science supports my need to stay up later. See, world? I can’t go to bed at 12:30AM. Pff! I’ll interrupt my sleep cycle in the morning!

And if there’s one thing I don’t want to do as I’m nearing 30…it’s fuck with obtaining my 5-6 recommended sleep cycles per night.

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