Set a Crazy Goal

I don’t usually like New Year resolutions, probably, because I don’t like New Years.  I am not one who ever loved staying up late and the thought of a holiday being centered around midnight has no attraction to me.  New Years day is really just another day that is a little anti-climactic and for some, a day of recovery from too much drowning their sorrows or celebrating their successes the night before.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like goals.  I just don’t think you need to just set them on January 1.  But since tomorrow is the big day when lots of people are feeling the pressure to improve something it is just as good a day as any to make a commitment.

I am here to encourage you to set a crazy goal.  That is what I did on May 8th when I decided to lose weight and raise money for the Food Bank at the same time.  I predicted I could lose 50 pounds and I lost 53.  I wanted to raise $50,000.  That was a much harder goal.  I asked, pleaded, begged and embarrassed myself into getting people to pledge money for every pound I could strip off.

Things were going fine on the dieting part, but the fund raising side was not as promising.  At the end of my campaign on November 1 I had commitments for about $38,000 and that was because I had lost three more pounds than I predicted.  I tried to get Ellen DeGeneres to mention the blog and the Food Bank on her show, to no avail.  $50,000 was just a crazy goal.

But crazy things do happen and as of today I have passed the $50,000 line with 202 gifts to the Food Bank.  I still have about 25 more pledges that I know will pay sometime so I am passing that goal big time.  I have to say, without that goal I don’t think I would have done it.

So what do you want to do this year?  Really dream big.  Don’t pick lots of little things or even lots of big things.  One or two life changing goals are enough.  Write them down, share them with everyone you know, make a plan, revisit the plan often, take small steps everyday to reach your goal, show up and don’t quit.

And even if I don’t like it as a holiday I want to wish you a happy New Year.  May 2013 be your best year yet.

Stand Up For Yourself

Last night Carter, Russ and I attended the big time social event of the holiday season, the Debutante Cotillion and Christmas Ball.  It was a beautiful occasion where 38 young women were presented to society.  When I was young it was called “coming out,” but that now has a much different connotation so now it is just considered making your debut.

That’s a funny word, debut, as if these girls have been kept in hiding all the eighteen years of their lives and are only now being reveled for the world to see.  Despite the old fashioned idea of being a Deb it is really a nice family affair where the girls are each individually introduced dressed in their long white gowns with full length white gloves as their father’s escort them down the center of the ball room with all the guests seated in a horseshoe watching their every move.  Following the introductions the girls and their fathers and then Marshalls perform four highly choreographed dances, then the party begins.

I am happy to report that not one girl tripped, or even stumbled as they each had 700 eyes on them making the long walk around the ballroom on their father’s arm.  Each girl looked beautiful, but some more than others.  The most graceful girls were not necessarily the prettiest, nor had the most stunning dress, hair or make-up, no.  The one thing that really set some girls apart from others was their posture.  Those who stood with shoulders back and head held high were far more radiant.  This held true for the Father’s and Marshalls too.  Men who shuffled, slouched or hung their head as they walked were far less attractive.

Not only was great posture the thing that made a girl standout, it also was an instant diet, making everyone with it look ten pounds thinner.  Good posture is the fastest diet out there or consequently, slumping is the least delicious way to gain ten pounds.  If I am going to put on weight I want to at least have some cake to show for it.

So stand tall, throw your shoulders back, lift your chin, put one foot in front of the other and come on out.  You don’t have to be a Deb to be graceful.

Congress is Too Well Fed

I am an optimist, but even with my normally cheery outlook I am not hopeful that any of our elected Federal officials are doing their jobs, any of them.  I can’t believe that not more than one or two Senators or Congress people have not stood up and said to the country that no matter which party you are in everyone needs to get in a room and compromise on this Fiscal Cliff SH%T.


The fiscal cliff was created by congress on a deal years ago so that they would be force to make compromises years later.  And guess what, they could not, or would not do it.  And so, the American economy is being held hostage by this group of over paid, over fed, under accountable politicians.


Well, I have a solution.  Put both houses in their respective chambers and hold them there without food, just water, until they come up with a deal, vote on it and pass it.  I promise you that people would stop being so unyielding if they got hungry enough.


Let the congress see what it feels like for so many Americans who are food insecure every month.  Like those guys who stand at busy intersections with signs that read, “Will work for food,” let’s make our politicians work for food.


Shame on all you people in Washington for not standing up to your own parties and saying,  “Non-action is unacceptable.”   Shame on the people who signed the pledge to never raise taxes.  Why would you ever pledge to never do anything?  Shame on all of us citizens for letting political parties get so powerful that they think they can set the agenda and never waiver from a narrow set of “ideals” even when it is not in anyone’s best interest.


Congress, face reality and everyone give in a little.  Don’t make the American people treat you like naughty children and send you to bed without your dinner.  You deserve a punishment so much worse.

Fennel-Bacon Soup


photoThe other night our great friend Megan Ketch took Carter and I out to dinner.  It was such a treat and we shared a fennel and bacon soup.  I have no idea what they put in theirs beyond the titled ingredients, but I made up one of my own without any diary.  It easily can become a vegan recipe by using olive oil in place of the bacon.  But unless you have a religious reason have the bacon, it is such a small amount, but it really makes it.


4 slices of bacon

1 medium sweet onion chopped

3 bulbs of fennel- cut thinly

2 carrots- peeled and chopped

2 stalks of celery- chopped

3 cans of chicken stock

2 small Yukon gold potatoes- peeled and chopped

7 cloves of garlic minced

2 bay leaves

1 T. fennel seeds

2 t. thyme

2 t. salt


1 t. sugar


Cut the bacon into lardoons, by stacking up all the slices and cutting them into half inch pieces.  Place all the raw bacon in a soup pot and cook on medium high heat until brown and crispy.  Make sure you are stirring it towards the end.  Remove the crispy bacon from the pot and set aside, leaving the fat in the bottom of the pan.


Turn heat back up to high and add the onions, carrots, celery and fennel.  Cook for about 5 minutes stirring often.  Add half the salt, fennel seeds, thyme and the garlic and continue cooking another 5 minutes.  Add the chicken stock, potato and the Bay leaves.  Cover the pot and bring to a boil then reduce to simmer and cook for 30 minutes.  Remove from heat.


Using an immersion blender puree the soup.  Add the sugar and a bunch of black pepper.  Taste for salt, it will need more.


Serve and sprinkle a spoonful of the bacon on top.

The Pain of Re-breaking the Sugar Addiction

I’m an addict.  There, I have said it.  Taken what is supposed to be the hardest step in over coming addiction and admitted that I have a problem and I am powerless to it.  Granted I am a recovering sugar addict, but an addict none-the-less.  I know that I have a weakness in the areas of sugar and white flour, this is not news, and so I have done my best to avoid them since I started my weight loss challenge on May 8th.


Getting off sugar and white flour was hard at first, but once I had not eaten them for about two weeks I lost my cravings.  Though my brain still whispered sweet temptations every once in a while, I was able to withstand the devil and not succumb to the smell of a chocolate chip cookie, or the crust of a pizza.


November first was the end of my money raising challenge and if there was ever a day I might have rewarded myself something forbidden that was the day, but I did not do it.  I knew that it is a slippery slope when you fall off the no sugar wagon.  But after almost eight months I decided that for Christmas Eve I would give myself the gift of getting to eat whatever I wanted for just one day.


And so I did.  Nothing too crazy, but bread was consumed at two meals and dessert at another.  I think I also ate a snack that day and not a healthy one.  It was great.  Like all addicts all the wonderful happy feeling of being high came rushing back.  Oh how I missed those tastes.  I knew it had to be a one-day thing.  I tried.


Christmas day I went back to eating my normal cereal for breakfast, no kringle or stolen for me.  At my parents I had just veal and spinach for lunch, no pasta, rolls or cake.  I was feeling a little triumphant.  But when we got home late at night I ate a piece of toast with my dinner.  I was so close to being back on track, but somehow slipped off at the very last moment.


Yesterday, Carter and I went to see Les Miserables at noon, which was a big mistake because half way through the movie I realized how hungry I was and reached into the popcorn bucket and had a few greasy handfuls of movie popcorn.  Later that night I ate a Christmas caramel.


There is the slope; I am sliding down it headlong.  I got on the scales and sure enough I was up a few pounds.  There is no way I had eaten 7,000 extra calories to really gain two pounds, but once my body got a taste of the sugar and carbs it had missed so much, it said, hold on, we are keeping these calories around for a while.


Before any more damage can be done I must re-brake my addiction.  I was successful today at eating my regimented allotment of veggies, fruits and protein.  But I know that it will take another week of fighting the cravings again to get myself back to loosing real weight.


Unlike an alcoholic or a drug addict who can stay away from their substances all together, a food addict has to eat something.  All I can say is fighting this addiction  is a life’s work.

Calling All Bingo Players

This is more of an ad than a blog.  Tomorrow night at 7:00 I am calling Bingo at The Lukes’ frozen yogurt store Graffiti at 751 and 54 in Durham.  Cards will be for sale and the pot will become the prizes for the winners.  It is the perfect thing to do with young and old family members.  For the ones who are driving you crazy you can sit them at a different table.  Cards will be $3 for the whole evening, unless you get there really late and we discount the cards so you can get in the game.  No promises, I will be calling the numbers, not selling the cards.


If it were up to me I would play games all day.  I think now with I-phones and I-pads I practically am playing all the time.  But playing games with real live people is so much more fun. I think that loving to play games is a gene you either have or you don’t.  My husband can’t stand to play games, which is really interesting because he has such an analytical mind.


My father also hates games, but his brother who is two years younger loves them. As a child I loved when we went to Pawley’s Island with my Uncle and his family because I was always needed to play games with the adults who wanted to play.  At the end of a long session of Risk, My Uncle Wilson, Cousin Brooks and I were usually the only ones left having annihilate all other relatives long before.


Neither of my sisters liked playing games with me much because I was enough older that I beat them a lot.  I wonder if I dampened their potential game loving gene or if they never actually had it?  I got my gene from my maternal grandmother who passed it on to my mother and then me.


I can remember visiting my Mima in Knoxville, Tennessee when I was five and playing gin rummy with her.  Being competitive, even with her first grandchild, was the way my Mima would play.  She would beat me almost every time and then would sternly hold her pointer finger straight up in the air and say, “No crying.”  I would stifle my tears and re-deal the cards, trying my best to win.  Her domination in Gin rummy did not dampen my love of games and she made me a better player and not a sore sport.


My mother would like to play bridge everyday and almost does.  I am glad she kept after me to learn because I love playing it, although I don’t do it as often as I used to.  Mah Jongg is my game addiction.  I could play it everyday and never tire, except if I were playing with tiring people.  Even a losing day of Mah Jongg is better than doing almost anything else.


So bring out the inner child in yourself and play Bingo tomorrow, Thursday December 27th in Durham, NC.  If you are too far away call up some friends and play at your house.  Unless you are in Canada you might be able to hear me calling the numbers, I-27, G-45, O-60.  You know I am my own backup PA system.

The Burst into Tears Gift


My husband travels for work a lot.  For anyone who does not travel for work I am here to tell you it does not matter where you go, it is not glamorous or all that fun.  Work is work and being away from home, no matter how nice the hotel is not always fun.

I was just glad that Russ made it home from Chicago in time for Christmas after a long work of week and tough weather travel.  When he put his suitcase down in our bedroom our sweet labradoodle Shay-shay stuck her nose in the corner and tried to retrieve something from inside.  Russ stopped her and pulled four nicely wrapped packages from the suitcase.

“My Kimpton hotel in Chicago gave me these gifts, one for each of us as well as Shay-Shay,” he told me.  At first I thought they were the kind of gift a business might give each of their customers, but then Russ continued.  “They had them in my room as I checked in.  The note read, ‘Welcome back Mr. Lange.  We hope you are having a holly jolly holiday season!  We know it must be rough traveling around the holidays. So we wanted to do a little something special from our family to yours to say, “thank you” for your loyalty.  We did a little sleuthing and hope we found something for everyone.  We look forward to seeing you in 2013!  Sincerely, Erica, Katie and the Hotel Allegro Team.’”

“Should we open them now?” Russ asks.  “No, let’s just put them under the tree.”  So this morning as we were opening our family gifts, Russ gives Shay-shay her gift from the Hotel Allegro.  Inside a small box were a number of fancy dog treats and Christmas rawhides which Shay found irresistible.  “That was awfully sweet,” I said.

Carter then opened her present from the hotel, a picture frame with a picture of Shay in it that they must have found on one of our Facebook pages.  “Wow, that is impressive,” I said.  “Russ, not only do they know you have a wife, daughter and dog, they really went to a lot of trouble to get things that have something to do with us.”

My curiosity was up so I opened my little box, which had two pieces of paper and a handful of tiny Italian candies in it.  I opened the first paper that read,  “Dear Dana, We saw how much this means to you…Please let us know if we can ever help out!  Love, Katie, Erica & Gavin (&Santa) Hotel Allegro Chicago” I unfolded the second piece of paper, a donation acknowledgement from the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina for $20.00.

I burst into tears.  Three people I had never met, whose job it is to make sure their customers love them, had gone to the trouble to learn about me and find the perfect gift.  And that it was.  I can’t explain why I had such a strong and immediate reaction, but I did.

So tonight when my cousin Mark asked me what my favorite gift this year was I told him it was this one. It was a gift from some strangers to help feed some other people I will never meet, but to me it was the gift of the year.