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.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas


“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Mama was stirring, Chocolate Espresso tort mousse;

The table was set with the finest of care,

In hopes that good friends soon would be there;

The puppy sat ready to eat scraps of duck,

But none would go to her; she was just out of luck;

With Russ at his desk, last minute Christmas to do,

Carter wrapped presents, a favor for her mother it’s true;

As I stood at the stove sautéing duck liver,

The thought of the calories gave me a shiver;

But it’s Christmas but once in three sixty five,

So tonight we will eat not to just stay alive;

After pâté and soup, shrimp and grits will consume,

Then on to the ducks where the fat really looms;

The apples and onions sautéed in the port,

Will sweeten the birds of a holiday sort;

Corn pudding and rolls made by the Mama’s hand,

Are a treat that are the best in the whole big land;

Asparagus looms as a dish on the side,

For one guiltless item to help keep our pride;

And after the tort with butter cream thick,

There’s coconut cake if that doesn’t do the trick;

For tonight we will eat like we don’t own a scale,

One meal of celebration will not make a whale;

So to you and yours I send Christmas wishes,

I hope you enjoy all your Holiday dishes.

Don’t Hold Christmas Too Tightly

Yesterday I took a break from preparing my own Christmas cooking to help out a friend whose caterer had to be hospitalized the day of her Christmas party.  As a retired caterer myself this is a nightmare I used to have, but never actually had to live through.  As a hostess, I have never had a situation of not having someone come through with the food that I was planning on.


After making 75 of my “Pigs in a Blanket’s on Steroids” I delivered them to my friend’s house and returned home to care for my very sick child.  It seems that the best theme to have for Christmas is flexibility for often the best-laid plans will need some adjusting.


I think back to Carter’s first Christmas.  Russ was working in Washington, DC and after staying home for two weeks in early December waiting for the very late Carter to be born he just had to get back to work before the holiday.  Unfortunately on the Eve of Christmas Eve, exactly 14 years ago today a huge blizzard hit the Mid-Atlantic region and I-85 was closed to traffic because hundreds of trees were down across the highway.  It took Russ 24 hours to find a path home just in time for Santa to come.


It is still one of the best presents I have ever gotten.  Back in the days before he had a cell phone, my waiting at the very snowy window with an infant child wondering if her father was safe or that he might miss Christmas.


Go with the flow was the theme of a Christmas even further back when I was about twelve.  Long after I had gone to bed on Christmas Eve my father, having had too much egg nog came and woke me up because he needed me to assemble the Big Wheel my three year old sister Janet was getting.


He sat in a chair by the fire as I dumped the 68 pieces on the floor and began to study the step-by-step instructions.  I will never forget the very first step, “Take part 1, the back axel and place part 2, the noise making clicker thing on the axel.”  As I did that my father, having heard many a Big Wheel in his day said, “Make sure you leave that annoying noise maker off that thing.”


In the interest of finishing this job quickly and going back to bed so Christmas could come, I threw the noise making plastic part in the box and when I was finished with the assembly only an hour and a half later, put the box and the instructions in the trash so Janet would think the man in the red suit had put it together for her.


First thing Christmas morning, with great glee, Janet, or Junior Johnson as she was appropriately nick named for being a speed demon, jumped on that Big Wheel she had been dreaming of and peddled down the side of the big living room.  Before she reached the end of the room she stopped and let lose a big wail, “It’s broken,” she said.  “It does not make the right noise.”


After much crying my father looked at her and said, “Don’t worry, Dana can fix it.”  And so I did.  It only took digging through the trash to find both the piece and the instructions and almost three hours later the offending, but much desired sound was coming from the beloved Big Wheel.  Flexibility.


So I hope that everything runs smoothly at your holiday location wherever you might be.  And if it doesn’t it will make for a memory you will never forget.  I can’t always remember the times that went off without a hitch, but those Christmases with a disaster or two will be the ones you will talk about year after year.





Thai Coconut Chicken Soup


Carter came down with the post exam cold and body aches today.  Since she is more Asian than any nationality she is actually related to she asked if she could have this Thai version of Chicken Soup.  It makes us all feel better and it is healthy to boot.

4 Cups of Chicken stock

1 stalk of lemon grass- it is worth going to the store for.

1 2-inch hunk of peel ginger root

The zest of 1 lime and the juice of that lime

2 T. fish sauce

1 14 oz. can of light coconut milk

3 boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into thin strips

Handful of enoki mushrooms – the little thin ones you can get at the Asian Market

Handful of Cilantro leaves


In a soup pan put the chicken stock, lemongrass that has been cut in half, hunk of ginger, lime zest and fish sauce.  Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 10 minutes.  Skim out the lime zest and add the coconut milk and chicken and bring the pot back to a boil and then reduce to simmer again.  Cook for about five minutes until the chicken is cooked.  Add the limejuice and the mushrooms.  Serve in bowls and garnish with cilantro and pass the Srisacha and let everyone makes theirs as spicy as they want.

If Only Talking Were Real Exercise

After almost two years with braces Carter finally had all the railroad tracks removed and graduated to both an upper and lower retainers.  Much to her parents chagrin she chose Duke Blue for the plastic part, which we were told would not show, but when she opens her mouth I still have flash backs of my Cousin Mary’s Chow dog whose mouth and tongue were black on the inside.


Today while I was driving Carter to the mall for her post exams shopping and movie time I heard this clicking coming from her mouth.  I turned and looked at her and she said, “What, you can hear that?” as only a fourteen year old can say when a parents even cocks a head their way.


“Yes,” I said.  “I’m just exercising my tongue mussel,” she replied.   “If that were an effective exercise I would be the thinnest person you know,” I tell her.  “You are right about that,” she agrees in a voice that says you are not such a bad Mom.


I got to wondering how many calories you burn up by talking.  For a baseline you need to know that watching an hour of TV burns up about 70 calories unless it is incredibly funny and you get a few good bellyaches in.


According to the folks at Calorie Count talking for an hour burns an additional 50% from just watching TV.  So your burn rate is 105 calories an hour.  Just as I suspected…not that much to make a dent in my caloric intake.  For me the talking hour is my baseline number since that is what my body is accustomed to.


As I was reading the activity browser looking for the “talking number” I came across a number of interesting activities that are listed such as “Cooking Indian Bread on an Outside stove” for 210 calories an hour.  What kind of Indian bread are they talking about, American Indian, like fry bread or Nan like from India, and who has an outside stove?  Would you burn more or less calories on an inside stove?  What about making loaf bread, doesn’t hand kneading burn a huge number of calories?  What if you were talking while kneading is that more calories than watching TV while baking?


“Maple Syruping” comes in at 350 calories an hour.  That is a big jump from talking but unfortunately I don’t live in a place cold enough to do Maple Syruping.  I wonder if the temperature you are doing it in makes a difference to the number of calories you burn.


Pushing a plane in and out of hanger is also listed and burns a whopping 420 calories an hour.  Really?  How big a plane are we talking about?  I don’t think I have ever seen a human push a plane.  Do you do this alone or is it a partner activity?  Do you think the calorie counting experts had a real person pushing a plane for a whole hour or is it a shorter activity they just adjusted for the hour time to compare apples to apples.


In case you live in a cold place, but don’t have a plane, you can burn the same number of calories by moving an icehouse.  I reckon you must have to push this house alone, by hand, way out in the middle of a frozen lake to burn 420 calories an hour.


I just want to know how many calories the people at Calorie Counter burn up thinking up the craziest activities to list in their activity browser?

The Civilized Way To Go

Thank goodness I am not British or incredibly wealthy because I just don’t need an extra meal during the day. What meal am I talking about? High tea of course. If I had an impressively fabulous metabolism I would vote High Tea as my favorite meal of the day, but alas it is a treat I should only partake in on the day before the end of the world doomsday, tomorrow according to the oh-so-right Mayan calendar.

Carter and I are at Fearington being pampered and enjoying the least healthy snack of the day before I go to Russ’ company Christmas party without him. Somehow it is wrong on so many fronts that I not only had some afternoon snacks of crab salad and scones, but that Russ is stuck in Chicago working while his own Christmas party goes on without him.

Carter and I got to go to the spa before Tea and afterwards she announces how much she dislikes being pampered. “If I tell the girl with the sing-songy voice that I don’t want any cucumber water or a magazine five minutes before, I have not already changed my mind five minutes later,” Carter complains. I am with her there. Some over attentiveness is annoying.

But really the thing that is wrong is eating lunch, having Tea and then going to a dinner party. I need to spread these activities out over a month. Oh yeah, we are having breakfast here too. The apocalypse can’t come fast enough.

There is no way to justify all this excess. If only I could say it is one last hurrah before the world ended. But really, if the Mayans were so smart they would not have been wiped out in the ninth century. Y2k was much more plausible, but that was no excuse to eat either.

So like the band playing as the Titanic went down, I enjoyed High Tea just in case the world does end tomorrow. So to all my friends who will go out of this world with me, it’s been a great ride. I hope you have no regrets, especially that goodie you ate today because no one is going to see us at our funerals. If we all go together we won’t have to worry that people will say, “I’ve seen her look better,” as the look at us in our coffins.

The Holiday Self-Esteem Punch In The Gut

While talking about what my friends were doing for the holidays one friend lamented the trip to visit her perennially over-bearing mother.  My friend, who I shall not name here in fear that her mother might one day discover this blog, has a mother infamous for saying exactly the worst thing at the worst time.  The good news is that her siblings, husband and children all know it and gather like a fortress to protect each other from the certain barbs her mother will throw at them.


Case in point is that my friend wanted to lose a couple of pounds, but her astute and supportive husband told her, “Don’t bother until after you have visited your Mother because your self esteem doesn’t need take that beating.”  The role of whipping post is well known to my friend and she graciously takes it from her clueless mother.


What is it about getting together with family at the holidays that makes us fall into the roles we play in our families as children?  Is there some big script that is already written that says if you are the youngest you will forever be the baby and therefore will never know as much as your older sibling just because they entered the world a few years before you?


Being older does not mean you are smarter, more worldly, better traveled or always right except if you are nine and your sister is five.  But somehow at fifty-nine and fifty-five you assume the same posture.


One unproductive way to deal with the inevitable family drama is to eat.  I think that is why so many people bake such ridiculous amounts of Christmas cookies and candy, just so they have some self-esteem healing sugar to buoy them up.   But we all know that the sugar high you get from biting the heads off the gingerbread men is short lived and is just going to pile the bad feelings on to the already bruised egos from the snide comments that a family member made about your child.


So this Christmas step away from the desserts.  Chocolate is the not answer.  Probably punching your Aunt Ruth when she says, “Aren’t you a little old for that skirt?” would go a whole lot farther to restoring your equilibrium, but please don’t.  So don’t eat or hit something, but instead run outside and scream your head off, then pick up the phone and call a friend and complain about your relatives.  I am sure they have something to complain about too.


All this being said, I am looking forward to seeing my family.  I have no complaints today, and I don’t have an Aunt Ruth.

You Don’t Have to be a Scout to Be Prepared

Christmas is a week away, AAARRHH!  Are you ready?  I am not talking about the presents you still need to find and wrap, but what about the meals you need to make?  There are the big ones, Christmas Eve, Christmas Morning and Christmas night.  Like Thanksgiving we all have some sort of traditional foods people in the family will be expecting.


I am doing Christmas Eve at my house with some friends so I have been pouring over cookbooks and looking at websites trying to come up with an interesting menu that is different from the traditional.  One of my guests does not eat seafood, so no feast of the seven fishes and my husband said he did not want a giant hunk of meat, so no standing rib roast, I just cooked a pork loin for a Christmas luncheon so no crown roast.


I am considering duck since the inside of my oven is so dirty already.  But it is not the main meal that I am concerned with.  The big question is are you prepared for all the other meals everyone will actually need to eat?


Now is the time to make up a few soups, stews, casseroles, and pasta sauces etc. to put in the freezer to have available when the family who are normally at school, work or a few states away look at you and say, “What can I eat?’  Sometimes after making a giant occasion meal I want to say to people, “Didn’t I just feed you yesterday?”


This also means I need to have some healthy food prepared for me so I am not tempted by the leftover cheesy dish in the fridge or the fudge some enemy dropped by.  For me the best defense is to have some roasted pears, pan sautéed boneless skinless chicken thighs and caramelized onions.  I can make a myriad of dishes from those premade staples.


For me I can stick to my diet during the giant meals when there are a lot of people around to watch me eat.  It is the more quiet down time meals when I let my guard down if I have not pre-planned and prepared, prepared, prepared.


I am really only limited by the amount of space in my freezer and refrigerator.  With all the holiday inflatables available you would think that someone would invent an inflatable freezer that you could just blow-up and use around the holidays when the number of mouths you feed multiplies by 5.


So heed my warning and check your pantry now.  You always need more eggs or milk than you think you do.  Stock-up and cook ahead of time so you can actually enjoy the holiday.

Innovations in Eating

If you are someone who has read this blog more than ten times you should know by now that dieting is about your brain, not your stomach.  The old saying mind over matter is true in the case of trying to eat more healthy food and less in general.


There are many tried and true tricks to help trick you mind into thinking you have had more food, like using a smaller plate and filling it full.  You brain thinks, “Wow, am I ever getting a lot of food.”  Another suggested trick is to use chops sticks to slow your eating down.  That only works if you are not a master chop sticker.  Unfortunately for me I learned long ago how to really shovel the food in with chop sticks so I have to skip that trick.  Another idea is to try and eat with your wrong hand.  On a good day, with my dominant hand I usually spill something on my shirt right at boob level so in the interest of not drawing attention to my stained wardrobe I am going to keep using my right hand.


All these ideas are old and tired to me, but while putting away some silver flat ware in my silver chest I stumbled upon a tiny demitasse spoon and an itty-bitty pickle fork no longer than my middle finger.  Now here is a real slower-downer in the eating dinner department.  Using these doll-sized utensils would ensure that I never finish a meal.  I am sure that at mouse bite speed I would eventually give up eating before I cleaned my plate or fall asleep trying.


I am sure that I also would actually never even taste the food because the drop of soup the spoon could hold would not be big enough to have any flavor.  This could really free me up from cooking since it would not matter what was on the mini plate I prepared.


I will start testing these utensils tonight.  If it works I am going into the tiny fork manufacturing business. Tiny spoons, like the tasting ones at ice cream stores have been around forever, but tiny forks are a wide open market. I think that this might also work for the over weight Asian community. Two toothpicks could make the perfect tiny chop stick pair.  Think how long it would take you to eat fried rice using them.


Any other hints are welcome.  Remember to think outside the box like Willy Wonka did with the flavored wallpaper and the whole meal in a stick of gum.


Exam Anxiety and Chocolate

As an over half century old person it has been a long, I mean more than half my life long time since I had to take a mid term or final exam.  The only exam I take now is my annual GYN exam and that is fraught with it’s own peril, but I digress.


I don’t remember having exams in junior high school, as middle school was called back in the olden days.  I must have started in high school.  So for those four years and the four of college, I took exams.  It was probably more like three and a half in college because I am certain second semester senior year I did not take anything that required a test, let alone an exam.  So for seven and a half years of my 51 and a half I took exams.  That is only about 15% of my life and it happened over 30 years ago.


Now that we have explored the numbers I pose a question.  Why does my 8th grade daughter studying for mid-term exams bring up a strong anxiety in me, which requires chocolate to placate, based on past experiences?


I am not taking any exams.  My child is not terribly worried about the exams.  She has not requested chocolate.  I have successfully avoided all chocolate for the last eight months except for the tiny amount sprinkled on my every other week skinny latte at Starbucks.


What is it about certain feelings that we associate with food?  You know, movies and popcorn is the easiest one to identify, but there is baseball and hotdogs, Thanksgiving and pumpkin pie, birthdays and cake and ice cream.


Back in the day I remember when the only time we ever had cake and ice cream was at a birthday party.  Once when Carter was about three I told her we were having a party.  She looked around the kitchen and asked, “Where is the cake?”  I said, “Cake?  We aren’t having any cake.”  She cocked her head and replied, “You said we were having a party.”


I guess that my few years of studying for exams were enough to ingrain in me the feeling that I needed chocolate to survive.  Now logically I know I will be OK, but I really don’t need to have this added desire for a sweet on top of all the Christmas food around.  I walked into a Christmas party this afternoon at the home of a great local chef.  There was a platter of the best looking sweet treats that almost brought me to my knees.  I hugged the host and hostess and made a beeline for the door.


Back at exam central things are not much better.  As soon as I post this blog I am going to get right to needle pointing, something that keeps my hands too busy to reach for something to eat.  Two and a half days and this exam period will be history.

Limey Napa Cabbage with Peanuts



My winter garden is still going strong.  I have some beautiful cauliflower growing and the Napa Cabbage has not been destroyed by recent frosts.  I know I am playing with fire by letting things still grow, but I want those cauliflower to grow a little bigger and there is only so much cabbage we can eat at once.


This is a very refreshing alternative to slaw.


6 cups thinly cut Napa Cabbage

1/3 c. fresh squeezed limejuice

1 T. Dijon mustard

3 packets of Splenda

½ t. salt

½ t. black pepper

1 T. olive oil

¼ c. salted peanuts


Place the cabbage in a bowl.  Mix all the other ingredients except the peanuts in a jar and pour over the cabbage and toss.  Sprinkle the peanuts in the slaw right before serving.


I used a spicy peanut, which were great.  Just use whatever you have.

A Plea for Kindness and Gun Control

Today in light of the tragic shootings in Connecticut I am going off topic for my post so please forgive me.

I grew up in Wilton, Connecticut, which is one town over from Newtown.  It is a fairly idyllic part of the country that has now been scared forever by this horrific act.

I don’t know anything in particular about the young man who committed this unthinkable act, but based on the profiles of others who have committed such things there is often one common theme, they felt like someone or many people had been unkind to them in the past.

Feeling alone, unloved, bullied or demeaned has driven some people to do unspeakable things.  If a troubled person has just one or two friends they are more likely to have a person to turn to when they are feeling like the world is ganging up on them.

If everyone were just a little kinder to each other or reached out to someone who is alone every once in a while then so many people might not become so despondent that they want to get back at the world for all the wrongs done to them.

Secondly, it is time we came to grips with gun control in this country.  Our founding fathers never envisioned assault weapons and certainly never would have meant that the right to bear arms equates to having the power to slaughter dozens of innocent people in a blink of an eye.  It is time we stood up to the NRA.

Today I pray for all the families who lost loved ones, the people who survived inside that school who will live with the memory of today, the people of Newtown and the state of Connecticut.  Please be kind to one another, love one another and help the world be a safer more compassionate place.

Very Victorian Dried Fruit Compote


My friend Lynn and I had our annual Chinese Auction today, which is practically my favorite thing to do all year.  I love when friends get to have lunch and steal gifts from each other.  Since it was the second luncheon in three days I was throwing I needed to make something easy that could feed 16 and was not seafood since Lynn hates fish.  I made a Prochetta, which is an Italian roast pork loin using Jamie Oliver’s recipe.  It is so good and produces an impressive looking roast.  It helps that I get the meat from Cliff the butcher at Cliff’s Meat Market in Carrboro, NC.

To make the meat more holiday-like I decided to create fruit compote, which I think really, was delicious.  Compote’s were made in Victorian England using dried fruit because that was what they had in the dead of winter and the fruit was reconstituted using port wine.  Now that we have refrigeration and high-speed transportation you can use fresh fruit, but there is something about the texture of the dried fruit that makes this a good enhancement for meat.  The fruit gets soft, but not mushy.  Traditional compote would just be sweet, but I like to add some tang to my sweet so I add vinegar at the end.

Here is the version I made today.

1 cup of water

1 cup of port – not a real expensive one

6 packets of Splenda or ¼ cup of sugar

16 oz. of dried fruits- I used apples, apricots, cherries and cranberries

3 T. chopped crystallized ginger

3 cinnamon sticks

Pinch of salt

3 T. sherry vinegar

In a saucepan add the water and port and Splenda/sugar and bring to a boil.  Chop the larger dried fruit into smaller pieces and add it all to the pot with the cinnamon, ginger and salt.  Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and add the vinegar.

Store in an air-tight container.  Will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Trader Joes had a large selection of dried fruits at reasonable prices and a good cheep port for cooking.

The Need for a New Green Vegetable

When I was a kid my mother told us we always had to have a green vegetable with every dinner or else we would not be able to poop.  Obviously the threat of constipation was a good one because my sisters and I believed that story for a very long time.  In my case it was not until I was in college and went three days without a green vegetable that it dawned on me that the green vegetable story was related to Santa Clause and the threat of blindness from sitting too close to the TV.


I should have caught on earlier because I had a cousin who as a child ate only roast beef and carrots and I never heard her complain once, in fact she grew up to be an actual rocket scientist so the lack of green vegetables did not hold her back in any way.  I have since learned that fiber, not the color green is what is important, but that rule about needing to have at least one green vegetable a day was fairly well ingrained in me.


Today, between getting ready to host a party tomorrow, playing Mah Jongg, and doing some much needed Christmas shopping it dawned on me that I still had to find something for my family for dinner.  I stopped at the Whole Foods to get a bottle of milk, and a green vegetable.  Finding a vegetable that both my child and my husband will eat while keeping it healthy is a difficult task.  Russ hates broccoli and Carter only wants to eat green beans that are over-cooked.  Zucchini can work, but I grew so much of it this summer that we all are taking a break from it.  Asparagus is fine, but it is a little tough this time of year.  I am the only big fan of Brussels spouts and I just could not bring myself to make spinach again.


I looked at what was available and decided to go with broccoli and hope Russ would not bring up my mother’s myth since he might be forced to eat a vegetable of another color.  The crowns of the green trees looked beautiful all stacked together, florets out, in a giant display; in the way only a high priced market might display them.  I approached the tower and gingerly lifted one tree of broccoli from the pile and along with the dark green crown came a stalk the size of a baseball bat and it was three times as heavy as I thought it should be.  The trunk to branch ratio was so out of proportion that I only imagine some Monsanto Food Engineers invented a hybrid plant that grew extra heavy broccoli so that store could earn more selling it.


Despite knowing it was heavy I took the monster-stalked plant to the check out and only after the clerk rang it up for $13.59 did I come to my senses and decline to purchase it.  I think somewhere my husband’s food angel was standing on the scale so he would not have to even smell broccoli at home.


I left the store with only my milk in tow and right before school pick-up I ran into the Harris Teeter to see what they had.  While looking at their broccoli crowns with no stalk, but fairly brown ends I ran into my friend Michelle who was on the same hunt for a green vegetable that I was on.  She settled on zucchini and I unhappily on frozen broccoli.


That was when it dawned on me that we need some more green vegetable choices.  Somebody invented broccolini in 1994, which is a cross between broccoli and the Kai-lan cabbage so I know it is possible to create new vegetables.  So scientist of the world, lets get on it.  Michelle and I can’t be the only ones who are wandering the produce sections like zombies in search of inspiration.  There is money to be made on a new green vegetable or two or three.

Spectator Calorie Burning Calculator

At this point in my life of dieting I feel like I know the calorie count, the fat content and the recommended serving size of every food on earth.  Just off the top of my head I know that goat cheese has about 75 calories and 6 grams of fat for a one ounce serving while Gruyere cheese has 115 calories and 9 grams of fat for that same size.


I also consider myself quite an expert on how many calories different activities burn up and I mean really burn not, not those inflated numbers that workout machines like treadmills and stair climbers reports you are burning up while you are working out.  For instance, if you walk the dog for an hour, with all the stops the average peeing and sniffing dog makes you might burn up about 200 calories.  It sounds good until you consider that you would use up 70 calories just sitting in front of the TV doing nothing.  Just having the blood pump through your veins requires some calories.


For the last two afternoons I have participated in an activity that certainly feels like it is burning up a lot of calories, but for which I can find no information on the internet about what the count might be.  What is this undocumented high calorie burning activity you ask?  It is one of mother/spectator of middle school girl’s basketball game.


Based on my wide base of calorie knowledge I place watching one of these games somewhere in the range between curling at 280 calories per hour and fencing at 420.  There are factors, which can raise or lower the number of calories burned and I have devised a little chart to help you determine if this is an activity you want to participate in.


First let’s start with a baseline for sitting in the bleachers, just having the blood course through your veins — 90 calories burned

If your child is a starter – add 25 calories

If your team is playing a very competitive team—add 35 calories

If the Refs are blind- add between 50- 70 calories depending on the number of missed calls.

For every really great or really horrible play  – add 5 calories

If there are any trash talking opponent parents in the stands – add 50 calories

If there are opponent cheerleaders – add 10 calories

If the opponent cheerleader’s moms’ are sitting near you – add 20 calories

If the opponent cheerleader’s moms’ attack you –add 150 calories.


Without any trouble at all being a spectator, cheering, clapping, screaming, heart racing, holding your breath, laughing, holding your tongue, turning the other cheek, being a good sportsman and congratulating the winner can really cause you to lose a lot of weight.  The only drawback is I am just not sure how much of it your heart can take.  So my learned advice is spectate at your own risk and always remember it’s just a middle school basketball game and no lives were on the line for it.

Post-Traumatic Cooking Disorder

I know the Psychiatric community is all over PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but I think I have stumbled upon a more positive disorder I call Post Traumatic Cooking Disorder.  I have self-diagnosed this after years of flash backs about food and cooking.


Today while I was buying a head of cauliflower I had a vivid memory of the summer of 1980 I spent living in Nantes, France.  No Nazi’s were involved is my disorder, but I did spend a lot of time that summer walking past bombed out buildings that had sat half demolished for forty years on my way to and from school.


I was living in Nantes with a French family.   Marionique and Patrice were the parents of two little boys ages five and three.  Why they wanted a college girl to live with them I will never know.  I don’t remember much about them, probably because my French was so bad that I had a headache all the time from concentrating on trying to understand them.  I certainly know they hardly ever understood me.


My cauliflower flashback was from my first weekend with them.  I arrived in Nantes after spending a week in Paris with a group of 12 other American students I was going to school with.  We arrived in Nantes by train and were all met at the station by our new families.  Marionque picked me up and after many false starts at conversation I finally understood her to say, ‘I think we are going to have trouble.”


We arrived at her tiny house and after she showed me to my room she told me we were going to get back in the car and go to their summer place on the coast.  I was a little apprehensive because I was going to miss the fun my friends and I had planned for the weekend in Nantes and I was beginning to realize that my personality was dependant on being able to communicate humor, which I could not do in a language I hardly spoke.


I was right to be fearful because the “summer place” was the French equivalent of an airstream parked on a perch overlooking a violent Atlantic ocean.  The only thing I remember Marionque teaching me all summer was how to make a steamed head of cauliflower with ham slices and cheese sauce on top, but it was well worth it.


Once we arrived at their retreat Marionque and I walked into the little village to buy food.  She asked me to go to the meat counter and order “quatre tranches du jambon,” which I came to learn was four slices of ham.  I was certainly not used to ordering meat by the slice, but I have never forgotten that “tranche” means slice in French and I have never used it again in my life.  No wonder the French are thin when they order meat by the slice rather than by the pound.


We walked home with our basket of just enough food for dinner for five people, one cauliflower, four slices of ham, a small hunk of Gruyere like cheese and a small bottle of milk.  Marionque steamed the cauliflower until it was just tender and then draped the thin slices of ham over the top and poured the Mornay sauce she had prepared with the milk and cheese over the top.  I carefully watched her prepare it, helping where I could.


It was probably the most silent meal I had ever eaten but so delicious.  I was incredibly lonely being in the middle of nowhere with a strange family unable to communicate, but the food was so delicious and simple.  Now whenever I see a whole head of cauliflower I have a little tug-of-war internally from remembering my feeling of isolation and the divine taste of dinner at the same time.  I’m sure it is already a real disorder, but for now I will just all it PTCD, short for Post-Traumatic Cooking Disorder.

Did I Learn to Cook From My Mother?

New friends who come to my home for a meal often ask, “Did you learn to cook from your Mom?’’  Before my husband spits his food across the table I explain that food has never been my mother’s thing.  Perhaps that is one big reason she has never had a weight problem.


Cooking in my family was left up to my father and me.  Everyone once in a while my mother would try and jump in and try to prepare something when my parents were having one of their many dinner parties.  I will never forget one particular party when she must have been feeling guilty about the amount of work my father was doing.  While he was out on the tractor cutting the grass she stopped him mid-cut and asked if she could make something.  He knew this was a crapshoot so he suggested she make a hors d’oeuvre knowing that it was not a lynch pin item in his menu.


This being the early 1970’s I’m sure my mother consulted her 1959 version of the joy of cooking, and found a crab and shrimp canapé she thought sounded terribly elegant.  Off she went to the store to purchase the needed ingredients.  Have I mentioned that not only did my Mom not like to cook she disliked spending money even more, especially on food.  Once at the Village Market, our very expensive local grocery she looked at the price of crab and at the price of shrimp, be them both canned, and decided she could substitute something cheaper for one of them.


Back at home she busily opened the cans and followed the recipe to a T with the one substitution.  As she was finishing my father appeared in the kitchen ready to begin the real cooking with me.  Proud of her accomplishment she asked us to taste her little canapé.  My father who never met a food he did not like popped the little canapé into his mouth and after a chew or two, rushed over to the sink and spit it out.  “What the #$%& is that?”


“It is crab and shrimp,” my mother said.  “Really?” he asked.  “Oh, the shrimp was too expensive so I substituted tuna.”  What was really expensive was throwing way the whole lot of the canapés.  It was a while before she volunteered to cook for a party again.


I learned to cook out of necessity, but I hear from so many friends that they never learned to do what their mother’s were good at be it sewing or cooking or some other talent because their mother did it for them.  I count my blessings that my mother could not cook, it made me the cook I am today.  I wonder what my daughter will be good at that I am unable to do now.

Apple Sauce for Dummies



In the craziness of prepping for giving multiple parties this week I forgot I had to write a blog.  You would think that after doing this for 215 days without missing a day I would remember.  Here is the fastest recipe I can give you.


Crockpot Apple Sauce





Peel, core and quarter a dozen apples – I like Fuji, Stayman and Honey Crisp


Put them in a crockpot on high for 5 hours and after they have cooked down stir them well to break up ay large lumps.  Sprinkle with cinnamon if you like.


Apple sauce is not just for babies.  It will keep in your fridge for a couple of weeks.

A Child is Born

Fourteen years ago today is a day that will live in infamy, at least at the Durham Regional Hospital, for it was the day that I gave birth to my darling daughter, Carter.  But getting her into the world was not so cute.


Let me paint the picture for you, in case you were not one of the pregnant couples who were taking the labor and delivery tour that day.  It was a Monday.  I was two weeks over due so my OB/GYN had promised me that he would induce my labor on that day.  Russ and I showed up at the hospital at five in the morning ready to meet our only child.  After waiting a coon’s age for check-in I was finally allowed to waddle up to my labor room by 9:00 AM.


Making a giant pregnant woman wait four hours with nothing to eat or drink since the night before was not a good way to start the day.  Once in our room a lovely nurse came in and had me change into a gown that opened in the back, but did not tie shut.  As I lay down on a bed hardly any wider than I was, she attached at least six different wires, monitors or tube to me; mother heart monitor on my finger, baby heart monitor around my beach-ball belly, IV in my arm, some kind of fetal wire inside the place the baby was going to come out and a few other’s I can’t remember.  I resembled a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day float with tethering lines coming off all sides of me.


My Doctor came in and said good morning and told me that they were going to give me Pitocin to induce labor and if that did not work after six hours they would stop, give me dinner and try again the next morning.  That was not the news I wanted to hear and you can bet I told him so.  He had made me wait until two weeks overdue and this was going to be the day I had this baby.


For the first few hours it looked as if his warning about this taking more than one day was going to come true.  Russ read the newspaper and I tired I looked at the television without actually watching it.  It was the slowest morning of my life.  Next to my bed was the monitor, which showed when I might be having a contraction.  Watching it was like watching grass grow, until all of a sudden things kicked into gear and I went from no contractions to lots with not much rest in between.


Not being one to suffer needlessly I had an epidural, which not only numbed the pain, but slowed down the delivery a bunch.  The monitor, which also had a satellite monitor out at the nurses station became much more important at that point since I was not feeling the contractions.  While Russ and I were just hanging out alone in the room the monitor made an alarming sound, the door flew open suddenly and my Doctor rushed in telling me to roll over on my hands and knees and put my butt in the air and my head down because the baby wire that was running in the birth canal was reporting that her heart rate was going down.


On a good day, without six wires and tubes stuck to every part of me I might have been able to do this, but being this pregnant, numb from the waist down on a tiny bed it was almost impossible, but I did it.  My naked butt was in the air as my entire body was exposed, hospital gown that opened in the back lying on the bed beneath me.  Who cares, I just want this baby to be OK.  Once I had assumed the position the monitor stopped screaming at us and my Doc told me to roll back over.  Right.  I needed those six balloon handlers to come in and help untangle the lines as I tried to roll over.


Another twenty minutes went by and the monitor screamed again, the door flew open again, I rolled over again, hands and knees, head down, big giant naked white ass in the air again.  Baby fine. Roll on back.  At this point Russ went to find the pay phone to call my mother and report what my status was.  This was still back in the day when you were not allowed to use cell phones in the hospital because you might trigger a heart attack in some old guy’s pacemaker.


While Russ was gone the alarm sounded again.  I was already rolling over into the undignified position as my Doctor ran in this time with three nurses, yelling we are going to do an emergency c-section, roll her out.  Now you know these labor and delivery nurses don’t give a hoot about naked women with everything hanging out so no one thought about throwing a sheet over my bare body as they rolled me out into the hall at NASCAR speed to get to the operating room.


Right then, out in the public hallway, a tour of at least a half dozen pregnant woman and their baby daddy’s came walking through to see where they were considering giving birth.  In my typical way I said, “Somebody, please take a picture.”  I can almost guarantee that not one of those women chose Durham Regional as her birthplace.


My bed/chariot was pushed up against the operating room table and it was so much easier to roll on to it than it had been to roll in place on the first bed.  Within seconds the Doctor was ready to make the incision and he looked up and asked, “Is the father here?”  Russ came rushing in having missed all the excitement because he was on the phone explaining what an epidural was to my mother.


In a flash Carter was born and was perfectly healthy, those monitor sirens were nothing serious.  So on this day I like to celebrate not just the birth of my child, but the happiness I feel about not knowing if I caused any heart attacks or early labor inducement to the horrified pregnant woman touring the hospital. It was Pearl Harbor day after all.

Cheney the Dog

Well before most American’s had heard of one of the most disliked Vice President’s in modern times, Dick Cheney my very liberal and big time animal loving Uncle Wilson found a hound dog and named him Cheney.  Despite this poor dog’s name he was well loved by both my Aunt and Uncle.  Signs alerting visitors to the farm where my Uncle lives next to my father warn drivers to “Go slow, Pet animals around.”


Cheney and co-dog Georgia rule the farm as the leaders of the animal kingdom.  Marlin, the deaf cat had passed away a little while ago and I recently noticed the sign reading, “Drive slow, deaf cat” has been removed from the tree in the bend of the road leading up to my Uncle’s house.


My Uncle Wilson is a retired Episcopalian Priest whose only religious paraphernalia at his house is a statue of St. Francis, the animal loving Saint.  Wilson has never been shy about proclaiming his love of animals, which I think is almost stronger than his love of people.


This past year Uncle Wilson has had a lot of serious health problems and has been unable to walk for months.  Recently he has gotten good news that his primary problem is in remission, but he has a very painful broken pelvis which must heal on it’s own.


The day after Thanksgiving Cheney, who is mostly an outdoor dog did not come and sleep at the back porch where his bed resides.  Both Cheney and Georgia had been out chasing some smelly animals and they had been banned from coming in the house until the weather warmed up enough for them to be bathed to remove the stench.  Uncle Wilson and Aunt Janie noticed the next day that Cheney was still gone which worried them because Cheney was not known to miss many meals.  Four or five days passed and no one had seen Cheney.  Will was heart broken thinking that Cheney surely had died somewhere out on the farm.


This came as quite a blow to him after his year of poor health.  Although he had a great attitude about what might kill him, the thought of loosing Cheney seemed to bring him down to a place he had not gone to so far.  I think that thinking about Cheney’s mortality brought Will’s into focus.


On the fifth day after Cheney’s disappearance Will got a call from his Doctor who told him there was no treatment for his broken pelvis, except for physical therapy.  So while Janie was out doing an errand Will, who had not gone out of the house without a wheel chair for months, decided to get up alone and take a walk, with his walker, down the road towards my father’s house.


Georgia, one who was always up for a walk ventured part of the way down the road with him.  As my Uncle got a hundred yards from his house he decided that this walk was a very bad idea.  He turned to go back to his house and noticed that Georgia had only come half way with him and was standing on the side of the driveway near a culvert where a pipe that runs under the driveway exits.  Uncle Wilson thought that Georgia must not have felt like a walk either.


As Will came back towards Georgia he heard a faint sound coming from the pipe under the driveway.  He recognized the sound as Cheney’s voice.  With his walker by his side, Will got down on the ground and looked in the pipe and could hear Cheney, but was unable to reach his arm in far enough to touch him.  As he lay on the ground overwhelmed with the thought that Cheney was alive, he realized that he could not get up.  Thank goodness he had his cell phone in his pocket and he hit redial calling our cousin George who miraculously was only one mile away, rather than at his house an hour and a half away.  He came right over, calling my father as he drove, who called Rufus and Bill two men who work at the farm, my mother, and Aunt Janie.


All these people who are not always around came quickly and gathered by the pipe and realized that they could not get Cheney from the open end of the pipe so they began to dig the pipe out at the other end.  At one point one of the men with a hatchet in hand was banging away on the cement pipe and as he lifted the hatchet high in the air to bring it down hard, my father screamed stop.  Lord knows what made my father stop him, but he did and the crowd or mainly very old people, working together lifted a huge chunk of pipe and there was Cheney right where the hatchet would have hit.


That dog jumped up, ran to the house and drank water for what seemed like a day.  How this very old dog had survived stuck in this pipe for five days with no water or food and freezing nighttime temperatures is something to behold.  Having Cheney back is the best medicine Uncle Wilson could ever have.  Neither of those old dogs is ready to give up.  Perhaps Cheney was well named after all, because like Dick Cheney who has survived five heart attacks and a heart transplant operation and still keeps going, Cheney the dog is one tough ‘ole pup.  But unlike the Vice President the dog brings hope and light into the world and might just be proof of some higher being.



Playing Store



Today was my filming day for the Food Bank.  First I had to appear on live TV for about 30 seconds.  I did not know what I was going to be asked, but lucky for me I only had to think a moment about the answer.  My second filming was for a video for the Food Bank and it was shot at the Durham Branch.  It was much harder because I did not have a script but I had to talk much longer about how people can help the Food Bank.  It took about 15 takes to get right.


While setting of the video shot by putting cans of food on store shelves I had a major flashback to my childhood.  We lived in a fairly isolated house with no girls living nearby so my sisters and I would play together even though there was nine years difference in our ages.  One of the games we loved to play was “Store.”  I had a bedroom with lots of shelves and we would price everything already on the shelves, like little glass animals and piggy banks and then go and take canned food from the kitchen that already had price stickers on it and add that to the shelves.


We would spend hours making fake money some of which went into a box made into a cash register and the rest divided between the shoppers.  I was usually the storekeeper because first it was my room, therefore my store, and second I could add the purchases faster than Margaret and certainly than Janet who was probably only 3 years old.  The only problem with store is that the setting up was fun, but neither of my sisters ever wanted to put anything away when they got bored with shopping.


Another favorite pastime was playing restaurant.  In my same bedroom I had a board that spanned one side of my room, which we used as a counter.  I had a bunch of flatware that my Godmother had been giving me for birthdays and Christmases so restaurant seemed like the only game a kid could play with forks and spoons.  Just like playing store the set-up was the majority of the game.  We would spend hours writing menus and then we would have to find costumes to wear as the waitress or the patrons.


Store and Restaurant were the games I would choose, but Margaret liked to play beauty parlor.  This was my least favorite game to play because she always got to be the beautician and she also had a short attention span.  That meant that she would set a chair up at our bathroom sink and I would have to put my head backwards into the bowl and she would pour a handful for shampoo in my hair and run the water on cold for a minute and lather me up, get bored and walk away leaving me fully clothed with a big wet head full of bubbles and no way to get up without soaking myself.  Sometimes it was even worse than that because she also had my hands soaking in a whole cereal bowl full of Palmolive dish soap.  We had no idea what a manicure was, but we knew that Madge the manicurist told her customers “they were soaking in it” so that’s what we did.  No wonder years later when Margaret was in boarding school with 5 other Margaret’s in her class she took on the nick name Madge.   Was life simpler then?

Come Be on TV With Me

Tomorrow is the Heart of Carolina Drive through day for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.  What does that mean?  It is the all day food and funds collection day for the biggest food drive of the year.


I am scheduled to make an appearance on ABC-11 at the 7:35 AM cut in of Good Morning America at the Kroger on Hillsboro Rd. in Durham.  I have made these appearances for years and often say the same thing.  I was thinking it might be fun to have any of my Less Dana supporters come out and be in the background of my shot this year.


So if you always wanted to be on TV some on out to the Kroger by 7:25.  I can’t promise exactly how it will happen, but you know somehow I will work you in if you are there.


Please pass the word to anyone you know about donating food tomorrow and funds anytime.  I know that if you are reading this you have probably already donated to the Food Bank this year, so bless you.


Hope to see you at the Heart of Carolina drive through day.

Don’t Miss the Party

‘Tis the season.  Once you are past the Santa stage, or you are on the permanent naughty list the season is about a lot of celebrating, eating and imbibing.  If you are someone like me who can ill afford the holiday treats you have two choices. You can skip the merriment, parties and get togethers and hide out away from the Christmas cookies, cheesy hors d’oeuvres and bubbly drinks or you can go and be merry, but make a plan before you do.


I strongly suggest you don’t miss the party.  As the song says, “What good is sittin’ alone in your room?”   Depriving yourself of the company could cause you to actually eat more alone than you might have eaten if you joined in the fun.


Here are my tips for holiday party enjoyment without the guilt.


  1. Always eat something before you go so you won’t lose all will power at the sight of ham biscuits just because you are starving.
  2. Try and not drink your calories.  Alcohol in excess breaks down your eating defenses as well as could cause you to lose your panties.  If you really want a drink try and make every other one water.
  3. Don’t even start on the sweets because one bite of pecan pie begets another and before you know it you have begotten yourself into a whole pie’s worth of dessert.
  4. At buffets take the smallest plate you can find even if that means using the teacup saucer.  Fill the whole thing up with salad and top it with one bite of the bad thing you really want.
  5. Sit is the hardest seat to get out of so you will have trouble getting up to get seconds.
  6. Find the most interesting person to talk to so that you don’t need to use an excuse to go get food to get out of a boring conversation.
  7. Tell your friends you are trying to be good about what you are eating at parties and if they try and push food on you spit in their drink when they are not looking.


Tonight I am going to my friend Carol’s cookie swap.  She is a really good friend because she offered guests the option of coming and not participating in the cookie part if the cookies are a problem.  Now that is a hostess who knows that the camaraderie is more important than the sweets.


So don’t mope around and miss the fun, join in, but stick to your guns.

The Rapture Diet

I am already blowing my chance to make money on a bunch of people who can ill afford it by writing this here, but I came up with a brilliant new scheme today at church.  It’s called the Rapture Diet.  And the slogan is, “Is your body ready to meet Jesus?”  If that sounds at all dirty to you then you clearly are not a rapturist.  You know what the rapture is, that idea that Jesus is coming back and take all the living real believers back to heaven and leaving the rest of us on earth for what is known as the tribulation period.  If you are a rapturist, better name than a rapper, you need to do everything possible to be ready and I am suggesting that being in heavenly shape is really important.


For the record my dear preacher Chris Tuttle is not a rapturist, based on his sermon today, “Known Unknowns and the Expectation of a Messiah.”  As Chris was talking about the people who see every action on earth, both man made and natural, from hurricanes to the economic downturn as signs that the rapture is about to take place it got me thinking about how some people think so much is out of their control so why bother.


Hello people, if you don’t want to get “left behind” then you better get to work on your behind.  I know that I could easily become a millionaire by selling the “salvation diet.” The ad would show a really skinny doorway with a bright white light emanating from it and the announcer would say, “Only true believers are thin enough to fit through the doorway to heaven.”


The reason I know I could make a lot of money on this is that those “true believers” don’t want to take any chances on this second coming so they are going to jump right on the rapture diet train.


Now to fully maximize the chance to make money off everyone I would create the Rapture Smatchure diet.  The slogan would be, “If you don’t believe you better be in fighting good shape to survive a the world of tribulation that is coming.”  I guess I don’t need to say the “is coming” part, since we have had a lot of tribulation already.  Proof this could work is the amount of survivalist stuff available on  Whole years worth of freeze dried food to go in your underground shelter.  I trust Costco as a world class market researcher and if they have found this as a big market then it is time for there to be a diet for those same people.


I think that I need to get two TV shows about these two diets, but I think they both could run on Fox since both of those demographic groups probably watch Fox.  Next look for my line of Jesus loves you compression wear and body armor, both diet groups will love them.

Upkeeps a Bitch

Our doorbell rang at eight o’clock this morning. As I went to the door in my nightgown I remembered that I was getting our windows washed today.  It should have been at the forefront of my brain because more and more dead dried leaves have been obscuring my view as they blew into the cobwebs that were woven across almost every window.  Since Halloween is long past the spooky house bit was looking a little tired, time for a clearer perspective.


Quickly it became apparent that some of the 70-year-old windows in our house needed at least two people to try and pry them open.  Russ looked at me and asked if we needed to add new windows to the ever-growing list of replacement needs for our house.  In the past six months I got a new HVAC system, a new tank less hot water system, 15 yards of gravel for the driveway, 10 yards of compost for my vegetable garden as well as the windows washed.  And if you walked in my house you would probably not notice any of it, but it had to be done.  None of this includes the weekly cleaning and landscaping that has to get done.


My half-century body is the same way.  I have to go to the gym, the doctor, the dentist, and the hairdresser, take daily medication, use a vat of lotion and that is just to keep my body going at the status quo.  Even with all that maintenance systems still give out.  My left foot had plantar fasciitis for a year; just as I got that solved I had some muscle injury below the front of my left knee, literally the day that stopped hurting I pulled some muscle behind my left knee.  As Rosanna Danna would say, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another.”


I am hoping that in the New Year I can do more than up keep and perhaps actually upgrade.  We need to redo the floors in our house, that would be money spent I could see everyday.  I would love to wake up one day and have no pains, maybe for a week or two.  One big goal would be to make a huge dent in the giant list of house things we need to do.  Some things depend on money, but one thing that has been on his list for over more years than I have fingers is for me to clean out the attic.  That is a practically free upgrade except on my knees.  But cleaning out the attic is like adding new gravel to the driveway.  I know it is done, but I don’t really notice it, so why do it?  Jeez, I hate upkeep it’s so unglamorous.