Parking Rummy

This morning I went to the store and I noticed I had to park very far from the store even though most of the close in spots were empty.  The empty spots were those designated for different groups of people who may need to be closer to the store.  You know what they are, Handicapped, of course.  Having a child who has been on crutches multiple times I am appreciative of those spots.  I don’t like those people who have a handicapped placard for their elderly grandmother and pull it out when she is not even in the car just so they can get the choice spot, but what can we do.


Another group was designated for people with small children.  Those spaces are right next to the cart coral so that you don’t have to leave a baby in a car alone a long time to return the grocery cart.  That makes a lot of sense and I am all for that.  Even though the sign was clear as day I saw a twenties something guy park in the spot and get out of his car alone.  I was dying to ask him if he was leaving a child in the car.


A new group of spots poped up recently for expectant moms.  They are slightly closer to the store and I wondered if they were needed so they could get to the bathroom faster.  The parking spaces are the same size as the regular spots so I did not think they allowed for wider door opening to enable these women to get out of the car with their enormous belly’s.  It seems like they should even designate those spaces for third trimester pregnant women.


Then there are the compact car spots.  I assume they are there because the civil engineers who laid out the parking lot did not measure correctly and the spots are too small for a big car.  The problem with those spaces is people with big cars have no respect for them and use them just the same making the small spots next to them even smaller.


I got to thinking that perhaps they could make some extra large spots, far from the store for over weight people.  They would be able to open their doors widely enough to get in and out, but would have the added advantage of getting some exercise because they had to walk further to and from the store.  I can see it now.  Thin people who have really nice cars might park in those fat people spots because they do not want people in the cars next to them to ding their doors.


Since all the spots except for handicapped are self-policing I can hear the excuse the thin people parking in the extra large spot will use, “I’m so fat right now.  I need to drop five pounds.”  I liked it better in the olden days when parking spaces were big to accommodate cars like the two door Cadillac Eldorado with giant doors that required four feet of empty space beside them just to swing open.  Those cars could hold an overdue pregnant woman with six small children sitting untethered in the back seat.


I predict we have not seen the end of special parking designations.  I am sure that some special interest group will lobby a store to give them prime spots and those of us regular people, with regular cars are going to be SOL to get any parking spots what-so-ever.

Are You Prepared?

Being prepared for the worst situation is something insurance company ads like to scare us about.  The local news spends inordinate amounts of time talking about bad weather that may or may not be coming.  It drives people to toilet paper hoarding behavior quite unnecessarily.  Being prepared is so important that an entire sex of scouts claims it as their motto.  Since I am neither a boy, nor scout I wonder if that group actually does stuff or just spends time getting ready to do something.  Wouldn’t a better motto be, “Be Prepared and Actually Get Something Done”?


Today at lunch a group was talking about people who think the end is coming so they are preparing by buying food that will survive in the packages for twenty-four years – guaranteed.  I can guarantee that if the worst does happen and you open that food and it is no good you will have a hard time getting your money back from the guys who made it.  If some kind of holocaust happens I am not interested in sticking around until I run out of some stinkin’ survival food.  I’m prepared to just go in the deluge and not worry about repopulating the planet.  I’m clean out of repopulating supplies any way.


This afternoon I arrived home to a powerless house.  Since I usually get in my house through the automatic garage door opener I had to go old school and find a key to open a regular door.  I was prepared for that emergency.  It was still light enough to see inside without lights, but I realized that soon enough the darkness was coming.  I went to my abundant lantern, flashlight, battery and candle storage area and gathered enough illuminating power to run a small village.  I took stock in my head of the food in the refrigerator, which could be heated, on my gas stove top.  I did not want to open the fridge and let out any cold. All these things were good.  I was prepared.


Then I thought about what I was not prepared for.  We have a gas-powered generator in the garage.  I don’t think I know if we have any gas for it and I do know that I don’t know how to run it.  This would seem like something I should learn since in the 19 years we have lived in our house Russ has only ever been home for 2% of any power outages.  I thought about writing my blog, but realized that I had not charged either my computer or my ipad and writing on my phone is really too slow.  We have two fireplaces, but I think most of our wood is very old and soaking wet outside.  I was clearly not prepared.  Then the power came back on.


Here is my takeaway.  Life is a balancing act between spending time preparing for the worst or living like everything is going to be all right.  I like having a cabinet stocked with toilet paper so there is no need to run out to the store at the mere mention of a snowflake or two.  I like buying two boxes of cereal at a time so I don’t discover that I only have two spoonfuls when pouring my morning bowl.  I like belonging to AAA so someone else can lie on the ground and change my flat tire.  That is being prepared to me.  What I don’t like is stock piling weapons and food in case terrorist invade Durham NC.  I think I am as prepared as I care to be.

How Do You Know You Have Changed Your Eating Habits?

Most of us are the size we are because of what we eat, when we eat, how much we eat and what triggers us to eat.  If you are thin you probably have a fairly good handle on not letting things change some relatively good eating habits.  If you are somewhat over weight you probably have a few eating patterns which could be improved.


Changing your eating routine for the long run is not an easy job.  In fact, it is a job and one you probably hate as much as you hate cleaning out a grease trap.  The problem is you always need to eat something and once you have created a memory of a yummy food it is hard to wipe it from your brain.  If you are a late night eater you need to find new ways to distract yourself.  If stress drives you to seek the chocolate fairy you are under the power of an intoxicating mistress.


Somehow the desire to have healthy eating habits and be thinner is not great enough and that is why the majority of people who lose weight on diets end up gaining it back.  You have to create new ways of living so that food is not a medicine, friend, comforter, consolation, reward or distracter.


Experts say it takes months and months to change desires and even then you have to constantly work at it.  Today I recognized that I might be on the road to creating new habits.  I discovered that a drain in my down stairs bath had gotten clogged and since it is the pipe that leads from the dishwasher as it ran overnight all the dirty water flowed on the bathroom floor and rug.


After scooping water out of the sink and trying the plunger I searched the house for Liquid Plumber and finding none I went off to my regular store.  I picked up two bottles of drain cleaner and approached the checkout, which was thankfully free of other customers.  The clerk told me the total was $15.07 and I handed over a twenty as I bagged my two items.  Realizing that I had seven pennies in my wallet I asked the clerk if I could give her the seven cents since I really did not want four one dollar bills and 97 cent change.  She looked at me and said, “No.”


I assumed she was kidding because she would much rather make all that change than just give me a five dollar bill, so I asked her, “Are you kidding me?”


“No, I already keyed $20 in the register.”


“You are really going to not take my seven cents and going to make me take all that change?”




This is normally the point in life when I go crazy.  I am a really good customer of this particular store.  I am not holding any other customers up by asking this clerk to take my change.  This is the kind of situation that used to drive me to eat a brownie, but not today.  That clerk should have recognized a woman who was carb deprived and accepted my pennies without an argument.  Eventually she did, but both she and her manager will never make that mistake again.


I went home poured the liquid plumber in the sink and still have a clogged drain, but none of these things have driven me to fall back into old stress relieving eating patterns.  Have I permanently changed?  No way.  But just recognizing a situation that used to derail me is a big step in the right direction.

Winter Diet Dry Skin

One of the annoying side affects of dieting is that as you reduce the amount of oil you are eating you may be keeping fat from developing under your skin, but you are also robbing your skin of moisture.  Winter dry heat and lack of humidity in the air also contribute to your skin being dryer.  What is the use of being thinner if you look older and wrinkled because your skin is too dry?


Keeping your body well hydrated from both the inside and outside is the only way to fight flaky skin.  Here is yet another reason you need to drink a lot of water.  You don’t need to go back to drowning your salad in olive oil, just make sure you have 8-10 glasses of water.  Adding fruits and vegetables are great ways to get more water in your system and they fill you up on things that are diet friendly.


If you can add a humidifier to your heating system you will not only help your skin but all the wood in your house too.  All things made up of cells need moisture.  Wearing gloves when you go out in the cold helps you keep whatever moisture you have in your hands rather than letting the dry air suck it our of your digits.


There is nothing I like better in the cold weather than a really long hot shower, but that is the wrong way to go.  Dialing back the water temperature and taking a quick shower is better for our delicate dried out skin.  As soon as you finish from your shower, don’t zap every bit of moisture from your body with a towel.  Act more like your dog and shake off the excess and then slather yourself with lotion while you are still damp.  Your pores will more easily suck of the emollient right after the shower.


With all the flu bugs around we need to be vigilant about washing our hands, but then you need to use lotion after all that washing too.  Dry and cracked cuticles are a super highway for bugs to get into your system, so not just washing the germs off, but also sealing the cracks will help keep you healthy.


You can’t do much about sun damage you may have done to your skin over years of non-sunscreen use or the naturally reducing collagen due to aging, but deep hydrating winter skin can fight off the appearance of wrinkles and just make you happier.

Spring Break Reality Check

It may still be January and perhaps the coldest weekend we have seen here in North Carolina in a few years, but I am here to remind you that spring break is just around the corner.  Spring break is my favorite vacation of the year.  March is clearly when I am sick of my regular life and in need of a little pick me up.


This year I just hope that Carter and I will both be well by spring break.  My two-week bronchitis and her two-week double flu infections are really wearing on us.  Carter is suffering much more than I am having missed so much school having basically slept day and night for a fortnight.


In my guilt of being so unproductive stuck in my house for the last two weeks doing basically nothing I forced myself to weed through some of the too big clothes and remove them from my closet.  In the unearthing process I came across the bathing suit drawer.  Spring break is coming.  Do I have a suitable bathing suit that holds everything up and in the right places?


I am lucky that this year for Carter’s break I am taking her to London, which will certainly not involve a bathing suit.  But a month later Russ is taking me on a company trip to a warm and sandy place.  Two and a half months until I have to wear a suit and in front of people I know.


This January sick period has been wonderful to drop the pounds.  Coughing must be great exercise, at least for my core.  But the lack of real weight bearing workouts is not helping to tone up the flabby bits and pieces.  I have not tried a suit on yet.  I think I will hold off on doing that until I am better and need some diet inspiration because I am no longer losing weight due to illness.


Don’t let spring break sneak up on you unprepared.  Find your bathing suit soon and try it on.  If you need any inspiration hang your swimwear on your bathroom mirror.  Being spring break body ready takes longer to obtain than we think it will.  I hope I will have mine by 2014.

Good Ice

Yesterday we had a sleeting, rainy, and icy afternoon, which basically shut Durham down.  Schools got let out early, people left work in the middle of the day and parties were canceled.  Even the mall closed at five in the afternoon.  Panic set in from those people who did not have dinner purchased before noon because even pizza deliveries were suspended.


I was prepared because I had bought pork chops to make for a neighbor who had lost a loved one and deserved to have dinner delivered.  After making the pork with balsamic glazed pears and onions, roast green beans and risottoed farrow I put it all in a bag along with a loaf of zucchini bread from the freezer and set out to skate my way down the street to deliver it.


As grains of frozen ice resembling grape nuts more than snow came down around me as I slid down the hill from my house to my neighbors I had flashbacks of childhood winters in Connecticut.  So many winter days would my sisters and I have to shuffle our way up our icy driveway and down our busy road to the school bus stop.  This granulated precipitation was the kind we hated.  Certainly not because it made the roads more treacherous or because it was the hardest to shovel.  We hated it because it ruined the glass like frozen surface of our ice skating pond.


When you grew up in the pre-global warming winter wonderland of Connecticut you had to embrace winter full on.  We were very lucky to have a big ice skating pond at our house that my father kept in good condition since he had no grass to cut during the winter months.  Keeping up an outdoor rink involved shoveling, or in my father’s case, snow blowing the surface the second that snow fell on the ice.  The best ice was black ice, which meant that it had frozen quickly and for a long time without any snow or melting and refreezing.


Our pond was private, as opposed to the big town lakes where many people came to skate.  The good thing about having a private pond was the fewer people skating on your ice, the nicer the surface was.  Too many skaters put dings and marks in the ice from their toe picks on the front of their figure skates.


My father also created a system of resurfacing the ice by putting a gutter from the stream that fed the pond onto the top of the ice’s surface overnight so that new water was recoating the top.  In the morning he would take the gutter off and the ice would freeze hard while we were at school.


This winter wonderland of a pond made us very popular on the school bus.  Kids would saddle up to me on the way home and hint at wanting an invitation to come skating on our newly surfaced ice.  Having just the right number of kids to play whip was the ideal afternoon activity.  We just had to make sure that the boys we invited would not get too rough and put a small child on the end of the line skating around in a giant circle until the last could not hold on any longer and would go hurdling off the end at twenty miles per hour.


I am no longer a fearless skater.  Fear of falling and lack of practice has zapped me of what was my daily winter pastime.  I am happy not to live in such cold weather now and just enjoy the memories of our great pond and the time spent gliding along its perfect surface.

Janie Carter Day

Today is my Mother’s 75th birthday.  That is a lot of birthdays.  Three quarters of a century.  She’s doing great.  She is an exceptional artist who paints most days and continues to win juried show after juried show.  When she is not painting she would like to be playing bridge.   Playing bridge and having lunch with her friends, that is a perfect day for her.


For her birthday today she was supposed to playing bridge, but then the snow and bad weather happened.  Not only was bridge on her birthday canceled but also so was lunch with friends.


So for my blog today I am asking anyone reading this to do me a favor.  Please send my mother, Janie Carter a happy birthday e-mail.  Her address is


If you want to look at her website and see some of her artwork go to  My mom is not one who is big on cake, but having people enjoy her paintings is something that would make her happy, almost as happy as playing bridge — Maybe not as happy as winning at bridge, but happy none-the-less.


If you have enjoyed reading my blog at all do me this favor.  I am the way I am in part to the mother I have.  Because of the weather and the sickness that still engulfs our house I can’t go play bridge with my mother and make her birthday all better, so you, wonderful reader are my best back-up plan.


I hope you are staying warm and safe on this cold January 25th.  Enjoy a glass of wine in honor of my mother.  She would like that too.