Easter Confession

D & M New Can

I am the oldest of three sisters. Margaret is three and a half and Janet is eight and a half years younger than I am. Being the oldest meant that I participated in childhood holiday traditions longer than I should have just to keep the illusion alive. But while I was keeping the secret on behalf of my younger sisters I was working the system to my advantage.

Easter in my house was always the same. The Easter bunny would deliver baskets to our bedrooms while we slept that had some candy, like peeps and jellybeans and a large chocolate bunny or big cream filled egg in it. Then the bunny would hide chocolate foil wrapped eggs all over the rooms we called the big living room and the little living room. These eggs would be for the “hunt” we would have at a reasonable hour before church.

Before Janet came along I always received a bigger basket than Margaret just because I was older, although I think the bunny put an equal amount of candy in each at the delivery. This is something no one could ever prove because Margaret would get up in the morning and before we were allowed out of our rooms for the hunt she would eat all the pre-basketed candy.

I am a real candy lover so Easter was a highlight of the year. But not all candy was created equal in my book. I did not and do not like peeps or black jellybeans. All things chocolate would be at the top of my must have list followed by red and pink jellybeans.

I do not know how old I was the first time that I rearranged the basket contents, but I do know that I took the older sister advantage more than once when it came to Easter baskets. See, I would wake up in the middle of the night, sometime between the departure of the bunny and sunrise. I would sneak into Margaret’s room and get her basket and bring it into my room where I would take all her red and pink jelly beans and give her all my black ones and all my peeps. Then I would quietly put her basket back beside her bed without disturbing her.

Then I would slink up the back barn steps that went from my room to the big living room and in the dark of the night I would look all around the two hunt spaces and scope out where the shinny foil wrapped eggs were. This ensured that when hunt time came I would be faster and better at getting more eggs.

This plan worked perfectly because Margaret always ate her whole basket before anyone could get a look at what was in it and since she ate it before she even saw my basket she was none the wiser. I look back on the hunt as the most unfair, not only had I pre-hunted, but I was so much older that I had a huge advantage anyway. Pictures from the time of us in our Easter dresses and hats holding our baskets, mine overflowing with candy and Margaret’s a plastic grass utopia are evidence of the unfairness.
I long ago confessed to Margaret and apologized for taking advantage. I was probably doing her a great favor by keeping some of candy from her. What I wish was that someone had taken my candy. I certainly did not need it and wish I never developed such a love of the sweet stuff.

A Cup Of Coffee On The Wall

This is a story sent to me by my friend and fellow Food Bank Board Member Ed Carney. It was sent to Ed by his good friend Joe Leveille. Other than that I do not know it’s origin, but felt that as Lent ends it is a great story to share.

I sat with a friend in a high-class coffee shop in a small town near Venice, Italy. As we enjoyed our coffee, a man entered and sat at an empty table beside us.
He called the waiter and placed his order saying, “Two cups of coffee, one of them there on the wall.” We heard this order with some interest and observed that he was served with only one cup of coffee but he paid for two. As soon as he left, the waiter pasted a piece of paper on the wall with the words written ‘A Cup of Coffee’.
While we were still there, two other men entered and ordered three cups of coffee, “Two on the table and one on the wall.” They had only two cups of coffee but paid for three and left. This time again, the waiter did the same; he pasted a piece of paper on the wall saying, ‘A Cup of Coffee’.

It seemed that this gesture was a norm at this place. However, it was something unique and perplexing for us. Since we had nothing to do with the matter we finished our coffee, paid the bill and left.

After a few days, we happened to visit this coffee shop again. While we were enjoying our coffee, a man entered. The way the man was dressed did not match the standard nor the atmosphere of the coffee shop. Poverty was evident from the look on his face and his attire. As he seated himself, he looked at the wall and said, “One cup of coffee from the wall please.” The waiter served a coffee to this man with the customary respect and dignity.

The man drank his coffee and left without paying. We were amazed to watch all this when we also noticed that the waiter took off a piece of paper from the wall and threw it in the dust bin. Then it dawned on us what this custom was all about. The great respect for the needy shown by the inhabitants of this town welled up our eyes with tears.

Coffee is not a need of our society, nor a necessity of life. The point to note is that when we take pleasure in any blessing, maybe we also need to think about those people who appreciate that specific blessing as much as we do but they cannot afford to have it.
Note the character of the waiter, who is playing a consistent and generous role to get the communication going between the affording and the needy with a smile on his face.

Ponder upon this man in need. He enters the coffee shop without having to lower his self-esteem. He has no need to beg for a free cup of coffee. He only looked at the wall, placed an order for himself, enjoyed his coffee and left.

When we analyze this story, along with the other characters, we need to remember the role played by the wall that reflects the generosity and care of the dwellers of this town. What a way to show compassion and maintain human dignity for all.

March is Freezer Month

Rachel Ray’s TV show was on in the kitchen this morning as I was passing through on my way to the garage.  As I walked past I heard her say that March is Freezer month, which is only appropriate since it has been freezing almost all month.  As I came back through the kitchen on my way to the sunroom I heard Rachel encouraging people to cook double amounts of soups and stew and fill their freezer.


Really?  I am wondering how many of you have much empty space in your freezer.  I know that a full freezer is more efficient at keeping things cold, what with all those frozen blocks of meat acting as chillers.  What I think Rachel should have emphasized is that everyone should eat the stuff already in his or her freezers.


I have a problem with preparing too much food.  It started as a child when my parents used to call me by my nickname, “Feed the 5000.”  The biblical reference was lost on me then, but I knew it meant I had made too much.  So the freezer became the refuge of the enormous leftovers.  The only problem is that once something went into the freezer it rarely reappeared on the table.  This is still the case today.


My child loves frozen food as long as it comes from a box with a pretty picture on it that is no way ever resembles the actual contents.  She would rather eat a lean cuisine that almost any yummy homemade thing I concoct.  Perhaps I need to print out the photos I take of food and paste them to the Tupperware of my leftovers in the freezer.  Not only might Carter be more interested in them I too would at least be reminded of the work and cost that went into making the food and actually serve it again.


Since March only has two days left I am not worried about you celebrating Freezer month by rushing out and buying more frozen products.  I am going to take it upon myself to declare that April is “Eat what’s in your Freezer” month.  Pick one night a week, say Tuesday and just pull something out of the freezer every Tuesday for dinner until you don’t have anything left except Margarita mix and something wrapped in foil which is undistinguishable and then throw that away.


This might be the best diet tip I ever came up with since freezer burn might have rendered all my choices inedible.  I will let you know how it goes from my end.  Let me know if you find any hidden gems in your freezer.  But if you find actual gems, don’t eat them.  Just find another place to hide them.  The freezer is one of the first places robbers look for valuables.

No Belly Button Showing Please

I know I am not alone in being sick of cold weather.  This winter has dragged on too long everywhere.  I hate to complain because although it has been unseasonable cold here in North Carolina we have not gotten anywhere as bad a winter as most every place else, even Virginia.  But I do live in North Carolina for many reasons, and warm weather and short winters are high up on the list.


Despite the still freezing temperatures I am fairly certain that warm weather is coming sometime.  For me it is coming a couple weeks when I am being forced to go to Mexico with my husband.  I know you are crying for me.  In anticipation of their balmier weather I went with my friend Hanna today to try on clothes for the trip.


I found a beautiful very light cardigan and thought that it would be nice to get a little shell in the same color for underneath it.  The line that sweater came in had three or four coordinating sleeveless blouses for layering.  Most everyone on earth knows I like sleeves, but as a piece under a cardigan I have my arms covered by the sweater. I tried on a tiny silk number that had a couple of layers of the thinnest silk draped across the front.  The workmanship was beautiful.  The fabric was like a whisper it was so light.  The sweet blue color was one of my favorites.


There was only one major problem, well maybe two.  First was the price.  It was expensive, but it was exquisite.  It was enough money that it gave me pause.  I looked at it in the mirror more closely.  I had the silk shell on with the cardigan.  A perfect match, but wait, what is that I see?  Is that my belly button I can see through the only single layer of silk that draped across my middle?  Since the rest of the blouse had two layers of silk falling elegantly on a diagonal there was just one small bit in the middle, which only had one layer and in it’s sheerness I could see the dark hole that at one time connected me to my mother.


Obviously a camisole worn underneath was the answer to cover the offending body part, but that would add yet another layer to summer outfit where heat might be the issue.  There was no way I was going to spend big money to be self conscious about declaring to the world I had an inny belly button.  I don’t care how much flatter my stomach has gotten.  I am too told to show anyone my midsection even if it is veiled in the finest of silk.


So to all you clothing designers and manufacturers who certainly read my blog, one bit of advice.  Most people who have enough money to spend on a blouse like that don’t want to expose their belly buttons and those young and nubile enough to show their belly buttons aren’t spending their entire month’s clothing budget on one small shell, no matter how beautiful.

Turkey Meatballs and Tomato Sauce



It helps when everyone in the family is interested in eating something healthy.  I bought a spaghetti squash and thought that others might eat it if they had a great sauce to put on it.


Make a poaching liquid for the meatballs


1 large yellow onions – chopped

5 carrots – peeled and chopped

2 stalks of celery chopped

4 cloves of garlic grated

2 14 oz. cans of chopped tomatoes

1 t. garlic powder

1 t. dried oregano

Salt and pepper

1 cup of water


Put the onions, carrots, celery and garlic in a stockpot and cook on medium high for about 5 five minutes.  Add everything else and bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.


While the pot is coming up to boil make the meatballs


20 oz. ground turkey breast

½ red onion finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic- grated

1 egg- beaten

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup minced flat leaf parsley

1/3 cup minced fresh basil

½ t. red pepper flakes

Black pepper

½ t. garlic powder


1 jar of tomato sauce

2 T. tomato paste

5 Splenda packets


Mix together gently and form into ball about the size of golf balls.  Add carefully to poaching liquid just at a simmer.  Pour one jar of tomato sauce over the top of meatballs.  Cover the pot with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes.  With a slotted spoon remove the meatballs and increase the heat to high and boil the sauce adding the tomato paste and Splenda.  Reduce the sauce by about half.

Waiting For Food



Since Russ was in San Francisco last night and Carter had finished up her Science Independent Project she and I decided that a quick dinner out was the right thing to do.  We just went to a family style restaurant, nothing special, but Carter was thrilled not to have to eat the green beans and broccoli I was planning on serving.


The good thing for me about going to dinner with a fourteen year old is that I can indulge my love of eavesdropping on other people’s conversations while Carter is busy texting.  Yes, I admit I listen to what is going on at the tables around me.  It is all I can do not to comment or weigh in on whatever fight or discussion people are having.  The way I see it is that if you don’t want people to hear, you should talk about it in the car, otherwise it’s fair game for my entertainment.


Last night we were seated in a booth that backed up to a father and his sons, ages about four and six.  It was obvious to us that these children rarely went to anything more than a fast food restaurant and were having the time of their lives.


Here is the conversation we overheard that really made us smile:


Younger boy: When is the food coming?


Older boy: Yeah, I’m hungry.


Father:  I’m sure the waiter will bring it soon.


Younger boy:  What are you talking about?  I am the waiter.


Older boy:  No, you are the customer.


Younger boy:  No, I am the one waiting for food, so I am the waiter.


It all made sense to us and was so much more fun to listen to that the three adult daughters and their 70 year old mother whose birthday it was who did not like one drink the poor waiter brought them and sat silently when they weren’t sending things back to the bar.  I’ll take kids to listen to over pouting adults anyday.

Yoga Pants



Today after Yoga I went to coffee with my friends Sara and Michelle.  Since we had all been in Yoga together it seemed perfectly fine to be in public for coffee together in our Yoga pants.  Michelle and Sara looked better than I did post Yoga.  Perhaps I should have put some make up on to go to class, but since I tend not to look at my face in the mirror because I am busy trying to judge if my shoulders are down and back or my leg is straight I skip it.


After whiling the rest of the morning away discussing important issues like drivers ed, we finally broke up since the lunch crowd was showing up in real clothes, except for one friend who was in her tennis clothes.


I was starting to get self-conscious about being out so late in Yoga clothes, no make up, hair, which had not been washed and had been hanging upside down for a while so it stuck into an odd-do.  What I really wanted was an sign on my chest that read, “Yes, I actually was at Yoga, I’m not just slumming it.”


Apparently I am not the only person her feels this way because when I went to pick up after school today a friend told me she was not getting out of her car because she was still in her Yoga pants.  I asked if it was because she was wearing Luluemon see through Yoga pants and she said, no.  This particular friend is tall, thin, incredibly athletic and looks great in a potato sack so if she was feeling uncomfortable being in her Yoga pants at 3:30 then I felt perfectly justified that I felt that way just hours before.


Why do the tennis people not feel uncomfortable being out in their little skirts, while Yoga pant wearing elicits some sort of guilt?  I actually did Yoga today and yes it is not quite the work out tennis is, but my Yoga pants are the same thing I will wear to work out with my trainer tomorrow and that is an hugely butt busting activity much more strenuous than a doubles tennis game.


Since I don’t have a sign to wear announcing why I am dressed the way I am I will declare it here for good.  If you see me and I have Yoga pants on I recently must have been exercising.  Don’t think I am slumming it; I would have my jeans on if I was doing that.  If I am really dressed up I had a meeting with someone who does not know me well or someone I was asking for money.  Now you know you may want to avoid me if you see me coming in anything but jeans, I am either smelly or am going to ask you for money.

Sing Out

My friend Hugh once did a study for the Catholic schools of Philadelphia about singing.  He asked students of various grades who thought they could sing.  In kindergarten 100% of students claimed to be singers, in third grade the number of self described singers dropped a little to about 80%, six grade it was only about 40% and by 10th grade only about two in ten felt they could sing.  For most of the high schoolers they probably could sing better than they could at five years old, but their standards had been raised.


I knew early on in life that I actually could not sing, despite having a talented father and sister in the vocal arts.  This was confirmed to me my first day of boarding school.  As I nervously went through the registration line with all the other new girls I learned of my room assignment, my class schedule and the time of the mandatory voice test with the choir mistress Miss Sala.  Girls ahead of me in line informed Miss Sala that their voice test was unnecessary because they had not the interest or vocal talent.  The sixty-year-old girls school veteran staunchly held firm to the requirement that all new girls take a voice test, that was until she heard me speaking.


As I wound my way through the line she caught up with me and took my voice test time assignment paper from my hand, telling me I was excused.  Apparently in the history of The Ethel Walker School I was the only new girl ever rejected from any singing requirements without even taking the test, a test I was actually willing to try.  Poor Miss Sala did not know that day that in the years to come my lack of any vocal training was going to become a school wide problem.


My senior year I was the head of the Northfield League, the girls in charge of the chapel program.  Thursday morning chapel was a mandatory school wide meeting where I often spoke.  After finishing my prayer, reading or talk I would start the school off in a hymn.  The first few times I actually sang the first note, which was always off key, I would get the entire chapel of girls and fifty adults started off wrong.  Miss Sala in great frustration eventually found a member of the choir who sat behind me to ghost sing for me.  I would open my mother and pretend to sing and a beautiful sound came out from behind me, but most people in the pews were unaware of the lip dubbing we were doing.


My lack of ability has never stopped me from singing.  I just try and keep it from bothering the rest of the world.  Because of this I usually sit in the second pew at church now so I can sing as loudly as I want and there is almost never anyone in front of me that I am annoying.  This morning I arrived at church and some visitors were sitting in my regular seat and so I sat right behind them in the third row.  I am never happy about losing my regular seat, but then I figure the poor people who got there first will not make that mistake again once I disturb their music enjoyment with my singing.


As we stood singing the first hymn today the small child sitting in front of me turned and looked at me and gave me a big smile while I sang.  I smiled back through my notes.  She then gave me a little wave and a bigger smile.  My singing must be improving I thought, and sang louder.  She looked at me through all three versus and then as the hymn ended she turned around, still standing on the pew.  It was then that I noticed this little girl had two hearing aids that were only visible from the back of her head.  She certainly could not have heard me singing, she just liked that I smiled at her.  For a moment or two I was under the delusion that someone liked my singing, and you know what, someone did, even if she could not hear.

March Diet Madness



What is the tie between major sporting events and eating really unhealthy food?  During the Super Bowl this year I learned the statistic that Super Bowl Sunday was the second biggest eating day behind Thanksgiving.  I wonder what the calorie count difference is though?  At Thanksgiving you have a chance at some vegetables and turkey can be healthy, but I can’t think of one traditional Super Bowl food that would be in my normal weight reduction food list.


Now it’s March Madness and since I live between Duke and UNC I can’t help but be interested in the goings on around hoops.  I just got an e-mail from our club up the street that they have a special NCAA menu in the Grille for B-ball watching.  This is what is being served: Buffalo Chicken Wings with blue cheese dressing and celery, Fried Mozzarella Sticks, Fried Mushroom Caps, Potato Skins with Cheddar Cheese, Bacon, Sour Cream and Scallions, Chili Fries, Beef Sliders with three kids of cheese and Nacho Platter.  Out of that whole list I could have the scallions and the celery.


One would think that watching basketball was a huge amount of exercise based on the number of calories that appear to be necessary to watch it.  Maybe it is just that these foods can be consumed mindlessly so one can stay focused on the screen.  I am sure that the club will still have salads available, but don’t plan on any salad specials for the games.  Who can eat with a fork and watch TV at the same time, must be the reasoning?


Since March Madness is an eight-day event if you only count the days games are being played and not the time in between, I venture to say that NCAA tournament is the biggest eating affair of the year by far.  Even if you only eat wings every other day you are probably consuming more calories watching basketball over those eight days than you ever would burn off playing basketball all year.


I’m advocating for some lettuce wraps and fruit kabobs be included in the offerings during the tournament.  People really need to pace themselves, March is a long month.

Look Me in the Eye

Based on this blog one might be led to believe that my only philanthropic interest is the Food Bank.  Yes, this blog did start as my weight loss journey to help support the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, but it is in no way my only interest..  What I have found is that once you start to help other people you get a certain personal satisfaction that is way beyond what you put in.


Today I attended a lunch for Dress For Success where one of my fellow Food Bank board members, Debbie Aiken is the board chair.  It was inspiring to learn all that Dress for Success did to help women become self supporting through job search and interview skills training as well as help to obtain the right “look” for searching for a job.  I was somewhat familiar with their mission because my husband Russ had a team from CMG Partners, his strategic marketing consulting firm do a little pro-bono session to help Dress for Success come up with a good tag line and elevator pitch.  What they developed was “Dress for Success – more than a suit.”


I listened to the inspiring and widely varied stories of the women who had been helped by Dress for Success and how important learning basic skills were for helping them land a job.  The women I met shook my hand and looked me in the eye as they greeted me.  This skill is something I take for granted, but realized today was something some people needed to be taught at a later stage of life.


I can remember my friend Missy Brinegar giving me the best parenting advice when Carter was only about four.  Her boys are a few years older than Carter and I always commented on what nice manners they had with adults.  Missy told me this trick to get a child to look an adult in the eyes when they meet them and shake their hand — tell them before they do it, “I want to figure out what color eyes that person has and after you have said hello to come tell me.”  It is a brilliant way to take the scary out of a child looking directly into a strangers face.


I understand that meeting a stranger, especially one you might want to give you a job, can be just as scary for adults as it can for children.  What I hope is that we can all look people we meet in the eye and really see them for the fellow human beings that they are.  It is just by the luck of birth that some of us ended up having parents who teach us these lessons when we are little and some who do not.

Old Friends with Smart Kids



I love living in Durham for so many reasons.  People who are from here are nice to new people that move here, the restaurants are mostly chef/owner run so they care about their customer’s and products, differences of all kinds are embraced and celebrated and people are just plain ole’ friendly.


Although I have nothing to do with it, Durham also has this little thing called Duke University, which draws the best and the brightest to Durham.  For me that means more than really exciting basketball and good doctors, but it is a major draw for my old friends with college bound children to come and visit while they are looking at schools.  Some also are looking at that other great school in the town next door, UNC.  Wherever they may be looking in North Carolina, I love the fact that they come and stay with us.


Yesterday my college friend Jamie Karp Stone came all the way from Santa Fe with her husband Mark, daughter Meggie and Chinese exchange student Jolene for breakfast before going to look at Duke.  I have not seen Jamie in twenty-one years so I am thankful that she has a smart daughter and I have a smart University near by which created the opportunity for us to catch up.


This year I have had a number of college looking visitors and we are open to future visitors.  It is so fun to meet the children of people I got to know when we were just about their children’s age.  I think back to how smart and grown-up we thought we were as seniors in high school.  But of course we weren’t.  Just don’t tell kids that because they might never leave home if they knew all that they don’t know.


So if you have a child getting ready to jump out of the nest come and visit us and look at the school near by.  They don’t have to be Duke smart, they just have to be your kid to be welcome at our house.

Get It In Writing


As a woman of experience, that should read, a woman of middle aged, one who wears many hats; confident, confessor, laundress, chef, driver, advisor, fundraiser, writer, seamstress, animal trainer, maid, event planner, historian, communicator, comedian, gambler, public speaker, procurement agent, long-range planner, shipping clerk, scheduler, hostess, travel agent, proof reader, accountant, nurse, promoter, cheerleader, spiritual advisor, coach, secretary, therapist and some unmentionables.  I could summarize that list into two words, wife and mother.

One thing I have learned over the years of doing the many jobs that a wife and a mother does is that when someone actual thanks you or compliments you it is a great day and should be noted.  Now a thank you from my husband is great, but he is a serial thanker so it is not a red-letter day when it happens.  It is great to be appreciated by my spouse and makes me want to make sure I thank him more too.

But for all you people who have or have lived through having a fourteen-year-old daughter a compliment from her is a newsworthy event.  Yesterday was that day for me.  For what ever reason Carter was particularly happy with me and told me, in front of her friend Ashley no less, that I was the “Best person alive!”  I had not done anything extraordinary for her, just one of the things on my “hat list,” but she just appreciated me yesterday.

Knowing the importance of that moment I asked her if she would put it in writing for me.  Carter picked up a pencil and a pad of free from some hotel post-it notes and wrote, “You, Dana are the best person alive- Carter.”  There it is, evidence that for one tiny moment I was good in the eyes of my teenager.  Now, I am certainly spoiling it by writing it here.  Hopefully she won’t read this blog.  But I do forever have these words by her own hand.

I know that everyone out there has encountered a situation where someone paid you a compliment or told you something that made your spirit sing because it was rare and special.  Sometimes it is so out of the blue that after the fact you begin to question whether is actually happened or wonder if you heard it right.  Next time kudos come your way, ask for it in writing.  If your praiser was sincere they will be happy to write it down – It multiplies the accolade because you can forever reread it.  Not that I am encouraging you to go around singing your own praises, but having that little bit of paper can make you smile, cheer you up or remind you why you wear the one thousand and thirty four hats you do for the ones you love.  Better yet, write a note to your loved ones and tell them how you feel about them — Nothing too over the top, just one really good sentence.

Thanks Be to Friends

I love when I learn scientific proof for something I always believed in my gut.  I just saw a segment on CBS Sunday Morning about the power of friendship.  Not just the schmaltzy importance of friendship, but evidence that friends help us carry life’s loads.


A Professor at UVA asked people to put on a heavy backpack and estimate the incline of a very steep hill.  Then he did the same thing except that the person had a friend stand by their side when they did it, nothing else just be there.  Overwhelmingly people who had a friend there estimated the difficulty of climbing the hill as dramatically easier than the people who were alone.  The mere presence of the friend somehow lessened the perceived burden.


Another professor gave people small shocks while they were getting an MRI and recorded the pain receptors in their brain.  Then he did the same experiment with a friend holding the hand of the person receiving the shocks.  The pain receptors hardly registered anything when a friend was present thus creating less wear on the body.


Dieting works the same way, at least for me.  By sharing the burden of needing to lose weight with my friends helps me actually stick to my plan and not feel deprived.  This blog is my daily connection to so many friends, old and new, known and unknown, that spreads out my burden so I don’t feel I am carrying it alone.


Worrying is something that causes our body’s physical stress and most of what we worry about is anticipatory.  Will something bad happen?  How bad will it be? Having a friend somehow helps dissipate a problem, according to these learned Professors.  I am going to go one step further and say sharing the problem with your friend can make you feel better, as long as you don’t overwhelm your friend with your problems.  Don’t expect your friend to solve your issues, but just having someone close to listen can reduce your pain receptors, whether you can see them on an MRI or not.


Of course the old saying holds true here, “To have a friend, you must be a friend.”  I want to thank all my wonderful friends who help me carry the load and encourage you all to spread your difficulties out into the world and not carry anything alone.





Life Without Sound Effects

I love games.  To me computers, ipads and smart phones were invented really just to act as substitutes for game playing friends.  Of course actual live friends who also like to play games are my number one choice of game interaction, but in the late of the night when I am snuggled down in bed next to a non-game-loving-ipad-magazine-reading husband playing solitaire on my ipad is a good second choice.


I usually play electronic games in the silent mode so as not to bother anyone else or so I can still watch TV while playing.  Even though I am playing game against myself and no one will be the wiser if I win or lose I still play uber competitively.


What does that mean in solitaire?  First I play Las Vegas rules which means that the deck of cards costs 52 imaginary dollars and for every card I get in the Aces piles I earn back 5 dollars per card.  You only get to turn the discard pile over three times before the game is over and you turn the cards three at a time so if you can’t move the top card onto a different pile you don’t even know what you are missing underneath.


The second way I compete is that I play speed solitaire, trying to move all the cards to the Aces piles faster than I have before.  Since I have been playing this particular game on my ipad for a number of years it gets harder and harder to break into my top fifteen fastest games.  I think my best time was one minute and 22 seconds.


Today when I had ten minutes between commitments I pulled out my ipad and starting playing solitaire.  For some reason the volume control was up one notch from silent which I did not notice until I failed to win my first game and I heard a faint sound of a crowd saying “OOHHHH,” in that “too bad for you” kind of way.


Wait a minute, why was the crowd feeling sorry for me?  Although I had failed to clear the board I did win a good amount of imaginary money because I had gotten my spades pile up to 5, hearts to jack, diamonds to 10 and clubs to 4, which in monetary terms meant I had earned $155.  When you subtract the $52 initial investment I had net $103 — Nothing to feel sorry for me about.  Yet the sound effects still played a little pity party for me because I had not cleared the board.


I quickly dropped the volume control back to nothing because I don’t want anyone else to determine what the sound effects for my life should be, but me.  We all don’t have the same perspective on what is good or bad, or successful or failure, nor should we.  Each one of us needs to decide if a situation is funny or scary, not the man playing the organ at a silent picture show.  Today I encourage you to ignore the sounds that others, be they live humans or mere machines, make about you and create your own life’s soundtrack.  Mine has a lot more laughter and cheers than sobs and jeers.

Walking Miracles



Being a tourist in a city is not only fun, but can also be healthy.  While in London Carter and I walked and walked and walked.  Our hotel was four blocks from our tube station and once in the station the actual trains were another good walk underground.  That was just the pre-walk to get to where we would go and really walk.


Carter did not have much sympathy me when on the first day I came up with a pain in the back of my left knee until she too hurt her knee a few days later.  Despite these amateur walker injuries we soldiered on.


We would walk through Green Park to Buckingham Palace and then through St. James Park where there were lots of aggressive squirrels wanting food along with some very forward geese.  We saw one squirrel who literally climbed the pant leg of a man with nuts, trying to get one.  I guess most men have nuts, but this one had one in his hand the squirrel wanted and eventually got.


Even though it was bitterly cold and windy most of the days we were on holiday we kept walking because we just did not have a choice.  The coldest, but sunniest day we were there we took the train to Hampton Court, which is just a short walk from the station across a bridge over the Thames to the Palace.  It was so windy that although we were pushing as hard as we could the wind almost held us in place preventing us from crossing the bridge.  I must have burned an incredible amount of calories that day between the walking and the trying to keep my body temperature high enough to stay alive.


The only times we were not walking was during meals eating.  And we certainly had many wonderful meals.  Carter, having been well trained on varied cuisines, was keen on having Indian, Japanese, French, Thai as well has the British Staple of fish and chips.  I was sure that all this good food was going to be a killer to my weight.

But the walking obvious saved us.  This morning at my trusty home scale I got on with a feeling of trepidation and was shocked to learn that I had not gained one pound, even after partaking fully in two afternoon teas, eating nan at dinner my last night and having toast with strawberry jam every morning.


This is no way gives me pause to think that I can eat like I did this past week at home, even if I gave up my car and walked everywhere.  I know that I have weeks where my body looses weight and weeks where no matter what I eat I don’t loose weight.  Perhaps this week in London was one of the good weeks in my cycle.   It certainly was a good week in my life.

Farewell Britannia

At the Lounge at Heathrow with my sad Anglophile girl, mostly because of her love and devotion to British boy band One Direction. It has been a fun, save cold, spring break in London. Being back here has reminded me how much I love this country, the sweet people, the lovely parks, the history all around, the tea.

I tried to introduce Carter to as much English history as possible from Westminster Abbey first built in 920 to Winston Churchill of 1945. I know that learning about King Henry VIII at both the Tower of London and Hampton Court may have sunk in, but all the other Monarchs and their order are confusing for the most studied history student.

We enjoyed two musicals, Chorus Line and Les Mis, Carter’s favorite, where in the small world way another Durham Academy family happened to sit directly in front of us. We shopped, just a little because Carter definitely has the Janie Carter gene of not wanting to over pay for anything. Between the exchange rate and the city prices Carter could not see spending much on anything. The one spending exception was the second day when it snowed and Carter informed me that the zipper on her fleece jacket was broken. Not that the jacket was warm enough for the bitter winds anyway, but she did get a new Northface jacket and overpriced, but cute hat.

In true London life we spent a lot of time on the tube and the bus. We got more than our money’s worth out of our travel card. It is so wonderful to travel with a child who is old enough to keep track of her own card and is good at navigating the underground. It was much more of a vacation for me because unlike traveling with small children, I did not have to constantly worry about where Carter was, or entertain her. For the most part she was easy, except when I would try and wake her to start her day, two hours after I had gotten up. Balancing making the most of one’s trip and a teenager’s natural need for sleep was our only difficulty.

Of course seeing old friends was the highlight for me. I’m sorry I did not get to the midlands to see my great friend Debbie, but she knows she is welcome to come and visit me in North Carolina. Also I was sorry Monica was under the weather, but seeing both Simons and Paul was, as the English would say, brilliant.

As sad as I am to go it is time to get back to my salad life and I don’t mean that in the poetic sense. Carter says she has never seen me eat so much bread in my whole life. I think she has no memory of me two years ago, but she is right I have had bread this week, what with all those finger sandwiches. Somehow rocket salad has never become a big thing at tea here. But it is not the getting back to the disciplined life I look most forward to, but going home Russ and Shay-Shay.

Experiencing new places is wonderful and I am thrilled that Carter has the travel bug, but going home to the one you love takes away any sadness from leaving the excitement of London. Thanks to Russ for giving us this great trip that he did not even get to enjoy with us because he was working to provide it. I think that I can honestly say that Carter and I are two lucky girls.


Being Nice Pays Off

When I first went to work my father gave me some advice; Be nice to the people who work for you, you never know when you will work for them. I thought it was a funny thing for him to tell me since no one worked for me at my first job. But not long after entering the work world there were people who were under me and I always tried to live by my Dad’s advice.

Now I need to modify his sentiment slightly; Be nice to the people who work for you, you never know when they will work for a major luxury brand and get you a huge discount. While in London Carter and I had dinner with a friend who I trained when I worked here. I recognized him as a star when he was a young 27 year old manager starting out. I was right because he has worked his way up to VP in an international company. It is a great feeling to see the fruits of your work succeed.

Learning to manage your boss is important, but I am here to testify that being good to the people that work with you at all levels always pays off. Fifteen years after we worked together, I was able to reconnect with a great colleague and get a special treat too.

Two Meals is Still Too Much

For a person who gets up every morning and weighs myself, does not eat white flour or sugar being in London is hard. Add to the hardship that I have lived here twice before for a total of over six years so I have some favorite foods that are best in Britain. Multiply the situation by the fact that the most fabulous breakfast is included in our hotel plan with full fat English yogurt and bright yellow yoked eggs all hard to resist, especially since I have already paid for it.

Then there is the problem of Afternoon tea. Tea is without a doubt the best meal ever invented and purely sinful and chocked with both flour and sugar, but so irresistible. To try and counteract the bad choices I may make on days like today when Carter and I are going to the theatre we are only eating breakfast and Afternoon tea, but even those two meals are equivalent to three days of eating back home. There is no way around it, I know I will pay dearly for this holiday, but oh, it is worth it.

I am not saying that all my choices have been bad. Last night Carter and I met my old colleague Paul for dinner and I had a prawn, crab and endive salad for dinner. When we went to Wagamamas, my very favorite noodle house where Russ and I used to eat every week, I had a salad and not my favorite Chili Ramen. But I also have had a bite of Carter’s fish and chips and all the food memories of living here come back.

One thing about a holiday is you need to cut yourself some slack without totally falling off the wagon, you just don’t want to be dragged behind it too far. So
two more days of less than perfect then locked in the dungeon of lettuce and chicken for me. I’m actually looking forward to my no choice cereal breakfast at home.

No Goat For Dinner

Today I told Carter that the place were staying in Mayfair was not far from where her Grandfather,Gracie (his grandfather name, short for “Your Grace”) stayed in 1979 when he first moved over to London to run Avon Europe. London has always been “The international city”, but 1979 London was very different from 2013. One thing has always been the case, people who were really rich from all over the world are drawn to London.

Although economically things are hard now they are nothing like the recession of the seventies. Interest rates were in the high teens, British pensioners, once of means, were having to sell off the family antiques one chair at a time just to be able to heat their flats, gas prices were sky high. Thanks to sky rocketing oil and gas prices there was one group of people who were suddenly incredibly wealthy — The Arabs. And what did those Arabs do with all this new found money in the seventies, move to London!

Dubai and Qatar were not the lavish playgrounds of the rich then that they are today. Life in the desert was not so glamorous so moving to Mayfair and Belgravia was the answer, where the shopping was good and Bentleys were plentiful.

Arabs were a new thing to my North Carolina born father. Although he had worked in the Metropolitan Hub of the world, New York City for his adult life, it was New York of Mad Men. My father loved to tell my mother stories about the rich Arabs he came across in London when looking at houses to buy for our family to move into. I told Carter this story today and she had the same reaction to it my mother did.

Here is what my father told my mother in 1979:

“You will not believe how the Arabs are taking over London. They are the only people with any money so everyone in Mayfair and Belgravia are catering to them.”

“What do you mean?” my mother would ask.

Gracie continued, “Well people are renting their houses to the Arabs for these outrageous amounts because they know they are going to destroy them by cooking food in the fire places on spits like they do in the desert. And the smell is not like anything you have every smelled before.”

“Cooking on spits? Like what would they cook?” my mother would ask wide eyed.

“Things like goats. You go in the Sainsbury grocery store and they have a whole pen of live goats and the Arab women point out to the butcher which one they want.”

“Really?” My mother asked dumbfounded.

“Yes, except on weekends when the butcher is off, then they had to get whole goats from the freezer section.” my father continued.

“Oh my. Will I have to pick my meat out live too?”

That was when my father burst into uproarious laughter.

“No honey. I’m just kidding. There are not any live goats at the grocery store. But the Arabs are cooking in the fireplaces and ruining the carpets. But that’s OK because the British are charging them outrageous amounts because of it and they have so much money that they don’t even care, so they pay it.”

In the end, my parents bought a house in St. Johns Wood that had never had a meal prepared in the living room so they was not any stink to remove or carpet to replace.

The Warmth Of Old Friends

It’s cold in London now, and god awful windy too. It’s -1 c. degrees with windchill or -9 c. degrees. For you Celsius virgins that means is is about 16 degrees out. Any scale you use it means it’s freekin’ cold, especially for us Southern, thin blooded, no body heat left from dieting types.

But last night, despite the frigid temperatures, I was embraced in the warmth of a wonderful visit with my two old English friends, Simon George and Simon Wells. The Simons, as I described them to Carter, and I had spent a very concentrated nine months of our lives traveling around the world together to fabulous locations like South Africa and Bali shooting commercials for BT (the British Telephone company). It was clearly the best job on earth and a good reason to retire right afterwards and go out on a high.

Traveling and working with people on an intense project like that can either speed up the creation of friendship or make you vow to never see each other again. In the case of the Simons it was the former for me. Fifteen years of being out of London made not a wink of an eyes difference when we caught back up together last night. If Carter had not been there as evidence that time had certainly passed you might have thought we had just returned from a shoot at a Safari.

The Simons both looked the same and thankfully I did not. Despite my dramatic change in looks, the years apart made no difference. We picked right up in the familiar patter of friends with lots of shared experiences. Carter peppered them to tell her dirt on me, but instead she got words of advice on how to live a happy life.

One bit they did not tell her that will not mean anything to her at 14, but I hope she will remember when she is older is this; you never forget true friends, and they never forget you. Cherish them for they are your treasure. Thanks to my two Simons for catching up right where we left off, and cheers to you.


You Have To Be Rich To Be Thin in London

Now I remember why I got so fat living in London, skinny food is really expensive and fattening food is cheep. Today Carter and I went to Lunch at an Asian restaurant Mango Tree in hopes of having something small and light. We both got a small bowl of Tom Yam Goong soup and Carter had three tiny Szechuan Chicken Dumplings. It was all delicious, but Carter said the soup tasted exactly like mine. Not what I need when I travel. I would like to be inspired by new flavors, but that is proving hard for me to find.

Along with our soup we splurged on three small bottles of water. When I say splurged I mean it since they cost almost ten dollars each. Anyway our small, but healthy meal cost almost one hundred dollars. Don’t tell Russ!

Now I know that Mango Tree is a fancy place, but really! It is costly to eat waist friendly food. As we were leaving we passed by a bakery with giant scones for a dollar fifty. We kept walking.

Mothering Sunday

When in London one can’t help but eat bread, or bread like products so I am taking a little break and not beating myself up if something with flour passes my lips. This confession is after the fact since I went to afternoon tea today with Carter and had not only tea sandwiches (oh so yummy), but also scones which are without a doubt one of the great gifts to human kind the British have given. But enough about my indulgences and now my bad mothering confession.

Afternoon tea is something Carter begs for too, but this being Mothering Sunday, the English version of Mother’s day, we should have made reservations earlier in the week. Being the mother that I am, I was able to talk our way into the sold out tea at the Kensington Hotel without actually embarrassing Carter.

After we were seated in the lovely dining room the service of tea and finger sandwiches began. Egg cress, smoked salmon, chicken salad, ham and chutney and cucumber fingers stacked neatly on our small plates gave us both great glee. Carter even discovered her love of English Breakfast tea. After the fingers a small digestif of mango Bellini sorbet was placed in front of us.

Carter took one tiny spoonful and announced it was alcoholic and the laughter began. “It’s good and I’m drunk,” Carter confessed between fits of giggles. “No wonder everybody wants to move to London so they can have tea everyday.”

I pointed out to her that between the cost and the calories no one is having tea everyday. But the happy effects of the Bellini lasted though the whole afternoon. Really it is too bad that it is against the law to give teenagers liquor because one small sip makes a very fun and happy traveling companion.

Tomorrow it’s back to fruit and salad. Tea is a treat if you only have it once in a while.


London Calling

After years of being away it is wonderful to be back in the city I called home for so long, London. This time I am having the fun of introducing it to Carter who is something of an Anglophile already. We arrived this morning on the RDU redeye. Since we could not get into our room at the hotel at 8:00 in the morning, but were not quite up to doing justice to a museum or palace on four hours sleep I decided it was best if we did the sitting tourist city orientation thing by riding on the top of a Big Red Bus.

Criss Crossing the city to pass by the major attractions, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abby, Houses of Parliament, The Tower of London, speakers Corner, Marble Arch, St. Paul’s, the London Eye, Etc. Etc. Etc. Carter got a good overview of where she wants to go during the coming days. After two and a half hours with our spunky tour guide Philamenia we decided that our tired and frozen bodies needed some lunch and warmth.

A stop into a small teashop was just what we needed. Carter was able to get her fill of attractive British people and I was able to eavesdrop on a most remarkable conversation of two gay men who clearly need my blog.

This is how the noontime conversation went.

Austin Powers Look-Alike (referred to as APLA from now. on), complete with bad teeth, sideburns and small print floral shirt and large plaid tweed jacket: “Darling, what are you going to have?”

Boy-Friend Nigel, with contrasting small print floral shirt and large window pane plaid jacket, but better teeth: “Of course a cappuccino, but I can’t decide on what else.”

APLA: “Yes, a cappuccino, and a slice. (not a slice of pizza, but cake). Do you think they have a coffee gateau?”

Nigel: “They have coffee eclairs and cheesecake.”

APLA: “OOOOH, Cheesecake.”

Waiter: “Have you decided?”

APLA: “What kind of cheesecake do you have?”

Waiter: “Lemon”

APLA: “Yes, Please” (I was sure I was sitting next to the real Austin Powers at that very moment.)

The waiter arrives with their cappuccinos, cheesecake and eclair.

APLA: after a bite or two, “Oh, Nigel, you must try this, it is the most lovely cheesecake I have ever had.”

Nigel tastes it and agrees.

Nigel: “When we’re finished here, we can pop up to Fortnum and Mason and buy some goodies and then we can go to lunch.”

Sleeping Versus Eating – No Choice When It Comes to Flying

If you had to choose between sleeping and eating which one could you give up?  Now I’m not suggesting that you should go without rest or food often, but there is one situation where you should make a choice.  When in the world is that you ask?  It is when you are making an overnight flight.  And the girl who never misses a meal is here to tell you that you should pick sleep over food.  No, you are screaming, but yes.


For five years before Carter was born I flew back and forth across the Atlantic every month and around the world a couple of times.  Living on airplanes is no life at all so in order to have enough actual life I would fly at the last possible moment.  That usually meant leaving home on Sunday night to fly to London and arriving at 7:00 in the morning and going right to the office to work the whole day.


There was only one way that my then younger self was able to do that.  Sleep every possible moment on the plane.  The flight from RDU to the UK is only about seven hours long which sounds like it would a good enough’s night sleep.  It would if you could get on the plane, pass out immediately and stay asleep until the vessel pulled up to the jet-way.  But that is almost impossible.


First you have to be able to fall asleep at 6:00 at night.  Having only been awake for twelve hours you usually aren’t tired enough to pass out.  Also, sometimes there is the I-really-need-to-sleep anxiety that keeps you awake.  Then there are the other passengers who don’t know they should be sleeping so they talk or kick your seat or any other number of annoying things that make it impossible for you to sleep.  The third problem is the flight attendants whose job it is to make sure you are offered everything you are entitled to.


I try and be as nice as possible to them when I first get on and then tell them that I am going to try and sleep and PLEASE don’t wake me and ask me if I want a pillow.  I promise them I won’t ask for food long after they are finished serving it if they won’t wake me until the last possible moment and then maybe I would drink a cup of coffee.


Since you are fighting nature to sleep early the best way to get your body to adjust is to eat something small and not fatty before you board the plane.  Even if you are flying first class no airplane meal is worth losing a day at your location because you did not sleep on the plane.  Take a sleeping pill once you get on.  Change your watch to the new time zone now so that you start to adjust mentally. Wrap yourself in a blanket and buckle your seatbelt on the outside of the blanket so the flight attendant won’t wake you to make sure you are buckled in.  Put an eye mask on and some headphones with soothing music, or earplugs, anything to help dull the sound around you.


Whatever you do, do not eat on the plane until right before you have to land.  Food is the worst stimulant and you certainly don’t want to have to use the bathroom in the middle of the flight.  You will never go back to sleep then.


At some point the flight attendants will wake you up when you are close to landing.  Open the window shade right away so that your body can see the sunlight and begin to make the adjustment to your new time zone. Hopefully you will have had at least five hours sleep.  That is enough to make it through a day.  Now do everything possible to stay awake all day until at least nine at night.  Don’t take a nap.  If you follow these precise instructions you can minimize your jet lag and actually be productive or enjoy the place you are going.

Stupid or Brilliant?


I opened an e-mail today from the Food Network and the title of the page was “Crowd Pleasing Cakes.”  Duh! I thought.  Have you ever heard of a crowd hating cake?  It’s a cake; the fact that it is pleasing is not news.  Now Crowd Pleasing Crudités, that’s groundbreaking.  That web-editor was just plain lazy to come up with that cake headline, but then again it did get me thinking about cake with just the power of suggestion.


Sometimes asking a dumb question can get people to go where you want to lead them without them even knowing that is what you are doing.  If that last sentence does not make any sense to you follow this true story.


The summer between my sophomore and junior year in college I stayed in Carlisle, PA and had numerous jobs to try and make ends meet.  It was a recession and unskilled liberal arts labor was cheep and abundant.  One of my favorite short-lived employers was the Electrolux vacuum company, maker of fine, but very expensive cleaning machines.  I was a door-to-door vacuum sales person peddling $500 machines in an area where people’s mortgages might only be $300, yet I still sold some vacuums.


How did I do that, you might ask?  I asked a stupid question.  See, once I got inside someone’s house I was almost assured of selling him or her a vacuum.  The top of the line Electrolux was a canister machine that had a wand so you could not just suck the dirt off the floors, but the furniture, draperies and most importantly, mattresses were all possible cleaning areas.  Have you ever vacuumed your mattress?  Certainly not, if you had an upright vacuum.


Here is how the pitch went:  I showed the sucker; I mean prospect, a clean empty cloth vacuum bag for demonstration purposes.  I vacuum about one square yard in their living room and then take the bag out and dump all the stuff it sucked up back on the floor.  It is amazing what a new vacuum can find.  I never failed to have a noticeably gross amount of dust, dirt and hair, no matter how clean the house looked to start.


Horrified, the homeowner, usually a woman, would make some excuse about the age of her current machine.  Gotcha.  It was never that she had not cleaned in weeks, but to save face it must be an equipment problem.  Then I would ask the really dumb question that guaranteed me the sale, “Has anyone in your house had a cold this year?”  At least one person in every house in America has had a cold in the last year.


That was when I would ask to see their mattress, specifically the husband’s side of the bed.  I would peel back the sheets and repeat the cloth bag routine but on the mattress.  The stuff you get out of a mattress makes the floor look like a clean plate that just came out of the dishwasher.  This is when I would infer that not sucking the dead skin out of your mattress is somehow connected to colds.  SOLD!

The point of this story is don’t be lead down a path you did not intend to travel because someone pointed out something obvious or asked a stupid question.  I had to fight hard not to be drawn to eat some cake just because it was crowd pleasing, but then again I have to work hard not to want cake just because it exists on earth.

Did I Eat?

If you lose your memory do you forget to eat?    In the last little bit I have talked to more people who have a loved one facing memory issues.  Not just the “Where the hell did I put my keys?” kinds of stuff, but the “I can’t remember how to get home” issues.   I learned of someone my age that has early onset of Alzheimer’s.  That is scary and sad stuff.


Keeping your brain in tip-top shape is hard work.  I remember when I first got out of college I felt that I was losing my basic math skills.  One day I was trying to do long division without a calculator and could not remember where the remainder went.  Are you kidding me?  I stopped using a calculator to balance my checkbook from then on.  I wonder how long it has been since I balanced a checkbook.  Maybe I better practice my long division again.


I justify spending time playing games like Mah Jongg and Bridge because they are reported to help keeping your brain working.  I don’t know if they keep your brain working or point out early on when your memory starts to go.  I played bridge for years with a friend who now has Alzheimer’s and the day she looked at me and asked me how much an ace was worth I knew she was in big trouble.


What I really need to know is if you start to lose your mind do you forget to eat and miss some meals or do you forget that you already ate and eat twice?  I know that some people who take Ambien get up and eat in their sleep with no memory of doing it.  I wonder if developing a memory issue is something like being on Ambien.


If the answer is that people end up eating more I am going to need to develop some kind of timer controlled locked refrigerator that keeps me out of it until the appointed time.  I am not really worried about forgetting to eat becoming a problem.  I think my naturally sluggish metabolism will adjust fine to fewer and fewer meals.  Maybe Tupperware can make giant seven-day meal containers along the lines of pillboxes.  We can have a weeks worth of food put in them and then we would know if we had eaten or not.


I am hopeful that the sharp-brained stock I come from will keep me protected from the serious forgetfulness, but there is no guarantee.  I went to write this blog today and cooked two different things to post and discovered after the fact that I had already written recipes just like them and posted them.  I think I need to play more Mah Jongg.

Winter Slaw



When I was younger I used to think of Cole Slaw as a mayo laden summer side to eat with fish.  With age has come the realization that I love slaw of all kinds with lots of dishes from Italian pork roast to Chinese chicken wings.  It is really a great cold weather food because cabbage is available in winter.  This slaw uses just a touch of mayonnaise cutting down on the amount of fat dramatically.  Using a food processor with the grating blade makes quick work of cutting the vegetables.


½ head green cabbage -grated

2 carrots, grated

2 small apples – grated with the skin on



1/3-cup apple cider vinegar

3 T. mayonnaise

5 packets of Splenda

Salt and pepper


Toss the vegetables together.  Mix the dressing up and pour over the grated vegetables.

Step Away From the Oven

My wonderful friend Briana Brough invented the best word on a Facebook post today.  The word is “Anger-bake”, which is the act of baking something yummy and fattening in response to something stupid.  In Bri’s case it was the whole sequester and why the republicans can’t make a deal with the President that was giving her fits, but “Anger-baking” can certainly come about because of so many things that make us crazy.


What Bri did not disclose was whether her “anger-baking” was going to be followed up with “pissed-off-eating” and then “despondent-self-loathing.”  It is bad enough that we have actual personal relationships that can push our need for baked goods buttons, but when every act or in this case non-act of our elected officials is driving us to the chocolate chip aisle what are we to do?


Do you think that all the politicians got together and said, “people are living too long for our social security system.  Let’s drive everybody to an early grave by making them so crazy they eat themselves to death.”  Cutting ten to twenty years off the current lifespan certainly would solve some of the budget crisis.  It is practically the only excuse I can think of for they way both sides of the aisle are acting.


In my case I am going to have to go with the ostrich plan and not watch any TV news, read any newspapers or news websites or listen to NPR.  All those media outlets could lead me to anger-bake too and I just can’t afford to have even an individual size cheesecake around.


I wish I could say that the answer is to get involved and help solve the problem, but even ever optimistic me is worried that there is little help for Washington.  I did hear one reporter ask the President if he could just lock Congress in until they came up with a solution and he said he was just the President, not a dictator, but that pressure from the American people is all that will work.  I’m afraid there is just not enough pressure in the world, but maybe we can send all our congress people all our doubly fattening anger-baked goods and kill them off with butter, sugar and flour.

Chicken with Red Grapes


Once again a recipe made up from the necessity of using up ingredients I already have.  I have never eaten chicken with grapes except in chicken salad, but I always like raisins in my curry so I thought why not.  I think it is a nice little dish.  It would be nice served on couscous.

6 boneless skinless chicken thighs

½ cup grated onion – I did it in the food processor

½ c. vermouth – or sweet wine

1 c. chicken broth

2 T. lemon juice

½ t. dried thyme

1/3 c. grainy dijon mustard

1 c. red seedless grapes- halved

Optional sauce thickener

2 t. butter

2 T. flour

Heat a Dutch oven or heavy bottom pan on high and spray with pam.  Salt and Pepper both sides of chicken and lay out flat in pan.  Reduce heat to medium high. You may need to cook the chicken in batches.  Sear one side of the chicken and flip and sear the other side.  You are not cooking the chicken through at this point, just getting some color on it.  If you could not fit all the chicken in at one time set the partially cooked chicken aside in a bowl.  Juices will accumulate in the bowl.

After searing all the chicken set aside and add the vermouth to the Dutch oven to deglaze the pan, which is still on medium high.  Add the grated onions and cook for two minutes.  Add the thyme, chicken broth, mustard and lemon juice and bring to a boil.  Add the chicken and juices back to pan and reduce to simmer.  Cover and cook on top of stove for 15 minutes.  Add the grapes and cook uncovered for five more minutes.  If you want to make the sauce a little thicker in a separate small pan melt the butter.  Add the flour and stir cooking it on medium heat for about two minutes to cook some of the rawness out of the flour.  Add the butter/flour paste to the chicken pot and stir cooking it into the broth for about two minutes.

Taste and correct for salt and pepper.

Epic Zipper Failure Follow-up

Rarely do I do a follow-up blog, but if you read yesterday’s “Will It Zip Roulette” you only got half the story.  I reported that my main concern was fitting into my deal-of-the-decade-dress before going off to stand on the stage and raise money for my daughter’s school.  I wrote yesterday’s blog, jumped in my dress and Carter zipped me up saying, “You have lost more weight, it zips perfectly.”  Then she took my picture and I posted it with the blog.


Not one minute after posting, just a half an hour before I needed to leave for the auction the zipper broke and my naked bits beneath the dress made an explosive appearance.  Holy Molly (Not my actual words or thoughts.)  Carter’s first reaction was, “It your dress flies open at the auction I will never be able to show my face at school again.”


Carter was unable to fix the zipper with me in the dress so I wriggled it over my head and was able to pull the tab back down to the bottom and try again.  Luckily it was just a faulty zipper (No wonder that Saks guy was so happy to sell the dress to me cheap) and not a ripped dress.  I knew my only option was to get sewn into the dress, but time and expertise were short.  Carter has never sewn anything except needlepoint so she was not the answer.  My friend Lynn was due to arrive at my house just to see how I looked in dress, but domestic work is not her strong suit.


I called my professional drapery maker neighbor Mary Clayton and she came to my rescue in less than five minutes.  By that time Lynn had arrived so she witnessed Mary’s Navy Seal like dress saving surgery and was so thankful that she did not have to learn to sew on me.  Being the expert seamstress that she is, Mary informed us that in the olden days before zippers women of means were always sewn into their finery.  That elevated my status, but I still feared the stitching bursting out as I stood on the theatre in the round stage with spots lights glaring.


I told the audience last night that this was a possibility and if it did indeed happen I hoped they were bid bigger and higher for the unwanted show they were getting.  But thanks to Mary’s master handiwork the stitching held.  All my womanness was bound tightly inside my dress and the bidding went on for just the regular items.  Perhaps a wardrobe malfunction would have gotten people’s attention better, but at least I have no worries that Carter can’t hold her head up high at school on Monday.

Will It Zip Roulette



Tonight is the Durham Academy Auction where I am the auctioneer.  Being a charity auctioneer is practically my favorite thing to do.  I love enticing people to part with their money for a good cause.  This auction theme is Mad Men.  Thank goodness a theme that has a major character with a full figure, Joan, the secretary that slept her way to partnership.


So in the spirit of all things Joan I set out to find a dress that is tight in all the right places that will push up and out my heaving bosom yet still be appropriate for a school sponsored affair.   I auctioneer in the round so I have to have my back side look as good as my front side since half the time that is all people are getting to see.  Add sleeves that at least cover my arms to the elbow to the list of dress requirements since I am flapping them around pointing at people as they bid.  Top it off with my natural penuriousness that refuses to spend too much money on a dress and not enough on the charity.  That is one tall order in dress shopping.


As luck would have it I found something at 0ff 5th that seemed to fit the bill.  I stopped by the store one Tuesday morning when I was alone and clearly the store did not expect any customers either, at least not women, because the only sales clerk was a man.  I spotted a dress that I was sure I should try and the gentleman unlocked a dressing room for me.  I went in and undressed completely before unzipping the long mermaid gown.  As the zipper descended I noticed that the last four inches of the zipper had come unstitched from the dress.  Nothing unusual for a discount store and certainly something I could sew up myself.


I stepped into the navy blue number, unsure what my current dress size was, hoping it would fit.  The first test of going over my usual problem area hips was not an issue.  I was sure I was home free because if a dress fit my hips the rest would be good.  I slipped my arms into sleeves and pulled the dress up around my nakedness.  Seemed good.  I reached behind me to zip it up but with the unattached zipper I was unable to get a grasp on it and pull it up.  I contorted and twisted myself trying to get the zipper up.  No luck.  I opened the dressing room door a crack to see if there was some woman outside who could help me.  Not a clicking heel could be heard.  I stood there looking at the dress trying to decide if it fit.


After a few moments I took it off and got dressed to go see if they had another.  Certainly not.  I brought it to the salesman and pointed out the zipper problem.  He offered me more money off the dress if I would take it like that as a final sale, no returns.  So the $495 dress was now going to cost me only $92.  I decided it was a risk worth taking and bought it.


I tried it on at home and asked Carter to zip it up for me.  No easy task, but I’m wearing it anyway.  It acts as it’s own corset and fulfills all my auctioneering requirements.  So off to the Cotton room I will go, with my 1960’s inspired false eyelashes and eyeliner.  I feel like all of Joan’s clothes are very tight so I’m sticking tightly to the Mad Men theme.