Don’t Watch Me On TV Tomorrow

Since everyone I know has something more fun, entertaining or exciting to do tomorrow morning, or you have a child in a swim meet, horse show, basket ball or lacrosse tournament you will not be watching TV at nine in the morning.  That being the case I want to tell you now what you are going to be missing.  The Streets at Southpoint is hosting the Stop Summer Hunger day at the mall.


I will be appearing on ABC-11 between nine and ten to encourage people coming to the mall to bring non-perishable food and drop it off at The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina’s truck parked by Champs.  You do not even have to get out of your car because there will be nice volunteers who will take the food from you.


Summer is a hard time for many families whose children get fed at school.  That regular meal at school is greatly missed by many children.  Please help the Food Bank feed those kids during this campaign.


If you don’t have food in your pantry you would like to give away don’t go to the store and buy it for us.  Just drive through and donate money.  One dollar given to the Food Bank can be turned into five meals.  If that swim meet is really long you can go online to and donate online.


If you happen to be free and want to come donate food and photo bomb me on TV please do.  I would love to see your smiling face while I am talking to Anthony Wilson with the camera rolling on live TV.  Come early because I can’t hang out since my child has a horse show too.  So miss me on TV because now you have heard the message about helping feed kids this summer.

Yellow Squash, Fennel and Goat Cheese Custard

Kristin Hiemstra of The Art of the Potential radio show has created a TV show called Rock Your Life.  She and her camera guy came and spent the better part of the day filming me for her show.  Part of the filming was interviewing my while I created a new recipe.  Since the first of my yellow squash was coming in I made up this side dish.  Kristin is still in the throws of selling this show so if it airs somewhere I will let you know.  Until then, just follow the recipe here.  It was really quite tasty.


4 Small Yellow Summer Squash- diced

1 Fennel Bulb -sliced and diced

5 eggs – beaten

8 oz. Fat Free Condensed Milk

10 Basil Leaves- minced

1 T. Fresh Thyme Leaves

5 Splenda packets

3 oz. Crumbled Goat Cheese

Salt and Pepper

Preheat the oven to 350º.  Heat a non-stick skillet on medium high heat and spray with Pam.  Sauté the squash, fennel, salt and pepper for about five minutes until lightly browned and soft.  Set aside to cool slightly.  In a large bowl add eggs, condensed milk and whisk together.  Add herbs, Spelnda and the cooled vegetables and a little more salt and pepper and fold.  Spray Pam in individual ramekins and using a ladle fill each one with the mixture.  Dot the top of each ramekin with a little goat cheese.

Put the ramekins in an oblong baking pan and place in the oven.  Pour enough hot water into the baking pan to come up at least half way of the sides of the ramekins.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Makes six servings.

May is the Farewell Season


Spring is supposed to be the season of rebirth and renewal, but for me it is usually the season of goodbye.  I am late with my blog today because in the last twenty-four hours I have attended three farewell celebrations.  Perhaps celebrations is not the right word, but send-offs sounds too casual. I went to a goodbye lunch today for my friend Meg who is moving to Baltimore, then to an ice cream social for Durham Academy’s long time Headmaster Ed Costello who is retiring.


Last night we had the Durham Academy board of Trustees annual thank you those trustees who are rolling off the board and welcome to the newly elected.  Many past board members who came to pay tribute to Ed attended the annual event.  The board members in the room were keenly aware of the good work Ed has done and the quite way he steered the school.


I was lucky enough to get to make the thank you remarks for my friend Sara Pottenger.  I am including them here today not only to pay tribute to Sara, but as a small guide for anyone who is ever asked to sit on a non-profit board, a job with great satisfaction if done right, but little fan fair.  Sara, with lots of experience serving many institutions is one to be emulated.


A Tribute to Sara Pottenger


When I realized that Sara Pottenger was leaving the board I got a little pit in my stomach. For those of you who serve on the board with us there is no way you could tell that my goal in life is to grow up to be like Sara Pottenger, but it’s true. See Sara is my board idol.  But I am obviously a poor student because I have not learned her ways and it looks like my time has run out.


Sara has a sense of grace about her as she quietly and serenely runs her committees and what a lot of them there have been.  We and I mean the entire school is indebted to her for co-chairing the Evergreen campaign with her husband Dave and the Suttons.  As the chair of the development committee along with the campaign for the last three years she has done double duty to ensure the money the school needs is there.  Sara easily could have just headed one of these committees but she has never asked anyone to do something that she was not willing to do herself.  She is by all definitions a true servant leader.


From the day that Durham Academy accepted Sara and Dave’s oldest daughter Tatum sixteen years ago she has been fully involved.  Besides all the regular room parent stuff Sara has consistently been a caller for the gift club for annual fund.  The Pottengers have generously given to the school every year, without fan fair. 


Recognizing talent the board asked her and Dave to serve as chairs as of the New Parents phase in the Cornerstone campaign.  You would think after all these years of constantly asking people to fork over their hard earned dollars to DA, people would run from Sara, but quite the opposite.  Her kind hearted manner and her devotion to our school has made her the perfect torchbearer for all these years.  And many of us have willing followed her into the cause. 


We were lucky to have her serve on the board for seven years; Her first in an ex-officio roll as the president of parents’ council in 2004- 05. She served on the strategic planning retreat in 2006 and then the board recognized that her thoughtful and consider council was needed back.  So Sara has spent the last six years serving this board.  She has had almost every job except President and we all know that being campaign and development chair is harder than being president.  Right David Beischer?


Someone was brilliant enough to have her on Trusteeship and the executive committee as secretary for every year she has been on this board.   Sara leads by example and is always thinking about the long-term viability of the institution. I have never heard Sara bring up an issue that is really about her child.  She understands that her role as trustee is not what goes on with her children, but what is best for everyone’s children.


Sara is obviously a brilliant negotiator because when we got her to head up different development roles she brought along her husband Dave.  Together they make a talented team.  So sadly we are not just losing Sara, but Dave may be retiring too.  Dave is the first to say that Sara is the brains in that team, but I know he is selling himself short. 


Obviously, like Dave, I am a faithful Sara Pottenger devotee. I know that I have failed in emulating her in board meetings for Sara never talks out of turn or raises her voice.  When I grow up I want to be as hard a worker, thoughtful, kind and gentle southern women as Sara.  I hope no one is holding their breath because I know I am not worthy to walk in her footprints and I am fairly certain we will be hard pressed to find another like her.


Hidden Zipper Warning Tags Needed


If you are not a seamstress you might not realize how hard it is to sew a hidden zipper into a dress. The beauty of the hidden side seam zipper is it makes the dress able to be more body hugging than a dress that is just pulled over your head without a zipper. Today’s manufacturers have really perfected putting a barely perceptible zipper in the side seam of a dress.


I am a fan of the hidden zipper, but I apparently need a big flashing warning tag alerting me that the hidden zipper exists before I try a dress on in a department store dressing room.  As any woman in America knows once you go in a dressing room in a big department store you might as well have fallen down the rabbit hole.  You are totally on your own; no matter if a clerk somewhere in the store had said earlier, “Please let me know if I can help you.”  What that clerk really means is, “When you check out make sure you tell the next clerk who helps you that you were my customer and I am getting credit for selling you all those items.”  Not that any of the sales people actually were help.


Today I was visiting one of those type stores.  I am in the market for a summer dress or two and the day after Labor Day is a good slow day in retail, which makes dressing room availability more favorable.  Unfortunately the stores also only scheduled a skeleton crew because they know the store will be empty.


I browsed through the dress department and gathered an armful of garments.  As I knew would be the case I was the only person in the dressing room area so I had my choice of rooms.  Alone in the dimly lit cubicle I started to try on each dress.  Too short, weird splotchy print, cheep belt, no luck; I kept trying, but was getting a little exhausted.  The next dress was promising; good color, short sleeves, nice length.  I shimmied into the dress barely able to squish is over my bust.  Perhaps I was wrong.  The lining twisted around me making the draping awkward.  No, move on, but when I went to pull the dress back over my head I was stuck.


The lining twisted more and the nipped waist of the form fitting dress was stuck with one boob above the seam and one boob below.  The material was of a non-stretch nature and I was trapped.  I wiggled and wriggled, but this being about the fourteenth dress I had tried on my stamina was waning.


“Hello,” I called out.  “Is anyone out there?”  Crickets.  Only the annoying music was pulsing through the store.  “Help, “ I cried.  Nothing. I paused and contorted and attempted to dislocate one shoulder so I could free myself.  Miraculously I dislodged myself from the dress without ripping it.  As I was untangling the mess of fabric to place back on the hanger I noticed the invisible side zipper.  If only I had noticed it before I tried to put the dress on I would have known I could unzip it to take the dress off.  Something I could not see when my head was wrapped inside the dress.


I think as a courtesy a bright yellow “Hidden Zipper” warning tag would help a girl out.  Not only would it make putting the dress on and off easier, but also it would probably sell a few more dresses because no one wants to buy a dress that is more like a straight jacket than garment.


I did find a dress to buy.  When I went to the check out and the girl asked me if I found everything OK I really had to hold back from telling her that there was a strangler in the dressing room that I needed saving from.  I was in an unusually charitable mood after she told me the dress was marked down from $109 to $23 so I just said it was all fine.

Memorial Day to Remember



I know today is Memorial Day and really I should be spending time being thankful for those who made great sacrifices for the freedom I enjoy, but somehow today’s theme was more like I-wonder-how-I-get-in-these-positions.  The day started off great with a little sleeping-in which was much welcomed after staying up late last night watching the season finale of Smash and then Mad Men followed by some of the completely outrageous Behind the Candelabra.  I fell asleep sometime after Liberace’s face-lift and am going to have to pick it up from there tonight.


I think that I paid for all that TV decadence with my actives today.  Carter wanted to go riding and needed to have an adult there to watch in case of emergency.  The horse Carter is showing next weekend is a thorough bred named Maggie who is apparently a little too fast and wild for most other riders so her trainer likes to get Carter on her as much as possible to help school her.  The part about being fast and wild is scary for a mother to watch, but luckily Carter only went off her once in a fairly good roll.


I brought Shay to the barn so she and I watched Carter ride together.  Shay is more okay with horses than I am except when they get too close.  After Carter untacked Maggie she asked if I could hold the lead while she took the saddle back to the barn.  Shay was none to happy about that so she jumped into my lap and Maggie decided that gave her an even better view of the two of us.  IT was not my favorite position to be in.


After riding it was time for me to make my appearance at our club for my dunk tank performance.  This weekend is the grand opening of our new pool, which was a huge success.  The place was packed and everyone from grandmother to toddlers seemed to be having a big time.    Consequently there were plenty of people waiting for their chance to drop me in the tank of fairly disgusting water.  Although it was cold it was not unbearable.  I think that everyone got his or her money’s worth because it seemed easy to hit the target and drop me in.  Climbing back up on the seat was the hardest part of all. I certainly got my upper body workout for the day.  I must have gone in at least 30 times.  I owe the dunk tank experience to my dear friend Stephanie who convinced me to say yes when no other women would.


Being a person who says yes more than no does get me in some interesting predicaments.  But as my friends from college used to say as a dare, “What are you going to remember?”  I think I will remember this Memorial Day and maybe next year I will spend it remembering those who deserved to be remembered and not creating some folly of my own.

Happy Day with Russ and Shay


One of the blessings of living where we do is that my parents live exactly one hour away at Hom-a-gen, the farm that has been in our family for, well forever.  Hom-a-gen was one of the reasons we moved to Durham in the first place.  When Russ was looking at business schools twenty years ago being close to the farm was a real draw, especially for Russ and now for Shay-Shay.  See having acre upon acre to run free is paradise for a dog that lives on a leash in her home neighborhood.


Carter is studying for exams but Russ finally felt like he had gotten ahead of his work so he and I made a quick trip to the farm after church.   My parents were free to join us for lunch at my father’s favorite Mexican restaurant in Danville, El Vallarta.  My father is such a regular there that even though the place was full of people waiting to be seated he just walked right in and went to his special corner in the back and magically his regular table was sitting empty as if it were permanently reserved for him.


The wait staff greets him as the big tipper he is and brings the beer my father is known to order.  No one asked why we did not have menus as all the people who were seated by the hostess did.  No one questioned us seating our self or skipping the line.  My father is clearly a charter member of the el Vallarta club.


After lunch we went back to the farm to run, walk and throw the tennis balls to Shay, which was the real purpose for going there.  Shay loves to run after a tennis ball as fast as she can.  She is also fairly good at catching it in mid air, but bringing back to you is not her thing.  She usually will pick it up and carry it to her self-determined home base.  This means Russ or I have to walk to were she drops the ball.  We usually play with at least two balls at a time with her so that at one time one of us is retrieving and one is throwing.  You would think that the labradoodle should be the retriever, but that is not the case.


After the throwing and catching session Russ and I walked down to the big lower pond led by Shay.  She knows every inch of the place and only stops to look back to make sure we are following her every once in a while.  I swear she is smiling as she walks.  If she had a cartoon bubble above her head showing what she is thinking it would be one simple sentence over and over again, “I love the farm.  I love the farm.  I love the farm.”


After circling the pond, surveying the schools of new baby fish and enjoying the perfect sunshine we walk up the hill to go sit with my Dad outside the office barn.  With Shay trotting ahead on the dirt farm road I look over at Russ and I think I see the cartoon bubble above his head, “I love the farm.  I love the farm.  I love the farm.”

A man and his dog in pure nirvana.

The Murder I Did Not Commit Today


Here is the news that did not happen, but was so close.  Russ and I have needed to buy a new mattress for a while.  Russ does not care what he sleeps on.  In fact since he hardly sleeps at all almost the worst thing gives him the best sleep.  A small loveseat under a florescent light with an infomercial blaring on the TV causes him the best sleep.  Not me.  Princess and the pea would be my theme.  Since he does not care and I do he has asked me to just go buy a new mattress alone.  What Russ failed to understand in my princess role I needed him to come lie on each bed next to me and move around so I could test how well partner movement is contained, as they say in the trade.


Finding a time that Russ is free when stores are open is a difficult task so today, rather than enjoying the beautiful weather we went mattress shopping.  After leaving disappointed salesmen in our wake we finally settled on one and started to cruise out of the mall.  All this lying around had got me plum tuckered out so I asked Russ if I could stop at the coffee bar at Nordstrom to get a quick iced coffee.  He happily plopped in a chair and read his e-mail.


I approached the order line and was happy that there were only a couple of people in front of me.  As the first person spent a ridiculous amount of time discussing all the flavors of tea with the check out girl I began to become annoyed.  Knowing that my blood sugar was low I used my best distraction technique and focused on the mother and her eight and ten year old girls in front of me.  Big mistake.  I should have pulled my phone out and read my e-mail rather than eavesdrop on this crazy mother.


She was a tiny woman in her early forties with long blond hair and no makeup wearing a strapless top and cargo pants.  As I stood behind this mother the one characteristic about her that really stood out was that her bare back looked like a bag of oranges it was so muscular and void of any bit of fat to create a smooth look.  I glanced at her arms and I could practically see the sinew in her muscles as if she had no skin covering her built anatomy.


She was the one I wanted to murder and it had nothing to do with her over worked out physique, but the conversation she had with her daughters that went like this, I swear to God.


Mother:  What do you want?


Older daughter:  I think I’ll have a pretzel


Mother:  That’s good.  Do you want to go upstairs to Aunt Annie’s?


Older daughter:  No, this one here is good.


Mother: (To the younger one) What about you?


Younger one: How about chips?


Mother:  No, what about a smoothie?


Younger One:  What about a pretzel?


Mother:  No.  I don’t think a pretzel is healthy enough.


Older One:  You said I could get a pretzel.


Mother:  No, you can’t.  How about edemame?


Younger One:  I’ll just get a smoothie.


Mother:  Who said you could get a smoothie?


Younger One:  You did.


Older One:  Wait, what about an Aunt Annie’s pretzel.


Mother:  No, why would I let you go there?


By this time the tea discusser had been long gone and the clerk was waiting on this crazy mother to order.  I strongly considered stepping in to tell her to stop contradicting herself and order something or step aside.  I stopped myself because probably on steroids of some kind.  In the end she got herself and iced tea and her daughters two waters.  Was I wrong not to call social services?

Come Dunk Me

A few months ago a friend who belongs to our neighborhood club asked me if I would be willing to be in a Dunking booth on Memorial Day to raise money to buy an outdoor movie projector.  Now I am always one for creative fund raising schemes so I said yes.


At the time I thought I would be one of many who would perch upon the unstable bench above a tank of water awaiting the baseballs being thrown at the tiny target. It is all in good fun, and I hate that we rent a projector to show outdoor movies so I was willing to join the team.  Come to find out that I am the only woman being dunked and there are only five other men.   To top it off, the weather has not been particularly warm so I am sure that the dunk tank water is going to be extra cold.


Now, I am beginning to wonder what I have gotten myself into.  Our club is opening a greatly anticipated new pool complex, which is replacing the forty-year-old versions that were ripped out over the winter.  Everybody I know is planning on coming up to the pool to celebrate.


My friend Lynn had wanted to take me new bathing suit shopping before the dunk tank and I said no I would just wear an old suit.  Now I am not only regretting not getting a new suit, but also not working out much harder in the last month and being more vigilant with my healthy eating.  Actually, at this point I wish I had a whole wet suit.


I am beginning to anticipate the screaming I will do while sitting on the bench.  The only thing that will possibly make this whole episode bearable is if I can raise more money that all the men.  My dunking time is Monday, Memorial Day at 2:30 at the Hope Valley Country Club.  It costs $5 for three balls or any donation larger than that. 


If you hate me come out and dunk me.  If you love me come out and dunk me.  If you love watching movies outdoors in the grass come out and dunk me.  Make this whole crazy thing worth my while and come out and dunk me.  I don’t think you even need to be a member of the club.  Just bring your money and take your turn.  The worst part is that I am at the end of the dunking time so I am going in after all those men have been dunked.  I hope they have not drunk a lot of beer before they sit on the bench.  All I can say is please pray for me and Happy Memorial Day!

Unplanned Good Days

meeting Jan's Australian friend Justine

meeting Jan’s Australian friend Justine


There is nothing I like better than an unexpected good day.  Being a natural born planner I usually know what is going to happen during every hour of the day.  I like to keep expectations low so when good things happen I can fully enjoy them.


Today just happened to be one of those days when lots of good surprises happened and makes it just a really good day.  It started with my trip to workout.  My gym happens to be very cool about dogs and I decided that Shay needed some extra attention so she got to accompany me on my work out.  Shay is the kind of dog who has never met a person she does not like and even people who normally dislike dogs take a shine to her.  Working out with Shay made it go by quicker and feel less painful.


After working out I settled down to write two speeches and two letters that had been weighing heavily on my mind.  Normally I don’t experience writers block, but these particular works had been on my list to do for a while without any inspiration.  Check, check, check, off the list.


I then went downtown where I met a group of friends for lunch.  I have been doing a lot of lunches and dinners out and all that fine dining has not been helping my waistline.  Our group had chosen to go to the Art Institute’s cooking school restaurant, The District in the basement of American Tobacco, where my friend Paris was working.  Since it is a cooking school restaurant I was not sure there was going to be a healthy choice for me.  Boy was I surprised.  I had a fabulous chilled melon soup and an avocado and grapefruit salad and all the tea I could drink.  Fun friend lunch and really healthy too!


I headed home after lunch and my cohort Jan from Texas called and said she was at around the corner from me and to come and see her.  Jan was making a quick two-day stop here to see her new Granddaughter Elliot with one of her Australian friends and business partners Justine.  Since I had done a little consulting for Jan and her business I had only virtually met Justine so this was a fun treat to meet her and see Jan.  It was a short visit, but as is all things with Jan, wonderful.


I rushed home to write my blog and stopped at the mailbox, which contained four thank you notes and three checks.  That is the kind of mail I like.  As I walked in the door my phone was ringing and it was one of Carter’s teachers.  She said she just had to call to tell me about something wonderful Carter had done in class that brought tears to her eyes and made teaching her a joy; Music to the ears of a mother of a 14 year old.


I am writing this just before we run out the door to Carter’s final band concert.  I am hoping that the day of unexpected surprises ends as well as it started.   Even if it doesn’t I am cherishing each of the small joys I had today.  They add up to a pretty great day.

I Need an Intern

When I was in college I worked as many real jobs as I could get in the summer so I could earn real money.  I was getting experience “working,” but not trying out careers.  Thus, I ended up selling lots of stuff door-to-door, like vacuums and cable TV.  I made a lot of money and in turn my “work experience” helped me get a real job when I finished school.  Employers liked that I had worked which they thought might be a good indicator of my actual “work ethic”.


Things certainly are different for college kids today than they were back in the olden days.  Everybody is looking for internships in actual work places so they can see if they like that possible career path.  I don’t know if the “internship path” is the better way to get your foot in the door when you go to look for a real job, or just something to do that you don’t get paid for. I know there are paid internships, but I also have been hearing a lot about kids who are willing to work for free just to get “experience.”


This week alone I have had three calls from college kids who are interested in writing jobs.  Since I have been on sabbatical for the last year from real work I did not know that my magazine had already “hired” five interns for the summer.  Publishing is such a tough field these days that kids are willing work for free to get published.


I got to thinking about all these out-of-work college students and I can think of about 5,505 things I could teach one this summer if I had an intern.  Of course I don’t have any money to pay one, but if someone wanted to learn how to be a full time blogger-community volunteer-board member-writer-recipe creator-farmer-mother-organizer-speech giver-researcher I have a job for you.  Tasks for this intern would also include the mundane like, driving places, practicing both basketball and volleyball with my daughter, laundry, dishwashing, purchasing, dog walking and iced tea making.


Spending time as my intern you would look for the absurd in everyday life in order to find blog topics.  You would search out healthy new foods and be a taste tester for creative creations.  You would chauffer me around so that I could needlepoint rather than drive, in exchange I will tell you life altering stories that will save you years of making wrong decisions.  You will write blogs and if they are any good you will be a featured “Guest blogger” on Less Dana.


If you are my intern you will walk away from this experience hopefully thinner because you will have helped me drop my last twenty pounds.  You will have learned how to live a healthy life that packs as much as possible in a day.  You will have spent at least 63% of your waking hours laughing and you will have been published even if it is just on my blog.


Being a Less Dana Intern might not be the job you thought you were looking for, what with the no money and the decidedly motherly duties, but it could prove to be your go to experience when ever you are asked the interview question, “What have you done where you learned the most?”

Mediterranean Half Cooked Half Raw Salad



YUM!  This is now a new favorite.  I created this salad as a way of using up smaller amounts of vegetables. The creation of half roasted vegetables with their more complex flavors, raw vegetables with their crunch, capers and feta cheese for it’s saltiness and vinegar for the tang makes a really satisfying dish.


Four cups of roasted vegetables – I used Eggplant and zucchini, but you could use carrots, yellow squash, fennel, or even sweet potatoes

1 pint of cherry tomatoes –halved

½ small red onion chopped

25 fresh mint leaves chopped

3 T. capers

1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

3 T. rice vinegar

1 T. olive oil

2 packets of Splenda

Salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Cut the vegetables you are going to roast in uniform sizes about the sixe of a cherry tomato.  Cover a cookie sheet with foil and spray with pam.  Spread the vegetables in a single layer.  Roast in oven until browned and soft about 30 mins.


Remove from oven and let cool.  Mix the vinegar, oil and Splenda together.  Toss the cooled roasted vegetables with the tomatoes, red onion, mint, capers and dressing in a bowl.  Add the feta and toss gently.  Can be served at room temperature or chilled.

Shay Shay’s Two Today


Today I went to Dr. Joe Moylan’s funeral.  He was a great man, loved by many and will be missed by all.  Although he lived a totally full life with a loving wife, six children, twenty grandchildren, fulfilling career as a Doctor, great educator and founder of the Durham Nativity School he left the world too soon.


I came home from the service and was truly sad about the huge loss to his family and the greater community at large.  As I sat down to change out of my church clothes our sweet dog Shay Shay jumped up on the bed beside me and sensing my sadness snuggled up to me and rested her curly brown head on my shoulder tucking her nose under my chin.  It was just the comfort I needed at that moment.


As I was rubbing her belly in her favorite way to be thanked I remembered that today was her second birthday.  It is hard for me to imagine our family without our loving four-legged member.  She makes everyday a joy, except when she chews up my reading glasses.


She can leap tall buildings in a single bound.



Fly through the air.



Not just catch a ball, but throw one as well.



But mostly she can love us.   Now she loves Russ the most, but who can blame her.



Happy birthday Shay Shay.


Sister C and Sister E



Almost fourteen years ago I was at church early saving two pews because my whole family was coming to witness Carter’s Baptism.  A tall skinny blonde woman I did not know shimmied into the pew I was saving in the front.  In my typically officious voice I announced to her that the seats were taken because my daughter was being baptized that day.  She looked at me and said that her daughter was also being baptized that day, news to both of us that we were sharing the day.  It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship that did not start out so friendly.


Carter and Ellis, now affectionately called Sister E and Sister C unknowingly started their life long friendship there and then.  Today they were both confirmed together in the same church where they were baptized.  This time their parents happily chose to sit together.


Carter choosing to join the church and be confirmed was not a slam-dunk.  At first she was unwilling to agree to go through the classes.  I told Carter that she did not have to pledge her allegiance to any God, Church or Jesus, but that she had to go through the classes to learn what she did and did not believe in.  I know that she was challenging to her teachers in her questions.  I am thankful that many smart adults, Taylor, Nancy and her mentor Jamie did not tire of helping this prove-it-science-type adolescent come to an understanding of faith and grace.


I ended up being asked to be Ellis’ mentor as a church elder.  It only seemed fitting since I consider her my own bonus daughter.  Ellis’ mother Lynn often says of Ellis that she is more my daughter than hers when Ellis is being her natural comedic self.


So today I celebrate not just Carter and Ellis’ confirmation but the years of friendship with the whole Toms family started there at Sister E and Sister C’s baptism and continued on today and for years to come.

Family Ramblings



My sister Janet drove down to Durham today to celebrate my father’s 75th birthday with us.  My Dad just wanted to have a lunch outdoors so we went to the Washington Duke Inn.  We went late enough that the rain had stopped so we were the only people on the terrace.  There may have only been six of us, but we are loud enough to be a party of 20 so it was nice to have the place to ourselves.   Who knows if we disturbed any golfers on far off holes, but luckily no one complained.  My mother has spent her life being embarrassed about how loud we are, but now that she can hardly hear I think she appreciates the volume.


As is always the case when any two or more Carter’s get together we told stories of our childhoods, family trips and traumas or perceived traumas.  I love to hear everyone’s different recollections of the same story or the true confessions about things that happened long ago.


Janet, being the youngest of the children by almost nine years, always had a lot of experiences that somehow slipped under the table.  Today, she recounted how at age 9 she fell off a ladder onto a Danish friend and broke the girl’s leg.  In normal Carter fashion my mother came out and told the girl that she was fine and just to get up and walk.


My mother, having no recollection of either this girl, or the leg-breaking incident said to Janet, “Was this girl living with us?”  It was not such a far-fetched question since my parents always seemed to be the shelter for our wayward friends.   I can remember more than a few holidays when we had a friend of Margaret or Janet’s living at our house with no apparent plan of ever returning to her own family.

In fact we talked about a girl today who lived with my parents more than a month after Janet had moved away from home.  My mother did remember eventually calling Janet to ask her how she might get her friend to leave my parent’s house.


All these true confessions prompted Carter to remind us of a friend she had made once in St. Croix who had broken her arm.  Carter said she had fallen on that girl and that was how she broke her arm.  Why that child never told on Carter I will never know, but she must have been complicit in the accident to keep that fact quiet.


There is not much of a point to these rambling except as a warning to keep your distance from anyone of us in case we might fall on you and break something.

The Parent Lottery


My Dad, Ed Carter is 75 today


The other day I was having a discussion about the Food Bank with a group of fairly well off people.  One of them expressed the opinion we should stop giving children food at school and make their parents be responsible for making sure they were adequately fed.  I know this person is not the only one who feels this way so I went away from the meeting thinking about it.

Later that day the one word answer I needed earlier came to me; Luck.  The people in that room were lucky to have born to the parents they had.  Some of the children who are given lunch at school need it because they were just unlucky to have gotten the parents they have.

Today is my father’s seventy-fifth birthday and I know I am who I am today because of him.  From as early as I can remember my father taught me as much as he knew so I could grow up to be a successful person.

It was often unsettling for me as an adolescent to hear him start a sentence with; “I’m going to tell you this now in case I die soon…” I am sure no one is more surprised than he is that he has made it to three quarters of century.   His sense of urgency definitely molded me.  In his book, children were never too young to take on what we now consider adult tasks.  He made me learn to cook when I was seven, sew when I was eleven, could drive the tractor at age eight and therefore was expected to cut the grass, I was sent door-to-door to sell things, after all he worked at Avon, the company that empowered women through earning their own money.

My father is a great storyteller and he would keep his daughter’s entertained while we did yard work or scraped paint off our antique house which needed painting every year.  His stories were more like parables about work and how to be a good employee or boss.  He always used humor to teach us something because he knew that way we would remember it.

Although he has high expectations of everyone he also is probably the most generous person I know.  That combination means that if you make the grade with him you know it, but if you don’t you know it too.

I recall crying on more than a few occasions when my father pushed me to be more or do more than my natural lazy instinct wanted to.  He would gruffly ask me, “Why are you crying?”  I would scream back, “I don’t know,” and run to my room.  I do know why I was crying.  He was always right.  I could do more and be better.  I was lucky I had a parent who taught me, pushed me and loved me.

Now when people ask me why I do what I do for hungry children I can tell them, it’s not because they just might not have enough food today, but because most of them were not lucky enough to have the father I have.   My best way to honor him is to push the world hard to be a better place and not let our next generation depend the luck of the parent draw.

In Praise of Those Who Step Forward

Today I went to the Parents Council celebratory lunch for Carter’s school.  All parents at the school are part of the parents council by virtue of being a parents, but some parents step forward to do a greater share of the volunteering, organizing, fundraising, idea generation, table cloth washing, book sorting, cup cake baking and general fetching and carrying than others.


In today’s world everybody is busy.  I don’t know if I even know anyone who is sitting around eating bon-bons watching soap operas.  Oh, now sometime I wish I could, but I think that is just because I really like the idea of a bon-bon.  I’m not exactly sure I really know what one is, but is sounds like something fattening and forbidden.


Despite how busy everyone is already there are a few people who generously step forward to do a job that they are neither getting paid for nor are getting thanked enough for.  Being President of the Durham Academy Parents Council is one of those jobs.


At our lunch we had a gathering of past and recently elected Presidents who were there to honor our retiring Headmaster, Ed Costello.  Chris Mark, Cindy Sundy, Martha King, Thecky Pappas, Anne Lloyd, Hannah Hannan, Michelle Beischer, Demtra Kontos, and Lisa Ferrari all joined this year’s President Elizabeth Aldridge is presenting Ed with the plaque that will name the Upper School conference room for him.


Collectively this group of women represented many years of selfless volunteerism.  Although the President does not do this job alone, but leads many, she is still the one who has to cajole people to head committees, speaks at Parent gatherings, worries over budgets, fields parent’s concerns and a myriad of other things daily.


Our system for training people for this important job is fairly robust.  Someone, after years of volunteering in key roles, is usually nominated to be the President Elect where she spends a year shadowing the current President learning the ropes.  This generally ensures that once she takes over the role of leader she is comfortable with the job.


Sometimes even robust systems have snags and last year just as the President Elect, Margaret Jones was getting ready to ascend the throne her husband took a job moving them to Minnesota.  Parents Council needed a new President, one who could step into the role without training.  All the stars aligned and Elizabeth Aldridge graciously accepted the challenge and when others might have stepped back she did not.


Elizabeth has led the Parents Association with poise, kindness, respect and good humor.  I think she has been an example to many not to fear taking on a big task.  Certainly no one agrees to volunteer for something looking for praise, especially Elizabeth. But if you know her, consider sending her a message of thanks.  Her willingness to volunteer is a beacon I hope others will follow.  If you currently don’t volunteer in your community, look around and find something small to help do.  You may find it more rewarding than you imagined.

Beets, Grapefruit and Blue Cheese on Red Cabbage Slaw



Red Cabbage Slaw


1/2 head of Red Cabbage shredded

½ t. kosher salt

4 scallions chopped



½ c. apple cider vinegar

3 T. spicy mustard

3 T. Honey

2 T. Olive Oil

1 T. limejuice

½ t.  Caraway seeds

½ t. cumin


Put the Cabbage in a bowl and sprinkle the kosher salt over it and let it sit for two hours.  Drain any liquid that releases from the cabbage.


Whisk ass the dressing ingredients together.  Add the scallions to the cabbage and pour the dressing over the slaw.


Roasted Beets- sliced

Grapefruit Supremes

Crumbled blue cheese


On an individual plate place a small pile of slaw.  Top with three slices of beets and three slivers of grapefruit.  Sprinkle blue cheese on top.  Enjoy.

Naughty Versus Nice



Any one who has known me any length of time knows that I don’t need much incentive to be naughty.  Misbehavin’ is my natural state, but motherhood and age have really mellowed me.  I think I probably have a large number of new acquaintances fooled into thinking I am an upstanding citizen.  It is a façade I have adopted most of the time.


Today, I stopped by Chapel Hill Needlepoint to ask one of my new favorite people Nancy, the owner, how to proceed with a project I was almost finished with.  When she looked at the Santa coat ornament in question she said that I was actually done which was music to my ears.  Since I had allotted forty minutes in my day to work at the community needlepoint table I just started work on my next ornament.


I love stitching at Nancy’s big round table with the store’s door open to enjoy the perfect May day.  There never fails to be any number of interesting women who drop by to stitch and visit.  Nancy has a great way of keeping the business running and being part of the conversation at the same time, which is quite amazing based on the large numbers of people who are in and out of her store all day.


Beside customers there are the army of different delivery people who you would expect at a store, the Post person, the UPS and Fed Ex men are normal.  But then there is the CSA delivery farmer.  If you don’t know, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and Nancy’s store is a drop off/pick up point for people who subscribe to one farmer.  So CSA customers stop by her store to get their eggs, veggies and meat.


One of my favorite regulars, Ann was at the community table working on a Christmas stocking today.   Ann is a few years older than me and does not know me well, but that does not stop us from sharing stories.  While we were stitching a young guy in his twenties pulled up to the front of the store in his F-250 diesel truck.  He gets out and leaves the loud engine running as he comes into the store.  Suffice it to say he is not the normal profile of Nancy’s customers, but Nancy gets up she and the young man go back to the storeroom where the produce is.


Ann and I look at each other, both annoyed by the loud engine and diesel smell disturbing the needlepoint nirvana we thought we deserved.  It took more than a minute for Nancy to sort out which box belonged to this CSA customer.  I looked at Ann and asked if she thought turning off a truck was hard to do.  Her comment was perfectly Chapel Hillian in that it was also bad for the environment.  My naughtiness immediately emerged when I said that I could teach him to never leave a truck running again if I went out and jumped in the truck and drove away with it.  Ann loved the idea, but then we both agreed that the lesson was not worth my being charged with grand theft auto.


After the young man leaves Ann and I tell Nancy of the plan we held back on.  Nancy is obviously much nicer than me because she said he was a cute guy and it probably hard to start the truck after turning it off since it was diesel.  I obviously do not have the personality to have a store; I think you have to be a lot more nice than naughty.

Less Dana’s First Anniversary


One year.  One whole stinkin’ year.  Everyday, not one day missed, I posted a blog for the last year about my journey to live healthier, lose weight, raise money for the Food Bank of CENC, tell some stories, make some people laugh and inspire others.


For the last 365 days I have posted a blog everyday without fail.  Actually I post 370 blogs and I am not quite sure how that happened.  I started the blog as my way of being accountable for loosing weight and raising money, but somewhere along the way it morphed into my story telling, recipe site.


I know that if you follow the blog even semi-closely you have learned More Dana than Less Dana, so I apologize now for anything you found unsavory or disturbing.  Mostly I hope you got a few laughs, discovered some new foods, and if you needed it found some strategies to help you live a healthier life.



A few blogs get read over and over again almost everyday because they obviously have hit on a universal issue, like “Dana’s Bra Strap Shortening Station.”  Based on how many random people are searching for this and reading it leads me to believe that there is a real business opportunity there.


The Burst into Tears Gift” I wrote on Christmas day is one of the most read and reread blogs having been viewed over a thousand times.  Clearly, “heartfelt” sells in blog land.


But anytime I wrote about clothes falling off like in “Will It Zip Roulette”, “Epic Zipper Failure Follow-up”, “No Boobs for Yoga” or “Advice for Dieting Travelers” I got more readers.  People must find it extremely funny to read about other people’s mistaken nakedness.


Thanks to all the generous readers, over $53,000 has been donated to the Less Dana campaign at the Food Bank of CENC and awareness has been raised.  I have readers from 183 countries due to the miracle of search engines and no one from the State Department had sent me a letter accusing me of causing an international incident.


I lost 70 pounds over this past year, but I know of at least a dozen blog followers who lost well over 500 pounds in total.  I love when people tell me they have been able to do better with their eating after reading the blog.  Even after one year of doing this I have not reached my goal.  I want to lose 18 more pounds so I am going to keep the blog going.  I am less concerned with doing it quickly and more interested in living a balanced life.  As long as I am on the going-down-side of the scale and I am making a few of you laugh I am happy.









Mother’s Day – Whose Day Is It Anyway?


I’m a Mom and I have a Mom so technically in my book it’s Mothers’ Day.  For me Mother’s Day comes at the end of ten days that are all about me, with my anniversary and birthday leading the way.  That usually means that everyone around me is sick of me, so Mother’s Day is like a big, aren’t-we-done-with-you-yet sigh? Exhale now and let’s move on to someone else.  I get it.  I get sick of me too.

For my mother I am sure that Mother’s day has never been celebrated in any proper way for her either.  I am not good at sending cards, never have been, never will be.  One reason is I hate spending $4.99 for a folded piece of paper that someone will read and then toss in the trash.  OK, I’m cheep.  For my mother this year I sent her a Jib Jab e-card staring her as one of history’s greats.  If you don’t know what a Jib Jab is, it is a video where you insert the face of your mother in it electronically and then she appears throughout the video.

The second thing I sent her was a video of Kid President’s Open Letter to Moms.

(Go watch it  All I can say is if you know my Mom thinking about her watching this hysterical little boy makes it even funnier.

There it is.  I am not such a great daughter; two comical messages to my mother on mother’s day, no gifts, no cards, no flowers, but I do love my mother.

Then this morning my own daughter comes up to our room and presents me with an entire Mother’s Day brochure she created.  Of course it is cry-worth, sob-inducing in the touching way she thanks me for being her mom.  It is exactly the best gift in the whole world.  One that is personal, and heartfelt and homemade.  And makes me feel like the luckiest mother and the absolutely worst daughter all at the same time.

How did I get such a good daughter and my mother gets such a terrible one?  The only thing I can think of is Carter is an only child so all the weight of Mother’s Day is on her and I have the fall back with my Mom of my two sisters to come through.  And let’s face it.  My sister Janet is the best child, so I am counting on her.  Please God let my Mother’s three daughter’s “Happy Mother’s Day” wishes equal the one daughter’s I got.

Even Rechargeable Batteries Stop Working Sometime


The other day I was talking on my piece o’ crap cordless phone in my bedroom when after a few little beeps that were only audible to me it just went dead.  I placed the lightweight plastic handset into the charging cradle and reached over to Russ’ side of the bed and picked up the ‘ole reliable hardwire phone we have had for twenty years.  I redialed my friend and she asked what had happened.


When I told her my cordless phone won’t hold a charge any more she asked how could that be?  I explained that I needed to buy new rechargeable batteries for that phone; the old ones had just given way.  The idea that a rechargeable battery would not recharge came as a total shock to her.


Not being any type of an engineer, nor married to one like me, actually I’m not sure she ever took any science or math in college I tried to explain to her that even rechargeable batteries had some finite lifespan and I was on the edge with this phone.  I tried to find an example of something she owned that stopped holding a charge even after it had been plugged in.  After quizzing her about cameras, cell phones, computers even toys we never could find anything she had that had stopped charging before she just threw it away.


I then moved on to try and find an example that was even more esoteric.  How about her own body?  Had she ever had to up her caffeine intake to give her the boost she needed to make it through the day?  That seemed to hit home.  I continued asking if she kept increasing the coffee or did she eventually get enough sleep to totally recharge herself?  Of course the answer was the sleep that there was not enough caffeine in the world to keep her running.


The problem with most of us Type A’s is we think of ourselves as beings with rechargeable batteries that should work forever.  But when you can’t hold a charge any longer or your charge is short lived it is time to do yourself a favor and change your batteries.  For a human that means take a big break from the rat race and slowing down.  Perhaps it means taking a vacation you don’t need a vacation from.  Just give yourself permission to do nothing for a day or two or even three.


If anyone asks you to do something for them just tell him or her you are busy changing your batteries.  You can always get back to them when you are fully recharged again.

Abercrombie and Fitch Has Never Been for Everyone


I know everyone is sick to death of hearing the play by play of my medical life.  Since my colonoscopy went well and was generally free of any breaking news and given the fact that I am an apparent anesthesia lightweight and slept all day on one-third the amount they thought I might need, I am moving on to comment of the news of the day.  At least it was news of yesterday that really was a spot light on a 2006 interview.


The excitement I am referring to is the comment Abercrombie and Fitch CEO Michael Jeffries made to Salon Magazine.  To paraphrase his 2006 remarks, he said that the people he wanted to buy and wear his clothes were the “cool, beautiful and thin kids” and he did this by making only skinny and small clothes.


When I was a kid Abercrombie and Fitch was a high-end luxury retailer of safari clothes.  If you were a rich, thin, WASP who was planning a big game hunt in Kenya, where you actually went and killed real life leopards and elephants, Abercrombie was the place you went to purchase the wardrobe needed for your killing rampage.  Not exactly a huge market and one that thankful and literally died off with the whole notion of killing those glorious and magnificent animals.


That first Abercrombie’s went under in the seventies and then another sporting goods retailer bought their mailing list and name and resurrected the brand.  I remember going in Abercrombie’s in Georgetown Park in Washington DC and looking at Viella plaid shirts for $495 that only came in size 4-8 and that was back when a size 4 was really like a triple zero now.  I thought then that this store is really out of touch with the real world and the lack of customers and subsequent closing of the entire line of stores came as no shock to me.


Then in the eighties the group from Ohio that owned the low-end retailer The Limited bought the Abercrombie and Fitch name and they turned it in to the clothing company marketing to tiny teens and pre-pubescents it is today.


I love that a company based in the clearly uncool center of the universe Columbus Ohio is the one trying to dictate what is cool and is only interested in the “thin and beautiful” people.  I am all for the free market corporate universe which the name Abercrombie and Fitch has always lived under.  If their model is one that cuts down their potential universe of customers to only the richest and thinnest fine.  You can do that by making everything tiny and expensive.  It is a very small group.


But how can they only get the most beautiful?  When Jeffries went on record saying he only wanted the “attractive” all American kids to shop in his store I wonder what mechanism he had to keep the ugly people out?  I have not noticed an ugly meter in the store door ways, but clearly the blaring music and giant cologne misting machines shooting out the foul smell of their signature scent could be masking the sensors that alert the clerks when someone of the exact opposite of the A & F profile is violating their sacred space set aside for just the thinnest and most beautiful.


Sure only carrying thin cut shirts to size large and girls pants to size 10 discourages anyone bigger than the average Asian teen to leave the store feeling dejected and depressed.  I am certain from having been forced to visit the store with a couple of adolescent girls that the clerks keep the back dressing room for only the customers they want and make the undesirable wait in line at the three dressing rooms the front hoping they will give up and leave.


I think the best revenge on store like Abercrombie’s, who openly bully fragile teenage girls about their body image, is to take as many middle aged women in them as possible and have us try on and stretch out every last one of those teeny-weeny, skinny cut t-shirts they have.  There is no greater turn-off to the teen market than to think that their Moms have adopted a brand.


Now, I am not suggesting that Moms actually go and buy the Abercrombie wear because the actual worst thing is a Mom thinking she can rock the teen look.  So if by chance you go in A&F on a vengeance, trying-on spree and discover you look good in one of those mini skirts please do not be tempted to buy it.  You are really just falling victim to the pulsating music and mind-melding stench of the store.  Remind yourself why you went in and go get that mini skirt in the next two sizes down and try that on and stretch it out.  Then take a really good look at yourself and remember you are middle aged.


And if you are already a thin and beautiful teenager you can buy your clothes anywhere and still be thin and beautiful.  Supporting a brand that openly has disdain for the average makes you look less beautiful, not more.






Clear Liquids Day


In the continued spirit of over sharing about tomorrow’s colonoscopy I thought I would list good things and bad things to do on the day when I can’t eat anything.  Actually, it is not that I can’t eat anything; I just am only allowed to have clear liquids, coffee (without milk) tea, broth, Jell-o, popsicles, apple juice and Italian Ice.  Oh yeah, and laxatives in multiple forms.


So far I have only had tea and seem to be doing fine.  My plan is to have a little broth at noon, get in the car to go to a meeting in Raleigh and stop at Rita’s and get an Italian ice.  I have to remember not to get a red or purple one since that is also a no-no.  During my meeting I have to casually take four pills.  Then when I get back in the car to come home I have to begin the chugging of the crystal light- Myra lax concoction I have in my thermos.


I am following the instructions to a T because the last thing I want to have happen is to get into the procedure tomorrow only to be sent home because of apparent unpreparedness.  I have one close friend whom this happened to and believe me she was unhappy to have to prep twice.


Fasting is not something I like to do ever since I did the Medifast diet back in the 80’s.  Medifast was the same thing Oprah did, I just happened to do it right before she did.  It was a very fast way to lose a lot of weight, but I think it did nothing but train my body to be more efficient with less food.  As soon as I started eating again my body feared it might never get food again so it held on to what ever I gave it.  Thus the yo-yoing began.


I learned that to be good at fasting you need to do lots of non-food activities.  Here are some of the things that are good to do:


Get Your Hair Cut

Walk the dog- just not too far or fast so you get light headed

Pay your bills

Answer E-mail

Write thank you notes

Do the Laundry

Talk on the Phone

Write a blog


Get a manicure and pedicure

Anything that is not too strenuous that keeps your hands busy and your mind off food.


Things to do that are unhelpful:


Watch TV – There are too many food commercials or food related segments that cause you to think about food.

Go out to lunch

Clean out the refrigerator

Actually walk in the kitchen

Drive past a restaurant – even a fast food restaurant

Read Facebook – I never realized how many people post about food

Work in the Garden – bending over causes lightheadedness

Read a novel- you never know when a character is going to eat a meal causing you to want to eat.

Go shopping – food is everywhere

Anything where you might see, smell or have to touch food

Anything where you might not be near a bathroom


This is certainly no way to lose weight, but then again that is not why I am doing it.  It is just the way to stay alive a little longer.








The Fattening Name



Someone asked me if I could pick a restaurant that had healthy and good food based on the name of the establishment.  I thought about it for a moment and I said no, but I certainly could pick an unhealthy restaurant based on one word being in their name that had nothing to do with food.  My claim was met with a skeptical look until I listed a few of the restaurants that all had this same word, Waffle House, International House of Pancakes (IHOP), The Dog House to name just a few.


Now I’m not saying that every place with the word house is going to be bad, but chances are a chain named “something house” is going to equal high calorie meals.  The International House of Pancakes knew that they were doomed with that name so they shortened it to their IHOP acronym.  It does not fool anyone over 45 who knows that the “P” stands for pancakes and then there is the dreaded “House.” One exception to the rule is Fearington House in Fearington village, NC.  It is too good to be a chain restaurant so the House rule does not apply.


Even in London there is a chain called the Bratwurst Beer House.  I can guarantee you can’t find a single meal in the place under 1,200 calories and that is before you have the beer.  When we lived in London in the ‘90’s there was another German restaurant my Dad loved called the Tyroler Hut.  “Hut” is certainly close enough to “House” and the wiener schnitzel hung off the sides of the platter like plates in this underground eatery with the oompha band playing the chicken dance mid meal.  Even the mandatory dancing did not work off a tenth of the calories in those heavy meals.


So next time you are visiting a strange city and looking for a good place to eat it is my general rule of thumb to skip any place with ”House” in the name, or “Hut.” For that matter add the word “Pit” to my list of non-starters recalling my favorite line from the movie Father of the Bride when the little brother says to the suggestion of having the wedding reception at the Steak Pit, “I don’t think you want the word “Pit” on the invitation.”

Fix, Repair, Restore


Pardon the expression, but up keeps a bitch.  Our house is a little older than I am, but we both are at the point in our longevity where we are all about maintenance.


The house is easier than I am because we have Joe, our builder, fixer, miracle worker who doubled the size of our house, reworked rooms in our house and fixed just about everything that ever went wrong with our house with the expertise of a fine craftsman and the care of a beloved family member.  Little did we know when we chose Joe to do our first addition that we were ensuring that we would have him as our lifetime handy man.


Russ and I save up all our around the house repairs for when Joe is between bigger jobs.  He is a little like Eldon from “Murphy Brown.”  We like having him around that we find things for him to do.  Joe is so old school that when something needs fixing he does it right.


Right now he is taking care of our 60 year old shutters with peeling paint and rotting wood.  Most fix-it types would have told us to throw the old wood shutters out and replace them with plastic, but not Joe.  He has lovingly removed each one to paint and with Russ’ Internet search expertise, found a forge to supply us with replacement hinges for the ones that were rusted out.  Even the forge was old school, sending us $400.00 worth of custom made materials with a note to send them a check back.  Have you ever?


Somehow I scheduled all my personal upkeep for this week too.  I had my dental cleaning yesterday where my hygienist asked me how much tea I drink.  Tea is my last vice, I told her and I was willing to live with less than perfectly white teeth as long as I got to drink tea.


Back in February my gym had a casino night and I was the third best gambler there. So today I finally got around to having my black-jack-winning massage.  The masseuse asked me what I did for a living that kept my shoulders so hunched up?  Being a magazine editor on sabbatical sounds very lame in relationship to my poor posture.  I considered lying and telling her I was a surgeon leaning over children on the operating table.  After my treatment today my new pretend job needs to be prima ballerina so I stand tall with my head up straight and shoulders down.


My third upkeep comes Friday with the greatly anticipated colonoscopy.  If I calculate this correctly I will have spent about 30% of my week on personal upkeep.  I am quickly coming to see what retirement holds for me, more work than I do in regular life.  Next time someone tells you they are retired don’t envy them for the non-work they are doing, they are probably spending more time repairing and maintaining than they ever spent creating.

Chicken and Egg Stuffed Poblano Pepper


When we were in Mexico Russ and I tried many different Mexican dishes for breakfast that we thought were good for any time of day.  This recreation is similar, but I added a little cooked chicken to make it more dinner like.  This recipe is for one serving.


1 Poblano Pepper

¼ cup shredded cooked chicken

2 eggs – scrambled

2 T. Queso Fresco

1 T. Mexican Crema

3 T. Salsa Verde


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cut the pepper in half and remove the stem and seeds.  Place pepper on a foil covered cookie sheet and put in oven for half an hour.  Put salsa verde on a plate and put the pepper halves on top.  Sprinkle the chicken on top of the pepper.  Put the scrambled eggs on top.  Sprinkle the Queso Fresco and the Crema over the eggs.

Goodbye Fresh Fruits and Vegetables


I just turned 52.  In the world of medicine I am two years past due for my colonoscopy.  I tried to have it earlier but apparently getting into to have a colonoscopy is a popular thing to do so I have had to wait.  I’m sure it is the baby boom that is the reason the wait is so long and not the love of the procedure itself.


I recently read the instructions for my colonoscopy and wish that I had known before, what I was going to have to do in preparation, so I could have picked a month like October when the fresh fruits and vegetables are less plentiful.


For all you youngsters yet to have done this here is a preview of what’s ahead.  First, no aspirin of NSAIDS for ten days before, that means no Aleve for my achy knee.


Second, for five days before, this important paper tells me, to maintain my regular diet… except avoid, corn, peas, beans, popcorn, nuts, seeds and ANY RAW FRUITS OR VEGETABLES.  The writer of these instructions obviously does not know what my regular diet is.  I eat fruit and cereal for breakfast, and a salad for lunch and dinner.  Once I remove all the raw fruits and vegetables I will have three quarters of a cup of cereal, half a cup of milk, two skinless chicken thighs and one oz. of blue cheese left in my regular diet.


The instructions go on to say that on the day before I get to cut out all food and have broth and clear liquids with a non-red Jell-O thrown in for fun.  That afternoon I am going to power chug as many laxatives as I can dissolve into 32 oz. of Crystal light, the diabetic choice over Gatorade and then get up at four in the morning and do the laxative chug again.


I am so OK with the final day of broth and crystal light laced laxatives, but five days without raw fruits and vegetables seems like a medieval torture.  Sure, if I weren’t trying to push past my current plateau to lose twenty pounds being given permission to eat meat and white bread might sound good to some of you, but I don’t need to develop a tooth for that kind of food.


I am giving you all fair warning that I may be a little grouchier that usual this week.  I can only imagine how out of whack I am going to be without my “regular diet” of a bushel of raw fruits and veggies a day.  I feel the nursing home diet of applesauce and cooked carrots coming on.  Getting old stinks.

Birthday Over Indulgence



Thanks to all of you who sent me birthday wishes.  Facebook has certainly changed birthdays, but still celebrating with real live friends is the way to go.  I wish that I had remembered that is was the friends and not the food that make the party great.  Last night I paid for my eat-whatever-I-want-it’s-my-birthday attitude yesterday.


After almost a year of considered choices I let myself eat whatever I wanted all day.  Funny thing is that I ate my regular Special K high protein cereal with black berries like I do every morning and I was happy.  I should have followed suit, but foolishly did not.  I went out to lunch with a group of friends and not only did I eat the cheddar biscuit but I think I ate two.  I had a crab cake with salad which if that was all I had it would have been a good choice, but then I ate homemade potato chips with some kind of onion dip.  It was a birthday after all so the whole table had chocolate molten cake with rhubarb ice cream which sounds like a perfectly horrible combination but it was exquisite.  Then the waiter brought the birthday cake with the candle.


That was enough food for the whole day but the birthday continued through dinner out with my family.  I started with a tuna and salmon tartare duo.  That should have been the end.  It was tuna with beets and salmon with radishes and they were delicious.  But then since it was my birthday and it is the season I had soft shell crabs.  I think this was considered the birthday of crabs.  Two desserts followed the main again, one ordered for the table and then the surprise, it’s-your-birthday one the waiter brought.


I came home crawled into bed and felt sick to my stomach.  People ask me all the time if I feel better thinner and I say no.  Now I know I feel sicker eating like I used to.  I could hardly sleep.  I had terrible dreams.  I woke up still full.


Perhaps this birthday of over indulgence will serve me well and be a great reminder that not only should I not eat like that, but that I really can’t eat like that.  I’m off to a Derby Day party tonight and I know that I need to skip the food altogether since I’m still full from yesterday.  I only hope that I can sleep better tonight after only one day back on the wagon, but I fear my birthday binge is at least a two day payback.

Birthday Folklore

H & D is disguise back in the day

Me with my college friends Suzanne, H & D in disguise back in the day


When I was in college there was a famous gut course called Folklore. Although I myself did not take this course two of my great friends, whom I shall only identify as H & D, to preserve their academic standing, did take it.   How I missed taking a course, which is more or less about story telling and more importantly, how I missed taking the easiest class offered at my school, where very few courses were easy, I will never know.


Although I was not enrolled in Folklore, I lived ever class through my friends H & D because they would retell class stories at lunch everyday.  Being a friend-group of storytellers we loved talking about how stories got started and continued through generations.


The only real difficulty in this class was at the end of the semester each student had to turn in a paper with 50 original folklore stories from their family.  Now most families in America had similar folklore, like Santa and the Easter bunny so the idea that any one student could possibly come up with 50 original ones seemed outrageous.  We were sure this professor was collecting all these stories for a future book of tall tales college students wrote.


Since we were second semester seniors when H & D took this course no one took this assignment too seriously, but in actuality coming up with and writing down 50 stories, including the 5 W’s about each story, is harder than any of us thought a gut deserved.  The worst part was that any folklore that had been discussed in class was off limits.  So things like baptizing babies, or jumping over brooms at weddings or even Price Charming was done, documented and untouchable.


Because I could type quickly and owned a typewriter, (yes I am so old that typewriters where the best technology available. Computers were just printing out on green and white striped paper back then) also because I was good at making up or enhancing stories, I was conscripted into helping D & H with their papers.  I can’t remember how many hours we sat in H’s room like Morey Amsterdam, Rosemary and Dick Van Dyke writing the Alan Brady show, but it seemed like days and fun days they were.


We were writing at the time of a friend’s birthday so we came up with one bit of folklore entitled, “Cry on your birthday, cry all year long.”  It was the story of how a girl who whined and cried about having a bad birthday doomed herself to have an entire bad year.


Although we completely fabricated this story for the paper, “cry on your birthday, cry all year long” continued to be a phrase my group of friends repeated often.  It also became somewhat of a superstition with us that we did not want to test.  So it may have started as a whim, but has since actually become folklore.


I used to hate my birthday feeling like it was more disappointing than celebratory.  But after working with H & D on folklore I never tempted fate with being unhappy about my birthday again.


So on this day, which is my birthday, as well as the birthday of my cousin Sarah, my friends, Gussy, Tricia, Beth, Ashley and many more I am sure I am forgetting here, I am going to celebrate and promise not to cry.  Tears of joy do not count.

Twenty-One Years of Love, Laughs and Laundry

21 years ago


It was a sunny Saturday in Washington, DC twenty-one years ago today when Russ took the crazy step to marry me.  I knew I was more than lucky to have recognized what a kind, smart, generous and funny guy he was, but mostly that he was willing to go out on a big limb and commit himself to life with me.  We had no idea then where we would go, but we knew we would be going together.


We devoted to each other, just as ourselves.  When the minster asked Russ if he would take me as his wife he answered in his quiet, steadfast way, “I will” and maybe our families in the front row could hear him.  When it was my turn to answer the same question, the Georgetown tourists walking outside the church probably could hear my “I WILL”.  Despite the obvious differences in our demeanors and volume, underneath something about our makeup works well together.


Certainly there were kinks to be worked out.  When I first met Russ he only owned three shirts he wore to work.  That meant that he was wearing one shirt, washing one shirt and drying one shirt at all times.  To top it off Russ only ironed the collar, cuffs and just enough of the center button plackets that showed with a suit coat on.  I only realized this when, one day, he took his jacket off and inadvertently revealed the wrinkles on the majority of his shirt.


The shirt rotation seriously ate into available time to be together. So for Russ’ first birthday after we got engaged I bought him ten new shirts and introduced him to the Chinese Laundry down the street from his house.  That one act profoundly changed his life.  Last month Russ was cleaning out his closet and held up one of the original shirts from that birthday and asked me what he should do with the now sleeve-ripped-collar-worn green striped shirt.  Sadly, I told him he needed to throw it away.  “I love this shirt, “ he said with a sigh.


It took me a little longer to recognize that Russ is almost always right when it comes to remembering things.  This is hard for person like me with the “Not always correct, but never in doubt” personality.  Once I finally came to accept his wisdom trumps mine things have been much easier.  It was never really very hard because Russ has the “I know I’m right, but I don’t have to tell you” personality.  I can only imagine that Job also had that same trait.


Not all things in life are as easy to solve as the shirt problem, but we rarely do much without laughter and I think that is the key to twenty-one pretty wonderful years.  Today, on this anniversary I want to publicly tell the world that I have the best husband, for me.  Russ, thank you for all that you are, all that you do and all that you are going to do.  I think there is a load of laundry in the dryer that needs to come upstairs, please.

May, The Busiest Month


December used to be the most jammed packed month of the year, but sometime after I had Carter May took over as the craziest month.  Actually, before I had Carter May was a big month for me since it is my birthday and wedding anniversary month.  Mother’s day was always in May, but when Carter came along it changed from a month I do something for my mother to a month that something was being done for me too.


So far all those events are mostly celebrations for me which makes May a horrible month for my husband.  But now let’s add my father’s birthday and Memorial Day, made even bigger by our club’s new pool opening and the calendar is getting fairly full.


Now throw in the end of year stuff at school.  The parties for teachers, the thank you gifts, end of term performances, appreciation lunches, final exams and this year we have 8th grade graduation and the celebrations that goes with that.


May Garden Club dinner party, and Derby Day Parties, going away parties for friends who are moving.  The amount of celebrating makes Christmas seem like a regular ‘ole time of year.  The worst part about this all is that most of these events involve eating of some kind.  How in the world am I going to survive May?  Perhaps with so many parties already on the books I could change my whole eating plan to just eat at parties and skip eating altogether between them.