No Life Without Art



When I first got out of college I had a friend who’s new wife convinced him that they had to have custom made drapes for their tiny New York City rental apartment.  They were poor and hardly had money for food.   Her line was “It’s just not a home without drapes.”  I’m happy to report they are still married even though at the time I gave them only a 30/70 chance after the drapes demand.


The only reason I even know about this is at the time my friend called me to quiz me what I thought was most important for a home to have.  Drapes were not in my top three, but I clearly remember saying that art was number one.


Perhaps I was tilted towards art since my mother is an artist and I had majored in art in college.  I can remember when I was about ten eavesdropping on my mother commenting to her best friend Shelly about how sad people’s houses were that had no original art.  Starving artist sofa size oils were definitely frowned upon in my family, especially anything painted on black velvet.


About a dozen years ago I went on a house tour with my mother in a small provincial southern town I refuse to name in fear of inciting a new war between the states.   Although some of the houses were beautiful and their furnishing exquisite, they all had one horrible thing in common — bad art.  Now some had prints or reproductions of famous art, but the worst homes had nothing but portraits of the homeowners through the years.  Yes, portraits are art and some are just fabulous, but it is a little spooky to have three pictures of the same people in ten-year age progressions in the same room.


Look at what is on your walls and decide if that poster you framed in college is still what you want to have hanging.  Chances are if you have not moved your art around you have stopped looking at it.  Now it is easier than ever to create your own art with inexpensive canvas prints that can be made from photos you take and upload to Costco. Russ has been bugging me to cover a large wall in his office in some artwork.  It is such a big wall that I needed lots of material or a giant budget. I made twelve canvases of photos of art glass I took on vacation and am going to display them in a grid.  For less than the cost of one small painting I’ll make a nine-foot square display.


Now, as a grown up I know drapes have their place, but if I had to chose between curtains or art you know which one I’d chose.  It may not block the sun out, but it will bring the sun in.

The BBQ Strategy

Living in North Carolina means you attend a lot of Barbecues.  When someone says BBQ here it more often than not means a pig pickin’ – or a meal that centers around all things yummy and uber caloric.  It’s not just the slow roasted pork slathered with any form of sauce, but the mayonnaise laden Cole slaw and deep fried hush puppies that make up a normal BBQ here.

Delicious as all those things and any number of other traditional sides, think Mac and cheese and banana pudding, are, but none of them represent diet type food.  What is someone who is trying to fit into a smaller size pant to do in these situations?

Begging off every invitation is just no fun.  Why should you miss the camaraderie of good friends just because they are people who are can enjoy that food and you are not.  I have found the best answer is to eat before I go to one of these festivities.  The secret is to eat something filling and very low calorie like some vegetable soup or a giant green apple right before I get to the party.  This will fill my stomach and keep me from feeling deprived when mealtime comes around.

I’m not good at taking small portions of everything.  One hush puppy leads to ten for me.  I am much better at skipping my most tempting foods, the cheesiest or most carbohydrate full ones, and eating just a little protein.  I drink a ton of water or if it is not too late at night unsweet-tea and keep talking.  Thank goodness it is rude to talk with your mouth full.  If there is not much offered in the diet category, and why should there be at a BBQ, I pray there are some new friends to be made who have not heard all my stories, that way I can talk rather than eat through the dinner hour.

The real trick is to not eat when I get home. The best of all worlds would be to be able to go right to sleep when I got home from a party.  My dilemma comes from my extrovertedness keeping me awake long after I have left a party.  I just have to stay out of the kitchen and be thankful that there is no leftover pork or pudding in my house.

Vegan Strip Club, Really?



Yesterday I watching the news and heard that Corey Booker, the Mayor of Newark NJ who is running for Senate had a controversy brewing because he was responding to tweets from a stripper.   I don’t think this stripper identified herself as such in the tweets so how was he supposed to know?  Especially since this particular stripper works in Oregon and not at just any strip club, at the country’s first vegan strip club.


Now Corey Booker is single so he is not cheating on anyone and as far as the news reported he did not tweet out any salacious photos like some other Yankee politicians, so where is the story?  It has got to be the vegan part that is driving all this news.  Vegan is the new black, no connection to Booker who also happens to be African American, which used to be the old black.


To me vegan is the new hip too, look if Bill Clinton can give up cheeseburgers, that means not ever eating neither the cheese nor the burger, then it is hitting mainstream.  What I am confused about is what vegan has to do with naked women?  Are the strippers who work there vegan and don’t like one dollar bills that have buffalo hot wings remnants on them tucked into their g-strings?  Sure the hot sauce could sting, but the hot is from chilies and they are vegan.


It seems to me that if you want to make news you either declare yourself vegan, you take off your clothes, or you tweet something outrageous.  If you do all three you are sure to make all three morning news shows.  So I am declaring myself right here and right now, NOT a vegan.  I am keeping all my clothes on for the good of the human race.  And even though I have a twitter account I don’t think I have actually ever tweeted anything other than one test message two years ago.  No news here!


I am perfectly happy for people to eat what ever they want, but I am getting tired of the vegan announcements and attention people are getting for forgoing eating all animal products.  Good for you, but I don’t care.  I wonder if Mr. Booker would have been caught up in this non-controversy if the stripper who tweeted her support for his candidacy had just worked at a regular old seedy strip club that served sausage-on-a-stick, I think not.

Is Chasing Happiness Making You Unhappy?



Seems like every where I turn I am reading or hearing people talking about happiness, are they unhappy, what makes people happy, blah, blah blah.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love to be happy.  I like to be around people who are happy.  Spending time with chronic complainers is not something I am good at, especially because those people don’t even know they are annoying.  I have the hardest time holding back from telling them what wet blankets they are, yet I do, or at least I walk, no, run away from them.


Is being happy all that you need in life?  And what is the time frame you are measuring to see if you are happy?  Is one good hour enough to be happy?  If I have a good day does that count?  What if I have five good days out of seven does that make a good week or do two bad days ruin the whole week?


Sometimes our loved ones are unhappy and that can change everything for us.  You know the old saying, “You are only as happy as your most unhappy child.”  This has to be a very twenty-first century thought because I don’t remember mothers when I was a kid who had of giant families being suicidal because at any one time some kid is unhappy.


Being grateful, kind, compassionate, optimistic these are things we can work on and I think that when you can be all these things happiness follows, but just going for happiness alone is a little self-centered.  My friend Molly sent me a study done by

Positivity Psychologist (Her title, not that I actually understand it) Sonja Lyubomirsky documenting the 12 things happy people do differently to increase their levels of happiness.  With the exception of “Taking care of your body and committing to your goal” the other ten were really about not focusing on yourself and nothing was about doing things that you think make you happy.  Happiness is a by-product of other things.


I think not worrying about happiness is the best way to go in order to actually get it.  Spend your time living your life not measuring your life and in the end you should be happier most of the time than not, that is of course as long as you are not one of those wet blankets.  But wet things can dry — It is never too late.

No Human Hold Button


The other day I ran into an acquaintance I had not seen in a couple of years.  She was generous in her compliments on my weight loss, not having known about my weight loss challenge or this blog.  It was nice to surprise someone since most everyone I know gets a bit or two of my daily humdrum by reading this blog, even if occasionally.


My friend asked me how I lost weight and I summarized the basic changes to my diet of eating fewer carbs, not much added sugar, veggies, fruits and protein, no major revolutions in the diet world.  I told her about the blog and my accountability to myself through brutal and I hope humorous honesty in a very public way.


“Well, now you can stop that,” she said.  “Stop what?”  I asked.  “Well you can eat a cookie now that you lost weight.”


I know she must have never had a weight issue in her whole life because she was shocked by my response.  “I don’t have a hold button on my weight.  I am either going down or going up and if I let my foot off the pedal I can easily go back to where I was.”  If only there was a pause like I have on my TV remote control.


It would be great to have a way to hold ourselves at a place we are happy with.  What if I could flip a switch and never get another wrinkle around my eyes, or that my skin would not get saggier?  Life just does not work that way.  We are all moving in some direction, either better or worse.  When I was a teenager I could hardly wait until the day I no longer got zits, that day came and the next day my skin was getting dry and tiny lines started to appear.  Well, maybe that is a small exaggeration; perhaps it was three days between acne and dry skin.


Since there is no way to pause ourselves at our best I am just coming to appreciate the littlest things that still work.  Today I am thankful for my wrists.  I gave up long ago on my breasts holding any shape that resembles round, eyesight being capable of reading a font smaller than 24 without glasses or my short-term memory holding a list of three grocery items from the time I leave my kitchen until I get in the car.  My long-term memory still works and it says my wrists today look like my wrists of 30 years ago.  Now that is something to appreciate.

Just In Case Vs. Just In Time Learning



Last night I went to a great talk by Pat Bassett who is the past president of the National Association of Independent Schools.  He is a recognized and learned expert on education and an enthusiastic and entertaining speaker.  His talk started with the idea that Americans are in our third revolution, the first being the actual American Revolution, the second the civil rights movement and the third being the Internet.


He went on to talk about how the Internet changes everything about school, something I whole-heartedly agree with.  How many times I have said, “Why should kids memorize things that they can look up in the blink of an eye with the device they hold in their hands at all times?”


Now don’t get me wrong, learning history so you can understand things in context not only about the past, but in real time is very important, but memorizing lists of things seems to be unneeded today.  One idea Pat talked about was “Just in case learning versus just in time learning.”  When you were in school did you ever say out loud, “When am I going to use this?”  That is just in case learning.  The problem is you can’t always predict what you may need to know when you are older or how learning one thing becomes a foundation for learning something else and the something else is really what you end up loving.


“Just in time learning” is how I learn now.  When I have something I want to accomplish and I need to master a skill I don’t have then I learn it.  I was never one to want to learn just for knowing, but always for using.  One example was when I became a consultant.  I did not really know how to use Excel or create complicated spread sheets, but suddenly I had a job that required me to do that, so I learned.  I taught myself as I went along.  The need drove the learning.


I know plenty of “life long learners,” some are people who would be happiest to be perpetual students, gobbling up knowledge just to have it and then there are others who learn new things all the time because it furthers a greater goal to create or do new things.  The important thing is that we continue to learn.  Don’t be deterred from doing anything because you don’t have the skill, just learn it.  The desire to accomplish something is the best motivator for learning something new.  Learn now before you just don’t have any more time.

Lynn’s Obsession



Most mornings my friend Lynn can be found in her black workout pants with her ancient black cashmere sweater tied around her hips and a colorful workout shirt.  This is her uniform for her addiction.  Actually Lynn has a couple of addictions and this outfit is not required at her Green Tea Latte spot, but for her Pure Barre workout. Well, the outfit is not required, but Lynn’s appearance at Pure Barre is.


So many early morning calls Lynn has made to me start, “Honey, come to Pure Barre with me.”  Since I have a place I workout I have not gone with Lynn.  I would hear other women talking who are equally addicted to the ballet like program complaining about how crowded the classes were getting, so I always begged off going with Lynn.  I have a lot of ballet traumas from my classes with my Russian ballet torturer, Martha Kruger who could have taught the Nazi’s a thing or two.


Months and years of Lynn’s praising Pure Barre and still I did not go.  So what has Lynn done to get me to try her work out, but bought a Pure Barre franchise with our friend Charlotte Jones and is opening it up in Durham in December.


I’ve started desensitizing sessions for my aversion to anything ballet like by holding a broom handle and looking in a big mirror with happy music playing.  I am counting out first, second and third position, but not in a Russian accent so that when the time comes for me to go to one of Lynn’s classes I don’t break out into a cold sweat and have flash backs of being hit on the back of the knees with a yard stick.


According to Lynn Pure Barre is nothing like my childhood dance class.  I am looking forward to understanding why all these women are addicted, but first I need to go find a black, thread-bare cashmere sweater that fits around my backside so I can look just like Lynn in class.  I’ve already tried her Green Tea Latte and know I will not become addicted to those, but I hope the Pure Barre is one addiction I adopt because it would mean not only would I burn more calories, but I would get to spend time with Lynn.

Dish Penance



I am sick of cleaning out the dishwasher and cleaning the kitchen.  I am trying to figure out how I can use my total loathing of these chores as a way to eat less.  I am racking my brain.  If I were able to stop eating all together the kitchen could stay spotless and the dishwasher empty.  But somehow hunger comes into play and ruins that plan.  Also, those other pesky people who live in my house would probably insist on using the kitchen for the purpose it was intended for, so I’m back to square one.


What if I put all the plates in the dishwasher and did not run it?  It would be harder to have a meal without a plate.  Unfortunately I would need about six to eight more dishwashers to hold all my china a once.  See I inherited the “china gene.”  You might have a relative who also has this; it tends to run in families.  You know someone with the “china gene” because they own more than two sets of china.  I have, let’s say about seven complete sets of different china patterns and lots of odd plates and bowls too.  In my everyday china I have about 25 dinner plates because you just never know when 22 of your good friends might stop by for dinner.  No wonder I hate cleaning out the dishwasher.


When I was a teenager I had a family I babysat for and I swear the mother never did the dishes and just waited until I came to babysit because she knew I would wash them.  The kids told me that more than once she just threw dirty plates away and bought new ones rather than run them through the dishwasher.  I call that an extreme case of disliking to empty the machine.  I might have used up my lifetime allotment of dishwashing by doing many loads at this families house.


Maybe I could create some game where I was only allowed one small plate and one bowl a day.  It would cut down on the surfaces I had to eat off, but then again it might incent me to eat standing over the sink, which is never a good thing to do when trying to lose weight.


I know all about paper plates, but my naturally frugal nature and concern for the planet rules that out.  Russ is excellent at cleaning out the dishwasher, but somehow his eyesight prevents him from noticing dirty counters, and he travels so much that he is unreliable as the sole dishwasher guy.  Carter is more like that family I babysat for than she is like me.  Sometimes if I am looking for a bowl I know to look near her.  Maybe the answer is I threaten not to go grocery shopping if she does not do all the kitchen cleaning.  I know that is unrealistic especially since she has “homework” and the kitchen is my “homework.”  I guess there is just no way out of this job alive.

Picnics Day



I’m running between events.  I just did my shift at the All School Picnic running the putt-putt booth.  It is either the second or third year that has been my assigned job which with the hundred or so different volunteer opportunities I am not sure how I always get Putt-Putt.  Perhaps it is because I seem to have no trouble keeping small innocent children lined up quietly while one kid gets three tries to hit the wiffle ball into the cup.


It sounds like an easy job, and it is until you really look at a despondent five year old’s face who has missed all three times and they think their world has ended.  Well, that is where the bucket of five million tootsie rolls comes in.  Everybody is a winner.  Three shots, no ball in the cup wins you one, three shots and you finally get the ball in on the third shot gets you two and if you get a hole in one you get three.  These are not the published rules of the game, just my interpretation of what a carnival is all about.  That and I had five million Tootsie rolls, what are we saving them for?


I would have liked to stay and visit with the young school parents but I had to run home to get ready for my neighbor Mary’s moving party.  Mary is our neighborhood dog sitter and all the dog parents are in mourning over her moving.  She will eventually move to a house not too far away, but not three doors down as she has been.


I have not broken the news to Shay Shay who sees going to Mary’s as her own personal All School Picnic.  On any given weekend Mary might have five or six neighborhood pooches staying with her.  They all seem to love it.  I know that Shay does because when we go out for our regular walk she pulls me to Mary’s house and stands at her door looking in her side light window for her friends.  I think Mary must have her own version of the giant bucket of doggie tootsie rolls because she has never met a dog that did not love her.


So off to the next picnic — A little saner with no carnival games or bouncy castles.  I think we should have hired a clown to make balloon animals because all the guests are going to be sad that Mary is moving, much more sad than a five year old who missed three shots in putt putt and didn’t get a tootsie roll.

Do Dogs Feel Guilt?



Is guilt a purely human emotion or do dogs feel it too?  As I sit in the sunroom this afternoon watching college football and needle pointing a long list of chores I should be doing before this runs through my head; the mail is stacked up in various piles around the house, laundry goes unfolded in the dryer, the garage has collected a number of items that belong other places — Nothing life threatening, but nothing so exciting that I want to jump up and work on them.


Shay Shay snuggles happily on top of Russ who is working away on his I-pad.  Russ never stops working since keeping up with all the news in the world can be classified as research for his job.  He does not while away his time on his I-pad playing games like his wife.


I have some guilt about being lazy.  I have some guilt about putting real half and half in my coffee just now, I have some guilt that sitting is not exercise and that I have been a little too sedentary lately.  Is this guilt changing my actions?  Not really.  Will it eventually get me to be more productive?  Maybe.


As Shay sighs her sound of contentment I wonder if she feels guilty about anything?  When she snuggles on Russ making him stay in one place so as not to disturb her is she guilty about that?  When she steels a paper towel off the coffee table and shreds it up into feather like bits, leaving it in a pile on the guest room floor is she ashamed?  If she quietly grabs a strip of bacon off Carter’s plate and swallows it down uninvited is she regretful.  No, no and no on all counts.


Now if Shay gets caught doing anyone of these things and gets scolded I think she feels shame, but maybe for just a few moments.  Not enough time for guilt to come into play.  I certainly think she does not walk around muttering, “I really should not have eaten that biscuit.”


Is guilt a good thing?  Does it drive us to the best behaviors or does it just make us feel bad about our natural instinct?  I know I don’t want to get scolded by anyone and since I am more or less an autonomous adult there is no one really watching my every move and grading me on it. Guilt must be my own personal grading system, but is it enough to get me to be on my best behavior all the time?  I wonder who is more evolved, dogs who live happily without guilt or humans who use guilt as a tool for self-moderation, just not that successfully?

Web Analytics – Not All That



The more I try and remove myself from e-mail lists so that I can cut down on the amount of junk e-mail I get the more weird and less accurate the e-mail spammers get with me.  Just now I was delete, delete, deleting junk to get to my actual mail and here are some of the headlines I got:


Seven Days of skinny jeans from Nordstrom

5- star Pesto Lasagna from Friday Feed

See Who’s on

Meet Food Network Star Jamie Dean from Southern Season

You could be entitled to Social Security Disability Income from Assistance Network

You’ll never wear the same bra size again from Jockey


With all the fear about big brother and internet search lack of privacy with cookies and analytics about things we click on I would think that one bit of junk mail might actually be something I was interested in, but noooo.  The junk I am getting is so far from hitting the mark that it is annoying me more than usual.

Yes, at some point in my life, perhaps 35 years ago, I might have been interested in skinny jeans, if they had been the fashion then, but now, not so much.  If the ad had been for Skinny Jeans capable thighs I might have opened it, but even if I had skinny thighs I’m too old for skinny jeans.


Absolutely no Lasagna, Pesto or otherwise is happening here.  Friday Feed how about a good Green vegetable side dish?  Even if I could eat pasta I could make Lasagna in my sleep and certainly don’t need a recipe.  Isn’t there an ultra advanced cooking analytic that would only send me recipes for things like Soufflés?  I’ve got a good match.  I can’t imagine what I clicked on that leads these people to believe I’ve got time or interest in another.  I guess the good thing is I did not get any penis enlargement or Viagra ads.


Jamie Dean… well he is trying to make healthier versions of his Mama’s recipes, but I don’t really have any interest in waiting to meet a “star” and I use that word liberally.


There is no way I am entitled to anything and I really hate the idea of ads fishing for people to get what they probably don’t deserve.  If you are really hurt you already know you might qualify for social security.  The government does not have enough money to pay people to read fraudulent claims.


Bras and bra sizes.  I just don’t care what my bra size is as long as it is correct and it does its job.  Based on the dozen of people who click daily on my joke blog called “Dana’s bra strap shortening station” I am sure this ad would have the highest open rate because bras are one serious issue, but not for me today.  I am perfectly happy just the size I am.


So hey Internet you were batting a zero.  None of the junk you charged your clients to send me helped them out at all and it just filled up my inbox.  At least the real junk mail brings things like the Vermont Country Store, which is always good for a chuckle and some really ugly bras too.

Beer and Cake Not a Winning Combination

This morning as I was icing my nose that I rammed with a heavy ball at the gym I saw a segment on TV about a girl who was using cake as a way to find a boyfriend. She was a cute girl from Tennessee who lives in LA. She has spent 2013 baking cakes and taking them to bars to casually offer them to cute guys in the bar in hopes of actually getting a date. She calls it cakebarring and she documents her exploits on her blog “sitting in bars with cake attempting to lure boys with sugar”.

I have not read her whole blog, but my take away is that after 28 cakes she has not gotten a boy friend yet. Since she has been doing this 28 weeks without success I have a few suggestions. First, stop with the cakes. Beer and cake has never been a popular food combination. Maybe she should try homemade Pizzas or soft pretzels. I’m sure she has met plenty of guys who had drunk enough that cake sounded great, but they were probably too drunk to remember who gave them that really great cake and thank her, let alone ask her on a date.

My big question is how much weight is this girl gaining by making a cake every week and at least eating one slice to test the recipe? She did not look heavy in the slightest, but all that cake eventually has to catch up with her. I can’t imagine that in the land of beautiful people who are terrifically body conscious that cake is the draw it is in say, Tennessee.

Everyone knows the old adage “the way to a man’s heart is through is stomach” but I have to actually say I don’t know one man who dated, let alone marry any one for their cooking. My own husband Russ actually proposed to me on the way into The Acme supermarket before I ever cooked him one thing. I had owned a catering business for ten years before that and had many people who loved for me to cook for them, but none of them loved me for my cooking.

People love people, not the things they can do, be it cook or play great tennis or even earn a good living. I know lots of women who can’t cook at all who have major foodie husbands that still love them in spite of their lack of culinary skills.

I hope this nice Tennessee girl living in LA finds a boy friend. I think it is going to have to happen at the dentist office because she might be there more often after eating a years worth of cake.

Kitchen Invisible Fence



There are a lot of dogs that live in my neighborhood.  Most of them make me happy.  Some live in houses with invisible fences around their yard so they can joyfully remain outdoors while sticking to their property.  I have one neighbor who’s dogs never cross their invisible fence, but the ferocious barking they do when you walk by does give one pause to worry.  When my sweet Shay Shay and I venture past their house I call it running the gauntlet.


Now there is little reason that these two dogs, which appear to hate us for being in the vicinity of their house, should obey their invisible fence, other than the small shock they will take, but they do.  As I was walking past the other day with dogs barring their teeth to me and Shay shivering in fear I thought, “Boy, I need an invisible fence.”   Not for Shay and our yard, but for me in my kitchen.


I think that the same technology that keeps these protective guard dogs in their yard could be utilized to keep me away from naughty foods in my kitchen.  I could wire up a carb and calorie loaded zone with all the foods that are temptations to me and snap on the zapping collar.  Anytime I tried to cross into the “danger zone” I would take a big shock.


Not only would I steer clear of that area I’m sure I would develop an aversion to those foods other places than just in my kitchen.  Now I might take on a few disturbing ticks or twitches.  Dunkin’ Donut ads might send me into seizures, but hell it might be worth it.  Maybe I will be able to not only lose those last twenty pounds I have literally holding tight onto me, but keeping them off would be dramatically easier.


If this Kitchen Invisible Fence works for me I could wire up other people’s homes.  I will have to create a refrigerator zone as well as a pantry area, but I see this as a doable project.  If you see me out in public and I seem a little skittish and have some unsightly red marks on my neck it probably means I was tempted by a vanilla scone in the forbidden zone.

Happy Cheetos Day

Before you get all in a wad that you missed National Cheetos day, relax, this is not a national holiday.  If it were it would have to be before Yom Kipper so that you could quickly atone for the sin of enjoying those cheesy orange puffs.  No, Cheetos Day is my friend Mary’s own personal annual event.  See Mary loves Cheetos but she only allows herself one bag once a year.  That is a fairly good diet routine because an addictive food like Cheetos with no nutritional well being at all needs to be moderated.

I used to have a Weight Watcher leader, Eve, who waited all year for Easter to come around so that she could indulge her one big splurge of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg.  It is like a Reese’s peanut butter cup, but the filling is slightly fluffier and the ratio of peanut butter to chocolate is different making it Eve’s favorite food she must avoid except for once a year.  The Reese’s Egg was Eve’s kryptonite and it was never a good thing for us Weight Watcher members to have her talk about what it was going to be like when she ate it.  She justified it by telling us it was just four points (in the old points system) and that she saved up her points to eat it, but it always made me crave one of those PB&C (that’s peanut butter and chocolate) eggs.

If I were to relegate all the foods I crave, but need to stay away from, to their own one day a year I easily could have a special day everyday.  The calendar would look something like this, Bull Street Market Gooey Butter Cake on October 1, Toro Pizza’s Lemon Pizza on October 2, Watt’s Grocery Pimento Cheese on October 3, ETC, ETC, ETC.  I easily could fill 365 days with a different food that should be forbidden to me and my tend-to-blow-up-just-looking-at-carbs-body.  Even though I am just eating that bad for me food once a year when you add it to the other naughty foods I would be in a bad place.

No Cheetos, or Reese’s, or cake, pizza, pimento cheese days for me.  I need to celebrate National Radish Day or Celerypalooza.  After a few hundred more of those days I might finally fit in my skinniest pants that have patiently awaiting their chance to be comfortably zipped up on me.  The only day I really am hoping to observe is You Reached Your Goal Day!

If You Were Not Invited

Today I had lunch with my friend Amy.  Amy used to be my workout partner until her work life got too crazy.  Today was a belated celebration for her birthday but we spent an extra long time lingering over lunch to catch each other up since we don’t have those workout talks anymore.

Amy has two girls just younger than Carter so we are always comparing the stages we are dealing with.  I loved something that Amy said today, “I’m tired of kids who want to be invited to something, but don’t want to enjoy it when they get there.”

She was talking about adolescents who are often dealing with personal insecurities and trouble with expectations, but the more I thought about her peeve the more I thought how many adults that also applies to.  So many times I hear about people who want to be in a certain club or organization, but once then get in they do not actually participate.

I know a person who is constantly questioning people about what their weekend plans are to find out if she is not invited to things.  When I ask her what her plans are, she is always fully booked so why would she care what else is going on, she could not attend anyway?

No matter your age, if you want to be included you need to be nice, be active, be thankful and reciprocate.  Sitting around moping that you are excluded is a waste of your life.  Plan your own fun and invite others.  Most parties don’t have an unlimited amount of people they can hold and lines are drawn for various reason, but usually it is not to purposely exclude you!

Those kids who don’t think much of a party they were dying to get invited to need to try and throw a party.  It is not the host’s sole responsibility to ensure your happiness.  The guest has to put a little into trying to enjoy the gift they were given by being invited.  As the song goes, “Don’t worry, be happy.”

My 24 Hour Step Back Twenty Five Years



I just ran up to Washington DC for the night so I could go to my friend John McLarty’s fiftieth birthday party that our friend David Macaulay threw for him.  It was a quick 24-hour trip that I made alone that was really like stepping back into my old life before I was a wife or mother and lived my carefree life in DC.


Well, I don’t think I really had a carefree life in DC.  I basically worked all the time either selling mailing opening and extracting machines or catering.  But I did have a great group of friends who also worked too hard, but we played plenty together.


Last night I had a wonderful dinner with my friend Dorothy Dordelman Pearson catching up on lives, loves, children, crazy people we might be related to, the need to clean out our attics and promises to help each other and all the things that old friends talk about.  To give you an idea of the kind of friend Dot is her youngest child was born four days before Russ and I got married and she still made it to our wedding.  Actually I think she came directly from the hospital to our wedding, now that’s a woman who knows not to miss a good party.


I spent last night at my sister Janet’s house without her.  Being in her house alone was like a flash back to when I lived alone in DC.  The planes started landing at National at six in the morning waking me and ending any notion I had about sleeping late.  I watched the Sunday morning news shows with greater interest in the Washington insider talk since I was there.


After I took a shower David texted me with that pre-party panic about the birthday brunch and said I was welcome to come early.  It was code for come-over-and-help-me.  David and I have been friends since about 1984.  He was my number one employee at å la Carter, my catering business.  He was the President of Cheese Grating, but he announced to me over text that he was not grating any cheese for today’s party.


I introduced John and David to each other about 1986 so I am their ground zero friend and they have been fast and furious friends ever since.  They have lived together “foreva”.  John had gone to Dickinson with me.  I was a senior and he was a freshman.  He used to follow me around campus and profess his undying love to me.  He often ask me to marry him, once even producing a ring he had made out of a scrap piece of watercolor paper from a painting I had done and thrown out.  I would tell him that I was not the right person, read gender, for him and he would still persist.  Eventually he realized what I knew all along and embraced a world filled with men, as Leisel sang from the Sound of Music.


I arrived at John and David’s fabulous house and of course everything was under control.  The caterer arrived with help and we finished setting up the bloody Mary bar and the fun began.  The slew of fiftieth birthdays that I have attended in the last few years seems surreal.  How could all these people I have known for thirty years or more be 50?  Especially the celebrations for people I don’t see often, like John, we pick right up as if we were in college, but now he actually knows he’s gay.


The quick visit is bitter sweet because it reminds me that I am not as good at keeping up as I would like to be.  How can a person ever stay in touch with all your old friends as you meet and make new ones all the time?  On the other had the best part about old friends is that you pick right up where you left off as if you never missed a day.  Now I am home with my wonderful husband and daughter and I feel like I just experienced some kind of time travel, in a way I did.

The Real American Problem



Everyone who knows me knows I have a passion for the Food Bank. That being said I do not think that hunger is the worst problem in America. Don’t get me wrong, hunger is a real big problem that stems from poverty, but there is a bigger problem that no one in any place of power will dare deal with and that is the problem of people having children too young.

Today on my way to Washington DC I stopped at a Panera Bread in Petersburg, VA because I knew I could get an edible salad fast. Petersburg is not a tiny, nor poor place and I think that half the town was at this same Panera when I was. As I stood in the line that ran out the door waiting to order I had more than enough time to observe, over hear and be thoroughly annoyed by the family in front of me. It was made up of a 35 year old grand mother, her four daughters who’s ages ranged from about 11-17 and a grand daughter who was over one and not yet able to speak words.

I am not guessing at all that information, but got it verbatim as the family fought with each other while waiting in line. The mother of the baby, the bleached blond texting in the picture, was the second oldest child and clearly was already tired of being a mother as she tried to hand off her child to her siblings. Her mother begged off from holding the screaming child since it was her 35th birthday today.

I thought I had shaken this group when I went to sit down, but they soon followed me and sat at two tables across from me for their so happy, familial meal to celebrate their mother’s birthday. Her two youngest children sat at a table alone having tired of their mother hitting them in the waiting line.

The thing I witnessed that really threw me over edge and thus made this family the subject of my ranting blog today was not only did they not get any food for the baby, but the blond mother poured sweet tea form her own cup into a smaller cup for the baby. It was obviously not the first time this child had drunk sweet tea because she would down it and scream for more in her nonverbal way. The very young mother got terribly annoyed by her child drinking all her tea and since she was busy texting she screamed over to her younger sisters sitting at their own table to ask them to get her sweet tea refills. At one point she ripped off a hunk of bread and put it in front of the baby who would have none of it because it was not sugary nor full of caffeine. Lord help this poor child and her future teeth.

We need help for our country full of children being raised by children. I have nothing against single people having children as long as they are old enough and have the resources to care for their offspring. I have no problem with same sex partners having families. Some of the best behaved kids I know have either two Moms or two Dads. But the human brain is not developed enough to properly parent a child until it is at least 25. Before all you young parents scream at me ask yourselves if you had help with your kids when you were young, or had good jobs and were already well educated. That makes a big difference. But if someone is under 25, without much education, money or support raising a child is going to have a hard time. I know it’s not politically correct to say, but the continuation of very young people having children is the biggest long term problem we face as a country. I am not holding out much hope that this sweet child I witnessed today has a bright future. Please let me be wrong.


Hunger Action Month



Sometimes I feel like every month, every week and every day is action day.  I am looking forward to an inaction day, but don’t see any other those on the horizon.


September is Hunger Action Month.  I think if you are hungry you are hungry every month and you are looking for food every month, week and day, not just one month.  At this very writing the Food Bank is holding a 24 hour telethon on their website.  All kind of people are spending the night at the food bank headquarters in Raleigh with bands and food trucks and all kinds of volunteers stopping by.


I am making an appearance on the telethon tomorrow morning about 8:45.  I am going to be interviewed about the Less Dana Campaign so if you want to see me in live streaming Internet just click on this link while you enjoy your morning coffee. Food Bank Telethon


I can’t imagine what the poor Food Bank staff has been through this week with the giant Sort-a-rama on Wednesday and now spending the night running a 24-hour telethon.


I am not an all nighter kind of person, never have been.  In college I had friends who would stay up all night writing those last minute papers they had known were due for three weeks.  Waiting until the last minute makes me too nervous and I just don’t like the pressure of leaving things to the deadline.


Except today, I left by blog to the last minute as well as the laundry I need washed so I can pack for my quick overnight trip to Washington DC tomorrow when I am finished up with the telethon.   So I apology for the non-blog blog today, which is really more of an ad for the telethon  — I just had way too much action today which left little time for reflection.

Simple Is Best



Today is my friend Lynn’s birthday.  Lynn is not one who normally eats lunch but on her birthday she made an exception and so we went out to a local tapas place.  As a surprise my friend Hannah and I picked Lynn up in my 1964 Morris Minor Traveler woody station wagon to make the big five-mile drive to downtown Durham.  It seemed appropriate to celebrate Lynn’s day in a car that was about her age.


I have been somewhat remiss in taking the Morris out of the garage as often as my Flying Circus English mechanic would like me to.  It is better for the car to be driven, but a car in North Carolina without air conditioning is not the best summer model.  But then again the Morris, with it’s heat coming from air that went past the sewing machine engine is not really a great winter car either.  Even though it is hot today I thought us three girls could stand the old fashion cooling system of windows open, especially the specialty front door wing windows.


I love taking friends out in the Morris because even though everyone my age or older grew up with crank windows and door handles you actually have to tug to release the latch it seems so foreign to them now.  My little robins egg blue wagon is a three door, which means it has two passenger doors and a spilt back door for the wagon part.  To get in the back seat you just lift the front seat up, no catch to undo or buttons to push.  The seat is only attached to the floor on the front and it just stays in place by gravity.


The car does not have a radio or a clock, but it does have a choke.  Even though I had not started it up all summer once I pulled out the choke and turned the tiny little key that looks more like a cheep luggage key, she started right up.  Obviously the engine mice that run the conveyor belt were still alive and able to run the tiny machine fine.


Driving the Morris around Durham just brings a smile to even the biggest sourpuss’ face.  We parked on the street and an older gentleman came running as fast as an old guy can without getting winded up to talk to us about the car.  I wish I had about 50 of these sweet little cars because I could sell one everyday I drive one.


As cars go there is not much to this one, no bells or whistles, just a squeaky little horn and a turn signal that flashes green on the stem that you flick up or down.  The best part is that without a back up camera or hydro turbo cooler engine there is not much to go wrong.  Yeah, and it gets 40 miles to the gallon.


I think there is a good lesson for long term living in my well-named Minor.  Keep things simple if you want to go the long haul.  Everything does not have to be a major deal and living with less stuff means you have a smaller load to carry.   So happy birthday Lynn, may your load always be light.

9/11 Day of Service


Twelve years ago everyone over the age of seventeen probably can remember where they were when they first heard the news about the planes flying into the World Trade Center — that unsettling feeling is one that fairly unforgettable.  On this anniversary of one of the worst days in our history people across the country are serving many helping organizations as a tribute to those who lost their lives on 9/11 and as a way to say to anyone who wants to hurt America, “You may hurt one of us but the rest will stand strong together.”

I had the great honor to serve as the Master of Ceremonies for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina’ Sort-a-rama at the Jim Graham building at the state fair.  It was the second year we have done this project and the turn out was stupendous.

The Jim Graham building is where they hold the livestock exhibition during the state fair and if you have never spent much time walking through the maze of 4-H kid’s living with their prize cows you have no idea how big this building is.  Empty of farm animals today the Food Bank set up hundreds of pallet sized bins full of dried beans peas and pasta that volunteer sorted into family sized bags for future distribution.

I stood on the stage first thing this morning and looked out at the sea of over 700 corporate volunteers who had paid to come and spend their day packing this food.  I was humbled by their excitement and enthusiasm.  After I said a few opening remarks we had a color guard from Boy Scout Troop 39 in Chapel Hill bring in the flags and two fantastic women who work at Blue Cross Blue Shield sang the National Anthem.

I got a little teary standing with my right hand on my heart as I thought about what a wonderful country this is listening to our national anthem.  Quickly I had to pull myself together because I had to introduce our Governor, Pat McCrory who came out to be part of our day of service.  Pastor Jackson from one of our agencies who serves people in need food spoke about how the face of hunger has changed from not just homeless people but the working poor.

Three local corporations were our major sponsors, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cisco and Food Lion.  Their leaders each spoke about why they volunteer and give back.  By the time all the people said a few words the volunteers were ready to get to the job at hand.  The Governor did the first ceremonial scoop of dried yellow peas and the volunteers were off.

While pictures were being taken Mr. McCrory turned to me and said, “You all do great work and if you ever need my help or want to do an event at the Mansion please let me know.”  You have got to believe that my wheels are turning now to think of all the ways the Governor can help us help the citizens of his state.

The Governor is right; the staff at the Food Bank is the hardest group of people I know who help hundreds of thousand of our neighbors in need.  I was so proud to play a small part of such a vital organization.  Thank you to all the generous people who spent sometime today volunteering to help others and especially to those who spend time everyday helping others.

Wrong Number – No Sorry



Sometimes my phone rings and the person calling starts the conversations by saying, “Who is this?” Really, no “Hello”, no “I’m sorry I might have dialed the wrong number” just an abrupt demand for my identification. This rude sort of call is never a good way to start with me. My normal response is to calmly ask the person who they were looking for and if it was not someone who resides at this number to kindly let the person know they might have misdialed.


My give-this-caller-no-personal-information-first rule is not always met with understanding. Many times the caller repeats their demand to know who I am. That is when I turn into my normal self and demand them to tell me “Who the HE#* are you since you called me.” I have almost never known them personally so speaking so sternly is about the only thing these reckless dialers understand.


Today my misdialing world has expanded from my home phone to my cell phone text. I get a message from a number I did not recognize that just says “Hey.” I respond, “Sorry I don’t recognize your number, please tell me who this is?” The response is, “Who is this?” I lob back, “You texted me first. Who are you looking for?”


“I don’t know I had this number and I wanted to see who it is. I am George.” Back to me saying, “Well George, I don’t know you so you might have misdialed.” George texts back, “Tell me who you are!” Why do people think it is their right to know who I am? I text back, “I am no one to you. Have a nice day.”


“Well why do I have your number?” Isn’t this getting a little ridiculous? What happened to people’s telephone manners where they apologize for their own mistake and promise never to call again? So to George, whoever you are, I don’t know you and now if I ever meet you I am going to walk away because you have been put in the category of people that I try and stay away from – those who thinks the world revolves around them. Only two year olds are allowed to act that way and only once with me, then they get taught how to have manners.


If I ever misdial you I hope that my apology is swift and you feel it’s sincerity because unless I have just lost my mind I take responsibility for bothering you and I promise to never do it again.

Birthday Sister Part Deux



Both my sisters have early September birthdays so today is Margaret’s big day.  Margaret was my baby sister for the longest time but got displaced a week before her fifth birthday when Sister Janet came along.  It had to be a real shock to Margaret’s life that she had to go to Kindergarten and lose her place as the baby of the family all at the same time.  It was also 1969, which was a big mess of a year for all of America with Vietnam, the Moon landing, Nixon’s election, the end of the Beatles and Woodstock that took place not far from where we grew up.


Margaret always had a flair for the dramatic and the aesthetic so it is no wonder that she grew up to be a great decorator.  As a very young child she insisted on designing her own room.  I remember that she really wanted a canopy bed to go into her at the time very trendy  pink and purple bedroom.  My parents told her she could get the bed, but it would have to be her big birthday present.  She quickly agreed.  I thought she was crazy to forgo the chance for something really great like a bike for her birthday since she already had a perfectly fine bed, but no, being surrounded by beautiful things was always important to Margaret.


Margaret had a design business in Boulder and Telluride Colorado called The Carter Home Collection but after decorating all available famous people’s houses out there she moved to Washington DC. Margaret Carter Interiors is the name of her current business and you can visit her website to see some of the beautiful work she does.


Sometimes it is hard to imagine that we are related because we are so different.  Margaret has a spectacular singing voice the opposite of mine.  Just to give you an idea of how good she really is when she lived in Kansas City she was the lead paid vocalist at a black gospel church.  One thing that is not unlike me is she is very white so imagine how good a singer she must be.


Margaret is also an organizational freak.  This was true at the youngest possible age.  The difference in looking at our closets as children you would have thought her to be the older sister because everything was in it’s place and it’s place was usually a very cute decorative container that was complimentary to the other containers.  My closet had everything thrown on the floor and was just lucky to get the door closed.


Although I have improved in my organization so has Margaret and now her bar is set to a height that no other human will ever reach her.  I think she has a color-coded L.L.Bean canvas bag system for everything that involves 18 different handle colors.  I didn’t even know Bean made that many different bags let alone could I think what I would need to sort and carry in them.


So to my most organized and stylish sister Margaret I want to wish her a Happy Birthday.  You are still young because you are younger than me!

Writing, Writing, Writing



All of a sudden all my writing assignments are upon me.  Well I am sure they were upon me long ago, but the deadlines are all hitting and I am guilty of poorly managing my workload once again.


I agreed to go back to work at Durham Magazine and do a monthly column on people who are making a difference in Durham.  I heard rumor today at church that my first issue back at work is out.  I did a story on Kenzie Brannon, a man who could show us all how to have a happy and successful retirement where you just don’t stop moving.  Pick up the magazine and read it.


Well that assignment was written a month ago and today I had to write the next installment.  It is a story about Pat Nathan who started Dress for Success in the triangle and she is a powerhouse with one hell of a story.  You will have to wait for the October Issue of Durham Magazine to read all about her.


I am looking for other inspirational people in Durham so if you know of any or just have heard of any please let me know.  The crazier and wilder the better.  Color, color, color, that’s what I like, well color with some heart.  It never hurts to make people cry too.


So today I wrote my article and now this blog.  I have a speech for 700 people at the Food Bank Sort-a-Rama for Wednesday and I am the Master of ceremonies.  Someone else has written it, but I have to make it my own.  I have to introduce the Governor of NC at this event, while wearing an orange “hunger action month” t-shirt, my worst color, so I better not mess this up because I am already not going to be looking my best.


I have the horticulture report for Garden club Tuesday, six thank you notes for the various nice parties and football games wonderful people have invited us to and a ghost writing assignment for someone else.  That’s a secret, so not only do I have to write it, but also I have to make it sound like someone else and not like me.  Why in the world did I think I could sound like someone else — that will make it take twice as long?


All this being said and I still don’t feel like I am a writer.  This will be my 489 blog posting in 489 days.  I have not missed a day and I guess I really should celebrate at 500 days like any normal person would, but something else big might happen that day that I want to write.


I don’t know what it is about saying I am a writer that does not jive with me.  I had no problem in my life saying I was something else before I ever learned how to be it.  Like I said I was a caterer and even got business cards that said I was before anyone would actually have considered me a caterer.  Same was true when I became a sales and marketing consultant. I was hired as an Editor and they gave me cards so then I was an editor.  No actual experience required.  So what is it about saying I am a writer?  Maybe I just need the business cards.  Not that I would ever have to give them to anyone, but if in my wallet in the back slot where I keep my Belk Bra and Panty Club card I had a little card that just said, Dana – Writer, then maybe I would feel comfortable saying, “Hi, I’m Dana.  I’m a writer.”

Cosmic Wave Sleep Interruption



I am a big proponent of sleep.  As a teenage I think my father once told me that sleeping was not a potential occupation, which was too bad because it was one of the things I did really well.  Perhaps that was because I went to boarding school so the few weekends I would get to come home were spent catching up on sleep.  Sleeping in rooms with other people who are not my husband are just never as good for me as sleeping in rooms alone.  Really sleeping in houses alone are really the best, but then I might never get up.


For anyone who is trying to drop a pound or two or thirty sleep is a key element in weight loss.  If you are sleeping you are not eating so just cutting down on waking hours reduces your opportunity to eat.  Being well rested helps me resist naughty foods.  Exhaustion should be met with rest not sugar.  But if you are dog tired in the middle of the day a nap is sometimes impossible and with your defenses down you know what happens.


I come from people who were not necessarily professional sleepers.  My mother and sister both suffered from sleep difficulties, which is something I never really appreciated until now.  This past week I have only been sleeping through the night every other night.


Wednesday night I was up at two in the morning for a couple of hours.  Not wanting to wake any of the others in the house I lay silently in bed, being totally unproductive.  There might have been something in the air, or maybe the neighborhood because at the gym the next morning while suffering my trainers diabolical torture I complained about my night and suddenly ever other client in the gym spoke up saying they too were awake at two, three and four in the morning.  Could there have been some cosmic waves that forced us all up when we clearly needed to be a sleep?


The night after I slept fine, exhaustion will do that to me, but then again last night I was up at 12:30.  That episode lasted only thirty minutes but then I was back up again at three and could not fall back to sleep until 5:30.  What the!  Sure it’s Saturday, but I have a big day and a big night.  This means I am going to have to work extra hard to resist tempting food in tempting situations and try and be nice when I clearly have a hard time being nice when I have a good night’s sleep.  I think I need to start the cosmic wave sleep interruption rumor as my excuse for crankiness.

Good Luck or Bad Luck, Who Knows



If I had an American Indian name I would like it to be Chief Making Community, but more likely it would be Squaw Who Thinks She Knows.  Today I had a coffee at my house to help welcome new Durham Academy ninth grade mothers and give them a chance to meet us moms who have been around for a very long time.  About fifty of the moms were able to make it and many were new to our community.   So many friends generously brought things to contribute to the table and even more offered, but I had to start refusing their contributions because it was after all just a coffee.


I love to get people together and give them a chance to discover what they have in common and find new friends.  I feel like people who know each other are much more likely to make a better community then people whose children just happen to go to school together.  It also never hurts for our children to know that we Moms have a network of our own and are talking to each other.


The normal conversation about how our children are adjusting to upper school, be they new to DA or not was a common thread.  For the most part the kids are making their way and are exhilarated by their new surroundings.


I was talking with my friend Frances about a challenge my child is having that as an upper school mom I need to stay out of.  Standing back and letting Carter deal with a difficult person is the best learning I can let her do, but not easy for me as a Mama Bear.  Frances told me that in her family they have a saying based on an old Japanese story that goes like this:

A young man lives in a village and one day his horse dies.  The people of the village say to the young man that this is very bad luck.  The young man replies, “Good luck, bad luck, who knows.”


The next day a large group of soldiers come through the village looking for young men to draft into the army, but they each must have a horse, so he does not have to go because his horse just died.  The villagers say, “You are very lucky.”  He replies, “Good luck or bad luck, who knows.”


The difficulty that a child may be dealing with might actually be a good thing, a learning opportunity.  I know that hearing Frances’ parable was good for me.  I don’t know what is best or what the future might hold, but I do know that with the help of my community things are more likely to work out.  If I had not held this coffee today I’m sure I would not have had Frances’ wise words to put me in a more centered place.  As a Squaw I do know this, I really like promoting community.

Multi-Grain Sweet Potato Chips?



As I was getting dressed today the TV was on and whatever vapid show was playing had a promotion on the screen for some new Multi- Grain Sweet Potato Chips.  The hosts of the show talked about how good these chips were, but no one asked the big question.  Potatoes are not a grain, so where in the world did the multi-grain come from?


North Carolina is a major sweet potato producing state.  I think we might even be first in growing the very nutritious item.  I have learned a lot about sweet potatoes in my life with the Food Bank since they are often a big donation item from farmers that we are so thankful to get.  All on their own they are the best source for beta-carotene and vitamin A, as well having a little protein and not just being a big carb fest.


Since sweet potatoes are already a healthy choice there is no need to screw them up by adding a grain, let alone more than one.  Food manufactures are so driven to market using buzzwords that they think we might be fooled into thinking these chips are healthy by including the all-important “Multi Grain.”


I have made chips and they are not that complicated.  Basically they should have three ingredients, sweet potatoes, oil and salt.  Now we all know potato chips unto themselves are not actually healthy.  It does take an actual bucketful of oil to fry them and lord knows once you eat one really good chip it is next to impossible to stop.  But a sweet potato is much better for you than a white potato so check mark for you if you forgo white potatoes.  But no amount of multi grains dusted on or worse yet pulverized into potato mash and reformed into chips is going to counteract the frying part of making chips.


So for goodness sake stop and pause and think when someone names a product Multi-Grain Sweet Potato Chips how did they get that way?

Obsessive Personality Disorder- Oh Yeah



As a person who has spent a lifetime struggling with my weight a learned person might diagnose me with some sort of obsessive personality disorder.  I’m not about to WebMD my traits to get a more exact determination, but you get the picture.


I do catch myself sometimes silently repeating a phrase in my head like, “take the garbage out, take the garbage out, take the garbage out…” as I am on my way to do you know what.  Since I have spent the last year and a half being obsessive about eating healthy food and documenting my crazy daily life on this blog I think I have lessened the bad food obsession but have not in anyway reduced my personality disorder — Maybe disorder is a strong word, lets call it my condition.


I recognize that I now have Fanatic Needlepoint Affliction.  September 10th is the deadline to turn in all completed canvases to have Christmas ornaments fabricated by the holiday.  I set a goal this year to make a dozen new ornaments.  I way surpassed that goal months ago.  Do you think I slowed my stitching down?  No way.


Last week, knowing that I had only two weeks left to do finish all the ornaments I could I picked two I wanted to finish.  Bam, Bang, I got them both knocked out in a week.  So now I have one week left, maybe just one more ornament I thought yesterday.  I still have one week.  I can do it.  But my Fanatic Needlepoint Affliction took over and I will finish this one tonight.  That will leave me five more days and I appear to be stitching at warp speed.


A second bit of evidence about my obsession disorder is called Whole Series Netflix Watching.  This summer when Carter was at camp I discovered a made for Netflix TV series called “Orange is the New Black” about a woman who is sent to prison.  It was about thirteen episodes long and I watched the whole thing in three nights.  I did not watch the news, or Jeopardy or read a book or anything else.  Well, I did needlepoint while I was watching it in a layering of all my afflictions/disorders/conditions at once.


When I finished watching the series I felt spent and sad knowing that I had used the whole thing up and there was no more.  But it was so great.  I really got to know the characters well and by watching one show after the other with no pause in the action.  There was no trying to remember what was going on in the plot like happens when you go weeks between watching episodes of a show.


I thought that Netflix Condition might have been a one-time thing, but I should have known better.  Two nights ago in the search for something to watch during the dead zone of TV seasons while Speed Needle pointing I found “Breaking Bad.”  Yes, I know I am the last human in America to watch it, but I don’t have Showtime or whatever channel it is on.  In three days I am half way through season 2.  I figure I can watch all the seasons in the next week as I crank out as many Christmas ornaments as possible and then I will lay wasted, worn out, kaput.  Please god just keep my obsessions out of the kitchen.

Grilled Baby Artichokes



Russ came home with a big bag of purple baby artichokes.  When we were on the west coast last year we had grilled artichokes a couple of times and found that putting the artichoke over a fire gave it a new layer of flavor.  The only problem with most of the ones we ate in restaurants was they were not cooked enough so it was tough to scrape off the yummy flesh from the outer leaves.  So I tried to boil these artichokes first and then put them on the fire.  Did the trick!



Baby artichokes

Lemon juice

Olive oil

Kosher salt



Light olive oil mayonnaise

Lemon juice

Cracked black Pepper


Cut the artichokes in half and using a spoon scoop out the choke.  Place the artichokes in a bowl with water and the juice of half a lemon as soon as you have cut them.


In a stockpot big enough to hold all the artichokes bring two inches of water to a boil.  Add the artichokes and cook on high heat covered for five minutes.  (If you are using big artichoke boil them for at least 30 minutes)


Remove the artichokes from the pot with a slotted spoon and put in a bowl.  Sprinkle a little olive oil and salt over them.


Heat the grill to fairly hot and place all the artichokes on the grate cut side down.  Put the lid on the grill and cook them for four minutes.  Flip them over and cook on the other side for three minutes.  Remove them from the grill and put them back in the bowl.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap so the heat will stay in helping steam the artichokes.


They can be served hot, room temp or cold.


I made a dipping sauce that was 3 T. light mayo with the juice and zest of one lemon and a bunch of cracked black pepper.  YUMMY!

Hooray for Sista J

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It’s my youngest sister Janet’s birthday today.  She is my sister who can do anything and does everything.  When we were kids, and by that I mean when she was a kid because I am over eight years older than she is, she was the worker bee of the family.  As the baby she in no way was the coddled one, quite the opposite.  Janet could drive the tractor at age five, would stack firewood, run the snow blower all without complaint.


She still is the hardest working person I know, but now she is also the best taker of holidays too.  Janet is a professional traveler and makes the most of her off time by going on the best vacations.  If I ever need a travel recommendation she is the one in the know.  If I mention I went somewhere cool she say, “Oh yeah, did you swim with those nice dolphins there?”  Because without my knowing, she had already been there before me.


Janet is a most important member of our family, always looking out for anyone who needs something.  Although she has no children of her own she is a very cool Aunt to Carter.  Christmas with Janet is like having an extra Santa in the family.


Fun is always close by with my Sista J, one of the many nicknames she has.  I don’t think I have ever met anyone who does not like her.  Unlike me, if you are not her cup of tea she keeps it to herself, a trait I wished I cultivated long ago.  Janet is funny and at the same time thoughtful.  I can honestly say I can’t think of a time we had a cross word.


She has always been exactly who she was born to be without any apologies.  When she was in middle school and would wear English driving caps to school and get beat up on the school bus for doing so, but she would not change her hat.  She would get right back on that bus the next day, hat on her head and face off any bully.  Being able to stand up for herself also made her great at standing up for others.  She is the person I always want by my side.


So on this her special day I want to tell the whole world that she is an amazing sister.  If you know her give her a shout out, if you don’t you can give her one here if you want.  I hope that you are lucky enough to have such a great sister as I do, but I have to say it would be hard to, that is unless you are my other sister Margaret.

More Doodle Than Lab



This being a three-day weekend I actually got Russ to not work one day and we went to the farm.  The biggest draw for Russ to the farm is that we can let Shay Shay run around free.  Russ loves to throw the tennis balls across a field and have her chase them.  Shay does not have the best eyesight so sometimes she misses where they go and just looks at us with the “like throw me a ball already” look on her face.  It’s hard to convince her that we already threw the ball and have to go and retrieve it ourselves and throw it again.


Shay is officially thirty third generation labradoodle but I think somewhere about the twenty fifth or sixth generation the lab part was dropped out of her gene line.  See Shay likes to chase a ball and even pick it up and run with it, but she is not so good at bringing it back to us.  Maybe that means she is half retrieving it.


It is not the lack of ball return that really shows Shay’s miniscule Labrador genetic makeup, but her dislike of swimming.  Today was a warm day.  In fact I feel like it was the warmest day I experienced this summer season, what with North Carolina never getting close to 100 degrees all year.  So while we were at the farm we decided to go swimming.  The pool was pleasantly cool, a treat for Labor Day weekend.


Carter and I jumped in and Shay paced by the side of the pool.  The sun was beating on her dark brown fur.  She looked at us having fun splashing with our cousins who were visiting.  I reached for Shay and she tentatively allowed me to pick her up and bring her in the water with me.  Her immediate dislike of the water was apparent from the way she dug her sharp nails in to my shoulder trying to climb on top of my head to get as much of her body out of the water as possible.


I hugged her shivering body and calmly told her it would be all right.  Her stiffness subsided a little.  After a few minutes I pulled her away from clinging to me and let her go forcing her to swim.  Her frantic doggy paddle kept her head above water, but the panicked look in her eyes made me grab her right up and put out on the side of the pool.  I am almost sure I heard her sigh in relief.  It does not matter to me that she neither retrieves nor swims, but I think we need to rename her breed.  I think that Lapradoddle is much more fitting for she is a dog who is happiest sitting in Russ’ lap.