In Need of Juice

It seems like my life is tied to chargers, not the football kind, but the electrical ones.  I know that I am not alone in my dependency on things with batteries that require constant boosts of electricity.  My phones, computer, Ipad, fitbit are just the things sitting by me at this moment that are in daily need of charging.  There are also those left often used items like cameras, camera flashes, label makers, flash lights and so on that need to be charged and never seem to be when I need them.


It seems I never have the charging cord when I am in the most vital need for a juice up.  The worst is to be away from home as you see the battery bars on your most vital device dwindling down.


I know that juice bars are a big thing these days, but they are selling the wrong kind of juice.  I would like an electricity bar that has a room full of charging cords for every possible device hanging from the ceiling.  Really the juice you drink bar could install the juice you power up with connection center and do double duty.  Call it “All Juiced Up.”


Even better would be the invention of cordless electricity.  We have blue tooth through the air, isn’t it time to have power through the air?  Electricity has existed in the air in the form of lightening bolts as long as the earth has been around so why can’t someone figure out a way to harness it and send it to all our devices on a constant and steady stream?


The idea that a lamp has to be plugged into a wall with a cord seems incredibly antiquated.  Cords running hither and yon across a floor are a hazard.  I am surprised that insurance companies have not pushed for this idea long ago.


Of course energy producing companies probably don’t want electricity to be free in the air so the first invention needs to be the “through the air electricity meter”.  Once that exists then they might be interested in working to create cordless power.  I guess the electrical wire lobby has been behind the killing of this “no cord needed” idea, but really I think we can take them if we all band together.


So start pestering all the brilliant electrical engineers you know.  Actually, just whisper this idea into the ear of a few brilliant children.  I know we can get this sooner rather than later.  I need it now because my computer battery is about to die and I don’t want to get off the treadmill desk to go get the charging cord until I have my 10,000 steps.  The only problem is my fitbit that is counting my steps is running low on juice too.  Hurry, someone invent cordless electricity now!

Don’t Give Your Money to The Government



Today is one of my favorite days when Russ and I talk about our charitable giving for the year-end.  This year Carter got in on the conversation too.  She said she thought it would be cool to be like Bill Gates and get to spend our time making big difference with big time giving.  I told her that it’s not just big givers who make a difference, but if lots of people just gave a little it really star add up.


Everyone who knows me knows that the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC is the cause I am most passionate about.  The Food Bank is one of those charities that gets the majority of its gifts from people making small contributions.  I am always touched when I am manning a collection point for a food and funds drive by the people who come up and press a twenty dollar bill in my hand and say, “I wish it could be more, but I am very thankful for the help I got from the Food Bank myself.”

For that person for whom $20 is a lot of money giving it back to the Food Bank as thanks really chokes me up.


As it is for most Charities December is the most important month in our year.  We depend on the year-end donations to make up a huge percentage of our budget.  We have a Charity Navigator Four star rating because we are very efficient with the money we are given because we always try and keep those small donors who dig so deep to support us at the forefront of our minds.  The problem is that even though we have grown every year in the amount of food, 52 million pounds last year, we are providing to the hungry in 34 counties in NC the need keeps out pacing us.


There is only one day left to give your money to a worthy cause to help save yourself from giving it to the government in taxes if you don’t.  I hope that you have a little bit more than you needed this year and that you do not have to depend on organizations like the Food Bank for your most basic needs.  If you want to have some fun give some money away in the next twenty-four hours.


If you chose to give it to the Food Bank you can just click here to make a donation online easy as pie.  Know that for every dollar you give the Food Bank can turn it into ten dollars worth of food.  That kind of multiplier is hard to beat.


Even if you don’t give to the Food Bank I hope that you can get some joy out of giving to something you are passionate about.  You may never know the people you impact, be it students at a school you support or musicians at the Symphony or a homeless family who gets a home through Habitat, but if everyone who has a little something extra gives a little it all adds up to making our community a better place.


Bless you and your family this holiday season and know that I am thankful for you all.

Rule Breaking Friends

Once my house is decorated for Christmas I like to take advantage of all the sparkle, twinkle and shine and have people over for frivolity, fun and food as much as possible.  I wrote earlier in the season that I really don’t want or expect hostess gifts and even though most everyone who is invited to my house reads this blog, at least once in a while, they all ignored me.


I guess the southern social mores are just too strongly ingrained in the group I hang with, but many even apologized as they came through the door and handed me a bag knowing they were disobeying my wishes.  Some even tried to sneak a gift in without my seeing it, leaving it under a table or tucked behind the Christmas tree.  I guess I will have to forgive them because I actually like these people and most of them actually brought a very thoughtful gift.


As the party ended last night and the last guest was heading down our front walkway all the lights in the house went out.  I was standing at the open front door calling out goodbye as I was suddenly thrust into darkness and I thought, “Wow, they brought a present and took my electricity home with them.”  Really, I thought that between giving walking desk demonstrations and running over 500,000 Christmas lights during a party I had blown our whole electrical system.  But I looked around and noticed that every other house in the neighborhood was black.


I heard a loud voice coming from the garage as a caterer was calling for help since she was standing in a strange garage full of sharp objects and a hot stove with no flash light.  Russ came to the rescue gathering all the lanterns, flash lights, candles and I phones he could find so that we could continue cleaning up and let the help go home.


At last all the plates were loaded in the dishwasher waiting the return of current to run it and all the empty bottles had been taken to recycling.  I decided that I would not try and tackle the gaggle of gifts in the dark and took to my bed with Carter who did not want to go to her end of the house alone in the dark.  Russ was relegated to the guest room where he watched videos on his Ipad that still had a charge.


The power returned in the night and so by the time I got out of bed Russ had already washed the remaining platters, run the dishwasher and tidied up.  Sometime after two in the afternoon I noticed that tissue paper had been pulled from one of the unopened hostess gifts.  I look around the bag and nothing seemed too disturbed, but I thought it was as good a time as any to open the loot.


I picked up the bag I assumed the tissue had been in and found a holiday coffee mug with a gift enclosure saying, “from Beth and Mike… Peanut Butter Fudge.”  I thought that was an interesting Holiday greeting considering it was a mug.  I continued opening, frames, wine, oil and vinegar, my cup over runneth.

Shay came into the living room to sniff around while I was opening.  I reached down to give her a snuggle and that’s when I caught a whiff of the distinct smell of peanut butter.  I went into the sunroom and found a small perfectly clean Ziploc bag with the corner torn open.  I think that explains the “Peanut Butter Fudge” note.


So now I have a new request to all my guests who may read this.  Not only do I really just want your company and maybe an invitation to your house in the next ten years, rather than a hostess gift, but if you do bring one and it is food, put it up high, unless it is for Shay.  The good news in this story is that peanut butter fudge is one of my favorite things and Beth is a fabulous cook so it is all for the best that Shay Shay ate it and I did not.


The moral of this story is I can’t depend on any of these gift giving friends to be the ones who are in charge of my living will because if they can’t follow my wishes about not bringing gifts they certainly can’t be depended upon to pull the plug on me when the time comes.



Note:  This is the first blog I have written while standing at my walking desk.  I got three thousand steps doing it.

The Best Suggestion I Got This Year


Not all my blog readers know me or know that sometimes I write things in jest.  I often get some helpful suggestions to rhetorical questions.  I am never put off by these kind responses to my writing, but I do wonder when I write about some insane idea that is clearly a joke to me if my serious readers think I am just a fool.

I put this blog in the Diet Comedy Blog Category, a group which is very small since most information about dieting is way too serious/boring/or dry.  No professionals in the weight loss world are actually allowed to be funny because no one wants to be laughed at about being fat.  Luckily I am neither a professional nor employed in the weight loss world.  Now, I have known a few funny trainers in my day and they are the ones who have figured out that if you can keep a client’s mind off the torture you are inflicting on them by keeping them laughing you will have clients who will keep coming back to work out.

Sometime this summer I wrote a blog about wanting to be able to walk around and needlepoint at the same time.  A college friend, Christy, who is a professional trainer with a good sense of humor, suggested I get a walking desk and sent me a link to the website.

I studied the videos, read the testimonials, searched out reviews then told Russ it was what I wanted for Christmas.  Russ is a well trained husband and not only does he actually get me what I ask for, but if it is an appliance he gets me something else that is more personal and fun.  I won’t go into those great gifts, but Russ could give husband gift giving lessons for money.

Anyway…three days before Christmas a tractor trailer pulls up to the house and puts a pallet with two giant boxes in the garage.  Last night at 8:30 I convinced Russ that we needed to disassemble my whole office and install my new walking desk since we needed the garage for a party today.   It was a big job because I had to take apart my sitting desk and move two thirds of it to other places.

Russ is good at reading instructions written by people who don’t talk to humans and was able to put the whole new walking desk together with just some lifting help from me.  By 11:00 PM I was walking and working on my computer at the same time.  My office is a big mess and I am not going to be able to reorganize it while walking on the treadmill, but I certainly think that I won’t have trouble getting in my steps everyday now.  I read the mail and paid some bills and got 1,500 steps just for that busy work.  When I checked my fitbit last night I had gotten 14,159 steps yesterday.  Next thing I need to help keeping me moving is a flat screen for over the fireplace in my office.  I can’t wait until Valentines Day.

Is Lying Worth It?


This afternoon on my way between setting up for the debutant ball and picking Carter up at horse back riding I was in alone-in-the-car-nirvana listening to NPR on the radio.  NPR is my standard radio preset when I have the car to myself and not being subjected to teenager radio flicking between a large number of pop stations.  I thoroughly enjoyed my half hour of radio control, listening to a show called “Here and Now” where the host was interviewing an author named Sam Harris about his new book “Lying.”


Sam is a neuroscientist who went to Stanford as an undergraduate.  During his time at the superior institution he took a seminar called “The Ethical Analyst” where the class focused the whole course on one question; “Is it wrong to lie?”


It seems like an easy question to answer and thus could be a fairly short class that is one I would have liked to take.  Of course it is wrong to lie, but everyone, and I mean even those who were consider for Pope lies.  The only book I remember from my years as an undergraduate was called, “How to Lie with Statistics” in my history writing class, so much for the difference between Dickinson and Stanford.


Sam Harris talked about how much easier life is if you just don’t lie, even little white lies that you tell not to hurt someone else’s feelings.  I have no idea if his book is any good, but listening to him got me thinking abut the whole subject and how having a daily blog has made me much more honest.


I think that writing honestly about my daily activities has been a huge bonus to my owning my health.  Now I am not saying that I come close to not lying.  I am a big storyteller after all and some stories are improved with a little poetic license.  My mother tells people that all the stories about her are just not true, but my stories are just my point of view.  She should claim that the nice stories about her are really very true.


One area Mr. Harris talked about people lying was the lies people tell to avoid embarrassment. For me the blog must be true because there is no way I could remember what I said if it just was not exactly what actually happened, or at least happened as I felt it.  Living a life out loud is much simpler for me.  And I have never been one to be considered quiet in the first place.  So on this point I agree with him.


Since my big issue is my weight that was not something I could hide.  When I am fat everyone could see it, there was no way around it.  Once I accepted that I was able to deal with it head on.  The worst lies are the ones we tell ourselves.  When I told myself I was fat and only I could do something about it I was much more able to change it.


Now I am southern, so cutting out all lying is going to be a tricky thing to accomplish.  When someone asks me what I think of their chicken salad is it necessary for me to tell them exactly how I feel about it?  It is going to take all my creativity to remain cordial and truthful at the same time, but I think it is worth a try.  I think I am more than 90% there with almost two years of blogs behind me telling the truth everyday.  This is going to be hard.  I may or may not report in on the progress depending on how badly it goes, just being honest here.

The Christmas That Wasn’t


Well this is what I get for giving myself one really decadent Christmas Eve meal, food poisoning.  And my poor friend Logan, who loves a good meal better than any human on earth, he too got whatever horrible e-coli bug I did.  The good news is that the rest of our families some how escaped the gut wrenching bug.


I think the culprit was the last minute kale salad.  It was the only raw thing we had and is most suspect.  I tried not to eat very large amounts of the terribly rich food, but that night as I lay in bed I told Russ that my system just could not take that kind of food anymore.  Through the night I thought I heard the sounds of hooves on the roof, but it was probably the delirium starting to set in and not Santa visiting our house.  By morning I was sick as a dog.


So I slept through Christmas.  It was pitiful and sad.  Russ, Carter and Shay went up to my parents without me.   Only Shay was happy to get to run free at the farm and really didn’t notice I was not there.


The part about Christmas I missed the most was giving my presents.  I know that I was an unenthusiastic opener myself on Christmas morning when Russ and Carter were so excited about the things they had lovingly picked out for me.  I would like a whole do over of the day so I can properly show my loved ones how much they and their kindnesses mean to me.


The only good thing about the whole situation was the three pounds I lost, but I know that as soon as I eat again they will find me.  The good news is for my next party I am going to have a caterer.  I am doing my best not to kill any guests or myself ever again.  I hope you had the best Christmas ever, that all the sweaters you got flatter you and that nothing went right into the regifting closet.

The Christmas That Wasn’t


Well this is what I get for giving myself one really decadent Christmas Eve meal, food poisoning.  And my poor friend Logan, who loves a good meal better than any human on earth, he too got whatever horrible e-coli bug I did.  The good news is that the rest of our families some how escaped the gut wrenching bug.


I think the culprit was the last minute kale salad.  It was the only raw thing we had and is most suspect.  I tried not to eat very large amounts of the terribly rich food, but that night as I lay in bed I told Russ that my system just could not take that kind of food anymore.  Through the night I thought I heard the sounds of hooves on the roof, but it was probably the delirium starting to set in and not Santa visiting our house.  By morning I was sick as a dog.


So I slept through Christmas.  It was pitiful and sad.  Russ, Carter and Shay went up to my parents without me.   Only Shay was happy to get to run free at the farm and really didn’t notice I was not there.


The part about Christmas I missed the most was giving my presents.  I know that I was an unenthusiastic opener myself on Christmas morning when Russ and Carter were so excited about the things they had lovingly picked out for me.  I would like a whole do over of the day so I can properly show my loved ones how much they and their kindnesses mean to me.


The only good thing about the whole situation was the three pounds I lost, but I know that as soon as I eat again they will find me.  The good news is for my next party I am going to have a caterer.  I am doing my best not to kill any guests or myself ever again.  I hope you had the best Christmas ever, that all the sweaters you got flatter you and that nothing went right into the regifting closet.

Merry Christmas! a holiday greeting from Dana’s elves

Dana has been sick – and asleep – all day.  Too sick to write her own post , but she hopes everyone has had a very Merry Christmas.

Until tomorrow…

Carter, Russ and Shay Shay

Christmas Eve Thanks



Our Shay Shay’s confused we are all home today.

Mama’s been cooking the old fashioned fattening way.


Standing rib roast, cauliflower au gratin,

Sweet potatoes with bacon pecan chili topin’.


Gingerbread cake with caramel sauce and apples for sinners

The calories abound at Christmas Eve dinners.


The table is set awaiting friends to arrive

Bringing the greens to fill out the sides.


We’ll start with some cheese – goat is the best

Served on rosemary raisin crackers with zest.


A top I will spread a dollop of jam,

Only slightly less evil than a sliver of ham.


We will not sit down at the table to eat

Until the popovers are popped and full of  big heat.


When you starve all year long awaiting this meal

You try not to wolf it down with great zeal.


For Christmas is about giving thanks for our savior

And not about all those holiday flavors.

Fear Not the Take Over of the Machines


With no idea what I was going to blog about today I finally sat down for the first time today — I don’t count driving the car in crazy Christmas traffic sitting.  I opened my computer and up popped not just one but two calendar reminder messages with a little alarm clock icon that read “Christmas Eve tomorrow.”  No Shit.  Does my computer think I don’t know that today is the eve of Christmas Eve?  I am no longer worried that machines are going to take over the world.


My computer should know from the lists I have been writing to see who has been naughty and who has been nice that I am in full on Christmas preparation.  If the Google searching for the right gifts is not evidence then the Pintrest pinnings in “Christmas Dinner ideas” should scream loud and clear “I am working on the holiday.”


The food searches for gingerbread and Yorkshire pudding and my computer, if it were truly intelligent, would hint that something big was up since I have not looked at a carb recipe in months.  But no, the machine feels the need to remind me.


Perhaps she feels neglected since I spent all day Saturday hand writing out 300 Christmas cards.  There is a lot to be said for e-mailing cards.  My computer probably liked the year we sent a Jib-jab card with Russ, Carter and me in full-blown Afro’s disco dancing across the screen to some Christmas jingle.  I like to change it up and send a real card every once in a while, but my computer certainly felt neglected that day.


Maybe my computer was worried I had missed the Christmas is coming hints from the 15,673 marketing e-mails from every store within a 300 mile radius and every online retailer I ever order from since I deleted them as fast as they were clogging up my inbox.


I got it, tomorrow’s Christmas Eve.  The presents are mostly wrapped, the Christmas Eve dinner is half cooked, the church service is on the calendar so dear computer no need to remind me again.  I’m interested to know if you are going to remind me tomorrow that the next day is Christmas.

Army Diet


This morning on CBS Sunday morning they did a feature on the Army trying to update their mess halls’ food to make it healthier.  First I should correct myself, they no longer call the places where soldiers eat Mess Halls, but dining rooms.

The scene was a dining room at Fort Bragg, not too far from us in North Carolina.  It was soul food day and the food serving line was full of macaroni and cheese, corn bread, fried chicken and ribs, they did have collard greens, but I think they were cooked in fat back.  Come on, it was soul food day of course it was all fattening.


Anyway, the army has brought in chefs from the CIA, that’s the good CIA-Culinary Institute of America to sneak healthy food into the army diets.  They also put little signs on the food to show which were the best offerings, green for good, yellow for OK and red for you-better-just-eat-a-little-of–this.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.  The second you start telling people that they should not have macaroni and cheese often that is all they can think about.


Now the army is in better shape than the rest of America, literally.  Only ten percent of them are overweight since working out is a big part of their job, and most of them are young men who still have fabulous metabolisms.  It will be better for all of them to eat a healthy diet, but just don’t tell young men that you have snuck quinoa into their apple cobbler, just do it.  It is the same thing mothers have been doing for years.  Carrots shreds in spaghetti sauce are never noticed and therefore never complained about.


Since our tax dollars are going to these CIA chefs creating recipes I would like them to share them with the rest of America who are something like fifty percent being over weight.


When I was a kid the first exercise book I ever saw was a little paperback my father had that was the Canadian Air force exercise program.  I don’t think my Dad knew any Canadians and I certainly had never heard they had an air force of any kind, who were they protecting, polar bears?   But they had a great work out routine complete with pictures of how to do lunges, way ahead of its time in 1968.


I guess that if I had a job where I would probably stay alive longer if I were able to run faster while carrying a heavy gun I would be in better shape.  Since my hobby job at Durham Magazine and my passion job of head of the board at the Food Bank require only heavy mental lifting I don’t have the needed job requirements for working out.  Perhaps the Canadian Air Force could use me as a consultant of some kind.  I always liked looking at that little book with cute guys doing push ups.

All Is Right In The World




Whoever says they don’t believe in Christmas miracles is no friend of mine.  We have had our small, and I mean this in the tiniest way, Christmas miracle.  The new snowman Russ ordered to replace his beloved ten-year-old 12 foot inflatable one arrived yesterday, a whole two weeks earlier than anticipated.


So against Shay Shay’s wishes, Russ put our new Frosty up today.  See Shay is afraid of the snowman and if I thought she could open the front door and let herself both outside and back inside without us knowing I would say she took the last snowman down.


Just as the sun was setting he tied down Frosty’s stabilizing lines and the new and improved lights inside her glowed brightly.  A running neighbor, Peggy rounded the corner and exclaimed, “Frosty’s back!”


So for all the children who let us know that our snowman was down in a puddle in the front yard the magic of Christmas has been restored.  Thanks for the condolence notes we received about our first snowman.  I must have had three-dozen comments in the last five days.


Santa is going to be able to find our house now that we have a glowing white beacon of the season in the front yard.  At seventy five degrees today our inflatable Frosty is the only way to go.

I Want a Grinch


Then he slunk to the icebox.  He took the Who’s feast! 

He took the Who-pudding!  He took the roast beast! 

He cleaned out that icebox as quick as a flash. 

Why that Grinch even took their last can of Who-hash!


Then he stuffed all the food up the Chimney with glee.
“And NOW!” grinned the Grinch, “I will stuff up the tree!”


…And the one speck of food

That he left in the house

Was a crumb that was even too small for a mouse.


I am looking for this food stealing Grinch

To come to my kitchen, pantry and fridge.

This man who can clean out all of my goodies

And leave me with nothing from those gift-giving foodies.

A Grinch who could follow me around parties

And take from my plate all the fattening tarties.

Perhaps one day I can be an innocent Who

For which a cup of water and a pat on the head will do.

Gifts You Can’t Wrap



Today was the start of my wrap-a-palazzo.  I don’t know why I wait so late to start wrapping; I’ve had most of my gifts for months.  This is the day I discover that I have bought too many gifts for one person and not enough for another.  So the gift rebalancing must happen.


Rebalancing is not that hard when you have a family made up mainly of girls.  The only problem comes in the monogrammed, personalized area.  I guess I could always save a gift for another year, but that certainly would mean that I could forget about that gift all together and find it in April three years later.  So everyone is getting all the gifts that I intended to give him or her.


Wrapping is something I am torn about.  No pun intended there.  I love to create a beautiful package, but I don’t want my box, paper, ribbon, tag and any possible ornamentation to be worth more than the gift inside.  I also hate to throw away all those beautiful ribbons.


I know this love of a beautifully wrapped gift came from my maternal Grandmother Mima.  Every year the most gorgeous presents would arrive at our Connecticut home all the way from Knoxville, Tennessee.  Each gift looked completely different from the next and all were works of art that even Martha Stewart could learn from.


I am in no way worthy to be in Mima’s league.  I normally have a color theme and only use a couple of papers but lots of different ribbons, but everything must coordinate.  Ribbons are my real passion.  I absolutely will not confess to how many ribbons I have, but I probably don’t need to ever in my whole life purchase another ribbon, but don’t hold me to that.


The funniest thing about my love of a beautifully wrapped gift is that I really don’t want any wrapped gifts myself.  The only things I want (besides needlepoint gift certificates) are experiences to share with loved ones.  OK, I take that back, there is one thing — a magical redo of my closets where all my summer shoes were taken out and all my winter shoes were reorganized as well as all my summer and winter clothes which were organized by size, type and color.  This is a gift I probably can only give myself so I wish that I was Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie and I could just blink and with the flip of my pony tail my closets were done, that and I had Barbara Eden’s body.


While I am Jeannie I also wish that hunger could be ended and everyone had good job opportunities, that people were tolerant of the way other’s were born and let’s throw in world peace.   See those things could never be wrapped because no wrapping on earth would ever be worthy of making a happier world.

Salad on a Stick



Recently I was looking for a healthy recipe for an hors d’oeuvre to bring to a party.  Normally I don’t need a recipe for something for a party.  Lord, I have cooked for at least a thousand parties between my catering business and my own entertaining.  But the problem is when I think about an appetizer or finger food my mind goes to cheesy, or bacony, or bready something.


Think about the top ten finger foods:

Ham biscuits, that makes it in two categories

Baked Brie—again two check marks there because it is not just a cheese, but it either has puff pastry around it and or it is spread on a slice of French bread

Spinach artichoke dip – don’t be fooled by the mention of not just one, but two vegetables in the name, the majority of it is mayonnaise and cheese and it also must be served on something, usually a cracker or bread

Stuffed Mushrooms – Just a hollow place for hot cheese or even better crabmeat and hot cheese

Anything wrapped in bacon – of course

Crostini- that’s Italian for toast with something fattening on it

Cheese puffs or anything with the word puff in it– that just means that the butter is so well incorporated into it that is turns into butter air

Fried mozzarella- Fried equals bread and fat together then add the cheese

Mini Pizzas- This could be the mother load if you also put bacon on them

Shrimp Cocktail- – Ta Da- a healthy hors d’oeuvre.  The one in ten.


Of course there is the veggie platter.  I often am the only one eating it and always want to make a host happy they went to the trouble to prep all those colorful vegetables, but it is not the appetizer that makes most people really happy.  Why is it that party food is the last hold out of 1960’s cuisine?  If someone could just invent a salad on a stick I could be a really happy guest.

The Loss of a Loved One



We love snowmen in out house.  Well, not the real wet kind of snowmen and not in the house.  Although there are more than a gaggle of snowmen in the entry hall and probably a few hundred on the Christmas tree, but a few hundred out of a few thousand ornaments is not that many.



Our family love of Snowmen can be tracked back to Dec.  6, 2003 when Carter had her snow princess fifth birthday party.  Russ and I found a twelve-foot tall inflatable snowman that greeted Carter’s princess guests as they came to the house.  The snowman became quite popular in our neighborhood and somehow I was now a person who displayed an inflatable.



Since the snowman was holiday appropriate we left him up that season until Christmas was over.  The next year came and people, especially those with little children asked us where our snowman was.  So Russ would go to the attic and drag down the box.  Each year more and more people would know us as the house with the snowman.  Somehow it was OK with me since it was twelve feet tall and if you are going to have an inflatable it better be just one giant one.


Each year Russ and Carter would have to make some repair to what was bought as one time use item.  The base broke apart, but they fashioned a new one out of wood and tie wraps, a hole would open up, but a small bit of duct tape would take care of that, a light would blow out, but new snowman appropriate light bulbs were available at Home Depot.  Sometimes the snowman would go down and Russ would announce it might be the end of our beloved.  Last year some young hooligans actually set a firecracker off at the base of the snowman, but he survived.


This year on Margaret Jones Honorary Luminary day as I was setting out my 75 white luminary bags I noticed the sun was shinning on the snowman in the most beautiful way.  I took a picture of the front lawn with the bags and the snowman thinking about the changes that the snowman has seen in the last ten years.



Little did I know that luminary day was going to be the last one for our wonderful giant friend.  After a decade of service the fan motor that keeps the snowman up gave way.  He lay deflated in a crumpled wad of nylon on the bare grass.


You never know when it will be time to say goodbye to a family member, even one that is just full of hot air.  I’m glad I got that last picture.  Russ seemed to take it the hardest.  He came right in the house after the no resuscitation diagnosis and got on the Internet looking for a new snowman.  I quickly vetoed paying $400 for a 26-foot model.  He found a new one and ordered it even though it probably won’t come until after New Years.  I guess we are destined to be known as the house with the snowman.


Sweet Potato, Brussels Sprout, Hash



Carter calls this fancy food, which is the opposite of what a hash is.  Any winter vegetables would work in this.


2 Sweet Potatoes peeled and cubed into ½ inch chunks

2 cups of Brussels sprouts halved

1 large onion chopped

1 cup of sliced mushrooms

Pinch of nutmeg

Salt and pepper


To ensure that everything is cooked properly I cook each vegetable individually and then mix it together.  In a fry pan, sprayed with Pam put the sweet potatoes on medium heat and add ½ cup of water.  Cook until all the water is out and then stir often until the sweet potatoes are soft and brown a little, salt and pepper them. Set aside.  Do the same with the Brussels spouts, adding nutmeg and salt and pepper at the end.


Sauté mushrooms and onions in a fry pan and mix it all together with the cooked sweet potatoes and sprouts.

Christmas Card Photo Day



When Carter was little I never had any trouble making our Christmas card because I literally had thousands of photos from the year to choose from.  It is easy when you only have one child to make a Christmas card since you don’t have to worry if a picture is better of one child than an other.  I could just pick the photo that was not just cute but really represented what Carter looked like that year.


Sometimes I picked a picture that illustrated a story from the year.  My favorite one, which is worth repeating, is the time when Carter was probably five and we drove through the bank and Carter asked why the male bank teller was wearing a necklace.  After we drove off I told her that he was wearing a crucifix and that showed he believed in Jesus.  Carter announced she wanted an “I believe in God necklace too.”


A few days later we were walking through Sears, it seems like we walked through Sears a lot back then to get somewhere else.  As we passed the jewelry section I saw that Crosses were on sale for 85% off.  I guess that Jesus has a sale season.  So I asked Carter if she wanted to get one.  She looked at all the stock available and picked out a small dolphin from the many crucifixes.  I told her that was not a Cross and she responded, “No, it’s an I believe in God dolphin.”


Well this year there are few repeatable cute stories that relate to the season.  At fifteen not only am I banned from giving out personal information, but also Carter had to have veto power over any photo I might use on a Christmas card.


Since Shay Shay is now included in our card I have the dilemma that people with multiple children have of having to pick the photo that looks good of both of them.  Of course Carter did not pick any of my top three choices but then she forgot I have a blog and can publish one here.  So included is the photo that will not be on our card.

My cards might get to out the week between Christmas and New Years this year and I am considering that a triumph.

The Exam Period Ruin of Christmas



The holidays officially came to a big time pause today.  This is exam week for Carter.  She may only be a freshman but now-a-days even freshman year counts towards getting into college.  It stinks.  No parties or fun, no Christmas music, no celebrations or preparations, except for exams.


Of course the pouring cold rain is adding to the need to be studying feeling in the house.  Now I can’t help with any of the studying.  The test taking is all up to Carter, but I still feel the need to be around to create an atmosphere that is conducive to learning.  Even Russ woke up this morning and told me about a dream he had about having to take the SAT and needing to study math.  I am sure that Russ could take the SAT without doing any studying and do quite fine so why he is having the school anxiety dream I am uncertain.


Feeling guilty about doing anything fun while Carter was stuck in her study cave Russ and I went out in the cold wet day to do the one thing that she did not want to so, to look at new washers and dryers.  I was using this trip to Home Depot as a covert way to get my steps in since I was not going to walk the neighborhood and get soaking wet.


Researching washer and dryers is a horrible job.  Yes we have Consumer Reports and all the tools the Internet has to overwhelm us with, but until you throw a really soiled towel in a machine and pull it from a dryer you have no idea if the duo you have chosen is a match made in heaven.


I have been thinking about a new washer and dryer for a long time.  When front loaders first came out and were considered practically sexy Carter was about seven.  One evening when Russ was on a business trip to China Carter and I went to the mall for dinner.  We strolled through Sears on our way back to our car and lingered in the appliance department looking at the cherry red washer and dryer combos on their pedestal drawer units.  A bored salesman, thrilled with a potential customer in the empty store quickly asked us if we were looking to buy.  Carter in a very grown up way responded,  “No, we are just dreaming.”


Eight years later I am still looking at washers, but with a little more urgency.  I am less interested in the front loaders now that top loaders have gotten the center agitator removed, but I just don’t know.  How much can one person read about machines?  It seems like my exam schedule is to learn all I can about the market and make a decision for once and for all.


When Russ and I got home Carter decided it was a good time for us to have a really good mother daughter talk about all things non-exam related.  Her procrastination may be fun for me but I eventually had to cut off the heart-felt talk and suggest she go back to the books.  I still had load size specifications to review.  I hate that exams ruin this week before Christmas.

Christmas as Seen Through Shay Shay’s Eyes



Christmas is big in our house, not news.  The whole house gets turned upside down with decorations.  Parties, celebrations, and general merriment happen almost daily.  Vast amounts of good smelling foods are constantly being cooked.  Delivery people are coming to the door, sometimes two or three at a time.  Wrapping paper, bows, ribbons and especially tissue paper are plentiful.  All these are things that Shay Shay, our beloved labradoodle loves.  Christmas is her favorite time of year.


Today my friend Lynn, affectionately called Baby Chick in our house and I had a few friends over for a little lunch and Shay was sure the whole do was just for her.  She would stand at the glass door staring out as friends, some new; some unfamiliar came to her door certainly to see her she thought.  Festive in her big red bow she would stand on her hind legs and greet each guest.


Certain that she was the center of everyone’s attention she circled the table as people enjoyed their lunch, pausing by the person who laughed the loudest anticipating some food might fall from their mouth, but none did.


Shay is fairly well behaved, but she can show some frustration if none of these humans who came just to rub her belly were doing their job.  At one point as Shay was demanding attention I told her, “Go jump in Baby Chick’s lap.”  Shay turned from me and scanned the room and made a beeline for Lynn, bounding in an unladylike way on to her.   Lynn and Shay are fast friends and Shay never misses an opportunity to exploit Lynn’s weakness for a furry lovey.


Although there were plenty of unattended plates of cake sitting right at Shay’s nose she waited to take a nibble until all the guests had left the room and then only had one small taste.  She was greatly disappointed it was not a liver cake.


Shay politely waited until all the guests had gone before she took some tissue paper and ripped it into tiny shreds, as is her favorite pastime.  When the house was empty she despondently lay by the Christmas tree surveying wondering when the next party would start.  Like a small child on Christmas morning after all the presents have been unwrapped, Shay was a little let down.


But the party is not over yet.  It is just the beginning of the whole holiday season.  More cooking and wrapping, more friends will arrive, the festivities continue and as far as Shay thinks we are doing this all for her.  After all she is the baby of the house and isn’t Christmas more magical when seen through the eyes of a child or at least a very cute dog?

Holiday Party Explosions



I love to entertain which is no secret to anyone, but I really blow it out at the Holidays.  I think that I use my ridiculously decorated house as an excuse to have yet another party.  The Christmas is only thrown up for a month a year so how many people can I get into my house to enjoy it?  It’s not like I run a Christmas house tour or something, but I love to have friends come and sit at my table and eat, laugh and tell stories.


This obsession with entertaining started early.  I remember cooking a dinner for my friends and our dates before a cotillion dance in 8th grade.  In college I made a full meal in my freshman dorm before a sorority dance for three couples.  Even though I was able to make chicken in my toaster oven and fettuccini Alfredo in a hot pot I did not have the space to serve it the way I wanted.  All five guests and myself had to sit on the floor around my trunk, which served as a table.  Not the most comfortable for the girls in our dresses.


In my later years in college throwing parties got easier because I lived in a great house off campus that had a real dining room and kitchen.  I remember Hugh Braithwaite loved my crab dip so much that when I ran out of crackers he used my dog Beau’s Kibble and Bit’s to scoop up the cheesy hot dip.


Now my dining room is set and ready for guests and having enough food does not seem to be a problem.  The dilemma now is there are not enough days to have all the friends I want to come sit.  Regular life gets in the way of Christmas merriment.


I don’t care about shopping or gifts.  I just want the company of good friends, a yummy meal and lots of laughter to celebrate the season.

Warren’s Durham Day

IMG_3660 IMG_3658


After nineteen years of living in Durham my very old friend Warren finally came to visit us.  We had been imposing on Warren for years on our family trips to Maine every summer to stay in his Howard Johnson inspired rooms in Rockport.   See Warren collects all things Howard Johnson and happens to live on the beautiful clam cove in the mid-coast very near where we go to family camp.


Thanks to a man in Raleigh who was selling a large set of Howard Johnson ice cream fountain mirrors on e-bay Warren finally broke down and drove south to pick up his winning item.  I convinced him that he needed to spend one day in Durham to help break up the two days of driving down and two days back.  So one day in Durham is what he got.


When we first planned the visit I did not know that he would be here for drive-through-day for the Heart of Carolina Food Drive.  When he arrived I gave Warren the choice of sleeping in or getting up early and coming to the Kroger store to help collect food from people and watch me be interviewed on TV.


Warren said he could sleep anytime, but he could not get many opportunities to try and distract me while being interviewed on live TV very often.  I am happy to say that he did not run behind me or make rabbit ears or do anything that would make me look bad on TV.   I think the highlight of the morning for Warren was the tour of the TV van, which looks more like a spaceship.


We followed that excitement with a tour of the neighborhood and a good walk for Shay, and then we headed downtown.  I took Warren to Russ’ office at American Tobacco overlooking the Durham Bulls ball park to show him how great an old factory town can look when it get’s repurposed.


We then headed to Watts Grocery so he could experience real southern food done the modern way that only the brilliant Amy Tournquist can make it.  Warren, the consummate Yankee was a chicken and waffles virgin so he was deflowered right there in Watts.  There’s no putting that toothpaste back in the tube now that he has had a taste of that true southern specialty.


Following lunch we ran over to Chapel Hill and stopped at the needlepoint store to pick up some finished items and Warren got to meet some stitching buddies.  He had to meet Nancy the owner since she has a great love of Howard Johnson for very personal reasons and she had heard all about Warren’s house when I stitched him a Ho Jo’s ornament as a thank you for our many visits.


We rounded the day out by setting up the house for a party, packing up the very large and fragile Ho Jo’s mirrors for the drive home, taking Carter by the mall and eating soup for dinner by the Christmas tree.


One fast day in Durham and it was great to have my friend who has known me for 37 years come and visit.  In between all this activity we laughed and reminisced talking about all the friends and some others we have known through the years.  I hope that someone else in North Carolina sells Warren an unmailable Ho Jo’s item so he can come back for another visit soon.  Our family will certainly be imposing on him in Maine soon enough and I need to do some paybacks.




I’m On TV Tomorrow



Tomorrow is the Food Bank’s last day of the Heart of Carolina Food Drive.  This is the time of year when people are the most generous to those who have less.  The Heart of Carolina is a great way to give to the people in our community who are hungry and is our biggest food and funds drive.


Helping people have enough to eat has changed from being an emergency event to a chronic one.  Most of the over half a million people the Food Bank helps are the working poor and children.  Our Food Bank is incredibly efficient with all we are given. We can turn every dollar into five meals.  Ninety-seven percent of all our donations turn into food that goes right out to feed one of our neighbors.


Your help is needed and appreciated by so many people you may never know, but especially by me.  Tomorrow I will be at the Kroger on Hillsborough St. in Durham at 7:30 AM and will be on ABC-11 TV during the local cut in of Good Morning America.  If you can stop by and bring food or funds I would love to see you there.


If you can’t come out to Kroger please consider donating online.  Last year so many of you donated to my Less Dana fund where you gave over $53,000 to the Food Bank.  I will be eternally grateful to all of you who have supported the great work the Food Bank does.


I know that everyone is busy at 7:30 in the morning on December 11 so just click on this link to donate Heart of Carolina Donation.  I hope that you and your family are always fortunate to never know hunger.  I am fortunate to know you and count all you friends as one of my greatest blessings.

$3,791 a Day For Exercise is Just Too Much



It’s raining again.  I think the weather has been yucky for the last few days.  Of course it is nothing in Durham like it is around most of the country. I am not going to complain about our rain when it could be ice or snow.  But officially winter has not started yet and I do live in North Carolina so I feel entitled to nice weather 90% of the time.


Our dog Shay Shay who has never left the state also dislikes rain and cold weather.  If we open our front door in the morning and it’s raining she stands at the glass door with a sad sack look on her face and turns and goes back to bed, opting to hold it rather than go out in the rain.  I have to drag her outside and then she will go about three feet from the front door pee and run back to the house.


All this rain is not helping me get my exercise done.  Yes I still go and see my trainer in the rain, but that exercise hardly registers any steps on my wrist master.  I did some time on the elliptical only to discover no steps were registered with that machine.  I guess the gliding motion does not count.


My friend Margaret, who lives in Minneapolis, texted me a picture of her gym this morning to show me how she is able to get her steps in.  The room must have 300 exercise machines in it.  Poor Margaret.  When she used to live in Durham I would see her walking outdoors almost everyday.  I can’t imagine doing all my steps inside.


Actually I can imagine it because that is what I have been doing the last few rainy days.  Today after lunch I went to Costco.  I thought I might really be able to get a lot of steps in there and stay dry and do some shopping all at the same time.  I looked at my phone to see what number I was starting at.  I had only gone a measly 3,005 steps by 1:45 in the afternoon.


With my cart and card in hand I started in at eh big screen TVs.  I wanted to make the most of the steps as well as the Christmas shopping so I went up and down every aisle of the warehouse.  I tried to keep up a good pace but some elderly shoppers as well as some interesting items slowed me up.  For the record no senior citizens were injured in my workout/shopping trip.


I made sure not to miss a single aisle even the automotive one where I knew there was not one item I needed.  I found many things to buy to the tune of spending $419.  I was certain that I must have taken at least 2,500 steps.  As I rolled my full cart out to the far reaches of the parking lot I looked at the step counter.  Only 1105 steps!!  That worked out to just under forty cents per step.  WHAT!  At that rate it would cost me $3,791 to get my 10,000 step goal.


I am giving up on getting steps shopping.  It is hard enough to maneuver a cart around all those people browsing and avoiding the sampling elves yelling out, “Try my chocolate peppermint bark,” is enough to do me in.  I did consider stopping in the Home Depot next door to get steps in without any temptations, but my socks were sliding down inside my shoes and I had a car full of expensive food that I thought I should get home.


I am hoping that the rain lets up soon and I can walk my dog outdoors like a good southern girl likes to do.  I can’t bring myself to go to one of those exercise factories like Margaret has in the great cold north.

Step To It



There is always one day during the season that seems to be more packed with holiday get togethers than any other and yesterday was it.  Not only were there parties galore but it was also Carter’s birthday so Christmas and birthday celebrations had to be entwined together.


After Carter passed the driver’s test and was dropped off at school for a basketball ball game I was able to enjoy one of my favorite annual traditions, my friend Morgan’s annual wreath making party.  Morgan is a queen of flower arrangements and loves to bring out women’s inner crafter by providing everything necessary to make a beautiful wreath from scratch.  I love this party and have made some great wreaths over the years, but my real talent at this party is the bow making part of the craft.


Since I normally spend half my time making my own wreath and half making bows for other people I decided this year to just make bows.  My friend Christy is also a bow princess herself so she and I set up shop in the bow room, which was an oriental rug covered room with a garage door that opened to the outside where the wreath making tables spanned the length of the driveway.  Inside our room were tables and shelves covered in hundreds of different rolls of every kind of ribbon one could want; burlap, silk, sheer and sparkly.  Martha Stewart would be jealous.


As we whipped up many different ribbon adornments for our friends beautiful creations Christy, who is also a Fit Bit wearer said to me, “I don’t think we are getting many steps in making these bows.”  That’s when I started marching in place while looping the ribbon back and forth to create a pompom number.


Later that night while at my neighbor’s holiday cocktail party my friend Lee tapped her Nike Fuel band step counter on her wrist to see how many steps away from goal she was.  That prompted us to take a spin around the host’s house to help us get closer to goal and visit the bar at the same time.  I looked around the room and noticed that many of us middle aged women types had on our step counting bracelets with our cocktail dresses.  I had not yet met my goal before going to that party so I needed to keep mine on.


I am happy to report that since I started wearing my Fit Bit I have lost five pounds.  It is not all because of the steps I am taking but I have really cracked down on my portion control so that the holidays do not get the better of me.  But the step counting is responsible for keeping me on track and acts as a constant reminder.  Why would I want to put in all this work to get 10,000 steps a day and then blow it by eating too much?


I ended the day hosting Carter’s birthday get together by taking four girls to the Harris Teeter at midnight in their PJ’s to get some sleepover junk food.  I was happy I had gotten all my steps in by then so I did not have to traipse through the store in my flannel nightgown.  I’m fairly sure that no one at the grocery store at midnight had on a step counting bracelet anyway.

Happy Birthday Carter



What would make a teenager wake up at 6:30 on a Saturday morning when she could sleep in? The answer has to be that it’s her fifteenth birthday and she was going to the DMV to take her learners permit test.   Yes, Carter is fifteen today.


As I was driving her over in the grey drizzle of the morning light I thought about this day fifteen years ago when I was just looking forward to finally meeting Carter.  I could not even imagine getting to this rite of passage then.


I looked over at my daughter who is a good four inches taller than me as she studied her road signs and I just blinked thinking about the day she learned to ride a bike without training wheels.  I remember watching her ride with confidence away from me that first time and I cried knowing that it was the beginning of the independence a child feels when they control where they are going.


Of course I get to spend the next year in the passenger seat as she master’s driving amongst the other citizens on the road. Time in the car has always been a place of great discussions, confessions and advice.  I am saddened thinking that I have only 365 short days left of our time together especially since I don’t really want her to tell me about her school day when she is driving.


Driving is one big step away from home.  I’ve spent the years training her to be ready to go but have done nothing to get myself ready.  All these driving courses and learners permits and provisional licenses and what is there for parents?  No course in being ready for our child to leave the nest.


I am not a bird who lays an egg and pushes that baby out of the nest to learn to fly and then lays another egg and does it all over again.  I have but one little bird, no more to come and although I want her to fly far and high I know I will miss her.  I already miss holding the steering wheel.


So, happy birthday Carter.  Congratulations on passing your learners permit test.  Your father and I are very proud of who you have become and are still becoming.  Just remember you are always welcome to sit in the passenger seat and tell me about your day.

No Christmas Cookie Zone



Part of my Christmas decorating over-doing-it involves making a ginger bread house.  This is an activity that Carter also likes to join in on so we usually end up with at least two houses.  Since Carter turns 15 tomorrow she has been spending her precious free time studying her drivers ed book in preparation for taking her learners permit test.  I finally got tired of waiting for her and went ahead and made one house myself today.


I did not want to be tempted by baking gingerbread so I took the cheaters way out and used my plastic house as the base.  I employed those hard store bought ginger snaps as the covering of my house.  I am a soft cookie kind of girl so I was not enticed to nibble on my building materials.


I purposely bought candies to decorate with that are not my favorite, starlight mints, spiced gum drops and mint M&M’s.  Now I normally would have some trouble with an open bag of M&M’s but the combination odors of ginger snaps and mint is down right disgusting.  This was not something I planned.  I bought the mint M&M’s because they came in three shades of green.


Leaving many of the candies that hold allure to my mouth as well as my gingerbread house-decorating gene on the store shelves made creating a sugar dream hard.  The house is not my best looking, but it was my lowest caloric gingerbread house ever at zero.  In the end that makes it a winner in my eyes.


Abstaining is the only way I can deal with holiday goodies.  I am thankful that my friend Carol has a no-cookie option at her annual cookie swap.  The people who come to her house go all out in their creations of delicious cookies.   The problem with cookie swaps is I want to taste each type of cookie I get and since you only get three of 30 different cookies that is a lot of tastes.


Even if I bring the cookies home and put them right in the freezer they are not safe from me.  It is amazing how good frozen cookies are.  So holiday baking is out as well as holiday candy making.  Skipping the sweets and keeping my mouth sugar free will not ruin my holiday like gaining holiday pounds would.

Rest In Peace Nelson Mandela



As a college student in the early eighties in America my exposure to South Africa was all about apartheid and the pressure on multinational companies doing business in South Africa to end human rights abuses.  It was a very one-sided view of a complicated country and one that brought me no interest in ever going there.


Fast forward to 1996.  Nelson Mandela had won the presidency two years before in the first multiracial elections after he negotiated the end to apartheid.  Things were changing fast in South Africa but the news of the country still left me disinterested in visiting.


Then I was tasked with finding locations to shoot commercials for BT, the British Telephone Company and before I knew it I was on a place from London to Johannesburg.  Although I was sick of hearing about South Africa from the years of news coverage I actually knew practically nothing about the country.


My disinterest was immediately replaced with a love at first sight in my first days in the beautiful country.  The people I met there, both black and white, were incredibly kind, sweet, generous and interesting.  I visited the homes of a tribe of Pedi who wore tartan kilts, game preserves that raised big cats, farms of Afrikaners who raised ostriches, the Kruger Park for safaris as well as the grand palace resort in Sun City.


People would ask me if in America I had heard of what Nelson Mandela was doing in South Africa.  The question was posed to me with different inflections depending on who was doing the asking.  I told them of course I had heard of him.  Clearly things were changing fast in this country.  The surprise I felt most is that all the people I met appeared to be the happiest people on earth.  I don’t know if they were that way before Mandela’s election, but I have to guess they were inclined that way naturally because it was so genuine.


It came as a little bit of a shock to me since I had spent the fifteen previous years being bombarded by media reports of strife and great unhappiness in South Africa.  Of course reality is not always the way things are portrayed in the news, but I definitely got the feeling that much of the good that was happening was due to the work that Nelson Mandela did.


South Africa is still the one place on earth I want to revisit.  The people I met there made me feel welcomed and treasured.  They were excited about the possibility of my shooting commercials in their beautiful country and showing the British that South Africa was so much more than the country that had apartheid.  I am thankful I was able to visit South Africa when Nelson Mandela was President and see what he was doing.  God Bless Nelson Mandela.

Sweet Potato Apple Bisque



Yesterday I made the trek over to the farmer’s market in Raleigh to buy my boxwood wreaths.  While I was there I perused the fruits and vegetables being sold by local farmers.  I am known to love a deal or two so I could not resist buying a forty-pound box of sweet potatoes for $20.  Carter of course thought I was nuts, but they will keep through the winter in the garage and are the most nutritious starch I can think of.  I also bought a half-peck of local apples.  I was able to sample the different varieties so I got some pink ladies, honey crisp, crimson crisp and Fuji.


So with my larder full I of course needed to make something for dinner with my haul.  Tonight’s dinner is soup that is gluten, dairy and meat free yet still yummy.  Now I eat dairy so I garnished mine with a dollop of fat free sour cream.  I am very happy.


1 large onion chopped

3 celery ribs chopped

1 T. thyme

4 cloves of garlic minced

2 T. ground cumin

1 t. ground cloves

1 t. allspice

Salt and pepper

3 cups of stock (vegetable or chicken)

1 cup of apple cider

1 cup of water

3 large sweet potatoes – peeled and chopped

3 apples – peeled and chopped


Spray Pam in a large stockpot and add the onions, celery and thyme.  Cook on medium high heat for five minutes.  Add garlic and spices and cook another two minutes, stirring often.  Add the liquids, potatoes and apples, cover and simmer until tender about 25 minutes.  Using and immersion blender puree the soup and taste for salt and pepper.

Cooking Contest



I need a videographer.  That sounds like a big word.  I really just need someone to hold my phone and videotape me.   I am thinking of entering a contest to get on a TV show that is a healthy cooking chef contest.  I don’t have much time.  The videos are due on Sunday.


I barely qualify since it is a contest for cooking professionals, but they say past cooking experience is acceptable and catering is one of the categories.  Recipe developers also count and since my original recipes appear in Durham Magazine and I have been paid for them that makes me a professional.


The main thrust of the contest is to find Chefs who can take regular recipes and make them in a more healthy way.  On that front I consider myself a master.  Who better than someone who spends their days trying to come up with ways to lose weight that still involves eating?


My big hope is that they are also looking for someone who can tell funny stories while slimming down a recipe.  That would put this contest right in my wheelhouse.  But I will never know if I don’t get someone who is skilled at filming, or at least has a steady hand to help me make this five-minute video.


I also have to come up with a dish I want to makeover from something fattening to something healthy and yummy.  It has been so long that I have thought about fattening food that I can’t begin to think of a subject to makeover.  The whole universe is open to me and I am drawing a blank.  I should have spent the day looking at cookbooks and not doing errands.  Something will come to me, but it won’t matter if I can’t tape it and send it off.


So send me suggestions of fattening dishes I can makeover and please let me know if you can help me tape.

Leftover Roast Vegetable Salad


By now all the good parts of the Thanksgiving meal are certainly gone.  If you have any stuffing or pecan pie raise you hand and wave it wildly.  No flapping arm fat on you.

For most of us the things that are left are the things you tell your children they have to take one bite of and even then they do it under protest.  Don’t throw those roast vegetables away; repurpose them to a sweet and savory salad.

1 lb oven-roasted green beans

1 head of oven-roasted broccoli

½ a red onion minced

1-pint cherry tomatoes halved

¼ cup yellow raisins

2 T. capers

3 T. sherry vinegar

5 packets of Splenda

Salt and Pepper

Mix everything together and watch it disappear.

Turkey Day Calorie Math



On Thanksgiving I ate one helping of the regular kind of turkey day stuff, carrots, sweet potatoes, turkey, stuffing, gravy, green beans and half of a dessert.  The next day the scale was up one pound.  Certainly the salt in the food I ate helped retain enough water to makeup that weight gain because I in no way ate 3,500 extra calories in that one meal.


It took the next three days of nun like eating to rid myself of that one Thanksgiving meal.  Was that celebratory meal worth it?  Probably not, but depriving myself the next three days was worth getting back on center since the eating season has started.


The only way I can last through the parties and eating reverie that is planned for the last month of the year is to actively and dramatically cut back on all consumption and not give into the carb fest that is the Christmas holiday season.  The one meal of Thanksgiving is proof that my body loves those calories so much that when it gets hold of them they holds on tight.


There are no BLT’s in the month of December for me – and no I’m not talking about a tasty Bacon Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich.  BLT’s are bites, licks and tastes.  Just a bit of Christmas cookie, or sip of eggnog are the calories that stick hard to me.  Using Thanksgiving as a guide if I let myself eat one holiday meal at every party I am invited to it will take me over three months of near starvation and constant working out to just get back to where I am now.


But I don’t want to miss a party, or hide away from all the fun just because it is filled with dangerous food.  No, I will go head long into the celebration, but I will go armed and ready.  If you have invited me to your home please don’t be offended if I pass on your delicious fare.  I know others will love it.  I instead will enjoy seeing you and visiting with friends.  My happiness is not dependent on eating something yummy.  My happiness is also not dependent on my scale, but staying the course certainly will not add stress to my life.


Goodbye to Thanksgiving and hello to Christmas.  I know we can be good friends and have a healthy holiday season.