Happy New Year Mah Jongg Style



I went to the mailbox today and it was like Christmas. The new Mah Jongg card for 2014 was there. For some reason the monopoly run by Ruth at the National Mah Jongg League in NYC has the New Mah Jongg year start April 1. That means that women (and maybe a few men) around the country are all getting their new cards that hold the key to what hands you can win with for the next 12 months.


What? You don’t know what Mah Jongg is? Well it is one of my best addictions, no calories and brain building at the same time. Mah Jongg is an ancient Chinese rummy type game, played with tiles. Seventy-seven years ago someone Americanized the game by adding jokers and creating a card that declared about 70 hands that would be the only ways to win that year.


In Chinese Mah Jongg there are thousands of winning hands that don’t change from one century to the next. The problem is that they are not written down in a form American’s can learn them, let alone memorize them.


I think the New Yorkers who started the American Mah Jongg League did it to put an end to arguments about what a winning hand is. Thus a business was started, which I know did not upset them any. Although they have a monopoly on the creation of the new card they have simplified the game by creating a card that sits in front of every player as a reference.

The new Mah Jongg year also is a great equalizer. In Chinese Mah Jongg the longer you have been playing and learning hands the greater your advantage. In American Mah Jongg new and old players alike all start at the same place on April 1, kind of.


As I take my first glance at this new card I see lots of hands that have been part of old cards. That helps a little, but also can add confusion to an old dog like me. Mah Jongg is all about recognizing patterns, but if I have not memorized what those patterns are it is hard to find them.


Nonetheless the new card is always a reason to celebrate. If you ever want to learn to play Mah Jongg this is the best time of year to do so. I have taught at least 300 people how to play the game and am happy to set up a class if I have enough interested students. Three three-hour classes with playtime are all you need to get started. Let me warn you if you take to it you may have to block an afternoon out a week to feed your addiction, but I will tell you it is time well spent with friends.

Just Because I am Talking Does Not Mean You Have to Listen




Last night was the Durham Academy Auction. It was a beautiful night. The Co-chairs Jane Waters and Kim Leversedge did the appropriate amount of worrying about how the moneymaking side of the evening might go. I know having chaired auctions that no matter how beautiful the decoration are (and Pokey Schiff and Kristy Rosenberg are rock stars on that front), and how many people you get to buy tickets and after all the wrangling the acquisitions people do to get good auction items you still lay awake at night fearful that your auction will be the one that does not raise the money you want it to.


Jane and Kim did everything they could before the auction and then they entrusted the baby they spent all year birthing in my hands as auctioneer with my new sidekick Assistant Headmaster Lee Hark. (For those of you who don’t know Lee he is a world class sidekick as can be seen from his international You Tube hit Durham Academy Weather Announcement). For the record I asked Lee to help me on stage at the auction in September, long before Headmaster Michael Ulku-Steiner made him famous.


Lee and I had to get to the Washington-Duke an hour before the auction for the “sound check.” This is the time that the techy guys wire us up with mikes, mine being the over the ear little wire on my cheek and Lee’s a microphone clipped below his bow tie. We practice our witty banter in a giant ballroom full of tables and chairs, but devoid of the 350 guests. All sounds fine. But having been a charity auctioneer I know this sound check means nothing. Well it just means that the techy guys know their equipment is hooked up.


In the world of charity auctions there are three ways of making money. A silent auction where now a days people bid using their phones – brilliant, worked great last night, made a ton of money thanks to some generous parents bidding up a class project. Then there is the Fund-a-need portion where people just give money for the love of the school; no goods or services are traded. That too was done by our own phones and raised 30% over our goal, great job and thank you.


The last way and the reason I exist is the Live Auction. We had ten items, painstakingly curated to ensure that all demographics were covered, something for kids, boys, girls, grown men, women and families. The live auction is what gives auction chairs angina. What if no one bids? What if the donor of an item who is in the room is embarrassed by a lack of interest? What if no one pays attention?


Here is the reality of charity auctions…less than ten percent of the people in the room have any interest in bidding on anything in the live auction. Live auction items are there to make big bucks. They are not $50 items but thousands of dollar items. That being the case as the auctioneer I know that if you are not interested in bidding you probably are going to talk to your neighbor during the auction and that is all right with me.


My job is to have meaningful bidding conversations with the few who have money they want to spend and get them to spend wildly. It is not my job to make everyone in the room sit quietly and listen to me. For all the people who love me and those with a vested interest in the outcome of the auction, all the people talking makes them crazy. Lee said to me, “You are so funny and people are missing some great material.” Yes, it is nice when you really have an audience wrapped around your hand and they are laughing at just the right moment, but charity auctions are not those events.


Last night was no different. What did happen was exactly was should happen. Enough people were enough interested to pay close enough attention to keep bidding on every item. Everything sold for more than we thought it would. Two really generous donors, Sheppy Vann, retiring Pre-school head and chef extraordinaire Amy Tournquist of Watts Grocery, both had donated items that were going so high that they agreed on the spot to double their donated items. That meant double the amount of work for them, but double the amount of money for the school.


The Live Auction was a big success. Lee, as sidekick did an impressive job modeling the Lilly Pulitzer items. Lots of generous people bid and kept bidding and that’s what I like at an auction. I don’t care if you are talking to your neighbor. I want you to come to the DA auction and have fun and if the spirit or the auctioneer moves you, spend a little money.


Thanks to all the people who worked so hard all year to pull this thing off –the rest of the steering committee I have not already mentioned, Elizabeth Aldridge, Michelle Beischer, Stacey Burkert, Mimi Hansen, Linsey Hughes, Ann Leininger, Caroline Rogers, Nicole Smithwick, Laura Virkler and Molly Walsh. Thanks especially to Sarah Motsinger who calmly and brilliantly staffs the auction all year, Leslie Holdsworth my rock and the whole development office who are invaluable spotters for me during the auction.


The night was a knockout. I was one tiny cog in a big wheel. I say a huge round of applause for all the people working so hard for so long. Congratulations, you did it.

The Walking Blog Excuse



Today Russ came in my office while I was walking at the treadmill desk and asked where the owner’s manual for Katherine was. Katherine is the name Carter has given the car she got for Christmas. “Isn’t it in the car?” I asked. What a dumb question, of course he had already looked there. I stepped off the treadmill and started searching my regular desk. I could not put my hands on it right away and stalled Russ by saying, “I can’t find it and walk at the same time.” He patiently said he would look online for the answer.


Walking nine miles a day takes up a lot of time. There are a few things I am good at doing while walking; talking on the phone, writing on my computer and watching TV are the top three. I also can fold laundry, but I need to improve my system of having the laundry basket on a chair to the side of the desk and putting the folded clothes on the desk. A couple of times now I have almost been thrown backwards off the treadmill as I leaned down sideways to get an item from the basket to fold. I am just not coordinated enough to walk a straight constant line and twist and dip at the same time.


I got to thinking about all the things that are not getting done around here because I am walking and writing my blog. The mail, something I should be able to do while walking seems to be piling up around the house. Even the mail that is actually on my walking desk is piling up. The clothes I have sorted to be donated are still in a big pile on a chair in my bedroom. Speaking of piles, the 100 white linen napkins from our Christmas party are washed and ready to be ironed – it’s only been three months. I have an engagement present that has not been mailed for a month and a half. These are just the recent things.


When we came home from London and Paris I realized that I have not made one scrapbook from any trip for the last seven years at least. I got to thinking that I could do a decade of trips in one book. It would have to be all pictures since I basically don’t remember any details. My vegetable garden plot is unprepared for the off chance that it may get warm enough to plant. I think last year I just threw a few plants in the ground and never pulled one weed and my blog was my only excuse since I was not doing this walking thing then.


Things I have gotten done because of this walking desk is that I have not missed a day of blogging in almost two years, as long as you give me credit for the blogs Carter and Russ wrote when I was sick. I also watched all six seasons of Breaking Bad in one month. It was a great way to keep me on the treadmill, but was depressing when I finished it. The same could be said for House of Cards. Binge watching whole shows is great treadmill work, unfortunately it is bad for living a regular life.


But then I consider my bigger goal. I am walking to try and get to my goal weight. Last year, before I got the walking desk I was stuck in a rut. I was maintaining my weight, but not easily and still had a significant way to go. Since I got the desk I have lost 24 pounds. The other day someone asked me the total I have lost since I started the blog, I thought about and told them 85, I was wrong, it is 89 pounds. So I am giving myself a break from ironing, or gardening or scrapbook making because I actually am accomplishing what I set out to do. There is no need to think that I can do all things all the time. So if there was something I was supposed to do for you, my excuse is I’m on my treadmill writing my blog and that comes first. I have finally found the secret to losing weight and I am not going to let guilt change my course.

Goldilocks Clothes



This week on TV I heard two conflicting reports about the same thing; one said that women buy clothes that are too small in hopes they will lose weight and fit in them and the other said that women purchase clothes that are too big just because they feel good. Now don’t ask me to site the references to these two reports, but I think both of them are correct, just not for the same people.


I feel like there are three groups of women, those who are the wishful shoppers buying smaller clothes, those that are the shlumpy shoppers buying clothes too big and a very small group who actually only buy things that fit well at that very moment. I am in the shlumpy group. Years of changing sizes mostly in the upwards range has trained me that I am more likely to get to wear something longer if it is little big. That’s not a good way to be if you would like to remain your current size or get smaller, but that is the reality I have created for myself.


I know plenty of people who always buy clothes that are too small and they tend to be small people to begin with. My thought for them is, “how much smaller can you get, buy the thing that fits you now.” But perhaps that is how these thinner people at least stay thin. Is that money well spent to keep you at your current weight because you really want to be five pounds thinner to fit into that dress with the tags on it in your closet?


Then there are those few people who always have the appropriately fitting and age appropriate clothes on. They tend not to vary much in their weight which has got to really help since probably all the clothes in their closet are the same size. What I want to know from this group is do you have any clothes that are too big or too small and you put them on when dressing in the morning and rule them out because the fit is not right that day?


My assertion is that no one looks better than the person who is dressed in perfectly fitting clothes. It does not matter if they are designer or from Target, a good fit makes the wearer look best. A great tailor is your best friend, but what are you to do when losing weight? I hate to take the same pair of pants in to be altered every five pounds especially when those pants feel so good a little bigger.


There comes the rub between how good something looks and how good it feels. Today I went to get a Mani/Pedi and my new workout pants were in the wash. I like to wear workout pants when I have to roll the legs up above the knees to get a good foot soaking. I pulled out the ‘fell off my ass” old yoga pants from the donate pile and put them on. The amount of spandex still in them kept them on well enough to go to the salon and boy did they feel like my best pair of PJs. This made an outfit that was way less that attractive but so tempting to wear past the nails stage as long as I did not have to pass a mirror. I did see myself and it was the best definition of shlumpy.


Now I am trying to change which goldilocks bear I am from too big, skipping too small and going to just right in the fit of my clothes. It’s going to be hard. I know I have some favorite items that are too big that must go. I welcome any opinions of my outfits if you see me around. Changing one’s natural inclination is difficult.

The Auction is Coming…The Auction is Coming…




Of all the volunteer jobs I do, and lord knows I do a lot of different things for many various organizations, my favorite job is being an auctioneer at a charity auction. Being a charity auctioneer is like a cross between hosting the Academy Awards and being a stripper just with less glamour and no nudity.


Most of the people who are there are not interested in bidding on anything so they are not paying attention and the other half have had too much to drink. Having never been a stripper I can imagine the half drunk people are similar to their patrons. You want them drunk enough to give you their money but not so drunk that they want to lunge on the stage.


The auction I will be working on Saturday is one of my favorites, Carter’s school, Durham Academy. Today I was meeting with my secret cohort, who will be joining me as my assistant this year and we tried to figure out how many years I have been the Auctioneer for DA. My best guess is five, but these things all seem to run together.


If you are part of the DA family I hope you are coming to Auction, which is appropriately themed on Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. My helper and I considered dressing up as the boy and the tree, with me as the tree. In the end it seemed difficult for me to not just give my apples and branches to the boy, but getting down to being just a stump was more than I could give as auctioneer.


Even without the costumes I promise that this year will be lots of fun, especially with my new helper. There are also some fabulous items in the live auction; a Lilly Pulitzer party at the store, US Open Golf tickets for 14 days of both the men’s and women’s tournaments, a weekend at a great Figure Eight House, A night for two people, one being a sous chef and the other a guest bartender at Nana’s, A week of starter camp at Sea Gull or Seafarer (even for this year which is sold out, or save it for next summer), A house in Vail for next spring break, an Amy Tournquist Dinner for 16 where you get the run of her new bakery Hummingbird all to yourselves and the best meal you ever ate and two special items from our own retiring Sheppy Vann.


Of course there will be my favorite way for everyone at the auction to show their love and support for the school, FUND-A-NEED. For those people who don’t need another thing, or just want a 100% fully tax-deductable donation just give money when I ask you to. It all goes to the best place, the school that you entrust your treasure with everyday, your child.


If you can’t make it to the auction you can donate and bid online. If there is something you want in the live auction we have proxy bidders who are happy to bid for you.   Just click here to visit the auction website and read all the descriptions for yourself. I hope to see you Saturday night and I promise to keep my clothes on as long as you keep bidding big.




I look out the window

The grass is bright green.

The forsythia’s blooming

A big yellow scream.


Daffodils trumpet proudly

In squadrons they stand.

Periwinkle blooms

Lavender carpets the land.


The sun’s shining brightly

High up in the sky.

From inside it looks

Like spring’s best try.


Excited, I step outside

To the cloudless blue.

The cold slaps my face

And I scream FU.

Don’t Hate Me…



Remember that old Pantene commercial, “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful”? I don’t know if anyone ever said that in real life, but it was brilliant marketing because the presumptuous line was forever ingrained in the mind of anyone alive in the 80’s. What I remember thinking about that ad when I saw it is, “Hey, you aren’t so beautiful.”


Because of that ad I am always hesitant to start any sentence with, “Don’t hate me…” It conjures up a horrible arrogance. All that being said I’m going to say this anyway, “Don’t hate me because I have a cleaning lady.” I know I’m lucky and I am eternally grateful to have help to clean my house. I really like to have a tidy house, but if I did not have help I would be one grouchy person.


There is one terrible problem with having someone come and clean my house once a week; the kitchen is so clean I hate to think about messing it up by cooking in it. For a few of my friends this would be a great excuse since they hate to cook or even that they don’t think about eating. For me it is a problem.


Now my cleaning lady has been coming on the same day for many, many years. You would think I could plan ahead and do a lot of really messy cooking the day before, like anything that involves searing meat that releases tiny grease droplets into the air, but no. It never fails that the day my kitchen gets totally simonized is the day I decide I need to cook up a batch of chicken thighs. Or I remember a friend’s birthday and need to pull out the ‘ole Kitchen Aid mixer and whip up a cake sending flour around the room.


I am thinking that maybe I can turn “my cleaning lady just came and cleaned the kitchen” obsession into a new diet plan. Maybe I could see how long I could keep my stove grease free. This just might work if I lived alone and was not tasked with every once in a while providing a meal for my husband who provides everything for me, including the cleaning lady.


I think it is too late for me to turn into one of those wives who does not cook. I guess I need to just do better at planning my cooking on the days right before the cleaning lady comes. I certainly don’t want to do anything to jeopardize having a cleaning lady, because unlike the Pantene girl in the ad I really don’t care if you hate me because I have a cleaning lady.

My Favorite Lunch



Lunch today – Spaghetti and Meatballs, Fettuccini Alfredo, Salad, Italian Bread, Texas Sheet Cake, Lemonade and Water – My favorite lunch of the year. No, I did not eat this for lunch today, just some of the salad and a bite of cake. This is what I served to Carter’s advisory at hot lunch.


Since Carter’s school does not have a cafeteria they have a tradition of different families taking one day during the school year and serving a hot lunch to their advisory group. So one day each month the kids eat as a group and don’t have to brown bag it. Since this starts in Middle school it is basically the only sanctioned time a parent can hang out with the kids and see real school world interaction. It has always been one of my favorite days of the year, today being no different.


Hot lunch is the choice of the child whose parents are bringing it in. If I were Carter I would request me to cook something like ‘somebody died? Fried chicken,” but no she wanted something I almost never allow, lunch from Maggiano’s. I learned long ago not to make hot lunch a battle; it is supposed to be a treat. So I let Carter pick out the menu and I surprised her by baking her favorite Texas Sheet Cake.


I have to say that Carter has the nicest group of kids in her advisory. They were thankful, helpful, kind and fun to have lunch with. I was not treated as a dreaded parent. One of Carter’s good friends Zibby even noticed that I was the thinnest she has ever seen me and asked how I was doing it, which prompted a group discussion about my 20,000 daily steps and my treadmill desk.


Being welcomed one day a year makes hot lunch fun. I’m sure if I were to show up every month the kids would quickly tire of me, or I might get kicked off the board of trustees for telling inappropriate stories to students. One time a year is all I am allowed. The saddest part is that now I only have three more hot lunch events and then Carter will be off to college where I won’t have the same opportunity to get to know her friends. Maybe I can start College hot lunch.

Mother Guilt



After two nine-hour days at Teen Driving Solutions Schools both Carter and Russ declared the weekend a big success.  This is really something coming from a kid who did not want to spend the weekend with a bunch of people she did not know and a husband who did not know he was going to do the class at all.  Considering the starting point their enthusiasm was impressive.  Friends were made, insights into how to coach your new driver were gained, and lots of hands on experience about different driving situations was had.


While Russ and Carter were being productive and improving themselves, their relationship and understanding of each other I was back at the farm wearing Shay Shay out.  The farm is the one place on earth that Shay gets to roam leash free.  Despite having virtually an unlimited amount of land to explore she tends to stay close by me.


Yesterday being the nicer day weather wise I walked the farm road back and forth until I had logged close to ten miles.  Shay started out running in the grass besides me sniffing everything of interest.  At about mile five I noticed that she was limping.  Perhaps that distance is just too great for such a small dog.


Although she was clearly not walking normally she did not complain or stop walking, but I was worried about exasperating the situation.  I took her to our little house and left her, which caused her a lot more stress than the limp.  She jumped up and down at the glass door crying to go with me.  “Stop jumping on your hurt legs,” I thought as I walked away to get the second half of my steps.


I got back to the house and she was still standing at the back door waiting with the “You left me” guilt look on her face.  I opened the door so she could come out and walk up to the big house with me.  She still was limping and now was noticing it.  I stopped walking and she jumped into my arms with the presumption that I would carry her like a baby.  I tried but about halfway up the road her twenty pound body got just to much for me to carry and I had to put her down to walk on her own.  She did it, but I still felt badly about it.


In my mother guilt voice in my head I thought that it was my fault she had hurt her legs while she was trying to keep up with my long distance walking.  Then that same voice thought why the hell was I not able to carry a measly twenty-pound dog?  Hell, at my absolute fattest I used to carry 145 more pounds around all the time.


Today was much colder and rainy so I ended up walking in the house while watching basketball and Shay lay on the sofa watching me, much happier to have a comfy place to recover yet not be alone.  As I was doing my I-must-be-a-crazy-person-walking-around-in-circles-inside-walk it dawned on me that I did not need to feel guilty about my dog having so much fun running free outside on a beautiful day to the point of pulling something.


Shit happens and it does not have to be anyone’s fault.  I also let go of the guilt I felt that Russ and Carter were doing the driving course and I was not.  In the end they both loved it.


I’m not sure where mother guilt comes from, but I know it is a real thing and not a real good thing most of the time.  I’m sure it causes stress and we all know that stress causes eating and that eating causes, well you know.  So I am going to try and concentrate on not having mother guilt, even if it is about my dog child.  I’ll let you know if I come up with any good tricks to end this millennium old issue.

A Driving Force

My Dad gave Carter a car for Christmas even though she had just gotten her learners permit. It is the standard affliction he has about kids he is related to and cars. Basically any excuse to buy another car is a good excuse. Along with the car he also gave her a Teen Defensive Driving Class at Virginia International Raceway. Before he registered her for the class he doubled and triple checked the dates with me to ensure she was free.

This is said weekend for teen driving so we drove up last night to spend the night at the farm so we were closer to VIR since Carter’s start time was 7:30 in the morning. I’m not sure who plans a teen driving experience to start at 7:30 in the morning, perhaps they want to get kids at their absolute worst to really see what their driving is like.

Russ and I had planned a free weekend of farm life walking with Shay Shay, Russ catching up on work and basketball watching with my Mom. My Dad lent us one of the cars from his fleet so we could drive back from the drop off of Carter and her car at the driving school.

We knew we had found the right place when we came upon the parking lot full of retired police Crown Vics. Carter and I went into the registration desk where there was a table of bright yellow name tags laid out. I introduced Carter and they gave her a lanyard and id and then preceded to hand me my nametag. “Wait,” I said. “I’m not signed up to take this course.”

“Oh yes you are, this is a class for teens and their parents.” News to me, apparently news to my Dad who paid and definitely news to Russ who was literally along for the ride. Russ and I met the head guy who I had a major e-mail relationship with and told him about our lack of understanding. He did a hard press that it was important to train parents about how to ride in the passenger seat while our teen was learning. Oh God, bad parent guilt. Russ caved and said he would stay today and I asked if we could split the days, the head guy agreed.

Off I drove alone, taking Russ’ computer, leaving him for the day of physiological lectures and Myers Briggs like testing to understand your teen. If I had to spend the day sitting in a classroom and taking these tests I’m sure I would have gotten kicked out of school. I got to come back to the farm and walk my nine miles, which by the way almost did Shay Shay in and now she is limping.

Three quarters through the day Russ texted me that this was the less driving day and he was willing to come back and do the Sunday session so he got to do the more fun, more driving day. Now I owe Russ double since he volunteered to do everything.

Russ and Carter arrived back at the farm after nine hours of class and announced it actually was good and are looking forward to going back. Thank goodness. I know that I would never hear the end from either of them if this thing had been a huge bust.

Carter turned out to be a fairly good driver coming in the top 25% in comparison to other teens in her class who were all older and more experienced, so far so good. But the thing I was most happy is about is that she was the only kid in her group who could lift a spare tire while learning how to change it out. If I ever need help with a flat I am going to remind her of this training.

Tough Act to Follow



Yesterday I went to Greenville, NC for a meeting that included a nice lunch.  By the time I got home and picked Carter up from school it was apparent that something had not agreed with me.  I told Carter I was going to lie down and I went to bed and slept for 20 hours.


Some time in my sick sleeping Russ came in to check on me and I apparently said, “I have not written my blog, please post something.”  I guess it is true that if you do something everyday it becomes such a strong habit that even in my sicken stupor I was worried about missing a post.


Russ hardly had time with work and now having to come up with dinner, since I had just taken to bed, so he passed the blog responsibility on to Carter.  I had no idea until I woke up this morning and read all the sweet comments on facebook and the blog what a heartfelt poem Carter had written to me.


I am happy to say that what ever was wrong with me was not life threatening, but it certainly elicited the kindest message from my child that I will cherish always.  Teenage years are not always the easiest with parents and kids.  We just don’t always tell each other the good things as often as we should.


I can remember some really good knock-down-drag-out fights with my own parents.  I wish that I had written them such a sincere message to tell them how much I love them when I was that age.  I know now as a mother how much those little gestures mean.


In the spirit of my kind daughter I want to tell my parents how wonderful they have been.  The one thing I always knew is that my parents have always been there supporting me and my sisters in all that we do.  Knowing there are people who love you and are cheering for you all the time is the most valuable reassurance a human can have.


We tell our children all the time how much we love them, but having your child say it back is even more special, especially if they are a teenager.  I hope my parents aren’t mad that I am not half as good a child as my child is.  I know it’s never too late to say I love you, but I’m sure that it would have gone a long way if I were a nicer teenager.

Dana Is Sick- So I Wrote a Poem

Hi readers, followers, and friends of Dana,

Dana, or my mom, is really sick and has been asleep all afternoon. I’m not exactly sure what to do on here so just bear with me here. I will apologize in advance for grammar or spelling mistakes. I thought a good topic for this post will be a poem for my mom.

Dana Henderson Carter Lange. My mom, my hero, my inspiration, my best friend.

I’ve known her all my life (well, duh).

She has pushed me, she has held my hand, she has never lost hope in me;

And I hope she never will.

She’s put all of her, and some, into me. I only wish I can be half of her.

Being only half of Dana would to be an amazing, caring, beautiful, and perfect person.

Mom, I love you. Sleep well. Please get better.

Life is boring without you.


Your Baby Bug

TASTE – The Event



I rarely promote unlimited eating, but I do like to eat interesting and local food, so today I want to let you know about a big food happening being put on by my friends at Durham and Chapel Hill Magazines –TASTE the event.   It is a five-day celebration of the exciting culinary world in Durham and Chapel Hill starting on April 23 and the Grand TASTE experience at the Durham Performing Arts Center on April 24.


Local biggies in our food world like Amy Tournquist of Watts Grocery, Kelli and Billy Cotter of Toast, Kevin Callaghan of Acme and Ricky Moore of Saltbox Seafood are just a few of the more that sixteen chef’s participating.  But the evening is not all about food; local spirits and drinks are going to be featured along with their makers.

Tickets are available at the DPAC with no service charge or online.


I hope you will join me in a three hours eating, or should I say tasting extravaganza. The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina is the beneficiary of this grand affair so go, have fun, eat and have no guilt – you will be helping feed others in our community.


There are many other events from a Cocktail and Hors D’Oeuvres reception at the TOPO Distillery to a hands-on event shopping at the Durham Farmer’s Market, cooking and eating event.  To learn about all the TASTE events and how to get tickets visit the Website TASTE the event.

New Weight is Tentative- A Study



I am a walking science experiment for weight gain and loss.  One theory that I have had for years is that weight you gain recently is just visiting and weight you have had a long time is settled in and has paid off the mortgage.  The three pounds I gained on vacation is proof.


While away I did about the same amount of exercise I do at home, just a little less walking on flying days and not as much heavy lifting.  What I changed was eating carbs.  I also had vacation constipation, which I know you really don’t want to hear about.  Anyway, put all those factors into my oh-so-studied body and when I got on the scale first morning home I was up three pounds.  No surprise.


Yesterday I went to the gym, walked my steps, ate my regular being good diet and this morning I was down two and a half pounds and TMI alert…I still have not gotten regular, sorry.  In one day of doing exactly what I always do I lost almost all the weight I gained in one week of being bad.  I would not usually lose that much weight in three weeks, but since it was just new weight it was only visiting.  The secret is to get it off very fast before it starts looking at houses and trying to find a way to stick around permanently.


I am not advocating eating a lot regularly and then taking it off quickly, but I am saying that a vacation every once in a while does not have to completely sabotage a healthy life.  In fact it seems a lot easier to get back in the saddle because the scale was up a few pounds.  If I had come home and not gained any weight I might have been lulled into some false sense that I could eat that way all the time, even though I know that is not true for me.


I am interested in what the next week holds for me once I am fully back to normal.  I wonder if I can break past the low I was at before vacation.  That weight has been with me a long time and really likes living on my thighs.  Eviction is tough and it seems that all the laws of nature are on the side of the fat being allowed to hold it’s ground.  I’ll keep you posted about any success I have on moving the undesirables out of town.

The luck of Irish



How did this phrase ever get started?  As far as history is concerned I don’t think the Irish have been that lucky at all.  What has really kept them going is the attitude of the Irish.  Yes, the legend has it that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland and maybe that was lucky, but really plenty of places have survived with lots of snakes, and they eat rodents which for my money is a worse problem.


The thing I like best about St. Patrick’s Day is it’s inclusive and happy nature.  Today everyone is welcome as Irish, even their enemies.  When I was a senior in boarding school a bunch of my friends and I went to NYC and crashed marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  It was a fairly lax situation and our band of girls all with green Fair Isle sweaters on carrying a homemade banner had no trouble just butting in between a real honest to god marching band and a battalion of Irish Policemen.  The attitude was the more the merrier.


I wish that everyday were like St. Patrick’s Day where regardless of your national heritage you are welcome to celebrate.  Maybe some of the problems of the world would be minimized if the governments or opposition parties would act like they were all Irish and it were St. Patrick’s Day.  Drink a little green beer together and sing a little tear jerky Danny boy, arms draped around each other.  You can’t be mad at each other long in that situation.


The luck of the Irish is that no matter how bad the situation they see the sunny side.  No vicarious suffering for them.  You know what vicarious suffering is?  It’s the moaning that because some ancestor of yours, likely someone you did not even know, suffered some injustice then you too are suffering.  I say stop carrying around that baggage and be Irish.  Perhaps all you really need is a little Irish whiskey to be a little happier.

Jet Blog



Rather than write my blog I lazed away the eight hour flight from Paris to JFK watching movies, needle pointing and eating the business class fare that is much too decedent.  I whiled away my flight from NY to RDU needlepointing as if I did not have a care in the world.  Vacation had definitely gotten hold of me.  I looked at my swollen ankles and realized how quickly rich living catches up with me.


The first few days I was away I was fairly good about living a disciplined life, then tea happened.  Then that thing on vacation where you discuss the next meal while you are eating the first started happening, then came Paris.  Macaroons seemed to have taken over the city.  I have tried to make them at home and failed epically so I have a great appreciation for the patisserie that can bake them with such success, therefore I had to have one almost everyday.


I did walk and walk, but since I already do that at home the walking was not negating the eating that was happening.  I used French bread to sop up the leek sauce in my escargot.  Hey, I can’t do that at home, thank god.  I ate chocolate mouse, but it was a shared portion, no excuse.   I even spread that perfect French butter on bread.  Sacra Bleu!


Tomorrow I will pay the piper and probably break down crying when I get on the scale.  I know that my body is ready for vacation eating to be over because I just ran over to the Harris Teeter in my jet lagged state and I only bought five different kinds of fruit and skim milk.


Goodbye to the good life.  One week a year is enough.  Hello to reality, treadmill, salad eating.  I purposely kept my regular trainer appointment for first thing tomorrow morning.  I wonder if I have to get out my fat yoga pants?

No Driving in Paris


Parking is tough in Paris so you better be able to walk. For the last few days the Metro has been free because the pollution has been so bad, especially from cars, that the government was doing all it could to encourage people to use public transport. Considering that there are more tourists than anyone else we are all already walking or taking the metro unless you are infirm in anyway.

Paris has been great for getting more than my 20,000 steps in a day. Even yesterday when we spent three hours riding on Segways rather than walking I still got my steps. One thing that helped was our night visit to the Eiffel Tower. First the train we were on to get there stopped two stations before our stop and the train driver told us he was going off work and we needed to take another train. Rather than wait we decided to walk the 2 and a half kilometers to the tower.

That small hiccup made us a little late so we joined the long line to buy tickets and only made it to the second level. Considering the smog and the night It was high enough for us. Carter discovered she did not love heights as we descended the 669 stairs rather than wait in line for the elevator. I did not mind the stairs, just the giant lights shining in our faces every few levels that made finding the step difficult. Carter wanted to kiss the ground when we finally got down.

Today Russ and I cross crossed the city from one antique market to the Pantheon and back to the antique market when I decided that a vintage Hermes Scarf was too good a deal to give up. I think we crossed the Seine at least 14 times just today. I had my steps by 4:00 in the afternoon and we still have to walk across the river again for dinner.

Clearly Paris is a walking city because most of the time that is the only way to get anywhere. But heaven forbid if you are handicapped. The narrow sidewalks, steps and cobblestoned areas make walking treacherous. I have no idea how French women walk in high heels in this city. I am thankful for my sensible shoes, but I am sick of wearing them.

Now I have the adventure of trying to pack all my goodies in my roll aboard suit case I was determined to bring. It is a good thing I did not bring a bigger suitcase because I might have bought more if I did. So it’s au revoir to Pais early in the morning and back home to driving and clean air and being able to pull up to the grocery store and park. I love Paris, but am glad the living is easy back in North Carolina.

Teenage Travel Success

At last Russ and I stumbled upon the secret to traveling with a teenager — taking a Segway tour! All the walking around and looking at boring art and architecture does not make a teen happy, but put her on a Segway with a cool Brit tour guide and suddenly all the history, the folk lore, the buildings become much more interesting. Even the suggestion of taking a Segway tour elicited voluntary early rising from said teen.

The second winning strategy was letting her plan and execute her own afternoon of touring. She did this with skill, visiting the Louvre for free since she is under 18. Thank goodness I did not have to spend one Euro to traipse through the endless sea of Madonna and Child Renaissance oils which all begin to run together for me. I hate to ruin my Musse d’Orsay art high with the Louvre.

Carter visited parks and bridges taking photos all along the way. She ended up walking almost everywhere without complaint because her parents were not with her to complain to. Although I had given her three metro tickets so she could roam and return easily she only ended up taking one train because she discovered walking was easier. Huh, I wonder if I can remind her of that later?

I have no idea if she spent any of the money I gave her and can’t ask now that she is napping before dinner and a night visit to the eiffel tower. She has not volunteered to give me my 50 euros back, but since we still have another day I’m sure she is thinking she might need them so no reason to return money to a mother.

Russ and I walked and shopped and drank in cafés like people who don’t work for a living do. My reward to him is that I am not complaining about his spending one hour on a conference call before we go to dinner. How can I complain when I know that it is thanks to his working that Carter and I get to go on fun trips and drive Segways, eat French food and sit in cafés.



Paris and the Smoking is Easy

Paris the city of lights really means the city of lighting up. How quickly I forgot what life was like living around people who are smoking all the time everywhere. When we arrived yesterday and had our first lunch in an outdoor cafe by our hotel I was swathed in smoke by the two young girls sitting next to us. As we walked to the Luxembourg gardens we were practically the only threesome on the street without a cigarette.

The light in Paris is famously hazy which makes photographs have that gauzy look that soften wrinkles and makes you look younger. That haze is actually smoke from the thousands of people per block standing or walking on the sidewalk puffing away.

All this unhealthy living rubbed off on me for my first twenty four hours here and I ate macaroons and bread like I was a skinny Parisian. Then last night I began to feel sick from the smoke and the food and I came to my senses and realized I am a reformed unhealthy person who needs to steer clear of all indulgences. I did much better today skipping bad food at breakfast and lunch and only indulging at dinner.

I finally had a 20,000 step day thanks to shopping, but boy were each of those steps expensive. Carter got tired of sitting in stores so we let her take the Metro back to the hotel which was the most exciting part of her day. Being free in a city is a teenagers dream. I am happy to say she did not take up smoking in her quest to go native.


Friends and Family Reunion


We saved our last night in London for the best when we had a mini reunion of my best Friends and Family comrades, Simon W., Simon G. and Monica. This is the group of people I spent a year traveling the world with making commercials for BT. It was a bonding experience that is hard to replicate and we all agreed was the highlight of all our careers, at least in terms of fun.

Simon W. generously set up the night to be at one of his private clubs, but what he did not tell us is that it was so cool that men were not allowed to wear ties. He told us at the end of the evening about a time he invited an older friend to lunch with him at this club who showed up in his British finest. The day after the lunch Simon received a letter from the club management reminding him that the hip club had a “no tie” rule and to please not bring guests who break the rules.

Well Simon should have learned from that experience and not brought all of us to his club because we certainly broke lots of rules. Not only did Russ wear a tie, but we also arrived ahead of our host and they frowned upon letting us in without him, this being a private club and all. But the really big non-no was we tried to take a photo inside the club. As the Simons two, Mon and I mushed together so Carter could snap the picture an officious waiter came running over to remind Simon of the “no photos” rule. You never know if there was someone having an affair in the booth behind us who did not want to have photographic proof of his indiscretion.

In spite of the rules and all our breaking of them we had a wonderful night. The Simons had hosted a dinner for me and Carter last year so we had caught up on 14 years of history then, but this was the first time I had seen Monica in 15 years. It took no time to pick right up where we left off and Carter took a particular liking to her since she is a cool, successful, independent woman.

Russ knew my friends slightly since he had come on one of Friends and Family trips so it was fun for me to have all these people I adore to get a chance to know each other better. We ate, drank, told stories, shared heartaches, successes, wishes, dreams, plans and memories of times together.

As the night grew longer and the members of the club departed we flaunted the rules and took a number of group photos right inside — the waiters gave up admonishing us. Russ and Carter decided that they needed to get back to the hotel to get a little sleep since we had to get up early to leave for Paris, but my friends convinced me to stay a while longer too sad to end our reunion. So one more round of drinks and a few more stories.

It’s funny what one person remembers from a shared experience. Monica brought up the story of how I would get the bills for the 60 people we would take on these trips and be able to see who was watching naughty movies in their hotel rooms and who was not calling home to their spouses. This was something I had completely forgotten until she reminded me, but know it was totally in character for me and the job I had. I don’t remember using that information as any kind of blackmail, but it certainly gave me better insight into who I was working with. Needless to say anything I learned about my two Simons and Monica was not a negative because despite the years apart I consider them some of my favorite people.

Sadly we are leaving London but are on the Eurostar to Paris so how sad can we be? I love Paris, but have no friends living there now so Russ, Carter and I go purely as tourists and not as Friends or Family like we are in England.

Secret to Traveling with a Teenager

When I was just graduating from boarding school my parents and my fourteen and nine year old sisters moved to London. I came over with them for the summer before I started college. For me it was a big adventure of travel and exploration for my sisters it was torture. Margaret at 14 was a sun worshiper so for her England was about the worst place to move and Janet was a sports freak and was not happy about not having other kids to play against.

Because my parents were renovating a house in St. Johns Wood my father thought that it would be nice for the family to live in Surrey as a kind of resort for the summer so my mother could come into London during the day and work on the house and my sisters and I could hang out in the country.

We had a suite that meant the three girls all had to sleep together. This plan did not work well for me since I was 18. After a few days I realized I needed to get out. My boarding school friend Jenny Hetzler’s sister Betsy had a friend named Sally who was over here and wanted to travel with someone – it was me! So off Sally and I went with a Brit rail pass and plans to go as far north in Scotland as we could get with our back packs and a Let’s Go UK book.

This left Margaret and Janet to fend for themselves at the Selsdon Park Hotel during the days. I have no idea what Margaret did when the sun was not shining, but since I have a daughter about her age I can guess it was sleeping. I do know that Janet, who could fake being a young boy better than being a young lady used to go into the men’s only snooker room and play snooker (think billiards). She also took up golf and became quite a good player since she was good at all sports. I think there was some kind of hotel tournament which she won, but probably in the girls division.

My parents liked to spend the weekends exploring the countryside, looking at antiques and spending times in pubs, you can guess which parents liked which thing. At the beginning they used to make the kids go with them, but as the whining and complaining went on they eventually stopped taking my sisters and left them to fend for themselves. I can remember calling home on Easter weekend and finding that my parents had left my sisters home alone in London for the weekend because they did not want to go to Cornwall for the holiday since “Who shot Jr.” was going to be playing on Dallas.

Then, as an older sister and not a parent myself I thought this was horrible. Leave the fairly young kids alone in London. Now that I am a parent myself I think, “how great, no complaining children to ruin your holiday.”

Today Russ and I let Carter sleep as late as she wanted. Who cares that she comes all the way to London just to sleep. Russ and I had a civilized breakfast alone, no moodiness to deal with. We had a great walk in Green Park after eating so we could work off our eggs. When Carter got up around noon Russ and I divided the things she wanted to do – I had to go to Madam Tussaud’s with her so she could get pictures with the One Directions boys. Russ met us for lunch and then he took her to the zoo at Regent’s Park and I got to shop and try and get the rest of my steps in. Giving up on trying to find one activity that makes all of us happy at the same time is clearly the best way to travel with a teenager, that and letting her sleep. I don’t know why I did not learn this from my parents years ago.


Museums, Not So Much, Cute Brits in Uniform Yes


Today was our day of having tea. Carter and my favorite meal of the year. It is the time I break all dieting rules. I eat carbs with every bite, sugar in extraordinary amounts and cream and lemon curd like I may never have it again. Oh yeah, and tea the only no calorie thing on the table. Since it was tea day everything has to be planned around eating the most fattening meal of the year at 3:00. That means late breakfast and go to the theater in the evening since it is a good day to skip dinner. What to do on the in between parts was left up to me.

I decided it was the perfect day to go to the V&A museum, one of my favorites. Russ and Carter had never been and I thought that they might enjoy it. I was pretty much wrong. Carter bores quickly at museums even though I know she takes the culture in because she spits it back out at surprising times. It is just painful for me during the actual touring and makes me cranky.

Giving up after a few hours at the museum we walked to the tube. The train car was so crowded that Russ had to stand bent over at a 60 degree angle to fit. This was making me crazy so we got off the tube a stop early and decided to walk home. As we emerged from the underground at Hyde Park Corner we were immediately immersed in a sea of The Household Cavalry in full dress uniforms being lined up on a giant bleachers to have their official portrait taken. It was a sea of attractive young men that made Carter happier than if she had been dropped into the middle of a One Direction concert.

The bleachers were already three quartered filled when we happened upon the occasion so we watched as some very bossy men ordered the young men to stand in their right places so everyone was organized by height and rank. It was quite difficult for the cavalrymen to climb the bleachers in their thigh high patten leather boots and we held out breath each time someone looked as if they might topple off the narrow steps.

The officers with their highly decorative gold braids loop around their chests were gathered right in front of me laughing and joking while they awaited their turn to be ordered into place. Being myself I approached the group and asked if they would mind helping me embarrass my daughter and let me take their picture with her. At once two volunteered and said they would love to have their picture made with my daughter.

I turned to find Carter in the crowd and summoned her forward. The young officers told her to come stand with them. One even asked Carter if she wanted to hold his sword. I am glad I did not hear him say this at the time because a mother might take that the wrong way. I snapped the shots and they kindly thanked me for taking their pictures. Such good manners, no wonder they are chosen to be part of the royal household.

We stayed and watched the rest of the production as the official photo of the household cavalry was made. Carter’s mood changed dramatically from bored with museums to happy with cute horse riding Officers. I now realize that to have a successful vacation we don’t need interesting things to do we just need cute boys to look at. Fun for Carter, not for Russ.


The Queen Was In

Today in England was a rare one since it was at least 18 degrees, that is in Celsius so it was a sunny 65 to my American readers. Such a beautiful day precipitated a visit to the country. Since neither Russ nor Carter had ever been to Windsor we hopped on the train and went out to see the Castle.

Being the weekend the Queen was there, it being her country house and all. We were alerted to that fact by her royal standard flying above the tower. We started our tour with an official royal guide who took us around the outside of the castle. She pointed out where the horrible fire of 1992 started and told us how over 100 rooms of the castle had been affected by the fire, but that only two pieces of movable furniture had been lost and that now the restoration was complete.

After finishing the outside tour we went inside to view the State Apartments for ourselves. Don’t be fooled by the word apartments. When we were in the St. George’s Hall which was the largest room where grand dinner are held that take three days to set the tables for, a docent in the room pointed out to us where the Queen’s personal apartment was across the courtyard. She told us that she had seen the Queen being driven down to church a little more than an hour before. Shoot, we had just missed her.

As Carter and I walked the length of the great hall looking out the windows into the court yard we saw a brand new green Range Rover drive up the gravel drive inside the court yard and pull into the covered area the docent had showed us just moments before. Through the hazy five hundred year old glass Carter and I just caught a glimpse of the Queen as she was let out of the car and went to her door. What are the chances?

We continued going through the rest of the rooms. At one point in a dining room that had very bad damage from the fire, a docent was showing photos to a little English girl who was no more than five. The pictures showed the missing roof and charred walls as well as a melted gold chandelier that was holding on by just a little metal left after all the wood burned away around it. The little girl looked at the terrible picture and in the most earnest voice asked the docent, “Did the Queen cry?” The woman responded as honestly as she could and said, “I don’t know, but I am sure she was sad.”

I wish the Queen could have seen the concern on that little girl’s face as she looked at the pictures of devastation and compared it to the beautiful restorations they have today. All I can say is God save the Queen and thank heaven for the Queen restoring Windsor.


What a Difference a Year Makes

One year ago Carter and I came to London during the coldest spell they had experienced in years. Even though it snowed and blowed freezing winds our whole week Carter fell madly deeply in love with the city. Being an Anglophile could be genetic. My parents love all things Britannia and figured a way not just once but twice to move here for work in 1979 and again in 1994.

Although I only spent summer and Christmas vacations with my family the first time they lived here since I was in college I too lived here with Russ for five years in the nineties. The only reason we left was that I was pregnant with Carter and retired from working. I guess you could say that Carter’s spent her first five months in the UK even if they were gestational.

Knowing that we only have a couple of spring breaks left before Carter leaves for college and wild breaks with her friends I wanted to make the most of this vacation. When we talked about all the possibilities there was one obvious trip we should take, come back to London and add Paris on to the end, but rather than Carter and I coming alone we had to get Russ to come with us.

So here we are, the three of us in our favorite city. The weather is decidedly un-British, hitting fifty-five. If this luck holds out all week I can only imagine how much more Carter is going to be in love with London. It is going to be interesting to see how Paris compares, they don’t have the same boy bands doing their bidding, but then again the French really don’t care if we love them or not.


No Airline Exercise



I wonder if it is too late for me to get a job as a flight attendant on a long haul flight?  Not that I am at all the right temperament to serve, cajole and make nice with the general flying public, in fact I surely would get into some kind of fight with some paying passenger.  No, I am not looking for a job, or even a free flight, but the right to get up and walking around while flying.


I am a good sitter.  Always have been.  That is probably one of the reasons I put on many extra pounds over the years.  So sitting on a plane for eight hours is not usually a problem for me.  Most of the things I love to do are done sitting – needlepointing, watching movies, playing games.


The issue now is that I have learned that I need to walk at least nine miles a day so I can eat something.  That much walking takes a lot of time.  Time I don’t seem to have on a day that I spend the majority of it on a plane.  FAA regulations now frown upon anyone being out of their seat, almost to the point that they are going to be issuing Depends for all passengers.


I certainly don’t want to draw negative attention to myself by flaunting the rules and walking up and down the aisles of the plane as a passenger, but if only I were a flight attendant I would have full reign of the empty aisles.  I could start by checking seatbelts, cruising up and down making sure that every granny and small child were belted in tightly in case of turbulence.  I see flight attendants get lots of extra steps by walking by and then backing up as a loose metal tab catches their eye.


After the security briefing I would be happy to roll the newspaper cart down the aisle offering the very old fashioned magazine and papers to those few people who still read that way.  I would follow it up with the headphone passing out and then the dinner menus.  After all the passengers have had a chance to rule out the worst meal choices I would be happy to walk back and forth taking orders.  Special requests?  No problem just let me run up to the front and consult the purser.  Time for drinks, I’ve got that under control.  Ring the call button.  I’ll be right there.  Just give me an excuse to walk back and forth on the Boeing 767.  With 44 rows I bet I can get 100 steps in for each round trip of the plane.


Since I don’t have time to interview, or get seniority enough to do the long haul flight I guess I am going to be stuck strapped in trying to get sitting exercises.  I wonder if my fitbit would register steps made with my legs hovering in the air?  I can tell I am going to be annoying my child to no end.

Tired of Winter



Another winter weather advisory!  I am tired of being cold.  I hate to say this because although it has been a longer and colder winter than normal here in North Carolina it has been nothing compared to most of the country.  But I don’t live in most of the country.  I live in North Carolina for a reason.


About twenty years ago, when Russ and I were first married we lived in New Jersey for one long cold winter.  We had fifteen major snowstorms in twelve weeks and to top it off I was working in Canada where it was even colder.


Now living in New Jersey was not fun for me in the first place.  I had very few close friends and was somewhat of a fish out of water on the street where we lived.  Jim a lineman for the electric company and his wife lived on one side and Jim a lineman for the phone company and his wife lived on the other side of us.  All perfectly nice, but we had nothing in common.  All I knew about linemen I learned from Glen Campbell.


When Russ decided to look at business schools in the middle of that winter I had two requests:  It needed to be in a place with a shorter winter and near a good airport since I would still be flying to my job.  Russ was very interested in Dartmouth and Cornell… no and no, for both of my requests.  Then North Carolina came up as a contender.


I looked at the weather chart in USA Today as I sat in the Ottawa airport.  Negative 20 in Toronto, 5 degrees in Philadelphia, 60 degrees in Durham.  It was a no brainer.  Please God, I prayed, pick North Carolina.  And my prayers were answered.


For the last twenty years I have hardly had to endure a bad winter.  Even this one as tiring as it has been is nothing compared to one month of winter in the north.  So if you live above the Mason Dixon line and are sick of living through a horrific winter consider moving to Durham.  The people are nice, we welcome new people — even Yankees, the living is easy and the winter is better than the one you had where you are now.


When it is cold outside I think back to New Jersey and put the whole thing in perspective — the best part of living here is the neighbors are friends and we have a lot more in common.

Say Cheese



Today on the news there was some story about people my age that ate meat and cheese having a higher incidence of cancer, but if you make it to 65 and still eat meat and cheese you have a lower chance of dying from cancer.  I think this is a chance I am just going to have to take.  I could go fairly long without meat, but once those researchers threw cheese into the study, well that’s a game changer for me.


Cheese is my favorite food.  I am not alone in my household in this.  Cheese is also Shay Shay’s favorite food.  We have a special cheese drawer in the fridge and if anyone cracks that thing open just a hair Shay will jump up from a deep sleep five rooms away and bound to the kitchen and sit awaiting a morsel of cheese.


I know that cheese is one of the most fattening things ounce for ounce we have in our house, but I would rather have a tiny bit of real parmesan than five cookies any day.  I’m sure if I removed the cheese drawer for a month I could reach my goal weight, but I can only imagine what life around me would be like.


We are about to go on spring break and I am going to two places that also consider cheese to be national treasurers.  I have been doing my best to exercise every waking minute in preparation for the cheese I surly am going to eat on vacation.  I am worried that it will be hard to get my 20,000 steps in that my body has become accustomed to walking everyday.  Add the extra cheese to perhaps walking less and this vacation could have a negative effect on the scale.


It is a chance I am willing to take.  What would the use of traveling to fabulous countries be if you don’t at least taste what they do best?  It is only one week.


So to the lands of great cheeses we go without guilt.  The only sad thing is that Shay Shay will be staying home and will certainly eating less cheese with her sitter.  I guess I know what I should bring her as a treat.

Fat Tuesday



Today is Mardi gras or translated for non-French speakers — Fat Tuesday.  It is amazing the French have anything called Fat, but then again it is just one day.  Today is the last day before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and it gets it name from the tradition that it is the day you get to eat richer foods before you go into the period of fasting during the 40 days of Lent.


Growing up Episcopalian we did not give anything up for Lent.  I can only imagine what would have happened if the Mad Men grown ups around me as a child had given up something like liquor.  The New Haven Railroad would probably have folded from the loss in revenue in the bar car.


Since we never gave anything up we also did not celebrate Fat Tuesday.  The idea of eating richer foods would also go against the skinny mothers around me in the 60’s.


My first introduction to the Mardi gras life was when my Dad happened to have a business trip to New Orleans that coincided with my spring break at boarding school.  My sisters did not have vacation so I got to go alone to the big easy with my parents and a wild bunch of my father’s co-workers from Avon — These were real Mad Men and Mad Women, this was Avon after all.


I was all of fourteen, but everyone treated me like I was older.  Not such a good thing.  One night the whole gang went to Pat O’Brien’s and my father let me drink two hurricanes as the two ladies at the pianos belted out Delta Dawn.  The sweet pink drinks went down easy and helped cool my brow in the hot humid night.  I don’t remember the two-block walk back to the Royal Orleans where we stayed, but I do remember how nice my bathroom was as I threw up all night.  This was probably a good plan on my father’s part because I don’t drink today.


I’m not celebrating Fat Tuesday.  Everyday for me is like Lent since I have basically given up sugar, flour and long, long ago liquor, but for those of you who make this your tradition I hope you are having a big time tonight, for tomorrow you fast, and the next day and the next.  Well, I’m sure most of you aren’t fasting, but giving up something you value, and sorry giving up eating fruit does not count.

Academy Fashion Snooze



Has anyone ever asked you, “Who are you wearing?”  Perhaps with the exception of one time when I had Carter strapped to me in a Baby Bjorn I am almost certain I have never been asked that.  Since I have never walked a red carpet or been given any type of award I do not find this unusual.  I don’t know that I would want to answer for fear that I might end up on a worst dressed list anyway.


It seems to me that the “awards season” as the late winter months have been come to known in the entertainment business has gotten out of control.  Industry congratulating itself is one thing, but the industry around the awards business, such as evening wear, jewelry, shoe, and handbag designers, stylists, hair people, makeup artists, publicists, blah, blah, blah is out of control.


I used to love to watch the academy awards.  I love movies and I even used to like movie stats.  But the red carpet part is soooo dull.  “Who are you wearing?”  What I really want to know is, “Are you wearing a foundational garment or is that your real body?”  Or “When was the last time you ate something?”  Based on last night’s pizza fest run by Ellen DeGeneres, movie stars were hungry.


Rather than awards shows being fashion shows I would like for them to go back to being award shows where the winners get a chance to talk.  Yes, sometimes when a film editor wins and gets to drone on thanking all their elementary school teachers it gets boring.  But when people who normally read scripts that are other people’s words win and get a chance to speak in their own minds I find it more compelling TV than watching dance numbers or listening to all the nominated songs we already know.


The Oscars should only be two hours long.  They already took all those technical awards out and put them in their own untelevised little ceremony, which was right.  I want the awards shows to be about people’s work and not about what they are wearing.  It is such a contradiction anyway because the best chance a woman has for winning is when she plays the ugliest person she can be.  Think back, Susan Sarandon in Dead Man Walking, Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry, Halle Berry in Monster’s Ball, Nichole Kidman in The Hours, Charlize Theron in Monster – Maybe just being in something with the word Monster in the title is a winner.


This year even the men got in on it with Mathew McConaughey having to lose forty-five pounds and look almost dead as a person with Aids in order to win.  But the red carpet stalkers even wanted to know what he was wearing like that was important to his performance.  I know all these stars have been loaned these clothes and the designers want the pay off, but let’s have that info be in People Magazine or Vogue.  I a just happy that regular old people don’t go around asking, “Who are you wearing?”  It’s just incorrect unless you have an actual person strapped on to you and oh so boring.






Exercising Is Better With Friends



Today was the Friends of Dana Pure Barre class and after my blog yesterday complaining about hating to exercise it is amazing anyone showed up.  But show up they did and we had a full class of mostly virgins.


Our teacher was good at explaining the moves but was not so easy on us so this was not a Pure Barre Light class.  The sweating and groaning started early and that was mostly from me.  I have to say that exercising with friends who are more or less my age is the most fun.  There was no intimidation about not being able to do all the moves correctly or for the full amount of time.


I am happy if I can do 80% of the tucks, lifts and squeezes and you can forget the hovering an out-stretched leg while lifting another.  Someday I hope to be able to pull both my pointed-toe feet into together but for now I will settle for alternating feet.


If you missed this intro class Lynn and Charlotte will do another.  If you came today and want to try again let me know and we can go together.  There is strength in middle-aged numbers.  I guess I really like exercising with my friends who realize it’s not a competition and are happy to laugh along with me.


If our husbands find out what we do with that little red ball we might be in trouble, but for now your secret is safe with me.  Rest and watch the Oscars tonight, we deserve a guilty pleasure and there are no calories in TV watching.


After class we could still hold our arms up, we just couldn’t stand up.

I Still Hate Exercising

It’s been about six weeks since I upped my step goal from 10,000 steps a day to 20,000. With only a couple of exceptions I have met my goal, but the average is well over 20,000 steps. This has been hard some days because 20,000 steps just takes a huge amount of time.

This morning since it was Saturday and I did not have any pressing engagements and my husband was actually home I had a big lie in and did not walk at all before noon. Big mistake! After Carter and I met our friends Hannah and Campbell at the mall for some spring clothes shopping I still needed a butt load of steps when we got home at 4:30. I got on my tread mill and powered through them into the evening.

I watched the counter on my phone app as each 100 steps would get me closer to that 20,000 mark. The second I hit the number I jumped off that machine and dragged myself to the kitchen to get dinner. No matter how long I exercise I don’t ever reach the point I actually like doing it.

I am waiting for the day that the endorphins come knocking on my door and say, “Hey, aren’t you ecstatic you just lifted 145 pounds or walked nine miles!” Basically I hate exercising. I could go to the movies or do some craft project all day long for the rest of my life and be really happy. If I were captured by pirates and made to play Mah Jongg forever I don’t think I would really mind, actually I think that is called a Mah Jongg cruise. But if I were put on an island paradise and told I had to exercise all day I might say just go ahead and kill me now.

I know exercise is good for me and is helping rid me of excess fat, why else would I spend so much time doing it. I just don’t love it. I’d rather cook dinner or even do the laundry. If you are one of those lucky people who loves to exercise count your stars It must be nice to love doing something so good for you.