The big five in Africa are the lion, leopard, elephant, water buffalo and rhino. These are the animals everyone wants to see. We were awoken this morning at 5:45 to go on our morning game drive with same gang as yesterday. Right away we saw a pair of zebra and antelope and then we had a while between sightings.
Suddenly our guide Hugo pulled off the road and drove through the bush over trees and scrub and stopped suddenly beside a lion pride of three females and a young male. The lazy group were relatively uninterested in us as we photographed them.
Then bang bang bang we saw a troop of baboons, and elephant with very large tusks, a pair of leopards with a randy female and a disinterested male, many kudu, a waterbuck, giraffe, alligator, monitor lizard and birds galore. With the water buffalo from last night we have seen four of the big five in two drives, but alas not rhino for us yet.
At dinner last night we had the pleasure of eating with a guy who just said his name was Jack. He had his sweet dog Jewels with him who flew in with him on his helicopter. Turns out Jack has more than a little interest in Leopard Hills and what happens in Kruger.
The discussion turned to the problem of rhino poaching. According to Jack, if I am remembering the numbers right, there are only 2,000 Rhino left in the world and a thousand of them are in Kruger. The Vietnamese and Chinese believe that the horn of a rhino has great healing powers and a horn is valued at $1,000,000 on the black market. Of course there is no white market for rhino horns and with that much money at stake it puts all rhino at terrible risk. The South African Government is trying to combat poaching, but there is hardly enough money that any private/public effort can throw at it to combat the crimes committed against the rhino. Thanks to ancient old wives tales the Asians think rhino horn can cure cancer and are willing to pay crazy amounts to save a loved one from death.
As the discussion at the dinner table went on about how to solve this problem my mind went immediately to a crazy answer. Create a new wives tale that Rhino dung is a weight loss aid. The only thing bigger than a cure for cancer is a cure for fatness. If the world could start thinking that a rhino only byproduct could make them skinny then a huge amount of money could be raised from the sale of rhino poop. It could single handedly stop rhino poachers if they could get more money from collecting rhino poop than from killing a rhino and taking it’s single horn. Rhino have the potential to live for years, imagine the amount of poop they could produce.
So I throw this idea out to the scientific and animal loving communities together. Save the rhino and cure human kind’s obesity at the same time. The Chinese have started getting fat, they need this cure and could change their rhino horn loving ways. I hope we get to see a Rhino this afternoon while some still exist. I’m not sure I can get any dung, but if I come home any skinnier I’ll give credit to the rhino just to get this rumor started.
After flying to Kruger we were met by Simon our driver to bring us the last three hours to finally get to our destination. The land leading up to Hazyview, a town along the route, was lush with farms. Macadamia nut trees, banana palms, lemons, avocado. Forests of trees that grow tall and straight were planted in lines awaiting their futures as telephone poles. My mother would be in paradise to buy a huge bag of the green globes of avocados on the side of the well paved road for not much money.
Once we passed Hazyview the topography changed and there were no lush farms. The trees were more scrubby,small houses made of cinder block with groups of people sitting out front. We turned off the paved road onto one of sand at Belfast. Simon showed us the house he grew up I as we drove through the hamlet. I thought that even with cheep avocados my mother would not like this drive.
Eventually we turned off the dirt road onto a dirt driveway leading us to the gate of Sabi Sands. Two days of traveling and we have almost reached Leopard Hills our first home for this trip. After being let into the reserve we saw two elephants, then a number of Kudu. At last animals.
We pulled into The portico of the lodge and were greeted by four or five staff who welcomed us warmly with drinks and cool wet towels. They asked if we had eaten lunch and offered to feed us, but we said we could wait the hour until tea before our first game drive. Instead they took us to our room. Our room is really our house, with a thatched roof, and big deck with a plunge pool and and an outdoor shower and a bathroom that belongs in architectural digest. Richmond, our valet explained that elephants liked to drink from our plunge pool. As we lay on the chaise lounges Russ heard and elephant trumpet and we could hear him strolling nearby, but it was just a walk by and he did not come and have a drink with us. Instead two bucks of some kind came up and visited.
Then it was time for tea and our game drive. Our guide’s name is Hugo and our tracker Abraham. We were joined by one other couple from Kent, UK. They had been here for a few days. Hugo asked if there was something we wanted to see and I requested leopards since I did not see any last time I was in Kruger. Donna from Kent said they still had not seen giraffes so off we went.
This certainly is not Disney world, but amazingly Hugo found us a mother leopard with one cub who we followed for a good 20 minutes (photos will have to wait until I get home since they are on my big girl camera). Then he came upon a grouping of seven giraffe which is unusual since they do not stay in packs or travel with the same crowd all the time. We went to a watering hole for a sundowner and visit with the hippos hanging there.
Back to the lodge to have dinner in the boma – safari for fancy outdoor meal with bonfire protected from the animals surround by a wall made of sticks. Eating here is way too good. At dinner they served us a yummy soup and a smoked fish before we got to go to the buffet and pick out things for our own stir frys, plus beer chicken, beef stew, kudu kabob, and about five other vegetables. Thank god I don’t drink because when Abraham set up the bar at the watering hole and asked if I wanted a gin & tonic, wine, beer or any other civilized proper British drink I had to ask for water, yet he still poured it into a real glass.
We are not allowed to walk anywhere alone after dark. We have to have an escort because the animals live here and we are just visiting. The good news is that Russ and I have the house that is farthest from the main area so I am getting at least 300 more steps than the people at the closest house. Somehow I know that is not going to be enough to counteract this good living.
We’ve got to go back to our house now to sleep because we are being woken up at 5:30 for our morning drive. Just a few more animals to see.
I don’t know what kind of cosmic energy was happening for us, but our Delta flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg was practically delightful. We ate our lunch in Atlanta at One Flew South in the E terminal and it was worthy of being a destination not an airport eatery. After Sushi and an arugula and Brussels sprout salad we boarded our plane.
Thanks to tailwinds our fifteen hour flight was cut down to fourteen hours. Being such a long overnight flight most everyone stayed up watching movies and enjoyed the first of three meal services and then almost in unison our whole cabin went to sleep. No one talked, no one snored, no babies cried, no flight personnel woke us up. I slept through the second meal which was a godsend. After getting about seven hours sleep I woke up to watch two movies, needlepoint and eat a chicken salad and fruit. It was practically like being at home.
Russ and I waltzed through passport control and across the terminal to our hotel for the night. Since it was only five o’clock and at least I had slept, (Russ’ lack of airplane sleep is no different than his lack of sleep any where) we decided to go to Nelson Mandela Square for dinner to see something different.
We showered and got a nice driver named Franz who drove us the 20 minutes to Sandton, a good area on the north side of Joberg. We walked around the shopping and restaurant area and settled on an Indian Restaurant. From Ottawa to London to Bali it never fails that we eat Indian when we are abroad. Somehow it always makes us feel like we are home. We also knew that we were going to be eating South African all week in our camps so it was out last chance for a change of pace. We had a lovely waiter who asked us if we followed soccer. We told him we were sorry that South Africa did not make the cut. He generously assured us that the Americans were going to win. We tried to correct him, but he would hear none of it.
As we walked through the shopping area looking at the beautiful Ardmore pottery of tea pots with leopards or jugs adorned with elephants I started to get really excited about going to Kruger tomorrow to start our week of Safaris to see real animals. Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw a display of Yankee Candles in a store window. Oh God, I thought. I just spent 24 hours going half way around the world to come face to face with what I try and avoid in America. No worries. We will be leaving all this in the AM when we fly into the bush.
Last night after trying to check-in online three times for our flights from RDU thru Atlanta to Johannesburg I finally had to call Delta to see what the trouble was. “No problem, Mrs. Lange, you just need to check in at the airport three hours before your first flight.”
What the #%€*? We already had a big cushion between our flights just to make sure we did not miss our Joberg connection, but now the airline wanted us at the airport early in case they wanted to put us on an earlier flight and change our three hour layover to a five hour layover.
Since we are not flying on someone else’s dime and are going cattle class we complied with the requirements and got to RDU three hours ahead of time and are going on our original flight, as long as it is going. So Russ and I have had an idyllic few hours in the Delta lounge. I am sure this is the highlight of our traveling day.
One thing about this trip is that we only are allowed to bring 33 lbs of luggage which includes our hand luggage because of the smallest plane we will fly on into Zambia. When you start with my camera equipment and add warm clothing since it is winter there it starts to get difficult. This means wearing one pair of shoes and bringing another, that’s it! I had to forgo a sweater to make room for the many drugs I needed to bring. I probably will want to burn the few clothes I am taking after this trip is over.
One drugs is our malaria medication which we had to start today. Since we need to take it with food and we were in the Delta lounge already Russ and I made lunch of the peppers, carrots and hummus which have to be a good stomach coating before downing our pills. Of course I already dripped oil from a pepper onto my shirt which I am going to be wearing for the next 24 hours. I am not one of those travelers who can emerge from the coach cabin of a long haul flight and look like I just walked out of the salon. No I usually look like I was dragged behind a stage coach through the Mohave Dessert. So dripping oil on one of my few shirts at the start of the journey is just typical.
I have never been so ready to get on a seventeen and a half hour flight in my life. I think a little tylenol PM will help me sleep through many hours of flying. Hopefully my bra will be comfortable enough to sleep in since I could really horrify a full flight of folks and take it off in my sleep somewhere over the Atlantic. I purposely will not take Ambien because I am sure I would be one of those people who sleep eats while on it.
I am going to try and blog while in Africa so my next post will be from there.
Consider this an update to today’s earlier blog. I went to my last board meeting and Haywood Holderness broke into the meeting and read this proclamation from Mayor Bill Bell in Durham declaring today Dana Lange Day. Shoot, I missed most of my day. If only I had known I could have ridden around town sitting on the back of a convertible with a sparkly sash on, waving at everyone. Instead Russ and I are celebrating at the Carolina Theatre seeing Art Garfunkel. We are the youngest people here.
Honestly, it was a very nice honor. What means even more to me is that the volunteer room at the Durham Branch was named for me. So now I have a place to go in my old age and sort sweet potatoes.
Today is my final Food Bank board meeting as chair. It is hard to believe that two years has gone so quickly. Of course it feels so much longer since I have been involved with the Food Bank for thirteen or fourteen years. And today is not the end, I move out of the chair seat and into the past chair stool. They can’t get rid of me that easily.
I have had the great privilege of working with an outstanding CEO, Peter Werbicki and his talented Executive Management Team as well as the highly qualified board. I am sure that I would never be selected to be on this board today based on the superiority of the people who have joined in the last few years. But that was all by design. When I was the chair of board development my goal was to recruit people much brighter than myself and that has happened and been the case ever since.
I am proud of all the people who work and volunteer for the Food Bank. We are the emergency food provider for 34 counties and more and more our job has changed to help the chronically poor and hungry. Every year we have miraculously increased the amount of food we are able to deliver, and our year does not end until June 30, but I can predict we will have another record year.
That is not good news. The fact that there are more and more working poor who need help is a sad situation in our community. Food insecurity is a hidden problem that so many people do not fully understand.
As a person who loves food as much as I do I am still dedicated to ensuring that our neighbors have something to eat. Not just anything, but healthy, nutritious food. The dollar menu at fast food is no way for a nation to survive.
I leave my seat proud of all that the Food Bank has done, but knowing there is still much work ahead of us. I would have been the most successful if I had been able to put the Food Bank out of business because of a lack of hungry people. Sadly, I am not sure I will live long enough to see that, but it will remain my goal.
Thank you to all of you blog readers who have been supporters of the Food Bank and the work we are doing. To share with your neighbors is the true sign of your humanity. I am proud to be a member of this community and I look forward to continuing the fight to end hunger.
Carter is at camp and we are leaving for Africa so I wrote a few letters to Carter that my friend Christy is going to mail every couple of days so that Carter does not go forever without and real mail at camp. Writing letters to camp is hard enough when not that much is going on at home, but writing in advance is next to impossible. Maybe I could have predicted what might go on in the world, but I decided that was just too weird, even for me, a person who writes something weird everyday.
Instead I decided to pull out the book I made for Carter with all the great quotes she said when she was two and three. I guess I was smart enough then to write the wonderful things she said down to share with Russ, who was on the road a lot. I’m glad I did because as far as I’m concerned two and three are when kids say the best stuff.
Apparently hot dogs played a major role in Carter’s life as is evident in these two little stories:
In November our Ukrainian babysitter said, “I gave Carter two sausages for lunch.” Carter interjected, “you mean hot dogs.”
“In my country they are called sausages.”
Carter replies, “God says, in our country they are called hot dogs.”
Following along the same theme:
A babysitter says to Carter, “I have a little tummy ache.”
Carter says, “O.K., I am a doctor. What did you eat for lunch?”
“A hot dog and fries.”
“Well, a hot dog is O.K., but you need to ask your Mommy before you eat French fries. That will be $500 please.”
Based on the obvious large hot dog consumption in our house back then Carter said the following to me one day:
“My heart takes good care of me. And I say, ‘Good Luck!’”
Good luck indeed. Thank goodness we hardly ever have a hot dog around anymore.
One of my very favorite things Carter ever said was a month before her third birthday:
“It is so great in my world, when the sun is up or the sun is down.”
I hope it is great in your world. Don’t eat too many hot dogs and if you want fries, please save yourself $500 and ask your Mommy first.
Tonight in a rare, but very enjoyable night time Mah Jongg game the talk at my table turned to an eating establishment that all the players frequented and some bad choices and worse excuses for the choices they had made. Now I am fond of this place, so don’t ask me to name it, because I am sure they will turn this current situation around.
As I described in detail the mistakes and my conversations with management my friend Carolyn commented that I was thorough in my complaint. ‘Carolyn,” I responded, “don’t you know I am a professional complainer.” She acted as if in the 18 years I have known her she had never heard me complain.
Perhaps she had never heard me complain because she has never done anything wrong, at least to me, but I find it shocking that she was unaware of my professional status. I am a tough customer, but I am also an ardent supporter. So if I find something lacking in the customer service arena I try and constructively point out why it makes me unhappy.
I know that not all people who I complain to are thrilled I am doing it, but consider the alternative. First, if I have encountered something wrong I am probably not the first person who has felt that way. Second, most people don’t bother to complain to the person who is actually in charge, but just leave unhappy to never return again and worse tell ten people how unhappy they were. Third, I always offer evidence-based complaints with positive suggestions on how to grow the business.
My professional designation was earned when I was a sales and marketing consultant, but had been honed for many years before that as an armature tough cookie. My father has mentioned on more than one occasion that he is surprised some businesses had stayed open after I received very poor customer service from them more than once. See, if my direct confrontations of poor service don’t improve after a reasonable amount of time then I go right for the juggler. But at least I returned to the business to see if they even tried.
The difference between a professional complainer and a whiny unhappy person is that the professional will praise and frequent great establishments all day long. A whinny person is never satisfied. I may be demanding, but I will never whine about anything.
I have this fantasy about all I will get done when I send my only child off to summer camp. There are the multi-year lists of things that need to get cleaned out and the nine years of undone scrapbooks and photo-books of family trips, the office files that have not been filed in oh-so-many years, and let’s not even begin to talk about the boxes on the attic that were moved from my Washington house to Russ’ New Jersey House and then our Durham home only to stay unopened for twenty plus years.
Although I still have four and 5/6th weeks to get those things done I did not start off on the right foot. As soon as we got home form camp drop-off I left the house to go to Pokey’s stitch and bitch party to see my friend Margaret visiting from Minneapolis. All my new needlepoint students were at Pokey’s so I did not feel any guilt needle pointing at a party. The problem was that my extroverted self stayed too long and by the time I got home last night I was wired and could not go to sleep.
I lay next to the snoring Russ willing myself to pass out since I had to get up early to go to the trainer this morning. Why I had not changed my workout time so I could sleep-in just one day I do not know. Well, I do know that I need to keep up my training pattern before I go off to Africa where it will be hard to walk and there will be no fresh fruits or veg for me to eat without the fear of the runs.
After my exhausted workout, that being a workout I arrive at already exhausted, I went home to assemble the first care package I needed to send to Carter. I know she did not plan this, but yesterday when we were about twenty minutes from home Carter announced that she had left her camp laundry bag at home. “No problem,” I say, “I will mail it to you.”
The whole Care package thing is very important to Carter’s love of camp as well as her love of me as her mother. One year she said I sent too much, then the following year too little. This year I am trying for just right, but it will be harder than ever since I will be gone part of the time.
Even though I had already purchased care package items with Carter so that I could get it right I wanted to add a few surprises. That involved a little shopping this morning and a stop at the post office to get the prepaid box. I came home and carefully assembled the perfect balance of required items, (Laundry bag and stationary), treats to share with cabin mates and silly fun toys. I wrote a note and sealed up the box heading back to the post office. I realized that Carter had wiped me out of forever stamps so I needed to wait in the line to buy more for myself. As I stood there I witnessed six, yes six, other mothers sealing up care packages right there at the post office.
When my turn came with the clerk I was shocked that I had spent over $100 on mailing the package and buying the stamps. I turned as the mother next to me let out a gasp as she was asked how she wanted to pay the 75 dollars for the three care packages she was sending.
I went home too exhausted to work on any list chores and instead sorted junk mail while walking. As I threw away a two foot tall stack of catalogs and only about five real letters I thought that the summer advent of camp must be a real boon to the Post office, what with all these cookies being mailed and real letters going to and fro camps that don’t allow electronic communication. If only every American would send one child to summer camp we might be able to save the US Postal System.
Today is the day that Carter waits all year for drop-off at Camp Cheerio. This is her sixth and last year as a camper and apparently being a “Senior Camper” comes with a lot of privileges and fun. She started there going to the two-week girl session. Last year she added a stay over and a one-week of co-ed camp to her all girl camp and this year she is staying five weeks, two weeks girls, one-week co-ed followed by a two-week of co-ed. She has figured out a way to be a “senior camper” three times.
She has done nothing but talk about going to camp for weeks, but I think today she was actually a little sad about leaving us for five weeks. OK, maybe she was not sad about leaving us, maybe she was a little nervous about not having her phone, you tube and music for five weeks.
As we drove away from Durham we called her grandparents so she could say goodbye to them. Both grandfathers practically said the same thing to her, “Don’t break anything at camp.” Russ and I had the same conversation since we are going to be in Africa for a good part of the time she is at camp. I just remember being in Utah last year and getting a call from camp that Carter needed antibiotics and I needed to call the pharmacy by camp. I don’t know what will happen if she needs that kind of help this year?
As Russ and I were just barely off the mountain on our way home I saw a billboard for the Highway Outlet store JR’s that read “From Brassieres to Chandeliers”. I made a comment that I would not think of going to that store for either of those two items and wondered aloud who came up with that marketing campaign, aiming my conversation at Carter, then I realized she was not there. Luckily Russ, marketer that he is, found the bill board equally bizarre and kept my mind off the fact that I was not going to get to share these funnies with Carter for five whole weeks.
I’m sure Carter would have come back at me, “I bet that ad person first wrote from ‘Underwear to Hardware’ and some redneck at the store classed it up by changing it to ‘From Brassieres to Chandeliers.’” I already miss Carter’s tough non-sensibilities and non-sensitivities. It’s going to be a long five weeks for me.
Finally one of my many cucumber vines produced a life size fruit this morning. Since it is Carter’s last night at home before five weeks of Camp Cheerio she is requesting Asian Food. I am trying to stay away from Asian since the sodium seems to stick with me for days. So I made this summer layered salad with the fruits of my garden and what I had on hand.
Starting at the bottom and working my way up to the top this is what it is.
1 Peeled and chopped cucumber
1 chopped tomato
10 Fresh Basil leaves – cut into strips
¼ cup of feta cheese cubes
1 avocado- cubed
¼ cup of marinated onions – I used the leftovers from the onion slaw
Pour some white balsamic vinegar (I used a honey ginger one from Blue Sky), in and chill.
It will need salt and pepper when you eat it, but I did not want to add the salt until right before serving.
As far as I am concerned this will make a meal.
Enjoy the longest day of the year.
As reported yesterday I had to take Carter to Raleigh yesterday to go to her favorite English singer, Jake Bugg’s concert. From Carter’s point of view it was a huge success. She and her friend Campbell got great spots about five people back from the stage, they loved the opening act – which means they have discovered yet another band they want to follow, Jake Bugg played beautifully and the crowd of devoted followers were a perfect audience, they met new friends in the Bugg Fandom, bought cute merch (that’s teenage girl lingo for merchandise) and the big bonus was the mother’s (me, Hannah and bonus mother Jan) allowed them to wait 30 minutes after the show ended to meet Jake and get photos with him. Big wins, lots of happiness, followed by PCD in the car on the way home -“Mom, PCD (Post Concert Depression) is a real thing,” I was told through the tears.
Not only was the daughter’s concert experience a megahit, but the mother’s night turned out to be an unexpected triumph too. One reason is that my level of expectation was incredibly low to begin with. I find that the less I am looking forward to something the better I end up feeling about it if it is fun.
My reason for not looking forward to this night is I first thought I was going to just be a driver, a lone adult in the world of teen music mania looking for a way to kill six hours in the heat and the dark. Then Hannah volunteered to go with me and our plan was to eat dinner and walk. Then Jan called to ask if she could spend the night in her Durham Home, our guest room. Suddenly I had my own girl gang and we had a plan.
After barley slowing down the car outside the Lincoln Theatre so the crumb snatchers could jump out to wait in the fandom line the big girls made a beeline for Poole’s dinner. After putting our name on the list for a table Jan and Hannah each got a yummy adult beverage and they joined me on the sidewalk where I was standup needle pointing in the warmth of the evening air. Around eight we were seated in the booth by the kitchen door. The night’s menu was written on the chalkboard above our heads so I stood and read it allowed to my friends and with each description our mouths watered a little more.
Our waitress came by to see if we needed more drinks and we let her know that we were going to be occupying that table for a very long time. She gave us a thumbs-up since it appeared that we were the last turn of the table-night and it was the worst table in the place.
Like analysts decoding a secret we hatched a plan to enjoy as many different items as we could and not be gluttonous or gain an ounce. Agreeing on two appetizers, two salads and one side dish and dessert we started our ordering campaign. We began with one beet salad shared amongst the three of us. We each took a slice of red and then a slice of yellow beet, a fork full of avocado and a tiny pile of greens dressed in orange marmalade, horseradish and blue cheese vinaigrette and put it on our own individual plate. Almost simultaneously the conversation ceased as we each experienced the same perfect bite. It was like group sex without the embarrassment of being naked.
After agreeing it was almost the best thing we had ever eaten we decided to follow it with the tuna Carpaccio with fennel and grapefruit. Again one third of the dish for each of us gave us the taste we wanted. We decided we needed the house Mac ‘n cheese next so as not end with something heavy. We had seen the bowls go by us they left the kitchen, but did not really appreciate the size until our sweet waitress put the cheese crusted au grain down in front of us.
I rarely let myself have pasta of any sort these days remembering back to a trip to Italy with Carter and Russ six years ago that was the beginning of gaining my weight back. But sharing some mac ‘n cheese with friends seemed like the safest way to revisit my favorite food- melted cheese. In the end we each had a small bit and had the waitress box up over half of the bowl to bring home to Carter.
At this point we had been eating this long drawn out way for over an hour. We were not close to being full. We ordered the shrimp and crab salad with avocado and radishes. Two forkfuls each and the jewel of a dish was gone. The heirloom tomatoes, with burrata and grilled corn bread rounded out our savory courses.
I would have been happy to stop right then, but I had read out loud the description for a dark chocolate and peanut pie with a bruleed banana and Jan had her heart set on that. Hannah and I did not need our arms twisted. A two-bite dessert could not hurt anyone.
When it was all said and done we had dragged our dinner out for almost three hours, we each got to taste many more yummy things than if we had just ordered our own dinner and the bill hardly amounted to anything. As we walked outside a text message came across my phone, “Just ended. Getting Merch. PLEASE BRING WATER.” Followed by, “We r trying to meet him. They say 15 mins.”
The mothers were so happy from our great meal that we did not put up any fight about our daughters waiting in the parking lot by the tour bus and we even drove through McDonalds and bought four bottles of water on the way to pick up.
In the end I think it would be a real fight to agree who had a better night. As for me I now only want to go to dinner with friends who will split everything with me. Two bites of anything are absolutely perfect.
Carter loves music, especially British boy singers. She also likes to discover the new and under appreciated acts. A few years ago she mentioned to me a new favorite, Jake Bugg. It was easy for me to remember his name since our family nick name for Carter is Bug.
One day this spring while Carter was at school I get a text from her that Jake Bugg was going to be playing in Raleigh. “Aren’t you in class?” was my response. While I was making her sweat at school I was going online to buy tickets for her and her friend Campbell since it was almost Campbell’s birthday and she shared in Carter’s musical tastes.
It was incredibly lucky that Jake Bugg was playing on one of the few days Carter is home this summer so it was meant to be. Now Campbell and her mother Hannah are coming over for us all to drive to Raleigh. My friend Jan from Texas just flew in so she is coming with us.
When I bought the tickets I knew I would have to take the girls and find a way to while away a few hours while they were standing in a dark theatre listening to their musical love up close and personal. What I did not know was that Hannah and Jan would want to go with me. Now what was going to be torture for me has turned into a fun girls night out, with dinner at Poole’s dinner and a fun walk around downtown for the moms to pass the time since we are not going to the concert.
I’m not sure how long we will have to wait for a table since Poole’s just won the James Beard Award. It really doesn’t matter since we are willing to exercise while waiting and most certainly have many hours to kill because our girls want to get there when the doors open an hour before the show starts and no concert starts on time.
I just hope that I am getting lots of “mother credit” for yet another concert. At least I don’t have to sit in the back and needlepoint.
As a former fat person the word binge was not one I wanted to be associated with. For most of my life binging meant eating too much, way too much. Although I was really over weight for a while, binging was not how I got there. I was a much more steady eater.
Now as a thinner person I am happy to admit that I am a binger, but not when it comes to eating. I am a binge watcher — that is a person who watches all the episodes of one TV show at once, maybe not in the same day, but in a short period of time and definitely not interrupted by any other shows.
This binging started last year when “Orange is the new black” was first released. I had heard Jason Biggs being interviewed on NPR about the show so I found it on Netflix the day it debuted and I watched all thirteen episodes in about four days. If you have never heard of or seen “Orange” then you might have been in a women’s prison in a country without cable.
That first binge watch led to my watching all seven seasons of “Breaking Bad” in binge mode. Between Orange and Breaking I was beginning to think I was the only honest person on earth. I followed Breaking with “House of cards” both seasons and that did nothing to restore my faith in human kind, but still I was addicted.
I lay off binge watching for a good six months hoping to cleanse my soul, then the second season of “Orange” came out and I was hooked all over again. Getting my steps was never so easy because I could walk while Crazy Eyes was following Vee around.
The problem with binge watching is the let down when I finish a series is too great. Nothing fills the void unless there is a new series to overtake my brain. Regular TV does not suffice. Waiting a week to follow a story is too slow. I could DVR a series and watch the whole thing once it has aired, but that would take more storage space than I have. I really don’t like reruns no matter how much I liked the show the first time with the exception of “Seinfeld” and “I love Lucy.” But comedy is not a great walking distraction.
So now I’m walking to Jeopardy and the tension is just not there like “House of Cards.” Each step seems slower, every mile takes longer. I’m craving a really good show to binge on. I need it for my exercise. Yeah, that’s the reason.
Even with a boat load of anti SPAM controls somehow my computer still puts “Anti-aging Secrets” into my You-Better-Read-This mailbox. Erectile dysfunction, balding, You Won the Irish Sweepstakes, Our Time Dating and extended warrantees for cars that we got rid of long ago all thankfully get trapped in my junk box, but not anti-aging. I guess my computer knows I am a woman, am happily married, sold the Dodge Durango and will not fall for the sweepstakes scam. But my computer knows I am aging. Not a big leap of some coder’s intuition. We are all aging.
Here is the real secret, we are all aging and at exactly the same speed. The answer to anti-aging is no secret it is death. Since I have been inundated with these pitches I looked more closely at them to see if they were for some kind of assisted suicide and thankfully they are not. The e-mails are for some strange fruit or all natural injections that claim to stop the clock, or make you look as if it has been turned back many years.
Since my computer is not getting any smarter I would like to register in the spam hall of records that I do not mind aging. I am not looking for Dr. Oz to tell me how to look as young as someone who could be my child. Aging is a privilege that is given to the living. I am not interested in being one of the dead right now.
Using sunscreen to prevent cancer, eating right to be healthy, working out to have a body that functions well, wearing lipstick so my lips don’t sting from being chapped, all about function not form. So hawkers of crazy ass products stop calling them anti-aging solutions and tell me how they will make me feel better as I do the inevitable and that is get older, wiser and hopefully more loved. And no, I don’t need Our Time Dating or Meet Senior People to do that.
Speaking of being loved, I would like to thank all you nice readers who sent me kind messages and a bunch of WooHoo’s yesterday. So much for my quiet moment, as well as so much for reaching my goal — I got on the scale this morning and was up two tenths of a pound. I promise not to proclaim when I lose that weight!
This morning, just like every morning, I woke up used the bathroom and went naked to my scale. Measuring myself at my lowest point of the day has been a ritual I have done for the last two years. I find that no matter what I have eaten the day before it is best for me to get a reading on what the truth is. Not everyone agrees with weighing everyday, but I find it to be a huge motivator. I have a scale that measures down to the fifth of a pound so I can tell if I lost two tenths of a pound and not have to wait for a whole pound either direction to know which way I am heading.
Two years, one month and three days ago I started this weight loss challenge. I needed to lose weight and I was about to start my role as the Board Chair of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. The previous chair, Ed Carney, had been an executive with Cisco, which just happened to be our largest donor for many years running. Ed was a great board chair who I learned much from, but I was very worried about following him since I did not have thousands of generous employees donating to the Food Bank.
My weight loss challenge in no way raised as much money as Cisco gives, but it was my small way to generating funds. It worked, in fact, my cousin Ellen just found my blog and donated this week, even though she lives in Florida. But the challenge was not just about raising money, it was my accountability to a healthier me. At the time of my challenge I set a five month time period for the money portion but I also set a larger pound goal of getting off 98 pounds for myself.
Not to bury the lead, but this morning when I got on the scale I had reached my goal, right down to the fifth. I had to look at it for a few moments. I got on and off the scale to see if it would remain the same. I went to my phone to log my weight in my fitbit app and to make sure that was actually the goal I had set. My app gave me a “WooHoo” I guess I had met my goal.
I kept quiet about it. As Russ and Carter were going out the door to their respective jobs I just said, “Have a nice day.” I did not tell them. I went to the gym to workout with my trainer. I did not tell her. I came home and got on the treadmill trying to get my steps in like any normal day.
After my regular lunch of arugula from the garden, chicken thigh, caramelized pear and blue cheese salad I decided to try on the last of the clothes in my closet of dreams that had been too tight two months ago. They fit. They are not all in style since the last time I weighed this little was in 2006, but they are confirmation.
The timing is perfect. Next week is my last board meeting as chair of the Food Bank. I spent two terms being thoughtful about food in everyway. But now it is time to set a new goal. Although I am very happy with attaining this one, I am still a flabby middle-aged woman who could improve.
I also know, as a life long yo-yo dieter that I am either going up or going down and I need to find a way to stay on the downside as much as I can. So no great fan fair for reaching my goal. I’m off to get a Mani Pedi as my reward. My new goal will be to lose five more pounds. No time frame to do it in, just inching down one fifth of a pound at a time. I’ll keep the “WooHoo” on my phone for today and change my goal number tomorrow. That’s my own quiet celebration.
I am the one who made my Dad a father. I am the first-born. My Dad was young when I got here. Despite being what I would consider now too young to properly raise a baby he seemed to figure it out well as he went along.
The advantage of having my young father was fun was always close at hand. I was lucky that I was an only child for the first three and a half years of my life and then there were just two of us until I was over eight so my father treated us like playmates in those early years.
One of my earliest memories is of being at the Dayton Country Club when I was about three and my father would be standing in the water encouraging me to jump off the side of the pool and swim to him. I know we have a picture of me with some kind of Styrofoam bubble belted to my middle so I was not going to drown, but my Dad knew I should learn to swim as early as possible. I bet I only wore that bubble a very short time.
The other theme that surrounds my father is that he is big and everything he ever does is big. Couple big with fun and my Dad was a kid’s dream. When we used to go to Pawleys Island for the summer other kids would get an inflatable raft or regular ‘ole car tire sized inner tube to play in the waves while their parents sat in chairs on the beach. Not my dad. He would take us into Georgetown Tire and Rubber Company and buy the biggest tractor tire inner tube they made and get it inflated, tie rope around it so we had a way to pull it around in the water and drag ourselves up onto it.
The multiple rope handles came in handy when we tied it to the car roof of our navy blue Ford Country Squire with the brown fake wood paneling and drove the giant inflatable back to the beach. My cousins and sisters and I could all ride that inner tube on the waves at the same time making us a danger to anyone in our path.
Pulling that big inner tube back out over the waves was never a problem because my Dad was always willing to be out in the water with us. He taught us all how to body surf and jump headfirst ducking into the waves so that the powerful water did not throw us around. Of course thanks to my Dad we all were good swimmers.
Somehow we never seemed tired on those vacations at Pawleys. My Dad and my Uncle Wilson would make us stay up until is was really dark and then they would put on the biggest fireworks show even though it was not the fourth of July. After what seemed liked hundreds of rockets with big balls of red, green and white sparkling balls exploding from them were set off we would eat popsicles and fall into to big sleep in our beds. We would wake up early to my Dad cooking a big breakfast with a new fun plan to go crabbing and ride our inner tubes down the backwater to the inlet as the tide was going out.
And although he taught me all the important stuff about working hard and being good to people today on this Father’s day I am most happy for all the fun I’ve had with my Dad. I’m also thankful that he had me so young so that I’ve had him for so long. So happy Father’s Day to my Big Fun Dad.
In preparation to go to Africa I am trying to use up the food we have in the house and not purchase more perishable goods. That is hard since it is prime veggie season and what I have on hand may make strange food combos. Looking around I notice I have a giant bag a Vidalia onions. Onions usually last a while, but not the sweet kind. I wonder if it is the high sugar content that makes them get soft faster?
Since tomorrow is father’s day I am going to cook some kind of pork being the freezer has a few choices in the hog section. Thinking ahead I to make up some kind of Vidalia slaw that will need a few hours of marinating to make it the perfect mate to a pork roast. All that being said, I have concocted this recipe and tasted it in the pre-marinating state. I may adjust it tomorrow and if I do I will be sure to update the recipe.
2 soft ball sized Vidalia, or other sweet onions thinly sliced
8 packets of Splenda
1/3 c. of white vinegar
3 T. Grainy Creole mustard
½ t. salt
¼ t. celery seed
Mix it all up together and put in a jar or other container that has a tight lid. Refrigerate at least 8 hours.
The time should help soften the onions.
New hairdo selfie has a dual meaning for me. First it means what all young people think of as a selfie and that is a picture I took of myself in my new do, but for me it means the hairstyle I was able to do myself the day after it was cut.
Yesterday I went to see my hair stylist Kathy at Sling Blades and told her it was time to cut all my hair off. The last and only time I had hair this short was at Ronald Reagan’s second inaugural when I went to the ball with a friend who needed a real girl as a date. That haircut then was so horrible that I have never gone back to really short hair.
But I am thinner now than I was then. In fact, yesterday I was half a pound away from what I thought was my goal weight so I decided it was a good time to chance a shorter look. I also was thinking ahead to my summer travels to Africa and Maine where the lack of hair styling products and electricity meant that I was going to have fairly horrible hair to begin with.
I am a self-professed hair moron. I am not good at styling hair. I can get a round brush so tangled in four inches of hair that professionals need to be called in. That means I have to have a great stylist who can give me a completely idiot proof cut. I think that is what I got because I showered and did my own hair this morning and in the blink of Vidal Sassoon’s eyelashes I was able to recreate the salon look Kathy gave me yesterday.
Only time will tell if I am able to figure this thing out day in and day out, especially considering I have what the pros call a double crown cowlick. Does that mean I am royalty? Maybe it means I need to have a court hairstylist at all time. Nonetheless, my new do is cooler, and by that I mean temperature, it is easy and as long as I keep my mouth shut I can walk by some people and they don’t recognize me.
When Christy Simmons, the communications director at the Food Bank, asked me to walk the red carpet at the screening of the documentary “Farmland” I thought it was a figure of speech. BASF was sponsoring the film presentation with the film’s producer and director, Academy award winner James Moll at the Carolina Theater tonight with the Food Bank of CENC being the beneficiary of the proceeds of the ticket sales.
When I first was asked if I could be there to accept the donation from BASF the check amount was about $2,500. Then their employees started a virtual food drive to raise more money for the Food Bank so by the time tonight came the donation grew.
After enjoying a belated birthday afternoon tea celebration at the Washington Duke with my friends Christy Barnes and Mary Lloyd I casually made my way to downtown Durham for the movie. Little did I know that I was actually going to be “walking the red carpet” and being interviewed.
The movie was a bigger draw than first imagined and my job to accept a small check turned into a big check for $17,000. I had the privilege of sitting with the filmmaker and one of the young farmers documented in the movie. It is a compelling story that follows six young farmers from planting to harvesting as well as the raising of chickens, hogs and cattle.
After yesterday’s punishing rain turned my squash plants sideways I had a particular respect for what farmers go through to risk everything to bring in a crop. There were a large number of farmers in the audience tonight, many of whom donate their excess yield to the Food Bank. I did not get a chance to thank each of them personally for what they donate, but I wish I could. I really wish I could thank each farmer just for farming because we all would not get to enjoy the food we have if it were not for farmers.
I think about the lovely tea I had with my friends today and the number of different farmers it took to grow or raise all the different things we enjoyed from the wheat used to make the flour for the scones, the strawberries to make the jam, the cream from cows to make the clotted cream and so on and so on. Most food is raised on family farms, not on factory farms, so at your next meal take a moment and say thanks for those farmers.
This spring I planted my vegetable garden with the mind that I was not always going to be around during peak harvest time. I put in Arugula and lettuce. The lettuce has been wiped out by some tend leaf loving varmint, but apparently said rotten animal has an unsophisticated pallet and does not like the spicy greens. The good thing about the arugula is that it is a fast growing crop even though I started it from seed so I have been able to enjoy it.
I was planning on having a salad for dinner since tomorrow I am splurging and going out for afternoon tea as my main meal for the day. I have written extensively about my love of afternoon tea as the best meal ever. The only problem with tea is that it is probably the most fattening fare I ever encounter. Tea sandwiches, scones, pastries and cakes — nothing healthy on the menu, with the exception of the actual tea.
Tonight as I pulled in the driveway from picking Carter up at work we barely had enough time to run into the garage before the heavens opened up and dumped baby swimming pool amounts of water from the sky. So now I stand hungrily looking out the window at the garden waiting for the deluge to stop so I can go out and gather my dinner. I could have planned ahead and cut my greens earlier in the day, but somehow they wilt in my house, even refrigerated. I am not sure how grocery store greens keep their crispness, when my fresh picked can’t.
As happy as I am to get rain for my garden I hope this very heavy rain does not knock all the blossoms off my squash, cucumbers and eggplant. Those blossoms are needed to get pollinated and turn to fruit. If I lose this first round I probably won’t be around for the second round to come to fruition and turn to vegetables. Sometimes gardening is heart breaking and I feel for farmers who are at the mercy of the weather.
For the past week and a half I have been watching my cherry tomato plants grow more and more green globes, but am wondering when one will decide to turn even the slightest shade of red. The green bean plants have some thin tender beans. I have to keep an eye on them because they can go from too thin to though and old very quickly. The pepper plants are always the last to give any hint of producing a crop. I can go away for a month and come back and they still will not show any signs of deciding to birth a baby.
If this rain does not stop soon I might just run out with an umbrella and cut off a few basil leaves to eat with a farmer’s market tomato I have sitting here. Thank goodness for the success of real farmers because if I had to depend only on my own crops I would be very hungry, hey maybe I would be very skinny too.
I stopped by the needlepoint store today to turn in two ornaments and pick up fibers for four more projects as I plan out what I am taking to Africa. The stitchers table was full of all the regulars, including my friend Elizabeth from Greensboro who I am in an ornament contest with this year.
Elizabeth is a far superior stitcher to me as well as a very prolific worker. At the end of last season she asked me how many ornaments I had done and since it was a good, no, great many she decided I was a worthy opponent and she challenged me to see who could finish the most ornaments this year. So far I am winning because I only make ornaments and she does belts, pillows, larger framed pieces as well as a giant kneeler for her daughters’ school chapel. That being said, she still has all most three months and could easily bypass me in the end.
Needle pointers tend to be rule followers. If you are doing a certain stitch you need to do it one way or it is a different stitch and that is a different rule. I like to work on one project at a time because my rule is to finish. Elizabeth has a rule of five, which means she can have only five different projects she is working at the same time. Today Elizabeth announced that she was going to work on her counted piece until three o’clock and then switch to the kneeler because she has a deadline for that piece to be turned in.
In our stitching group Kate is the rule enforcer so when three o’clock rolled around she altered Elizabeth it was time to switch projects. That was when Elizabeth evoked her codicil, which is her way of changing her mind and breaking her own rule. She said she would change projects when she finished the section she was currently working on.
I jumped right on that codicil idea. As a creator and follower of rules I love having a way out of my own self imposed restrictions, but then I really got to thinking about it. I have lost weight this go-round, by myself without the aid of a professional weight loss program by creating some sound rules and following them. I realized that when I have gained weight in the past it was because I had codicils to what I knew were the eating rules I needed to follow.
One failed rule I created was the “one bite rule.” I allowed myself one bite of anything. Big mistake! It is amazing how many calories there are in one bite of many different things. That rule started as a codicil and ended with seventy gained pounds.
The rule of rules for me is create a rule, measure it’s success and improve the rule. Then every once in a while cut myself a tiny amount of slack and just break the rule just to keep from becoming an uptight pain who no one wants to hang with. We all have our own ways.
After a two-day break from school Carter started today with her full-time volunteer job that she has to do everyday she is home and not at camp or on vacation with me. She is working towards getting the Mayor’s award, which is given to kids who volunteer at least 100 hours during their summer break.
Working 100 hours for free is harder than you think. First of all most non-profits don’t want the liability of teenagers so they don’t take young volunteers without adult supervision. I don’t blame them because I am sure there are some parents who might want to drop younger kids off at a non-profit and use it as a babysitting service.
Carter has years of work experience from working at her barn so she was able to get a job at an animal rescue organization. She is the kitten room specialist and front office helper. Turns out it is still work for this mother because I have to get up and drive her to work and pick her up at the end of the day. Her driver’s license can’t come too soon. I am hoping some days her father can take her.
I was proud of Carter when I dropped her off, not exactly certain what her day was going to be, but going in willing to do what it took. I expected a text early in the day, but did not get one until she took her lunch break to let me know what time to pick her up. Turns out her love of organization and order are a real bonus in her job.
Apparently the care of kittens is very strict and Carter learned how to dissemble the three cage tower, clean it and reassemble it ensuring that the exact color coded towels go back in the right spots along with the heating pads and bowls. She also got to play, feed and clean the kittens before going up front to do the jobs she says she was born to do, alphabetize and file.
Carter says she liked the mother cats the best because they love to snuggle. I guess that it is Carter’s summer mothering job. She already is recognizing the perils of having offspring too young. I think this is the best lesson any teenager could learn.
Russ and I have done our best to see the most of Texas we could in two days. Not only did we go to a lovely rehearsal dinner Friday night in the hill country, see the highlights of San Antonio yesterday, buy all our Safari clothes along with some cute Tori Burch shoes and other fancy clothes for a song at the biggest outlet mall that just happened to be next to our hotel in San Marcos, go to the most beautiful wedding and spend quality time with out friends Jan and Rex, but we ended with a whirlwind tour of Austin today.
I had quizzed the Austin Bridesmaids about what we should do with our limited time. Not only did we get the skinny on the cool places to eat, but they told us what the highlights were for tourists our age. That was really helpful since neither Russ nor I were in the need of tattoos, guitars or cowboy boots.
We made the drive from San Marcos to Austin faster than we thought so we had an hour to kill before our brunch reservation. We wandered over to the Texas State capital building which was hard to miss since it is a large prominent building, just the way Texas thinks of itself. As we meandered around the really beautiful grounds we noticed people going in a door so we followed them.
Lo and behold they had just started giving tours of the capital building for three hours on Sundays and we joined the first tour. We had a spunky tour guide who proudly gave us the history Texas statehood. She took us in the representatives chambers where they had big ass photos of the sitting members that looks like a fraternity or sorority photos, you know, all the head shots in ovals with the name underneath. As I was looking more closely at it I noticed that there were photos of about thirty children in the center. I thought it was amazing how young they elected their officials. Upon further study I discovered the children were the honorary mascots of the legislature and also grandchildren of the members of the house. Only in Texas.
After our running tour of the capital we headed out to the hipper area of town to a great restaurant called the Odd Duck. We were probably one of a handful of people without tattoos or large pierced hoops in our earlobes, the X games were in Austin this weekend so I don’t know if this was typical. It was a communal table type place and we were seated at the bar with a very attentive bartender who took extra good care of us. The menu was cool, but not figure friendly. The good news was the plates were all small and our barmaid suggested we get three or four to share. We solved the fattening problem by just getting two.
I had a soft shell crab with a scrambled egg and veggies and a really spicy virgin mary, oh so good. Russ had goat hash with homemade tatter tots, poached egg and hollandaise. Decedent, but small enough that he did not feel guilty. We withstood the up sale of the all house made baked goods. The most outrageous being the zucchini bread French toast with buttermilk peach ice cream. When I come back to life as a different person I want to have a metabolism that could afford me to at least taste that.
After coffee we went to the University of Texas and walked around the campus. Sunday in the summer meant we were practically alone. It is a big place and they are serious about their core values because they were engraved, sculpted, written or placed in multiple areas around campus. They were your typical higher education values like learning, discovery and leadership, but the most Texas core value was “freedom,” no kidding, it’s Texas. Off to the airport with great memories, lots of pictures and overstuffed suitcases. I can hardly wait to get home to see our sweet girl and her puppy and out fridge full of fruit and vegetables.
The Texas sun still shone strong and bright at 6:00 PM sharp as Kim on her father’s arm came down the steps and across the rose petal strewn grass to meet Blake at the alter. As I watched the beautiful bride gracefully and calmly pledge to love her kind and sweet husband all the years of knowing her rushed through my mind. From her bangs at ten to her baby sitting Carter in high school to her taking our pizza order at Randy’s and then off to college at Duke we have known Kim for more than half her life.
Being great friends with her mother Jan means that I have lived through all the stages of Kim’s life as we would discuss our children over Mah Jongg tiles every week. This was a big day and it all was beautiful and meaningful and I am thrilled we were there to witness it.
After spending the day exploring San Antonio, seeing the Alamo, which as we were told, we will never forget, to walking a good portion of the River walk and enjoying lunch with our friend and minster Chris who came to Texas to perform the marriage ceremony we went back to our hotel in San Marcos to get ready for the wedding. The landscape in San Marcos is not much to write home about. The trees are no taller than a mobile home and the land is dry and brown.
We got dressed and made the trek to Ficsher where the wedding was going to be held. As we turned onto Ranch Road 32 the landscape changed from small rolling hills to a much steeper terrain and suddenly we were on the backbone of a mountain range looking out over a greener valley than we had come from.
The ranch were the wedding was held was like an oasis. We talked through an arboretum to reach the grassy place for the ceremony that over looked the valley. After Kim and Blake were officially hitched the guests all went to a beautiful tented area for drinks. Peacocks walked on the roof of the house and white lights twinkled in the trees. The wedding moved a third time to a huge stone room with tables covered in lace where the wind blew through the opened windows. Despite being 90 degrees the breeze blowing across the ridge of the mountain and made the dinner delightful.
Rather than wedding cake we ate pie and danced and held sparklers in an arch to send off the happy couple. The whole evening was perfect. Kim was the calmest bride and Blake was beaming. Jan and Rex were the perfect hosts as the parents of the bride. The Texas hospitality was flowing and it was a beautiful way to begin a life together.
Russ and I got on a plane early this morning to fly to Texas for our friend’s Jan and Rex’s daughter’s wedding. The wedding is tomorrow in a small town, if it is a town, in the Hill country. The reason I don’t think it is a town is we are staying at the closest place to the wedding, San Marcos, which is a half an hour away from the wedding ranch.
I had never heard of San Marcos before I was told it was the place to stay. Then earlier this week while I was watching Good Morning America they reported the fastest growing places in America and San Marcos was number one. It is half way between Austin and San Antonio on the major interstate. I am wondering if the corn field outside the Embassy Suites Hotel will be full of houses by the time the weekend is over?
Getting here is not easy. We first flew from Durham to Baltimore. The fun part of that trip was I sat next to a guy who was wearing a Boston Red Sox championship ring. Being the nosy reporter type person I am I asked him if he was a baseball player. Turns out he is George Lombard who played pro baseball for 15 years and now is a coach for the Red Sox. He had been in Durham to see some of his Pawtucket farm team play the Bulls. George had been a Bull himself so he spoke highly of Durham which always makes me happy. He generously showed me his ring, even taking it off to show the bearded face insignia on the inside.
Our second leg of the trip was three hours and the plane had wifi so I was able to text. Carter was home alone baking a cake for her friend Liza’s birthday so she gave me reports along the way. This was not just any cake, it was a four layer cake with homemade buttercream frosting decorated in the style of “the fault in our stars” book jacket. Tonight is the opening of the movie and all of Carter’s friends are going to celebrate Liza and cry at the movie.
I was a little worried about Carter tackling buttercream for the first time alone. It is not easy and if the weather is not right it can reek havoc. Carter not only tackled the butter cream, but tempered white and dark chocolate and make the cloud decorations. I am very proud of her, but secretly glad I was not home because I really love buttercream frosting. Oh no, I’m going to a wedding tomorrow and I really love wedding cake. Maybe I should walk to the wedding.
As a child I used to love to eat soufflé. We had it often thanks to the good folks at Stouffers. Frozen foods were never shied away from back in the seventies. No one in my house ever made a soufflé so I did not learn to make one myself until Julia Child taught me at a cooking class at the Greenbrier. A day spent in the kitchen with Julia is still one of the great days in my life.
Since make a cheese soufflé with her I quickly learned that any cooked vegetable that has been either chopped or pureed finely enough could be added to the base of a soufflé. The other night I had a big bag of spinach that needed to be consumed. I cooked the leaves up in a big fry pan with the tiniest amount of water then squeezed it as dry as I could get it and chopped the hell out of it. Of course frozen chopped spinach cooked and drained well would work just as well for this recipe.
1 c. cooked spinach – if using fresh you need at least 2 pounds or one 10 oz. box of frozen
2 T. butter
½ c. Parmesan cheese
3 T. flour
1 c. scalded milk
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
4 egg yolks at room temperature
1 c. shredded cheese- I used Jarlsberg
5 egg whites
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Spray the inside of a soufflé dish with Pam and sprinkle ½ the Parmesan cheese in the container and twist it around so the cheese coats the inside of the dish.
IN a saucepan melt the butter and add the flour to it when melted and cook the flour on a low heat, stirring constantly for two minutes. Turn off the flame and add the milk and whisk it like hell. Put the pan back on a low heat and cook it until it gets thick, whisking the whole time to make sure it is not lumpy. Add the spices.
Turn off the flame and egg the egg yolks one at a time, whisking. Then add all the cheese and the spinach and mix well.
In a big very clean bowl beat your egg whites until they are white fluffy peaks. Take one quarter of the egg whites and whisk it into the cheese mixture then fold the rest of the egg whites in carefully. Pour the mixture into the prepared soufflé dish. Turn the oven down to 375 degrees and put the pan in the oven and shut the door for 30 minutes. It is not exactly diet food, but it is worth the calories.
Today is a bittersweet day for me and lord knows I like both bitter and sweet. Carter had her last final exam of 9th grade, and we had our annual last day of school lunch with Campbell and Hannah Hannan. Carter and Campbell have been in school together for eleven years. I will never forget the day in the first month of their being in Pre-K that they approached me together and said, “We want to have a play date.”
I looked down at cute Campbell who was almost a head shorter than Carter and said, “Great, what’s your name and who is your mom?” Little did I know it was the beginning of a life long friendship for us all. That was the sweet part of today.
The sad part was I had my goodbye visit with my friend Donnabeth, who is moving to Dallas. The fact that Donnabeth and I are friends at all is proof that there is some higher power. We met, I think, in 2007, at the Clear Creek Ranch in Burnsville, NC when Russ, Carter and I went for a few days and were put in a room next to Donnabeth, her husband Barry and their son Josh who is three years younger than Carter.
Since we were the only families of three we ended up sitting with them at all our family style six-seater meal tables. Quickly we discovered we were the oddball families as we laughed at the same things that no one else found funny. As luck would have it they lived in Cary and realizing that they were fish out of water there they sent Josh to school at the Duke School and eventually moved to Chapel Hill.
We did not live in the same town, our children were not the same age or sex, our husbands did not work in the same business, we were not involved in the same schools, charities or religions but we became fast friends. If I were Jewish I would be Donnabeth and if she were a gentile she would be me. We both love food, theatre and the absurd. Somehow we were meant to meet and become friends.
As life does you have friends that live close by and then you have ones who are spread far and wide, but they are still your friends. You don’t get to go to lunch as often, but that does not mean you can’t still talk about the crazy thing a neighbor did or kvetch about something happening in the news.
I am sad today to say goodbye to Donnabeth leaving North Carolina, but as she says, Dallas is a great place to buy a new smaller wardrobe. Like Carter has been friends with Campbell almost her whole life I am sure I will remain friends with Donnabeth forever, but that does not mean I am not sad about her moving today.
I had a big bag of fresh spinach that I needed to cook today so I decided to make a spinach soufflé that could serve two purposes, dinner and a blog entry. As I was just squeezing the water out of the spinach I had cooked and chopped my cell phone rang. “Hi Andrea,” I said recognizing my friend’s name on the phone.
“I’m up at the pool and I’m calling you because Pokey has a needlepoint question and did not want to bother you.” After talking for a few moments I told my friends that I would just run up to the pool to help them. For years when Carter was younger I sat under the awning at the pool watching swim team and I have missed the daily reason to get a chance to just sit and talk and now needlepoint. True to afternoon swim practice form it started to rain as soon as I arrived.
I arrived to find a few of my new needlepoint students working away on their projects. Kim proudly showed me her belt and was happy that I declared it a big success. Pokey had a very minor problem, which I was able to fix and show her how to prevent from happening again.
As soon as the stitching problem had been remedied the kids the started gathering around their mothers wondering what they should do having been shoed out of the pool. Then the rain stopped. One young one looking out over the golf course announced there was a huge rainbow and sure enough there was. A mother declared I was a needlepoint super hero and brought the rainbow. Another added I needed a cape and a theme song. All I need is a good pair of scissors and some strong reading glasses to help solve most problems.
Needlepoint is an art and some people like everything to exact and consistent and others are happy with progress. There is no one way it has to be. It just has to make you happy. Learning how to do it the way you like takes a little time and a little help from your friends. Like all things in life it takes a little practice, patience and not being afraid to ask for help. If I was a superhero and could have one special power it would not be to be invisible or be able to fly, but to make sure everyone is having a great time doing what ever he or she are working on, that way nothing ever feels like work.
I’m sure you don’t know this but it is incredibly hard to type while trying to flap my upper arms and walk on the treadmill at the same time. No, this is not a new variation on my regular exercise. I’m way behind on steps today because I just spent the last three hours going to get four vaccinations I need for Africa and the nurse told me to keep moving my arms to help disperse the liquid she shot in me.
Apparently Russ and I both need a very official yellow card showing we are up to date on vaccines and most specifically Yellow Fever to get into Zambia. As the nurse was filling out our cards I asked her if there was some special seal she would have to adhere to the yellow card. She said, “absolutely.” I about fell out of my chair laughing as she pulled out of her desk drawer the regular ‘ole rubber stamp that read “OFFICIAL VACCINATION NORTH CAROLINA.”
Based on my years of world travel to places big and small I can guarantee that the government worker we encounter in Zambia, no matter how long he has been on a boarder enforcement job, will have no idea where North Carolina is. I guess for most of the world a black rubber stamp is as high tech as is required. Not that I think anyone wants to lie about having gotten a yellow fever vaccine. Really the only person you might be hurting is yourself if you come down with the deadly fever.
Between malaria, and typhoid and any other number of insect borne illnesses it is a wonder that I want to travel at all considering how much mosquitoes like me here. Our travel nurse sold me a can a spray to make our clothes bug repellent. I can hardly wait to smell this stuff that I am going to douse all our garments in.
After the medical prevention the nurse gave me the talk about not eating fresh fruits and vegetables unless I can peel them. The thought of going two weeks without a salad is going to be tough. I am so conditioned to only eat fresh fruits and vegetables that it will be interesting to see how I deal with the restrictions to keep me safari able and not tied to a bathroom. You know what I mean.
If I had not already been to South Africa and know it is my favorite place on earth I might think twice about all this painful preparation. I am concerned about the amount of exercise I am going to be able to get, or not get. First there are the many days of flying, which means sitting in my seat and not walking the aisle of the airplane like a crazy woman. Then there are the camps we will be staying at where we are not allowed to walk outside without an armed guard since we will be right in the middle of the park where the big 5 live. I guess I am going to have to download a hotel room exercise program that I can do in our tent. At least my arms will be healed by then from all these shots.
There are two kinds of people in the world, those who have a passion but like to keep it to themselves and those who have a passion and want to share it with their friends. OK, maybe there are more kinds of people in the world, like those that don’t have any passion or whose passion is for something so tawdry they better not share it, but I’m not talking about those kind of people today.
I am not the passion hoarding type, but rather the passion sharing type. Now in the passion sharing type there are further breakdowns. There are those people who like to force their passion on others because they feel like everything they like is what everyone else on earth should like and then there are those who are happy to teach others who show an interest. I’m the second type. Today was the perfect example.
Since I needlepoint any time I am sitting, which is not just when I am watching TV home alone, but when I am playing Mah Jongg, or at a board meeting or in the car as long as I am not the driver, lots of people have observed me stitching. One friend, Pokey thought that a needlepoint learning party would make a good auction item for the Durham Academy auction so I asked Nancy, my needlepoint storeowner if she would host a party with me. Nancy, always happy to teach new stitchers, agreed readily.
Today was the day that the winner, Kim and her chosen guests came to have their party and learn to needlepoint. Since most everyone except Kim was a needlepoint virgin I was not sure how teaching six women all at once was going to go. Why I worried one moment I do not know because they all took to it beautifully. It helps that they were all smart, type A’s with a large number of advanced degrees among the group. But being smart is not a prerequisite for being good with your hands.
The one theme among the group was the discovery for good lighting and perhaps a pair of readers to be able to see the tiny holes that they were stitching. Since it was a party we had a ton of food, which was hardly touched because each woman was busy mastering the basket weave pattern. I had wine for everyone, but I think it was best they did not drink as they were just learning.
I am happy to report that everyone succeeded and is well on their way to actually making an ornament or a belt. Thanks to Kim for bidding and winning the party at the auction. Raising money for the school while passing on that passion is something that makes me so happy.