Hooray for Maine

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At last Carter and I had an easy last leg of our trip arriving in Maine this morning in record time. It helps that we left Stori’s house in Hamilton at 8 in the morning and that Thursday is not the most popular time to travel to Maine, even in August.

We met our friend Warren at the Maine Botanical Garden in Boothbay, which is a magical place. The summer flowers were in full bloom. I am jealous of the cool night air here that helps the plants, but then again I am not jealous of the short growing season.
Visiting the extensive gardens helped me get about half my daily steps as we walked through the birch alleé, the rhododendron garden and the fairly garden. Getting all my steps is not a big priority on vacation, but then again neither is my restraint from naughty foods, so maybe I need to reconsider the amount of exercise I am getting.

After Carter got her fill of old people and flowers she begged for lunch so we went into Booth Bay Harbor. Due to the luck of a parking place we ended up eating at a cute looking, but very old fashioned menued restaurant called The Tug Boat Inn. I was feeling fine about my food choices of a salad and seafood chowder and was perfectly satisfied, then Warren mentioned that we might want to stop at Round Top for Ice Cream on the way home. Might?

Maine is the only place I let myself eat ice cream. I don’t know what happens to cows here, but they really make some serious cream and when humans add sugar and other yummy flavors, well it’s trouble. I ordered the ginger since it is a Maine specialty, but I also tasted the Almond Joy and now am craving it. Hopefully this was my only ice cream of the season, but I know that is a big maybe. If I walk enough for the next few days maybe…

We finally made it back to Warren’s house at Rockport and spent the evening on the porch watching the tide in Clam Cove go out. We cooked dinner and made enough food for thirteen rather the three. At least we know what sides we will be having with our lobster dinner tomorrow night since we have great leftovers of summer vegetables, goat cheese and pasta and zucchini casserole. No wonder I love coming here for vacation. The food and the view are spectacular, but nothing compares to the company.


Worth The Drive

Carter and I spent many too many hours in the car making our way from Baltimore to Hamilton, MA without putting one tire on I-95. Although we avoided the inevitable traffic jams and truck squishing of one particular route we had our fair share of road shut downs and bridge repairs that added hours to our trip.

The worst part of the trip for me was in the state I grew up in, Connecticut. Although the highway had three lanes most of the time and signs instructing drivers every few miles that the right lane is for slow drivers, the middle for travel and the far left for passing, not one, well maybe one car actually paid attention to what is normal highway etiquette. Not in Connecticut — The left lane was completely full, all the time with drivers who were not the fastest, the middle had the slowest and the right lane had the passers. I can bet you the psychology of those drivers in the left was, “do you know how many taxes Ai pay in this state? I own this road. I am going to pass someone because it is my right. Who cares if I should actually be a different lane. I like this one and AI am from Connecticut.”

After eleven hours of driving we finally arrived at my boarding school friend Stori’s house. Stori has a daughter Samantha who is Carter’s age and this is the first time they have ever met. Stori and I have been talking about this happening for a long time, but somehow it never happened, until today.

It took about forty two seconds after meeting and they were off, discussing their shared love of music, Sam even likes Jake Bugg, Carter’s favorite obscure Brit, how crazy their mother’s are and life as an only child. After dinner they walked themselves to get ice cream and came back best of friends. It was like the friend you make when you are three because you realize you both have pink sandals on and therefore must be soul mates, but even better because they are old enough to know if they really like each other.

So Stori and I were quickly dismissed. Now here we sit thrilled that our daughters, who are the same age we we’re when we first became the best of friends, have met and formed an instant bond. This outcome is more than worth the hellish drive and the entitled Connecticut drivers I endured to get here.

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Girls Trip Successful Start

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For years now Carter and I have taken a road trip as a precursor to our family vacation. We have a few rules about the trip. First, is that there are no rules. Second, if we see something we want to do we stop and do it. Third, treats are allowed and there is no treat shaming.

 

This year our girl’s trip is up the East coast to Maine. Carter got to choose our first stop and she picked Baltimore. Neither of us could remember why she wanted to come to Baltimore, but it has been fun nonetheless. Not because we have done too many B’more things, but mostly because we are staying in a nice hotel, ate at a nice restaurant and did some major damage shopping. The Under Armour Brand Store is the bomb.

 

There are three great things about our trip so far. One is Carter can help with the driving. To keep the stress level down and the scenic value up we came up the northern neck of Virginia and skipped I-95 all together. Carter liked the towns like Frog Level and Bowling Green. The lack of big trucks makes practice driving less stressful.

 

Two, Carter is able to search the web in real time and find local, non-chain restaurants for us to eat at as we are driving through a town hungry. We originally thought we would make to the Charm City for lunch, but our meandering ways got us only to La Plata Maryland by 12:45. Carter announced that the number 2 rated restaurant in town, Marie’s Diner, was the place to go. The review that said, “Don’t be thrown off by the looks,” was good advice. I have to say that the crab soup was worth the visit. Carter did well.

 

The third good thing is that according to Carter’s snap chat story she posted at lunch “It has been five hours and we have not killed each other yet.” I can report that it has been fifteen hours and we are still both alive and on good speaking terms. Mother’s of teenage daughters will understand the significance of this.

 

One of the treats of our trip is that Russ made our reservation at the hotel chain he keeps in business. When we arrived they fawned all over us and asked when Mr. Lange would be getting here soon. I hated to disappoint them and tell them he was at a sister property in Chicago. They still gave us the “Russ Lange, You are the Man” upgrade, including the already in the room welcome fruit bowl, snacks, drinks and personal letter from the GM. They also upgraded us from a room with two double beds to a room with two double beds and a bunkroom with a TV and X-box. Carter declared she was taking that room and immediately took a nap on the top bunk.

Nothing says vacation like a nap.


Counselors Rule

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Summer camp is more important for kids now than ever before. Nowhere else is there a place that kids are truly unplugged. As much as Carter loves Tumbler and her British You Tubers, she loves camp more. For an only child camp is the best dose of the-world-does-not-revolve-around-you and offers a chance to have great “older siblings” in her counselors.

 

I am truly grateful to her last session counselors Bekah and Shaefer for creating a fun, warm, accepting environment for what Carter says was the best cabin ever. For someone who is way more introverted than extroverted camp could feel overwhelming since you just don’t have that much alone time. But if you love the people you are with your energy is increased being with them rather than zapped.

 

I am proud that Carter did her solo night outdoors even if it meant that she had to kill what was reported to be a copper head snake. Thank goodness she had her Rafki stick nearby. But completing the ten-mile hike up Stone Mountain really makes me happy. As I walk on a flat treadmill with no switchbacks in my site I try and imagine how hard that hike was for Carter. Doing something out of your comfort zone with a group of great friends is the kind of thing that stays with you.

 

I remember a time in the 80’s that I climbed the Old Rag Mountain with a group of friends. I was in way worse shape than I am now and the idea that I could shimmy between two giant vertical rocks to reach the summit seemed impossible. But my friends encouraged me and never left me behind. It gave me the feeling that I could do anything, well except jump off high places.

 

I hope that Carter will take what she learned about being a good counselor from the ones she has had and applies those lessons to her life. The impact that these young people have on kids is tremendous. I know they don’t do that job for the pay, or the sleeping quarters, or the time off, but for the happiness they get back from creating a family out of the gaggle of girls they are given.

 

Thanks Camp Cheerio for Carter’s six years as a camper. She got to learn to be the best of herself. Her times there are life changing.


Spicy and Cool Watermelon Soup

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On my way home from Washington I bought a watermelon for a dollar from some kids in southern Maryland. Of course I never got around to using it and here we are on the cusp of leaving for vacation. There is no better way to use up leftovers than soup. The whole watermelon may not exactly be a leftover, but a lot of what went in the soup was.

 

6 cups of watermelon –deseeded

25 mint leaves

10 basil leaves

1 inch of fresh ginger- grated

1 whole jalapeño- I left the ribs and seeds in for spiciness, but you can cut them out if you want.

¼ c. limejuice

2 big pinches of salt

 

Put everything in a blender and whirl it on up until all the herbs are pureed. Chill and enjoy.


The Laundry Olympics

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If laundry were an Olympic sport today I would medal in it. In speed laundry I might get a bronze, in endurance laundry a silver, but in freestyle folding I would definitely take the gold even if the Russian judge’s scores were included.

 

Russ and I picked Carter up at Cheerio this morning after five weeks of camp. I was practically knocked over as Carter ran to hug me. The first words out of her mouth were, “I don’t want to leave camp, but I do want to go to Maine.” The crying and hugging and long goodbyes from a very successful 3 sessions reminded me of how much I loved camp.   Meeting Carter’s friends and hearing the long wails of ”CARRRTER, don’t go…see you next summer” as we pulled out of camp made me sad and happy all at the same time. This was her last summer as a camper.

 

In two days comes our trip to family camp. Although it is not the same as the camaraderie of sleep away camp with just kids it is a really fun way for a family to get to act like kids. The only problem is the turn around time of camp clothes for me and thus the laundry sprint began as soon as we opened the garage door.

 

The good news is for my laundry is a walking activity. The washer and dryer are in the garage just steps from my office. It might be better if they were more steps, but it keeps my ear close to the alert that the cycle is over so I can move one load from wash to dry in record time and start up another wash in the blink of an eye.

 

I am not doing the fastest washes since the dirt level of five weeks at camp clothes is very high. I am pre-soaking, pre-washing, double rinsing and in the case of the shirt Carter obviously wore “Mudding” double and triple washing. I am not sure the white sock will ever be white again, but that is little price to pay for her camp happiness.

 

The best thing is since I spent the first six hours of my day mainly sitting in the car needle pointing while Russ drove both ways the use of the walking desk as my folding station has helped get my dearly needed steps. I have become a pro at grabbing from one basket folding and placing in the appropriate pile all while going three miles an hour. NASCAR laundry has got nothing on me.

 

Since I still have the sheets, blankets and towels to go after these first five clothing loads I am certain to get all my steps and have camp cleaned up well before dark –At least my part of it. Carter is old enough that she has to take the basket and repack herself for Maine, pack up her camp trunk and take it to the attic. Her time line and mine will vary greatly so I think if it gets done before school starts we are doing well. I don’t even care, I’m just glad to have my girl home.


Restaurant Managers Need to Read This

 

 

When something happens at lunch at a restaurant and a friend announces to the table, “You are going to see this on the blog tonight,” you can bet what happened was not good.

 

My friend Jan from Texas is visiting and her best Texas friends, Mark and Mary Jo happen to be here for a wedding so Jan thought it would be a good idea to try and go to Poole’s diner for lunch since I was in Raleigh for a Food Bank meeting. Two other friends Lee and Laura also wanted to go since they had read the blog account of the last time Jan and I went to Poole’s. There was only one glitch in our plan; Poole’s is not open for lunch. You would have thought that one of might have checked.

 

Since I got there first and discovered our mistake I called Jan and she, Laura and Lee with multiple smart phones searching decided that 18 Seaboard, another highly rated farm to table Raleigh restaurant would do. I weighed in positively and off we went to meet there.

 

Upon everyone’s arrival to a fairly late lunch we ordered fast, three of us all getting the grilled chicken on salad with beets, blackberries and goat cheese. It was a variation on my standard favorite lunch. The food arrived quickly and without any editorializing from the staff.

 

A few minutes into eating Mary Jo asked Jan and me if we had any beets in our salad. Careful dissection reveled that no beets were to be found. Now the beets were a major seller of this particular dish since we had already discussed our love of beets before the meal arrived.

 

You know who furiously worked to get the servers attention, finally having to ask a co-worker to send her over to us. She further examined the salads and declared the beets to be missing. After a few minutes in the kitchen a different young woman came out and introduced herself to us as one of the managers, perhaps even an assistant manager.

 

“The chef said he did not get beets today so he left them out,” she told us.

 

“Too bad,” I said. “Since the beets were a major part of the salad we were looking forward to.”

 

“Is there something else I can get you?” She sheepishly said.

 

“We don’t know what else you have,” I said leaving the door open for her to give us a list.

 

“Let me know if there is something I can get you.”

 

I let the whole thing go at this point. We were having a nice lunch and I had already done my restaurant customer service-training blog for the week.

 

After we finished the meal the server asked if anyone wanted dessert. Mary Jo and Jan said they’d split the peach cobbler. No mention was made of the apology dessert they were going to be bringing us. But sure enough when the cobbler arrived so did two additional desserts, orange cookies and a blueberry panna cotta with some basil cookies. Lee declared that if they wanted to give us a free dessert she wished they had brought the chocolate cake in a mug.

 

Yes, being asked what we might want is a better idea than just bringing us something we did not ask for. What I really wish is that restaurants would stop making mistakes but if they do not try and solve it with fattening desserts, which I really don’t need. If someone orders the least caloric thing on the menu then don’t try and pacify her with the most fattening item.

 

Clearly the chef knew he did not have any beets. Communicating that to the server so she could let people know at time of order is the easiest and best way not to disappoint customers or worse make them write blogs about another bad customer service experience.