No TV Cooking Competition Yet



When I met my boarding school roommate, Nancy in Charlotte for dinner Sunday she brought up a subject dear to my heart, cooking. Nancy was one of my early, non-family members I cooked for. At Walkers I was the only person who had an illegal toaster oven in my dorm that I made Boursin stuffed mushrooms in. Now there might have been other girls with toaster ovens, but no one else made anything with mushrooms.


Nancy said that when she watches the TV show, “The Next Food Network Star” she thinks of me. Her actual words to me were, “You could easily win that show.” Now I don’t think there is anything easy about any of those cooking competition shows, but they do seem like something I have been training for my whole life.


I have been cooking since age five when I would get up and make myself scrambled eggs while my parents slept late on weekends. I started cooking dinner for my family around third grade since my mom was very sick for a year. I started a catering business in college without any training and kept it going for ten years. That is the cooking side.


I love to entertain people and could talk about food, cooking and people’s connection to food all day long. I channeled my passion for eating into a zeal to make sure that no one goes hungry in Central and Eastern North Carolina through my volunteering at the food bank. I have lost and gained hundreds of pounds so I am good at cooking both fattening and healthy food. That’s the heart part of cooking shows.


Then I love games. I love to play games, I love to win at games and I love to be strategic in everything I do. Cooking competitions are not about who is the best cook since no one watching the show can taste what people make. Learning to satisfy the judges better than the person next to you, all the while making people like you is the crux of those shows. In the end the person who wins is the one people like the best. That’s the hardest part about it.


As much as trying out for one of those competitions is something I would love I have one bigger thing that holds me back. My family. Not that they are holding me back, they are supportive, but my real life job is to make sure that everything in our household is running, hopefully smoothly, but at least running. As long as Carter is still home and Russ is still traveling all over working I need to be here, at least for Shay Shay. So cooking competition will have to wait at least until Carter goes to college.


Nancy, thanks for the encouragement and lifelong support. Two more years of cooking everyday and writing about food can’t hurt my chances, not as much as trying now and not having my head in the game because I was worried about what was going on at home. That’s the strategic part of me talking. I need to clear the deck if I am going to try and win and you know I always play to win.

No All-Nighters For Me



I am a lightweight and a mess. Last night I got home just before two from driving Carter and her friend to the concert in Charlotte. I had drunk enough coffee to keep an army awake so even though it was hours past my regular bedtime it took me until three in the morning to wind down and actually go to sleep.


Fast forward four short hours and my alarm was gonging its Big Ben tone and it was time to wake the girls for school. After dropping them off I went to my regular appointment with my trainer and home to walk. I could have gone back to bed I was so wiped out, but I soldiered on to two appointments and picked Carter back up from school.


At five in the afternoon I could take it no longer and I passed out on my bed, reading glasses perched on my nose, every light in the room on. If it weren’t for the phone ringing I would still be asleep, but two hours after I passed out I got up to write.


I am more of a dishrag now than I was before my unplanned nap. I don’t know how Carter went to school, turned in a paper, took a quiz and attended classes without a complaint. She made herself dinner, did her homework, fed the fish she is caring for at a neighbor’s house and when she saw me awake told me to go back to bed. I’m now the lightweight. The roles have been reversed.


Back to bed I go. Certainly I will recover after one full night of extra long sleep. I did not even go to the concert. I did not stand screaming at two different boy bands for six hours. I just drove the car. Old age has set in.

Worth the Drive

InstasizeImage photo photo


Another night, another mother job of driving Carter and a friend to a concert. My life as the driver is coming close to being over since Carter will be getting her license in a couple of months. Too bad because I have finally figured this concert thing out. Now Ai know about the drop off line and no longer have to subject myself to the loud music.

This trip to Charlotte had a big bonus that was not known when I bought these tickets five months ago, dinner with my boarding school roommate Nancy. Nancy lives in Connecticut, but she had a conference in Charlotte and since her daughter is a freshman at Davidson she came down for the weekend. You know I never could had made a more perfect plan.

As I sat across the lunch table from Carter and her friend Paloma while they shared a brownie crepe dessert it dawned on me that they are the same age as Nancy and I were when we first became friends. It seems like yesterday that Nancy and I would share a brownie sundae at Friendlys. I realized that many of Carter’s friends will be her friends for her whole life, like Nancy is mine.

I am thankful that she has such a great group. There is nothing like having friends who have known you most of your life and have seen you through the big things, both happy and sad. We can’t help who we are related to, but we can chose our friends carefully.

I am lucky that I still adore my high school friends. I hope that in forty years Carter and her friends feel the same way.

Pre-Birthday, Non-celebration, Dinner



Russ is about to have a big birthday, but I am forbidden from doing anything about it or even mentioning it, so you will just have to guess. No parties are to be given, no once in a life time trips are to be planned, no cakes are to be baked and absolutely no banners being pulled by a biplanes are to be flown around town. I keep begging him to tell me what we can do to celebrate this momentous occasion.


Today Russ went to pick Carter up at riding and the two of them hatched a plan of something I could cook for dinner that I only would do if it were somebody’s birthday, spaghetti and meatballs and garlic bread. Since Russ will be out of town for work on his actual big day I rejoiced that he had one request even if it was so pitiful that it hardly qualifies as a celebration.


I know that for the last two and a half years there has been very little pasta around here, no homemade meatballs and nary a crust of garlic bread. I too love all those things, but need to steer clear because carbs of those caliber are what got me a hundred pounds fatter in the first place. But why should Russ suffer? So I got to work cooking. I bought myself an acorn squash to use as a bowl for the meatballs and sauce so I could avoid the pasta. Somehow I still feel very bloated.


Once I was given the green light of a small recognition of Russ’ birthday I stretched out the spaghetti and meatball party to include a homemade peach pie. Russ has never been much of a cake guy, but an offer him a slice of good pie and he will follow you anywhere. I had a basket of peaches I bought at the farmer’s market last weekend and they finally got ripe enough to eat, so a pie they became.


We have had our main course of dinner, but are holding off on the pie so everyone’s stomach could settle a little. Apparently my 800 days of chicken dinners have conditioned everyone to not be good pasta consumers anymore.


So happy birthday, a couple days early, Russ. You don’t look a day older than you do the day I married you. In fact, you are thinner. I hope that you are only half way through your life because at the rate we are going you are only going to get spaghetti and meatballs about 18 more times.

Thanks For The Support



I just drove over to Raleigh and back in rush hour both ways and it was worth it. I had a big ten-minute slot on the Food Bank telethon. When I got there they were $444 away from reaching their first $10,000 milestone.


Thanks to my wonderful cousin, Ellen Underwood who called in a pledge from Florida and my hard working husband who donated online while he was on a conference call we made the goal. I got the pleasure of ringing the gong in celebration.


While I was in traffic my dear friends Susan Spratt and her husband David Tendler made a very generous donation. Susan is an endocrinologist and has been learning first hand how so many of her diabetic patients are living in houses completely void of any food. This lack of nutrition does not help people fight this deadly disease. Helping people have good for them food is a big priority at the Food Bank. Thanks David and Susan your donation will provide 2,500 meals to people right here.


It is never too late for you to help. The telethon is going on until noon tomorrow. Log on to to see it. There is a donate now button right on that page and you can donate with a credit card, or call the phone number 919-865-3077. Tell them Dana sent you. I know that Nancy McGuffin at Chapel Hill Needlepoint was donating and thanks for that! Anyone else who gives will get a big call out of thanks from me on the blog.


If you are an insomniac I suggest you log in at the 4:00 am hour. Food Bank Social Media Darling Molly Rivera will be doing an hour-long segment on cheese. She is from Wisconsin and really knows her topic. Her dad also sent a huge box of cheese curds for her to use during her show. Really, I promise it will be better than reruns of The Andy Griffith Show and I say this with the utmost love for Don Knots.


I’m off now to a dinner where I will give thanks for being lucky enough to have food today. Not everyone does and it is embarrassing for anyone in this country to go hungry, but they do.

Pintrest Has Raised The Bar



Don’t panic, but Christmas is less than three months away. Since I needlepoint Christmas ornaments all year you would think that I have all my Christmas stuff done by now. But you see those ornaments are just for me. Yes, I selfishly stitch for myself. No one else would appreciate the time or cost for such small works, so rather than make myself mad by giving away a labored over treasure only to have it put on the back of someone’s tree, or worse yet, sold on e-bay, I just do that work for myself.


Today I worked on some minor gifts that took some computer work to create them. I have not yet come up with my hostess gift of the year. I like to make something small and unique to give to those kind enough to entertain during the holidays. The problem is now with Pintrest the stakes for hand a crafted item has been raised to a crazy level.


I can’t even look at Pintrest because I don’t want to copy what others have invented and I don’t even want see pictures and then later think I made something up. So I am trying to inspire myself, but so far no winners have crossed my mind.


I easily could make some food item, but I feel guilty bringing candy or cakes to someone’s house when I would not be happy if they were brought to mine. Of course no one wants me to bring them kale salad either. Perhaps I am imposing my own feelings on my hostess gift receivers.


I am also anti-more stuff. I don’t want another candle or dishtowel. We have not had enough power outages for me to use up the 34 candles I got in the last two years. So in keeping with my own philosophy I don’t want to give “Stuff” to others. Only usual stuff that I am sure would be consumed is even under consideration. How can I make toilet paper worthy of being a hostess gift?


This is really going to take a creative effort on my part. You would think there is plenty of time, but no. Blink and it will be Halloween then we are rolling right up to turkey day and then the hostess gift season starts. Panic has just set in.

Embarrassing Myself to Feed Others



September is Hunger Action Month. As far as I am concerned every month is Hunger Action Month because I think I am hungry all the time, not just in September. But you know how these things go, causes only get one month, like Black History Month is February even though blacks make history everyday.


Lots of things are celebrated in September. I bet you did not know that September is also National Guide Dog month as well as Cranio-facial Awareness Month. I understand celebrating dogs, especially those who serve people who need them, but Cranio-Facial Awareness? Are we recognizing that we have heads and faces? I’m going to get letters about this, I can feel it.


About embarrassing myself… This Friday the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC is holding it’s 24 hour telethon to raise $60,000 + to help feed people. It starts at noon and goes like it says, 24 hours until Saturday noon. It is a big time marathon for the staff at the Food Bank who stay up all night running this show.


I am going to be interviewed at the 4:30, PM Friday time slot. You can log into the telethon at and as long as you have a computer with an Internet connection you can see me live. You never know what in the world I am going to talk about with no script and no editing.


Of course I would really love to get some donations coming into the Food Bank while I am on. We are trying to provide over 300,00 meals to our hungry neighbors in the 34 counties our Food Bank serves. It would be so sad if no donations came in during my segment. Of course I have no idea how long I will be on so donations anytime are appreciated.


So set your alarms, ignore the calls from the face and head people for money, take a break from the Kay Hagen-Thom Tillis fight and log in and watch the telethon. If you send me a facebook message or a Lessdana comment while I’m on the air I will call you out by name.