Ready For December

 

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When Carter was little I used her as my excuse for wanting to have a fully Christmased out house the month of December. What could be more magical than living in a house that fully embraced the magic of Christmas? As the years went on and the child got older I had to own that I was the one who wanted the full Christmas experience. In fact, both Carter and Russ say they don’t like it.

 

What I think they don’t like is the work of getting the boxes out of the attic and helping put the tree together. That is all they have to do. I do all the actual decorating and without complaint because then I get it done exactly the way I want.

 

This year I was tracking how much work it is by how many steps I take while doing it. Sadly it is not that much actual exercise. I think that I inadvertently saved myself a lot of steps this year by employing a bucket to carry a dozen or more ornaments at a time up the twelve-foot ladder when I was decorating the top half of the tree. Standing in one place on the ladder and hanging each glass ball, felt snowman or glittery tree is virtually no work out.

 

The only real bad part about decorating this year is that I found I had to wear my reading glasses almost the whole time so I could see how to put the hanger on the string of each ornament. Even after every room was decked and sparkle filled the house I was under10,000 steps each day from decorating.

 

It may be no comfort for my family that I am ready to entertain at the drop of a hat all month, but for me this makes December the happiest month of the year. Carter asked me today if we were having a Boxing Day party and when I told her no since she had a basketball tournament she asked if I still make the boxing day Mac and cheese. I think she doesn’t care a lick about the party, but just wants me to cook for her.

 

The cooking will come soon enough. As will the shopping and the wrapping and the fa, la, la. I can hardly wait.


The End of an Era

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Carter’s love for all things horses started when she was two. She had a baby sitter who exercised horses at a lovely barn in town. Being a smart girl she learned to double dip by baby sitting for Carter and exercising horses at the same time. One of the sitter’s charges was a horse named Bob, who had an injury and could not take any weight above 50 pounds. Carter was the perfect rider.

 

Then Carter started riding in the summer at a barn near her grand parents farm. Mrs. Brown’s summer horse camp gave Carter a lot of experience taking care of horse and riding. The taking care part was almost her favorite part.

 

Eventually she wore me down by begging to find a barn at home so she could ride every week. When Carter was about seven she started going to Rolling Hills stables in Chapel Hill. It is quite a trek from our house, but every week and sometimes twice a week or more since then she has been going to Rolling Hills.

 

When Carter was ten her trainer Piper asked her if she wanted a job as a barn girl. Are you kidding? A job where she got to clean up after horses, who cares what she got paid. SO even though most barn girls had to be twelve, Carter, who was bigger and stronger than most girls three years older than her started working and riding.

 

Eventually she went from the junior barn girl to the senior and about four years ago she started working on Saturday mornings, which meant she was responsible to all the morning feedings and cleanings since Piper was not usually out at the barn at 8:00 in the morning.

 

This early morning Saturday job meant that some parent had to get up at 7:00 in order to get Carter to the barn a half an hour away. Carter was incredibly lucky that her sweet father, who never gets to sleep any day of the week, dutifully and willingly volunteered to do the one hour round trip there and back twice every Saturday.

 

No matter how much work he has, even when I say I am happy to do the driving, he says, “No, I’ll take her.” Carter and Russ have their Saturday rituals. Shay goes with them and the three of them stop into Bruggers to get bagels and Russ goes to Starbucks and gets his coffee. Even shay gets a bagel that she eats while riding on Russ’ lap.

 

Then around 1:00 Russ and Shay will get back in the car and make the trip back to the barn, stopping someplace to get lunch with Carter on the way home. Even though it takes up a good part of Russ’ day of rest he always does it with a smile.

 

Today, when Russ got home from picking Carter up form the barn he said with a sigh, “That was the last time I’ll ever take Carter to the barn.” She next Saturday Carter has an away basketball game in Charlotte and then the next Saturday she will have her drivers license, assuming she passes the test.

 

It was a sad day for Russ and even sadder for Shay. Those hours in the car are the biggest block of time he gets to spend with Carter alone. More learning, conversations and growing up probably happens on those Saturday mornings than any other time of the week.

 

I think that when Carter gets her drivers license I am going to have to find some errands I need her to run that involve carting her father around.


It’s Red & Green Friday at Our House

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To so many Americans today is known as black Friday, the day that stores generally go in the black for the year because the Christmas Holiday shopping is what their business lives for. Not from me though. I am not one to rush out to stores when every one else is there. I am that demanding kind of shopper who needs the sole attention of a great sales associate at the least, but really more like a senior manager to wait on me. Knowing that today is not the day to get superior customer service I save today to start my Christmas decorating.

 

Actually we spent the better part of the day at the farm, visiting with my cousins and their families. As is their tradition, my cousin Brooks and the other men of the family spend the afternoon of Black Friday at the Country Club Lanes, bowling. This started many years ago as a way for the guys to get away from the family after so much togetherness on Thanksgiving and has morphed into, “Dads taking the kids bowling,” so the Moms could get a rest day. My favorite part of it is that they go to “Country Club Lanes.” There is nothing country club about bowling, but for Danville it might be as uptown as things can get.

 

After my getting to have a good visit with my Uncle Wilson and Russ taking Shay on a big time farm walk we got in the car for the ride home to Santa town. Carter was dreading the only part of decorating she has to do, taking the boxes out of the attic.

 

Since it was too late to start on the tree I began the “House” decorations. I first have to remove the ‘Non-Christmas” nick-knacks that take up space on top of coffee tables and chests so make room for the various Christmas vignettes. As I was doing this today I noticed that all my regular rooms are decorated in a form of green or red so that when I make the switch from civilian to holiday it all fits together.

 

I have to say that I did not decorate my house with Christmas in mind. I think that I subconsciously picked color schemes that would “Holiday-up” well. Of course a red entry hall and a red dining room scream Christmas, but most of the year it is not the feeling I get from those rooms.

 

When I really noticed that I had an underlying Christmas subtext was when I was decorating the kitchen and noticed that even Shay Shay’s bed was a green and white ticking. Now it looks springy most of the year, but it sure does say, “Hey Santa, I’ve been a really good dog,” during the holidays. Maybe this explains why I don’t have any orange rooms. Nothing feels less Christmassy that an orange room no matter how much glitter you throw up it.

 

So happy red and green Friday. Black may be a good word when you are talking about ledgers, but as far as I’m concerned it is not a very Christmassy color.


Thanksgiving — The Perfect Holiday

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When I was a child Christmas was my favorite holiday, followed by Halloween and Easter.  Thanksgiving was way down the list.  How could a day that had me waiting all day for the chance to sit at the children’s table, which was a rickety old card table surrounded by my much younger cousins and sisters to eat a meal that was just not that good and then be told to go out into the cold Connecticut weather and rake leaves.  What, no presents, no bags or baskets full of candy.  How could Thanksgiving ever win?

I guess all I had to do was grow up to change my perspective on turkey day because today was about as perfect as it comes.  We woke up this morning at home after getting to sleep in a little.  Since I cooked all the food I was bringing yesterday it allowed me a leisurely start to the day.  We packed up and went to meet our South African friends, Mark, Kelly, Cait and Adam Ushpol, who we were bringing to the farm for Thanksgiving.

There is no better offense to a family meal than bringing guests, and guests of a different nationality, with no family tradition expectations, are the best.  It also helps that these guests brought an over the top amount of South African Wine to make them welcome back any time.

My Dad did an excellent job brining and cooking the turkey and the only hiccup came when Russ took the turkey, in a foil pan, out of the oven and spilled a huge amount of drippings on the floor of the kitchen. Four adults, a roll of paper towels and two Swiffers later and we were out of danger of slipping on the greasy floor and going to the emergency room in Danville were patients check in alive and out dead.

Carter was happy since the Ushpol kids are her good friends who are her age and there is never a children’s table at our Thanksgiving.  The kids got to drive the four wheelers and the Kubota bus and explore the farm.  Cait took a most beautiful picture of the back lake at the farm.  Shay got to frolic and run in the fields as the Ushpols and Russ and I walked during the sunnier times of the day.

The dinner was fantastic.  Everything was hot at the right time and no fighting took place during any part of the preparation.  Mark sat next to my Dad at dinner and they shared stories of what it is like to work internationally, and even though my mother begged my father to stop talking, Mark did not seem to mind.  My parents enjoyed our guests so much they asked me if we could make sure they came back to the farm again.

My mother was especially glad to have Adam come and talk football with her since all she has is daughter and a grand daughter who do not share her love of watching sports.  I could not have invented a better scenario.

Sadly as evening rolled around the Ushpol’s had to get home, but we still have three more days of the perfect holiday to enjoy.  No presents, no candy, no problem.


Baked Out

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Two Christmases ago, in the height of my weight loss push Russ gave me a cookbook that I opened for one minute and then gave him that, “what were you thinking look.” It is a book called Milk from the great New York Bakery the Momofuku Milk Bar. In it are the most intricate recipes for really interesting sweets. I could hardly look at the pictures without gaining weight.

 

I put the book on my shelf and promised that someday I would make something from it. Well that day came today. My father tasked me with bringing the desserts for Thanksgiving. The last couple of years I have made one healthy crust less pumpkin pie along with the regular Thanksgiving feast pies. No one but me would eat it so this year I gave up.

 

Carter wanted to make a cake. In the Milk book was a cake I was dying for her to make called an Apple Pie cake. In involved making cake, apple pie filling, crust crumbles, a liquid cheesecake filling, cider glaze and frosting. Before she even looked at the picture she told me her friend Cait, who is one of our guest said not fruit with her cake. I don’t think she knew fruitcake could be like this, but Carter voted to make a devils food cake with butter cream frosting. It turned out quite cute and will be easy for me to forgo.

 

That left me looking through the Milk book at pies. The very last recipe in the whole book is for something they have trademarked called Crack Pie™. The description is for a pie that tastes like the inside of a pecan pie without the nuts. Following the four pages of instructions is a note, you can add pecans if you want to guild the lily.

 

That sealed the deal. So I spent the better part of today: baking the giant oatmeal cookie that then gets crumbled up to be the crust, going back to Whole Foods, after I had already shopped there yesterday vowing not to have to return on the day before T-day to buy freeze-dried corn, that I pulverized for the filling, and making the filling and baking the pie. I am taking a big risk by only bringing these two pies for dessert. Yes I have Carter’s cake, which is very non-traditional, but what if these pies are horrible?

 

Maybe that would be a good thing. I have a feeling that it might be the best pie I have eaten and I don’t need to have more than a hair wide sliver. The best part of making this very complicated dessert is it has satisfied my need to bake for the rest of the year. I might have dodged a Christmas cookie bullet by blowing my whole baking wad on two Thanksgiving pies.

 

I followed up the baking with daylong cooking of stewed tomatoes, cauliflower, Brussels sprout and pearl onion gratin and a boatload of fresh cranberry sauce. I’m ready for turkey day. Now if I can just find room in my refrigerator for it all.


Baking Is the Gateway Drug of Cooking

 

I am a purely self taught cook. Yes, I learned a few things from my grandmother via my father, but outside of that I did not have anyone around who knew how to or liked to cook. Since I liked to eat, learning to throw together the limited ingredients I had at my disposal as a child into something better together than alone was an art I perfected.

 

I had only a couple of cookbooks in my childhood home. A 1956 edition of the Joy of Cooking, which was so out of date that every time a recipe called for baking powder the instructions on how to make it from scratch followed.   That thick cornflower blue volume was well worn by the time I was fourteen.

 

The other cookbooks were a set of Time Life Cookbooks by country, Like the Cuisine of Italy, or France. They were much more like travel logs than cook books. They spoke a language of chefs that was way over my childhood vocabulary, let alone full of ingredients that never darkened the door of my mother’s kitchen. The best part about them was they were full of full color pictures so I could get an idea of what a dish was supposed to look like. This was very helpful when I was preparing something out of the Joy of Cooking that might have had at best a line drawing of a whole chicken, but no clue as to what it was supposed to look like fried.

 

For me the gateway drug of cooking was baking. Like so many kids I first leaned to make things like cookies and brownies, mostly out of a desire for a dessert, which was always forbidden in our house. Understanding how to bake successfully, made cooking easy. Making a soup is much more forgiving than baking a cake, but what child wants to learn to cook soup?

 

I have been worried that Carter was going to grow up with very few cooking skills since she was more than content to eat my cooking. I have robbed her of the need to learn to cook by being too good a cook. Except that in the last few years I have rarely baked anything.

 

This past summer Carter got a bee in her bonnet to want to learn how to make a cake from scratch. It was a big success, but she discovered that it is a long process. Since she hardly ever has six free hours she has not repeated that task, but suddenly with a day off from school before Thanksgiving and the need for us to provide the desserts she has volunteered to bake something.

 

Now’s my chance to kick up her learning curve and throw something fairly complicated at her. I see being a skilled baker as a good prerequisite to taking chemistry. Once you understand the science behind baking you can be set free to create your own concoctions with a better chance at success.

 

Now I have tonight to convince her that making an apple pie layer cake will be fun and make her father very happy. Pray for me tomorrow. I will post a picture if we make it.


I Need a Basketball Spectator Diet Plan

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Basketball season is kicking my butt and I have not even dribbled the ball once. Carter is playing varsity and the schedule is grueling. Late practices and even later games are throwing me off my normal routine. Dinner is not getting cooked, steps are not getting completed, laundry is pilling up and I am staying up later than ever.

 

Although I may not be getting my regular exercise I must be burning some kind of calories by being an uber spectator at the games. I know that wildly clapping is an actual exercise, but do you think that screaming, “Go DA,” at the top of my lungs burns any calories?

 

Tonight’s game girl’s against Voyager Academy was doubly exciting because Junior Liz Roberts reached her 1000th point as a Durham Academy Varsity player. She did not disappoint the spectators by playing a fabulous game. The whole team contributed to the big win of 59-14.

 

By the end of the girl’s game I was ready to go home, but Carter wanted to stay to watch the boy’s game. What the hell, it was already so late and no dinner was going to get made anyway, I agreed to stay.

 

The boys game was a much closer and heart stopping game. The Voyager boys had a six foot ten inch player and a number of great three point shooters. I think I screamed until my stomach hurt during the close game. Sadly, the DA boys were behind at the end, but it was not due to trying their best.

 

I think that I now need to create a new basketball season diet plan because I can’t spend so much time sitting in the bleachers cheering as a form of exercise. I can’t wait until eight or nine at night to begin thinking about what to make for dinner. This late arrival home without a plan is causing me to make bad food choices in the name of exhaustive hunger.

 

If only I was allowed to pace the sidelines like a big time coach I would be in better shape, but alas I am just a mother and must stay in my place, only getting to stand and cheer at the appropriate moments. We have three months to go. I’m going to have to change, but I am going to have a great time watching the girl’s team and spending time with Carter watching the other games. I only have three short years left to do this and I am going to savor every moment.


Mrs. Lange is Scary When You Make Her Mad

 

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In the interest of not putting business out of business I am not going to name the establishment this story is about.

 

Yesterday was the Durham Academy fall formal. In a world where kids communicate through text and rarely have to sit in a dining room without their phone and just talk to each other, fall formal is a great opportunity to practice old-fashioned communication and interpersonal skills. Carter asked me to organize a dinner for her friends and their dates at a restaurant. I was happy to do that since I feel like the best way for people to get to know each other and be comfortable is over a meal.

 

I call the place Carter picked and left a message on a machine for the reservation as it instructed me to do. When I did not hear back from them I went into the establishment and spoke to a manager who checked the system and assured me that they had my reservation. We discussed at length the type of table and exactly where it would be. Since I am a regular at this place I was certain that everything would be all right.

 

The evening started with all the kids and their parents arriving at our house for pictures and the exchanging of flowers. In my ex-wedding director, ex caterer, not ex-bossy way I orchestrated this part of the evening with military precision. We got couple pictures, we got group pictures, we got silly group pictures, we got all girl and all boy pictures and everyone was still happy after all that had taken place.

 

As most of the parents were staying at my house to eat dinner a couple of brave volunteers slipped out with the kids to deliver them to the restaurant. I stayed home so I could finish cooking the dinner for the 15 I was serving.

 

After the drivers arrived back at my house I got a call from my panicked daughter. “They don’t have our reservation.” This was not how this was supposed to go. Fifteen year olds are not practiced at dealing with hiccups in the plan. I asked to speak to the manager who I had seen in person. There were no adults anywhere. Eventually Carter told me they were fixing a table and a manager got on the line with me to tell me it was all fine and he would take good care of them.

 

Emergency diverted. I went ahead and served my guests the yummy dinner they were getting. At 8:10, an hour and forty minutes after the original reservation Russ gets a text from Carter. “We have not gotten our food yet.” The plan was they were to be picked up at 8:20 to be driven to the dance.

 

I called to talk to the general manager. Needless to say I was not happy. I was not going to be paying for any of this dinner and we were going to have a longer conversation about it on another day. She went into see Carter and told her that the food was coming, which it did.

 

In the end the kids made it to the dance before the final locking of the doors at 9:00 when no one is allowed in.

 

So much for my drill sergeant like planning. The parents at my house felt bad that they had enjoyed a great meal that I had cooked. My plan of giving young people a chance to practice grown up behaviors without adult intervention did not go off the way I wanted it to.

 

The good news is that I heard the conversations went well. I had a neighbor who happened to be eating in the same place and said she saw and spoke to Carter and reported to me and Russ that all the kids were very grown up and polite. Next year I would like to have kids eat at my house, but I think the parents like that part so much they might object. Perhaps I need to do a training run with the restaurant they chose next year to ensure disasters like this don’t happen again.


Formal Day

 

 

Here it is 11:21 at night and I have my first free minute, literally of the whole day. I won’t get much of a post written since I am committed to blog everyday no matter what so this will be short, but I promise that tomorrow’s blog will be full of great stories.

 

Today was Carter’s fall formal. As is usually the case I got involved with organizing her friend group and their date’s dinner. Since the kids got to go off and have dinner together I had my annual parents of the formal kids dinner.

 

Pictures will have to do for this blog.

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Salad – Stone Soup Style

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A few weeks ago after our kids lost a classmate my friend Cooper called and said she thought it might be nice to have a ‘Mother’s lunch” before Thanksgiving. I volunteered my house, which is a no brainer for me since I have a few hundred years experience feeding thousands of people. But this lunch was little work for me because Cooper was bringing all the greens and enough bread to feed the 5,000. She invited the whole class of mothers to come and bring a salad topping.

 

About forty moms were able to make it. Apparently Fridays for lunch are doable even for many working Moms. We were sorry the others were not here, but had a great time with the group that showed up.

 

Nuts are the salad topping of choice because we had a huge variety and enough volume to keep all the squirrels in the neighborhood well fed through the winter. I made three different salad dressings from scratch and learned that balsamic vinaigrette is the most popular, followed by sesame ginger and trailing the pack by a long way was homemade ranch.

 

One of the things I love the most at class mother get togethers is to introduce mothers to each other whose children are good friends. The timing of this lunch was fortuitous because there is a formal dance tomorrow and mothers of sons were meeting mothers of their dates for the first time. It was great that they got to compare stories about what the plans were. Universally the mother’s of girls knew of the plans while the mother’s of sons did not always.

 

One boy’s mom asked that we have the next get together about two weeks before a dance so she could learn all the info in a more timely manor. I have a feeling a lot of corsages are being ordered this afternoon. It also was apparent that an app is needed so the kids can figure out who needs a date and who wants a date.

 

The one thing I am happy about is that I never have to find a date for the rest of my life. The stress is just overwhelming. If something ever happens to Russ I am going to be fine to spend the rest of my life alone. Of course I will still have my friends and in the end that is all I ever need.

 

Thanks to Cooper and Elizabeth for staying and cleaning up. The house is ready for the next party I am having tomorrow for the parents of the group of kids Carter is going to the formal with. Once the house is party ready I like to maximize it and do party’s back-to-back, especially since I don’t have to find a date!


Time To Check My Insurance Policy

 

 

This morning I went to a talk about teenagers, alcohol and the law. It was eye opening and scary all at the same time. There was a lot of information I knew, but was not necessarily acting on. For instance, I knew that if I served someone alcohol, regardless of their age, and they drove away from my house and killed someone that I could be sued for damages. I will be having a conversation with my insurance agent about exactly what we are covered for. The lawyers today said that you Social Host Liability coverage should be two times our net worth. That was sobering.

 

After the talk I went on to another meeting where I was with women who had younger children and were not yet facing this issue. As we talked about the liability issue everyone shared stories about their own early years with alcohol and the stupid choices they made. My family lived in a big house that had three kitchens. The upstairs kitchen was more or less just the beer room. My friends loved to come and hang out at my house since there was always a well stocked and unmanned drinks room. No one ever missed what we drank when my parents were not around.

 

Another friend told me about her fake ID, which she said never got her into one bar in her life. No wonder since it just said “West Virginia ID” on it with a photo of her standing in front of an oak tree. It did not dawn on her that the DMV did not take outdoor photos.

According to the police at the meeting today the world of fake ID’s has gotten very serious due to 9/11 and the rise in identity theft. Now it is called fraudulent Identity and it is a federal offense that can stay on your record forever, preventing a child from getting into college or getting a job. No employer hires anyone charged with fraud.

 

I stopped drinking years ago due to one very bad night of drinking. I am glad I learned that lesson young, but I still serve alcohol to guests and realize that the access to it is unmanned, just like my parents’.

 

After the talk I went to Home Depot and bought a key locking doorknob set that Russ is going to install on my storage area and I am going to gather up all the alcohol in the house and keep it there under lock and key. I figure it is just better to remove easy access for anyone who is at my house. It also goes one step closer to protecting me liability wise, as long as I don’t tell anyone where the key is.

 

The best part about this plan is that I am going to be getting a whole cabinet in my kitchen to use for the cooking stuff I actually use all the time by moving the liquor to a different place. I already think that my vinegar collection will go perfectly in the wine storage area in the kitchen. This is going to be great.


Happy $40,000 Day

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Some days are just better than others. Today could be categorized as one of those. I got to get all dressed up and go to GSK for the Triangle Community Foundations Impact awards and watch Ashley Delamar the VP for Development for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC receive an award and a big time check.

 

Actually I was lucky I made it all. The Food Bank was one of nine non-profits being honored, which meant there was a big auditorium full of people descending on GSK at the same time during the workday. Now thousands of people work on the giant campus so you would think adding a few hundred would not be a problem.

 

I pulled up to the guardhouse and was instructed to follow the signs. I drove the mile down the road to the first parking area, circled and wove my way past all full spots. Then I went to the next parking area, the same thing except even the grass homemade spaces were full. Next to a parking garage where I circled my way up around and around each deck, until I reached the very top and there in the far corner was one empty spot. I pulled in only 20 minutes after I first passed through the guardhouse.

 

I ran to the elevator only to discover it was broken. I needed the steps anyway, but what about the lady with the cane coming up behind me? I was already late, but felt guilty dashing down the stairs without first offering to help. As the old women tottered towards the elevator I told her that it apparently was broken. She looked a little disturbed and asked me what floor we were on, trying to calculate if she could handle the walk.

 

I opened the door to the stairway where I saw a sign that read, “Floor 5.” I turned back and told the granny it was the 5th floor. She gave a big sigh and in a very small voice said, “I can’t make that.” Although she was not really talking to me I clearly couldn’t say, “Oh well, have a nice day,” and dash inside, already late.

 

“Would you like me to drive you to the front door?” I offered. “Yes, Dearie. I really need to go to these awards, my grand daughter is accepting one.” So that is what I did. I gave up my long sought for parking space and drove back to the front of building five and dropped her off right at the front door.

 

I drove back to the same garage and hoped that someone had vacated a parking spot. Round and round I went up every deck and as I was nearing the top without an empty spot in sight I was beginning to wonder where the next place was to look for parking. As I got to the very top I looked over to the corner where I originally had parked and there it was, my empty space was still there. Don’t tell me you don’t believe in Karma.

 

Down five flights and then up three more inside the next building and a long walk connecting two building together and I finally reached the awards in process. As I silently went to sit down I saw the Granny waving at me and pointing to her granddaughter sitting next to her. It was my small impact day.


Foot Weight Loss Could Cause Death

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It’s cold here today, really cold.   I got up this morning from a too little sleep night. I had a lot on my calendar so I had carefully planned my every move so I could move seamlessly through the day. I got dressed in a really nice outfit since I was going to be visiting my friend Hannah at her new office for the first time and did not want her co-workers to think Hannah’s friends were low rent.

 

I put on a brand new pair of black pants I had just hemmed myself, a new white starched blouse, a new grey sweater and warm wool socks. I searched through the shoes on the floor of my closet looking for last year’s favorite black suedes. It was obvious that it is past the time that I need to pull my summer shoes out of my closet and store them for the winter. After digging through the mountain I found the pair I was looking for.

 

With just a few minutes on the clock to walk Shay Shay I put on my warmest shearling coat and a pair of gloves and marched my puppy out into the freezing cold. Even though I had a fairly thick pair of socks on I noticed that my feet were sliding around on the inside of my shoes. Please say it ain’t so, my feet had shrunk. I knew this was an issue for some of my summer shoes, but I turned a blind eye and added pads that helped keep my feet inside.

 

After Shay had done her business and I saw that I had just a few minutes left to get her inside fed and out the door I headed for home. As I was just about up to my walk way I noticed a man walking towards me and said hello as I stepped into a small indentation in the grass. I watched his face in horror as I fell out of my shoe and went sliding about ten feet across a huge mud puddle.

 

Shay broke free of me and the man asked if I was all right. “Please just grab my dog,” I said as I stood up covered in mud on every item of clothing I was wearing except my bra. That is right, mud was all over my shoes, socks, pants, shirt, sweater, gloves, coat and even my underpants. Of course this was the one-day I was dressed up and not in my jeans and ratty sweatshirt.

 

I was not hurt at all. Mud is very cushy. I ran into the house, stripped off my clothes at the front door so that I did not drag mud through the house. I forgot I had a glass door, so I hope that man had kept walking.

 

I ran to my bedroom and threw on a less desirable outfit, but more supportive shoes. After my morning appointment and lunch with Hannah I stopped in a shoe store to see about getting a new pair of warm black winter shoes. The clerk looked at me strangely when I asked if she could measure my foot. How could a 53-year-old woman not know her shoe size? Sure enough I was a whole number size smaller and two widths thinner. Not the place I want to be thinner.


Dreaming of Christmas Decorating When I Should Be Shopping For Gifts

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My sister Janet is in China on business for a couple of weeks. She sent me a message saying that she just went into a huge factory filled as far as the eye could see with Christmas decorations, and she thought of me. I know that most people complain about Christmas decorations going up early, I understand it can make you crazy, but not me. I am already dreaming about decorating.

 

Yesterday I made Carter take something to the attic and she looked over in the Christmas section and came down with a big sigh, “Oh no, it’s almost time to get the boxes down.” I know she hates this time of year because the movement of the boxes and giant decorations down from the attic feels like Lewis and Clark crossing the great northwest. To that I remind her that she is related to Meriwether Lewis and “Merry is in his name.”

 

Russ was out in Palo Alto last week and texted me while he stood in front of a gift store that had a window full of Christmas ornaments asking if I wanted something. Nice thought. I know he was just looking for any help in the Christmas gift department. “No,” I said. That did not make him happy.

 

Here is the big problem. I am incredibly picky about Christmas stuff. It may feel like quantity is important based on how much I have, but it isn’t. Now it is about just the right things and they are really few and far between. Since I stitch needlepoint ornaments all year I am even more choosy than ever.

 

I cannot imagine there is one thing in that giant Chinese Christmas decoration factory I would want. Now if she was in a Swedish Christmas factory it might be another story. So sorry to my family there just isn’t much you can get me.

 

My dilemma is that I should be figuring out what I am going to be giving to people for Christmas, but somehow that does not start until my house feels like it’s own Santa’s workshop. I have already worked out my wrapping theme for the year, but I don’t have one thing to wrap yet.   I wish that everyone would just register for gifts and let me choose from a list they have predetermined they want…hint, hint, hint.

 

It is very unromantic and uninspired that I can’t figure out what to give people, but since I don’t want anything for myself I don’t look at things as desirable. Now I am sure that my family really wants a gift or two and will not be content to just look at my Christmas decorations and eat a good meal and say, “that was the best Christmas ever.”

 

This is the word out to anyone who thinks you are on my list, give me some ideas. If you don’t want to get a flannel nightgown for Christmas, and Dad I know you don’t, let me know what you do want. Mail me, or text me you send a letter to Santa via Westover road.


Holiday Entertaining Hiccups

 

 

Today I was looking at my calendar of up coming entertaining. I have a mother’s lunch, a formal dinner, a garden club lunch, a ladies lunch, Carter’s birthday, a company dinner and lunch, a school hot lunch and those are just a few I was working on planning today. There is nothing I like more than throwing parties, getting people together and entertaining and the holidays seem to offer more opportunities than I need.

 

My dilemma is what I eat and can have around the house is not the normal holiday fare. I love to make yummy food that everyone oohs and ahhs over, but is it Ok to forgo the fattening items and make healthier party food? Will people be disappointed or will they be thankful that I am not adding to their holiday weight gain?

 

I am able to withstand a perfect warm yeast roll at a party, but if it is leftover and sitting in a container on the counter my will power is greatly tested. Why is that? When it just comes out of the oven and is at it’s prime I can push back away from it, but give it a day or two of being leftover and it is hard for me to avoid craving it.

 

There is one answer and that is I could pack up all the leftovers and send them home with my guests. That way I can make an array of foods and just move the naughty ones out as the last friend is leaving the door, but is that fair to my friends? I hardly know anyone who wants to have an extra pie or cake sitting around.

 

Now I am racking my brain for healthy but delicious menus that I can make quickly since I seem to have a party every other day. What I need are some good make ahead items that I can pull out and serve on short notice. The bad thing is that my best healthy dishes require a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits and lots of chopping.

 

Long gone are the days when I could whip up a big batch of pasta carbonara or make a few big lasagnas. Even a honey-baked ham is out of the question. My guests are just going to have to be surprised. I think as long as I end with a good dessert and a fruit option for me no one will leave unhappy.


The Three Bears

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I am an early to bed lover of famous proportions, especially when the weather turns cold and the dark comes early. Basically I think I am a bear who likes to hibernate through the winter and frolic in the summer. This pattern in a normal year is just fine since I pack in as much travel as possible starting at spring break and continuing until school starts back up and then I am happy to be a homebody while Carter is in school.

 

This year started out fine for me, but just as the real snuggle down time has come into season I am thrown off my game by my family’s activities. Since Carter has made the varsity basketball team, yet is still three weeks away from getting her drivers license I am responsible for picking her up after practice, which is sometimes after 7:30.

 

Russ has also been doing some work in California and in order to maximize his days has been taking the red eye home each Friday. This means that when he gets home at 6:30 on Saturday morning he needs to take a nap at some point.

 

Last night Carter had a 6:00 PM basketball game after a long school week. I was in the Cav-dome to cheer on the team at a time of day when I would normally be home in my nightgown. Of course cheering on the girls in their big win of 63-20 against the Charlotte Country Day girls was well worth staying up for. Carter wanted to stay for the first quarter of the boys’ game, but finally by 8:00 hunger won out and we went downtown for supper. It was close to ten by the time we got home and stayed up late looking at hotels for our spring break trip.

 

Although I was way off my sleep cycle going to bed close to midnight I thought I would be fine since I could sleep late. I should have known that my normal clock would take over and I was wide-awake at 6:00 AM and Russ met me with surprise as he walked in the door at 6:30.

 

I had to get Carter up and make her a real breakfast before her morning basketball game against the Ashville girls. I let Russ take a little nap while I took Carter over to school to get taped before the game. I rushed home to get Russ up and back to the gym where I felt as if I had never left. The girls after a great win just hours before rallied to beat Ashville something like 63-32.

 

By the time we left the gym at 1:30 I was exhausted. I had neither flown the red eye, nor played two basketball games, yet I desperately needed a nap. The cold and dark had to play into my need to hibernate. I was not alone. If someone had rung the doorbell at our house they would have encountered the three bears and one little pup all sleeping as if it were the middle of the night. It’s going to be a long winter at this pace.


Time Warp

 

 

When I was a kid and my grandmother wanted to tell me that something was going to take a long time she would describe it using the phrase, “As slow as Christmas.” I think back to how brilliant she was to be able to tap into what I, as a child could understand since nothing felt like it took forever to come along as much as Christmas, followed quickly by the last day of school and then your own birthday. I am about the same age now as my grandmother was then and I feel like Christmas is coming so fast and I am so unprepared. I don’t think I could get down to that child level so quickly.

 

As I get older the time does seem to speed up. There are only a few times in my life when I felt that time practically stood still, other than those childhood years waiting for Santa; waiting to hear about college acceptance felt like watching sand drop through the hour glass, but the pinch point was too small and waiting for the birth of my first and only child. Perhaps not sleeping comfortably makes one so fatigued that you feel time is standing still.

 

Perhaps anticipating when your mother-in-law leaves to go home can make the hours go more slowly. This is not something I know anything about since my mother-in-law only held that title for the first year of my marriage, God rest her soul. I also guess waiting for a loved one to recover from an illness can also be excruciatingly long hours.

 

Somehow the sad hours seem longer than the happy. I hate that life is going so fast, but I don’t want to wish for bad things so the time will feel drawn out. What I really want is to have childhood Christmas again. Something I don’t have to do much preparation for, except for being just good enough to make it onto the “good” list. No shopping or wrapping or trying to avoid the Christmas cookies.

 

I want to not be able to go to sleep because I am so excited for Christmas morning to come, rather than falling into bed dead tired from trying to pack too much into the day. I want to be so bored waiting for Christmas eve that I will blankly sit in front of Laurel and Hardy’s Babes in Toyland in black and white playing over and over again on channel 5 like I did every year of my childhood.

 

This year I want to feel what my Grandmother called,”as slow as Christmas” for a happy reason. No sadness to slow time down, just the anticipation of a wonderful day.


Special Shopping Times at The Grocery

 

 

Companies do lots of different promotions to get people into their stores. If you are a student you get a discount, if you are a senior you have a special day, if you belong to their loyalty program you have discount prices. Yes, all these things are in the name of marketing, and heaven forbid I say something negative about marketing. But sometimes the promotion for one group is a disincentive for another.

 

Today I had to run into the market and get just a few items. The first stop was at the apples. There I encountered a very elderly lady who had left her cart blocking the aisle with her purse unminded, mind you, and had walked down the apple aisle touching every piece of fruit as if feeling in Braille for the type she wanted. I knew that I just needed two granny smiths and waited patiently as she guarded the whole section like a pro-linebacker protecting the ball. Eventually she noticed that I was either waiting for an apple or to get my cart by her, neither, which I could do, in the current situation.

 

After the apples came the raspberries. There I encounter an elderly woman who was using the corner of the berry display to lean on while she adjusted an unmentionable article of clothing with no regard for being in public. Again I waited patiently. Eventually when her bosom, as my grandmother would call it, was in place she looked at me and said, “What are you looking at?” “The raspberries I am hoping to buy.”

 

I moved on to the cheese counter where a couple who had to have been married to each other for at least 60 years was fighting over feta or goat cheese. They must have had their readers on and not been able to see me waiting just to grab some blue.

 

As I tried to weave my cart through the aisles full of AARP members it dawned on me. It was senior discount Thursday. I guess that the area nursing home busses had brought all their residents to shop at ten in the morning so they had plenty of time to roam the store and clog up the check outs before they were due back at the home for lunch.

 

I know that one day I too am going to be one of these people and I can only imagine that inefficient shoppers will still bother me then even if I am one. I need to make a note to myself not to ever shop on senior day except during meal times.

 

As I finally got out of the store and pushed my purchases to my car in the cart I saw an older man I know from church. I said hello as he was going into the store and he asked if I had finished shopping. “Yes, I just need to return my cart.” I was sure that as an older man with excellent manners he might offer to take it since that was where he was heading. I was wrong. He just said, “have a nice day,” as he walked a step ahead of me into the store. So there isn’t even any chivalry on senior day.


Have You Met The Hulk?

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My friend Garrett is doing some work with Russ and they Flew off to California together for their first business trip together. There just aren’t that many flights between RDU and CA direct so they had to fly Delta through Atlanta. While they were waiting in the gate I get an e-mail from Garrett of Russ sitting in front of Hulk Hogan. Russ looks a little oblivious to the situation, but perhaps it was because he was wearing his new reading glasses, which only let him see what is right in front of his face.

 

Seconds later Russ Texts me that he is with the hulk. Not so oblivious after all. It is hard not to notice a giant blond man who has looked fairly much the same dressed in the same clothes for the last thirty years.

 

I tell Russ to say hi for me since I had met the Hulk in about 1986 at a bar near the St. Louis Arch when I was there to be a bridesmaid in Laura Sherck’s wedding. Laura will have to verify what year that was. I have this theory that if you do any traveling at all eventually you will pass by at least fifty percent of the other world travelers in your lifetime. I can’t prove this theory, but the Hulk is a recognizable enough person to remember when you have seen him.

 

After my text exchange with Russ about my having met the Hulk, Russ turned around and told him the story and the Hulk denied ever having been with me, wink, wink. Then he and his larger than him bodyguard gave Russ the thumbs up and he snapped their picture.

 

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I am wondering what kind of world we live in where the Hulk needs a bodyguard. Who is going to challenge him? He was a nice guy when I met him almost thirty years ago and I guess he still is a nice guy.

 

So what I want to know to help verify my theory that the world is really small and we are all chris-crossing each other all the time, have you ever met or seen the Hulk in person?


I’m Not Going Anywhere, But…

 

 

I took a giant package of chicken thighs out of the freezer; you know the kind that they sell at Costco that could feed a polygamist family. Carter was sitting at the counter when I did it and since I did not take my huge kitchen sheers to the package to separate it into the smaller compartments she asked me if I was planning on cooking the whole thing.

 

“Yes,” I told her. Then she got a tiny smile on her face and she said, “Who died?” Now I know it does not sound good that my child smiles when asking if someone has passed away, but since she had not seen me crying she was sure it was not someone she knew. I am sure you are wondering what the connection between a giant package of chicken and someone dying is?

 

I make fried chicken when I want to bring food to a friend who has lost a loved one. It is the only time I make fried chicken. In our household it is called, “Somebody died?” fried chicken. It came to be known that because anytime Russ walked in the house and I was frying chicken the first words out of his mouth were, “Somebody died?”

 

Almost all of the time I make the chicken makes Carter happy. First she rarely knows the person who passed away and it is the only time she gets the chicken. In actuality she does not like the chicken the way I really make it and I have to doctor a couple of pieces just for her, but still it is the only time I cook her fried food of any kind.

 

When I pulled the chicken out this time Carter asked me if I had all my funeral recipes written down somewhere. “No, I know them by heart,” I told her. Carter is rarely interested in learning to cook so the next thing came as a surprise to me.

 

“Well, you better teach me how to make the chicken and the other things,” she said. “Why, are you going to help me?” I said in a much too surprised tone.

 

“No, but I think I should know how to make them for when you die. I am sure Daddy will be much to sad to cook so I am going to have to do it.”

 

“Aren’t you going to be too sad?”

 

“Yes, but I’ll want the chicken.”

 

For the record I’m not planning on going any place. If I feel the vapors coming on I am going to be sure to make one last batch of “Somebody died?” fried chicken with Carter by my side. I don’t share the recipe with anyone, but I don’t want it to die with me. The only problem I see is that Carter might not pay close attention to the real way I make it and just learn the “Carter modification.” Maybe I should put the real recipe in my will so it can be published upon my departing.


My Biggest Addiction

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Addictions come in many forms and lord knows I have a tendency to pick up one or two. I can rightfully say that I have a familial connection to addictions. Knowing this has kept me from the really serious substances that people think of when you talk addictions, like I don’t do any drugs, smoke anything or drink alcohol. I have worked hard to break my sugar addiction and more would say I am successful about 27 days out of 30. As for white flour and all yummy things created with it I am able to stay away from it about 28 days out of 30. If you do the math I think you would say that I am not addicted to those substances now.

 

But I have to come clean about what I realized today is my number one addiction – Balsamic vinegar. Not just any vinegar but the good stuff, Argento silver from Moderna, Italy. It comes in this very cute globe like bottles that I calculate I drain every 8-9 days. This is an expensive addiction. I could switch to 15-year-old scotch and if I drank the same amount everyday as the vinegar it would cost me half as much.

 

A number of years ago I took advantage of Southern Seasons liberal vinegar tasting bar and tried every Balsamic they had. That was a memorable day. What I discovered is that this Argento brand hits all the right notes with me and I can use it straight as a salad dressing with no need for olive oil. And thus an addiction began.

 

Since Southern Season stopped having their annual sale where I used to stock on up on my yearly supply Russ started ordering cases of it direct. It saves a couple of bucks, but not much. Sometime in the spring he ordered me two cases at once and I thought that surely that would last me a year. Boy was I wrong. I drained all twenty-four bottles in seven months and I am not sure that I gave any away.

 

Like all good addicts I can justify my habit. I only use two tablespoons on my salad and I tend to eat at least one salad and sometimes two salads a day. I don’t yet put the vinegar on my cereal so how bad can I be? The vinegar, although it is not calorie free is much healthier than any other dressing option. Did I already mention I have given up my other addictions?

 

The real problem is that I keep the bottles to repurpose them and they are beginning to overtake my garage. I am thinking that I could go into a vinegar making business since I have enough stock of bottles. Of course the vinegar I would make and bottle would not meet my exacting standards so I would never consume it. I guess I need to think creatively and make some art object out of the over a hundred bottles I have. If it turns out fantastic I could recreate that art piece every year since I certainly will continue to have the bottles. What I really need to find out is if I can buy this vinegar by the barrel. Then I would not feel so guilty about the addiction and would feel compelled to use it everyday to use it up. Oh how the mind of an addict can justify things.


Durham Academy Parent of Alumni Kick Off

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Years ago when Theky Papas was President of Parents Council at DA and facing her third and last daughter’s graduation from Durham Academy she said, “What am I going to do when I don’t have any children at this school?” Her reality was that she had spent more than 20 years supporting, loving, volunteering and pouring her blood sweat and tears into an institution and knew that as soon as Toni graduated she would have no official connection to the school. She and her husband Ted were just the payers of the tuition; their daughters were the Alumni, not their parents.

 

Theky started the idea ball rolling and this past spring when I was asked what job I wanted to do for Parents Council at DA Theky went through my mind. In two and a half years I too am going to be put out to parent pasture when my child graduates and becomes the Alum. Forget that I have spent the last twelve years building community, working on committees, being a trustee and doing my favorite job as Benefit Gala Auctioneer. Forget that the majority of my friends have come from relationships made at school.

 

Thank goodness Lisa Ferrari knows me well enough not to stand in my way when I ask for a job. So the Parents of Alumni Association was born. What was it supposed to do? I had no idea. I had no budget, no committee, and no role model from any other school. What I did know is that staying connected and being a community was enough of an objective and with help from other people we could figure it out.

 

Here is the crazy thing, the parents of the Alums still live here, but the majority of the Alums are far away at college and the ones that are close at college are busy having fun there without their parents. Parents whose kids are all off at college or finished with college have more time to have fun than they ever did when their kids were at DA.

 

A committee was gathered together. We initially met over lunch at my house since I wanted the theme of the group to be about keeping people connected and having fun, so food needed to be involved. That group recruited a couple of others and we were on our way.

 

We decided not to decide exactly what the Parents of Alumni were going to be, but instead to have a cocktail party to introduce the concept to anyone who would come. We thought if we could get 50 it would be good. E-mail invitations were sent out, people responded. We ended up getting closer to 90 people to come to the learning commons and drink a little beer, (Thanks Jay Harris) or a little wine and have a few yummy nibbles.

 

People who had not seen each other in years reconnected. Ideas for future gatherings were suggested. Fun was had by all. In fact it was hard to get people to go home. POA was born. It was just a small beginning, but a happy and successful one. If you are a Durham Academy Parent of Alumni keep your eye out for news from the POA. The community you invested in wants you to feel that you still belong. The best part about the POA is that it is not a fundraising arm of the school in anyway.

 

Thanks to Theky for throwing the idea out to begin with. I hope that it will grow into everything you ever wanted.   Thanks to Sara Pottenger for helping organize this party when you had a senior starring in a play this week. Thanks to Shelayne Sutton, Kay Peters, Martha King and Margaret Chesson for making this party happen and being willing to be part of something new. Thanks to Leslie Holdsworth for always making all my crazy ideas not seem so outlandish. Thanks to all the people who came to the party. Keep feeding us ideas for activities you want us to create. This is just the beginning.


Jeans- Easy, Work-Out Pants Impossible

 

 

Carter has been bugging me to buy new jeans since my old ones are too baggy. Despite how comfy they feel I recognize that a teenage girl knows best in the jeans department. Russ flew the red eye home this morning and since he wanted to nap after getting in I thought I could run to the mall and get jeans before the regular weekend shopping crew engulfed the place.

 

I shop so rarely I forgot that stores really don’t open until ten in the morning so I had a good thirty minutes of mall walking where I staked out my plan of attack. The sad part is that after strolling past every store in the mall, twice, I really only saw three that I needed to go in once they opened.

 

I decided that I would try and handle the jean shopping first given that it is widely reported that women hate shopping for bras, swim suits and jeans so badly that I assumed it would take me a while. Much to my surprise at the first store I went in I found three pairs I liked enough to try on and wanted them all. My hardest decision was figuring out which one not to buy.

 

Once that dreaded job was out of the way I thought I would go and pick up a new pair of workout pants. This task was a no brainer. It should have been easy and quick I thought. Boy, was I wrong. Although I now wear a regular size I now have thousands more choices when it comes to black workout pants. On the surface you might think that one pair of spandex is pretty much just like the other, but then you would be so wrong.

 

In a store dedicated to women’s workout gear there must have been 50 different styles to choose from. I had a fairly definite idea of what I wanted; nothing that resembled my actual legs with black paint painted on them, a pocket big enough to hold my I-phone and pants that went to my feet, it is winter after all.

 

I don’t think I was asking for much, but boy was I wrong. Workout pants have all turned into tights or Capri tights. There was a pair of pants that had pockets but they were only big enough to hold a car key that was the old-fashioned type, not the big ass fob kind we have now. With the urging of the sales clerk I tried on the tights-version and felt as if every nook and cranny of me was exposed. Even though the store called the fabric some type of compression wear it does not compress into a nice shape. I’m not sure these people understand the principle of pushing something in on one side just pushes it our on another.

 

Eventually I gave up my pocket requirement and settled on an inferior choice. Based on my shopping today I am going to modify what I hate shopping foe and remove jeans from the list and add workout wear instead. We all need to stay in shape, but shopping for the clothes should not be the workout or it should not disincent women from wanting to workout because the clothes make them look so bad.


Ode To The Stadium Seat

 

 

I’ve turned from a professional sitter to a semi-pro walker in the last year. After years of being great at sitting in one place content to barley move, I have done a 180 and now can hardly stand to sit anywhere for very long. A good thing you might say, but not when it comes to high school basketball season.

 

Today was Carter’s first scrimmage on varsity basketball, a big day in our house of non-varsity players. Since it was teacher conference day Carter and I got to spend the day shopping for the right orthotic insoles and new socks she needed. At last the time came to get her to the gym for taping and warm-ups. I went to the school track to get some steps in before the sitting session had to start.

 

At Carter’s urging I got the to gym early enough to watch the warm ups and get a chance to see the team in action before they met their first opponent. Sitting on bleachers without back support is not my favorite place to be. Luckily when I was rustling around the garage last week I found a folding stadium seat I bought for last years season, but never got to use thanks to meniscus surgery.

 

During the warm-ups I sat quietly in my seat finishing the sky portion of a zebra needlepoint without guilt since it was not the real play. Once the game started in earnest I put way my stitching to focus on supporting the team. The play was exciting and every member of the team got a chance on the floor.

It was all I could do to stay seated on my padded seat, both my human one and my foam one. Sitting for two hours without a walking break is almost next to impossible for me, but I did it. Not once did I get up and pace the sidelines. I am certain that would be frowned upon and I would be ejected from the gym and be a great embarrassment to my child.

 

It’s just the start of a long sitting season. I know I could not endure those backless bleachers long. Thank goodness for my stadium seat. I bet if I filled my car with them I could make quiet a profit by selling them at game halftimes. I can’t be the only old mother whose butt hurts sitting so long.


Daylight Savings Eating

 

 

I got on the scale this morning and I was up a couple of pounds. This kind of scale reading puts fear in my heart. I know all too well how easy it is for me to get off track and go in the wrong direction. It should be no surprise to me though.

 

Yesterday at Mah Jongg my friends shared their onion rings with me and I shared too much. I also had my fair share of the tiniest heath bars ever made. I know in my mind that even though they were the size of a postage stamp they really pack in the calories, and not just any calories the sugar type that throws my body into a fat holding tailspin.

 

Since I have so many tracking devices for my weight and exercise I looked back at my records and found that is was exactly this time in the last two years that I fell off the wagon and skipped up the scale. Granted Halloween happened at the same time in both of those years, but so did Day light savings time.

 

In my analytical examination of what I am doing wrong so I can correct myself sooner rather than later I realized that since we fell back I have been getting up earlier. Like five AM earlier, which am way more than the hour I gained last weekend. I also noticed that I am much more tired in the afternoons and have been reverting to mindless snacking to keep me awake. Somehow the snacking is working and I am staying up until my normal hour, making my waking time at least two hours more per day.

 

Something I subscribe to in the weight loss arena is that if I am asleep I am not eating. Thank goodness I never took Ambien and did the sleep eating routine. And like most regular humans if I am tired my defenses are down and I am more likely to eat something I have more or less given up in order to fit into my clothes.

 

You would think that by now my body would have adjusted to the time change, but the dark afternoons seem to have a hold on my grazing tendency. I also have not gotten all my steps this week. Life and death issues and my cooking requirements are to blame there, but life and death happen and I need to be able to work those into my routine.

 

Now that all this data has been gathered and the analyzing is done I am going to try and put the information to work to get me back on track. Actually I can’t just back on track, I have to do better than normal so I can drop the pounds I gained. I better do it fast because Thanksgiving is just two weeks away and I am already dreaming of forbidden stuffing.


Dana’s Senegalese Chicken Stew

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OK, I have never been to Senegal and I have no idea why I named this recipe this, but somewhere in some travels I ate once in a Senegalese restaurant and discovered this flavor palate of coconut milk and peanut butter mixed with curry. I liked it and adopted it for American ingredients. Feel liberated when making this and add any vegetables you have on hand.

 

5 Boneless Skinless chicken thighs- chopped into small ½ inch pieces

2 T. lemongrass paste – in a tube in the veggie section

1-inch finger of fresh ginger- grated

5 cloves of garlic – grated

2 large sweet onions- chopped

5 carrots- peeled and chopped

3 cups of chopped butternut squash

1 red pepper – seeded and chopped

1 small can of tomato paste

1 14.5 oz. cans of stewed tomatoes

2 T. cumin

2 T. curry powder

1 T. coriander

2 14 oz. cans of chicken stock

1 pound of fresh green beans cut in thirds

1 16 oz. can of light coconut milk

½ cup peanut butter

Juice of 1 lime

Salt and Pepper

 

In a fry pan sprayed with Pam, brown the butternut squash on medium heat for five minutes flipping it so all sides get a little color.

 

In a big stock pot sprayed with Pam, put the chicken with salt and pepper on medium high heat and cook, stirring every so often for five minutes. Add the onions and the garlic and continue cooking for three more minutes. Add the Carrots and the red pepper, lemon grass and ginger and cook another two minutes.

 

Add the tomato paste and all the spices and cook for three more minutes. Add the stewed tomatoes, and the chicken stock and the butternut squash and the green beans. Cover and cook for five minutes. Add the coconut milk and peanut butter and cook another two minutes. Add the lime juice and taste for salt and pepper. If you like more spice you can add some siracha at the table.


Listening to the Wrinkles in my Socks

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In the last few days it has gotten cold enough that I need to wear socks all the time. Normally in the warm weather I only wear socks when I work out and those white workout ones are really extra good at staying up all by themselves. But come the darkening days of November I really have to wear darker and dressier socks than my athletic wear.

 

I don’t know why my winter socks are not as stay-put as my sneaker ones. Over the years I have bought dozens of different brands and styles of socks looking for the right pair that will not slip down inside my shoe while I walk. Tall shocks, or short, cotton or Lycra or any combination in between they all seem inferior. I have not succumbed to old-fashioned men’s-sock garters, but don’t put it past me.

 

The wrinkled sock that I feel in my shoe is really a metaphor for what is going on in my day-to-day life. Sometimes I am just going on along swimmingly, on plan, getting everything done just in time, not letting anyone down, check, check, checking things off my list, some items mundane some substantial. Those times are like wearing my best white athletic socks. Nothing is impeding my progress. Nothing is annoying me. Nothing is taking my eye off the proverbial ball.

 

Then there are the days when my sock keeps slipping down. I have to constantly stop what I am doing and pull it up. I try and ignore the wrinkle that is under my heel, but I walk a little wonkier, I feel a little more pain, I lose concentration on the task at hand, I am less effective, a little shorter with others and not as productive.

 

No matter how hard I try to find just the right sock there are going to be days when I am off my game, or the rules of the game have changed and no one let me know, or I am needed in two games at once, or three. And then there are the days that the wrinkle is good. It makes me slow down and reassess where I am going, the speed at which I am getting there and how that is affecting the world around me.

 

I don’t know whose hand is guiding mine when I reach in my sock drawer and pull out the pair for the day. Somehow I think I need to take a moment a listen to what my socks are telling me. Stop, look around, why did this wrinkle happen here and now? Not all wrinkles are accidents.


The Benefits of the Yellow Line

 

 

Seems like it is pavement-repaving month around here. Every where I go I feel like I am waiting in long lines for my turn to drive on the one lane that is not either being ground down or recovered. Granted the roads that are being worked on are long over due for resurfacing, but did the state of North Carolina need to save all the projects for the a one month window?

 

For the last three days I have had to drive up and down Academy Road to bring soup to my friend Amy. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this particular byway, it is lovely tree lined thoroughfare with no streetlights. I am not sure exactly when the machines came through that ground off the old cracked up surface and sucked it into trucks, leaving a consistently nubby under layer, but no repaving has taken place for three days.

 

I don’t really mind driving on the less than smooth road during the day. The bump, bump, bumping is kind of hypnotic and the all black road with no painted lines with giant trees that stand like soldiers all along the route make it feel like I am in some German forest going to grandmother’s house like Hansel and Gretel.

 

The problem comes at night and now that day light savings time has come night is really in the afternoon. Today as I was winging my way to Amy’s with my Senegalese Chicken Stew in tow I realized that many of the drivers around me had no idea which side of the street belonged to them without the aid of the center yellow line. The lack of a white sideline did not help matters and the black macadam under layer could not be distinguished from the black shoulder of the side of the road.

 

Some cars quickly crowded into the center with great disregard for oncoming traffic, while others inched slowly along, hugging the outside edge. The one thing that was universal was the cars that went too fast also thought the road was one way and made no attempt to share, while the cars that went too slow could have gone four cars abreast on a two lane road. Apparently most drivers need a yellow line in order to know exactly what they are due.

 

Wouldn’t it be great if we had yellow lines on all parts of our lives guiding us to take just what we should have and not more than we need. I wish that all my meals had a yellow line. Judging what I should eat based on hunger has never really been a good indicator for me. My mind almost always thinks I should have more than my body actually can burn up. If only I had a plate with a yellow line that kept me eating only the right half of my food I probably would not need to walk so much.

 

I’m going to keep my eye out for other places the use of a yellow line might be beneficial. After driving for three days on the same road without one I am going to advocate that all roads have them because I am sure that a few side mirrors have met certain death on Academy Road this week.


Call Out For Kindness

 

 

Alice Roosevelt Longworth famously said, “If you don’t have something nice to say, come sit by me.” When I was young I subscribed whole-heartedly to that principle. Being tough and self-reliant was highly prized in my formidable years. I don’t think that anyone would describe me as kind when I was a teenager.

 

Today it was important that I made it to church since it was the last Sunday my friend and church business manager Barbara Fletcher was going to be there. She is retiring and moving to Alabama to live closer to her two granddaughters. I have known and adored Barbara for years having had the pleasure of working on committees with her for at least the last fourteen years. I will miss her, especially her thoughtful kindness.

 

As I sat in church my minister Chris told a story about what his grandfather who at the age of 93 lost his wife of sixty-nine years. His Grandfather was unsure of what he had to live for. One day Chris went to visit him and he Grandfather called him into the room and said, “I know what I am supposed to do now.” Chris leaned in waiting to hear the secret to life. “I’m just supposed to be nice to people.” His grandfather lived another twelve years and must have made lots of people happy with his kindness.

 

After church I got a big surprise when I had an unplanned visit with Megan Ketch who was Carter’s babysitter for five years and is like my bonus daughter. Megan is a successful actress living in NYC. We talked about the work she was doing and how the world is changing to embrace kindness as a measurement for success. She said to me that now the goal she tried to live by is to be just a little kinder than even she thought she could be.

 

As I was making soup for my friend who had been sick I noticed this thread of the importance of kindness running through my day. It dawned on me that I too have come to value kindness so much more than I did as a young person. Now I am not talking about sickly sweetness or insincerity, but just plain ‘ole thoughtfulness. Doing something for someone else with no expectations in return.

 

Now don’t get me wrong, if a person drives me crazy I am much less likely to go out of my way to do them a favor, but I am also less likely to be unkind. I feel as if the universe is giving me a sign to push kindness just a little bit further. Big disclaimer here, I’m not giving up edginess or if I am particularly hormonal all bets are off, but maybe, just maybe I will catch myself before I say something not so nice and just keep it to myself.


Ribollita – Tuscan Bread and Vegetable Soup

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Some people accuse me of posting recipes on the blog when I have nothing to say. Anyone who has ever met me knows that I rarely have nothing to say. Sometimes I have too much to say and posting a recipe is keeping me quite, thoughtful and reflective for another 24 hours.

 

Today is the perfect soup day. It is cold, dark and a good time to be reflective. The best part about Ribollita is that it too is reflective, changing from one day to the next.

 

2 cups lima beans

2 cups of fresh Dixie peas (or field peas, or black eyed peas) – You can use any white beans to make up the Lima and field peas.

5 slices of thick cut bacon cut into ¼ inch pieces

2 c. chopped onions

5 chopped carrots

3 stalks of celery chopped

6 cloves of garlic – grated on the micro plane

1 quart of chicken stock

5 big handfuls of chopped kale

30 basil leaves chopped- I use a ¼ cup of my frozen basil

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Black pepper

An old baguette cubed into bite-sized pieces

Parmesan Cheese

 

Put Lima beans in a sauce pan with 3 cups of water and cook them until they are tender, about 15 mins. Do the same for the Dixie or field peas in a separate pan, but they may take a little longer. When those beans and peas are finished cooking take them off the heat but do not discard the water add a big pinch of salt to both pans now.

 

In a big stockpot put the bacon and cook for five minutes until the fat starts to render. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and continue cooking for five more minutes. Grate the garlic over the pot and cook for one more minute. Add the Chicken stock and the kale and cook for ten more minutes after the whole thing had come to a boil.

 

Add the basil and lots of black pepper and a few red pepper flakes.

 

Take half the cooked beans and peas out of the water and puree them with a hand blender. Add the puree to the pot and then add the remaining whole beans and peas. The mixture will be very thick. Thin it out using the bean and pea cooking water. Add as much bread as you like knowing that it will soak up the liquid so you may need to add more bean/pea liquid. Cook for ten more minutes.

 

Serve with a big heaping spoonful of Parmesan Cheese over the top.