Random Lunch



Today I had lunch with a wonderful friend who I have known since well before Carter was born. We had been in a club together for years where we got to see each other once a month, but when that club disbanded we had less regular contact, but no less affection for our friendship. Our two-hour lunch could have easily gone on for another two hours, but we both had other commitments and had to promise to schedule another in a month or so. My friend had weathered some health issues, which she is now on the good side of so it was as much a celebration as a catch-up time.


I came away vowing to try and have lunch with someone different at least once a week. I am eating lunch everyday so why not do it with a friend at every chance? There is nothing I am doing that is so important that I can’t make time for friends ahead of most everything else. I can get my walking in before or after lunch. Laundry can be done while I sleep. Carter and Russ are busy more hours of the day than I am awake.


The big thing that has been on my list of things to do is clean out the attic, but I am looking for every excuse not to get that done and I think lunch with friends is the answer. As I started thinking about who I would like to invite to lunch the list got very long very quickly. In a matter of a half an hour I had three years worth of people I wanted to see and the idea of grouping them seemed the logical way to go.


That’s when I resurrected my random dinner party idea with a twist of doing it for lunch. If you don’t know what a random dinner party is it was a concept Russ and I developed to have more people over for dinner. We just put everyone we wanted to invite for dinner in a mason jar and when we had a party just pulled names out of the jar and invited people randomly. Our thought was if we like them, they would like each other. It made for some great dinners. Sadly we hardly made a dent in the jar.


Now I want to have a random lunch. No work for me, it will be at a restaurant and everyone will pay for himself or herself. Instead of me doing the inviting I am going to let people self invite. The first one is next Tuesday, April 7th at 12:30. If you want to come send me a private message and I will take the first five people who respond. Once you have gotten a confirmation I will let you know where it will be, but it will be someplace in Durham. If you are one of my far off readers you are welcome to come, you just have to get yourself to North Carolina. The only rule is I am not going to tell any of you who else is going to be there. Let’s just see what happens.

Like Christmas Day



Today is like Christmas, Halloween and Easter, minus any religious connotations, all rolled into one for me – It is the day the new Mah Jongg card came in the mail. It is almost sad that I look forward to this day with such glee. Every year Ruth and the mavens in NYC who run the National Mah Jongg League keep this monopoly going by creating a new set of hands that they deem as the winning hands for the year and require the whole nation to buy a new card. The set day is April 1, that everyone in America who plays Mah Jongg their way is “required” to start using the new card.


I woke up this morning think that my “New Card” might come in the mail today since April 1 is two days away and sure enough I was right. I quickly called some other enthusiast and had some friends, run, not walk to my house to play. No sooner had one group left to pick children up at school when another group, whose children are all grown, showed up to play. Two rounds of Mah Jongg with the new card, what could be better?


Just as my second group was leaving Carter walked in the door with flowers for me and a movie for us to watch tonight since she had finished her homework. How could this day get any better? I had already made a big pot of white bean soup for dinner, had folded all the laundry and gotten all my steps.


A great day is going to turn into a better night. Movie with my girl and needlepointing — Even better than Christmas day. I hope your day was as good.

It’s All About Perspective

Today is Palm Sunday, the start of the big week on the life of Christians.  As I sat in church today rehearing the very familiar story of Jesus’ last few days I was struck by the disciples lack of realization about what was happening to Jesus despite the warnings.  As I thought more deeply about it I considered that I was coming at the story as a middle aged woman who had the advantage of having had religious scholars, teachers and preachers connect all the dots of the story with the advantage of years of perspective.  It made me think about how little a vision I ever have of a situation that I might be right in the middle of.

Now I am certainly not likening anything in my life to those of the disciples of Jesus, but I am certain that I have ignored signs or important messages that foreshadowed coming events, good or bad.  Maybe, after the fact I might have put two and two together, or more likely gone on blissfully unaware.

Where I am going is that I have come to appreciate time in helping focus one’s point of view and understanding of the world.  A few years back I learned to consider that all situations do not revolve around me more deeply than the way a toddle does.  This came after a painful interaction with someone who was once a close friend.  After a few soul seeking months trying to figure out why this friend had been so cruel, it dawned on me that it was not about me, but about the pain she was in and I was just an outlet for her frustration.  

If I had better perspective of the whole scenario I might have seen the pain my friend was in before she lashed out at me and been able to offer help, rather than just being a punching bag.  But then again, maybe not.  

There is no way that one human can see all points of view over time and certainly never in real time.  Knowing this gives me a lesson I wish I had learned much younger in life, no matter what is going on it is a good idea to stop and take a breath and wait before acting or worrying or even celebrating too loudly.

My younger self was a fixer, see a problem, offer a solution.  Only now as my older self do I realize I did not always really understand what the problem was I was sure I could fix.  I am now learning not see the world as problems and solutions, but more as complex stories of different journeys, none right or wrong.

The one thing I am sure of is that no one will study the path of my life and connect all the dots and missing information or foreshadowing that shows where I went wrong and what I might have done well.  Knowing most of my mistakes will go away when I do makes me happy to keep trying and making them.  I am sure I will always be a fixer, but hopefully I am gaining a better perspective.

When Binging Became Acceptable

Not so long ago if someone admitted to binging you might worry that they were eating or drinking too much.  It certainly was not ladylike to say, “I went on a binge,” unless you were talking about buying more than three pairs of shoes at a time.  Now a days if someone utters the word “binge” more often than not they are referring to watching multiple episodes of a TV show all at once and not to eating thirty-two cupcakes in a sitting.

I am now here to say, “hello, my name is Dana, and I am a binge watcher.”  Normally, I don’t think of binge eating or even binge shoe buying as being contagious, but I am promoting binge watching as the way of the future, even saying that it is the best possible way to watch TV.

My latest addiction is an original show on Netflix called “Bloodline” that stars the very cute Kyle Chandler, of “Friday Night Lights” fame.  It is the story of a family, that I don’t need to describe as dysfunctional, because all families on TV are, that live in the Keys in Florida and run an Inn.  Sissy Spacek plays the mother and Sam Shepard is the father.  I don’t want to give away any of the plot line, but trust me, once you watch an episode or two you will keep watching it to see where this story is going. 

This binge watching plays perfectly into my two at home obsessions of walking on my treadmill and needle pointing, both of which I can do while I am watching a good show.  The only thing that gets in the way of finishing the series is sleeping.  I started watching this show yesterday afternoon and after seven episodes I decided it would be OK if I stopped and went to sleep because that meant I would still have six more shows to watch today.  

Now I am down to one show left and I am sick that in an hour my short lived obsession will be done, at least until a new season comes out next year.  In my defense, or really justification for watching so much TV is that it was not fattening, I still got my family fed during this time and i had the bonus of  never being confused about what was happening on the show because I did not have time to forget who a character was or what the story was since I did not have to wait a week to see the next episode.  

So let’s redeem the word binge from the shame it has faced in the food and drink world to be the great thing it is in the television on demand era.  Who says we need variety in our viewing everyday?  There does not have to be any shame in engulfing yourself in the world of television characters for a day or two.  This is only a problem if you can’t discern the fictional people from the real ones in your own home.  Thankfully I don’t think I am closely related to anyone as bad as these characters, but it is really fun to watch for a day or two.  

I wish I had never seen any Downton Abbey, because I would have loved to have binge watched that show and pretended to be engulfed in their world.  I wonder if I would have imagined myself upstairs or downstairs?  I guess I’ll never know.  But now back to the warm weather of the Florida Keys and my last Bloodline episode.

Herb Weiman Memorial Tuna Fish



When I was a kid I did not really like the tune fish salad I was served at home. The large chunks of too much celery added to stretch out too little fish swimming in a pool of mayonnaise just never really hit the right notes with me. Then in college I met Herb Weiman, and his skills with a can of tuna changed my outlook.


Herb and I met when we went to school in France together what was the summer between my freshman and sophomore year and his senior year and first year of law school. We became fast friends and shared a lot of cooking between us. The best part was that Herb, who had the best sense of humor, was in law school in Carlisle while I was finishing Dickinson and he often retold the most outrageous cases he was studying with me while we shared dinner.


Herb had learned his special tuna salad from a diner in Ventnor, New Jersey where his family spent their summers. He even had a giant painted plywood menu hanging in his kitchen that had been discarded from the diner when they needed to paint a new one with higher prices.


Herb was always fastidious in the preparation of the tuna salad and impressed on me not to skip any of the important steps. I was more of a seat-of-my-pants-cook relying on my natural instincts rather than learning from great master of the diner culture. I have to admit that to this day when I make my tine salad the Herb Weiman way, not straying from the tried and true recipe I am immediately transported back to those happy years in college at my first bite.


Sadly Herb passed away at the much too young age of 40 from a brain tumor. His laughter and wit are still missed by so many. I do my best to keep him alive in his famous tuna salad.


1 6 oz. can of the best tuna in water you can afford – Herb swore by black diamonds

2 T. sweet pickle relish

Squeeze of half a lemon

1 T. mayonnaise

2 t. Dijon mustard

½ t. dried oregano

Salt and Pepper


Herb insisted that you must drain the can of tuna the best you can and then rub the tuna between your thumb and fore finger breaking it up into the tiniest bits you can, making it light as a feather. Mix in everything else adding only enough mayo to make it “Not dry” which is completely different than wet. It is best made a little in advance so the dried oregano can blossom in the salad.

What Kind of a Witch Am I?



My favorite job of the year is coming up, that of the Auctioneer at the Durham Academy Auction. There is nothing I like better than getting up in front of a group of friends and helping them part with their money for a very good cause. The theme this year is “Emerald City – There’s no place like home.”


One issue I always have is what to wear as the auctioneer. I try and stay with the theme, yet be covered up enough that I am not a distraction to the audience. A couple of years ago, when Russ was out of town, my zipper broke on my very tight dress and I had to call a neighbor to come sew me into it. The whole night I was nervous about popping out of the dress and causing mass nausea.


This morning we had an auction meeting and my friend Kristen had her Dorothy shoes, be it hooker Dorothy models and her little Toto and basket ready. I asked her who I should dress as and since she is a nice person she first answered, “Glinda.” Now really, do you think I am a good witch? I am probably more like the Wicked Witch of the North, save the green face.


My sidekick for a second year in a row is the ever-popular Lee Hark. If I go as Glinda he will have to be a munchkin, maybe even a lollypop boy, but if I am the Wicked Witch then he will have to be a flying monkey. Please weigh in and vote to let me know who you like best. I guess I should ask Lee, but he is usually game for any crazy scheme I hatch up.


There are some great auction items in the live auction this year, a beautiful house at Figure 8 Island over fall break, a cocktail party at Six Plates for 20, Four Tickets to Taylor Swift – 2 on the front row, A big golf package at the Wells Fargo Tourney, a Big Boss Beer Dinner for 10 and a Luxury box in the Blue Zone at the UNC-Duke Football game – whichever color blue you are this is the bomb. To read more about the items please visit DA.org/auction.


You don’t have to attend the auction to bid or donate, but I would love to have you come and spend a fun night with me there. Please let me know if you need a table. I still have spots at mine. They have changed my stage from one in the round to a cat walk type situation so I can get even closer to you when you are bidding. Chances are I might fall off more easily and that is always good to get the bidding up. It will definitely give Lee a good stage to model all the items from. Trust me you won’t want to miss the show.

Has Variety Made Us Fatter?



When we were in Italy I actually began to get sick of Italian food. Seems unthinkable since if I were able to eat anything I wanted without any caloric consequences Italian food might be at the top of my list. One reason I think I started to get sick of it is Italian cuisine is very regional and since we spent most of our time in Roman we were basically just eating Roman food, not food from all over Italy.


When I was a kid lots of my friend’s mothers made the same menu every week, baked chicken on Monday, hamburgers on Tuesday, spaghetti on Wednesday, meatloaf on Thursday and fish on Fridays. Not only were the foods the same every week, but also they were prepared exactly the same way week after week, year after year. Hardly anybody was fat. Was it because they were just sick to death of eating the same foods?


I can remember going to my friend Gayle’s house. Her family was from Minnesota of Norwegian decent. Her mother made some kind of meatballs with sour cream that I thought was fabulous, but Gayle and her two brothers could hardly look at it since it was a weekly staple.


I know that if I taste a new food and I like it I eat much more of it than I probably need. And the exact opposite is true. I eat the same thing for breakfast 99 days out of 100; a bowl of High Protein Special K with a few berries and skim milk. It is a small bowl and I am perfectly happy just having that since my mouth is not dancing with excitement for a new taste.


Maybe I have ruined my family by trying lots of exotic cuisines. Can we blame Food Network for introducing Americans to the idea that you never have to eat the same thing twice in your whole life? Yes, there might be a few foods you try and want to eat again, but chances are they are really fattening and that makes them taste yummy.


I think repetitive eating is the secret behind those horrible diets like the cabbage soup diet. If you are forced to eat the same thing over and over you eventually just don’t want to eat much of it. I think the cow is out of the barn at our house, there is no chance to have a repeating one-week menu unless I am looking for a divorce. What about at your house?