If you watch TV in North Carolina you must be familiar with the CPI Security ad where what is clearly a robber, a man who practically has a black mask on over his eyes breaks into a house and an announcer says in a deep threatening voice, “CPI Security, identify yourself.” The sound of the husky voice is enough to drive the would be robber out of the house, that and the follow-up voice saying, “the police have been notified.”
My family thinks I missed my calling as a security voice announcer. I say it is never too late. I agree that I have a deep and what can be a scary voice when I am mad. If were a criminal heard me voice telling me to get out I would run for the hills.
Today, I was looking out my office window and noticed a giant black crow standing in the middle of my tender Arugula seedlings eating whatever he wanted. I ran out the garage screaming, “Get the HE%$ out of my garden, “ at the top of my lungs.
Well, walking just behind my giant magnolia tree was an old man I did not see, and a little further up my yard was a woman walking her dog, who apparently was peeing on my grass. Quickly I heard a small voice from the woman, “I’m sorry.” Then the old man, “Me too!” I ventured further down the driveway to find the people I had scared to death. “I’m sorry, I was screaming at a crow,” I explained.
‘Thank goodness, “ the old man told me. ‘I was worried you had video cameras and were one of those CPI Security people.” I got a big laugh out of that and told him my child also thought I was one of those people. I quickly let him and the dog walking woman know I did not consider them intruders, but secretly I was hoping that maybe she won’t let her dog pee on my new grass again.
If you are looking to make a recording to scare people off your property I am offering my voice up for recordings. I also can do voice messages that scare teenagers when the liquor cabinet is opened or wildlife that might attempt to walk in your garden. I find a there are a lot of advantages to a threatening voice and I’m happy to share it, I’m just glad I did not give any old people walking by my house a heart attack today. That would not have been good.
Russ is away so Carter and I decided to grab a quick bite of dinner out. As we were leaving our local eatery we saw a huge rainbow that stretched from one side of the horizon to the other. We both stopped and in the waning light of the evening took in the beautiful colors. Then as is the way of this decade we pulled out our cameras and both took photos and videos. Of course only Carter’s phone could capture the whole thing in one shot.
We got in the car happier than a mother and teenage daughter usually ever are together bathing in the joy that seven little colors in the sky brought us. Of course the tale of the pot of gold being at the end of the rainbow can never be proven since you can never actually find the end of the rainbow, but the happiness seeing that rainbow together tonight brought me something much better than gold; a close moment with my daughter.
If you have a teenager I hope that you can have a rainbow moment with them. It washes away all the crap.
When I was little I remember an old man, who as I think of it now was probably was not so old, whose house burned down saying, “Well at least I still have my health.” I was about ten or eleven and thought, that is the craziest thing I ever heard, you lost everything, why are you talking about your health? Taking health for granted is certainly something the young can do. The problem is you don’t really appreciate it until it is jeopardized.
Today I went to visit a good friend who had a big health scare and has had to endure a lot of pain for the last six weeks and has many more weeks ahead of her. The good news is she is alive thanks to a good husband and living near a good hospital, but living with pain is something I don’t think any of us want to experience or expect at a relatively young age, did I mention she is younger than I am?
Between my brother-in-laws serious heart attack this winter and this friend’s big illness I am really appreciative of my health. I am not looking for anything I need to fix, but I certainly am feeling my age creeping up and the need to do as much preventative maintenance as possible.
I’m not talking about lines on my face, I am perfectly happy showing the life I have lived when I smile. I’m talking about the things that might kill me. Fat in my organs rather than just fat on my thighs or plaque build-up that could break off and cause a stroke or heart attack.
Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance, that’s what it is after 50. So please pay attention to any warning signs your body might be giving you that something is different. My brother-in-law is alive because a co-worker did not just let him go home and lie down when he thought he hurt his back, it was a heart attack. My friend got to the ER because her husband took her. Waiting would have had a different ending.
I really want all my friends and family to stick around and be able to say right up until the end, “I have my health.” I just don’t want anyone to say it in response to his or her house burning down.
George Orwell wrote 1984 in 1949. He only got the idea that Big Brother is watching our every move off by a few years. I wonder if George were alive today he would recognize our world of cell phone cameras, security cameras, you tube postings and thousands of hours of reality TV as what he described in his prophetic work?
With the proliferation of cameras and ways for people to share what they have filmed I don’t know why people continue to act like no one is watching when everyone is watching. Police should be the first to know that their every moves are being scrutinized. But the people who protest those same police actions with illegal reactions are also being filmed. The problem now is there is no way for society to prosecute all the wrongs that are being filmed.
Not all people protesting are doing anything wrong, but surely if you are doing something wrong the chances are great that someone or something is going to catch it on film. Has society gotten so numb to these pictures of people breaking windows or trashing cars that don’t belong to them that we no longer see the faces? Are their grandparents upset by their showing up on TV or is it all OK somehow?
I never understood when a college team wins a big game and their fans go out and burn things up in their town. The team won, why are you destroying things? How can we change this pattern of reacting to something bad or good with destruction?
I for one figure there are cameras watching everything so I don’t even want to scratch my backside when I’m out in public in case I show up on some horrible You Tube video. When I was a teenager the worst thing that might happen to you was if you went out of the house dressed in a terrible outfit you might show up in the back of the Glamour Magazine with a black bar across your eyes and the label of a “Glamour Don’t.” I don’t think I ever knew anyone who was published as a “Glamour Don’t,” but the fear of being called one was real. Today, I don’t think people have that same fear. I feel like the reaction to something like that would just be the middle finger.
Now more people are watching, but less people are caring. I think I need to reread 1984 and see how Orwell’s character’s reacted. Somehow the idea that we are being watched has just made people react worse not better.
Today was the first day we have gone to the Durham Bull’s game this season. The cold and rainy weather has not made baseball the first thing I want to do, despite my love of going to the game. I could care less about baseball on TV. For the most part I find it to be a slow and arduous thing to watch, but live and with friends at the ballpark I love it.
Today we filled our seats with my cousins Leigh and Sarah and their families and our friends Richard and Michelle. Carter also brought a friend. It was a full house in our seats, which helped keep me a little warmer in the cold wet weather.
This was the first time I had seen my cousins since their father passed away. We had so much to catch up on about the last weeks of his life and his funeral, which I missed since we were in Rome. Having a serious family talk between cheering for a good hit, or screaming about a bad call or giving kids money to go buy peanuts or discussing if it were better to eat a soft pretzel or cotton candy was almost surreal.
The one thing I learned that I was most happy to hear was how important my father was to my cousins through his brother’s whole illness and death. I just don’t think we always know if we are being helpful as family on the periphery, but hearing how much my cousins appreciated my father made my heart happy.
It was a double header today since yesterday’s game was rained out. We stayed for the first winning game, but then we needed to leave because we had driven Michelle and Richard and they had a new puppy we needed to spend time with. Hartley, the perfectly darling eight-week old little Jack Russell Terrier with the little white heart on her forehead was thrilled to see us and get to go out.
She is still such a tiny baby that she needs to snuggle to stay warm and nap every few minutes. I happily volunteered my cushy lap as the best place for her to do both. I think that holding a puppy is the best remedy for anything that is ailing you. It was great to spend time with my Cousins, but the sad reality that their father is gone really hit me today. Hartley was the perfect medicine for a sad heart.
Thanks to Michelle and Richard for being such kind hosts and letting us crash with Hartley and drink coffee and catch up. Too long between visits means we never really fully get through everything. Thanks for the puppy therapy. Now if we could just take them to the baseball game everything would be perfect.
I did not do anything all day except walk and binge watch “the Forsythe Saga” and just as I was about to pass out I realized I had not written a blog! How I forget to do this when a I have been writing for three years I do not know. Obviously it takes more than three years for me to create a habit.
This is the third salad I made for my luncheon. I took this picture the first day I made it. I later added cashews when I served it again and it was greatly improved
1 small head of cauliflower broken into florets
1 can of chick peas, drained and rinsed
1 onion sliced thinly
1 mango cubed into 1/2 chunks
1 bag of baby spinach
Big handful of cilantro leaves-chopped
1 T. Mustard seeds
2 t. Cumin seeds
2 t. Coriander seeds
1 t. Turmeric
1T. Curry powder
1 T. Sugar
Juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup cashews
Blanch the cauliflower Ina big pot of boiling water for 1 minute and the drain and set aside.
Put a frying pan on a medium heat and put the mustard, cumin and coriander seeds in the pan and heat for about two minutes just to toast. Remove from pan and grind them up with a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Add all the other spices and mix well. Set aside.
Using the same frying pan put the onion I with a table spoon of oil and cook on medium heat for five minutes. Add the spices and continue cooking for another five minutes. Remove fro. Frying pan and put in big bowl. Add the drained cauliflower to the pan and cook on medium heat about four minutes to get it browned. Add to the onion bowl.
Add the chick peas, mango, spinach and cilantro and toss together. Add the lime juice and a splash of olive oil. Sprinkle with cashews right before serving.
I made a blanched green vegetable salad yesterday with some shaved coconut and fried onions in it. It was fine then, but today when I went to have the leftovers it was fantastic. The sweetness of the coconut and the tang of the lime had married beautifully with the chili in the salad.
I used broccolini because I found some at Trader Joes, but I have to say it was the disappointing part of the salad, at least the tough stalks. Next tie I might just use the tops of regular broccoli.
Big bunch of Broccoli- lightly steamed and shocked in cold water to stop the cooking
Big bunch of green beans lightly steamed and shocked
Cup of cooked and shelled Edamame
Cup of Cilantro leaves- chopped
¾ cup of chopped coconut – not the flaked sweet kind. I used Trader Joes Coconut sticks that I chopped
1 large sweet onion
1/3 cup of Wondra Flour or rice flour
¼ cup of olive oil –for dressing and more for frying
Juice of 2 limes and zest of one
2 small dried red chilies
1 t. mustard seeds
Make the fried onions first my very thinly slicing the onion and dredging it in the wondra or rice flour. Pour a bit of the oil in a frying pan just to coat the bottom of the pan and heat on medium heat. Use a fork to pick the onions up out of the flour so you shake any excess off the onions and put in the fry pan and cook quickly, turning to keep them from burning. Remove from the pan to a paper towel covered plate and salt while still hot. You make need to fry the onions in batches.
Make the dressing by putting ¼ cup of oil in a small pan with the mustard seeds and red chilies and heat it up on medium. Cook until the mustard seeds burst, about two or three minutes. Mash the chilies with a fork and break them into small bits. Set the oil aside to cool. Add the limejuice and zest when cool and mix well.
Put all the green vegetables in a big bowl and pour the dressing over it. Tossing everything to coat. Add the coconut – It tastes better if it can marinate overnight. Add the onions right before serving.
You can add cooked chicken or shrimp to make it a whole meal.
I had a meeting of some women friends at my house today so I used it as an excuse to try some new salads. True to form I could not decide on one salad I wanted to make so I made three. I’ll dole the recipes out over the next few days. Interestingly the simplest one was the tastiest, at least to me — Maybe because I love lemons so much.
I was inspired by a more complicated artichoke recipe that involved cleaning and cutting down fresh artichokes to just their hearts and then cooking them in a complex broth of herbs before dousing them in a candied lemon peal sauce. It seemed like a lot of work when I could just use canned artichoke bottoms, so that what I did. The candied lemon peel was really the star and very easy.
Candied Lemon Peel Sauce
3 whole Lemons
2 T. sugar
2 T. water
Cut the peel off the lemons trying to get just the yellow part, leaving the white pith on the fruit. Once you have cut it off in about ½ inch wide strips cut those pieces into thin slivers. It is easier to do it that way, than cutting it off the lemon in tiny thin strips. Once you have gotten all the skin off the lemon you can squeeze the fruit to remove all the juice and put it in a small saucepan.
Add the lemon peel strips, sugar and water and place on a medium flame on the stove and bring to a simmer and cook for fifteen minutes until half the liquid has disappeared.
Put in a plastic container in the refrigerator. This can be done in advance and kept for weeks.
1 whole lemon cut in eights
2 garlic cloves
Big pinch of salt
1/3 c. of olive oil
¼ cup of Champagne Vinegar
Put the whole lemons, garlic salt and a few grinds of the pepper mill in a heavy-duty blender, like a Vitamix. Starting on the lowest setting start grinding everything up and adding the oil while increasing the speed for one minute. Put a fine sieve over a bowl and pour the contents into the sieve catching the lemon solids and letting the lemony oil go into a bowl. Add the vinegar and whisk together. This dressing is good when used with the candied lemon peel and the liquid that is left with it. If you do not make the lemon peel add a tablespoon of honey to sweeten the dressing.
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs- cooked and shredded
3 heads of butter lettuce cut into small pieces
30 basil leaves torn up
20 mint leaves torn up
1 can of artichoke bottoms- drained and quartered
2 globes of Burrata- cut in half at serving time and put on each individual serving.
Mix the lettuce, and herbs together and divide onto four large plates.
In a separate bowl toss the artichoke bottoms with the candied lemon peel and the remaining sweet liquid. Spoon over the lettuce. Top with chicken. Drizzle a little dressing on top and lay half a globe of burrata on the side with the cut side up so the creamy center stays in.
It is known around these parts that I am frugal yet sometimes lazy. That explains why I have at least a hundred or so volunteer vegetable plants growing up in my vegetable garden right now. See, last year I had some zucchini, yellow squash and cucumbers growing in this very spot that I did not notice during harvest until they got so big they could hardly be ignored. Of course baseball bat size zucchini are practically inedible so I just left them to lay fallow in my field.
What happens when I do this is the next spring all the giant seeds that those monster vegetables produced voluntarily grow into new plants. Now I have literally hundreds of seedlings growing in my beds. I have no way of knowing which variety they are, let alone needing so many plants. If I were to leave them most would die from competition for soil and water so I am offering these seedlings to anyone who would like to take their chances on some free plants.
I can’t promise you what you will grow, but it’s free so do you care? This is a perfect opportunity to teach young children about gardening. They can transplant the seedlings into a sunny patch of well-drained dirt at your house and spend the next 45 days betting on what kind of vegetable they will be eating.
I am not transplanting all these starters into pots, but a happy to put as many as you want into Baggies. Just let me know if you want to come over and take them. You would pay a couple of dollar a piece for these things at the farmers market; of course you would know what you are buying. Why not take a chance and plant a few of these free veggies. I hate to dig them all up and kill them. It goes against my very grain.
Free seedlings at my house, come one, come all, but please come soon!
The Self Driving Car Can’t Get Here Fast Enough
I have seen a couple of test cars on the news recently that are totally self-driving. One was an Audi and another a Mercedes. Leave it to the Germans to want to be first in the big world of car automation and to that I say “Yawhol.” I am sure they are up to the task to enable us to ride in cars and safely get to where we want to go without putting a hand on the wheel or a foot on a peddle.
As much as I would like to ride in my car needlepointing away and not have to bother with doing any of the driving there are two groups of people who need this invention more; small children who are too young to drive and old people who should have their driving privileges revisited.
Although it seems like a nice idea to be able to put a three-year-old in a car and have them delivered to pre-school I don’t think that is going to happen anytime soon. Kids still need a parent’s hand to hold when they get out of a car, so I am nominating the elderly as the first group we should give self-driving cars to.
Specifically I would like to nominate the nice look older man with the silver hair in the button down shirt who was driving a grey Prius today in Chapel Hill at the intersection of Legion Road and Ephesus Church road at three in the afternoon. As anyone who had ever driven west on Ephesus Church road toward 15/501 knows the road can get very backed up at that light.
I was heading the opposite way and wanted to make a left hand turn at the light at Legion road. Since the cars were so backed up I waved at this nice looking man who was going the opposite way and asked if I could turn left since the traffic his way was at a dead stop. The old guy looked me dead in the eye from his non-tinted windows and mouthed, “Fu%& you” and pulled to the center of the intersection blocking anyone turning. There I sat with my face right next to his trying to go the other direction.
I rolled my window down and in my nicest southern voice said, “I know you have the right of way and I’m happy you are exercising your rights, but I’m very embarrassed for you that you have to sit here stuck in traffic and look at me after you swore at me for just asking to make a turn when you clearly are not going anywhere anyway.” The light then changed giving me a green arrow to make a left hand turn, but I was unable to do it since he was still stuck in the traffic of his side. The light changed again and the people trying to turn from Legion road were now blocked because he was still there. Eventually the light at 15/501 changed and his lane moved forward.
If that man had been in a properly programed self-driving car that did not block an intersection that was backed up none of this would have happened. Well he might have still screamed an obscenity, but he might not have had to sit through two light changes looking at the person he cussed out.
I just hope that the self driving car programmers have someone with manners on their team and program the cars to do what is nice as well as safe and not just what is someone’s right.
This morning I went over to my friend Beth’s house to meet her new granddaughter. Beth is a great cook and always has something yummy out to eat at her house. To combat my urge to eat something cheesy or chocolaty I did the best defense against eating and made my hands busy so they were not available to put food in my mouth.
I was lucky to walk in right as the baby was in need of being fed a bottle so I quickly volunteered to take the baby from a younger person and feed her. There is nothing better than the smell of a newborn and Beth’s sweet granddaughter was the perfect defense against fattening food. Not only did I need both my arms to hold, support and feed her, but also the sweet smell of that tiny bundle was much better than any baked good.
Now I am looking for other babies to feed. Bri, do you need me to come over and hold your new son at lunchtime? Any others out there? The important thing is they have to be tiny babies who have not learned about stranger anxiety and are perfectly happy to have me holding them. I am a long way off, I hope, from being a grandmother myself and so I am going to have to line up other friend’s grandchildren if I am going to use this as a real diet technique.
At least it worked today. Thanks Beth for letting me come and snuggle that sweet baby.
At Christmas I bought an eight inch authentic French crepe pan in order to make crepes for Cannelloni. Since it was the most sinful thing I ate all year, save the crack pies, I have not used that pan since. I hate having cooking equipment that is used once and then set in the cabinet to take up space, reminding me every time I open the door that I had made a silly purchase.
To quiet the condemning voice in my head I decided to use my crepe pan tonight for a healthy Crespéou, which is French for a stacked-multi layer flat omelets with different fillings. My photo is terrible and does not rightfully represent the green-red-green-red layers, but trust me I made four small omelets to produce this cake like structure. The best part about it is that you can use any old leftovers to make your layers and it can be served hot, cold or room temperature. The French think of this as picnic food, nothing to go bad out in nature. We just ate ours for dinner.
You do not need a crepe pan to make it, any old frying pan will work, so I guess I am still guilty of having bought an unnecessary piece of cookware.
1/3 cup of half and half
1/2 c. of crumbled feta cheese
Salt and pepper
Mix this all together and set aside as the base of all the omelets.
For the green layers I used:
1 bunch of green onions cut up
1 handful of flat leaf parsley chopped
For the red layer I used:
1/2 cup of caramelized onions
1/2 red pepper chopped up and sautéed and cooled
Preheat the oven to 325.
Put the pan on a medium heat and warm, spray with Pam or coat with a little olive oil. Using a cup measure ladle spoon slightly less than a full measure into the 8 inch pan and swirl than pan around. Add 1/2 of the green layer ingredients on top and cook about four minutes until the layer is almost set. Using an offset spatula if you have one losses the omelet from the pan and slide it on to a pie pan.
Repeat the process using the red ingredients and slide the next layer on top of the first.
You get the idea to keep doing this until you have used up all your egg mixture. I made four layers.
Place the pie plate in the oven to finish the cooking for about ten minutes.
I think it is best if you take it out of the oven and let it cool for at least 15 minutes.
It has been a most eclectic day. It started with a visit to Bennett Place, the site of the largest surrender of the Civil war that just happens to be in Durham. Today is the 150th anniversary of the confederate army’s General Johnston and the troops surrender to Union Major general William T. Sherman. No, neither Russ nor I have suddenly become Civil War enthusiasts, but one of my college classmates, Eric Wittenberg was a visiting expert and speaker so we went to see him and his wife Susan.
Eric is a lawyer by trade, but a civil war history is his passion and he has written 16 books on the subject. He gave an interesting talk about the battle of Monroe’s Crossroads. Most everyone in packed theatre were Civil War enthusiasts and knew the players Eric introduced well, but to me most of the story was a new one, which he was able to bring to life for a novice like me.
After spending the morning learning about Durham 150 years ago I went to my friend Lucy ‘s mother’s funeral. Mary Louise had been born in Durham 88 years ago and lived her whole life. Although she had a long decline with Alzheimer’s I can only imagine the changes she saw in Durham over her lifetime.
With so much of my day concentrating on the past I decided I needed to do something hopeful for the future so I thought gardening therapy was the way to go. With my driveway gardens prepped by Russ last weekend I was able to plant my vegetables this afternoon. Putting seeds in the ground with the idea that in a month and a half I will be eating arugula I grew is the most optimistic thing I can do.
I hope that Durham continues to improve over the next 150 years. I will keep doing my little part, which might be as small as planting a garden every year. I wonder how this day will be celebrated at the 300th anniversary?
I have tended to be a person who preferred to eat my calories rather than drink them. Somehow if I have chewed food my brain feels more satisfied than if I just drank it, or so I thought.
A couple of weeks ago Carter started requesting smoothies for breakfast since they were something she could consume through out the morning as she actually got hungry, rather than forgoing breakfast all together. After spending twenty minutes each morning trying to pulverize various frozen fruit with my stick blender my tired arm finally revolted and begged for a Vitamix.
Since these smoothies were going over so big with Carter I decided after coming home from a party tonight where I refrained from eating most of the party food to try one myself. Rather than making the sweet yoghurt kind that Carter gets I opted for a fruit veggie combo with a kick of ginger. Not only did I love it, but Shay Shay tried to lick my glass clean. Apparently I might have stumbled upon a new market for Vitamix – smoothies for dogs.
I’ll report later if drinking my calories is good or bad in the weight loss department. I still think that if I use a machine to grind up all the nutrients I might be aiding my body in being able to absorb calories rather than spending energy breaking down whole food. But I don’t think that I could obtain the same flavor if I tried to eat these ingredients whole so in the name a tasty mixture I might have a smoothie every once in a while.
1 whole granny Smith apple
1 whole Carrot
½ c. frozen Mango chunks
½ inch of grated ginger
1 c. crushed ice
Let the Vitamix do the work and share with your dog.
One of the saddest days is when a good friend moves away. The only thing that makes it better is when they come back to visit and stays with you. I am lucky that my great friend Jeanne, who moved to Alexandria last fall had a couple days free in her calendar to come back to Durham this week. The best part about visiting is you get a good amount of concentrated time to really catch up.
Jeanne and I like a lot of the same things, and when she showed up at my house yesterday we were even wearing the exact same outfit. Not surprising since we buy our clothes from the same place and usually pick out the same pieces. You know you have a really good friend when you can ask her what she is buying and she encourages you to get the matching outfit.
It is not just matching clothes we have in common, but walking and needle pointing, both of which we did today. I had a Durham Magazine event to go tonight and Jeanne was even a good sport about going with me. Just having her to talk to in the car made going much more fun.
The way I know she is the perfect guest is Jeanne is happy to eat whatever good for you food I am making for myself. I have some guilt about serving a house guest Special K for breakfast and arugula salad for dinner, but that is my own issue. Jeanne is always happy about whatever I suggest. This is a trait I need to try and emulate whenever I go to stay with anyone.
You know you have a good friend when they are happy to sit in a chair in your office while you walk on the treadmill or even worse watch TV in their PJ’s in your bedroom since that is the best TV in the house. Moving away was sad, but visiting is good because when you live in the same place you don’t necessarily spend 36 hours straight together. So hooray for visiting.
I love traveling. This spring I have had my share. When visiting other places I like to try the local food and the one thing I find is that it is hard to find healthy food when you eat all your meals out. One might suggest I could miss a meal or two, but since I can’t remember the last time I purposely skipped a meal that did not involve anesthesia I don’t think it is going to happen when I am on vacation.
I gave myself permission to eat whatever I wanted in Italy since we were only going to be there 10 days. It made for a fabulous holiday in everyway, but getting back to the eating I need to do to keep myself in the clothes I own is hard. After spring break we had Easter then my trip to Tennessee with my Mom. If you saw the people in Gatlinburg you would know it is not a place known for its salads.
Eating is not the only issue. Exercise on vacation is hard too. When you walk nine miles a day as your baseline there is no way to keep that up unless I am on a hiking vacation with other walking enthusiasts.
Now it’s time to get back in the saddle and put the brakes on eating the naughty stuff. It is harder done than said. I know that dieting is all in my head, but I have to rebrake my brain form sugar and white flour. I know that I could conquer a small nation of indigenous people if they had never eaten sugar before I tried to take over. All it would take is a few cases of Snickers Bars, a sack of Reese’s Cups and a palate of sea salt brownies. I could get any previously non-sugar eating tribe to follow me anywhere if I was the one to introduce them to such things.
Knowing I must stop with all sugar for three or four days to get it out of my system is the only way to get back on track, but I have fallen off the wagon and I think it rolled away without me. Now I am in search of the wagon to get back on. If you see me wandering, glassy-eyed, mumbling to myself, don’t worry. I am just going through sugar withdrawal. This is my first step, to admit I am powerless against it, that’s easy. Staying away is hard.
This morning my mom and I got up at the lovely Lodge at Buckberry Creek, probably the nicest thing in Gatlinburg. No, not probably, definitely! We had felt like fish out of water yesterday when we walked through town because we had all our own teeth, no tattoos, no undergarments proudly displayed, could carry our own weight with our own two feet, had no obscenities written on our clothes, actually had no writing on our clothes at all, were not drunk at four in the afternoon and kept all our saliva in our own mouths.
How the rest of the people all honed in on Gatlinburg at the same time I do not know, but there is some kind of tacky magnet there. What we really could not get over is how every store we walked by sold anything at all because it was so full of crap. The only good thing is that we got a really good fast walk in as we tried to dodge the families who were swearing at their small children or hitting their adolescent son with the 9-inch Mohawk.
The whole reason we were there was for my mother to see her old summer spot and to try and find the mountain she and her sister’s inherited, which is now for sale if you are interested. I must say that outside the town the mountains are beautiful with the streams and rivers babbling down the hills full of rhododendron.
Thankfully I was able to find the one nice place to stay and we had a beautiful suite with a porch over looking the Great Smokey Mountains Park. We went to have breakfast in the main lodge this morning and one of the owners overheard my Mother talking about a childhood friend and asked where we were from. One bit of Knoxville led to another and it turns out he had gone to high school with my Aunt Edie and knew all the same people my mother did.
This just cemented my mother’s theory that everyone nice in Tennessee knows each other. I was just glad that he was such a nice man and did not have any tattoos, had all his own teeth, clothes with no writing on them and was clearly sober at nine in the morning. I am forever thankful that he was the one person my mother knew in Gatlinburg.
When you grow up in one place and go to the same place for vacation every year it really does not take long to revisit your whole childhood. Between late yesterday afternoon and lunch time today my mother and I were able to see everything she wanted to see from her birth to the death of her parents and lots of fun things that happened in between.
We started the tour of my mother’s childhood home and drove past practically everyone of her friend’s homes as if we were on her regular bike route. We stopped at her elementary school and could not retrace her walk to school exactly because some new houses had been built where there once had only been woods, so we settled for driving the route. As is always the case, what used to seem so big or far away, was now tiny and close. My mother said she used to complain about what a far distance she had to walk to and from school, when in fact it could hardly have taken her more than five minutes.
We saw her junior high, now a community center and the University of Tennessee where she spent her first two years of college before heading east to UNC back in the days when Chapel Hill only admitted women as juniors. We drove up to her grandparents house which became her parents home when my mother went to boarding school. That was the house I spent my childhood visiting and it looked much smaller than I remember, but the huge front yard with it’s hundred year old oaks was just as big and thankfully still full of those same trees.
We meandered past my grandmother’s hairdresser, Mr. Christopher, a very important spot in the life of a genteel southern lady on the way to the cemetery where all our family is buried. The place is huge, but my mother kept telling me to keep going up the hill, “they are at the top.” We parked the car, still unsure of exactly where the family marker was and no sooner did we look to the left, there, right at the top of the hill was the big “Wright” headstone. I think visiting my grandparents graves was really the most meaningful part of the trip.
Having done all of Knoxville we headed east to the Mountains my mother loves best. As a child her family had a summer place called Cascades Lodge, which had fourteen bedrooms and a big commercial kitchen and dinning room with lots of tables with checkered table clothes. I know this because I used to go these when I was a kid too. The lodge had porches that hung over the river which it was built beside. There was a huge swimming pool that was fed by a stone trough from the river. The lodge was the my mother’s favorite place since it was where her family escaped the summer heat of Knoxville to sleep under blankets, play in the river, read books on the porch and while away the summer days with no worries.
Long ago, well after her father had sold the lodge it burned down suspiciously, probably for the insurance money. Since it physically is gone it made finding it hard, but we did. The river with the many waterfalls make it sound exactly the same as it did years ago so. We walked down a driveway of a house for sale and found the foundation and the outline of the old pool. The stone walls that held the river back were still there. Of all the things we revisited I think this made my mother the saddest. She always longs to have those summer lodge days again, but we all know you can’t go back.
To solidify that even if the lodge were still here, we might. To want it back we visited Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Pigeon Forge had been nothing more than a laundry mat and small country store when my mom was a child. Today it is outlet after outlet and every has been fast food restaurant you can imagine. Gatlinburg is the worst that America has in a vacation spot. With the exception of the Pi Beta Phi Arrowmont crafts school, there is not one thing in Gatlinburg any person I know would like unless they were blind. No one can see the beauty of the mountains through the haze of Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum or the Moonshine Company. It is a good place to end the nostalgia tour because it really makes us love where we live now a lot more. You may be able to go home again, but you just might not like it as much.
In a moment of “Oh shit, what do I give my parents, who need nothing, for Christmas?” I came up with the gift of trips to their childhood towns with me alone so they could show and tell me everything about their lives before I came along. My mother jumped right on this specially designed present and scheduled our trip to start today. Since she grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee and spent her summers in the Smokey Mountains at her family lodge her trip is more extensive than my Dad’s will be just going to Winston-Salem. Much to my Mother’s liking her present involves overnight luxury accommodations and three meals a day, all thanks to her best son-in-law that will ever be.
Finding three days to leave home is tough in the busy spring time so to maximize our time my Mom came down to Durham last night to spend the night at our house, arriving while Russ and I were off at the auction and Carter was celebrating her friend Ashley’s sweet 16. Russ and I tiptoed into the house like teenagers who were late for curfew late so as not to wake my mother. Still exhilarated from the fun of the auction I had a hard time falling asleep and the pressure that early morning would come soon to start the five hour drive to Tennessee was not helping.
The drive was not part I was looking forward to, but the time slipped by as I peppered my mother with questions about family history. Trying to figure out where some once rich relative’s money went when he died without a will brought us to the conclusion that the mistresses must have been well provided for. Without even a chance to turn the radio on we were in Knoxville, right by the building that had been my Grandfather’s business.
After checking-in to the hotel we walked the downtown tracing the route similar to the one my mother took every Saturday where as a child she would come downtown for the movies, shopping, mostly windows and a twelve cent hamburger lunch. Amazingly many things are the same, the S&W cafeteria in the fabulous art deco building may now be an Aveda store, but looking through the windows the interior is the same as it was 65 years ago, just without the grand piano and the scary lady who serenaded customers as they dined on the finest of meals.
Three major theaters are still in business on Gay street and we went into two of the to look around. Without any advance planning we happened upon the East Tennessee Historical center and amazingly it happened to be free day. Saving the four dollar entrance for senior citizens and five dollars for me thrilled my mother to no end. I have to say that it is a really well done little museum which I wish we had more time to study, but my mother was able to show me a display of a railroad which my Great Grandfather was the council for since he was a big time lawyer.
Our only real plan of the day was a visit to see my Mother’s Cousin Sis. We drove out to her beautiful house and had a great visit and got to watch the end of the Master’s together. Since we all were thrilled about Jordan Spieth it made for a very happy visit. It was extra nice for me since we hardly ever spend any time with cousins from my Mother’s side.
After a nice dinner outside it is back to our downtown hotel and sleep at last. So much more to see tomorrow. The good daughter points are racking up fast, but really it is the best present for me. I am having a great time with my Mom. We might have to take another reunion tour and go back to my childhood home.
Tonight was the Durham Academy Auction. Russ and I started going to these Auctions before Carter even went to DA. I remember buying a cooking trip to the Greenbrier with Julia Child when Carter was two because I was about the only person who could bid on it since it was during the school week and all the real school parents had to stay home so their kids could go to school. I got that trip for a steal and at the time I thought it was criminal to get something in the live auction that was so under value. Maybe that is why I feel it is my duty to be the auctioneer and do the best job I can.
I have lost count how many times I have served at the Auctioneer, something like six of seven times for DA, but I will say it is my favorite volunteer job. People ask me if I am nervous about doing it but I honestly have to say no. There is nothing I love doing more.
Tonight I had Assistant Headmaster Lee Hark as my “Carol Merrill.” I know that I am officially old because when I said that to a number of people who work on the Auction they all said, “Who?” Carol Merrill was the original game show prize model from ‘Let’s Make a Deal.” Long before Janet Dickinson was on the Price is Right or Vanna White turned letters on Wheel of fortune there was Carol Merrill who was standing in front of 300 square feet of Z Brick waving her arm back and forth as if that is how we were trained to look at fake brick paneling.
Lee, always the best sport, was up for modeling props that advertised each live auction item. It is a hard job, but nothing is more helpful than a school administrator in a Taylor Swift wig shaking it off as I am trying to sell concert tickets. I am sorry I did not get the best picture of that, but I am sure others did and they will surface on Facebook soon.
Thanks to all the bidders at the auction tonight. Every item brought in a lot of cash and that does not happen unless there is some competitive bidding. Congratulations to all the people who work so hard to make this thing happen every year. I know I only have two years until Carter graduates, but I hope I get to keep being the auctioneer because it is fun for me. And fun for me is my goal in life; it’s nice if it also raises some money.
I don’t know why I thought I could delude myself and think we could have a year without pollen. It must be because the long cold winter made it come so late. But the tardiness of the tiny green particles might have concentrated it to all come at once for today the air seems to have a thick green veil. The tree spores that are everywhere like ribbons of pistachio pudding makes it feel like I am breathing underwater. I am lucky, the pollen just annoys me, not taking me down like so many who have red and itchy eyes and throats swollen practically shut.
For the past two days we have had torrential rainstorms in the night filling buckets that had mistakenly been left outside over and over again. Despite all this rain the pollen persists. I can only imagine what it would be like if it had not rained creating green rivers running down the roads and into storm drains.
The places on my car that I touched with my hands appear like skeletal x-rays with extra pollen sticking to the oils left on the black paint. One dog walking in the yard and my navy blue Mary-Jane sneakers are aquamarine with the allergens.
The only good news is no trespasser or thief could get on to and back off our property without leaving an absolutely identifiable trail of footprints right down to the exact wear tread of their shoes. Of course that also means that I drag the green stuff into the house leaving footprints on every once perfectly clean floor.
It is going to rain again tonight. I wonder how many cycles of rain and pollen-producing sunshine it will take for us to be done with this seasons irritants? At least I have not had to dodge the green tumbleweeds of pollen that blow down the street when we go multiple days without rain.
I guess this is the price we pay for not having feet of snow like Boston or twisters like the Midwest. I’ll take a week of green and a box of Claritin any day. It certainly seems timely that tomorrow’s DA auction is called “The Emerald City.” I was hoping for the gems though.
For the last few years the end of our gravel driveway that connects to the road has been washing away. With each big rain storm and we have had more than a few, I can find large loads of our precious stone washed down the hill about fours houses and into the storm drain. I know it makes me unhappy and probably the city, if they knew. I like having a gravel driveway because the permeable surface helps with rain drainage everywhere except the end of the driveway.
Russ has a paying job, so driveway management really should have been my responsibility and most of the time it was. I have to admit I was not as quick as drivers in my family would like me to be and so the driver of the smallest car sometimes would shovel new gravel into the ever-increasing gully that the rain would make.
One day I went to a garden club meeting and met a man named Allen Gracey who seemed to be the answer to Russ’ prayers, someone who could handle the hard and landscape needs to fix the driveway. Since I was so bad at gravel management I knew that I should not wait a moment and hired Allen to make things right.
It was the smartest decision I made all year. Not only did he come up with a plan, but he also satisfied another customer who happened to be a friend of mine and wanted to sell a load of ancient Belgian block. The perfect solution. I would buy her block, Allen would bring the craftsmen who were fine stone layers and together they would fix my driveway, fill in the gulley that years of water had created, unclog my storm drain, move my mailbox and level and resod the grassy area. I got a new mailbox in a place that meant the mailman would not have to drive in my yard and a very fancy driveway connection to the road.
What I hope I really got was a way to keep the gravel I have in the driveway and out of the storm drain and a happy husband whose tiny little car is not falling in a hole Mother Nature created in my driveway. I did not have to lift a shovel, or carry a load of block, or push a wheelbarrow full of dirt. What a happy day. This inspires me on to bigger and better home improvement projects as long as I can find other great people to do all the hard work!
After dinner tonight Carter asked me if we had a healthy dessert so I made her the five-minute miracle of Sugar Free Cheesecake Pudding with sliced strawberries. I was instantly hailed as the best mother, well maybe not those exact words, maybe it was the best dessert that made Carter instantly happy. The only problem was I used up the last of the milk in the house to make it. After the dishes were put away I decided to run to the grocery so I could have cereal in the morning without having to get dressed and go shopping to do it.
Since I have the luxury of being able to grocery shop in the light of day I am usual there with people who know the layout of the store as well as I do and could probably all win as contestants on Super Market Sweep. What I discovered or rediscovered tonight is that people who go to the grocery store at eight at night are a whole different breed.
The first, and most common shopper there was the man-alone-sent-to-the store-by –his-woman. You can recognize this species by the lost and confused look in his eye, his lack of cart or basket and the cell phone up to his ear loudly saying something like, “I don’t see red ones, are you sure they aren’t orange?” This group appears to be larger because of their inefficient traffic pattern as they Chris-cross through the store looking for some foreign item, but staying true to their sex, not asking for any help from people inside the store.
The second largest group is the working woman with the large binder of coupons looking to maximize her shopping dollars by comparing the store sales to her coupon choices all neatly organized in plastic sleeves divided up by categories, like Salas, dressings, condiments. I like to steer clear of these people at the checkout because the use of so many coupons more than doubles their check out time.
The next group is the people who bring babies and small children to the store when it is clearly their bedtime. These obviously sleep deprived people leave little children unstrapped in carts and walk far away from them as they are search for something on the shelf unaware that their child may fall out of the cart at any minute. When I see this I try and pretend I am looking for something near the child just in case I need to stop any attempted escape. It is fairly easy to do since these parents tend to leave the cart with the unattended child right in the middle of the aisle so it makes passing them next to impossible. They may mistakenly think it is safer there since the child can’t reach any items on the shelf, but they don’t realize it just makes they want to stand up in the seat to get the brightly colored box of cereal.
Tonight I also so a rare breed, the How-to-shop-for-healthy-food class from a local weight loss program. Through out the store I could hear the nutritionist instructing people how to read food labels. Her advice was good and I wished she could just have been doing it over the loud speaker so all the other shopping novices could learn from her. Of course the other people in the store were having a very hard time just finding the exact items they were looking for so I’m sure that nutritional info would have fallen on deaf ears. Grocery Store sociology is very fascinating.
Last night I stayed up way past my bedtime to watch my adopted hometown’s team the Duke Blue Devils tie up the win of the Men’s NCAA basketball tournament that has gripped the country in the month of March and one big carry over week of April. The emotional roller coaster of watching two starting Freshmen get into foul trouble in the first half and the subsequent success of Freshman bench player Grayson Allen who changed the trajectory of the game when the team was down nine points practically caused me a coronary. I had no skin in this game, no bets, no brackets, not even my school, so why did the back and forth of this final of final four keep me up way past the final buzzer?
Anyone who does not fall victim to the humanity of sports during major events like the Final Four, the Masters and the Olympics is some kind of troglodyte, you know, someone who lives in a cave. You don’t have to like or even fully understand a sport to be sucked into the stories of the competitors and be in awe of their ability to rise to an occasion or buckle under pressure.
In the case of college basketball it is mind blowing to think of these young people performing with the eyes of the world on them. So much credit goes to the coaches and staff who are able to keep them focused on the game while distracted from the hype. I know that for so many of the stars the real goal is to not to graduate from college, but to get a lucrative NBA contract and play in the pros. I hate that there is a only a one year college requirement before they are eligible for the draft.
No professional team is going to take as good of care of these teenagers as Coach K takes care of his players. I wish the Freshman stars would think of staying at Duke at least one more year so they can develop the life skills that being on this team gives them.
Today, the Duke Men’s team has got to be exhausted. I know I am and I just stayed home and watched them on TV. They deserve a good rest and a few moments in the sun, like when they get to go to the White House and meet the President. It seems like it is going to be a summit in life that will be hard to top, but I hope that this win is not the highlight of their lives, just a really good start on a life well lived.
Durham has been in talks to bring a light rail system to the triangle and I am all for that, reducing our need on cars is a good thing, but until we get that alternative we need to keep the roads we have.
If you live in the Hope Valley area and have tried to drive downtown in the last few years you probably encountered the “Forest Hills back up” on University when a transportation expert changed a two lane straight option into a one lane straight and one lane right turn only at the light East East Forest Hills Boulevard. Losing the second lane that could drive straight to a two lane road running in front of the Compare Foods shopping center meant that many times during the day and night traffic is backed up to Thai Café.
Experts want to further reduce the lanes that enable us to get to downtown, but this time on the Boulevard -15/501 business. The proposed plan is to reduce the two lanes running both directions from the Thai Café intersection up past Fosters to the Academy road on/off ramps to one lane and add parallel parking in front of those businesses. I can only imagine the back ups we will have on the boulevard when the feeding road is two lanes at 45 miles per hour and once you pass under the overpass of Academy Road forcing two lanes to merge into one and slow down.
One business that does not have enough parking on the property they own is in favor of this. Sure, they are taking our roads to add to their parking. I am not for reducing the lanes to add parallel parking. Most people are not good at that kind of parking to start so having them stop on the only lane we have to drive to try and park will be a nightmare.
If you are a Hope Valley or South Durham resident and ever try and travel on the Boulevard you need to come out to the Rogers-Herr middle school tomorrow night at 6:30 to 8 PM to make your voices heard.
The entire South Square area needs better city planning. Just changing the roads to reduce traffic is the tail of the dog. It will not reduce the traffic, just back it up where it is not backed up now!
He is risen, He is risen indeed! Easter is all about Jesus, but then after church and the fabulous brass playing Handel and the Choir singing and the preacher reminding us what it is all about it’s time for Easter to be about family.
As is our tradition my parents drive down from the farm to go to our church with us and have Easter brunch afterwards. It is generous that they forgo their Episcopalian ways for my Presbyterian practice, but as my mother said today at church, “It’s nice to see so many young people who obviously have jobs.”
This year one of Carter’s very best friends, Ashley and her Mom and little sister decided to come to our church with us. Of course the place was packed so we ended up not sitting together. Carter reminded me that Ashley was going to come to lunch with us. I had made a reservation at our traditional Easter spot two weeks ago so I called up this morning and left them a message adding one more to our table. Since we were originally a party of five I knew that making it six should not be an issue since they only have table sizes in even numbers.
Since my parents need aids to hear well I had requested the quiet, adult only room for lunch. When we arrived and the hostess started looking for our reservation it was quickly obvious that we were nowhere to be found. I told her the name of the room we requested and she gave me the, “You certainly don’t think we have room for you there,” look. If it were Christmas I might say we were offered the manager.
Having just left church with a charge to go out and do good in the world I held back and just took the horrible table in the loudest room that was set for eight with no name card on it, a sure sign it was a table for walk-ins.
After a very less than satisfactory meal, but well above average company we went home. Thanks to my making my reservation on my cell phone I was able to find the record of my call to make the reservation and let management know of the exact date and time. I see that in the future I am not only going to need to phone for a reservation, but ask for a confirming e-mail back about it and perhaps a registered letter. That is if I ever consider going back. I am getting very tired of mediocre food and lots of service excuses. Nobody likes when I have risen, because I’m not going to sit on the right hand of the father, but to instruct people how to run a successful food service business, and I’m no saint.
As I watch Duke slaughter Michigan State (sorry Hannah) at the semis of the final four I wonder if anyone is left in Durham. The camera pans over the crowd and I see so many friends and familiar faces. It helps that I am watching the game on the Duke Team Stream channel so all the commentary is about Duke and the side bar interviews are with Duke supporters like Chris Collins, former Duke assistant coach who now is the head coach at Northwestern.
Watching all these talented athletes makes me feel really old. As the young men fall down so gracefully as they are fouled and pop right back up and sprint down to the other end of the court I feel an imaginary pain in my own knees. I can not imagine falling down at all, let alone getting up quickly. If someone pushed me over and I fell on my ample butt I know I would sit there crying.
The most impressive thing about this team is how young they really are yet how focused they played. With the eyes of 70,000 people watching live I can only imagine the sound it that stadium. Carter asked me if they were playing in an aircraft hanger it is so big. So much bigger than Cameron Stadium where they play the regular season.
Congratulations Coach K, all the other coaches and the players. One more game to go. It certainly takes more than a village to keep this basketball machine going. Since half of Durham appears to be in Indianapolis I hope you all are staying until Monday to keep the Duke love going.
There’s this theory about all greens in nature go together that I took a little further to make a vegetable salad to take to a Seder we were generously invited to go to tonight at some friends house. Not wanting to make anything with any dairy so it could be served with meat in case kosher was an issue I followed the lead of the great UK chef Ottolenghi.
1 bunch of fresh asparagus
1 pound of haricot vert
2 cups of cooked shelled edamame
3 shallots thinly sliced
3 T. Sesame Seed
Juice of 1 lemon
1 t. Sesame oil
2 T. Olive oil
2 dried red chillies
4 drop hot chili oil
2 t. Honey
Big pinch of salt
Blanch the asparagus until just tender, about 3 minutes in boiling water and then shock in cold water to stop the cooking. Do the same with the haricot vert, that’s small green beans in case you did not know. Chill the vegetables and add the Edamame and the sesame seeds.
In a blender or jar using a stick blender mix all the ingredients for the dressing and pulse until the chillies are pulverized. Pour of the vegetables and serve.
When we built the addition on our house twenty years ago I was childless and had more time for gardening. One feature we built in was a tiny secret courtyard garden with a pierced brick wall. In that garden I planted Clematis that I trained to grow up the wall to soften the look of the brick.
I loved the year round green foliage when I chose it not knowing about the beautiful white blossoms that came with the spring. The first spring the plant bore a cascade of small white flowers with the most glorious aroma, but the plant was still small and the blossoms were few. Over the years the vine grew wide and tall reaching the roof of the second floor.
When spring came the flowers were so many that the gardenia like perfume from them almost seeped through the windows. That smell made me happy, over powering any real sadness that might be going on in the world.
About ten years after we built the addition we decided to paint our raw red brick house a taupe color. I hired a man who I wish I had liked more since painting fifty year old brick turned out to be a bigger job than either of us anticipated because it socked up paint like a Labrador who has been out playing in the yard on a summer day slurps up cold water from a bowl.
When the painter got around to the secret courtyard he announced that the Clematis vine had to be cut down so he could paint the pieced brick wall. Heavens no I thought, ten years of beautiful growth must not be destroyed.
So I told him I would build scaffolding that the vine could be draped on, away from the wall, but under no circumstances was the vine to be cut. He was wary that this would work, but I was determined. I did have to do some trimming, but with enough ladders and two by fours I was able to move the climbing vine away from the wall.
After the five coats of paint were out on the wall and allowed to dry I tried to place the plant back. It was in no way perfect. Some of it had not made the transition well, but the roots and major stalk of the vine lived and eventually flourished.
Today I went out back to sit on the patio and just suck in the air from the best smelling flower I have ever grown. The work of building the scaffolding was long forgotten and the joy that the vine brings me the few days of the year it is blooming is worth whatever it took to keep it. This plant reminds me that many things are worth working to save.
My friend Denise announced today that she was going home and make “Money Bunnies” for her grown boys as Easter presents since none of them needed any candy. I thought that was a brilliant idea because the last thing we need in this house is candy.
When I was a kid Easter, Valentines Day and Halloween were “candy holidays,” but I don’t think they were full of candy to the same extent when my parents were kids and certainly were not that way at all for my Grand Parents.
Easter was first and foremost a religious holiday that might have entailed a new hat and dress with some egg salad or deviled eggs thrown in at lunch. None of this overflowing amount of chocolate and certainly nothing in marshmallow existed. How in the world can we reclaim holidays from the fat increasers they have become?
Denise is probably on to the only answer; we have to buy them back. To counteract the money spent on candy we are going to have to fork out triple or quadruple the cost of Easter baskets in cash. The only hope is that the recipients do not go out the day after Easter and spend the money on half price holiday candy.
I am open to all creative ideas that are out there to decrease the candy in “candy holidays” but I don’t want more big present holidays either. I don’t think that Easter warrants a new iPhone, maybe just a new app.
Nothing is special any more. When I was a kid it was a big day in our house when my Dad brought home a Tiger Beat magazine and a Heath bar for us three girls to share. I can only imagine how big that would go over now. So send me your non-food ideas now, but an Apple Watch is off the list.